Treble’s 50 Favorite Drummers

Avatar photo

Brian Chippendale
[Lightning Bolt]

Chippendale is associated with more avant garde strains of noise-rock, but his talent and technique as a drummer cannot truly be caged into one genre. Yes, his bombastic attacks upon his minimalist trap set are quite noisy but his tenure in noise-duo Lightning Bolt, as well as his appearances in Mindflayer, The Boredoms’ 77 Boadrum in NYC (as a drum-leader), Bjork’s Volta, and several other projects, display the variety of situations in which his space-filling percussive tactics can thrive. Chippendale, also a comic book artist, has gone on record saying that his illustrative and percussive styles intertwine — he simply can’t leave any silence. Whether he’s back flipping off a stage onto his drum set or yelling jumbled lyrics through a lo-fi mic set up, Brian’s always a crowd pleaser, and one of the best in the business. – A.T. Bossenger

Listen: Lightning Bolt – “Colossus“; Lightning Bolt – “Ride the Sky“; “Boadrum 77

Stewart Copeland
[The Police]

The great goof in punk and new wave was that, between them, the members of The Police had decades of jazz and rock training before they ever approached “Roxanne.” Most distinctive among their sounds were Stewart Copeland’s tuned drums and treble syncopation, all hi-hats and tapped rims and chiming ethnic bell tones. He could pound with the best of them, and eventually extended his repertoire into soundtrack arrangements and prog-rock jams. – Adam Blyweiss

Listen: The Police – “Spirits in the Material World“; The Police – “Walking On the Moon“; The Police – “Message In a Bottle

Brann Dailor

If you’re in a band named after a giant prehistoric beast, playing thick, sludgy metal, with albums containing conceptual threads about “Moby Dick” or being pitted against nature during an ascent up a mountain, if you hang back or play it cool, you’re probably going to get fired. Being Mastodon’s drummer is a feat of superhuman strength at times, but Brann Dailor has never provided anything less. His style evokes the very beasts that litter the band’s lyrics, fearsome, enormous and moving far faster than humanly possible. He plays heavy, sure; that much is a given. But that’s not the half of it. Check when he kicks off one of their high-speed rippers with a series of pyrotechnic fills, or loads up a bridge with an unstoppable double bass quake, and tell me your brain hasn’t turned to goo. – Jeff Terich

Listen: Mastodon – “Seabeast“; Mastodon – “Blood and Thunder“; Mastodon – “The Wolf Is Loose

Steven Drozd
[Flaming Lips]

It’s important to note the attention to studio production techniques used when discussing the Flaming Lips and drummer Steven Drozd. Sound has always been an important factor in their approach, even if nudity, gummy skulls and human blood also sometimes factor into what they do, and for a time the group even provided audience members with headsets tuned into a frequency in which they could hear the band’s performance at optimum sonic quality. This is important to note at the opening to The Soft Bulletin, in which Drozd’s drums pop with a unique vibrancy, not to mention the revelation that the song contains two separate snare sounds. Drozd is a fierce drummer, surprisingly explosive for a dreamy psychedelic pop group, and they made sure that their listeners could fully understand that. It became even more explicit on prog-psych excursion Embryonic, but by that point they stopped caring about commercial viability, and more about kicking ass. – Jeff Terich

Listen: Flaming Lips – “Race for the Prize“; Flaming Lips – “Turn It On“; Flaming Lips – “The Sparrow Looks Up at the Machine

Joe Easley
[The Dismemberment Plan]

Born as a wiry, spastic post-punk band with !, The Dismemberment Plan made things fairly complicated for themselves from the start, but it was mostly their songwriting that caught up to their musical ability, rather than vice-versa. Their guitarists made some glorious noise, of course, but their rhythm section held shit down. Props go to bassist Eric Axelson for his looseness and versatility, but drummer Joe Easley deserves some kind of award for adding the amount of jazz, funk and classic rock oomph that he did. We’re talking about a punk band, more or less, but Easley treated the band’s songs as a canvas across which to add his signature, be it a snappy pop beat, some spastic jungle breaks, a laid-back funk rhythm or some kind of anything-goes mixture of his own creation. Sometimes it’s hard to believe one guy is doing it all. – Jeff Terich

Listen: The Dismemberment Plan – “Following Through“; The Dismemberment Plan – “Girl O’Clock“; The Dismemberment Plan – “The City

Jim Eno

Spoon is essentially minimalism as rock band, and Jim Eno embodies that in his own style, though that isn’t to deny him any kind of props in his abilities. Any hot-shot can whack the living shit out of his set and call it skill (though not everyone can make it sound good), but reducing those elements to the necessary ingredients takes a little more forethought. Drummers aren’t necessarily celebrated for being editors, but that’s what makes Eno unique. He gives weight when the songs need it, gives them direction, but never overcomplicates matters. The essence of the band is reducing everything to the most potent elements, so applying that to drumming, Eno hits where it counts the most. – Jeff Terich

Listen: Spoon – “Everything Hits at Once“; Spoon – “Finer Feelings“; Spoon – “All the Pretty Girls Go to the City

Mick Fleetwood
[Fleetwood Mac]

Mick Fleetwood deserves inclusion on this list for no other reason than being the inspiration for the lovably insane Muppet Animal, but he’s obviously got a lot more going for him than that. The wide-eyed (literally) British drummer lent his name to one of the best-selling and most legendary rock bands of all time, which says a lot, notably that he was one of only two members that lasted from the bluesy Peter Green days up through the more synth-pop `80s days. Most of what’s worth remembering is his tense, restrained contributions, from the foreboding bass drum thump in “The Chain,” up to the soft shocks of “Dreams,” but he could go wild when necessary. After all, he was an animal. – Jeff Terich

Listen: Fleetwood Mac – “Go Your Own Way“; Fleetwood Mac – “The Chain“; Fleetwood Mac – “Dreams

Jeremiah Green
[Modest Mouse]

The grooves of drummer Jeremiah Green carry the manic creations of Isaac Brock on rolling black waves of rhythm. They imbue Modest Mouse songs with flow and fluidity, essential to the sonic movement of standout tracks like “Bukowski” and “Trucker’s Atlas.” The moment when the drums drop at 2:41 of “Styrofoam Boots/It’s All Nice on Ice, Alright” is a definitive exclamation mark on the epic achievement of The Lonesome Crowded West. It carries a sense of universal freedom that propels Modest Mouse to a transcendent level. Green rarely overexerts himself; his virtuosity is a subtlety of rhythmic phrasing that makes the music of Modest Mouse something bigger, more dynamic than it could otherwise be. Green embodies the excellence of chaotic intuition. He is not a flashy drummer, but his beats breathe. – Jimmy Falcon

Listen: Modest Mouse – “Bukowski“; Modest Mouse – “Trucker’s Atlas“; Modest Mouse – “Styrofoam Boots/It’s All Nice On Ice, Alright

Dave Grohl
[Nirvana; Foo Fighters; various alt-rock sessions]

From his hardcore days on up to fronting one of the most successful rock bands around, there’s not much Dave Grohl hasn’t done, rock-music wise. And most of it has been behind a drum set. On the strength of his knockout performances in Nirvana and the first couple of Foo Fighters albums, however, Grohl became an in-demand gun for hire for the likes of Killing Joke, Queens of the Stone Age, Nine Inch Nails, Garbage and Cat Power, not to mention a pretty insane performance at David Bowie’s 50th birthday concert. Sure, he’s a songwriter, guitar player and singer and all that jazz, but dude’s drum skills are unimpeachable. – Jeff Terich

Listen: Foo Fighters – “My Hero“; Nirvana – “Stay Away“; Queens of the Stone Age – “First It Giveth

Topper Headon
[The Clash]

The Clash at their most raw still had a leg up on most of the UK’s other punks in terms of clarity, tightness and a more graduated level of skill. Mick Jones was a large part of that, as was drummer Topper Headon, whose beats were always the most solid, unfuckwithable part of the group. Not that his talents were limited strictly to drumming — as he got bored in the studio, waiting for the rest of the band, Headon recorded almost the entirety of “Rock the Casbah” himself. As a drummer, however, his distinct style balanced a solid pulse with a slight touch of disco movement and reggae groove, his hi-hat technique stolen from dance-punks ad nauseam in the ’00s. He was the first to leave the band in 1982, as a result of his heroin addiction. Yet it’s probably not coincidental that what followed was the worst album of the band’s career. – Jeff Terich

Listen: The Clash – “Train In Vain“; The Clash – “Rock The Casbah“; The Clash – “Clampdown

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5
Scroll To Top