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Dave Grohl explains the difference between English and American drummers


Dave Grohl isn’t one for technical jargon. The man might be a legendary musician, but he’s on record as only having had one drum lesson in his entire life. He can’t read music, doesn’t have any formal training in theory, and probably couldn’t care less about terms like “melisma” or “decrescendo”. It doesn’t mean that he doesn’t know what these things are, just that he has his own language to explain them, a language that would probably get you kicked out of your high school choir class.

But make no mistake: Grohl knows his stuff. By obsessing over music for his entire life, Grohl was able to pick out the intricacies of his inspirations, especially when it came to playing the drums. If you need someone to explain John Bonham’s wild bass drum triplets, or need a refresher on how Neil Peart was able to play those insane fills, Grohl is your guy. Even the less heavy drummers are in Grohl’s wheelhouse, as shown by his reverence towards Ringo Starr in a 2006 Uncut Magazine feature.

“If The Beatles were the original rock’n’roll four-piece, then Ringo was the original rock’n’roll drummer,” Grohl explains. “This was the template for the next 40 years of music. They were certainly the foundation for what I do and Ringo seemed to be the foundation of The Beatles. I always thought he had a great style. He had a wonderful swing and was a showman. A lot of drummers aren’t considered showmen, but he definitely turned it on.”

Grohl cops to his own lack of precise analysis by saying, “I’m not a technical drummer by any means – I like listening to drummers who make you wanna air-drum or dance – and Ringo was a songwriter in regards to his drumming. And that’s important to me. With those immediately catchy early Beatles songs, it was Ringo’s job to carry that, dictating dynamic and feel. Warts and all, you want to hear a drummer that sounds like a human being. I think his playing mirrored his personality. It made you feel good. You can hear he was a good guy, just by listening to his playing. And thank fucking God for not doing drum solos.”

The former Nirvana drummer also claims that Starr served as the major precursor to different percussion styles in Americans and Brits. “I swear to God, you can tell the difference between an English drummer and an American one,” Grohl claims. “Most of the English drummers swing their rolls, but most of the Americans don’t. Listen to any Oasis song or Supergrass song and you’ll find a little bit of Ringo in those drums. You don’t hear that too much in America. It’s the Ringo Roll. When we’re in the studio and I want one of those, I tell Taylor: ‘Hey, do a Ringo in there.’ And we all know what that means.”

At the end of the article, Grohl says that he had never met Starr up to that point, but had heard that he was a kind soul and expressed an interest in befriending him one day. In the time since the 2006 interview, Grohl has met and interviewed Starr, collaborated with him, and paid tribute to him a number of times.

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