I’ve been living (almost literally) at Boxcar Theatre for the last three weeks, as Hedwig and The Angry Inch has taken up all of my evenings and weekends. It’s been a fantastic way to reacquaint myself with my drumming technique. It’s funny how long I’ve gone without playing, and yet, the familiar tone and feel of my Yamaha Oak Custom kit hasn’t lost itself on me. My playing style has lived in my body all along, but it’s been dormant for 5 years. The band that I’ve been sharing the stage with has also taught me much, and we’ve become a very tight unit.
This has been a great way to start the year. Last night, two colleagues from a theatre I worked with a few years ago was in the audience. After the show, one of them, the artistic director, told me how thrilled he was to know that I could play the drums ‘like that.’ I said, “Wait; I came to your house and played the drum kit in your living room during a party!”
“You were fantastic! Didn’t realize you could play like that!”
I couldn’t have been happier to hear such feedback, and in his eyes, I was certainly more elevated. This, along with the help of another local director, who has spoken to other theatre companies about my playing, have lead me to realize that, now, more than ever: I need to publicize this talent of mine even more prominently. It’s one thing to list it as a Special Skill on my resume, but I don’t think many people realize the extent of my talent.
So, I asked a photographer friend of mine, David Herschorn, to come take some photos of myself on the drum kit. We spent part of an afternoon doing the shoot, and I’ve already selected several favorites that he’ll return to me after doing some basic retouching.
I got my first drum kit in 1988, after several years of air-drumming while watching MTV. And after having seen Rattle and Hum numerous times. I’d get pencils and pretend they were my drumsticks. It didn’t occur to me to actually ask my parents for drum lessons or even ask to get a drum set. And it wasn’t until I had seen U2’s Sunday Bloody Sunday – the live version from Red Rocks – that I began to really notice the playing of Larry Mullen Jr.. I would watch that video on repeat – and thankfully MTV would play it on heavy rotation. It wasn’t so much that the video didn’t show his playing too much, it’s that I would listen to the drums and start playing along – over and over. This lead me to begin listening to the earlier albums, such as Boy and October.
I finally saw U2 for the first time on April 24, 1987 at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. The Joshua Tree was the big album of the moment, and I’d never been so excited for a concert before. I remember that in order to get the tickets, I had to enter some type of lottery. But I got two tickets on the side of the stage (Edge’s side) – and my friend Jason Presley and myself were driven down to the venue by my parents. Our seats were close enough that I could make out Larry’s kit quite well. Needless to say, the concert was incredible, and I began plastering my bedroom wall with U2 band posters and those (now obsolete) long cardboard boxes that CDs used to come in.
During the late 80s and early 90s, I began taking lessons, and played with guys in one-off attempts at bands. I largely didn’t play the drums too much during the 90s. Not until I moved to NYC – where I played the drums for an Off-Off-Off Broadway musical called “I Love My Wife” – in 2002.
After moving back from NYC in late 2002, I joined a band called Amalgamation, and played with them up until 2010. I left the band and put my drums in storage, and walked away.
The thought of being in a band over the last five years was not very appealing, but Hedwig and The Angry Inch has always been on my bucket list. In fact, in 2003, I had auditioned for a production that came to SF and played at the Victoria Theatre. The notable thing about this was that the guy who auditioned me was the drummer for the NYC production that starred John Cameron Mitchell. The actor playing Hedwig was like the second or third actor to take on the role after John passed the torch.
I didn’t get the gig, but in 2012, when I auditioned for a local production being produced by Boxcar Theatre, it was initially to be one of the eight Hedwigs in the show. But I asked the music director at the time if I could be considered for the drummer. I got the job, then another theatre company, Thrillpeddlers, came back at me with an offer to do Marat/Sade. Both shows overlapped, so I had to choose one. I went with Thrillpeddlers, and had an amazing experience.
This time, for the 2-week revival of Hedwig, I finally got my chance to do the show. Tonight is closing night. I’ve proved to myself that to come back to the drums after 5 years away is possible, and that to get the rhythm and understand the timing that my body calls out to me as I play, is still there.
And it’s a great workout.
And here’s the song that started it all.