Neal Peart and Phil Collins (by Dave King)

King on Peart (2007)

Ethan Iverson: Dave, tonight we played Massey Hall. What is “YYZ”?

David King: It is the airport code of Toronto and the “Giant Steps” of rock and roll.

EI: What band played “YYZ”?

DK: Rush.

EI: What were they famous for?

DK: They are a prog-rock power trio that uses iconoclastic playing to create a sound much bigger than three guys. They also made wizard hats sexy.

EI: Who was the drummer of Rush?

DK: Neil Peart was the second and most famous drummer, but on the first record it was John Rutsey.

EI: But Peart is who we mean when we talk about odd-meter mayhem, right?

DK: He was a loud Joe Morello with gongs.

EI: Does Peart have good technique at the drums?

DK: Does the new Pope drink umbilical-cord blood from a satanic chalice?

EI: Yes. Can anyone play faster in seven than Peart?

DK: Probably some obscure doumbek player, but not many in rock. The thing about Neil Peart that appealed to me (and probably a lot of drummers of my generation) is that he was an active force in creating the sound of the band he was in. He wasn’t just a timekeeper. Rush represented a certain freedom of ideas for the drum as a lead instrument in rock and roll.

EI: What are the quintessential Peart performances?

DK: This could be controversial, but my favorite period of Rush and Peart is from 1979’s Permanent Waves through 1984’s Grace Under Pressure. This was a period of Peart’s most progressive playing. From the merging of electronic and acoustic drums to the dark themes of the music, this period represented the most complete realization of Peart’s concepts. (This is just my opinion, of course. I don’t know much of their music after this period.) There is a fill in the song “Natural Science” that is truly some avant-garde shit. It makes no rational sense in the composition. It reminds me of an interpretation of Chinese box drumming or something.

EI: Why do some people hate Rush?

DK: Because they stole their girlfriends. Seriously, though, I think that any music that doesn’t belong to any scene and follows its own path without being concerned with what’s cool will naturally turn off a great hunk of the masses. I suppose some people think it’s kind of geeky and kind of masturbatory, but I believe it’s pretty ballsy to do your own shit without apology.

EI: The Bad Plus is now playing “Tom Sawyer,” and you play the Peart drum fill just like on the record.

DK: I play the four-piece kit version. Peart had a 37-piece kit with nine bass-drums when he recorded it, so my version is a little small in comparison. But the intention is strong. I felt you had to pay homage to one of the most recognizable drum solos in recorded history. It’s almost like a song in itself. It’s like if you covered “In the Air Tonight” by Phil Collins and didn’t do “the fill that brings in the big chorus.” You’d get your ass kicked on the street if word got out that you were the doof that thought you could do better. Phil Collins fans are fucking vicious and they will shank you without thinking twice.

King on Collins (2009)

Ethan Iverson:  Did Phil Collins drum on any hits?

Dave King:  Possibly. I seem to think that Phillip Bailey song “Easy Lover” made the Top 40 in 1988. Other than that, I would need to consult my collection of old Billboard magazines.

EI:  What about his singing?

DK:  No one made a lead-microphone stand with coils for a drummer look sexier. Fuck Kelly Keagy and double fuck Don Henley…. Levon Helm looked pretty tight, though.

EI:  What are the great Collins drum performances?

DK:  One of his signature second-verse entrances can be heard on the Howard Jones classic “No One is Ever to Blame.” The same vibe appears in the Tears For Fears masterwork “Woman in Chains”…………… Come to think of it, there’s pretty brilliant Collins on the entire Genesis catalog with Peter Gabriel singing ……… and there’s a moment or two of progressive thinking on the Brother Bear soundtrack, which is a Disney film that over-romanticizes the Native American concept of shape-shifting for the corporate bottom line.

EI:  I guess the drums matter for hit songs, huh?

DK:  Does the Pope eat his muesli with the souls of the young dead?

EI:  Yes. What, exactly, is a big beat? It’s like a large surfboard, right?

DK:  Lemme tell you a little about Phil Collins pocket. Four-words: left-handed concert toms. He’s basically thrown a permanent “fuck you” at the use of bottom heads on toms since 1970.

EI:  Has anyone ever spelled his name “Fill Collins” out of respect for his performance on “In the Air Tonight?”

DK:  If they didn’t, they missed a big opportunity. That is a moment where man and drum connect, bound to the earth through passion and strength. If drum fills are meat, that’s prime rib. The irony is that the first half of the song is an 808 drum machine, probably programmed by Phil himself. This shows his dedication to new technologies even though he was a bad-ass on the tubs. In no way was he threatened by little buttons and bleeping lights. Phil knows himself.

EI:  He wrote a lot of songs, too, right?

DK:  Yes. One of my personal favorites is the the title track of Against All Odds. This is a film that would make Jack Palance cry. The song is a slow-dance classic. In 1986, I would have to have had both legs in traction to keep me and my sweetheart off the dance floor when that song played. (By sweetheart, I mean my 1960’s 18-inch K with rivets.) He also wrote the late-80’s masterwork “Tonight, Tonight, Tonight,” which was used for wine-cooler commercials. I used to fill my tub with Sun Country wine cooler during house parties and do a little “deep sea diving,” if you know what I mean.

EI:  The Lion King: go.

DK:  Phil Collins clearly likes money. This by no means diminishes his ability to groove as hard anyone who has ever played the drums. For real, Phil Collins is a master and his choice to write and sing questionable ballads for Disney films shouldn’t tarnish the image of a fierce prog demon underneath. I truly love and respect Phil Collins’s drumming on anything.