Drummers often get overlooked, don’t they? But they’re just as integral to a band’s success as the flouncy frontmen and riff-making guitarists they sit behind. To illustrate this point, we’ve taken a look at the drummers who’ve climbed above their drum risers to be just as admired as the bands they started out in.
Before she hit the big time with her sisters Este and Alana, she was hitting skins for Julian Casablancas, touring as a back up musician on guitar and drums with The Strokes frontman’s solo project. She returned to the kit last summer, playing with The Killers at an intimate show in San Francisco.
One third of Sleater-Kinney, Janet Weiss kept herself more than busy when the band went to ground a decade ago, playing in Quasi and Wild Flag. Now SK are back and better than ever, with a UK tour set for this spring – we’re crossing our fingers for some summer festival shows too.
Prince tried to snaffle away Shelia Escovedo’s talent behind the drumkit all for himself, but alongside guesting with him throughout the early 1980s, she also set up a successful solo career. The powerhouse percussionist has since collaborated with everyone from Beyoncé to Kanye West.
Way more than just a drummer, The Roots’ Questlove is a producer, cultural commentator, writer, DJ, late night television bandleader and all round excellent person. He released a memoir back in 2013, if you want to dig a little deeper into his action-packed life.
Father John Misty
Former Fleet Foxes sticksman’s brilliant second album ‘I Love You Honeybear’ is out in February. The man otherwise known as Joshua Tillman released a host of solo singer-songwriter records before joining the Seattle folkies, but his current project is the one that’s scored him the most plaudits.
Perhaps the most famous drummer in the world right now, who would have guessed 20-odd years ago that the guy at the back of Nirvana would become an entertainment industry titan – heading up a gigantic rock band and producing and directing an awesome film and television show?
Ronnie Vannucci Jr
The Killers’ bearded wonder Ronnie Vannucci Jr masterminded perhaps the finest post-millennial side project, releasing the self-titled debut from his Big Talk duo back in 2011. Big-riffing and hard-rocking, it was meaner and moodier than Brandon Flowers would ever dare be, and all the better for it.
After a prog-tastic 1970s with rockers Genesis, Phil Collins set out solo and became one of the 1980s biggest musical stars in the process. Ramping up the pop angle, hits like ‘In The Air Tonight’, ‘Sussudio’, and ‘Another Day In Paradise’ came thick and fast.
An accomplished drummer as much as she was a singer, Karen Carpenter started out behind a kit in the 1960s. All of the early performances of The Carpenters saw her singing from the drums, but she eventually took up a position centre stage – every now and again however, she’d bust out a ballsy solo.
As evidenced in the affecting documentary Hit So Hard, former Hole drummer Patty Schemel had a pretty tough time of it after leaving Courtney Love and co. Thankfully, there was a happy ending for Patty, who now plays with former Best Coast and Vivian Girls member Ali Koehler in LA punk band Upset.
Turns out The Beach Boys’ drummer was a rival to big brother Brian Wilson in the songwriting stakes. His debut solo album ‘Pacific Ocean Blue’ came out in 1977, and still holds up as one of the finest examples of West Coast rock ‘n’ roll. It took until 2008 for its follow-up ‘Bambu’ to be released – too late for Wilson, who died in 1982, to enjoy its acclaim.
Longtime drummer in The Eagles, Don Henley sang some of the Americana rockers’ biggest tunes, including ‘Hotel California’, ‘Desperado’ and ‘Witchy Woman’. When he went his own way in the 1980s, he carried on making bit hitters, including ‘The Boys of Summer’. Legend.
The late, great Levon Helm was the drummer in The Band, but took lead vocal on some of their most iconic tracks, including ‘The Weight’. In his final years, he became notorious for hosting a jam session called the Midnight Ramble in his Woodstock home, with everyone from Mumford & Sons to Elvis Costello joining in.
Forget all you think you know about the torch song singing Belinda Carlisle. Turns out she’s more punk rock than a dive bar full of Joe Strummers. Before she joined pop tearways the Go-Gos, she was a jobbing LA drummer, and once sat in with the caustic Germs – Pat Smear of Nirvana/Foo Fighters’ first band.
Radiohead’s drum dude released his gorgeous second album, ‘Weatherhouse’, last year. He’ll be taking the acclaimed release on the road this year, with sets at Coachella Festival in California already confirmed.
All hail the fabulous Anna Prior, who has now made a home for herself in Metronomy, after stints with the sticks for Lightspeed Champion. She’s often found sharing vocals with frontman Joe Mount, but has yet to get stuck into a solo project of her own – we can’t wait for when that (hopefully) happens.
One to watch for 2015, Georgia Barnes has worked with everyone from Kwes and Kate Tempest to Juce. She’s now branching out on her own, with the recently released debut EP ‘Come In’. Concrete beats and hard as nails synth
stabs run through lead track ‘Be Ache’, softened by her clubby, dubby vocal.
There were always murmurs that Andy Burrows was the most talented member of Razorlight – after all, he helped to pen what is arguably their best song, ‘America’. After he stepped out from behind the drum kit he released a string of solo albums, and collaborated with We Are Scientists and Editors’ Tom Smith.
Blink-182’s turbo-tatted sticksman released his debut solo album, ‘Give The Drummer Some’, in 2011. He didn’t do it all alone though, and had a stellar cast of mates helping out, from The Neptunes, Cypress Hill, Ludacris, Lil Wayne and RZA, to Kid Cudi, Slash, Tom Morello, Busta Rhymes, Snoop Dogg, Rick Ross and Corey Taylor of Slipknot.