Rob Palladino is a drummer, editor and writer. He’s been playing drums for 30-odd years, has been part of bands that no one has ever heard of but he is really proud of, has recorded, toured and has no intention of stopping anytime soon.
He is currently listening to Rush, Bruce Hornsby and Cardiacs , but not necessarily in that order or at the same time.
Rob has lived in many wonderful places. Most recently in Austin, TX, the self-styled “Live Music Capital of the World” and home to SXSW and the Austin City Limits Music Festival, and the much more relaxing and enjoyable “Austin Kite Fest.”
He is living in a small, pleasant, non descript town in Essex… at least for now.
Okay, I’m going to be completely honest with you right off the bat. I am a hopeless romantic. Not so much in the concocted box of chocolates and roses on her birthday kind of romanticism, although that is a nice gesture to make if truly meant, but a genuine sort of romantic vision.
For me that can mean the beauty and power of the natural world – from a simple flower to the most brutal tornadic thunderstorm – to the glorious and sometimes overwhelming love shared by one human being with another.
The vision I have, and always have had, in the context of music anyway, is one of pure creation and the search for the ultimate moment of unparalleled beauty. Let me explain…
I. Following My Muse To The “Promised Land”
In ancient Greek mythology, there were nine muses, all daughters of Zeus. Now, I’m not going to get all Oxford University here, but the nine of them had various “jobs” assigned to them, although according to our good pals at Wikipedia (and ain’t they the experts these days?), these gigs were only given titles by the Romans much later. Sure this is the short version, but if you really feel the need, go look it up, this is not a history lesson guys…
Anyway, there was one muse that I fell for straight away, in typical Rob fashion, and that was Terpsichore. This alluring beauty, who’s name translated means “Delight in Dancing,” – see where I’m going with this now? – basically hijacked my life in the most wonderful way imaginable. She continues to inspire me and frustrate me in equal measure to this day, even after thirty years of playing.
The inspiration part is obvious I guess. For me, she is the symbol of perfection within the artistic creation. The mythical being at the centre of every musician’s soul that gives freely of affection and looks at you with the patient eyes of a true love. She’s there for you and you know it. You can feel it.
But, my muse, is also a source of frustration. She knows that you want, and need, to reach her and touch her to reach the fabled “promised land.” That mythical place is where every musician and songwriter has attained perfection; the perfection of the greatest song, the greatest part, the greatest lyric they have ever written or will ever write. Literally, I suppose, the end of the road. The place in which no more songs, or musical parts, need be composed or played.
Like any musician, I yearn to write my perfect drum part. I want to play like a mix between Buddy Rich and Keith Moon. Organized, yet chaotic. Beautiful, yet shambolic. Yet my heavenly creature sits there in the corner of my drum room, patiently smiling at me gently shaking her head as if to say “not yet, maybe someday, but probably never.”
This is when I realise that she represents my ultimate moment, the part that will forever remain unwritten. She is my unrequited love. She can only end my dreams, which is a cruel and unusual punishment, yet she’ll keep them very much alive by letting me continue to struggle and fret over how good my writing can be or may become.
Will I ever give up on her realising that dream on my behalf? Not a chance. But I also have an idea that despite the fact she can never give 100 percent of herself to me, she’ll continue to walk arm in arm with me on that long and endless musician’s road. I hope and pray that she never leaves my side.
II. Technical Ecstasy
I was never one for exploring the technical aspects of my playing. I’ve always been a “sit down, feel it, play it” kind of drummer. That’s not necessarily the greatest way of approaching any instrument, it has to be said, but as I’ve grown older I become more interested in the “underlying theme,” that shadowy world away from the lights.
In my early years of playing, I never cleaned my drums, or tuned them for that matter. Literally, I set them up and hit them. Hard. Listening to how I played in those days – about 25 years or so ago – it’s obvious there was a semi-decent fledgling drummer there, but to these ears, the whole effect is destroyed by the sound of the drums themselves.
The tuning was flat and flabby. I’ll always remember a moment in a studio somewhere in South London with a producer whose name escapes me coming into the drum booth to tell me that my rack tom sounded “horrendipoo.” Snot-faced punk that I was, I wouldn’t tune it, told him so and as I remember in the playback, it did indeed sound “horrendipoo.” My band mates, suitably and rightly unimpressed, after all I’d just screwed up a demo tape (remember those??) demanded from then on that I tuned the kit.
All the things I had to do for the upkeep of the drums bored me rigid, and being naturally lazy, I tried to avoid them as much as I could. It was all I could do to set them up. I hated all the technical stuff, but in the end I couldn’t avoid it. So, I had to learn, and I did, after much internal resistance.
These days, I absolutely love all of the machinations of the drum kit. There’s very much a therapeutic and ecstatic feeling to it all. Cleaning the cymbals, the drums themselves, changing the heads and tuning them turns them into a glorious machine about to be fired up and in their perfect state, to be approached with love and respect. A mechanised muse who actually lets you feel her and touch her, and reach the technical promised land.
Having read over this piece a few times, I realise that I’ve kind of stated something more than a little obvious, but sometimes even the obvious needs putting out there.
Sure, I have maybe an over romanticised vision of the process of creating music. This vision is just so ingrained in me now, and to such an extent, that I just equate the striving for perfection with being in love, whether it’s unrequited or not, and certainly the mechanized muse delivers more than Terpsichore herself, but doesn’t have the beauty or grace. Nor does it frustrate one as much, which is all the more alluring.
Some folks will understand my gibberish, some won’t. I’ve found this to be a catharsis of sorts. Almost a plea to my muses, both spiritual and mechanical, to love me no matter what, as I love them to the very end.