What do you get when you put three ferocious rock drummers in a room and have them record a purely improvisational 40-minute drum piece?
This is not a trick question. You get an album that sounds like someone put three ferocious rock drummers in a room and had them record a purely improvisational 40-minute drum piece. Here, have a listen.
Fittingly, it is called Drumgasm, and it comes out today. It is awesome, or excruciating—but probably not both—depending on the listener. It is also a brilliant coup, because you can't make drummer jokes when every member of your band is the drummer.
"It's its own animal," said Wild Flag and Quasi drummer Janet Weiss, who made her bones playing for Sleater-Kinney, riot grrrl legends of the Pacific Northwest, in the 1990s. Today she comprises one third of Drumgasm, which she formed with Matt Cameron, of Pearl Jam and Soundgarden, and Zach Hill, of Hella and Death Grips. "It's not like making a record full of songs and each song is meant to—you know, it has purpose or has to do something. This is really just sort of insanity. For people who like a real wild ride."
Indeed, there is little respite in the heady, rhythmic blast of Drumgasm's 39 minutes. It is for the devoted, the percussive nuts—or the sonically curious. To SPIN, it's "somewhere between transcendent blast, jitter-causing fireworks display, and total endurance test"; for Stereogum, a "clattering half-hour beast of a thing."
But the project's genesis is much more innocuous: friendship. Drummer solidarity, if you will.
Weiss has known Hill since her band Quasi toured with his band Hella in 2000. "Zach and I formed a good friendship, and I think we were big supporters of each other's playing and sort of philosophies and approaches to drumming and life in general," she explained. Several year later, she met Cameron when Sleater-Kinney began opening for Pearl Jam. "I think just out of friendship, the three of us decided to get together and play," she said. "There was no big plan or any idea what it was going to be.We just wanted to get together in a room and see what happened."
That was when Drumgasm, the debut LP by the strangest supergroup this side of Tinted Windows, came into being.
But that was several winters ago. Weiss isn't sure how many—at least two, she thinks. ("To me it doesn't really matter when it was recorded. It doesn't fit a time or place.") And there was much more material than what appears on the record. "I've had it on the shelf for years, like one of these days I'm gonna put this record out." I asked what took so long. "I was just waiting for Matt Cameron to get more famous," she laughed.
It's hard to imagine such a niche act touring. But Weiss won't write it off. "It'd really be a blast," she imagined. "Just set up three drumkits and play for an hour." She's got some extra time to make it happen, too, since Wild Flag is on pause while guitar goddess Carrie Brownstein works on filming Portlandia.
The album is finally seeing the light of day via Portland's Jackpot Records. Weiss won't reveal the reasoning behind the timing. But there is one, and she's shocked so many people are now listening to it—and judging.
"If you look at the name, it's supposed to be fun," she insisted. "For me, it's a fun, anticorporate, anti-generic sort of exercise. And [about] just being free. The freedom of music and the freedom of ideas."
There's only one question that lingers.
"Matt's panned to the right, I'm on the left, Zach is center," Weiss clarified. "You're breaking the panning story. For those five people that listen on headphones."