Skeebo Knight loves drumming. Yet the pain he must endure simply to sit behind his kit and lay down a groove is staggering. Knight suffers from Scleroderma, which he describes as a connective tissue disorder that causes a variety of painful symptoms including muscle rigidity, skeletal stiffness, fatigue, muscle and joint inflammation, and severe muscle spasms.
Despite the pain and exhaustion, Knight remains devoted to drumming. He’s released two albums since the onset of his illness, and is now finishing a third. Knight’s first album, It’s About Time, features several drumset compositions with percussion added to the mix. Tales From Wimbish Woods, his follow-up release, is a jazz album featuring several guest musicians, including Rolling Stones keyboardist Chuck Leavell.
Knight’s most recent venture, Jekyll Island Nights, is also a jazz-oriented collection featuring several collaborating musicians. “With my health problems, I’m unable to go out and play with other people,” Knight says. “So these projects give me the chance to collaborate. Most of the musicians on the album are also my good friends.”
Knight uses a strategic combination of adaptive technology and a very specific routine to enable him to continue playing. On the mornings that he plans to drum, he does extensive stretching, warm-up exercises, and physical therapy, and then takes a short nap. After waking up, he warms up a second time and then finally plays. Skeebo plays as much as he can, and then is often forced by extreme fatigue to spend the rest of the day resting and recovering.
“When I’m so tired and hurting so much, the thought of quitting crosses my mind,” Knight admits. “But I’ve learned not to make decisions then. And drumming has done so much for me. I’ve learned how to relax and have less tension in my body. This is a big part of drumming, even if you don’t have a physical ailment.”
Knight has also adjusted his setup. He uses a DrumFrame and locates both the ride cymbal and hi-hats on his left side so that he doesn’t have to cross over. He also uses Ahead sticks and gloves to lessen the pain of impact.
Knight’s CDs are available from cdbaby.com/skeebo.