Drummers, Feature Stories

Jojo Mayer: Electro Shaman With Masterful Technique

FJojo Mayeror years, Jojo Mayer has been regarded as a drumming shaman, a man of mystery, a technical guru existing on the outer reaches of traditional drumming logic. Perhaps best known for his work with Screaming Headless Torsos and as a member of the Prohibited Beatz clique, which existed in New York between 1994 and 2001, Mayer is a drum ’n’ bass pioneer who seemingly performs beyond ordinary drumming boundaries. He perfected a one-handed roll. He altered the sonic landscape of the drumset by adapting it for the tones and textures of electronic music. He helped develop Sabian’s Fierce series of cymbals. He played man-machine drums like some whirling dervish on a magic carpet ride.

Jojo was born in Zurich, Switzerland. His father was a successful bassist who held down a house gig at the influential Parisian Tabu club, before hitting the road in the early 1970s. Jojo played drums from the age of two, and was soon sitting in at Tabu with such jazz greats as Dizzy Gillespie, Milt Buckner, Eddie Lockjaw Davis, and Sal Nistico. By the time he was seventeen, he was working with jazz pianist Monty Alexander, which led to gigs throughout Europe. After moving to New York in the late ’80s, Mayer practically created the city’s nascent live electronic music scene, playing at now-defunct clubs like Izzy Bar and Siné.

Mayer has remained busy since his Prohibited Beatz heyday, regularly gigging with his band, Nerve, and with European jazz trio Depart, and producing various rock and pop projects including his own group, Strange Balls Of Fire. He is a highly regarded Sabian clinician as well. But his reputation will forever be aligned with a new, groundbreaking instructional DVD, Secret Weapons For The Modern Drummer (Hudson). Subtitled A Guide To Hand Technique, Mayer’s debut DVD may be seen by future drumming generations as the Rosetta Stone of drum knowledge. An amateur magician as well as a technical and textural drumming wiz, Mayer imbues  with ancient techniques and personal innovations that result in viewer revelations.

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