Hello, humans. My name is Jonathan Syverson, and I’ve never actually written any sort of blog. But as anyone who knows me would tell you, I absolutely LOVE talking about myself, and since Modern Drummer was kind enough to come asking, it would be my pleasure to oblige.
Back in the dark ages of 1993, I started out playing guitar at age thirteen. My best friend also bought a guitar, and together we aimed to start the loudest, noisiest, and most badass punk band a thirteen-year-old could conceive. Even though most our songs ended up as some awful punk anthems about getting beat up or the girls that teased and dumped us, I’d like to think there was some power-magic happening there. Whatever you want to call it, I remember this early experience being more badass than embarrassing. A good start for two broke thirteen-year-olds with no real grasp of reality outside of TV and the seventh grade.
Soon after we started our rock ’n’ roll takeover, we realized a band consisting of two guitar players wasn’t packing the punch we needed…let there be drums! Since we were just two nerds who no one hung out with, it became clear that one of us would have to become the drummer. My best friend, guitar player, and heterosexual life mate (all being the same person, if you didn’t follow) was a much bigger character than I was. After a few unfairly matched fights and dozens of low blows later, it was obvious who the future drummer was going to be. That said, I owe all of my experience as a drummer to my childhood friend Jeff Partridge. I’d like to think if he wasn’t able to overpower me at every turn and force me to take up drumming, I wouldn’t have attempted to be a drummer at all. In another life I might currently be embarrassing myself as a guitar player/front man somewhere in a sea of failed aspiring rock jerks.
Getting to the facts, my first drum setup consisted of one hand-me-down Ludwig snare drum (to be specific, a Ludwig 6 1/2×14 Supra-Phonic 402 ten-lug model with an aluminum shell), one Ludwig hard-shell case (which was propped up on a bed to the right of the snare drum, and doubled as hi-hats and kick drum), one stuffed animal teddy bear (which acted as a stand/mount for the hardshell/hi-hat/kickdrum combo), and one kitchen chair (drum throne). I think Jeff’s little brother had a few souvenir mini sports flags. Once the flag part was torn from the base you were left with these long thin pieces of wood…which became my first pair of drumsticks.
My first rehearsal space was in my guitar player’s bedroom. Our hours of operation were every weekday after school, before his parents got home from work. Had his parents known we were using their house for band practice, they would have surely shut us down. So the end of each practice became a frantic cleanup session to hide any evidence we were playing music in the house.
After each practice we would close our days doing the rounds of my partner’s daily newspaper route. Walking that route, we would reflect on each victorious practice, and build ideas to improve our newfound rock model. On Christmas 1994 my wonderful mother and father finally gave in and bought my first drumset. I believe the brand name was Thor. I stole every oven tray or circular tin object within a five-mile radius, and used them as cymbals and hi-hats. It was an awful sound when I played drums with tin cooking sheets, but from that point on drumming easily became one of the most important things in my small, underdeveloped life. It was my new superpower.
Fast-forward almost seventeen years, and I’ve taken part in a handful of obnoxious bands, taught lessons to a variety of students, recorded and released multiple records, and done countless tours in the U.S. and overseas—and I’m not yet tired in the least. I continue to create obnoxious noise, all the while still taking time to reflect on each victorious practice and build new ideas to improve my rock model. I just need another paper route to complete the circle.
I am a self-taught drummer, but that’s not to say I didn’t have teachers. The bulk of my learning experience on the drums was between 1993 and 1996, or “the make it or break it years.” As I learned, my favorite drummers came and went in phases. Thanks to MTV or the local cable access metal show, I was able to view and take in many a badass drummer. I suppose a drum lesson under these terms was a monkey-see, monkey-do sort of tactic. After I understood the basics of rhythm and keeping time, it was all about stealing tricks from my favorites. To name a few of my early ones: Dave Grohl, Danny Carey, Matt Sorum, Chuck Biscuits, Dave Lombardo. I still go through phases on who I look up to as a drummer. I don’t think a good musician (or any artist for that matter) should be able to settle on one idea for long. A few drummers who continue to shock and confuse me are (in no particular order) Zach Hill, Tony Royster Jr., Sheila E, Buddy Rich, and Keith Moon.
To any younger/struggling drummers who may still be reading at this point, I’d like to leave you with this: Playing music at any level (full-time, session, studio, touring, part-time) is an amazing and rewarding gig. Earlier I referred to playing the drums as a superpower, and I fully support that statement. For me drumming is the only thing I can do correctly, and it’s a relationship I never stop benefiting from. If you are willing to sacrifice time and patience, you can count on drumming to constantly challenge and reward over time. I invite you to prove that last statement wrong.
Thanks for reading, human drum fan. Here are a few examples of said obnoxious noise I play drums with: Daughters (2002–present, www.myspace.com/daughters1); Snowbird (2008–present, www.myspace.com/snowbirdblows; The Color Of Violence (2008–09, www.myspace.com/thecolorofviolence; As The Sun Sets (1997-2002, www.myspace.com/asthesunsetsgrind).
Daughters’ latest release came out on March 9 on Hydrahead Industries (www.hydrahead.com).