Backbeats: Ari Gold’s Adventures Of Power
by Billy Amendola
“When I initially took notes about my character, Power,” Ari says, “I was living in a small town in the Southwest. I thought about this person working in the mines down there, extracting the metal that’s used to make cymbals yet never having a chance to play drums, and what a beautiful irony that would be—it could speak to anybody around the world who works in a job making things they can’t afford. The feeling of being left out of mainstream culture and being left out of the American dream is something that so many people are experiencing now.
“Then I thought this air drumming thing is a great joke and it’s funny to look at, but at the same time it can deliver a story that people can relate to, even if they’re not drummers, and it can tell a story that means something to me on a deeper level as well.”
Adventures Of Power also stars Gold’s friend Adrian Grenier from HBO’s hit TV show Entourage (Grenier plays drums and sings in the real-life band the Honey Brothers, with Gold on ukelele, vocals, and occasional drums) and was an official selection at the Sundance Film Festival. It features music by, among other artists, Mister Mister, Phil Collins, and Rush—plus a rare cameo appearance by Rush drummer Neil Peart—and its message is about believing in yourself and the power of music. MD caught up with Gold around the time of the movie’s release.
MD: Do you play drums?
Ari: I do. At first I was an air drummer—as many drummers are when they start out. I got sticks when I was fourteen and played on pillows for about two years. Around sixteen, I got a drumset and pretty quickly joined the high school jazz band. I played drums until I formed the Honey Brothers. I’ll get behind the kit when our drummer, Adrian, comes up front to sing a few songs.
MD: So what inspired you to do the movie?
Ari: Well, the initial thing was kind of just the joke of it. I went to an air guitar competition and played [Rush’s] “Tom Sawyer” on air drums, and it was sort of a stunt just to mess with the air guitarist. I had been kind of stewing on this character of an air drummer for a while, but I’d never really taken it seriously as something I would pursue. But it went over so well with the crowd, and I started thinking that maybe I could make something of this.
Every drummer knows that drumming comes from the heartbeat. The first line in the movie is, “The first sound that we hear is the beat of our mama’s heart,” and that’s what drumming is about. It’s about reconnecting with that heartbeat. That’s the spiritual side of the drummer, and that’s what it’s all about for me.
MD: I love the line when Michael McKean’s character, Power’s dad, says, “Maybe if I bought him drums when he was kid, he’d be over it by now.”
Ari: [laughs] That’s definitely a nod to everyone who has played music, or has wanted to play music, and refused to let go of the dream. That’s a really important line.
MD: Who were the first drummers you noticed growing up?
Ari: Neil Peart was always the one for me. I remember sitting on my sister’s floor at eight years old with a record player and just being like, What is that coming out of the speaker? I remember air drumming to that and a lot of John Bonham and Kraftwerk—which is a strange one for a lot of people, but this band had two drummers in it, and they built their drums themselves! They made these crazy electronic drums and played them with these tiny little sticks. But it’s great drumming, very musical and interesting. I got into Phil Collins around ten years old—I remember all of us air drumming simultaneously to him.
MD: “In The Air Tonight” is probably one of the biggest air drumming songs of all time.
Ari: Oh, yeah, we air drummed to that and also to a Genesis song, “Mama.” I loved super-compressed drum sounds because they can be the most fun to air drum to. There are a lot of other drummers I got into once I started playing more, like Max Roach when I was playing jazz. I somehow missed out on Buddy Rich until later on, and then obviously I discovered him. I also really like Mitch Mitchell.
MD: How did you get Neil Peart in the movie?
Ari: That was largely my music supervisor knowing someone at Rush’s management company and putting in a nice word. Simultaneously I wrote Neil a letter saying this is the message, this is why I’m making it, and this is why I’d love to have your song in the movie—and I’d love to have you in the movie.
I wrote a lot of letters like that to various people who said no, but Neil was the one I really, really wanted. And they said yes, and I feel blessed to be working with everyone at their management company, Anthem. They have been so nice and generous and helpful, which is not always the case. I feel so fortunate to have met them and to have them in my life. I couldn’t say enough nice things about Neil or about anyone in that whole organization.
We’re also putting together some charity events where we’ll raise money for music education for kids—which is thematically right on for the movie. It was what my mother was working on when she passed away.
MD: We wish you the best of luck with the movie and the charity.
Ari: Thank you. It’s been four years of hard labor. And I appreciate Modern Drummer reaching out. I’m glad we talked.