On Elevate, the funk band Lettuce continues to evolve, treading into trap, psychedelic dub, Latin rock, ’80s synth- wave, Thai and Bay Area funk, and Texas blues, always fueled mightily by the creative syncopations of drummer ADAM DEITCH. Here we check out the album and chat with the drummer about it.
Adam Deitch makes the simplest things mean a lot. On “Trapezoid,” the opening track of Lettuce’s latest long player, he locks in with the subterranean tones of bassist Erick Coomes, stepping it up underneath Benny Bloom’s trumpet solo. “Royal Highness” is funk fit for a king, and Deitch’s open hat on the downbeats gives the tune a nice push. The expected nods to J Dilla are present in the groove of “Purple Cabbage” and flammed backbeats of “Gang Ten.” Elsewhere, Deitch goes Garibaldi on their pumped-up cover of Tears for Fears’“Everybody Wants to Rule the World,”“Shmink Dabby” has a playfully sinister overtone (think “Inspector Gadget”) before blasting into Santana space, and the drummer’s blend of ghost notes and phased cymbals highlight “Larimar.” Closing the set, “Trapezoid Dub” is a delightful marriage of dancehall and hip-hop elements, and Deitch’s cross-sticks, buzz rolls, and snare shots are at once complementary and provocative.
MD: The rhythm section comes up big on “Trapezoid.”
Adam: Drumistically, that’s coming from a style of hip-hop called trap music, which has the basic kick drum pattern of go-go music. And then there’s a lot of 16th-note and 32nd-note and triplet stuff on the hi-hat, really getting more creative on that side. The hi-hat is really what’s creating a lot of excitement. The kick drum pattern
is very close to a 3:2 clave. It’s fun to keep that clave pattern with my right foot, and go between 16ths, 32nds, triplets, and ruffs on the hi-hat, to keep that forward motion happening.
MD: “Royal Highness” brings in the straight-up funk.
Adam: That tune is based on a Prince sort of vibe, where the kick drum is 1 and 3, snare is 2 and 4, and that’s what works. If you listen to a lot of Prince’s uptempo funk, that’s where he’s coming from, where the kick and snare are simple, and the bass and guitar are creating all of these counter rhythms. The drums are very supportive, as opposed to playing a bunch of more advanced kick drum rhythms. It really sets it in stone and creates a kind of foundation for all of the other rhythms happening up top with the horns and guitars.
MD: “Krewe” must be referring to the band Khruangbin.
Adam: They definitely inspired that song. They have that laid-back funk sound, which is really interesting. To make it ours, we had to inject some energy and urgency into that vibe. We were also thinking of old school B-Boy breakdance grooves. A lot of break dancers like to break to old-school funk and uptempo funk as opposed to hip-hop. They really dig the underground classic funk from the ’70s, so this is also an ode to that. And we’ve been listening to a lot of the same bands that Khruangbin is into—you know, the Éthiopiques and Thai funk compilations. Khruangbin has Americanized it but kept a lot of that vibe in, so it’s been an influence on us for sure. And their drummer, DJ, is one of the great, simple groove drummers of our generation.
MD: Tears for Fears’“Everybody Wants to Rule the World” gets a nice makeover.
Adam: I’ve always loved that song, and for us to do a cover of a very popular song like that, it’s very important to change it somehow. The melody is so timeless that I think it could be done with any sort of beat. When [singer/keyboardist] Nigel Hall and I first met and started jamming together about eight years ago, we had this idea to take the melody and throw a go-go swing on it, sort of a mash-up of a go-go beat with a great ’80s synth-wave song. It just had a vibe, and it really works live. And Nigel is a phenomenal singer.
MD: I enjoy your am backbeat on “Gang Ten.”
Adam: Yeah, I think we added a clap or some sort of sound to flam off of my snare. That groove was written in my house, on my drums. I was trying to come up with sort of a J Dilla–inspired lazy hi-hat, hinting at the 8th-note triplet on the hi-hat over a normal hip-hop kick and snare pattern. It has that slinky feeling that’s in between straight and swung.
MD: On “Purple Cabbage” your stops are almost like fills.
Adam: Yeah, sometimes the best fill is space, complete blank space. That’s a hip-hop concept, when on the fourth or eighth bar of the track the DJ would take the track out completely to allow the final phrase to be raps from the MC. When you have a serious beat happening and do a quick drop, it just kind of pulls the rug out, and when it comes back in, the whole thing is ignited again. “Purple Cabbage” is based on the J Dilla aesthetic of playing drums with the laid-back hi-hat, a forward-motion kind of groove, and a spaciness that’s happening above the groove.
Sometimes the flam and hi-hat being laid-back just gives it a relaxed feel and separates it from the quantized world, which most things are these days. It’s purposefully humanizing parts of the groove. We’re hoping that more music comes out highlighting the human element of drumming as opposed to the robotic stuff. I feel like this is the antithesis of that. (Lettuce Records)
Hellyeah Welcome Home
One final—and predictably raging— performance from the recently departed heavy metal maestro VINNIE PAUL.
Hearing an album with the foreknowledge of finality creates a different kind of listening experience. There’s a sadness in knowing it will be the last album graced by the drummer’s unique creative voice. At the same time, you appreciate the joy of being able to hear that voice on something new one last time. On June 22, 2018, Vinnie Paul passed away at the age of fifty-four, soon after completing his drum tracks for Hellyeah’s sixth album, Welcome Home. The album’s opener, “333,” gives us Vinnie’s signature smile-inducing ferocity. From there, the record is an ever-present, unrelenting reminder of just how special Vinnie’s drumming was, always elevating songs by providing an immovable concrete slab of heavy groove, and peppering in some seriously spicy chops. “Sky and Water,” the last song on Welcome Home, is a heartfelt tribute to Vinnie written after he passed away, but the final, “hidden” track on the album, “Irreplaceable,” is a short, unscripted clip of Vinnie expounding his philosophy on living life in the moment. Wise words, and a bittersweet way to say so long. (Eleven Seven)
Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso
An iconic Italian prog band proves there are still compelling statements to be made in the genre.
Banco’s musically baroque and operatic qualities have virtually defined Progressivo Italiano, a movement in rock that emerged from the social and political turbulence of late-’60s/early-’70s Italy. The band’s latest studio record, the conceptual Transiberiana, is bolstered not only by BDMS’s typically grand, recapitulated musical themes and Romantic vocal performances, but a new lineup and hypnotic rhythmic patterns. In “L’Imprevisto” drummer Fabio Moresco glides through mesmerizing odd times and recurring passages in 6/8, while on “L’Assalto Dei Lupi” he closely follows tightly choreographed accents (and lays down the funk). This entire production seems fresh and rhythmically cyclical, encapsulating nearly everything that is and likely will be vital about Continental European progressive rock. (Inside Out)
Ringo’s White Album by Alex Cain and Terry McCusker
Finding the Fourth Beatle by David Bedford and Garry Popper
A pair of recent publications go deep into the weeds of Beatledom—you might not even find your way out.
Beatles disciples Alex Cain and Terry McCusker follow up their Ringo Starr and the Beatles Beat with the comprehensive, well-researched volume Ringo’s White Album. The authors Ringo-centrically cover the history of the iconic double LP’s recording sessions along with production details, including gear specs and miking techniques. Each track’s drumkit/percussion contributions are analyzed. There is some overlap with the previous book, but this go-round is far more detailed. Drummers will want the deluxe edition, which includes the complete drumkit/percussion transcriptions for every number.
To provide accuracy, the authors have sourced the stereo and mono 2009 remasters as well as the 2018 anniversary-edition remix that Ringo himself has praised for its improved drum clarity. It’s edifying to view Ringo-isms such as his relaxed, split-up triplet fills on “Cry Baby Cry,” responsive elastic passages on “Long, Long, Long,” and seamless navigation of numerous shifting meters on “Happiness Is a Warm Gun.” Also illuminated are tracks with two layered drum parts: on “Helter Skelter” the layers heighten the frantic intensity, while on “Don’t Pass Me By” they color the wobbling, semi-inebriated feel. (ringoswhitealbum.com, deluxe edition: $49, standard edition: $22.59)
For those who must consume every morsel of Beatles history, Finding the Fourth Beatle by David Bedford and Garry Popper will sate even the thirstiest fanatics. The exhaustive 327-page book focuses on the circuitous path leading to Ringo’s throne ascendancy. The story chronicles many lesser-known drummers along the way— and beyond.
Naturally, the famed Pete Best saga is covered extensively. And among the “forgotten” drummers, some hold worthy bragging rights—like Tommy Moore, who, after a month-long stint, departed for the security of his forklift job, and Jimmie Nicol, who covered for the hospitalized Ringo during two weeks of the Beatles’ 1964 world tour. Others, however, remain micro-footnotes, including a notorious bar hooligan who jumped behind an unoccupied drumkit, bashing away for an evening while the lads cowered in fear. It’s maddening minutiae for some, nirvana for others. (thefourthbeatle.com, hardcover edition: $53, paperback: $37.99)