Part 1: “Malignant Narcissism”

When it comes to breaking down the drum parts on the instrumental song “Malignant Narcissism” from Rush’s 2007 studio album, Snakes & Arrows, there’s no better place to go than the man who played it, Neil Peart. Neil orchestrated his parts on the drumset specifically to how they fit into the song’s arrangement. And when creating his educational course for, Peart appropriately titled it “Frontiers of Composition and Articulation.” We’re starting this four-part tribute series with a breakdown of “Malignant Narcissism,” in Neil’s own words. In coming issues, we’ll further explore Peart’s creativity as we analyze his drum solo piece “De Slagwerker,” an improvised warm-up solo, and his performance of “YYZ” from one of the Buddy Rich Memorial concerts.

“The opening drum pattern of ‘Malignant Narcissism’ came about in some interesting ways,” said Peart. “As we were working through the arrangement, this song was maybe played three or four times before it was recorded, so it was definitely an on-the-fly, seat-of-the-pants situation. I was just tapping out time to the click track, and the producer, Nick Raskulinecz, said, ‘Oh yeah, I think you should start the song like that.’ So I do that, and then as the bass enters I shifted to straight timekeeping and followed what [bassist Geddy Lee] was doing.”

Peart continued, “Then the sequence goes up to the verse pattern, where the bass riff shifts and the syncopation goes to downbeat-oriented time. So I go over to the ride cymbal, and then, with triplets, fill accents across it, winding up with a little fill around the snare and two toms. I end with a flam and then kick into the next verse. There are three progressive treatments that all are first based on time, just tapping out the clicks, and then responding to the bass player’s interplay. What Geddy played, accent-wise, I tried to go with. And then, finally, we move from the verse to the chorus. So we’re following a fresh rhythmic approach that Geddy had taken, which influenced the drum part.”

Here’s a transcription of the version of “Malignant Narcissism” that Neil played that day at Drum Channel’s studio.

By Don Lombardi

Don Lombardi

Don Lombardi is the founder of DW Drums and the educational website