DEAD ASYLUM’s SAMANTHA LANDA Reveals Her Top 10 Drummers

October 18, 2017, a year ago

Samantha Landa

feature heavy metal dead asylum

DEAD ASYLUM’s SAMANTHA LANDA Reveals Her Top 10 Drummers

Let me preface this by saying that you aren’t going to agree with this list. You might not agree with any of the drummers listed here. And that’s fine, because drumming isn’t an Olympic competition (except maybe when you’re measuring ‘fastest’ or ‘loudest’). 

Everyone’s going to have a different ‘top 10’, and each player is going to be on your list for a reason. For example, my guitarist gave me hell for not including Vinnie Paul on the list. Not sorry.

This wasn’t easy. And let this be known: these are just the first 10 who came to mind. I respect and admire many more drummers.

Many of these players had a major impact on me personally. Others deserve a nod for inspiring all of drumkind. Either way, there’s no way to only choose ten ‘top drummers of all time’. Rather than go with just the obvious legends (Buddy Rich, Gene Krupa, John Bonham, Neil Peart), I’m going to highlight a variety of players who all deserve some love for different reasons.

1. Louie Bellson (R.I.P.) - The “Innovation” Award

If you play with two kick drums--or use a double pedal--Louie Bellson is one of the drummers you can thank for that. It’s debatable if he was actually the first to do it (a few people might’ve been doing it in their basements or small club shows), but he brought the double bass concept to prominence and incorporated it into his jazz writing. 

2. Sheila Escovedo - The “Top Of The Industry” Award

(Photo by: Rob Shanahan)

While she cemented her status in the mainstream by drumming with Prince, Sheila E has been kicking ass across several genres for decades. She played with Miles Davis and Lionel Richie (among other influential jazz, pop, and R&B artists), and if you’ve seen her solo, you’ve seen her cool cymbal accents and stupidly-natural playing style.

3. Travis Barker - The "Less Is More" Award

For a while, he was overrated. Now, I think he’s underrated. Sure, he kept things simple in Blink-182, but have you heard this guy play hip hop? Barker is able to take a 3-piece kit and find a thousand creative ways to make beautifully calculated noise. He’s in the pocket, all the time. 

4. George Kollias - The “Pushing The Limits" Award

If you’re a metal drummer, Kollias is probably somewhere on your list (and if he’s not, oh well). He pushes the limits of endurance with incredible accuracy. Some extreme metal drummers struggle at slower tempos; not this guy. Go see Nile live or check out Kollias’ DVDs.

5. Martin Lopez - The “How Did He Get Away With That?” Award

I’m extra biased here, because Lopez’s drumming in Opeth is one of the biggest influences for my own playing. He took his Latin drumming background and seamlessly made it work in a metal band, giving Opeth the grooves and dynamics that set them apart. Many metal players keep their drumming 100% metal, working within the guidelines that define the genre. Somehow, he made the latin thing work. Major props.

6. Joey Muha - The “Thanks For Making Drumming Cool Again” Award

Joey is seriously fun to watch. He’s also on this list because even non-drummers share his video covers. Back in the ‘30s and ‘40s (the heyday of music for my jazz-and-big-band-loving dad), drummers were pretty prominent in the mainstream. You’d see groups where the drummer was the band leader, writer, and focus. By making drumming fun to watch and covering songs everyone knows, I think Joey’s making huge strides for the modern audience with accessible stuff. Really cool.

7. Matt Garstka - The “These Rhythms Shouldn’t Make Sense But They Do” Award

Go watch him play. You’ll see why. I’ll call him a ‘precision player’. Maybe he has a perfect internal clock, maybe he’s a master of polyrhythms...either way, this guy rules. Check him out on Youtube or go see him with Animals As Leaders.

8. Ash Pearson - The “Adaptable” Award

I’ve seen Ash play in a few bands (notably Revocation and 3 Inches of Blood), and I’m impressed at how he’s seamlessly adapted his style. Plus he’s self taught, which says a lot considering he’s a killer drummer--and the godfather himself, Gene Hoglan, had enough faith in his abilities to be his mentor.

9. Tony Royster Jr. - The “Groovemaster“ Award

A prodigy like Sheila E. and several others on this list, Tony Royster Jr. is the groovemaster. I’ve never had the pleasure of seeing him live, but I’ve watched a number of his videos and he makes it look so easy. He comes up with rhythms I didn’t think should work mathematically--but they do.

10. Mike Mangini - The “He Should Keep Winning Awards” Award

I’ll admit I only learned of Mangini when he joined Dream Theater and replaced my old favourite drummer, Mike Portnoy. And my mind was blown: this guy is an anomaly. A former World’s Fastest Drummer record holder and Berklee professor who’s played with diverse artists from Annihilator to Steve Vai, he’s got a wicked resume. And that’s partly why he’s on this list. He blows my mind when I see him play, both live and in studio videos. 

In conclusion...

Writing this was really, really difficult and it might change a few months from now, but these are the first ten names that came to mind, and I’ve tried to articulate the reasons why. Feel free to leave a comment with your top 10 drummers and why they’re awesome.

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