“The records I tend to like for the drumming aren’t always the typical ones that most people would pick," says Matt Helders, the irrepressible and charismatic man behind the kit for world-beaters the Arctic Monkeys. “For me, it’s not all about the flashy stuff and hearing some guy show off his chops. I’d rather listen to a drummer who knows how to play to the song."
It wasn't always that way, however: The famously self-taught player, who didn't even pick up a set of sticks until the Arctic Monkeys were forming (a fact made all the more remarkable when you consider his astonishingly fluid style), admits that when he was just starting out, the allure of virtuosity held sway over him.
"At first, I was really impressed with drummers doing thousands of fills and all the crazy technical stuff," he says. "But as I learned how to play, I began to realize that there’s more to drumming than just being the center of attention and going off; you have to be musical, as well."
Helders honed his rhythmic sensibilities (first formed as a DJ) by jamming to his favorite albums. "I’d put a whole record on and play along to it," he says. "I'd always find bits on different cuts that I’d pick up that weren’t on the single. I’d also play to rap albums because oftentimes I could play whatever I wanted; the pace was slower, and I could stretch out and groove without losing my place."
In the past few years, much has been written about the steady decline of album sales and the format's fading dominance as a cultural force. For his part, Helders sees the Arctic Monkeys as flag-waivers for the joys of the album experience. "We still, maybe in a naive way, make full-length records, hoping that people will sit down and listen to the whole thing from start to finish," he says. "But I know that I'm guilty of previewing things on iTunes and then buying stuff." He laughs, then adds, "I suppose that says something about modern music, as well."
On the following pages, Helders runs down his picks for 10 Essential Drum Albums. The Arctic Monkeys' new album, AM, is available at Amazon. For the band's current tour schedule, visit the official Arctic Monkeys website.