Hard-hittin' rocker on Rush, Dennis Chambers and more
Daniel Adair is a seriously busy guy.
When we speak to the hard-hitting rocker not only has he recently foiled a fraudster (see our news section for more on that!), but he has also just laid down a track for his band Martone and is in the midst of the sessions for a brand new Nickelback record, Feed The Machine, due for release this June.
With a deadline for the latter looming, Adair tells us that he has been hard at work in his home studio working up the tracks, although he admits that many songs come to him almost fully formed.
“Technology has changed so the songwriter can program drums and then they get demo-itus so when you try something different they think it doesn’t sound right,” he says. “I’ll do a couple of passes verbatim and then I’ll spice it up and throw in my own fills and add the human element to it.”
Despite being against the clock to deliver those Nickelback tracks, Adair took a little time out to ponder his ten essential drum albums. Here’s what he came up with…
1. Rush – Hemispheres (1978)
“When I was 11 I had an elder brother called Steven who passed away and I loved him dearly.
“He had a box full of cassettes and I pulled Hemispheres out of the box. I had been playing drums for a month or two at the time and I put this album on and was like, ‘Jesus Christ!’ All of that hi-hat work, I didn’t know that stuff was possible.
“I had a special connection to that album because it was like my brother was in the cassette. I would sit in my room and air drum to it, I learnt every part by air drumming and then put it on the kit.
“Obviously it took me a year or two before I could play it all but it gave me something to work with.
"Later on I think that album really helped me become comfortable with odd time. That record is full of odd time and when I first started playing it I had no idea it was odd time, I was just playing it.”
2. Led Zeppelin – I (1969)
“I was listening to Neil Peart in his prime and then I discovered Led Zeppelin.
“I learnt every note on that record. Man, talk about trying to get your foot to go fast on Good Times, Bad Times.
“All my drummer friends at the time were talking out of their asses saying Bonham had a double bass pedal. I studied all of these old black and white pictures and said, ‘He’s not! He’s using a Ludwig Speed King or something.’
“I had one of those pedals and my dad’s 1967 Ludwig green sparkle kit and I thought, ‘Okay, if Bonham can do that I’ve got to get my foot to do that.’ Talk about shin-burning for a whole year.”
3. Helmet - Meantime (1992)
“This album married together the heavy element with groove. John Stanier is on drums.
“What a wicked album this is. His grooves are so big. You can tell he was probably influenced by Bonham as well. It’s the next generation of Bonham, with a little more muffle to it.
“You will sweat a bucket if you sit and drum to that album. I did that a lot during my teens. John isn’t a high-profile drummer and I don’t know why because he is just slammin’. “
4. Primus - Frizzle Fry (1990)
“My first concert I ever went to was Rush on the Presto tour. Primus was opening up for them.
“To see songs like Tommy The Cat live was unreal. Frizzle Fry was my absolute favourite album by Primus.
“You can tell that Tim Alexander was influenced heavily by Neil Peart but he had a lot of groove. He had a lot of clever ideas. This was another album that I learned note for note.
“A lot of Saturdays my parents would work all day so I would just play along to records. I loved Tim Alexander’s roto toms and that he would play double kick patterns on 18” bass drums.”
5. Allan Holdsworth - Secrets (1989)
“Secrets is one of my favourite albums ever.
“Vinnie Colaiuta is on that album. Talk about playing something and being blindsided.
“A lot of people run away from this album, even some of my muso friends just don’t get it. There’s so much there, it’s like putting your face into a blender.
“It takes ten or 15 listens of the album to start figuring out what is happening. It is a dictionary of licks from Vinnie. After hearing that, and also Dave Weckl, I realised I needed to go and take lessons.”
6. John Scofield - Pick Hits Live (1987)
“At this point Dennis Chambers was at his prime. Oh man, I wore this album out. I lifted a lot from it.
“By osmosis the more you listen to something it just comes out in your playing. I started to stylise my phrasing around the kit like Dennis.
“One thing I liked about Dennis was that he had the blazing chops, everyone loves that, that’s the candy, you’re just waiting for him to do those single stroke rolls.
“But he also has the power; a lot of guys tip tap around the kit. Dennis is super powerful, he is smacking the whole stick across the drum head. He lays into the drums with speed and precision.”
7. John McLaughlin - The Heart Of Things (1997)
“I just had to put two albums featuring Dennis Chambers onto my list.
“This album is Dennis’s best album with John, it might be one of his best albums ever.
“Sonically, the cymbals sound so nice, they sound huge. Dennis is playing his ass off on this record. There’s a song on the album called Mr D.C. Holy smokes, what an album.
“Some of my choices are a little hard to digest because there might be sax solos and fluffy keyboard patterns, but I look past that for the musicianship.”
8. Serious Young Insects - On The Virg (1999)
“Whenever I meet a drummer on the road I’ll ask them if they have heard this album and they say no.
“When I play it to them I see the same look in their eyes that says, ‘Holy f***!’ It’s Virgil Donati on drums.
“I was working at a music store when I was young so I found his instructional videos and couldn’t believe his playing, he played like a caged gorilla.
“On this album the music is so heavy, it’s prog rock but it’s really cool and heavy and covered in Virgil’s playing."
9. Warren Cuccurullo - Thanks To Frank (1996)
“Vinnie makes the list again! Warren was the guitar player with Duran Duran. It’s just Warren, Vinnie and Matt Bissonette on bass.
“It’s recorded live off the floor. When you buy the CD it says things like, ‘Take two of two’ for each song.
“I don’t think they did more than three takes for any one song. I used to lift licks off this album like crazy.
“Unfortunately I was in some original pop bands at the time I was trying to lift these licks so the band shot that down!”
10. Dave Matthews Band - Crash (2000)
“Carter Beauford is a big inspiration to me. What a magic era of music the early ‘90s was, there was so much going on.
“I loved Alice In Chains and I remember buying their album Dirt and at the same time the guy at the record store was telling me about Dave Matthews so I checked Crash out as well.
“I took it home and wow, I’ve heard people say Carter is too busy, but they’re a jam band. He isn’t stepping on the vocals at all.
“He has tasty playing and he’s a chop monster as well. He has unorthodox technique as well with super French grip and leading with his left hand.”