How Do I Play The Drums?
Dennis Diken . . . Smithereens

FF     I want to ask you how you got started on drums. What was the first thing that told you you wanted to do it?

DD     I knew when I was very young that I wanted to play drums just because... I guess it came natural, I picked up my Lincoln Logs... I don't know if kids [still] play with Lincoln Logs, it was a toy you had back in the early 60's, where you built log cabins out of these sticks of wood, and I just started playing along to songs I heard even before radio, songs I would hear on TV, you know, and I think when we were kids there was a lot of great music on TV that was a good breeding ground, because there was a lot of jazz influenced TV themes.

FF     Oh yeah, and all those great players that were playing on, like, the theme to I Dream Of Jeannie, that was probably Hal Blaine, I guess...

DD     Hal Blaine, or Palmer, Shelly Manne, people like that, and I guess you don't see it on TV much [these days] I mean, TV was our babysitter, I don't know about you, but for me, every day before I was school age, I would watch TV, and every morning, the Little Rascals were on, right? And the Three Stooges were on, and old movies were on, so we were exposed to music from the 20's and 30's and it was just part of our upbringing, we didn't discern, you know, that's 20's music, so we had all these influences, you know. Anyway, somehow I zeroed in on the drums, I don't remember why, but I did. And, when I started buying records, when I was about 5, I just started playing along to 'em, and I knew that I wanted to play, and it was just as simple as that. Then I picked up coffee cans and started playing on those, and, it took me a long time to get a drumkit.

FF     Now, how about that? Did you ask for one? From your parents? How did that go?

DD     Well, they encouraged it, and, it turned out that somebody was selling a used drumkit, and I bought it for 75 bucks, and I still use those drums, red sparkle Ludwigs...

FF     Nice.

DD     75 bucks, no snare.

FF     What year?

DD     68.

FF     Niiiice.

DD     Yeah. How about you? What year for you?

FF     My first drumset was like, every drum was a different color, I just bought it used off some guy that had pieced it together, one drum was a Slingerland, and one drum was a Ludwig...

DD     What year was it for you?

FF     Basically, my father tried to teach me to play drums when I was 8 years old, and I wasn't interested, but then, when I was 15 and I met some long haired hippy freak that was playing Hendrix in his garage with headphones, I wandered in and said, "Let's have a band", coz my father had at least instilled that much in me. And I asked my dad to get me a drumset, and of course he brought me to buy a used kit, so I guess that was like, '72 -ish?

DD     So, you know what it was like, you probabIy came up like me, I came home every day from school... couldn't wait to play the drums. And I would play along with records. And that's how I learned. I never took lessons. And it was just a passion.

FF     That's an interesting point, it was something that you felt you had to do, right?

DD     I HAD to do it.

FF     Coz, these kids are sending me emails, and they seem interested, but I was giving lessons to this one kid, and all of a sudden one day, he just pushed his drums into the corner of his room, and he wasn't interested anymore, but for you and me, we couldn't wait to sit down and do that.

DD     Couldn't wait. And it might be different for different kids too, I mean there'd be some kids might... if they push it away, they might take a little time, they might need to take a little time and then come back to it, because, if that passion's there, it's not going to go away. They might get frustrated, or whatever, and sometimes... I'm not saying it's a bad idea to take lessons, I never did, but I'd say that maybe for some youngsters, it might take a little prodding, or a little guidance to get it out of them. To get them to focus on some of the basics, and some of the tools, and once they learn them, they can fly with it.

FF     But, for you, like me, you listened to records and mimic-ed what you heard on the records, that was kinda the way you did it, right?

DD     Yeah.

FF     That was a good way to do it. I spoke to Max Weinberg, we played a song on Late Night With Conan O'Brien, I spoke to Max briefly, and I told him I was doing this website, and I said, "What advice would you give to kids that want to start playing the drums, and he said, "Well, kids aren't going to want to hear THIS...", and I said, "No, no, that's fine, whatever YOUR advice is, that's great, that's fine." And he goes, "I would play on a [practice] pad for a year, before even touching a drumset. But kids aren't gonna wanna hear that..." And I said, hey, that's a very legitimate thing too."

DD     Sure it is.

FF     But, that was thing my father tried to push on me that I wasn't into. The RIGHT LEFT RIGHT LEFT school thing, you know.

DD     But that's what I would say, you know, play along with records. That's how I did it, and I can only speak from my experience. Like I said before, some kids, it might take some guidance, some kind of focus from a teacher...

FF     Gettin' a lesson once in awhile...

DD     Yeah, a kid might have a passion, but not know quite what to do, I'm sure you just went for it, like I did, without really knowing...

FF     I just wanted to get in a band, that's all, I just wanted to get playing with a bunch of guys...

DD     But, you had it in your limbs, you knew what to do when you sat down at a kit, after a few tries, I'm sure. Maybe some kids don't quite have it at first, but...

FF     I was giving lessons to this one kid, and he just wasn't gettin' it at all, and then one day I slapped some ACDC on his stereo and put headphones on him, and all of a sudden, he got it.

DD     Well, you see, sometimes it takes the right music for a kid to get it.