‘Let There Be Drums’ Documentary Explores the Beat-Driven World of Drummers

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Ringo Starr of The Beatles in the documentary “Let There Be Drums”

By Simone Goldstone | NB Indy Soundcheck Columnist

Why do some people play the drums?

Many musicians head straight to the melodic guitar or lead singing and they leave the primal beats to a more rhythmically inclined bandmate. For others, there were no other instruments but the drums.

Why are some people wired that way? This is the question filmmaker Justin Kreutzmann seeks to answer in his fascinating documentary “Let There Be Drums” which premiered at the Newport Beach Film Festival last October and is now available on Amazon Prime.

“Drummers aren’t like you and me,” says Kreutzmann, drawing up the divide between drummers and the rest of the population.

The welcome face of recently deceased Taylor Hawkins shines like a jewel on the screen throughout the film.

“It was like a bolt of lightning went through my body,” the Foo Fighters drummer shyly shares. Hawkins’ daughter peeks in the room, demurely eyeing the camera.

Hawkins space in the documentary is timely and treasured, perhaps the most important part of the film. It is the last interview he’s ever done.

Foo Fighters’ late drummer Taylor Hawkins in the documentary “Let There Be Drums”

The revolving cast of drumming legends include Ringo Starr, Chad Smith, Adrian Young, and many others.

Hawkins poses the question: “For drummers: how stable did your home life seem?”

It’s a great question; to make yourself comfortable in the pounding chaos and loud cacophony of the drums isn’t for everyone.

Phill Collins’ son Nicholas shows up to talk about his drumming lineage. It’s just in his blood. His dad didn’t teach him or push the drums on him. It’s just his DNA.

Drumming also is often under appreciated. It takes a lot for a drum fill to be the recognizable part of the song, as opposed to a guitar riff. Phil Collins does it in his song “In the Air.”

Next is the case of John Bonham. Nobody can be John Bonham, but his son, Jason is the closest. Once again, it’s just in his DNA. That’s something you’re born with, the film argues.

Yet Justin Kruetzmann is not a drummer.

“I grew up on tour,” he says, “I wore a T-shirt with my name on it so security could find me if I wandered off. I was mostly raised by roadies.”

Next comes the shining relic that is Keith Moon’s original drum set.

“He was the first guy I heard that put crashes in the middle of fills,” Chad Smith says in awe, hands skirting over the sacred kit.

Poster for Let There Be Drums

The footage of The Who in the 1960s is a highlight of the film. There’s nothing that comes close to watching snippets now that we’ve had the context. Footage of John Densmore from the Doors lights up the screen as well.

But next is the legend himself: Ringo Starr. His drums are distinctive for two reasons that he shared: He was originally left-handed, but his grandma thought that meant he was possessed by the devil, and he had to play a right-handed kit. This meant the elusive spaces in his drumming before the fills is there out of necessity.

The second is his philosophy is that the drums should follow the singer. “My style has always been to play with the singer,” he says with a laugh. Ringo plays like the guitar would, he keeps the beat going but he’s interacting with the singer.

Overall, the film is a treasure trove of information for drummers. Those who play the instrument will find it relatable, and those who don’t will learn about the special kind of person it takes to be a drummer.

And of course, it’s a wonderful memory of Taylor Hawkins, and immortalizes him as the great drummer he was.

 

 

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