Getting Back to the Rudiments

John Battelle
6 min readMay 18
My first kit, a Pearl Vision walnut finish. I miss that kit.

There’s probably a name for it, but I can’t conjure the word: When you’ve been doing something a long, long time, then realize you’ve pretty much been doing it all wrong. That’s the case with me and the drums — an instrument I picked up a dozen years ago but only recently have come to understand as infinitely intricate.

I can’t explain why I started playing, I got the bug when my good friend Jordan insisted I sit down and attempt to bang out a rhythm one very late night. He was re-familiarizing himself with his guitar and wanted a co-conspirator, he happened to have a kit collecting dust in his garage. I was in my mid forties and pretty lost in my career, and I had just moved to a new town. We had a blast making noise that first night — I recall the police coming after multiple complaints, and I woke up afterwards with my face stuck to the snare. After that I built a band room in an out building on my property, found some more guys to play with, and we formed what could pass for a band.

The original band room, circa 2015

I was a terrible drummer. I took a few lessons and watched some YouTube videos, but I resolutely refused to practice. I think I knew how much I didn’t know, how much I had to learn. I mean, Lars Ulrich was a parent at my kids’ school, and there was no way I was ever going to play at his level. Anyways, I didn’t want to “get serious” — I just wanted to play. Turns out the world vanishes when you lock in with other players and everyone is chasing the flow. When that flow graces the room, damn, there’s just nothing like it. I knew there was a universe of “real drumming” that I was ignoring, but hey, I could study a beat and figure out how to mimic it, and I could (mostly) keep time. And every so often I’d surprise myself with a new riff that seemed to come out of nowhere. We were just having fun, jamming and playing covers and even penning a few originals. None of us had dreams of “playing out” or getting good enough to make a career in music.

The band room was a joyful counterbalance to the madness and exhilaration of running businesses and raising young children. It beat playing golf or going to Vegas or getting drunk in random bars. We’d all text each other on the fly —…

John Battelle

A Founder of The Recount, NewCo, Federated Media, sovrn Holdings, Web 2 Summit, Wired, Industry Standard; writer on Media, Technology, Culture, Business


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