One of the many highlights of the recent Amoebapalooza North 2009 at the Mezzanine club in San Francisco (August 2nd) was the power-duo-- the $helbyville $helbyvilllains' all too short set in which talented San Francisco Amoebites Josh Pollock (guitar/vocals) and Kaitlin Layher (drums, above) effortlessly channeled the White Stripes. Even more impressive was the fact I later learned: that Kaitlin had only been playing the drums for a relatively short time and that this was the first time that she had ever played drums out in public. I recently caught up with Kaitlin to ask her about her personal experiences as a drummer, as well as about female drummers in general as part of the long running In Celebration of the Drum Amoeblog series.
Amoeblog: Who are among your favorite female drummers and why?
Kaitlin: My favorite female drummer currently drumming is Adrienne Davies of Earth. I love watching her controlled, deliberate movements. She's hypnotizing. Moe Tucker of the Velvet Underground was amazing as well as Karen Carpenter. And, of course, I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for Meg White of The White Stripes. But you can't forget the all-girl groups, too! The Bangles and The Runaways were simply solid bands with solid drummers.
Amoeblog: Why do you think the ratio of female to male drummers is so uneven in favor of men? Is it just the same old, same old sexism in general, or is there actually some inherent gender tendency for men to be more rhythm oriented than women?
Kaitlin: I don't really know why! I guess it's probably because it's hard to break into a boys club unless you know some of the boys! Living in San Francisco, I'm surrounded by amazingly talented female musicians [who play] all instruments, so I don't think about it as a boys or girls kind of thing. There is definitely norhing more or less rhythmic about either sex!! That's all individual!
Karen Carpenter - The Drummer
Amoeblog: What made you personally want to play the drums?
Kaitlin: I've always wanted to play the drums. Ever since I heard Abbey Road and the simple yet perfect drum solo in "The End." I've always felt I was a rhythmic person, but I'm quite shy so it seemed easier to just want to play.
Amoeblog: When did you start playing and how has the experience been for you?
Kaitlin: I kind of started about a year and a half ago when my friend Tena's bandmate was selling his old kit for super cheap. But I seriously began playing just a couple of months ago to play in a White Stripes tribute band at Amoebapalooza.
Amoeblog: Do you play other instruments? And if so, how is percussion different?
Kaitlin: I can play the flute! I played for 4 years when I was a kid and can still pick it up and play. Percussion has no melody or notes to remember, it's all about rhythm. As a drummer you're who everyone else in the band is relying on to keep the time. Plus, you get to sit behind everyone. I like a little less spotlight!
Amoeblog: Does it seem that live drumming is having somewhat of a renaissance these days -- now that people have tired of the predominantly preprogrammed drums of so much hip-hop and electronic, and even certain rock music?*
Kaitlin: Not necessarily. Live music has never gone away. People still love their hip-hop and electronic music just as I still love rock and roll! With the ways in which the record industry is changing, I definitely cherish the local, intimate live shows over the stadium madness any day!
Amoeblog: Best drum solo of all time in your opinion?
Kaitlin: Wow. That's really hard! I should know some obscure jazz drummers, but I'm going to go with John Bonham's "Moby Dick." I mean, what more does the world need? I do love Keith Moon, too. I could watch footage of him for hours.
Below are a few more female drummer videos, referenced by Kaitlin in her interview: The White Stripes' Meg White along with Jack doing "Icky Thump" live on the Jools Holland show; drummer/vocalist Debbi Peterson with The Bangles live in 1986; Adrienne Davies with Earth; and the late, great Sandy West with The Runaways, the band she co-founded with Joan Jett. West tragically died three years ago at age 47 -- a victim of lung cancer which progressed into a brain tumor.
To read more of the In Celebration Of The Drum Amoeblog series:
Amoeblog In Celebration Of The Drum: Part One: Cozy Cole
Amoeblog In Celebration Of The Drum: Part Two: Child Drummers
Amoeblog In Celebration Of The Drum: Part Three: John Bonham
Amoeblog In Celebration Of The Drum: Part Four: Buddy Rich
Amoeblog In Celebration Of The Drum: Part Five: The Root of all Music
Amoeblog In Celebration Of The Drum: Part Six: Two Drummer Bands
The White Stripes (feat. Meg White) "Icky Thump" live
The Bangles (feat. drummer Debbi Peterson) "Going Down To Liverpool"
Earth (feat. Adrienne Davies on drums) live in Philly
The Runaways (feat. on drums the late Sandy West) "School Days"