Over edamame, spicy tuna rolls and Kirin last night, I was fortunate enough to find myself alone at a table with Hugo Burnham and Curtis Crowe, the drummers of Gang of Four and Pylon, respectively. (You can read a fantastic interview with Hugo at Gordon Lamb’s excellent music blog.)
I don’t mind telling you that I was a little awestruck. You won’t find two drummers more responsible for the entire rhythmic element of dancepunk and a huge slice of ’80s pop music. I found myself reflecting on the difference in their styles- Curtis is more of a linear powerhouse drummer. He’s very straightforward and his style is muscular and propulsive with open highhat on the and of one and three that would sound fey if any other drummer did it. Somehow Curtis makes it both danceable and brawler tough. He’s not prone to any sort of eggheaded Mastah Drummah frippery. He just drives the beat like a tractor. Hugo has the same powerful impulse, but he tempers it with a very English drummer/post-ska swing. He has all the effusive force of Curtis’ playing, but his style also has a bit of understatement- a kind of subtle extension of the fact that he’s a complete gentleman. Unfortunately, I have never seen them play back-to-back.
Hugo was in town to DJ between sets at Pylon’s show at the 40 Watt last night, and my understanding is that he’s no longer messing around with Gang of Four. Evidently, there have been some bad management decisions and (once again) the best thing to do was to quit while he was ahead.
My favorite moment last night was when Hugo and Curtis were comparing “My kids dig my band” stories. Curtis’ son came to one of the recent Pylon reunion shows and sat with his cousin while the band played, watching intently. Of course, the rest of the bar did what people do at a Pylon show, which is jump up and down and dance like crazy people. Curtis kept trying to get a read on what his son (who was 14 at the time) was thinking, but from behind the kit, it was impossible to see too clearly what Stacy’s reactions were. After the show, Curtis was driving home and Stacy said “Dad, you’re in an AWESOME party band.”
Curtis said it was the best review he’d ever gotten.
Hugo, on the other hand, said that his highest moment was at the first big Go4 comeback show in London, after they’d played two encores, and they came out to do their last bows to a RAPTUROUS crowd in a sweat-soaked, completely packed London club. The fans were completely beside themselves, and Hugo was giving them one final wave when his lovely young daughter ran out onstage and leapt into his arms. Hugo told me “…and then the audience just went COMPLETELY insane. I walked up to the mic and said my last goodnight and carried my daughter offstage. It was fantastic.”