100 Drummers #1: Starring Robby Cosenza (These United States)

Long have I had a thing for drummers. Something about the way they sit, mysterious and enigmatic, behind their varying configurations of drums and cymbals, keeping time in a myriad of drummerly ways. Oftentimes, too, it seems that drummers are the forgotten member of the band, garnering less press than perhaps their bandmates do. But those intrepid keepers of the beat need love, too. In this series I want to fix this egregious, yet probably accidental, oversight, and bring to your attention some of my favorite keepers of the beat. And so, inspired by a line ("I heard one hundred drummers whose hands were a-blazin'") in the Dylan classic “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” I present to you, friends, 100 Drummers.

There’s probably no better drummer to start things off with than Robby Cosenza of These United States. For many a year Robby’s been bringing the backbeat with a certain gusto and panache to the wonderful quirky Americana made by wandering DC/Lexington/NYC/VA band These United States. I had the pleasure of sitting down with Robby for a little all drums, all the time chat under the watchful eyes of a photo of Alice Cooper before the band’s show at the Rock’n’Roll Hotel, and the results of our delightful chat are below for your reading pleasure.

Fuzzy Logic: How old were you when you first picked up the drumsticks?
Robby Cosenza: I was 8. There was a summer program, I lived on Long Island, like keep the kids off the street and do something creative with your life, so I took lessons at one of the high schools. I think it was for high school kids, and they were like aww little kid, and I liked it and I did pretty well, and then I got a drumkit.

FL: Which drum is the best drum, and why?
RC: Well, all the drums are pretty important…I don’t know how to answer that. I mostly stick with the kick and snare, I don’t have a lot of like toms and cymbals and a lot of shit, cuz I’ll try to use it all cuz I’m a Rush fan and then it becomes a problem for me…so I guess I’m a kick drum guy, really, which is the bass drum.

FL: Who’s your favorite drummer of all time?
RC: Well, I would hate to say Neil Peart from Rush, but he is the reason why I started playing drums, as with many drummers of my era. I started playing drums in ’82, so that was big arena rock/prog rock stuff. I always wanna say Ringo Starr, cuz he’s probably like the first memorable drummer I know, or Max Weinberg from Bruce Springsteen’s band, which I know seems maybe cliché since he is like Conan’s drummer and stuff, but honestly he was probably my first big influence.

FL: Singing drummers: On the cool side like Levon Helm, or more on the questionable side like Phil Collins?
RC: Oh, I don’t think Phil Collins is questionable. I think he’s right up there. I mean, I sing and play drums, so…I think it’s good. I think it’s hard, when you see like the frontman as the drummer, like Phil Collins it seems maybe lackluster as a performance, you know, cuz you can’t move around and the front guy is generally gonna be more entertaining than not. But I support it, Levon Helm, I mean, no questions really. I’m a fan. I have to be.

FL: Say you break a stick during a show and you don’t have a spare. What do you do?
RC: I use my cock, actually, if I can, depending on where I am. [chuckling] If you don’t have a spare? You just one hand it, do the Rick Allen/Def Leppard, you know? You just fake it til you make it, really. But I have spares.

mp3: I Want You to Keep Everything (These United States from Everything Touches Everything)

[photo of Robby Cosenza by Megan Petty]


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