Alan Myers, Devo Drummer, Dead Following Cancer
Myers' metronomic work propelled their best-known hits
Alan Myers, the drummer for Devo during its best-known period, has died, the group confirmed on its website. Myers, whose age was not immediately available, had been living with cancer. He served as Devo’s drummer from 1976 to 1985, replacing second drummer Jim Mothersbaugh and succeeded by Sparks’ David Kendrick.
Myers, one of SPIN’s 100 Greatest Drummers of Alternative Music, played on a formidable run of albums. His work can be heard on the new wave pioneers’ 1978 debut Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo and their platinum 1980 breakthrough Freedom of Choice, plus 1979’s Duty Now for the Future, 1981’s New Traditionalists, 1982’s Oh, No! It’s Devo, and 1984’s Shout.
Devo’s founding members paid tribute to Myers on the group’s website. Lead singer Mark Mothersbaugh said, “Alan Myers’ metronomic drumming style helped define the sparse machinery rhythms that were a signature of our band’s early sound.” Bass player Gerard Casale, calling Myers “the most incredible drummer I had the privilege to play with for 10 years,” said, “Losing him was like losing an arm.” In a Reddit AMA this week, Casale said he “begged” Myers not to quit the band.
Writing for SPIN recently, Fred Armisen observed: “Devo had a very clear message about humanity and evolution, and Alan Myers’ tribal drumming emphasized the urgency of everything they did. His beats utilized repeating patterns on low-tuned rack toms, while still maintaining the rock rule of the snare on the two and four — unless, of course, a song was in an odd time signature, like the inventive, mechanical patterns in 1978’s ‘Jocko Homo’ or 1979’s ‘Blockhead.'”
In 2010’s The Secret History of Devo, current Devo drummer Josh Freese told SPIN he learned to play drums to Freedom of Choice. “It’s fun in the way that it’s very metronomic and the patterns are very deliberate and kind of nursery rhyme,” said Freese, who has also drummed for the Vandals, Guns N’ Roses, and Nine Inch Nails. “A lot of people think that it’s a drum machine on ‘Whip It.’ But that’s Alan Myers.”
Devo have just reissued their two-volume Hardcore series of demos and rarities. Hardcore Volumes 1 & 2 are out now digitally and as a limited pressing of vinyl, with a July 9 double-CD album set to follow on July 9. Separately, Freedom of Choice is due to receive its own entry in the 33 1/3 book series; author Evie Nagy discussed the book in an interview posted yesterday.
Check out Devo’s 1978 cover of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” which Armisen cited as Myer’s most booming moment, below.