In compiling a list of our favorite alternative drummers, we know that what makes someone “alternative” is admittedly subjective — though we remain wowed by their skills, the arena-rocking misty-mountain marauding of John Bonham or the artfully destructive chaos of Keith Moon or the ridiculoid festival freakouts of Dave Matthews Band’s Carter Beauford are too anchored to commercial bedrock. Once-alternative dudes like Lars Ulrich and Larry Mullen, Jr. were even more contentious points of debate. Tie-breaking was left to the completely arbitrary whims of various SPIN editors. We included stomping ’60s and ’70s funkateers because their ricocheting rhythms cut so hard against the pop grain — both originally and via hip-hop samples — but we mostly left out jazz greats because, well, we can’t be here all day.
To create this roll call, we enlisted the help of music writers who have been known to play some drums (Michael Azerrad, Hank Shteamer, Matt LeMay), so we can assure that the word “flam” will be used correctly. We also included some drummers who have a way with words — including Portlandia‘s Fred Armisen, Superchunk’s Jon Wurster, and Matthew Shipp skinsman Guillermo E. Brown, a.k.a., Pegasus Warning. We probably forgot someone great and you’re probably going to tell us about it in the comments. Just make us the new punch line to your best drummer joke. CHRISTOPHER R. WEINGARTEN