Saturday, January 3, 2009

How I Became the Syncopator Familias

This question comes up all the time, so today I will share the origins of the Syncopator Familias.

It all started in the sixth grade when three friends and I formed the band Black Fang. The first thing you do when you form a band is to create a cool logo, the more evil-looking the better. So Hobe drew one up wherein the words "Black Fang" were written in a neat script and the top horizontal line of the "F" extended all the way across the word "Fang" and even slightly beyond the "g." Onto this hangover part of the "F" Hobe dangled a couple of triangular shapes that represented serpent fangs.

There you had it: We were destined to be the next KISS. All we needed now was to assign instruments.

Hobe already played trumpet in the junior band, so he naturally was assigned to play bass. I played clarinet, so I was made drummer. Paul and Stanley didn't play any instruments, so they were assigned lead and rhythm guitar.

Black Fang simmered for while. We had a couple of groupies latch on, but when we didn't get any gigs they drifted off. It was not yet the time for Black Fang to take the world by storm. That day would come when we were adults -- say, in ninth grade.

One day turned into another and Black Fang faded from memory -- until Hobe brought it up in eighth grade.

"Remember Black Fang?" he noted in Social Studies class one day. "We were such stupid kids back then."

Thing was, though, I had taken up the drums.

Not much for practicing, I never progressed on the clarinet. Also, the clarinet was considered a sissy instrument at this "county school," so it wasn't helping my image as a future member of Black Fang. Anyway, my clarinetting was so bad that at one concert band contest in seventh grade the band director drafted me to play bass drum when we had no one else to do it. Next marching season I was the official bass drummer.

Within one year I had become section leader and snare drummer. I wasn't great, but, then, neither was our marching band.

When the former members of Black Fang got driver's licenses we bought instruments and held two practices. Both were disasters. It may have been because we barely knew how to play. It may have been because we were drinking Evan Williams Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey.

I quit drinking Evan Williams Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey three years later and, for a time, I played in a small country church that had a drum kit but no drummer. I wasn't very adventurous. I was partial to keeping time with the high hat and snare, and not much for going to town on the toms. It seemed somehow irreverent to me to doodle-doodle-doodle-doodle-doodle-doodle CHING! during a hymn.

"Play them other 'uns," urged the pastor/guitarist/singer between songs, pointing to the toms and the cymbal. I compromised by lightly hitting the cymbal on the choruses.

The tiny church dwindled in attendees until hardly anyone was left. One Sunday night the pastor showed up with nobody to preach to but his wife. At this I'm told he literally wiped his feet at the front steps of the building, consigning us to perdition, and moved on to greener pastorates. The drum kit had belonged to his son and disappeared with the pastor, so my avocation as a percussionist took a detour. Later gigs consisted of me drumming on my desk at work. Occasionally someone requested "Wipe Out." People are always impressed when you can play "Wipe Out."

In my mid-30s, I bought another used drum kit. I played around on it and wasn't half bad, but I had no illusions I'd ever be in Black Fang again.

Then came the fateful day: The Director of Music at my current church asked for volunteers for the worship team. Among others, our drummer had moved away.

"If you want someone to play the drums badly I can certainly play them that way," I sold myself to The Director of Music. I became the interim drummer.

It's been three or four years now, and they still haven't found a permanent replacement. I do switch off with an up-and-coming kid now, and soon enough I'll be eclipsed by him. Then I'll be left scaring the dog an the cats at home as play with CDs and remember the glory days.

I wonder if the guys would want to get Black Fang together again.

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