[Lucky Lehrer:] A humbling compliment….and I don’t know what they’re saying? The limitations of the human mind…always wondering what’s best? We’re smart enough to know it’s often ridiculous. I’m not even my own favorite hardcore punk drummer (laughs).
[DrumRead:] Okay, well “influential” is a word that constantly comes up about you.
[Lucky Lehrer:] Better to say “informed” and “considered,” perhaps. I was “informed” at a young age by Buddy Rich. Even before I knew the name John Bonham. I was 10 or 11 and had a drum teacher who had a nightclub gig next door to the Whiskey on Sunset at a hip nightclub called “Sneaky Pete’s.” Dennis is the one who showed me Latin beats like Rumba and Cha Cha he was playing. Those beats made their way into Circle Jerks songs like Back Against the Wall. So I was informed. From Buddy Rich, I caught those lightning fast fills early on. Dennis brought over the LP “Big Swing Face” and I downloaded onto a cassette tape, which was a brand new invention at the time. I’d play along with the band to songs like Mercy, Mercy and the West Side Story suite. I think Buddy’s band in that period was furious. They played swing with force and aggression. Obviously it left the biggest impression on me.
[DrumRead:] You’re playing the Bonzo Bash. What are your earliest recollections of John Bonham?
[Lucky Lehrer:] The Immigrant Song is the first song I remember and, of course, it was a game changer. If you’re listening to 4/4 classic rock and you hear this heavy beat it’s a tectonic shift in rock drumming. Even Dennis, the jazzy night club drummer I was taking lessons from, was super excited. I’m a kid, Dennis is in his 30’s so to me he’s way old. Dennis starts telling me this band called Led Zeppelin played next door at the Whiskey and blew the doors down. All these hot girls wearing nearly nothing. I’m 11 and hanging on every word. Next lesson, Dennis buys and brings over Led Zeppelin III to record on the other side of my only cassette tape. So that was my life: playing along with Led Zeppelin on one side of my cassette and the Buddy Rich band on the other. In fundamental ways, my deepest impressions of maximum drumming are all on that cassette tape.
[DrumRead:] And you’re playing Communication Breakdown tonight, how did that song get selected?
[Lucky Lehrer:] Um, I think the show organizers saw a connection between the Led Zeppelin song Communication Breakdown and the Black Flag song, Nervous Breakdown. It’s as though one song is sort of an echo of the other.
[DrumRead:] And there was some sort of a problem when you rehearsed the song?
[Lucky Lehrer:] Well we did one rehearsal yesterday before the show and we got halfway through the song and it was like wait, wait, wait. One guy was playing the Knebworth version, somebody else was doing the studio version, and I walked in with the Led Zeppelin Live version in my head. We got it all worked out, some of my favorite parts didn’t get sacrificed, and it’s going to be fun.
[DrumRead:] What’s it like playing the Bonzo Bash with all these famous amazing drummers?
[Lucky Lehrer:] Well John Bonham, if he were watching, would be proud I’m sure. In particular, and I’ve said this before and some people might kill me, but Brian Tichy plays John Bonham even better than John Bonham. So it’s a treat just to be in the audience and watch these guys. I’m getting to hang with some of my favorite drummers so there’s nothing to complain about. Will Calhoun is playing tonight, I loved his work in Living Colour. Corky Laing is doing something special and there’s a tribute to A.J. Pero by Carmine Appice. We are talking about legendary drummers, cool guys like Tichy, Frank Ferrer who now plays with Guns ‘n Roses, Chad Szeliga, John Hummel of Lady Gaga, the list goes on.
[DrumRead:] How did you get into punk?
[Lucky Lehrer:] Well, my earliest orientation was jazz. I continued that in High School, where they had a good program. In college, I played in the jazz band where again, I had the privilege of meeting good teachers. These teachers weren’t drummers, but they had a lot of information. The disco scene was raging, and I wasn’t getting into it. I was in the Bay Area at the time and saw some chicks dressed weird on the bus heading to the Sex Pistols show at Winterland, we’re taking around ’78. These chicks seemed odd but friendly in an fun loving way, so I tagged along. It was a riot, lots of levity, comedic irony and I was intrigued. Later I saw local shows with the Avengers, the Dead Kennedy’s, the Nuns. I came down to L.A. in the summer. People I knew from High School were in bands like The Screamers and The Germs. Initially, the music didn’t blow me away. But the whole thing seemed hysterical, fascinating, fun. I got riveted when I heard the Dickies from L.A., they became my favorite punk band, I think they still are.
[DrumRead:] What about the Dickies more than other famous punk bands like Fear and Black Flag captivated you?
[Lucky Lehrer:] Take a song like Give It Back, there it is, the fast tempo. My ears heard Buddy Rich, I thought of nanosecond drum fills I could throw into the song. I wanted to. They had great stage presence. They were laughing at punk in a way, keeping it light, satiric and entertaining. Me First And The Gimmie Gimmie’s are doing something similar today and I love it. This comports most comfortably with my ethos of what punk music is and can be.
[DrumRead:] So you get into the Circle Jerks, how does that happen?
[Lucky Lehrer:] I’m in L.A. for the summer, planning to move back when I’m through with school. My brother, Chett (who was in a great punk band called L.A.’s Wasted Youth) meets Greg Hetson on the Recycler, a newspaper version of Craiglist. Greg is in Red Cross, they are looking for a drummer, and Chett is chiefing Greg out on how Greg’s gotta meet me. We meet, jam, like each other, but his band mates in Red Cross think I’m too “new wave.” Bear in mind, I’ve just come down from Santa Cruz, where the scene is like pogo dancing and the B-52’s. Now I’m in L.A., where the clouds of hardcore are starting to form. The fact I’m wearing a pin that says “Devo” pretty much killed it for me. Greg disagrees and quits Red Cross. I thought that was pretty weird, but amazing. Greg knew something else: Keith Morris had just walked out of Black Flag. A lot of punk music does this fast um-pah um-pah thing, bass and snare, 1, 2, 1, 2, 1,2…that still sounds irritating to me today. A new band with a different sound, a punk thing with the energy and precision of Buddy Rich, the insanity of Keith Moon, and the syncopation of Elvin Jones is what I was trying to conjure.