When Can drummer Jaki Liebezeit passed away in January of this year, he not only left behind a body of recorded work whose motion and energy were dominated by his cyclical approach to rhythm, but also a whole theory of drumming that had been properly documented. Liebezeit himself never thought to properly write it down, maintaining that he would only do so when he stopped performing – something he was still doing right up to the weeks ahead of his passing.
Can authority and multi-instrumentalist Jono Podmore, who worked with Liebezeit in the Cyclopean unit, set about trying to document this theory – known as E-T, or dot-dash in Morse code – along with journalist John Payne. The result is Jaki Liebezeit: Life, Theory And Practice Of A Master Drummer, part biography and part insiders guide to Liebezeit’s process, which is currently being supported by a crowdfunding campaign. The book features interviews with members of Liebezeit’s group Drums Off Chaos and his frequent collaborator Burnt Friedman.
“I first met Jaki in 1997,” recalls Podmore. “I was working with Can’s Irmin Schmidt on realising his opera ‘Gormenghast’. Jaki was one of the first musicians we got in to play, and he arrived bang on time despite a 12-hour drive in his tiny car. I helped him carry the few cases he brought with him down to the studio and courteously made myself scarce. After 15 minutes or so I popped down to see how he was getting on but only a floor tom, a tiny snare drum, a couple of toms on a stand and some ancient little cymbals were set up. He was nowhere to be seen.”
“I tracked him down having a coffee in the sunshine and asked where the rest of his kit was – the bass drum and the hi-hat, all the stuff a drummer plays with his feet. Totally dead-pan he said, ‘People have been playing drums with only their hands for 50,000 years. Why should I be any different?’ Over the next few days he taught me how to interpret a rhythm, how to find the pulse and stick to it, the importance of tuning drums and what were the important beats to emphasise in an enormous range of music. Those lessons never left me.”
All proceeds from sales of Jaki Liebezeit: Life, Theory and Practice of a Master Drummer will go to his estate.
The crowd-funding page can be found HERE.
Words: Mat Smith
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