Roy Mayorga’s Top 11 Drummers


Photo  by Mathew Stubs Phillips.



With a resume that takes in everything from New York crust punks Nausea through to Soulfly, Amebix, Ministry and Stone Sour, it would be remiss not to include Roy Mayorga among the all-time greats of drumming. He’s also a thoroughly decent bloke, one of rock’s most humble players, always a pleasure to talk to. So it’s probably about time someone asked him about his own influences and where his passion for beating the crap out a drum kit comes from. Asked for a top ten, he chooses eleven, because we all know drummers can’t count! Kidding, Roy!


“He was the first guy that I heard play double bass, which inspired me to play double bass. I think he pretty much inspired everybody to play double bass. I mean, Overkill… It’s overkill with the double bass, from start to finish, it does not stop! And the tempo’s dead on the whole time, it doesn’t get any faster or slower. Live, the Hammersmith Odeon version is even faster, and I think, for me, that’s one of the best Motorhead tracks ever. From a drummer’s standpoint it’s just fucking pummelling! It had a cool groove that must be an English thing, because every English drummer that I’ve ever loved had this crazy back-beat groove, including him, and I’m really attracted to that sound. That’s my reason for loving Philthy Phil, amongst other things.”


“Next would be another English guy, named John Bonham. He pretty much set me straight on the groove and the heavy back-beat, like I was talking about before. From the first time hearing him, listening to Whole Lotta Love, and Rock And Roll, and Communication Breakdown…pretty much every song that he ever played with them. There’s no favourites, I love every one of them, and I take from every one of those tunes and try to apply it to what I do; it’s in there somewhere. He’s definitely one of my all time favourite drummers.”


“He’s definitely one of the most phenomenal drummers out there. He mixed rock drumming with all this reggae, and he had all these crazy poly-rhythmic beats on top of it all. That guy definitely wrote the book on that. And you can really hear what I’m talking about on an album like Reggatta de Blanc, their second album. That, to me, is where Stewart shines the most. I love all the records, but that’s the most special to me. Songs like Walking On The Moon, Deathwish, Message In A Bottle for Christ’s sake, is like a drumming opus! I’d never heard anything like that, at the time, and it definitely opened my game up as a drummer. They were around during the punk era, so you can hear a little bit of that edge in their music as well, which I thought was kinda cool. It was another thing they had that was different than everybody else.”


“Neil Peart, to me, is kind of in the same category as Stewart Copeland, because I was listening to them both, back to back, at the same time. I’m kind of almost going chronologically with the stuff I was listening to. Neil Peart is definitely the king of poly-rhythmic, odd-time drumming, with these crazy grooves to it as well. He’s very technical, but very expressive, and there’s a lot of character in his playing. You can’t listen to a Rush song and not air drum! Every song by Rush, you’re fucking air drumming, whether you’re a drummer or not! They’re the sickest tom-fills I’ve ever heard, and the way he lands back on the beat… He won’t even land on the one, he’ll land on the two. He’s a phenomenal drummer.”


From the first time I ever heard him… I didn’t hear the first Killing Joke album first, I heard the second album first, through my older brother. To me, he wrote the book on that tribal drum beat, that pulse. He definitely inspired me to play that way, and any time you hear his drumming, you know it’s him. He has a certain style and characteristic to his drumming, like all those other drummers I’ve just mentioned; you know when you hear Philthy, you know when you hear John Bonham, and you definitely know when you hear Paul Ferguson, because he’s just got this brutal, relentless style. He’s a big influence to me, and a really cool person. I finally got to know him in the last few years and he’s an absolute gentleman.”


“He was the most underrated drummer at that time, but now when I mention his name to most drummers, they’re like, fuck yeah! He was the Phil Rudd of punk. He kept it simple, kept it groovy, nothing flashy, because, let’s face it, in the Pistols you don’t need to be flashy; let Johnny Lydon do the flashy parts. He laid the foundation down, again with that English groove, back-beat thing, which gave that band the push. I love Paul Cook, and he’s definitely a big influence. I’ve listened to that record a million times and it’s part of the rolodex of inspiration of drumming in my head, for sure.”


“Again, solid, solid grooves. Aussie strong! You can’t break that dude’s tempo or his march, especially when you hear songs like It’s Long Way To The Top or Riff Raff. He just keeping it driving, and a lot of drummers out there forget about that. As soon as they learn how to play, they want to play a million notes a minute and do all this crazy poly-rhythmic stuff. And that’s great, but if you can’t keep the beat, and keep the groove, and keep people dancing, then you ain’t got a gig! I’d say to any drummers out there, if you wanna learn drums, you’ve got to listen to these drummers. Keep it simple and flash when you need to flash. It’s a lost art, but it’s coming back in again, thank God. Don’t get me wrong, I love the shredder drummers and the mathematical drummers, but I wanna groove, and as a listener I wanna be able to bop my head to it. AC/DC and the Pistols definitely do that.”


“I told you the first person that inspired me to play double bass, and that was Philthy Phil. The second guy was definitely Dave Lombardo. That guy took double bass to a whole other level, especially in the ’80s. Nobody was playing as fast or as precise as he was. His drumming wasn’t your typical thrash metal drumming, it had this off-the-rails aggro punk kind of drumming, with this crazy double bass in it, and a jazzy approach, especially on the fills. When I first heard Raining Blood that opened up a whole other world of drumming, because at that time I was playing in punk bands, and playing that kind of thrash, like Discharge and stuff like that. Listening to him definitely opened up another door for me to add a second kick, like every drummer did! To me he’s the Keith Moon of thrash metal, especially when you watch him play now. He’s just amazing.”


My two top favourite English drummers are definitely John Bonham and Keith Moon. John Bonham taught me how to groove, and Keith Moon taught me how to let go and just be crazy. Keith Moon had this off-the-rails, anything can happen thing, and he’s a big inspiration with a lot of the shit that happened in England from ’77 on. His personality offstage showed in his drumming, that’s for damn sure, and that the one thing I learned; apply your personality to your drumming, don’t hold back, just let it all out. Go mental, but keep it in control somehow, you know what I mean? Keith Moon was controlled chaos! And with his timing, he has this tendency of riding his kick drum and I definitely take a lot from his beat, I apply that to what we do. My favourite Keith Moon thing is his constant fills and rolls. Roger Daltrey pointed this out in a documentary, and I realised it too; Keith would have a tendency of keeping it mellow when there’s no singing, but then when Roger starts singing, he starts doing these crazy fills around it. Almost like, look at me, don’t look at him! I fucking love it!”


“He was James Brown’s drummer and his beat is the most sampled beat ever! You can hear it on every hip hop record from the ’80s to now, and it’s been used on drum and bass stuff throughout the ’90s at double speed. That guy’s groove and pocket is unbelievable. No one’s ever touched him or ever come close, in my opinion. To me, he’s the godfather of that, and definitely the person who’s inspired me the most with what I do as far as groove goes. It makes you shake your hips! I love all ’70s soul and motown, that’s pretty much what I grew up listening to first, before I got into rock music, because it’s what my parents listened to. Of course, after that I got exposed to more stuff, and that’s when I started listening to Zeppelin and AC/DC and Sabbath. Oh my God, I forgot to mention Bill Ward!”


“Of course, Bill Ward! To me he’s the brother of John Bonham, but even more jazzier and groovier. Actually, I can’t really say that; they’re both completely different animals, obviously. But Bill also has this crazy groove, and you can hear it, especially in the beginning of War Pigs, the way he has this jazz punch, and the way he pulls back in between beats. Keeping time with the high hat and accenting with the symbols on War Pigs, to me is just epic. That was the first song I ever heard by Black Sabbath.”

Having written for Kerrang! magazine since 1989, I started shooting for them, pretty much by accident, in the early 90’s when all their photographers refused to go on tour with my favourite punk band Poison Idea. With pretensions of being as good as Mark Leialoha and taller than Ross Halfin, I shot everyone from Ozzy Osbourne, Slayer and Slipknot to The Prodigy and was published all around the world (full-ish list in the ‘published in’ section) before stumbling into fetish and pin up photography in 2006 when I married Masuimi Max. I quit Kerrang! in 2008 and now shoot the rock stuff for Metal Hammer and Terrorizer.