Bryan Swirsky’s is a man who knows punk rock and dub. He’s been responsible for getting Punk Rock Brits over here (NYC) and into a van for a few years now.
A few years ago, I was on an assignment in Devon when The Boss heard that The Avengers were playing with the Damned (Rat Scabies wasn't playing drums on this tour, he reved up his mazra red sports car and we drove there in one hour which was fast enough for me! It was the first time The Avengers had been in the UK ever. Bryan hooked up My Boss. When we banged on the stage door and Bryan came along - he was surprised to see me.
When I was on my paper route last month, I didn’t expect to see Bobby Schayer on Bryan's couch, back from New Zealand where he’d been on tour with Interpol.
He’s a great tech according to Sam Fogarino and used to play drums with Bad Religion.
I asked him Did you ever get a stick in your eye?”
BOBBY SAID he’d sent a stick out into the audience & hit some fan once, but strangely enough this kid had had some eye condition & the stick actually corrected it. TRUE STORY. A man with magic sticks.
This is where it all started:
BOBBY TOLD ME:
I grew up in LA. Mom was an extra in Elvis movies – she danced in Blue Hawaii. Elvis was very nice to her. Grandmother was an extra in Giant. Y’know, we were a Los Angeles family. There were about 13 TV stations then.
I would watch all the music shows – Midnight Special, Lawrence Welk, Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert - good or bad. I checked out everything about the bands I liked. I noticed the Stones’ drummer had one tom, so did the Kinks, the Beatles, Hollies.
I had a brother. He had a guitar. And we would play ‘being in a band,’ And yeah, we’d seen the Everly Brothers but they weren’t rockn’n’roll to us. We didn’t want to be like them. We wanted to be in a rock’n’roll band. We played guitar but I got some sticks & improvised w/cardboard. Y’know, you wanna make a noise, Your own noise - and have some fun.
One night in 1977 I saw the Ramones on TV.
Changed my life.
Got the record. I learned Loudmouth in 2 minutes. You can learn twenty Ramones songs in 10 minutes. It was EASY. And it was fun. No leads. Start. Finish. End. It felt like, Finally I’ve got my music.
We’d play first side of Ramones album, learn that, eat dinner, do homework.
Next day, play second side of the album, learn that, eat dinner, do homework.
Third day - we knew the whole album. OK. Drum kit for my birthday Dec 23 1979. I was 13 years old.
We went to Finn’s Music Emporium in Sherman Oaks. It was a Black CB-700 Percussion 5 piece with 2 toms. But I took one of the toms off to be like Tommy Ramone, Paul Cook (Sex Pistols), Clem Burke (Blondie). Paul Cook stole a drum set to make the band happen. Tommy was a guitar player manager who became a drummer because they couldn’t get a drummer. My brother had a guitar & an amplifier.. He took lessons. Now I needed lessons.
I think drummers always take notice of other drummers. New York Dolls. Jerry Nolan - left handed. I went to the Whiskey A Go Go, a club in LA & one night I saw the Circle Jerks, they were a local favorite, I had a friend called Mouse (Alison Braun) & one night I told her, I want to play drums like that [drummer] (Lucky Lehrer). He made me laugh. Mouse said, “He teaches drums. You should call him up/ ask him to teach you.” She told me that the phone number on their record “GROUP SEX” was his number. So I got the record and I called the number and it was him. He was really laid back. “Yeah.”
I was like, “I want to learn drums.” And Lucky said, “Okay.” Real laid back.
He told me to meet him at the band’s rehearsal spot in Englewood near the LAX airport. Well I didn’t have a car. I was 13! So he said he would pick me up. I told him, “I’ll be wearing a black t-shirt and holding drumsticks. Honk when you see me.” And he came/picked me up in a white Honda Civic 1978 outside the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. Beep Beep. This was 1981. And in the car was Erica who was roommates with Darby Crash, she was getting drum lessons as well. And drove me out to their rehearsal space which was really their singer Keith’s mom’s place. I had my drum lesson. Keith’s mom didn’t want drum students over her house all the time, so I said, “let’s do it at my house.” After all, I didn’t want to go out there on the bus each week. It was a rough neighborhood. And that worked out because it turned out I was 15 mins from Lucky’s house & I had a friend who wanted to learn drums & he came too & he had another student in the area - Peter Finstone - who I replaced later in Bad Religion. So Lucky charged me like 10 bucks for the first lesson/ 15 for the next ones and I had a lesson every week. Lucky was like 23 yrs old. He said have fun, & when it isn’t fun, don’t do it anymore. He was always a jazz fan. Liked Buddy Rich. He had a cream coloured kit. And he taught me to read music. All that stuff & when I teach drums, I teach just like Lucky.
He taught me a lot. He would be teaching me drums & going to law school & when he passed his bar exam he quit the Circle Jerks. He was at the top of his game. He joined his dad’s law company. And he told me to have goals. And I did. And I kept reaching them. I played for English kids. That was a goal. Y’know I came off stage July 3 1991 “I got to play England.” [Did he get scared?] Yes. I got scared and nervous. I’d drink a lot of water before I went on because man, you sweat. You get in shape. Man. The sweat would be dripping into my ears although I think that’s why I’m not deaf. There was so much water in my ears. I would have to shake my head to get all the water out of my ears. I played some awful places where the condensation would drip on me and knock my drum heads out of whack. Water and heat loosens the tunage. But then I got to play The Forum. So we were opening. But I got to play in front of 14000 people. It was cool. Playing drums 4 hours a day. You get fit! The first time I went on tour I came back & had this job at A&M packing boxes. They were like, “whad did you do this summer?” I went on tour. But then you know, 1998, we get the gold disc. You get 5 actually. My folks have one. I sent one to Lucky. I sent one to Jack & then I got Wayne Kramer’s number. I called him up & said, “I’m going to send you something. Let me know when you get it.”
And he called me. He got it. Y’know, here’s a guy who lost everything. Been to jail. I wanted him to know he made a difference.
Bobby left Bad Religion 2001. He’s on tour somewhere. Oh, and Bobby’s drumsticks are Vic Firth 5BN’s. Nylon Tip.