Consider the conundrum faced by many drummers — they are generally deemed a vital backbone to any musical unit and simultaneously regarded as offbeat, wacky characters.
Even someone with the depth and skill of Rush’s Neil Peart is all too familiar with the drummer being the butt of many a joke. “Q. What do you call a drummer with half a brain? A. Gifted,” he quipped in his 2006 book, Roadshow: Landscape With Drums.
Certainly these beat-keepers wouldn’t mind being portrayed as an illustration or two to celebrate all aspects of their personalities.
“Sometimes the great ones get sucked into the spotlight just by their musicianship alone,” says Jeremy Taggart of Our Lady Peace. “My favourite drummers, for instance, also happened to be celebrities — guys like (The Who’s) Keith Moon, (Led Zeppelin’s) John Bonham. Even jazz great Elvin Jones.”
Bonham, Jones, Moon and Peart -— and Taggart, too — will get a chance to be celebrated as part of Cut To The Drummer, a month-long art exhibition of 50 portraits of 50 drummers by 50 illustrators which opens tonight at the Steam Whistle Gallery.
And just as drummers are deemed unsung music heroes, illustrators too are considered unsung artists. Their works are commissioned by a variety of magazines, newspapers, advertising posters, T-shirts and books worldwide. Yet these same talents rarely achieve household-name status.
“Most illustrators work out their ideas in collaboration with an art director or art publisher,” explains Sandra Dionisi, a Toronto illustrator whose works appeared in Rolling Stone, The Washington Post and Random House. “So while we might deal more with the business community, these are still original ideas that capture each person’s own style.”
The brainchild behind the exhibition, Dionisi conceived the idea after noticing Warner Music Canada president Steve Kane wearing a wristband with the letters F.U.M.S. Upon learning the acronym represented a scholarship fund set up by Billy Talent drummer Aaron Solowoniuk, she met with Solowoniuk to discuss her plans.
In many ways, Solowoniuk not only related to the unsung hero label that drummers incur, but also as one who overcame personal struggles having been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis more than a decade ago.
Two years ago, he opened up about those struggles to the Billy Talent fanbase. “I dealt with a lot of dark times,” Solowoniuk says. “Then I started reading more about it and realized a lot of kids as young as seven getting diagnosed with MS. So I felt it was time to let people know what I went through and that dealing with MS was manageable.”
• The Cut To The Drummer exhibition opens tonight at the Steam Whistle Gallery.
• For more info, check out cttd.wordpress.com