While air drumming may not have its own globally recognized competition such as the Air Guitar World Championship, nor does it have a Hall of Fame which enshrines its most valued competitors (yes, there’s an Air Guitar Hall of Fame), but it is every bit as legitimate in the minds and hearts of spirited drummers everywhere.
Who hasn’t gone to a show and wound up spending half of the time mesmerized by a nearby attendee going all out, nailing every drum fill and time signature change, all with a pair of air sticks and a plenty of imagination? And who could forget this viral clip of a young Slipknot fan going berserk on his dad’s shoulders, air drumming with perfection?
When speaking with BraveWords in advance of Anthrax’s 40th anniversary live release, Anthrax XL, Benante was asked about the forward-thinking approach of late Rush skinsman Neil Peart, who is said to have made his parts so difficult as a means of keeping things interesting live.
“It’s the greatest thing because what he did for other drummers, he would show that it’s not all about the singer or the guitar player, it’s also about that guy in the back right there, that people are taking notice to,” Benante replied, “I mean, let’s face it, between Neil and [Genesis‘] Phil Collins, they invented air drumming. There’s no way that you can sit and watch Rush and not, when that part comes up, you can’t help doing the fills. I mean, at a Rush show, you’ll see a lot of drummers just doing the fills. But Neil did so much for drumming, and I think a lot of other drummers understand and appreciate him for that.”
Peart’s complexities were so unique because, as challenging as his drum parts are, they were often played with a sense of catchiness and even had their own hook of sorts. This is best exhibited in the Volkswagen car commercial where a driver can’t help by drum along to Rush’s “Fly By Night.”
Volkwagen Commercial — Air Drumming to Rush’s “Fly By Night”
The Anthrax drummer also went on to name “Natural Science,” the nine-and-a-half-minute closing track off 1980’s Permanent Waves, as the hardest song to play. “It’s not because the parts are difficult, it’s just that there’s so many,” he said of the song, “It has different movements in the song, and Neil’s playing and the fills that he chose for that song, ah, they’re just perfect. It ends with such a great tom roll [mimics roll] – it’s just perfect Neil. So, I would say Natural Science is one of the songs that I think is the hardest to play.”