Three Famous Drummers on How Well Animal from The Muppets Swings the Sticks
Since 1975, Animal has been one of the most prominent drummers in music. The wild-eyed, pink-and-orange Muppet established himself as a force of nature on The Muppet Show, where he was the most famous member of “Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem” (even more famous than Dr. Teeth himself, in fact).
On that show, he flirted with Rita Moreno and drum-battled the legendary Buddy Rich. Ever since, he’s been a scene-stealer in each of the Muppet films and has made memorable appearances on talk shows and the like. And now, he’s one of the stars of Muppets Mayhem, Disney+’s new show about the Electric Mayhem, in which the band is putting together their first album.
So it’s clear that the world loves Animal. But do actual drummers feel the same way? I reached out to a few prominent ones to find out.
What are your feelings on Animal and the Muppets in general?
Butch Norton, drummer for The EELS: I am a Muppet fan, and I love Animal in particular because he’s an amazing left-handed drummer. When I first saw him, that’s one of the first things I noticed — that he’s playing left-handed. I’d say 90 to 95 percent of drummers are right-handed and being a left-handed drummer is kind of an oddity. Phil Collins is probably the most famous left-handed drummer.
James Wormworth, drummer for Jimmy Vivino and the Basic Cable Band for Conan O’Brien on TBS: Any drummer worth his salt has to go through their Animal phase. I know I did. I tried to play like him and dress like him, but wearing all that felt got weird. I tried to talk like him, but nobody knew what the fuck I was saying.
As for the Muppets, Gwar and the Muppets are similar tribes but different species. We’re like the Muppets on acid. The Muppets can talk to children while Gwar just eats children. There’s a huge difference between us, but I love those guys.
Technically speaking, how good of a drummer is Animal?
Norton: Animal is one of my heroes. What jumps out is his love for Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa. When a drummer says that, they’re going down the right path. He’s a well-versed drummer, and as a drummer, we appreciate that.
Da Gusha: Technically? He’s terrible, but that’s kind of like Keith Moon. Keith Moon was terrible technically, but he’s one of the greatest drummers to listen to because everything’s so melodic and fun and busy and not where it should be. Keith Moon was unique and so is Animal, and a unique style is way more important than any technical proficiency. Drums are supposed to sound like you, your personality, and if you achieve that, it beats anything.
Wormworth: Animal is one of the best! Look at who he’s battled with! In his battle with Dave Grohl, it ended with both of them going “you win,” that’s mutual respect. That’s what I love about the drumming community, there’s a sort of comraderie.
Speaking of Animal’s drum battles, two of the most famous have been with Dave Grohl and the other with the aforementioned Buddy Rich.
Norton: Dave Grohl should take some more lessons and get up to par with Animal. The Buddy Rich battle is classic. I’ve watched that a number of times, and to see Animal gaping at the insane artistry of Buddy Rich, it shows his homage to Buddy.
Wormworth: In Animal’s drum battle with Buddy Rich, Animal throws a drum onto Buddy’s head. A lot of people thought that was set up but that really happened — Animal and Buddy didn’t speak for years after it. It was a sad time for the drumming community.
Da Gusha: Animal clearly won both of those battles. Those are two great drummers, and they got the opportunity to battle Animal. I don’t think I’d want that. I think he’d show me up big time.
How about Animal’s prowess with the ladies? Like his rendition of “Fever” with Rita Moreno.
Norton: He’s playing with Rita — it’s a sexual dance he’s doing there. He’s messing around with her, and it’s very wrought with his attraction to her. There’s a ton of sexual tension there.
What about Animal’s tendency to eat his drums?
Da Gusha: I don’t know. I don’t like the taste of drums. I like goat toast, on this planet anyway. But Animal was endorsed, so he could eat as many drums as he wanted.
Wormworth: We’ve all done that. It starts with drumsticks, you have a nibble on them during rehearsal. And we all know where that leads.