Former Tegan and Sara drummer shares stories of Rock’n’Roll, wanderlust, and a brother’s devastating choice.

MUSIC WAS PURE and unmolested. It was hypnotic and feral, full of dreamy potential. Like seeing the ocean for the very first time.

August 1984 | Castlegar, British Columbia | 138 beats per minute

“Found it,” Tom says, waving a white cassette tape in the air.

I jump off the desk and hop onto the throne behind my brother’s new Slingerland drum kit–his pride and joy. Its blue-sparkle finish twinkles where touched by beams of sunlight. I’m infatuated with the instrument like it’s the cute new girl on the first day of school. I wanna kiss her. I wanna make a beat.

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Tom and I are in our music room above our dad’s workshop. Underneath us, the muffled sound of grinding metal as he restores an old Mercedes Benz.

Outside, the pulp mill has made the air hazy and yellow and ripe with fart. Across the road, past the train tracks and my grandparents’ house, beyond the abandoned fruit orchards, across from where the Kootenay River and Columbia River meet, below the layer of haze and surrounded by the Selkirk Mountains, is town. It’s a small logging community, where teenagers and plenty of grown-ups battle small dreams and boredom, with bush parties, pot and booze.

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Tom places a pair of his drumsticks on the snare drum in front of me. They’re burnished at the grip ends and chewed up at the tips.

“These are yours now, Robertoooo,” he says, smiling.

I stare at them slack-jawed as though he’s entrusted me with ancient Samurai weapons. I curl my fingers lightly around the sticks, gripping them with only my forefinger and thumb, just like he showed me.

He inserts the cassette tape into the ghetto blaster, cues up the song, nods… presses play.
Like a wind-up toy monkey, I begin kicking, hitting and crashing along to Jumpin’ Jack Flash — 138 beats per minute. Afterward, I hold the sticks out for Tom.

“Again”, he gently commands.

Fine by me. It’s amusing for both of us. Dwarfed by tom-toms and cymbals, my slight body tries to keep up with the perky tempo, while Tom does his best Mick Jagger impression. With a forward lean, left hand on popped hip, finger poking the air towards me, he sings along with pouty lips, “Jumpin’ Jack Flash, it’s a gas, gas, gaaas.

After three rounds I’m sweating. Tom walks around back of me, grips me by the shoulders and gently shakes me back and forth. I turn and look up at my big brother, happy that he’s happy.

“You’re a natural,” he tells me.

June 1986 | New York City | 66-139 bpm

New York smells of sewer. No one smiles; no one makes eye contact. The city is colossal, thrilling, a little filthy and rude. Perfect, since earlier in the year I discovered punk rock.

The opposite of punk rock is the Russian Orthodox youth choir that my mom has made me join– now in New York to perform at the clean, polite United Nations building. We sing traditional hymns, which move with ease between the slow, ceremonial 66 bpm of adagio, and the bright, marching 139 bpm of allegro.

Everywhere else in the city lies in contrast to that pristine landmark. Sad, tattered men roam Manhattan begging for tourist money; down the hall from my room at the YMCA I’m offered pills from a mustached Puerto Rican man wearing a stained t-shirt, gold chain necklace, and saggy underwear. New Yorkers sound like the New Yorkers I see in movies. The Twin Towers dominate the skyline.

I’m almost 15. Shit is real. I love it.

The next day I hop a plane and fly back to my safe, boring, nowhere town, where for months I will pine for the crowded, stinking, horn-honking vigor of grand and grimy New York.

April 1989 | Spokane, Washington | 135 bpm

I’m stateside with a pack of high school buddies to see my first rock concert: hair metal mavens Cinderella. We all sport mullets underneath ball caps and wear acid-wash jeans and leather jackets.

Spokane is a mid-tempo All-American city in the dry, sloping plain of eastern Washington State. From Castlegar, it’s a two and a half hour drive south on neglected highways through neglected towns. Spokane’s the big city to us, the nearest place for strip malls and stimulation.

The lights dim in the hockey arena and we are instantly dazzled. Nobody’s Fool prompts a mass sing-along to its 135 power-ballad beats per minute. Girls hoot and squeal; under their crop-tops magnificent, braless boobs bounce agreeably in time to fists pumping the air. Through a sea of flickering lighters I watch the drummer’s hair whipping around in time to the beat, his arms rising high above his head then thrusting down onto the skins. Over and over.

I am transfixed.

July 1992 | Vancouver | 123 bpm

“What kind of drum machine did you use?” Tommy Lee asks my band mate Jason. Tommy’s hair is unusually short. He’s tanned and skinnier than he looks on TV, wearing faded jeans and a white tank top. I’m in my first band, with friends from high school. We stand with Tommy in the air-conditioned control room of Vancouver’s legendary Little Mountain Sound Studios.

“Um,” I raise my hand. “We didn’t use a drum machine, that was me playing to a click, 123 bpm.”

“Duuude, this is RUDE, bro!” he says in Californian.

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The day before, strolling aimlessly after smoking joint after joint and playing hacky sack, we spot Tommy Lee filling up his Harley at a gas station on the corner of 12th and Cambie. He invites us to Little Mountain, where Mötley Crüe are recording their new album. We’re thoroughly stoked. And even though we play far more ruthless and menacing music than Tommy’s, we still want the respected drummer to hear our brand of metal, offer advice, open some doors.

At the studio he continues with compliments: “Seriously angry vocals!” He says, nodding his approval to Taylor. “Guitars are fucking RUDE!” He says to Jason.
But no advice is given. And no doors are opened.

Still, Tommy Lee has given me a morsel of fuel. That night at rehearsal I grunt and sweat and pummel my drums with renewed death metal vigor; my sticks shatter, my fingers blister, the blisters bleed. I don’t stop.

June 1995 | Vancouver | 149 bpm

Sitting on the roof of the colossal, Victorian-era rental home I share with four friends, enjoying a break in the Spring rains, drinking beers with band mates, admiring a clear view of the steep, rugged North Shore Mountains that serve as backdrop to our shiny city.

“Your brother is here”, my roommate calls up to me.

I find Tom waiting on the front porch in the quiet west side neighborhood where I live. He’s gaunt and I wonder if it’s possible that his hair is greyer than last time I saw him.

Behind him, parked on the elm-lined street is an early 80s Trans-Am, waiting for him, idling. The driver looks like a dirt bag: greasy hair, cop shades, wispy patches of beard.

Tom has long since abandoned his blue-sparkle Slingerland drums. He lives in Vancouver’s derelict Downtown Eastside, infamous for its abundance of petty criminals, cheap prostitutes, the drug-sick, and poor.

He fidgets and avoids eye contact as he meekly, awkwardly asks me for money. It’s the second time in as many weeks.

“What happened to your job?” I ask him, confused and irate. I work at a grocery store and cut lawns on the weekends so I can pay my bills.

He looks hung over, worse, something I can’t pin point. I disrespect him by telling him to leave.

It’s downstairs in my basement rehearsal room, after playing my band’s amped-up cover of the Clash’s Police On My Back, that I feel an internal shifting and cracking, like an iceberg about to calve. I stare at my metronome, blinking red, 149 times a minute, and realize with overwhelming shame and sadness that my older brother is an addict.

April 1996 | Chalky Hill, Jamaica | 166 bpm

I’m an impatient 24 year-old. I want what friends have achieved in music. I want what I don’t have. And because I don’t have it I want to walk away. I stop playing.
Instead I focus on work and experimenting with psychedelic drugs.

One night in early April I carry the experimentation to its illogical conclusion, recklessly inhaling and ingesting DMT, marijuana, mushrooms, and MDMA– a cocktail so potent that for weeks afterward I descend into bouts of psychosis.

I lose myself. I desperately need to get away, regain my sanity. I pick Jamaica.

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I convince my brother Nick to join me. On the north coast of the island we rent a weather-beaten cottage from a jovial, toothy, chain-smoking local named Sonno. His home sits amid guava and mango trees in the tranquil, leafy-green hills overlooking Steer Town — a village known for its Rude Boys and Rastas.

A few days after settling in I tell Sonno about my psychedelic overdose. Throughout the next month his guided jungle walks, fish stews, garden-fresh herbal teas, and well-timed aphorisms (“remember, courage scratches at your feet”), coupled with the warm and lazy island pace, begin restoring my mental health.

Sonno on the left

Near the end of my stay I confide to Sonno my plan to quit music and become a hippie farmer back in Canada. He chuckles, realizes I’m serious, then frowns. He spits his cigarette to the ground and in his raspy Jamaican patois says, “Mon! Come, we gwon visit Justin Hinds in Steer Town. You know eem? Da Keeng of Ska. Jumiekan legend. Eem son Maxwell play da drom like you… but eem stok ‘ere in Jumieka.”

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Justin is polite and welcoming — in his 50s, with shoulder-length, gray-speckled dreadlocks. His son Maxwell is in his mid-20s, his dreads thicker and longer than his dad’s; he puffs on a cigar-sized joint and passes it to my brother. The Hinds’ spacious home smells of old marijuana smoke cleansed only by occasional pockets of salty ocean breeze. Sonno and I drink Red Stripes.

“Is that you and Keith Richards, Mr. Hinds?” I point at a framed photo on the wall.
“Yeah mon.” He begins. “Last year Keet an I work on songs right ere for Wingless Angels. We good friends seence seventy twooo, ya know.”

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Maxwell ushers me to the downstairs studio. There I watch intently as he plays along on his drum kit to one of his dad’s hits, Natty Take Over, from 1976. Maxwell tells me he’s been drumming reggae since he was born. It shows. His hi-hat and snare work are tasty and effortless. He closes his eyes, feels the song as though he penned it himself.

Afterward, he hands me his sticks. “You gwon try,” he says.

I decide to do what I’m best at, and instead of reggae launch into nimble, double-time break-beat and jungle rhythms at 166 bpm.

Maxwell’s older brother Jerome pops into the studio to watch. Set against the slinky, halftime one-drop of Natty Take Over, my interpretation appears to be intriguing.

“White boy’s got riddim!” shouts Jerome, mid-song.

Before I leave, Maxwell asks me to send him cymbals, a drum stool and kick pedal from Canada. He doesn’t offer to pay for them. I suspect he’s not able to.

Back at the cottage, Sonno sits me down. “Brudda, I no respect your decision to quit music,” he says sternly. “In Jumieka, wasting talent is a shehm, mon… Ere, we nuh like Canada… we no ‘aaave dat preevledge.”

March, 1998 | France | 68 bpm

Driving a rusting, early-80s Volvo station wagon packed with instruments. Jacob has a map of Western Europe draped across his lap. In the back seat Caitlin hums along to Bob Dylan. We are bumbling troubadours lost amongst the old brick cottages and provincial estates of northeastern France. We have three hours to get to our next gig, 450 km away.

A Dylan mix tape came with the car. So we listen to the old poet’s cracked howl, as we have before. But this time… I hear him.

“Your daddy he’s an outlaw, and a wanderer by trade. He’ll teach you how to pick and choose and how to throw the blade…”

At 26, I’ve abandoned dissonance and angst. Rousing, lyrical music is what fuels me now.

I’m on my first tour; part of a hip-hop-techno-soul trio, surviving on what little money each gig pays. I feel like a drifter and One More Cup Of Coffee comforts me with its lonely Middle Eastern melody, its undercurrent of uncertainty over a pending journey.

“…and your pleasure knows no limits, your voice is like a meadow lark, but your heart is like an ocean, mysterious and dark…”

I weave our station wagon along winding, single-lane roads through a sparsely populated, forested valley, to a swaying 68 bpm.

Last night we played at a lively squat in Freiburg. In three hours we need to be in Rotterdam to perform at a warehouse rave.

Right now though, we are lost.

“One more cup of coffee for the road…

But I hear Bob Dylan.

One more cup of coffee before I go…

I finally hear him…

To the valley below.”

So I don’t much care.

November, 2001 | Vancouver, British Columbia | 104 bpm

It smells vaguely of marijuana in the van, very likely the result of it regularly being used to transport dozens of pounds of Vancouver’s number one cash crop. I crack the window and let in the cold Pacific breeze that’s blowing off of English Bay.

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I’m driving identical twin sisters with poofy mops of hair–brown for Tegan, bleached blonde for Sara– in a beaten up panel van on route to our very first jam session. Tegan sits in the passenger seat and asks me not to call what we’re about to do, jamming. “We don’t jaaaam.” She says. “Jamming’s for hippies.”

Sara sits on an overturned bucket between us.

“Is this your child-abducting van?” She asks.

“Borrowed.” I say.

“Where are you taking us?” Tegan asks.

“Are you going to murder us?” Sara chimes in.

“East side” and “No” I reply.

Neither of them mentions the pungent skunky scent.

After meeting them at a music festival that summer I call each of them once a week, every week for nearly two months in a dogged pursuit to become their drummer. One day they agree to meet, if only so that I will stop calling them.

The jam space is small. Stained yellow foam is tacked to the ceiling and walls as soundproofing. Tie-dye bed sheets are stapled to the walls for “decoration.”

Outside, ugly industrial buildings stretch for blocks.

An hour goes by, then two. The girls sing in harmony, strumming their acoustic guitars with purpose the entire time. I drum along. They are finally relaxed and smiling. They reluctantly admit to having fun. We finish with My Number, a brooding, heartfelt, 104-beats-per-minute anthem about trying to hold on to love.

“So, can I be your drummer?” I ask.

“We’ll let you know.” They say in unison.

Bass player Chris, Sara, Rob, Tegan circa 2003

Birthday letter from Sara

Tour journal

January 2005 | New York | 120 bpm

“Which one is it again?” you ask.

“NBC,” I say.

“I wish I could be there in the audience,” you say.

“I know, I wish you could too.”

“Are you happy, having fun?” you ask.

“I’m mostly happy, having too much fun sometimes.” I say.

“How’s New York?”

“Freezing,” I say. “First time we have our own rooms though. At the Waldorf. Big. Fancy.”

“How’s being at home?” I ask.

“It’s okay,” you say, a weariness in your voice. “Taking Leeroy for long walks. Letting him sleep on the bed.”

Tonight you will stay up with mom and dad to see me perform with Tegan and Sara on Late Night With Conan O’Brien.

What you won’t see is how fast my heart will be racing moments before I count in Walking With A Ghost at 120 bpm. Or how cold Conan keeps his studio; how intimidating it is to have Max Weinberg stand side stage, arms crossed, scrutinizing my drumming. You won’t know how afterward in the green room we all agree that it felt… just okay, that the euphoria was in the prelude and not the performance.

Afterward when we watch the episode in Sara’s room, we all chuckle nervously at our TV selves, and feel a little let down by the low fidelity of televised music.

You won’t see how Sara shrugs her shoulders, or hear Tegan say, “Well, there it was.”

It’s a milestone nonetheless and we celebrate downstairs with drinks in Sir Harry’s Bar. Too bad you won’t see this, how even though surrounded by management and record label people, I get way too drunk, because, well, fuck it, that’s show business.

You can’t be there with me brother, but, as always, I share the experiences afterward.

Rob and T&S guitar player Ted Gowans at Sir Harry’s Bar

May, 2005 | Lawrence, Kansas | 164 bpm

I spot her that night at a Lawrence bar called the Bottleneck. She watches me watch her– long blond hair flitting across her face as she bounces around to Rancid’s Ruby Soho. She smiles at me. I move closer. I notice her birthmark– a Marilyn Monroe speck perfectly placed at the top left of her generous lips. I fall in love a little, then join her on the dance floor.

After a few songs I introduce myself as a drummer, in town with Tegan and Sara. Her blue eyes brighten. “Elizabeth” she replies, and kisses me on the cheek. We keep dancing. I fall in love a little more.

Holding sweaty hands we step outside the club into a warm midwestern night.

I tell her I’ll miss her, which I will.

“Are you single?” she asks.

“Too often,” I say.

Elizabeth’s bedroom smells of a cheery watermelon perfume. Queens Of The Stone Age serenade us. Go With The Flow accompanies our elevated heart rates at 164 bpm.

I clench her hair and bite her flushed neck. Slowly, appreciatively, I kiss the rockabilly tattoos that adorn her arms and legs and small of her back.

With little time to connect much deeper and the likelihood of never again, we are indulgent, unreserved… and occasionally tender throughout the night.

Solace for a lonely traveller.

June 26 2005 | New York City | 86–141 bpm

Several thousand fans in Central Park cling to every word of the story that Tegan is telling them about our sound man/tour manager, Craig, having a nervous breakdown in Europe. I’m mostly tuned out, staring past them all, watching the fluttering leaves of the elm and birch trees beyond. The air is humid. I’m exhausted. I want this show to be done. I want to sleep in my own bed.

We play thirteen songs that day, ranging from 86–141 bpm. It’s the thirteenth show in eighteen days, after traveling through six countries via eight flights during the third week of the band’s fifth tour that year.

I feel as though I’ve aged a decade in under a month.

I’ve been getting paid well, chasing girls, signing autographs, seeing the world.

I’ve been partying too much, too often. Some mornings I look cadaverous.

At times I feel like an imposter, getting by on charm more than talent — the realization that meritocracy’s a myth.

I argue with band mates, strain friendships, anger easily.

I forget that music is much more than a commodity. I stop loving what I do and this could be why.

Backstage at the 100 Club, London

September, 2005 | Princeton, British Columbia | 113 bpm

“If I stay here I’m going to die,” my brother tells me over the phone. He can’t live in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside anymore. “Can you take me home?” He asks.

Tom is 45 years old.

300 km east of Vancouver, I pull my truck off Highway 3. We stop along the Similkameen River, at a natural pool created where the stream slows and S-curves around the 50-foot high Bromley Rock.

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I’m 33, band-less for the first time in years. I feel rudderless and dejected.

Diving into cool rivers has always offered jolts of clarity and recalibration.

My dog Leeroy swims behind me. Teenagers float by on inner tubes, clutching cans of beer. Tom is splayed on a large flat boulder at river’s edge, absorbing the afternoon sun.

Back in the truck, The Stones set us on our way home to Castlegar — 110 bpm, 314 km to go.

Baby, I can’t stay, you got to roll me
And call me the tumblin’ dice…

Tom stares out the window. Bunchgrass and Ponderosa Pine roll by. Tumbling Dice fades. I take a breath, about to tell him how I’m feeling, about to moan how I’m not a rock star anymore, when he confides something to me.

“You know… the first time I did heroin, 17 years ago…” He says, turning and looking at me in the eye. “That was the worst decision of my life.”

September 3rd, 2006 | Osheaga Music Festival, Montreal | 116 bpm

When I turn side-stage to motion to the tech that I need more of Ben Lee’s vocals in my ears, I see Ben’s friends, a well-known actor couple cradling their newborn, watching us. This doesn’t surprise me. Being an affable Aussie pop star, having dated Claire Danes in the wake of her Romeo and Juliet fame, endeared Ben to many in Hollywood.

With my monitors adjusted, I look down at my metronome blinking 116 bpm and launch into Ben Lee’s convivial indie-pop hit, Catch My Disease. Montreal sings along. I smile, content and elated to be back on stage in a healthy musical environment, doing what I do best.

Ben Lee wearing “grillz”

It’s after midnight when the husband half of the actor couple, and I, enter Le Rouge Bar on Boulevard St-Laurent. Security escorts us through the venue, parting the club-goers as we walk. They gawk at the actor, whose recent movie has made him an even bigger star. Once at our VIP table, two security guards stand watch, stopping anyone we don’t want from joining our party.

Waiting for us are Ben Harper, his drummer Oliver Charles, Oliver’s girlfriend, and a handful of hangers-on sitting on couches surrounding a glass table perpetually stocked with top-shelf booze. I pour myself a triple vodka-soda. I feel fucking great.

I lean across the table to the actor. “Vodka?” I ask. “Just a single,” he says. “I’ve got to get back to my daughter soon.”

Throughout the evening I chat with the movie star and Ben and talk drumming with Oliver. The actor seems like he’s forcing himself to have a good time. Unlike myself, unlike a beaming Ben Harper or his chummy drummer, he is not on a high from having played a great show in front of a large, appreciative audience. Instead he reminds me of one of those wealthy people who’ve seen and done it all, so that even celebrations like these bore them a little. Or maybe he’d just rather be with his newborn.

Regardless, I carouse and converse and feel that I am part of this famousness somehow, even though I know I am part of something smaller, less dazzling. I drink it all in for the night. I bask in it, and I hope that nights like these continue, that the party will never end.

But the party always ends.

Three months later Ben Lee decides to step away from touring to start a family. Once again, I am out of work and out of rock stardom. And 16 months later, the movie star is dead from an overdose.

2007-2009 | Vancouver BC | 0 bpm

I try to get it all back — the recording and world touring, autograph signing and after-parties. I reach out to all my contacts, anyone I can think of that might be able to get me work. I try and try and try but nothing happens.

I go months without listening to music because I feel it has abandoned me. I go years without touring.

I work 9-5 jobs for the first time in almost a decade. While slopping through the mud on a rainy Vancouver construction site I hear my former bands on the radio; the feeling like being exiled to a prison colony in deep space.

Now and then I slip into bouts of depression because at some point, unbeknownst to me, my identity slyly and firmly fastened itself to the phrase, “I’m the drummer for…”

After a while, a year, maybe two, after there is nothing left to do, I begin making music again with friends. Just for fun. No thoughts of getting paid, or getting laid. No considerations of beats per minute. Just for fun.

August, 2010 | Swift Current, Saskatchewan | 80 bpm

Photo: Sean Ashby

In a lonely Prairie town dive bar, I drum for long time friend and former Sarah McLachlan guitarist Sean Ashby.

A woman named Rosie is one of six people in the bar. She sits with a couple drinking buddies, table full of Molson Canadians, laughing with the asthmatic wheeze of a life-long partier.

In between songs I overhear Rosie say to the woman next to her that she has cancer. “Life ain’t easy” Rosie says, “Might as well go out happy.”

You said it ol’ girl, I think to myself.

It’s in that moment, surrounded by alcoholic squalor, that I’m reminded again that playing music makes me feel good. It makes Rosie feel a little better too, makes her dance her stiff, grade-seven shuffle, as she does to our cover of The Band’s Cripple Creek — 80 bpm.

Afterward, she sits back in her seat, pulls a cigarette from her pack and smiles, raises her beer to us. At least for now, the band has made her happy.

When the glory and glamour have faded, this is what I have: the hope that I am making someone feel good, who needs that feeling most.

June, 2012 | Sudbury, Ontario | 112+ bpm

Photo courtesy of Christopher Edmonstone

Drumming on a moving train careening through the northern Ontario night. The car lurches and rocks, instruments slide, walls shudder, the audience sways to the rhythm of the rails as much as the rhythm of the song. Wobble-dancing at its best. Wait Up For You, which starts at 112 bpm, on this night of raw, sweaty, mayhem, ends much, much faster.

My band, The Belle Game, is part of a 10-band, Vancouver to Toronto VIA Rail journey dubbed Tracks on Tracks. Entertainment for passengers, rock ‘n’ roll revelry for us.

During a stop on the outskirts of Sudbury, passengers pile out of the train. The night is warm. Crickets chirp. Up and down the length of the kilometer-long “Canadian”, people huddle in small groups sharing smokes. Someone passes me a joint. I take a toke and reflect on my band mates, all in their early 20s, talented and enthusiastic. Their laughter and camaraderie with each other, their enthusiasm for the possibilities that lay ahead on the long musical road, serve as a reminder of why I do this, why I started doing this in the first place.

Dream, create, enjoy the moment.

Just like I did in 1984 when I sat behind Tom’s drum kit, pounding and crashing and blissing-out.

(The Belle Game, left to right: Rob, Andrea, Adam, Katrina, Alex)

July 2012 | Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital, Trail, BC

No sweeping exits or offstage lines
Could make me feel bitter or treat you unkind
Wild horses couldn’t drag me away
Wild wild horses couldn’t drag me away…

Bright, warm Kootenay sunshine floods the hospital room, washes over Tom. He’s not awake. A steady morphine drip has sent him into a painless world I know he’s familiar with. Tom’s been sober for years now. Sadly it’s too little, too late. I turn up Wild Horses. His lips begin moving like someone who’s conversing in a dream. I know he can hear the song. I know he can hear us. I know it comforts him.

My mother and father say their goodbyes to their first-born son. My mom asks me to sit with Tom for a while. I do.

I tell him that he is loved…

…that his body is finished with him…

I tell him the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to say. ”Tom… it’s time to let go.”

That night he quietly passes away.

At his funeral I place a pair of drumsticks in his casket, by his side. On them I’ve written, “Tom, my very first drum teacher, my big brother, thank you. Love always, Rob.”

Photo courtesy of the Chursinoff family.

November 2015 | Vancouver Island | 104 bpm

Sitting at the drums, headphones on, a woodstove in front of me, popping, crackling. Outside the log cabin it’s blustery and raining. Down the hill, whitecaps dance atop Juan De Fuca Straight.

I’m band-less. Again. So I woodshed. Back to how it all started. Just me and my drums.

Music is part of me. It guides me in beats per minute in and out of people’s lives around the world. It’s an appendage, making life more manageable, offering symmetry. I know this now. For the rest of my days, music will be with me like that steadfast old friend who makes us feel something if not good.

I press play, settle into the pocket. Mo Money Mo Problems, Biggie, 104 bpm.

I solo, sit back into the beat, vigorously solo some more. I grunt and sweat and contort my face. I light the kit up. My sticks shatter, my fingers blister, the blisters bleed. I don’t stop.

Images by the author unless otherwise stated.