Jerry Fuchs, we miss you already.

For those of you that knew Jerry Fuchs, I’m sure that you’re as in the dumps as we are around here. Writing this helped a little.

Read on and try to feel better,

John Fell

Jerry Fuchs came into my life back in 1996 or ‘97. I’m sorry to say that I can’t remember which or place the date on a calendar but that period in my life was vibrant and fast and resultantly a bit blurry. We met through a shared rehearsal space containing a shared band. He was the guy who replaced me in a project that I had to bow out of due to a huge label commitment, though I think the word replaced is inaccurate. Jerry was an upgrade to that band. One night I listened through the door of the studio when he was in the room carving it up with my old associates and it became clear that I had been wasting my friends’ time by playing with them; he was the right guy and I was the wrong guy. It smarted a little, but it was cool. I left that night undetected and went home and thought about how perfectly composed and executed his parts and playing were in the very same songs that I had struggled with, trying to concoct what I only then realized he was the better player for. His groove was a mile wide and his ideas and facility were really beautiful. I never mentioned that I had heard him play through the door for those five minutes until later. And he was in his early twenties at the time.

Not long thereafter I was in the same room shedding a brutal 15/16 groove I was really starting to get cooking. When I stopped he walked in and said, “Dude! That’s sick!” Without pausing he sat down behind his little Silver Sparkle Ludwig bebop kit and asked me to play it again. I dug in, feeling a little self-conscious as I really was floored by his playing and expected him to slash into something crazy. Instead, he jumped in on the downbeat of one with a crazy 4/4 part that he managed to superimpose on top of my ridiculously over thought part. I was playing the snare on 2 and 4 with this derivative, Gadd inspired, inverted paradiddle tom thing going on. Due to the offset in meter, our parts resolved every other measure in an eighth note pulse. He was keeping it really simple but his groove was so deep I felt like I was locked in a tractor beam. Then he started comping with his right hand and right foot between the toms and bass drum on our off by a 16th note measure. The effect was of this perfectly controlled wall of drums that had a crazy, ricochet/slapback like quality. We hung on for a few minutes and the feeling was a bit like having a wolf by the ears; I was afraid holding on but also afraid to let go.

Inevitably, the groove crashed down around us as we were reaching further and further out. We were both completely giddy and I was so full of love for this guy from that moment on and laughing so hard we were crying. What we played was at once so amazing and yet so absurd and we both knew it, but that was the beauty of the moment. We joked about playing double drums in some band and decided if what we had just done was any indication of what would happen that the rest of the band would just walk off stage, and whether or not it would have been in admiration or disgust we weren’t quite sure. While he was packing up some cymbals, I asked him how he had picked up this crazy groove I was playing so fast as he walked in, sat down and nailed me to the wall in seconds. He started laughing so hard and said, “DUDE!!! I”VE BEEN STANDING OUTSIDE THE DOOR FOR LIKE TEN MINUTES!!!!!” I laughed so hard and told him all about standing outside the very same door studying what he was doing. What amazed me about Jerry at that point as both a drummer and as a person was that he just barged in and played. It was that amazing combination of confidence and humility that made him so endearing.

Jerry and I would see each other fairly often in spite of fairly different social circles and there was always the hope of rekindling that fire that we made that night. Whenever I was playing a show and saw him in the audience it always made me want to play my best game, he was just so naturally good. But even after one night when I played like shit, he popped up with serious praise and asked me to break down some fill, then told me I was amazing. And yet he wouldn’t have any of it when I would tell him just how amazing I thought he was. He’s the guy that you wanted listening to you play because you knew he listened to every note of it and was genuinely understanding about the bad ones. Like the person that loves you for your strengths and weaknesses.

A few years ago when I stopped playing and started the Drum Shop, a ‘Drummer Wanted’ flyer showed up on the bulletin board. On it was the usual listing of gigs, empty promises, and a list of drummers who the band liked. Among the more storied names were my own and Jerry’s. I was so honored, not so much by the absurd association with a bunch of household name drummers, but by the fact that he was in the list. We were both at sort of the same point career wise and the juxtaposition with him meant far more to me than any other name on that listing. It was such an honor to be compared in any way to him. Over the last few years we’ve joked many times about getting in touch with the guy that posted the ad and how he could have both of us for his band but only at the same time. The beauty and the horror of that would have really been something, and “atomsmasher” which might have been either the guy’s name or that of his band, we were never really sure, might have gotten a little more than he bargained for. I recently built Jerry a custom snare drum and inscribed in it: Atomsmasher would get a kick out of this, XO John

When I heard the terrible news, I just fell apart. I started scanning the news and blogs for any details I could find to help me get my head around it. It was just so unbelievable that someone so full of life and talent could be gone in a flash. As I read on I was struck by a terrible irony. The building in which he fell was the very same building that I moved into when I first moved to Brooklyn in the mid eighties. I had ridden that damnable elevator many times up and down from my loft on the fourth floor. And ultimately, the reason that I moved out was the restriction of the use of said elevator; moving drums up and down four flights wasn’t really practical. I got so caught up in the irony that my reaction before my brain caught up was that I wanted to tell Jerry just how odd that was. But my brain and heart caught up to reality andI guess that’s not going to happen. We’re all left with the need accept the terrible and irrevocable change that has occurred, and I hope that reading what I’ve written might help someone just as it has helped me just a bit in its writing. I miss you Jerry, there are already a million things I want to tell you, like how the Timpanist’s grip that I saw over the weekend sort of reminded me of yours.

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