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YouTube Drummer Kye Smith
- January 2022
- S.W. Lauden
If you love punk drumming then you’ve probably come across Kye Smith’s videos on YouTube. Over the last decade he’s done drum cover videos of various lengths for Green Day, Blink-182, Lagwagon, The Vandals, Descendents, Dropkick Murphys, Propagandhi and NOFX, among many others. He started playing drums at 12 and was heavily influenced by many of the ‘90s punk bands he grew up listening to in Australia. Kye is also a session drummer, and has toured with Frenzal Rhomb, Local Resident Failure, The Porkers, WAAX and Hack The Mainframe.
His YouTube success has allowed him to play with some of his musical heroes and perform everywhere from Madison Square Garden in New York to the rooftop of the Capitol Records building in Hollywood. Kye’s essay, My Self-Education in Punk Drumming, is featured in S.W. Lauden‘s upcoming new book, Forbidden Beat: Perspectives on Punk Drumming.
How did you start drumming?
I saw a drum kit in my first music class when I began high school and found it really intriguing. From there I started lessons with a local teacher for a few months before getting my own kit for Christmas that same year, from there I was off and running.
In your Forbidden Beat essay, you mention that you stopped taking lessons pretty quickly—how did you teach yourself to play?
I learnt a basic level of theory and sheet music when I was taking lessons, which was great, but I really just wanted to learn how to play songs I liked rather than going too deep into other styles of music, so once I had a kit of my own I didn’t feel like I wanted to keep pursuing the theory side of it and began to try to learn songs by ear. I never really followed a specific technique or had a guide showing me how to learn to play things, it was as simple as hearing something, trying to figure out what was happening and then trying to do that thing slowly over and over again until the muscle memory developed enough to play it up to speed—that’s pretty much still how I learn new parts today.
How did you discover punk rock?
Finding the drums coincided with finding Green Day around the same time at the age of 12 or so, so they both went hand in hand. After seeing a video for Green Day’s ‘Minority’ on TV I went head first into their catalog and before even looking to explore other bands of the genre. After a while I also learnt of other bands like Blink-182 and The Offspring, likely through hearing them on the radio, and then explored other bands like NOFX, Lagwagon and Frenzal Rhomb. I was the eldest child in my family so did not have any older siblings to show me the ropes, but a good friend of mine had an older brother who was a few years ahead of us so that’s how we learnt about a lot of those bands.
The Lagwagon song Rifle is on your 10-song list in Forbidden Beat (and you open your video with it). What is it about the drumming on this song that makes it stand out for you?
I think opening a song with an extended drum part was something that was not too familiar for me within that style of music so it immediately caught my attention. Derrick Plourde’s drumming seemed so impossibly fast, I could not comprehend how someone could play like that, it seemed so unachievable. I think it really stood out as it was not just the backing beat of a song, it was the focal point, it stood on its own. If you could isolate the drums on the majority of songs, it can be really tricky to tell what song it is but with Rifle, it is easily distinguishable to those who listen to the genre as it is so creative and iconic.
If you were going to point to one song as a great place for a beginner to start, what song would you recommend?
I think I would point them to ‘Warning’ by Green Day, which I included it in the 10-song list for this very reason. For me as a beginning drummer, it was a song that was at a tempo that I could hear what was going on and try and play along. It’s simple enough that it is possible to hear what is going on but it also has a nice amount of flair to keep it interesting. It’s also a really good place to start as once you can play along to the beat in the intro/verse, you can speed that beat up and you have the base beat for a lot of punk songs.
What is the most unexpected thing that has happened to you since you started posting drum cover videos on YouTube?
I had no expectations when I started posting on YouTube so everything that has happened has been fairly unexpected. I guess the best I could have hoped for might have been to get to play a song with one of my favorite bands which I have been lucky enough to do a few times, but I’ve also became friends with a lot of these artists I look up to which is really mind blowing. Not to mention some of the other completely left-field unpredictable experiences like playing at Madison Square Garden and on the rooftop of Capitol Records. It has been a really fun ride.
What’s next for you?
I have taken my foot off the accelerator a little on my YouTube stuff while I have been working on a videography business and becoming a Dad, but I still have a bunch of video ideas on the to-do list so have been working on those in the background and they will be coming out soon enough. I’d love to start a new band and start playing live again, but COVID has once again put a halt on that here in Australia unfortunately, so it’s a little unknown as to what the future holds for live music. Perhaps I will start a new project with no intention of live performance. I’m not too sure at the moment, we’ll see what the future holds.
Forbidden Beat: Perspectives on Punk Drumming is available to pre-order here