Joe Wong knows a thing or two about drumming. Since leaving Milwaukee—where he provided percussion for acts like Akarso and Parts & Labor—for Los Angeles, he started The Trap Set, which has been called “the world’s most popular podcast and terrestrial radio show about the lives of drummers.” Over the show’s approximately 100-episode run, Wong has talked timekeeping with drummers from Fugazi, The Cure, Sunny Day Real Estate, Pearl Jam, The Ramones, The Police, OFF!, James Brown, Johnny Cash, The Jesus Lizard, Dead Kennedys, Beyoncé, Braid, and many more.
Saturday night, Wong and four of Milwaukee’s best and most legendary drummers will take the stage at the Prospect Avenue Colectivo’s Back Room performance space for an extra special episode of The Trap Set Live. He’ll be joined by Victor DeLorenzo (Violent Femmes, Nineteen Thirteen), Dan Didier (The Promise Ring, Maritime), Shane Hochstetler (Bad Grades, Zebras, Call Me Lightning), and Jon Mueller (Volcano Choir, Death Blues). But those are just four of the city’s standout drummers. Before this weekend’s show, we asked Wong to talk about more musicians that come to mind when he thinks about drummers in Milwaukee. Here’s what he had to say.
Amy Knoles got her start in band class in Wauwatosa Public Schools. By the time she was a teenager, she was working in rock clubs around Milwaukee. After a couple of years at UWM, she transferred to CalArts during one of that institution’s most exciting, fertile eras. For the past 40 years, Amy has pushed the limits of percussion, composition, and contemporary music in general, working with an expansive list of luminaries including California E.A.R. Unit, John Cage, Kronos Quartet, Steve Reich, and Frank Zappa. I recently visited her at her gorgeous desert studio outside of Los Angels, where she is currently experimenting with modular synthesis and light manipulation.
Cecilio Negron Jr.
If Cecilio Negron Jr. plays like music is in his blood, it’s because it is. His father and uncle, Alberto, ascended to the top of the Milwaukee Latin scene in the ’70s with groups such as La Chazz and Charambo. Steeped in traditional percussion from an early age, Cecilio began applying his rhythmic knowledge to Hip Hop beatmaking at age 17. He’s created tracks for artists such as: Blaxx, Ras Movement, and Urbanites. As a percussionist, you can see him with his groups CNJ Latin Jazz and De La Buena. He’s also the program music director for the Milwaukee Public Theater, and his Projecto Bembe infects young people with a love for hand percussion.
Devin Drobka began his percussive journey in the Milwaukee metal and hardcore scenes with bands such as Bosio. After studying at Boston’s Berklee college and a brief tenure in New York, Devin returned to his hometown, and has since proven to be one of its hardest working, most exciting drummers. He just completed a Dave-King-produced album with his group Hanging Hearts—which he describes as a “’70s Miles/Jazz-Punk hybrid.” He also co-leads the excellent Lesser Lakes Trio, composes a third of Argopelter, and founded Unrehearsed MKE, Milwaukee’s longest running improvised music series.
Erik Tunison’s precise and explosive drumming powered Die Kreuzen, one of the most beloved and influential hardcore bands of all time. Currently, he and his wife run Eat At Jo’s, a cafe located in Amsterdam’s legendary Melkweg venue. My old band, Parts & Labor, toured Europe with Battles, and I’ll never forget the time when Battles/Helmet drummer, John Stanier, who usually has a talent for projecting toughness and stoicism, went full fanboy upon meeting Erik—a true hero’s hero.
As drummer for Harvey Scales and The Seven Sounds, Jeff Williamson laid the foundation for one of the greatest bands ever to call Milwaukee home.
One of the most versatile drummers in town, Jeremy Kuzniar has proven himself equally compelling with jazzers such as Steve Peplin, Jamie Breiwick, and Aaron Gardner as he is laying down a backbeat with groups like Kings Go Forth and The Greyhounds. He’s also active as a producer and engineer, as co-owner of Nutone Studio downtown.
One half of the singularly inventive, deeply groovy, and gloriously freaky duo Bamm Bamm, Makoe Seawright is Milwaukee’s own entry to the exclusive Singing Drummers Club.
The son of legendary Milwaukee guitarist, Scat Johnson, Mark Johnson first performed with his dad at jazz clubs in the ’60s and ’70s. An alumnus of the Milwaukee Conservatory, Mark moved to New York, where he’s worked with top tier artists such as Abbey Lincoln; Geri Allen; Wallace Roney; and his bassist brother, Billy. Mark’s unique style combines the polyrhythmic fire of Tony Williams and Art Blakey with the complex traditions of Indian Classical music.
Waymon Tatum Jr.
Waymon Tatum possesses an otherworldly sense of groove, allowing him to straddle the worlds of gospel, soul, blues, and rock with exceptional ease.
The Trap Set Live comes to Colectivo’s Back Room (Prospect Ave.) Saturday, November 26. The show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets cost $7.