1) The Wildhearts- The Wildhearts Must Be Destroyed (2003)
I first heard The Wildhearts when I was 11. The video for this album’s first single, ‘Vanilla Radio’ was played on Kerrang TV one night when I was at home with my dad, who is a huge music buff and rock fan. I was lucky enough to be exposed to a massive amount of cool music when I was growing up, and I have my dad to thank for that. This is the first of many examples in this list. It was the first I’d heard of the band & when I asked my dad told me they were a bunch of drug addicts who wrote great songs but barely functioned as a band. I was intrigued. I loved the song so I went out the next day & bought the album. I could not stop listening to it. In fact I went and bought the band’s entire back catalogue because I loved it so much. The Wildhearts became my favourite band overnight and it’s stayed that way ever since. Funnily enough, most Wildhearts fans don’t consider this one of their better records. In fact, I’ve heard Ginger Wildheart slate the album himself on more than one occasion. But it introduced me to what became the most important and influential music in my life, so it’s number 1 on my list. Also, one of my favourite Wildhearts songs of all time, ‘Someone That Won’t Let Me Go’ is track three on this record.
2) Alice Cooper- Hey Stoopid (1991)
Hey Stoopid, my second favourite record of all time, released the year I was born & featuring many of the best rock musicians on the planet. This record is just amazing from start to finish. Every track is a belter. How badass does an album have to be to feature Ozzy Osbourne on backing vocals?! As a drummer, I loved how the drums sounded on this record the first time I heard it. The kick sounds so punchy and solid, and the snare cracks like a gunshot. Perfect. And the guitar playing! There’s some beauty riffs on this record, real guitar driven rock ‘n’ roll. Slash, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai and Mick Mars all appear as guests on this album. In fact, my favourite track, ‘Feed My Frankenstein’ features an unbelievable shared guitar solo by Steve Vai and Joe Satriani. I remember as a kid playing air guitar to that track. Me and a friend who played bass in my band at the time were utterly obsessed with it. We would squawk the sounds that those two managed to get out of their guitars. It’s the ultimate in guitar wankery. You can’t beat a bit of that.
3) The Wildhearts- Earth vs. The Wildhearts (1993)
Two records by the same band in my top three. Sorry. But this album has more than earned its place near the top. It was the soundtrack to my early teens and helped me get my head around some of the tougher things for a shy, adolescent rocker kid to try and understand. Like girls. I listened to tracks like, ‘My Baby Is A Headfuck’ and ‘Loveshit’ and realised, you know what? It’s okay that I don’t get it. Nobody else does either! These songs were about feeling messed around, confused and fed up with relationships. Alright I was young and clueless and only just starting out on that particular journey, but Ginger’s lyrics made so much sense to me it was untrue. He was singing about things that I’d thought myself 1000 times. I was listening to these songs going, ‘Yeah, exactly!’, so I felt a huge connection with the record. ‘News Of The World’ is another track with unbelievably poignant lyrics, reflecting on the state the planet and the people in it. Shit like that blows your mind when you’re 14 years old. And to be fair, he’s bang on with what he’s saying and its relevant today more than ever. I got to see The Wildhearts perform this album in full on its 20th anniversary tour in 2013 and it was one of the best shows I can remember.
4) Iron Maiden- Brave New World (2000)
I’ve loved Iron Maiden for as long as I can remember. I was pretty obsessed with them from being about 9 years old and Eddie’s multiple faces were all over my bedroom walls in the form of posters, flags and magazine cuttings, much to my mum’s dismay. I could have picked a number of different Maiden albums which had a huge influence on me, particularly when it came to my playing. But this one stands out. On this record, Nicko McBrain plays stuff with one kick pedal that most drummers struggle to play with two. ‘Ghost Of The Navigator’ became one of my all-time favourite tracks to drum along to, and I would play it over and over to perfect my right foot control, and imitate his fills. ‘Wicker Man’ is another example. In the chorus Nicko plays faster and more consistently than I had ever heard anyone play without using a double kick pedal. I practiced it so hard I had shin splints.
This record also marked the return of Bruce Dickinson to sing for Iron Maiden, after a couple of dodgy albums without him which very rarely make it out of my CD rack.
The fact that I was playing Iron Maiden songs from early on has definitely influenced my setup too. I like a big kit with plenty of cymbals around me. A lot of guys nowadays like a minimalist setup with just 1 rack tom, but I’m not into that. Put this record on and play along. You can’t play that shit with just one tom! Besides, a drumkit in a rock band ought to look like a drumkit in a rock band. When Nicko plays you can barely see him behind all those toms and cymbals!
5) Box Car Racer- Box Car Racer (2002)
Out of Blink 182 and all the side projects to emerge from it, this was by far the best. Travis Barker and Tom DeLonge formed Box Car Racer in 2001 after an apparent falling out with Mark Hoppus. This was the only album they made under that name and it’s a fucking belter. I listened to this record a lot when I was younger, but I played along to it even more. I always loved Travis Barker’s playing and in particular how imaginative and innovative he was; the guy has played on more records than most people own and yet I don’t think I’ve ever heard him do the same thing twice!! I was into Blink 182 as much as the next teenager, but suddenly here was an album which had all of the catchiness and anthemic melody of Blink, but without the dick jokes. It was darker, meaningful and more serious and reflective. I loved it. ‘Letters To God’ became one of my all-time favourite songs. I even learned to play it on guitar, (and I cannot play the guitar!). I would drum along to ‘All Systems Go’ for hours at a time. Travis splits up the chorus with these off-beat chokes with the hi-hat foot, and it’s one of those where it’s extremely satisfying when you get it right
6) Guns ‘N’ Roses- Appetite For Destruction (1987)
This is a classic album and an obvious choice, but when I joined my first band it was because I wanted to be in Guns ‘N’ Roses. When my band had its first photoshoot we tried our best to look like Guns ‘N’ Roses. If it wasn’t for Guns ‘N’ Roses, I probably wouldn’t be typing this in skinny jeans with my hair down to my shoulders. They were just so cool. And aside from all that, this is as close as you can get to a perfect rock album, complete with the best rock single ever written. ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ was on Kerrang and Scuzz TV every 2 seconds when I was growing up. It’s a perfect example of a hard rock song with plenty of balls, but which is accessible enough to make it onto radio and appeal to more than just the hardcore rock fan. There’s not many songs that manage that these days, but like Bon Jovi’s ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’, ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ has everything so it appeals to everyone. It was impossible to escape this song if you grew up with an interest in popular music. I remember screeching along to the guitar solo in the back of my mum’s car on the way to school. One of my earliest memories of playing a gig was when me and my brother had a band and we covered this song at the Cockpit, the best local venue around at that time. Whenever I listen to this album it reminds me that since its release nearly 30 ago, nobody has managed to produce a debut record like it.
7) Kid Rock- Rock ‘N’ Roll Jesus (2007)
This album is important to me because it introduced me to country music and made me a little more open minded about the stuff I was listening to and, most importantly for my development as a drummer, the stuff I was playing. Up until this point, Kid Rock had kept up his ‘American Badass’ persona and his hard rock/ rap metal style that you can hear on his first few albums. Then all of a sudden, with the release of this record, he moved much more towards a country rock/ blues style of song writing, and I just fell in love with it straight away. Simple songs with catchy, foot-stompin’ choruses. Since then he’s gone further and further down this route, and the albums have got better and better. He’d hinted at the shift on the album ‘Cocky’, when he included a duet with Sheryl Crow, but it wasn’t until ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Jesus’ that there was a real noticeable change. And it opened my eyes to country. I literally had no idea I liked this kind of music until this album came along, and then I started looking for other music which sounded like it. If it wasn’t for this record I wouldn’t be listening to artists like Corb Lund and the Hurtin\’ Albertans, The Shires and of course Sheryl Crow. It was like, ‘Well Kid Rock’s doing it, and he’s the American Badass. Maybe it’s ok to listen to country!’ And low and behold I found a whole host of country rock artists who had these powerful, driving guitar sounds going on. It wasn’t all banjos and washboards after all. I’d be missing out on a lot of great music if it wasn’t for this album.
8) Hammerfall- Chapter V: Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken (2005)
Is that a supressed snigger I can hear? Hammerfall might be the cheesiest, most stereotypical leather and chainmail clad Scandinavian metallers imaginable, but the clue is in the name. Power metal. I bought this album when I heard the single ‘Blood Bound’, because it sounded like Iron Maiden on speed. But I found some immensely important and unexpected benefits to drumming along to this record, so I ended up using it as a go-to album when I needed to work on certain techniques. It taught me about really powerful playing, how to drive a song hard, without playing at 100 miles per hour. I remember being blown away by the drum sound. It sounds like he’s hitting those skins with sledge hammers! This was also one of two mega-important records when it came to practicing and developing my double kick technique. The other one was Children Of Bodom’s ‘Are You Dead Yet?’ But I have particularly fond memories of playing this record’s opener, ‘Secrets’, over and over again, until I had cramp in my hips and splints in my shins. I built up the strength & stamina I needed to play complex and consistant rhythms with both feet. I also remember being amazed by Joacim Cans’ vocal range on ‘Fury Of The Wild’ and trying and failing to hit those ridiculously high notes myself on the way to school!
9) Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers- The Last DJ (2002)
You know that feeling when you hear a song and release that you know it, but you didn’t know that you know it? No? Well that’s what happened here. Again, it was my dad who introduced me to this album by playing it at ridiculous volumes in the front room when I was probably upstairs trying to do some homework or something. I came down and asked what he was listening to, because I really liked it. When he told me it was a Tom Petty album I went and had a listen to as much Tom Petty as I could get my hands on, and I heard all these tracks that I’d heard before but didn’t know when or why I’d heard them. I discovered a huge back catalogue of classic songs which I would have missed out on if it wasn’t for this record, so I hold a special place for it. And it’s a great, great album in its own right, with some beautiful songs like ‘Dreamville’ and ‘Like A Diamond’ as well as some important and ballsy attacks on the state of the music industry with tracks such as ‘Joe’, ‘Money Becomes King’ and the title track, ‘The Last DJ’. But this album is on the list because it was my introduction to what would turn out to be one of my favourite artists.
10) Michael Jackson- HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book 1 (1995)
Is it cheating to include a compilation album? I’m just being honest, this record made up a big part of my earliest consumption of music. My brother had the album, and he would chase me around the house with the booklet from the album sleeve. It had a picture from the ‘Thriller’ video, where Michael is dressed up as a werewolf. I was terrified of that picture as a young kid. But my brother also played the album a hell of a lot, and we would sit together in his room and listen to ‘Earth Song’, ‘Heal The World’ and ‘They Don’t Care About Us’. I started to borrow the album so I could listen to it more and more, before eventually going out to buy my own copy. I quickly grew to love Michael’s voice, the way he could sound so tender and gentle on songs like ‘She’s Out Of My Life’, but then belt out a killer snarl when he wanted to, on harder hitting tracks like ‘Man In The Mirror’ and my personal favourite, ‘Remember The Time’. I’d still argue that no other singer, alive or dead, can match Michael Jackson’s vocal ability or his sense of rhythm. And there’s so much going on in the background in his songs. Percussion layered on percussion. Inevitably, like everything I listened to growing up, I start to play along to it too. I definitely benefitted from playing these songs- it was the first time I had really played pop and dance music, and it helped me develop as a well-rounded player. I’ve always said as a musician you owe it to yourself to listen to as much music and as many different types of music as possible, to give yourself the best chance to develop. This record was one of the biggest examples of that for me.
Yorkshire Rats new EP, ‘Trouble City’ is released by Northern Ruff Records on March 15th