On Jan. 22, my world moved a little bit. The shift was caused by two people who I never (EVER!) would have expected to affect me: SNL’s Fred Armisen and TV personality Rachael Ray. Yes, you’re reading that right.
Well, the work was mostly done by Armisen, who appeared on the Rachael Ray Show on the 22nd for her special “In a Minute” spot, in which the guest is allowed to say whatever they want for 60 seconds. And by god, Armisen said the perfect thing. Here’s a condensed version of the 43-second speed rant:
“Hi, I’m Fred Armisen. I want to talk to you about … a musician who I really think is the greatest ever. His name is Zach Hill, he’s a drummer … he used to be in a band called Hella, and now he’s in a band called Death Grips and he has reinvented how someone drums. When you see this guy play, it looks like a flurry of activity. It looks like a blur. It looks like a tantrum. You can’t even see it. And at first, when I saw this drummer, I was like, ‘What is happening?’ But then I realized later, ‘Oh, this guy is a genius.’”
Armisen’s frantic and rushed explanation of Hill is spot on. There’s really no other way to describe him. He’s just Zach Hill. The only way to understand the magic is to experience it.
Anyone familiar with Hill knows that he is one of the most talented rock drummers around—anywhere. I feel uncomfortable even classifying him as a drummer, because the way he plays is so absurdly different from his “competition.” And his abilities don’t stop with his raw drumming skill. His compositions and various projects refuse to be anything but at the forefront of innovation. Did I mention that he’s self-taught? Now I’m starting to sound like Armisen.
Hill has had a hand in all sorts of projects. Death Grips, the group in which he’s currently active, is a pseudo hip-hop experiment in which he, as usual, wails on his ping-y drum kit with a tenacity you really can’t contemplate until you see it. His full discography is too broad to even attempt to categorize in one article. I lost count of the number of EPs and LPs listed on his Wikipedia page around 49 or 50.
Why is Armisen’s mention of Hill on national television so significant? It’s because Hill, despite his incomprehensible talent, is still a relatively unknown figure in the music world. But once you hear and start to understand what the guy can do with a drum set, you become addicted to the sound.
The best way I can describe his playing in words is organized chaos. It hits you harder than a rogue semi truck. At first it’s almost indecipherable. It sounds like he isn’t playing anything more than random blast hits.
But it doesn’t take long to realize this isn’t some guy just hitting a snare drum as fast as possible. He’s actually playing a beat, albeit too complicated to keep track of at times—even for trained ears.
I absolutely don’t think that Hill’s music is for everyone. But I do believe that everyone should hear it at least one time. Even if you want to turn him off after five seconds, listen to one full song because a talent like Hill only comes around so often. He’s a musical anomaly.
I’ve been an advocate of Hill for a while, but never thought I would hear his name on TV—much less on the Rachael Ray Show. Here’s hoping that Armisen’s spark starts a fire and Hill finally gets the sort of credit he deserves as a musician.