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The top five punk drummers of all time

Celebrating the game changers of punk. 

In addition to the many crossover styles and external influences constantly emerging in punk rock, some of the most renowned drummers ever come from the realm of punk.

Continuing this month’s listicle series of top instrumentalists in punk rock bands, we’ve come to the one most likely to spark some disagreement. While punk rock drumming often keeps things stripped back and simple, the pace and precision required to perform consistently at fast and aggressive tempos is crucial. In addition to the many crossover styles and external influences constantly emerging in punk rock, some of the most renowned drummers ever come from the realm of punk.

Bill Stevenson (Descendents/ALL/Black Flag)

Known primarily for being the founder and primary songwriter of pop-punk grandfathers, Descendents, and their off-shoot, ALL, the Southern Californian powerhouse also had a several-album stint in Black Flag. Stevenson is known for his fast-fills and surf-influenced rhythms in the more poppy sounds of Descendents/ALL, but also a darker, more jazz-influenced side initially developed in Black Flag (particularly the band’s 1985 Process of Weeding Out EP). To this day, the influence of Stevenson’s style and songwriting continues to grow.

Brendan Canty (Fugazi/Rites of Spring)

During his 15-year stint in the iconic Fugazi, Canty’s drumming and songwriting revolutionised punk rock and spawned countless new bands in the freshly developing post-hardcore sound of the ‘80s and ‘90s. While based in traditional rock drumming styles, Canty’s adept use of dynamics and groove (particularly when locked in with Fugazi bassist Joe Lally) mark him as one of the most definitive punk drummers of the era. He’s also the only drummer I’ve seen to have a bell from a ship as part of his drum kit.

Earl Hudson (Bad Brains)

Initially beginning with the seminal Bad Brains as a jazz-fusion drummer, the advent of hardcore punk transformed the band overnight. With the Bad Brains leading the breakneck speeds of early American hardcore, essentially all modern hardcore drumming can be traced back to the speed and power of Earl Hudson’s early work in the band. While Hudson continued to flaunt his extraordinary skill in the band’s expansive other work in reggae and metal, his crucial role in the development of hardcore drumming is second to none.

Janet Weiss (Sleater-Kinney)

Joining the already established Sleater-Kinney on their 1997 breakout Dig Me Out, Weiss’ drumming immediately took the band’s sound to a whole new level. One of the most precise and hardest-hitting drummers in modern punk and rock, Weiss’ classic rock style provided a solid backbone to the post-punk guitar and vocal styles of the band. Her work on 2005’s The Woods is one of the most powerful and strong drum performances I’ve heard.