By Jackson Anderson
There are a plethora of punk drummers that have their fair share of fame, both inside and outside of the community, a fairly atypical phenomena for the instrument. Blink-182’s Travis Barker is perhaps the most well-known member of the band despite being the only member to not have vocal duties, and to be on the ordinarily backseat position of the drummer. Terry Roberts invented a drum beat so distinctive and infectious that a new subgenre was created to chase the subtle genius of its intensity. Punk staples such as The Descendants’ Bill Stevenson and Bad Religion’s Brooks Wackerman are lauded as masters of their craft and are appreciated as cornerstones of the punk scene.
Despite all of these successes, there was one drummer who was distinct amongst even them for his influence in the punk community. Playing percussion in Lagwagon, Bad Astronaut, The Ataris, Mad Caddies, Rick Kids on LSD, and Jaws, Derrick Plourde touched and influenced every edifice of the many different facets in the diverse and at times warring punk scene, lending his gentle and constructive hand, yet pulsating and enduring beats. Derrick united and brought joy to many disparate groups and did so with a humility that begged no desire for the spotlight; he simply made excellent music because he was an excellent musician, and that was what he was meant to do.
Derrick passed away on March 30, 2005, 12 years ago today. Even today his presence is still missed and the words of his former bandmates sorrow still echo through eternity, and are just as gut-wrenchingly relevant and real as ever. Following Derrick’s passing, Lagwagon created a tribute album titled Resolve to commemorate Derrick’s life and death. The album is one of the most difficult listens in existence. You can taste the pain on vocalist Joey Cape’s lips, and hearing him encounter it is troubling in its authenticity and rawness. You can tell that Cape wanted to get this one perfect for Derrick, and he did.
The last verse from “Sad Astronaut,” a song that singles in the last moments of Derrick’s life, and commemorates the end of Bad Astronaut as Cape –who also fronted that band– stated in an interview “Without Derrick, there’s no Bad Astronaut,” is a poetic and anguished summary of Cape’s struggle to understand the tragedy that was Derrick’s passing, and his belief that he will continue to live through his lyrics.
Looking through the spyglass in a punctured sky
While your garden died
You couldn’t see the sky for your fallen stars?
Endless in your arms
You were still alive even as a sad astronaut
The album’s closer, “Days of New” is perhaps the biggest tearjerker in music; a naively questioning song that deals with Capes own frustration with the tribute itself, feeling that no matter what he can say is inadequate in expressing what he feels. The final verse is a beautiful sendoff that pleads that perhaps Derrick may be aware of all the good he has done in the world, and may be able to see the enduring pulchritude of his art.
But we may never have met if it weren’t for him.
Hey Derrick, maybe somehow you’re listening.
Today’s mantra is gratitude.
You’ve changed my life
I’m sure you knew I’ll never forget the words you said
The life that you led
I’ll never forget
I’ll never forget
I’ll never forget
Twelve years later this song is still a staple of Lagwagon’s set. Cape hasn’t forgot you, Derrick. Neither has NOFX frontman and Fat Wreck Chords owner Fat Mike, in his tribute Doornails, another song that still sees live play, and neither have I.