Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Belgian Lab Experiment Gone Horribly Wrong AKA The Source Of Phil Collins' Incredible Drumming Power

That Phil Collins is an unapproachable giant in the world of drumming is a fact known throughout the land. But just where (and how) did he acquire this superlative skill? Years of hard work and practice? Careful emulation of the masters? Sunday morning pilates? Au contraire, mon frere.

According to Wikipedia:
He was given a toy drum kit for Christmas when he was five. Later, his uncle made him a makeshift one that he used regularly. As Collins grew older these were followed by more complete sets bought by his parents. He practiced by playing alongside the television and radio, and never learned to read and write conventional musical notation; instead, he uses a system he devised himself.
At least, that's the official story. "Parents buy son drum kit." It all sounds so easy. A little too easy. Finally, after years of being forced to carry this dark secret inside of him, Collins has revealed the true origins of his drumming talent. From In The Air Tonight:
My father's insurance business was running a little slow. It was 1963. We caught an advertisement in a newspaper, "Young boy needed for scientific research: $500 stipend." It was in Belgium - the Brussels Scientific Institute, if I recall correctly. My family had its doubts, but we were desperate for the money, and it was simply too good to pass up.

I stayed in a Belgian laboratory for a week. It was all quite harmless, really. They attached a few wires to my wrists and gave me small tasks with blocks and rods and puzzles, that sort of thing. All the time these men in lab coats were jotting down notes on these clipboards. I was worried that I was somehow "failing" the tests but they insisted that it wasn't about passing or failing. I was young. They gave me some chemical injections in between the tendons of my wrists, assuring me that it was perfectly safe. Finally, on the last day, they gave me several typing tests, but I could tell they were dismayed by the results. It all had something to do with creating some sort of teenage ... super-typist? But it hadn't worked. I've never been much of a typist, you know.

Then, one day about a month later, back in London, I was eating at a Chinese restaurant (rare in those days) and I suddenly started playing with my chopsticks, and ... the most amazing thing happened. I was tapping them against the table, against the glasses, against the dishes, against my own chest even ... I just couldn't stop it. I didn't know what in the blazes had come over me. Finally I ran to the restroom and got it under control. But this ... power, this incredible power inside me ... it was terrifying and thrilling, all at the same time.

The next day, I snuck into my friend's basement - I knew my friend had a drum kit, but I didn't want anyone to know about this. I snuck into his basement, picked up a pair of drumsticks and ... it was like I'd been playing the drums my whole entire life. It was an out-of-body experience the likes of which I'd never had before, and never had since. I was doing fills, and rolls, and what I was doing to the bass drum pedal is not even fit to print. I knew then that the Belgian experiment had been a great success, but not the success they'd envisioned. Instead of creating the world's greatest teenage typist, they'd created ... the world's greatest teenage drummer.

I was terrified of anyone finding out about the source of my power. I knew that I would forever be deemed a fraud, a freak, an outcast. Ultimately they deemed me that anyway, but for other reasons. No, I knew that I would never tell a soul about the Belgian laboratory, and the chemical injections, and the $500 stipend. Besides, it was only $400, after taxes.

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