Speak Kindly and Carry Big Drumsticks

If you Google ‘Jerry Fuchs,’ the first result you’ll find is a Wikipedia entry for Gerhardt Fuchs, American indie rock drummer, writer and graphic artist.   Jerry was a member of several bands including: Turing Machine, The Juan MacLean, !!! and Maserati.   He also recorded with Massive Attack and performed drums live with the groups MSTRKRFT and LCD Soundsystem.

You can easily find online videos of him cranking along like a human metronome with his Motorik-influenced, dance-inducing beats.   You can find videos of him performing on ‘Late Night with David Letterman”.   You can also watch him, when performing with Maserati, repeatedly execute a monster, one-armed drum fill.

Jerry toured continuously for years. He played shows all over the U.S., Europe, and the world beyond.   He traveled so often, in fact, that he rarely spent any time in his self-proclaimed ‘dumpy” closet-sized Brooklyn apartment.

I met Jerry at one of his Turing Machine shows in New York in 2002. Years later, I had the chance to not only meet Jerry again, but to also be included as one of the bands playing alongside his.   My band, Sharks and Sailors, was lucky enough to play two shows with Maserati here in Houston in 2007- both of which were a blast.

When you are around someone that is on another level than you, as far as musicianship goes (or art, design, sports, writing, photography or whatever you are into), it can be intimidating to strike up a conversation.   But Jerry was not only incredibly accomplished; he was also very approachable, friendly, and genuine and had a great sense of humor. He was the kind of person that was not only inspiring to watch, but also had the kind of infectious enthusiasm that made you excited about music, friends, and life in general.   Over the years, Jerry would remain a somewhat regular topic of conversation amongst my band mates and friends. Not to mention the fact that his style and Maserati’s music had started influencing our music.

The last time I saw Maserati perform was in September 2009.   Before and after their sound check at the The Mink Backroom, folks jockeyed for a good spot to take photos or dance.   Jerry got off the stage, saw me, and came up to chat. He mentioned how weird it was to be playing a show in Houston, but not to be playing with Sharks and Sailors. It was really nice to have someone I admire remember me and appreciate the music I helped make.

I see live music all the time, but that Maserati show stuck out in my mind as being one of the most inspiring shows I’ve witnessed in the last few years. It was the kind of show that made you want to immediately drive to your practice space and create something.

He wanted to chat after they played, but I had work early in the morning and didn’t stick around.   I wish I would have…

Jerry tragically passed away on November 8, 2009′ exactly one year ago today.   He was in Brooklyn, on his way to attend a benefit event for underprivileged children.   He was riding a freight elevator up to the event until it got stuck in between the 4th and 5th floor.   He attempted to jump out of the elevator to the floor below, but the hoodie he was wearing got snagged on something, causing him to fall back down the shaft.   Jerry died later that evening at Bellvue Hospital in New York City.

Although I was not close with Jerry, he is an inspiration to me not just for his skills but also for his infectious passion and sincerity.   I know I am just one in a sea of many who was moved by Jerry’s personality. Evidence of his influence is abundant all over the web. People just like me shared their stories, thoughts and comments online after learning of his passing.

“You were truly one of a kind, and whether you knew it or not, people wanted to be in the same room as you, or near the same room as you, because maybe just maybe, some of that radiant joy and in-the-moment spirit you exuded would rub off on them.”

‘I could honestly go on forever about the guy. His laugh was infectious, his mustache almost a trademark, his insistence on calling you “bro” was genuine and no-where near ironic. If you were his friend, you truly were just that — if you hung out with him once, or a million times. It didn’t matter. And he was probably the best goddamn drummer I’ve ever seen — but you all probably know that already.”

I’m pretty sure Jerry would think this was a downer of a post.   But really, as far as life lessons and gratitude go, his life and his passing really stress the importance of enjoying and appreciating life and the things you are passionate about and the people who you share these experiences with.   I hope that one day I can radiate even a fraction of the joy and character Jerry had. He meant as much to his fans as he did his friends, and that fact is a testimony to his spirit.

This one’s for you, Jerry!
Sharks and Sailors’ ‘In Memory” (unmastered segment)

4 Replies to “Speak Kindly and Carry Big Drumsticks”

  1. Wow, beautiful post Melissa!! Thanks for keeping Jerry's rock star positive spirit alive and well – rock on!!

  2. great post, melissa. i have to admit i never heard of Jerry before but thank you for introducing him to us. i'm glad he was nice and supportive of younger musicians like you. thanks for sharing.

  3. Wow. I still remember seeing Maserati in a tiny little venue in San Francisco back in 2002. It was one of the most moving shows I've ever seen. The Language of Cities is a staple on my list. It's nice to know that this amazing drummer was such a wonderful person as well. Thanks for sharing and for the reminder that experiencing and spreading joy is one of the most important elements in life. With all of the distraction that life has to offer, this lesson is one we could all remind ourselves of often.

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