The Swarm

November 02, 2009

Superchunk/Bob Mould Drummer Jon Wurster Celebrates the Very Alive Chuck Biscuits...

Jon Wurster

Chuck Biscuits may be contemplating the addition of a “the reports of my death are greatly exaggerated” tattoo right about now. I, like many others, was shocked and saddened last Thursday when news began trickling in of the legendary 44-year-old drummer’s passing from throat cancer. Within minutes message boards were flooded with condolences and testimonial to Biscuits (born Charles Montgomery), a founding member of the seminal Vancouver, BC punk band D.O.A., who later drummed with Black Flag, Circle Jerks, Social Distortion and most famously, Danzig. But as the day progressed doubts were raised that it might all be a hoax. Well, turns out the story was completely fabricated.

I’m still unclear of how or why this rumor began. Obviously, starting and propagating a hoax like this is hurtful, especially for the “dead” person and their family and friends. But the whole situation is perversely fascinating when you contemplate what a perfect storm it was. Here’s someone who’s famous, but not so famous that verification of the situation would be quick or easy. Sure, Biscuits left an indelible mark on the world of punk rock but he’d been out of the public eye for almost a decade and his current whereabouts were not widely known. Factor in the instantaneous dispatching and receiving of information/speculation via the internet and before you know it NPR and Blabbermouth are reporting that Chuck Biscuits is jamming with Darby Crash, Dee Dee Ramone and Johnny Thunders in rock ‘n’ roll heaven (or hell, depending on how you look at it).

Anyway, all this talk of Biscuits’ “passing” got me thinking about what a huge influence he was on me and just about every drummer who played in punk bands in the early-80s.

I first saw Chuck in action in 1983 when the Circle Jerks played Love Hall, a horrific all-ages venue in south Philadelphia. The place was beyond packed but I managed to finagle a sliver of real estate on the side of the stage. As I watched the band set up their gear a kid pointed at the drummer, bowed to him and sighed, “Biscuits.” There was palpable reverence for this guy who looked not unlike a disheveled, drunken Paw Rugg from the Hillbilly Bears. I remember being put off that he had the beginnings of a beard. It didn’t fit my 16-year-old mind’s definition of what was punk. “What is this guy, a fuckin’ lumberjack?” I thought to myself. But when the band launched into “Moral Majority” the dude just exploded. I’d never seen anyone play the drums like that before or since. The closest comparison would be if a young at-his-very-peak Keith Moon played in a punk rock band. Only louder. And faster. And with much bigger sticks.

That night Biscuits was a ball of manic energy, all flailing arms and legs. But somehow every drumstick landed exactly where it was supposed to when it was supposed to. I remember he stuffed extra sticks (they actually looked like little clubs) into his tube socks in case the ones he was using disintegrated (they did). I also remember him becoming angrier and angrier as the show progressed because kids were getting onstage and knocking over his drums. About twenty minutes into the set Biscuits announced that if anyone knocked into his drums again he was outta there. The show ended a couple songs later when a profoundly annoyed Biscuits declared he’d had enough. What was impressive to me was how the rest of the band just shrugged and deferred to him, ending the show without protest. If Chuck Biscuits was done, so were they. He was that good.

Oops—I mean, he is that good. Chuck Biscuits lives!

Jon Wurster is one half of the Scharpling and Wurster comedy team and plays drums with Superchunk, Bob Mould, the Mountain Goats and Jay Farrar and Ben Gibbard.

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