Welcome to episode two of Witz End, where I talk to another human about their experience during this volatile year. It just keeps bludgeoning us! My guest is Tucker Rule, drummer for the bands Thursday and Frank Iero and the Future Violence [🚨 new record out 1/15! 🚨], among many others. I met Tucker a few years ago at Bar Matchless, what I would’ve previously called a Greenpoint “mainstay,” if it hadn’t closed in NYC’s mass hospitality industry annihilation.
Thursday was a game changing band for me and countless others coming up in primitive Y2K. Their music sounded like being shaken up in an angsty northeast snowglobe, helicopter guitars and yowling lyrics teetering atop Tucker’s bedrock drumming. Their all-black aesthetic and angular haircuts cemented them as emo’s ambassadors, and let me tell you, the Connecticut copycats were plentiful. They spent time on both major and indie labels, toured the world and ultimately created an enduring and ongoing legacy.
I had visions of working into the wee hours like my last interviewee, Adam Blackstone, to get this piece done, but my eyelids kept growing heavy by 10pm. These pandemic days have been a mush of toddler drama and newborn nebulousness, potty training, homeschooling, activity-hunting, dread and cloudy self doubt.
Whenever I found slivers of time to edit our interview, I found Tucker’s words to be consoling. I was able to tell myself it was okay to chip away at this project in fits and starts, however, my sluggishness in completing the edit was depressing. I wanted to mimic his all-in, energetic ethos and engage in the doing, but I was really damn exhausted. For months. Perseverance is a long game, though, and as Tucker says, “Live in the solution, not the problem,” which I’ve found to be a reverberant refrain. Enjoy our chat, which has been edited for clarity, below, or check out the video version!
With this pandemic, and obviously—we don’t have to necessarily talk politics— how are you doing mentally, emotionally… How do you feel today versus this time last year?
I feel kinda nuts, honestly. Mentally, I think I’m doing okay. My daughter was born March 27th, so I was gonna be home anyway, and I knew we weren’t able to leave because where are you gonna go with a newborn infant? But 12 days after my daughter was born, my wife got fired. Dude, it’s been crazy. I was able to get a drum room built in my garage, so that’s been saving my sanity. I never knew how hard it was raising a child; I’m the full–time caregiver right now [his wife found employment]. It’s just crazy how hard it is to get anything done when you’re staring at this bundle of joy.
Yeah, it’s impossible. Is there anything you’ve learned in these six months about time management, big or small? For me, if it’s nap time, I’m like, “I gotta do something,” I can’t sit on my ass and not do anything. Anything you’ve picked up that is now part of that routine?
I should’ve followed what everybody said and took naps while she was napping, but much like yourself, I have to be doing something. I spent years prior able to be lazy, sitting on the couch watching TV, waking up at noon and all that stuff, and I can’t do that anymore. Even if I didn’t have a child, it’s just not part of my brain anymore. She goes down for a nap, I try to get outside. You know Rocky IV where Ivan Drago has this amazing gym and everything is space age and Rocky’s, like, picking up cinder blocks? That what I have in my garage. I have the monitor with me; if she cries I run back in. I try to have a routine and I try to stick to it. I try to sneak things in that I’m thinking about all day, like I can’t wait to play drums and I get in there and I got 45 minutes so I’m like, “What do I do?!”
Well that’s a good question: what do you do with that time? Do you have a premeditated goal, or is it to let off steam sometimes?
The age of Instagram has been so helpful for people who want it to be helpful. I follow a bevy of musicians, drummers first and foremost, so I get a lot inspiration from friends and peers on that platform. I see something and I’m like, “Ooh I gotta do that,” so I’ll think about that and do my version of that. My good friend Aaron Tate [of Minus the Bear] is the mastermind behind what he’s calling the Indie Drummer Collective, and it’s me and like 45 other drummers doing cover songs. For October, because of the election, we’re doing protest songs. So I get in there and do my creative stuff where I’m nerding out on other drummers and trying to come up with interesting stuff, then I have my days where I’m like, “I gotta record this song, I gotta get this done.” That’s been a fun thing to do; I’ve never done that before. Learning drums and playing drums for as long as I have, I’ve never been one to play along to a song.
That’s such great outlet. Instagram is really showing us a new music community. If anybody does not know, you are the drummer in Thursday. You guys have been around, some stops and starts there, but 20+ years? That’s 20 years of writing original music and also picking up a ton of gigs. How long have you ever gone without a gig?
I believe it was 2016 or 2015, this boy band that I was hired to be the drummer for called The Wanted had broken up. I was with them for a few years and there were no gigs coming up, living in Brooklyn paying a buttload in rent, and I was like, I should probably get a job. Down the street from me, a couple of friends owned a set shop company called Allsorts where you’d build sets for photoshoots. I did that for almost a year and just wasn’t taking any gigs, and I’ll be honest, nobody was banging down my door. I got sick of it, and the singer of Yellowcard, who I knew from Warped Tour was like, “Do you have any interest in touring? We’re putting out a new record and we need a drummer.” I got that gig, but back to your question, I would say a year.e
Suddenly you’re working 50, 60, 70 hours a week and it’s like, I can’t even think about music.
You don’t even mean to do it.
You understand the value of work, people helping each other, that sort of accountability to each other, so you’re like, I’m gonna do a good job.
You have to show up for your friends, your family, your coworkers– whoever it may be, you just show up.
Absolutely. Looking at this time period, I can sort of think two weeks, maybe a month ahead, but in terms of income, whether it’s from music or not, how do you think about that?
I grew up with a single mom, so I always thought that men and women were equal when it came to pay and being a boss. It was never a weird thing that my wife had a job and I would stay home with the kid. So at this point in time, I’m doing that because I don’t think there’s a job that I can go out and get right now that’s gonna make me enough money for childcare. Do I go to work just to go to work and then pay somebody the amount that I would make for childcare? That doesn’t make sense, I would rather be there for my daughter. I’m lucky that my wife is taking the hit for the family right now. You know, Thursday did a livestream last month which was really cool and really fun, and hopefully we’ll do another one– there’s stuff coming in once in a while that’s paying for groceries and stuff like that. But I’m definitely feeling like, do I take a real estate class? Do I get into life insurance because people are dying, not to sound like a dark weirdo, but what do I do, because who knows if music’s gonna come back? Like you said, it’s hard to look two weeks ahead, how am I thinking about 2021? Are bands and musicians gonna have to take hits because you can only put 50% of the people in the room? Do we do the same job we’ve always done and make even less money? We’ve gotten offers to do parking lot shows where people are in cars, but you don’t wanna be the band that’s like… superspreader! You don’t wanna be Smash Mouth.
Thursday is a band I would almost want to see less in parking lot. You did the livestream – what is going on there?
Steve, our guitar player, is very into film and cameras and had this 360 camera that ended up looking really cool. This company called My Good Eye Visuals are amazing with the camera, the people at Saint Vitus were nice enough to let us use the room. It was just a lot of fun. I hadn’t seen those dudes for many months, so it was like, we have to get to work now.
It’s a completely different set of circumstances.
Coming from the music we all like, the stage and the crowd are one and the same and that energy bounces off one another. When you’re just in this room and you’re like, this is a live show but no one’s here… I always said when Thursday plays a bigger room, not only do you have to play for the people with the energy in the front that are moshing, but you have to play for the people in the back of the room drinking. You have to impress them sonically, you have to play the things on the record that people wanna hear –that one fill or one ripping guitar lead– you have to nail that stuff.
I don’t know how many times I’ve played to rooms where there’s literally no one else there. There’s like, the other band that’s like, “I guess we should watch these guys.” I feel like you have to have gone through that.
Not only did I go through it when I was a kid starting bands, it still happens now and you still have to do the same thing and have the same energy and rip just as hard.
If not more so just to make up for it.
It’s kind of gratifying in the end, as frustrating as it is.
Is Thursday totally indie at this point? Any takeaways about independence, creative control, financing – is there sort of a middle ground there?
We were gonna do what we were gonna do no matter what anybody said. We bent a little here and there. The music industry is very fickle. Art in general is so hard because you take it so seriously and someone says something bad about your art and you really take it to heart.
It seems like throughout your career it’s been important to you to just keep creating, like with Ageist, Heavy Vessel. Around the time we were hanging out Get Involved! was just starting. How important is that to you as a musician?
Besides my family, it’s everything to me. I’m all in on this band thing, this drum thing. I have to make it work. I wanna be that guy that spreads himself super thin and gets really stressed out and no one really knows about it. I wanna help friends out. I really enjoy playing drums and I really enjoy getting better, which is why I love this Indie Drummer Collective thing. I really enjoy going in my drum room, figuring out this song and playing it exactly like that drummer.
And that’s a skill you had already worked on having taken gigs with other bands. How do you characterize your style?
I don’t know; I’ve tried to think about it. I like to play as hard as I can. I’m not going to a show to watch a rock band and see the drummer play these beautiful dynamics. I want someone to bleed, I want an amp to catch on fire and I want someone to puke. That’s just what I want. I love Dave Grohl; I grew up watching Nirvana videos watching him hit as hard as he can. Will Goldsmith from Sunny Day Real Estate. I really just gravitate towards trying to play really interesting stuff and having every single note be heard.
Having a kid grounds you in a really specific way, where you feel more accountable and more responsible. I’ll get emotional at weird moments, where you look at your kid and they’re sleeping… Do you have those moments? For me it translates to this feeling of vulnerability. Are you getting those feels?
You can never be prepared for being a parent. You think you’re gonna be different; you think your phone isn’t gonna be filled with a thousand pictures and videos of them. But it is. No matter what, because it is the most amazing thing. Also, I am now that person who, when somebody speeds by my house, is like, “They should slow down!” I’ve never felt so protective over something or someone. It’s a very strange feeling. I was supposed to be on tour right now, and I was okay with that before the baby was born, but thinking about that now… How would that have worked? I can’t imagine it. Before I was like, “Somebody’ll take care of the kid, we’ll just FaceTime.”
I feel like it’s a realignment of priorities. You have your list of stuff in your life, and then this thing plops right to the top with no question.
You know you’re gonna love your child; you know you’re gonna have this connection. You think that there’s a place, she can go in here for awhile. But no, right from the start, you’re number one no matter what.
There’s so much that’s constantly swimming, it’s not like, okay she’s at the top cool done next thing. You’re like, I have to keep this thing here at all times, regardless, and that does take a lot of work.
But this time that you have at home, yeah it’s a bummer, but at the same time it’s such a way to grow up with your kids. You can’t really think about what you’re doing, you just have to do. You have to just let instincts come in.
Because there is so much to do because you have to do something new every fifteen minutes because this attention span is so not there, there are definitely times of real, deep frustration. I’ve been trying to work on: when you go to bed, the next day is a brand new day, a clean slate. I feel like it’s motivation for me to just be better. I have the choice to be frustrated or not, she doesn’t have that choice.
That’s not developed yet. I get stuck in the same thing. It all stems down to: I need to work out every day and I need to play drums. Those are things that I need as a human being, and if I don’t get to do those two things, it’s okay. Once 5:00 comes around, I’m gonna go play drums, and maybe 50% of the time, that doesn’t happen and I have to be okay with it. It’s because my daughter needs me.
What’s Birdie into right now?
We’re gonna start her on solid foods which is exciting and kind of terrifying because all of this is new to me. I’ve not been around kids a lot. All of this is new. She’s sitting up on her own, chewing on everything. I feel like she’s really becoming a little person now. She’s found her voice, for better or worse, which is usually some sort of blood curdling scream for something that’s not that important.
Did you and Lexie have that conversation, for preparing to say, “Let’s have a kid”?
I was never anti-family or anti-child, but I never really saw myself being a dad. It just wasn’t important to me. I think I was a little too selfish and wrapped up in my own career trying to make it, and I don’t mean make it like Guns N’ Roses make it, I mean like make it every day. But we talked about it. My wife is in her mid–30s, time is ticking and she didn’t not want to have this opportunity. There was one day I was home [from tour] and it happened.
It’s funny to think back on the trajectory and then be here, when everything changes. Did you guys deliver in Jersey or New York?
We bought the house and found this hospital, and then COVID hit. After one of the checkups, we got a call: “Just so you know, 14 days ago you came into contact with someone with COVID. You’re probably okay if you don’t feel weird.” Then that hospital became a hotspot. We always wanted to do a birthing center or a home birth but were living in an apartment. Because of COVID, the insurance covered an amazing birthing center in Morristown. We had a whole room to ourselves. I was allowed in. The hospital was not going to allow me in, so it was gonna be my wife solo, which is tough. My mom gave birth to me solo and she said it was impossible. There’s no way I wasn’t gonna be in the fucking room. Everything went smoothly and I was literally home with this tiny peanut baby four hours later.
So, so far so good coming back to New Jersey?
Yeah, it’ been really great and I’m happy to be here. I do miss the city, I really do. I do miss being in Brooklyn, I miss my friends. But, since we’re in this pandemic, nothing is happening in the city. When we lived in Brooklyn, if somebody was in town you were friends with you’d be like, “I’ll be there in 15 minutes,” but that’s not even able to happen right now. I’m happy being where I am. I’ve kind of gotten used to this bubble we’ve created, As much as it does suck missing my friends, it’s actually quite comfortable. I’m so into seeing the leaves change and just enjoying that, which makes me feel like and sound like an old man but it’s what we have.
We’re all aging. When we were coming up starting to play music and doing that VFW hall thing you would never in a million years think that this is where you’d be at this time, but that’s kinda beautiful and awesome.
Absolutely. This is the path… People raise kids in the city and I admire that, but I personally can’t imagine that right now.
Seems like you guys are staying sane, which is kind of what we have to do these days.
It’s been rough. Not only did we move, my wife lost her job, I kind of lost my job, had a baby, pandemic. We stepped on every mine. Been blown up but we’ve managed to keep it together. I’m just super thankful we can weather this storm.
We gotta find solutions to these strange, unique problems our generation is facing and, man, it’s hard, but what else are you gonna do?
Exactly. Live in the solution, not live in the problem. That’s what it’s all about.
I like that. PMA for sure.