The Most Underrated Modern Guitarist
An exploration into who is the modern master of the six-string.
Steven Drozd – The Man in the Shadows
To any hardcore TFL fans out there, this fact about Steven Drozd is no secret. While the band is defined by their eclectic and flamboyant vocalist (aesthetically speaking), the music comes from one man. He’s not just a musician but more a musical force that overcomes you. He is the Band. And he’s a normal dude like you or me (to get really nerdy for a sec – I, to this day, have a Twitter DM from Steven in response to what app he was using on his phone the night before). That’s quite the statement when taken in context with the scope of the Lips’ career. He’s stayed weird, but genuine. True to roots but clearly open to suggestions. His style speaks to everyone, pop-rocker to downright weirdo.
My Personal Experiences
I’ve seen The Flaming Lips more times than probably any other rock act. I’ve flown across country to see them before. Trust me guys, I’m a legit Lips’ ride or die type fan. I was there in OKC when they did Soft Bulletin for New year’s Eve. Present in Jersey that time they did that weird The Terror set. I think the real number is something like eleven but with all the double sets and festival appearances who can count? We all know how things can get a little fuzzy after a Lips’ Show.
Anyway, I always try to position myself in front of Steven. Forget Wayne, been there, seen it before.. Steven is the one running the show. And that’s who I want to be in front of – someone who I can see what they’re actually doing. To understand what’s actually happening on stage and how. If you want to understand this show and how they pull it off, I’d kindly direct you to the left side of the stage.
A Versatile Genius
When he’s not taking over on drums for Race for the Prize, or making Wayne sound like he can still sing, he’s controlling the lights, the crew, and really everything that everyone is doing. When someone in the band gets lost they look to Steven to punch them back in seamlessly. The guy’s a rock. A genius of a rock.
The Addiction that Almost Ruined him
It’s hard to not consider his sordid past when thinking of the Man himself. Some of their most brilliant work is arguably found on The Soft Bulletin, when Drozd was most junked out. The Man and his addiction really met head on there, as apparent in the tonal and vocal themes.
Steven, a self-confessed heroin addict, couldn’t escape the gravity of his situation and it followed him in the form of composition found in this and other Lips’ albums. This weight, which he carried on his back a generation ago, still resonates. Hell, to a time loooong before I was even close to being a fan of theirs.
Steven Drozd Moves Past Smack
With 35 years in the Game, The Flaming Lips will never be anyone’s sucker ever again. However, they’d have never lasted if not for Steven’s passion for expansion musically outliving his demons.
Their success has gone hand in hand with politics at times, and, yes, I’m referring to the Yeah Yeah Yeah song.
Now, think about that song for a moment to see what stands out. After considering it for a moment I’m pretty sure you’ll find yourself saying, oh, it’s that part that goes ‘with all your power’.
Am I wrong?
Consider that a bit further now –
Where’s that weird backing vocal track coming from? To stop any smoke and mirrors, the answer is that it’s a Vocoder strapped among Steven’s nest of microphones.
Oooook, great, you may be saying. I wouldn’t fault you. I get a bit wordy at times. What’s he getting at? The fact is this – by you thinking of ‘that part’ when thinking of that song is what makes Steven Drozd’s whole effort worth it. And he has so so so many of these moments – A Spoonful Weighs a Ton, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (parts one and two), to The Ego’s Last Stand, I can keep going but won’t. Notice these titles are career spanning, indicating Steven’s progression throughout his time as a faithful Lips’ member.
All in all, Steven Drozd is this band and without him guitarists would be set back a decade in research on how to make weird noises come out your guitar.
So, that’s guitar. What of other instruments?
Close seconds/notable mentions to Steven Drozd –
John Gourley, of Portugal. The Man.
Obviously, Gary Clarke Jr.
We can’t forget to mention Nick Zinner, when discussing the most underrated modern guitarists.
The guy’s a staple to the under ground scene. Still.
The 00’s will reflect these musician’s brilliance better than I ever will be able to.
…And who would I be to not mention the fantastic Guitarist/Vocalist, Courtney Barnett, whom I’ve linked to below?
What are all your thoughts on the most underrated modern guitarist? Please have at it in the comments below and as always, rock on!