Why Neil Peart didn’t want to play like Keith Moon

Neil Peart

Neil Peart would never allow himself to be sloppy. The iconic Rush drummer was dubbed ‘The Professor‘ for a reason: his attention to detail and ability to stay eerily on the beat was unparalleled in the world of rock. The complexity of his drum parts was one thing. His ability to replicate them note-for-note in a live environment was what truly distinguished Peart from his peers.

That being said, Peart’s speed, ferocity, and virtuosity were influenced by less composed drummers. Peart spoke with Rhythm Magazine in 1987 about some of his early influences, which included big band drummers Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa. Rich’s playing was usually accurate and meticulous, while Peart liked Krupa’s looseness and wildness.

“The first thing my teacher played for me was a drum battle record between Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa,” Peart told Rolling Stone. “That was an excellent introduction to the beautiful art of drumming. I believe Gene Krupa had a significant influence because of the exuberance with which he played. It might be slightly inaccurate. But it’s still fantastic and well-thought-out in terms of being fun to play and listen to.”

Peart connected Krupa to Keith Moon of The Who, another big influence of his. “I believe his rock ‘n’ roll heir was Keith Moon. I perceive a lot of direct similarities in their playing approaches,” Peart continued. “Even though Keith Moon showed even greater carelessness and sloppy behavior. But he was a drummer who captivated my attention. Because his independence was so liberating and exhilarating. It opened me up.”

Moon’s impact on Peart may be heard in his tom fills and assault-style, particularly on Rush’s early albums with Peart. As Neil Peart matured, he began to include jazz approaches and more diverse playing styles. His aggressive attitude, however, remained influenced by Moon.

“It is certainly true that Keith Moon was one of the first drummers to get me excited about rock drumming,” Peart told Modern Drummer back in 1983. “His irreverent and manic nature, as represented through his drumming, deeply influenced me. To me, he was the type of drummer who accomplished great things by chance rather than design. However, the vitality, expressiveness, and invention that he represented at the time were extremely important and significant.”

Ironically, I wanted to play drums like Keith Moon in a Who band, and when I finally got into one, I found out that I didn’t like it,” Peart continued. “I preferred to be more planned and deliberate about my activities and locations.”

“I had the good fortune to see The Who a lot in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and it was very heartbreaking to see him deteriorate and pass away from his joy,” Peart remarked. “His like we shall not see again, but there have been many other great drummers who have inspired and taught me things.”

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