If The Beatles were the original rock'n'roll four-piece, then Ringo was the original rock'n'roll drummer. This was the template for the next 40 years of music. They were certainly the foundation for what I do and Ringo seemed to be the foundation of The Beatles. I always thought he had a great style. He had a wonderful swing and was a showman. A lot of drummers aren't considered showmen, but he definitely turned it on.
His swing and backbeat carry so many of The Beat1es' songs. Back then, the recording depended on the feel of the song. There was no digital manipulation of drum tracks, so it was up to the drummer to dictate that feel. And Ringo had his own sound. Pull all the instruments out and you'd still know it was a Beatles song. And that's the sound of a signature drummer. It's the kind of thing drummers strive for all career, but not all of them make it.
I'm not a technical drummer by any means - I like listening to drummers who make you wanna air-drum or dance - and Ringo was a songwriter in regards to his drumming. And that's important to me. With those immediately catchy early Beatles songs, it was Ringo's job to carry that, dictating dynamic and feel. Warts and all, you want to hear a drummer that sounds like a human being. I think his playing mirrored his personality. It made you feel good. You can hear he was a good guy,just by listening to his playing. And thank fucking God for not doing drum solos.
I don't know many bands who let the drummer step out and take the spotlight as much as The Beatles did. They were a supergroup in that every member of the band was supremely talented. When Taylor Hawkins steps out in the middle of one of our shows, it changes the mood in the room. It opens things up and makes things freer, more musical. And The Beatles realised they could do that with Ringo. They could have some really heavy moments and, to keep people feeling good, they'd put Ringo up there and make everyone smile for a few minutes.
My favourite Ringo moment is probably from The Ed Sullivan Show. Those performances were brilliant. To any American, that's when The Beatles really broke this country. Watching those performances, the guy's got a smile from ear to ear and he's swinging his hi-hat like he's waltzing with someone. You just don't see drummers enjoying themselves that much. He was so into it.
The Beatles were the first band I fell in love with. I got both the blue and red albums when I was about seven. When I started learning guitar, my mother gave me a chord book with all of The Beatles' songs in it. And I'd play along with the album. In the music, I started to discover arrangement and composition, melody and harmony. It was like a puzzle, just fascinating. They were far more complex than they let on.
Their sense of songwriting was so much deeper than just "Love Me Do" and "I Want To Hold Your Hand". It was heavier than typical AM radio pop. So everything I listened to after that was based on that idea of songwriting. I would gauge songs on that basis. It burned this impression in my head that every song must have melody somewhere. With the Foo Fighters, even when I try to come up with something as fucked up and dissonant as possible, there's always a thread of melody in there. And that's The Beatles' fault, not mine! It was like that in Nirvana, too. Kurt was the same way. The three of us grew up listening to The Beatles, then classic rock and punk. Somehow, it all came together. A lot of bands in the' 80s and '90s were the same way. It's the meeting of melody and dissonance.
In 1992, I did a soundtrack for [Iain Softley's Beatles-in-Hamburg film] Backbeat. I played the drums, Thurston Moore played guitar with Don Fleming from Gumball, Mike Mills from R.E.M. played bass, Greg Dulli played guitar and sang, Dave Pirner sang and even Henry fucking Rollins was on there. [Producer] Don Was wanted to create that Hamburg vibe, playing six shows a night and pounding speed and beer. When you listen to those early bootlegs, it sounds like the fucking Ramones! So he put together this punk-rock Beatles tribute band to recreate the sound of those Hamburg tapes, which we'd listen to as inspiration. Through that, we all connected with The Beatles more.
When I listen to Ringo on record, the one thing that makes its way into my playing is just the sense of serving the song. And I swear to God, you can tell the difference between an English drummer and an American one. Most of the English drummers swing their rolls, but most of the Americans don't. Listen to any Oasis song or Supergrass song and you'll find a little bit of Ringo in those drums. You don't hear that too much in America. It's the Ringo Roll. When we're in the studio and I want one of those, I tell Taylor: "Hey, do a Ringo in there." And we all know what that means.
I've never met him, but we have a mutual friend [Liam Lynch]. And he says Ringo's the greatest guy, the nicest dude you'll ever meet. I mean, the guy changed the world, but it didn't seem to change him too much.