Art by LusoSkav
Subtitle: Or, Drum and Drummer (It's all his fault)
|Breed:||Mostly yellow lab, but unknown other breed in him.|
|Age at joining||24|
|Birthplace:||Toronto, Ontario, Canada|
|Languages spoken:||English, Judaeo-Spanish, later Hebrew and a smattering of Yiddish|
Drake Whitesmith had few friends growing up, due to his parents living in a predominantly Sephardic community but refusing to let him make friends with Jews. It was something that never made sense to him and began his life of rebellion against his parents. They did, however, arrange for him to
befriend an Alsatian named Bruce Kellion, who lived several blocks away—although Drake was at best uncertain if he actually liked the German Shepherd and at worst quite certain he hated Bruce.
Drake got into heavy metal at the age of 8 after hearing a Judas Priest album. At the same time, he began befriending the Sephardim around him, learning more about their ways and language. His parents often moved to nip these friendships in the bud, going so far as to forbid him extra-curricular activities and drive him to and from school to make sure he didn't
The more pressure his parents put on him to comform to their own ways, the more he rebelled, eventually actually trying out for a circus-themed heavy metal band called Koven of Klowns against his parents' wishes.
This was a battle his parents won—they sold his car out from under him so he couldn't make the practice sessions, and Drake had to withdraw from the band. It also forced him to quit his job at a music store halfway across town and find a job close to home.
His parents would regret
winning this battle—one of his neighbors gave him a job in a local Jewish grocery store, where he became conversational in Judaeo-Spanish and eventually met Micah Cragg. It was from Micah that Drake learned of the division between Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews, as he greeted Micah in Judaeo-Spanish and just got a blank look in return. Despite this inauspicious beginning, the two became buddies.
Drake also bought another vehicle (a 1962 Volkswagon Microbus) which he kept in a neighbor's garage. He still wanted to join another metal band, but failed to find one that needed a drummer.
He decided to found his own. He recruited the bass-playing Bruce Kellion, who suggested his friend Jim Dexter as guitarist. Unfortunately, Jim proved extremely unreliable (making only two weekly practices in three months), and Drake got rid of him, bringing in his friend Micah Cragg instead. This caused a serious rift between Bruce and Drake.
When practices moved to Micah's music room instead of Bruce's garage, the rift grew worse, as Micah's house had Jewish imagery all over the place, and Bruce was strongly antisemetic. Worse, Micah's grandfather had many years of experience in the music industry and offered regular advice. When the subject of naming the band came up, Bruce suggested "Yom Kippur Holocaust" as an insult to Eleazar Cragg—but before the elderly dog could react, Micah grabbed the German Shepherd by the collar and threw him out of the house. He came back in, asking Drake if Drake knew of any other bassists.
Drake knew of one from the music store he used to work at, Double Bassist Jan Doornenbal. He would ask him.
Jan did show up along with his violinist brother Bouke. Drake found this amusing, but did know of other bands that used the violin
Their first few practice sessions were awkward. Drake was trying to play Folk Metal, but nobody could really seem to grasp it. At Eleazar's suggestion, Drake did a recording of the band's practice, and presented it to his friend (and leader of Koven Of Clowns) Baron Von SnickerSlaughter.
SnickerSlaughter flatly responded,
You have no idea what you're trying to play. SnickerSlaughter went on to say that the problem was Drake was playing the wrong kind of metal—he was trying to play Viking Metal, but nobody in the band had any connection with it. True, Folk Metal was calling him, but it was not the music of the Vikings, but the music of other people.
Eleazar agreed with SnickerSlaughter's assessment that Drake was playing the wrong music, saying the reason that Jewish folk music called to him was because Drake—though not Jewish himself—had grown up amongst them.
You are a Gentile seed planted in Jewish soil, he explained.
You must accept where your roots have grown.
As the band began to practice in this new direction, Eleazar took up a mentor role, and Drake offered the older dog a permanent place in the band. Iron Zion's first paying gig was with this lineup.
Drake was at first leery of Sarai Goldberg joining with her clarinet, but Micah convinced him to let her join, finalizing what became the classic lineup of Iron Zion.
At Eleazar's advice, the band played mostly small gigs and jam sessions at first, getting a feel for each other's styles. Their Klezmer style became more pronounced, and Bouke and Jan began adding Dutch themes to their music. Drake also began listening to a lot of Sephardic music, even making heavy metal covers of some of their folk songs.
Meanwhile, Drake was discomfited to learn that Bruce had formed his own Heavy Metal band (including Jim Dexter), called it
Yom Kippur Holocaust and had already put out an album. Drake fired the first shot in what would be a long, bitter feud between the two bands by saying Bruce had it easy—all he had to do was walk a nice safe path long laid down, while Drake was actually trying something new.
It would be more than three years before they recorded their first album, which didn't sell all that well. Their second album sold much better, and they gained a following of their own.
Over the years, Drake and Eleazar grew close, Drake viewing the elderly organist as the father he never felt he had. Eleazar not only encourage Drake's musical skills, but also took an interest in Drake's personal life, even taking him to synagogues and teaching him Hebrew. Drake would even become quite fluent in Judaeo-Spanish, eliciting quite the cheer from a crowd in Toledo, Spain when he greeted them in that language. Eventually, Eleazar would assist in Drake's formal conversion to Judaism.
Drake and Micah went from buddies to best friends, to the point that Sarai convinced them to take a break from touring and recording after the two hadn't spoken to each other in several days.
Drake wasn't quite as close to the Doornenbal brothers, though he did enjoy Bouke's nutty onstage antics and pranks.
Drake was one of the most vocal defenders of Eleazar's decision to retire from touring, pointing out that Eleazar had been touring with them for 13 years and the rabbi was now in his 80s. He was glad to see the fans embraced the Rabbi's pupil Chris Lancer as Eleazar's anointed heir, but couldn't help but feel the band lost something when Eleazar retired.
Certainly, Drake lost a lot of his fire when Eleazar died. Though Iron Zion soldiered on another 10 and a half years after Eleazar left, its glory days were behind it.
The last straw was their old agent retiring, and their new agent feeling he could drive the bands in his portfolio hard and turn them into cash-cow franchises. When the members of Iron Zion protested, the agent told them either they accepted a heavy touring schedule (which included dates on religious holidays, in violation of their original contract) or he'd make sure the band never got signed again.
The band was given half an hour to make up their minds. In a private room, Drake sat down with his band, and offered the option of calling it a day. When they returned to the agent's office, the agent had the new touring schedule all layed out on his desk. The band never looked at it.
Instead, Drake told the agent that the other members had given him—the sole remaining founding member—the power to have the final word: Iron Zion was splitting up for good. The agent could do nothing as he watched his agency's longest-lasting band simply fall apart in his office.
Drake never performed in a big-name band again, instead attending weekly heavy metal jam sessions and teaching drums to kids (in particular, his grandpups). He became a big fan of Scions of Orange, a Dutch Folk Metal band formed by the Doornenbal brothers, though he never learned to enjoy Chris Lancer's classical piano playing.
He did get an invitation to join YKH from Bruce Kellion. Drake simply flipped Bruce off and said that he'd been done with Bruce when the name of his band was first suggested. The two remained enemies for the rest of their lives.
Ironically, he became friends with Jim Dexter, who broke from YKH after a couple years.
outed himself as a Klown—that is, has publicly revealed he was one.
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