Are drummers born that way or do they become that way? Does the urge to create rhythm and be an integral part of a band emanate from something within—or is it learned?
Ever since he was a young boy, director Justin Kreutzmann had the perfect perch to observe a great drummer: His dad, Bill Kreutzmann, was a founding member of the Grateful Dead, and with Mickey Hart provided the drums for the band since the mid-1960s. After Justin was born in 1969, he became a part of the Dead’s tours, often sitting on the riser behind his dad during rehearsals. While Bill hoped his son would become a drummer, the younger Kreutzmann gravitated towards filmmaking. The latter effort resulted in the creation of the rollicking, wild, and fascinating documentary Let There Be Drums! –– a deep-dive into the art of drumming, the musicians who’ve mastered it for 70 years, and the legacies parents pass on to their kids.
Watch the trailer for Let There Be Drums! HERE
To get the definitive take on the world and art of drumming, Kreutzmann sat with some of the best, including Ringo Starr, Stewart Copeland of the Police, Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann of The Grateful Dead, Stephen Perkins of Jane’s Addiction, Chad Smith of The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Adrian Young of No Doubt, Matt Sorum of Guns N’ Roses, Tre Cool of Green Day, Steve Ferrone of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and John Densmore of the Doors. Also among the interviews is the late Taylor Hawkins, drummer for Foo Fighters who passed away in March 2022, in what is his final filmed interview.
The documentary uses the 2015’s Fare Thee Well: Celebrating 50 Years of the Grateful Dead as its framework, in which the band’s surviving members — Kreutzmann, Hart, Bob Weir, and Phil Lesh — gathered for what was billed as the final time. Kreutzmann’s camera captured the shows at Levi Stadium and Soldier Field, providing the film with incredible performance and recording material, along with rare and/or never-before-seen footage. Highlights from the footage include Keith Moon speaking in outtakes from The Who’s 1979 documentary The Kids Are Alright, Led Zeppelin’s John “Bonzo” Bonham speaking about fatherhood, No Doubt performing in a basement before they made it big, and a snapshot of a teenage, pre-Beatles Ringo Starr posing with his new drum kit. Let There Be Drums! is sure to be an immediate, essential backbeat for music fans.
Let There Be Drums! takes its title from a famous 1961 song and album by Sandy Nelson of the same name. Nelson was one of the era’s major drummers who came to fame in the late 1950s, a group that also includes Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich. In the film, Nelson speaks with Kreutzmann about his own influences and fame. Nelson died in February 2022, after the film had been completed. The documentary shows how drummers who came up in the 1960s and ‘70s looked not only to artists like Nelson, but also jazz drummers as inspiration, part of a long chain of drummers influenced by other guys behind a drum kit.
Directed by Justin Kreutzmann
Written by Justin Kreutzmann, Kevin Lincoln
Produced by Alex Blavatnik, Sean Stuart, Bernie Cahill
Executive Producers, Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, Dan Braun.
Co-Producer, Maren Domzalski.
Associate Producers, Kelley Whitis, Louise Runge.
Archival Producer, Pam Madieros.
Edited by Justin Kreutzmann, Ryan Wilcox.
Director of Photography, Justin Kane.
Music by Sebastian Robertson, Daniel Davies.