Cover art by Brian Walsby

This is an exclusive excerpt from Cape’s essay “The Angry Builder,” which is featured in the new essay collection Forbidden Beat: Perspectives on Punk Drumming (Rare Bird Books). Derrick Plourde (1971-2005) drummed for Lagwagon, the Mad Caddies, the Ataris, Bad Astronauts, and Rich Kids on LSD before taking his own life in March 2005.

The only thing about Derrick Plourde that made him a drummer was that he happened to play drums. Before music became a full-time job, he was on his way to being a pro skater; he could fix cars and play any instrument he picked up. He was endlessly tinkering. In his spare time, he made furniture. He also built our rehearsal studio from the ground up in his parents’ backyard. He came to be known by his childhood friends as “The Angry Builder.” Derrick was simply never satisfied. He had great discipline and extraordinary focus. Meticulous in his approach, he took notes and made lists. He never wanted to stop learning and growing. It was more than ambition. It was an unparalleled kind of dedication, so impressive that it warranted respect and deserved success. Even in the later years of his life, he took drum lessons.

Joey Cape | Credit: Rudy De Doncker

I like to think some musicians are painters and others are mathematicians. Derrick was neither, or both, depending on how you look at it. He was, at least, something different. The great Keith Moon was always painting while hanging on by a thread. Derrick would insert a drum fill in the middle of bar one and we sometimes wondered where or when he was going to land. Other drummers play with a kind of precision that feels safe, but they lack vision and feel. They get the basic job done, but there is little mystery. Derrick’s drumming ability and style were reflected in his great attention to detail, yet his drumming never seemed calculated. He always painted a big and a small picture in the track. 

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Praising Derrick Plourde as a punk drummer is selling him short. His drumming and influences were diverse. While most young music fans might hang a poster of some “rock god” on their bedroom wall, at age fifteen Derrick had a poster of Buddy Rich. His influences ranged from Richard “Bomber” Manzullo of RKL to Neil Peart of Rush, from Jeff Porcaro of Toto to Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor of Motörhead. Derrick was a multi-faceted drummer and for that reason he was influential to many. 

S.W. Lauden | Credit: Chris Strother

Lagwagon’s Chris Flippin (Flip) told me a great story. Flip recalled being backstage and overhearing a conversation between Derrick and a young Travis Barker. Barker praised Derrick’s drumming and asked a few questions, something that always made Derrick uncomfortable. To Derrick, it was a waste of time just talking about things. His philosophy was more “just get it done.” He asked Travis what music he listened to. Travis answered and Derrick didn’t like the answer, so Derrick told Travis to be more sophisticated and broaden his influences. I doubt he used those words, but that’s the gist of the story. I like to think Derrick had something to do with Travis becoming the great drummer he is today. I have heard so many drummers speak of Derrick as the catalyst for their approach. 

When I first started making music with Derrick, he was an all-out maniac. He filled every break in the action and did it all on a four-piece kit. Yet from the start, he had respect for the other musicians and their lines. He had color and flair, and, over time, he developed control. His ability to play to the song developed and flourished over the years as well. A simple arrangement felt more progressive with Derrick adding intricacies and begging for evolution. A good hook or bridge set to his creative foundation had a deeper impact — something any songwriter wants in a musician. Derrick had an enormous effect on my writing. He was a brave drummer and made me a braver songwriter. It never once felt out of control or boring to me. I always knew what he was thinking and where he was going. We were in sync. Music was a conversation and Derrick finished my sentences. A musical soulmate. 

Derrick and I both strived to bring diverse influences to the band. Everyone in Lagwagon listened to many styles of music. A guest in our van was more likely to hear Steely Dan than Black Flag. But it was Derrick who set the foundation for Lagwagon’s sound and his framework is still there. 


The book hits shelves on February 22. For a limited time, Chaucer’s Books is selling signed copies of Forbidden Beat with the signatures of Joey Cape, Marko DeSantis, and S.W. Lauden.

Click here to watch a conversation about the ’90s Santa Barbara music scene and Plourde, hosted by Lauden and featuring Cape and DeSantis (Bad Astronaut, Sugarcult).

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