Approximately a decade before Bikini Kill transformed the world with “Rebel Girl,” Terri Lord was one. Looking like a Jodie Foster in *Foxes* – blond hair flying, a disarming grin with a little sneer to it, and eyebrows more often than not raised in enthusiasm – she was cool, wild, and T-U-F-F. Migrating from hometown Colt’s Neck, N.J., to study film at the University of Texas in the early 1980s, Lord made quick work of captivating Austin, Texas’ punk-rock scene with her take-no-prisoners drumming, easygoing charisma, and boundless musical curiosity.
She honed her skills and expanded her style over the years in groups such as Aces 88, the Jitters, Airhead, Mind Splinters, Bad Mutha Goose & the Brothers Grimm, Girls in the Nose, Power Snatch (which, full disclosure, I was also in), Lord Douglas Phillips, and the Applicators. Mid-90s indie sensation Sincola probably brought Lord her biggest national audience, and she’s revered locally; in 2003, she was inducted into the Austin Music Hall of Fame. She continues to drum with the Dirty Hearts and various solo acts as well as doing theatrical work, songwriting, recording, teaching, and playing in her instrumentally adventurous, emo-pop band Dreadful Sorry.
Tom Tom Magazine: How did you develop as a drummer? Terri Lord: I’ve been told that we went to an ice show when I was 3 and that I had a fit until I could sit where I could see the drummer in the orchestra. I got a toy drum set when I was 7 and had my first band, Terri and the Termites. I put Christmas lights on our old dining room table and I had girls dancing up on it in swimsuits! When I was 9, I got a real drum set. It was red sparkle. I took drum lessons for probably about two months. Over the summer, my father’s friend worked with me one afternoon until I could play a regular 4/4 beat. And I finally got it. After that, I just played to records. I was in a couple of high-school bands.
TTM:Describe your time as a young drummer in Austin. TL: It was a very exciting time, because all of a sudden there was just this coalescence of bands. I was in the Sirens, an all-girl band, which broke up pretty quickly because we all started having affairs with each other. Our first show was playing with the Big Boys.When I came back from the summer, I was in Aces 88. They brought black hair dye to Austin. Gary Floyd from the Dicks used to call us “cool wave” because there was a really New Orleans vibe to it. Everybody was just feeling really creative and breaking all the rules, the same way punk was exploding everywhere else.
Photo by Shelley Hiam
TTM: What is your favorite setup for your kit and why? TL: It’s a 1964 Slingerland kit. I use a 20″ kick drum, which I like – it’s very punchy. Two rack toms, which are 8×12 and 9×13, just your regular kit. It’s got a 14″ floor tom, which is really cool. Lately I’ve been playing this 60s Yamaha wooden snare, which has a supercool finish on it, and I’ve come to like a wood snare sound more. I just have a regular hi-hat, two crash cymbals, and a ride cymbal.
TTM: What would your dream set be, if it’s different? TL: Well, I have my dream set, too. I’d always wanted a Sonar drum set because they were considered to be the very best drums. I went to a yard sale, and there was a set of 70s Sonar drums – these were red sparkle, and Sonar drums are usually natural wood – a Gretsch snare, and a hi-hat stand with Zildjian hi-hat cymbals on it for $85. I was like, oh my god. So I have that in my studio room/practice room, and I use those for recording and I don’t move them.
Photo by Shelley Hiam
TTM: Who are your favorite drummers? TL: Earl Palmer, Hal Blaine. Ringo Starr. I really like Bun E. Carlos from Cheap Trick. I like Kate Schellenbach. I think Melissa York is awesome. Cindy Blackman is amazing. Also I think Sheila E is an awesome drummer. Terri Lyne Carrington, a jazz drummer.
TTM: Do you do anything else drum-related besides play in a band? TL: I teach drums one-on-one and in a group setting. I’m also a band coach at Girls Rock Camp Austin, and now I’m an individual band coach. I have a studio; I’ve recorded lots of bands in my studio, and sometimes I play drums on their stuff.
TTM: Where do you shop for your drum gear? TL: Thrift stores, pawn shops, garage sales. I like to buy used drums because they just don’t make drums from the same kind of wood anymore. I like drums that have some character.
TTM: What advice you would give as a drummer? TL: Make sure you have fun and try to say yes to everything – say “yes” to the idea that you can do it.
Exclusive Tom Tom Interview by Cindy Widner
Cindy Widner is the managing editor of The Austin Chronicle and has written extensively about arts and music. She was a vocalist for bands Happy Family and Power Snatch and currently volunteers at Girls Rock Camp Austin.