The Greatest Drummers of the '90s

Bashing with the Best!

These are the most brutal bashers, the most subtle snare masters, the high priests of the hi-hat. Here are 10 drummers from the ’90s that you need to know about. 

Dave Grohl

Dave Grohl drumming
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He might not have been the first drummer for Nirvana, but he was the skins man who ushered in their world domination. Like Animal from the Muppets, this gifted young lad could lead off a four-count like no other. He’s known as one of the nicest guys in rock, but Grohl absolutely kills his kits. He’s drummed for his own band, the Foo Fighters, as well as for endless side projects. Need a fill-in? Grohl's your guy.

Key drumming track: Nirvana – “Smells Like Teen Spirit”

Jimmy Chamberlin

Photo of Jimmy CHAMBERLIN
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Coming from a jazz background, Jimmy Chamberlin of the Smashing Pumpkins became an unlikely drumming hero in the alternative scene. His cymbal splashes and rolls were more in the vein of Buddy Rich and other swingin’ cats than in the style of grunge. This lightness and versatility came to the forefront on Chamberlin’s solo release, Life Begins Again, in 2005.

Key drumming track: Smashing Pumpkins – “Tonight, Tonight”

Danny Carey

Photo of TOOL
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If his biography on Tool’s website is any indication, Danny Carey is working on a different plane than us mortals. His origins hint at Masonic and metaphysical rituals, molding his mastery over complex time signatures. With Carey at the drummer’s seat, the art-metal band evolved into an institution of challenging music, paving the way to a higher consciousness— and some darn good rhythmic theatrics.

Key drumming track: Tool – “Schism”

Patty Schemel

Patty Schemel drumming
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It’s apropos her documentary is named Hit So Hard. Borrowing the title from a Hole song, that grrrl band’s drummer has been to hell and back. She has revealed that during her time in Courtney Love’s project from 1992-1998, drugs and booze were tearing Schemel apart from the inside. Clean and sober now for more than a decade, Schemel is finally being recognized for her ability to tear up the percussion. It was Kurt Cobain who recommended she join Love’s group. Not a bad endorsement.

Key drumming track: Hole – “I Think That I Would Die”

Taylor Hawkins

Foo Fighters And The Struts In Concert - New York City
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The second Foo Fighter to make the list, this blond bomber has filled the drummer’s throne since 1997. Known for his sense of humor and intense trills, Hawkins moonlights as the vocalist for Taylor Hawkins and the Coattail Riders. He was named Best Rock Drummer in 2005 by Rhythm magazine and has lent his talents to albums by Queen’s Brian May and Coheed and Cambria.

Key drumming track: Foo Fighters – “Best of You”

Lars Ulrich

Metallica Perform At The O2 London
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Sure, he’s got about a decade on the others in this list. But well into Metallica’s 30-year reign, he’s still got a few tricks up his sleeve. His double-kick singlehandedly steamrolled the masses when his band first got big in the ’80s, and he experimented with woodier sounds on later releases like 2003’s St. Anger. Each Metallica member holds his own in its mighty ranks, but if you’ve seen the doc Some Kind of Monster, you know it’s Ulrich that has the biggest bark.

Key drumming track: Metallica – “One”

Lori Barbero

Lori Barbero playing drums
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Self-taught and unapologetic, the Babes in Toyland drummer finds her strength within tribal tones. From a slinky plodding to a bone-rattling rimshot, her style is inimitable. Coupled with Kat Bjelland’s demonic guitar and vocals, and Maureen Herman’s telltale heart of a bass, Barbero’s drums could summon hellfire. To think she almost lost her playing ability in a freak accident in 2013. We’re relieved she and the Babes are back to conquer the rock scene once more.

Key drumming track: Babes in Toyland – “Middle Man”

Adrian Young

Adrian Young playing drums
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There’s No Doubt that Young is one of the most gifted drummers to get big in the ’90s. As his group’s vibe morphed from ska to pop to dancehall, he steered the ship with a (creepy) smile on his face. He used to perform in the buff or close to it, wearing nothing but sweat as he would clobber the skins and get circle pits started. He’s “Hella Good.”

Key drumming track: No Doubt – “Sunday Morning”

Tre Cool

Tre Cool drumming
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Speaking of rascally rhythm masters, Green Day’s Tre Cool is as comedic as they come. In addition to his Mach-5 playing skills, he occasionally sings, like on the hillbilly throw-down “Dominated Love Slave.” Despite his lighthearted demeanor, he’s all business when it comes to the goods. He was a child prodigy that joined his first band, the Lookouts, at the age of 12.

Key drumming track: Green Day – “Chump”

Matt Cameron

Matt Cameron of Soundgarden performs in Toronto at their 2011 North American Tour Launch
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He’s drummed for not one but two legendary bands, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden. Matt Cameron is the grunge guru. His crescendos can part the oceans. Listen to his forceful declaration on the chorus of “Black Hole Sun” and tremble at his greatness. Soundgarden’s singer, Chris Cornell told Kerrang! in 1996 that 10 years prior, when Cameron joined, “He was already the best drummer in town... He just seemed very confident and well-adjusted.” Confidence is a must when you’re the backbone of two of rock’s most important outfits.

Key drumming track: Soundgarden – “My Wave”