Diddly Squat was the first time I became aware of drummer Eric Akre, as they were just that punk band across the bridge from me. I knew of them, as the radio/TV production class I was in had a number of people who went to their shows on a regular basis. Then he and bassist Nate Mendel came into the station and passed out copies of their very first record, a 4-song 7″ EP. The radio station’s format was hard rock and heavy metal, and back then, playing “extreme” music like Exodus, Mercyful Fate, and Metallica was considered extreme. Only a select few in the class could play punk and hardcore, and you had to do so by making a request to the upper management/teacher of the station. Diddly Squat were local. Since the other stations in the area were mainstream and there were no other alternatives (the local community college did not have a radio course), Diddly Squat became the exception to the rule. Unfortunately, since some of their songs were either with “offensive vulgarities”, political, or both, I think the only song that anyone could play was called “No Questions”. The other kids in the class had their demo, but whether or not these songs were cleaned up at any point, I don’t know.
Point is, it was a very brief meeting but these two guys looked extremely happy as if to say “look, this is our record!” One of the members in the band died, leading to the end of the band. In time, Akre and Mendel moved to Seattle and would eventually join a band from D.C. who had moved to “the other Washington”, who called themselves Christ On A Crutch. I was there to witness the last Christ On A Crutch concert at the Hoedown Center in Richland, Washington, and everyone in that crowd were happy to not only see the homecoming of their Diddly Squat alumni, but there was hope that both of them would continue to create music in their own way. Akre almost seemed to play with every other band in Seattle for the first half of the 90′s, to where i would say jokingly he was “the drummer to the stars”. Mendel reached an all time high when he became a member of Sunny Day Real Estate, and I will always remember when he returned to the Hoedown Center with SDRES, about a year before they released their debut album. It was one of the best shows I ever went to as it felt like nothing could get better. Mendel left SDRE, and it seems he had been in contact with a guy from the D.C. area who had come to the Tri-Cities before with some silly band named Scream. Mendel’s story would take off when he became a member of the Foo Fighters.
What I loved about their playing was how tight they were, it wasn’t just being fast or loud for the sake of being that. Whatever Akre played in, it sounded great to me. What I liked was that to my ears, it sounded like he listened to a wide range of music, but I had never come across an interview where he spoke of his musical tastes and influences. However, after watching this video, hearing him speak about why he created the video and touching on the types of bands and music he has played for 25+ years, it brought to mind some of the things his sister Carrie spoke about when I interviewed her in 1991. Carrie Akre was the vocalist for Hammerbox and Goodness, and in the first Hammerbox show I saw (I attended three), Eric sat in on the drums during their encore. In my interview, I asked her about some of the music she listened to, and she talked about how some of it came from her parents, a bit of it came from what was on the radio, and also discoveries she had made on her own. It was a nice blend of country, pop rock, soul, and gospel, some of it heard on the family’s 8-track tape collection. She would eventually branch off and make her own musical discoveries, and Eric would do his own thing but still having the commonality of their 8-track tape roots and being siblings. Carrie’s comments brought forth the possibility that some of this had to have been influences for Eric too, and when the power of the radio would often become ones first introduction to a wealth of music, everything fell into place.
As you can see, this is “Lesson One”, the first video he has created and posted on his YouTube page. That will hopefully be a sign that this will be the first of many, and that will be very welcome for fans of drums and percussion, or those who have been familiar with his works. As for his works, I did a quick search at Discogs to see what lurks, and the page doesn’t even begin to skim the surface of what he has played on. Even if you’re unfamiliar with him or his work, the tips and information he shares may help other musicians who have wanted to embrace the drums but aren’t quite sure where to begin. Everyone has a starting point and perhaps this video by Akre will be yours.