When most people think of Arctic Monkeys, they immediately consider Alex Turner, but there’s another crucial element: the drumming prowess of Matt Helders. His expertise has captured the attention of many fellow musicians, establishing him as a highly sought-after drummer. Within Arctic Monkeys, he serves as the rhythmic core, an indispensable element that defines the band’s musical landscape.
Drummers often find themselves as the least acknowledged figures in a band, and Helders’ pivotal contribution to Arctic Monkeys often doesn’t receive the recognition it deserves. Alongside admiring legendary drummers throughout his career, Helders also dedicates time to champion those he believes aren’t getting their fair share of acknowledgement in the drumming world.
In 2013, he spoke to Music Radar about his most cherished drumming albums and shared what he looks for in a fellow percussionist. In Helders’ eyes, less is more: “For me,” he said, “It’s not all about the flashy stuff and hearing some guy show off his chops. I’d rather listen to a drummer who knows how to play to the song.”
He also discussed how his influences impacted his approach to drumming, saying: “At first, I was really impressed with drummers doing thousands of fills and all the crazy technical stuff. But as I learned how to play, I began to realise that there’s more to drumming than just being the centre of attention and going off; you have to be musical, as well.”
Venturing deep into rock and roll, Helders expresses immense admiration for Dave Grohl’s drumming on Nirvana’s album Nevermind and Queens of the Stone Age’s Songs For The Deaf, both earning a spot on his list of favourite drumming albums. Discussing the latter, Helders stated: “It’s hard to beat Dave Grohl, isn’t it? He played on this record, and as usual, he’s just incredible. The relationship that he has with Josh [Homme] is pretty important – they’ve done a lot of things together and know how to play off each other well.”
When asked his favourite drummer of all time, however, Helders points to the one and only John Bonham. “He’s somebody that I always come back to,” he admitted. “The reason why I picked [Led Zeppelin II] purely comes down to a fill he does at the end of the ‘Moby Dick’ solo — before the band comes back in. It gives me chills, and that’s no exaggeration. I can hardly even express what it does to me. It’s perfect, absolutely perfect.”
Helders is also in awe of drumming techniques exhibited in hip-hop, which shouldn’t come as a surprise considering the fact that he’s played on such records in the past. “Questlove has always been a favourite of mine,” he added. “I’ve revisited this record a lot of times. At first, I was a bit curious and surprised that he would want to sound so mechanical, like a human drum machine or something, but then I was really impressed that he could actually do such a thing.”