Fast Company from director Jack Davidson is a fun short documentary film with a unique flavor. World's Fastest Drummer is a competition that calls itself "extreme sport drumming" for good reason, how many drum beats per minute can a person bang out? If you think 100 or 150, you'd be way off. It can run into a thousand. Fast Company is a quick glimpse into the competition created by legendary musician and world record holder Boo McAfee. In 1981, Boo drummed for 738 hours. That's not a typo, the man actually did that.
With short blasts of interviews with contestants and past contestants, we see inside this crazy fascinating competition. One that is growing each year in size and popularity. The whole thing was made possible by the "Drumometer" a cool piece of tech I quickly became fascinated with. Folks of all ages enjoy competing and revisit the competition each year. There's a strong competitiveness with the contestants, you find yourself rooting for one or the other. The film, brought to us by About Face Media and sponsored by Church's Chicken (because who else knows drumsticks better?) played at this year's Milwaukee Show at the MKE Film Festival. It was met by rousing applause, especially when Boo himself took the stage with his fellow film makers for a quick Q&A afterward. We had a chance to meet Boo and asked him a few questions. He is a genuinely kind man who was grateful for the positive reception of the film. I did ask about the possibility of a WFD competition here in Milwaukee, Boo said its possible so start brushing up your skills, I know I am. I really enjoyed Fast Company, if you see it coming to your area, be sure to catch a screening.
Milwaukee Movie Talk - Can you tell us a little about your history? How did you get started drumming?
Boo McAfee - was raised in the Nashville TN area. Started playing drums when I was 12 years old. I had a friend who had a drumset and I had a new bicycle. He wanted to ride the new bike and I wanted to play his drums. So we would trade one hour at a time in the afternoons after school. By the time I reached 17 I had my own set, received by GED diploma from school and was out on the road working as a drummer. I was fortunate enough to make a living working with some of artist out of Nashville for most of my life.
MMT - What motivated you to try for a world record and, what pushed you to go on for so long?
BM - I was at a point in my life, bummed out severely and I needed to doing something impossible as a bench mark for myself. A personal goal if you will, it wasn’t designed as a musical or artistic journey. It could have been eating a bicycle or climbing Mount Everest etc….. I simply needed to pick the most impossible endeavor I could think of and if I was successful at that venture I believed everything would be easier by comparison……..
MMT - Why did you create the Drumometer?
BM - I was 19 years old and at a trade show to see Mr. Barrett Deems (drummer for Louis Armstrong). Mr. Deems comes and says “hello folks, I’m the World’s Fastest Drummer.“ Out to my left I heard “Oh yea what machine did you use?” I turn and looked and there stood Buddy Rich, the greatest drummer in the world. Being young and impressionable, I thought what machine? Man! If we had a machine right now, what a great show it would be. We got ‘the world’s fastest drummer’ and the ‘world’s greatest drummer’ what a show!
It took 24 years and several engineers, but we finally answered that question, it’s now called the Drumometer……..
MMT - World's Fastest Drummer seems to be growing each year. How did the competition begin?
BM - Well the drumometer was used at our drum school to measure the progress of students each week and out of that with the drummers physical and competitive mindset grew some friendly competitions. Johnny Rabb was the first in history to break the 1000 strokes (single hits) in 60 seconds and first to set the WFD World Record of 1071. From the first record we got the WFD ring and Championship belt and the act of Extreme Sport Drumming just blew up from there…..
MMT - How many contestants do you see each year and, do you see many returning contestants?
BM - Well it varies from event to event. We have done some 106 competitions. We average I’d say 300 per competition of participants giving it a go, some are spectators, kids or family just doing it for fun. There’s usually about 75-100 serious competitors per event. We run preliminaries the first few days to find the top 10 fastest hands and 10 fastest feet. These top 20 contestants compete at the WFD Finals on the last day for Grand Prizes and world bragging rights.
Over the years though we have seen the level of serious competitors from around the world really explode. One good example is Peng Wang of China who started training for WFD at 10 years old and at 20 won the World Finals and became a WFD Champ. Peng had spent half of his life with the Drumometer training for WFD.
MMT - About the documentary, how did that come about?
BM - Well you know how one thing you do leads to another right? Well, all the videos and social media energy we had cultivated or nurtured over the last 15 years led me to a phone call with Milwaukee’s own About Face Media’s Barry Poltermann and Dick Gillespie. Barry’s first question was “so what is WFD and why in the world would anyone want to watch such a thing?” I answered the best I could and then Barry enlisted director Jack Davidson of Milwaukee and we made a short film…… Jack came to our WFD South East Championships in April of 2015 and filmed for 4 days. Out of that competition came most of the material and stories in the short film called ‘Fast Company’ that was shown at this years’ Milwaukee Film Festival. I must add what a fantastic honor it is to have the film shown at the Milwaukee Film Festival. I attended and it was fabulous.
MMT - As for your sponsor, Church's Chicken. That seems like an odd sponsor, how did they become involved?
BM - Well, honestly nobody knows ‘drumsticks’ better than the World’s Fastest Drummers. And my friend, Church’s Chicken makes the World’s Best ‘drumsticks’. Right? “It All Starts With The Drumsticks”. Having said all that, the synergy between drummers and their drumsticks are endless. On a serious note, Church’s Chicken has a strong commitment to music education and the community. WFD is an outlet and vehicle for Church’s to do some good in these communities. Example, at WFD World Finals 2015, Church Chicken and WFD hosted the Legends Awards. We honored three great drummers, D.J. Fontana (Elvis) WS Holland (Johnny Cash) and Richie Albright (Waylon Jennings). Church’s donated $1,000 in each of the three legendary drummer’s names to the W.O. Smith School of Music in Nashville TN. In support of local music education. Just one of many ways Church’s and WFD are working together to help music education and the communities. This is why Church’s and WFD are wonderful partners.
MMT - What would you like to see for the future of WFD? How big do you see it becoming?
BM - In the near future I see a natural progression as a WFD Reality Based Game Show and multiple platform gaming properties including an old school WFD arcade game!
My dream for WFD would be when Betty and Joe of Montana look down at their little grandchild beating with two spoons on the floor or pans they say ‘Who do you think you are? The World’s Fastest Drummer? Then head to the nearest retailer to support the development of that young inspiration!
MMT - What do you see for the future of music in general? What do you think of the drum machines and electronic instruments taking the place of actual instruments?
BM - I think the future of music itself is going be an exciting ride for sure. There’s some great minds doing great things and this will continue. Having said that, the music industry itself is certainly going through major manifestations fueled by technologies and outlets that didn’t exist a decade ago. This evolution is an amazing sometimes scaring thing to be a part of.
MMT - Drummers in films, have you seen any films about drummers that stand out? Whiplash for example was one of our favorite films from last year.
BM - The first drummer movie that stood out to me was ‘The Gene Krupa Story’. Sal Mineo did a fantastic job as Gene Krupa. I too like the movie Whiplash. If you recall the opening scene is black and you hear tap-tap-tap-tap- gradually getting faster and faster till it reaches his top speed! Right? This is the #1 drum rudiment called ‘the single stroke roll’ right-left-right-left etc…. It is the foundation and #1 rule of WFD. Right? I get asked “Did WFD inspire the movie Whiplash?” My answer? “Man I loved that movie”!!!!
For more info on the World's Fastest Drummer competition, check out their webpage HERE