Ace of Bass
Death-metal drummer doesn’t let disability keep him from rocking
Published: May 29, 2013
He may have the legs of a 100-year-old, but Eric Lowry pounds the double bass drum pedals like two jackrabbits fucking.
The Dundalk native was born with cerebral palsy but that hasn’t stopped him from two things: defying his doctors’ predictions, and playing in thrash and death-metal bands.
“Ever since I was 8, I wanted to play drums,” says the 33-year-old Lowry. “I would lay in my hospital bed watching Metallica videos. It was the band’s [single] ‘One,’ and I knew that’s what I wanted to do. And hell or high water, I was going to force myself to play the double bass [drum]. But faster.”
The disease left him with no ankles or calf muscles, which are essential for playing the bass drum—and walking. During his elementary and high school years, Lowry had 28 surgeries from the hip down. “I was in a motorized cart in high school,” says Lowry, who graduated from Patapsco High School and Center for the Arts in 1999. “I had to fight every step of the way. I had to teach myself to walk.”
But Lowry was never a victim: He knew from the get-go that he was going to achieve something great and he was going to do it by himself. By the time he was 15, he was tired of being confined to the cart and was ready to get behind the drum kit like his nu-metal heroes. “I idolized drummers like Igor [“Skullcrusher”] Cavalera of Sepultura [and Biohazard] and Donald Tardy of Obituary,” Lowry says. “Those were the guys I wanted to be.”
So Lowry got his first kit and went to work. At first he didn’t realize what kind of work it was going to take to play the double bass drum, which is played with a pedal and gives metal music its distinctive hard-driving sound.
“It was a slow process,” Lowry says. “They said I would never be able to walk, much less play drums. But I never back down from a challenge.”
He freed himself from the chair by learning to walk using his hips as momentum. “I walk 4 miles a day, every day,” he says. “It’s part of my mission. I’m a super gimp. It’s my title.”
To play the double bass, he had to improvise.
“Other drummers use calves and feet to play the double bass,” he says. “So I had to figure out how to condition my legs to do the same. I couldn’t make it too easy for myself.”
The road to drumming was a little longer than Lowry expected, but with inspiration from the metal world, he managed to figure out how to play despite his disabilities.
“My first time behind my kit, in ’95, I started off with a single pedal,” he says. “I watched other band videos to see how the drummer moved. It took hours and hours of practice. In the beginning it was painful. On a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the hardest, it was a 10.5 when I first started.”
Eventually Lowry came up with a system that helped him hit the double bass with the intensity needed for the metal sound and convinced bands that he could play with the best of them.
“My bass drum pedals use a trigger mechanism [so] when I hit the pedal it makes every hit hard so I don’t have to stomp. It doesn’t play it for me,” Lowry stresses, “I play it all myself. I practice six days a week for hours. When you hear me play, you don’t doubt my ability.”
Lowry has played in almost a dozen bands locally and played at venues such as the Recher Theater and the 8x10. It was at a gig last year at the Baltimore Free Farm that Chris Hisey, lead vocalist for the death-metal band Virulence (who, full disclosure, played this author’s art opening at the Windup Space), met Lowry for the first time.
“When I met Eric, he was playing with a group named Shakeface who I was close friends with at the time,” says Hisey. “As soon as they told me about his disability and how he was overcoming it, I was equally impressed and inspired by him.”
So when Shakeface split up and Hisey’s band Then They Bled parted ways, he approached Lowry.
“I jumped on grabbing him. Amazing dude,” Hisey says. “Great attitude and he pushes himself to his limits to do what he loves.”
The guitarist for Virulence, Paul Jack Jr., has known Lowry for almost a decade and is still amazed at his drumming skills.
“When I first found out about his [cerebral palsy], I was like ‘holy shit,’” says Jack. “I was blown away. Death metal requires a whole different set of drumming skills. It’s much faster in beat and tempo. Watching [Eric] makes you rethink when you complain about your backache.”
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