12 Best Punk Drummers of All Time


Image of Travis Barker of the punk band Blink-182 performing live.

Travis Barker of Blink-182 – Story by Anne Erickson, photo by Ken Settle

In this feature, Audio Ink Radio presents its list of the 12 best punk drummers of all time

The punk genre is filled with gusty drummers that bring an upbeat rhythm to the music. While punk rock drumming is often considered very simple, the pure speed in punk music is difficult to master, especially if you’re the one holding down rhythms. What’s more, many of the best punk drummer inspired many budding drummers to follow, some in the punk genre and others in different areas. So, who are the best punk drummers of all time?

The best punk drummers of all time offer fast, heavy, hard galloping punk rock beats, spit out in straight eighth notes to perfection. While other musical genres often get praised for their high-caliber drummers, such as jazz or blues, there’s no denying the power and influence of punk rock drummers. Don’t underestimate a simple, straightforward drum line played with emotion and a steady beat.

In honor of those often unsung rhythm heroes, Audio Ink Radio presents its list of the 12 best punk drummers of all time. Let us know your favorites be reaching out to us on Facebook.

12. Brendan Canty, Fugazi

Brendan Canty was a pillar of Fugazi while he was with the legendary post-hardcore band from roughly 1987 to its end in 2003. But, even aside from his time in Fugazi, Canty brings a unique style to any project for which he drums, including a deep groove, strong dynamics and an organic sound.

11. Gina Schock, The Go-Go’s

Gina Schock was a trailblazer behind the drum kit in The Go-Go’s. With the band, she had perfect timing, as well as a very forceful drum attack. Schock was a solid and reliable basis for The Go-Go’s music, and she helped make the band one of the biggest pop bands in the 1980s. Check out Audio Ink Radio’s interview with Gina Schock here.

10. Clem Burke, Blondie

Blondie was one of the biggest pop-punk bands of their time, and they were obvious originators. Even with Blondie’s strong pop sensibility, Clem Burke’s drums were raging, bringing a heavy edge to their music. The two opposites somehow worked perfectly well together, and Burke’s drummer became some of the most celebrated of that era of punk music.

9. Tré Cool, Green Day

Sure, many like to moan and groan that “Green Day isn’t punk.” But, they really were and are punk. They just happened to be the band to bring punk rock to the mainstream. Perhaps part of that distaste for Green Day from punk’s contingent is the fact that they did bring punk from the underground to the masses. Regardless, Tré Cool’s drumming is a large part of Green Day’s sound. The three-piece is tight and steady, and it’s hard to imagine a Green Day track without Cool contributing his steady rhythms.

8. Janet Weiss, Sleater-Kinney

Janet Weiss joined Sleater-Kinney for their seminal 1997 album, “Dig Me Out,” and when she became a member of the band, the group’s sound really solidified. Weiss is considered one of the most accurate and aggressive drummers in punk and rock music, which offered the perfect basis for Sleater-Kinney’s strong guitars and vocals.

7. Travis Barker, Blink-182

Travis Barker is one of the newer names on this list, but he deserves the recognition, as he’s truly one of punk rock’s greatest drummers. His playing in not only Blink-182, but also Transplants, +44 and Box Car Racer is innovative, precise and steady. He has a solid, almost stiff drum sound that’s unique to him. Besides, tabloids and Kardashians aside, he’s just a great drummer.

6. Bill Stevenson, Descendents, Black Flag

Bill Stevenson is the founding member and main songwriter of one of the greatest punk-pop bands of all time, Descendents. He also founded Descendents-inspired group ALL, and Stevenson has also appeared on several Black Flag records. Furthermore, Stevenson, who remains the only consistent of Descendents, can play a gamut of styles, from pop-influenced drumming to dark, jazzy beats.

5. Topper Headon, The Clash

Topper Headon wasn’t the original drummer of The Clash, but he helped the band really develop its sound. Original drummer Terry Chimes was solid on the band’s 1977 debut, however, when Headon came in the fold, he really helped amp up their sound. He came from a jazz background, which gave him an instant edge. But, more than anything, Headon had incredible dexterity and a mesmerizing live performance. He also helped The Clash be able to incorporate different genres of music into their sound.

4. Scott Asheton, The Stooges

The Stooges were one of the few punk bands to hail from Michigan. But, with the unpredictable Iggy Pop at the helm, they were also one of the most influential punk bands of the era. Moreover, in The Stooges, Asheton laid down huge grooves that matched Pop’s power and aggressiveness. Even with The Stooges’ larger-than-life vocals and wild guitars, Asheton always made sure the drumming was in the forefront.

3. Paul Cook, Sex Pistols

Sex Pistols were one of the defining bands of the punk rock movement. Paul Cook was an indispensable part of the band’s style. His simple, high-energy, meat-and-potatoes punk drummer really helped propel the band to punk rock royalty. He was simply an innovator.

2. Earl Hudson, Bad Brains

Earl Hudson was a huge part of the formation of hardcore drumming. With Bad Brains, he started out more as a jazz-fusion drummer. But, the band quickly evolved to become hardcore punk darlings, which gave Hudson the opportunity to show off his lightning-fast drumming skills. While many praise Hudson for his hardcore drumming, it doesn’t hurt that he does have those skills in other genres, such as jazz, reggae and more.

1. Tommy Ramone, The Ramones

Tommy Ramone of The Ramones is often referred to as one of the pioneers in punk rock drumming. He had a classic, uncomplicated approach to drumming that helped define what it meant to be punk rock. He’s often seen as the guy who created the pure, punk rock beat. Marky Ramone was another influencer and strong talent in punk rock drumming, but we’re only including one Ramone on here, so we’re going with Tommy as No. 1 on our list of the best punk drummers of all time.

Aside from drummers, punk rock also has great songs. Find Audio Ink Radio’s feature on the best punk songs of all time at this spot.

Anne Erickson
Latest posts by Anne Erickson (see all)
Posted by Anne Erickson | Alternative, Features, Music, Rock