100 Greatest Drummers of All Time

From rock thunder machines to punk powerhouses, we count down the kings and queens of slam

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Stewart Copeland
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Phil Dent/Getty10/100

10. Stewart Copeland

It may be Sting's melodies that have become ubiquitous, but the Police sounds the way they do because of Stewart Copeland's use of space, subtlety and aggression. He's surely the major drummer least interested in playing the snare (which is still uncommonly bright and cutting) and his signature parts often involve intricate hi-hat patterns (that's his hat-work on Peter Gabriel's "Red Rain"). His father Miles was a diplomat who brought his family to live in various spots in the Middle East, and that unique upbringing invested the Police with rhythmic accents far from their native England. Despite their sustained antagonism, Sting allowed that the band's "first record was entirely a tribute to Stewart's energy and focus. "All these years I've spent trying to get that Stewart Copeland snare drum sound or that Stewart Copeland hi-hat sound," said Primus' Les Claypool, who began jamming with him in 2000, "and he sat down at this [drum kit] that was laying around with old heads on it... And all of a sudden there was that Stewart Copeland snare drum sound. It made me realize it's all about how he attacks his drums, how he plays."

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