Gary Young, Pavement’s Original Drummer, Dead at 70

Gary-Young-Pavement-drummer - Credit:  David Corio/Redferns
Gary-Young-Pavement-drummer - Credit: David Corio/Redferns

Gary Young, the original drummer for pioneering indie-rock band Pavement, has died at the age of 70.

Frontman Stephen Malkmus confirmed Young’s death on social media Thursday. “Gary Young passed on today,” he wrote. “Gary’s pavement drums were ‘one take and hit record’…. Nailed it so well.”

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Malkmus and guitarist Scott “Spiral Stairs” Kannberg formed Pavement in 1989 in their hometown of Stockton, California. That year, they recorded their first EP at a small studio in Stockton owned by Young, the colorful local who would soon become the band’s first drummer.

When they were making Slanted and Enchanted, their influential 1992 debut, they returned to Young’s studio. “Gary deserves a lot of credit when it comes to that album,” Bob Nastanovich, who joined the group during this time, told Rolling Stone in 2015. “The whole thing was really brought together by him. Pavement was really fortunate to stumble upon this guy.”

Young’s studio, called Louder Than You Think, was a somewhat makeshift environment. “It had a 16-track machine, but one of the tracks didn’t work, so [Slanted] is probably one of the greatest albums ever made on a 15-track machine,” said Nastanovich.

“You could completely relax and be yourself there,” Nastanovich added.

Slanted and Enchanted earned a spot on Rolling Stone‘s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. “Pavement were the quintessential American independent rock band, and this is the quintessential indie-rock album. The playing is loose-limbed, the production laid-back and primitive, the lyrics quirky and playful, the melodies sweet and seductive … Slanted and Enchanted is one of the most influential rock albums of the 1990s; its fuzzy recording style can be heard in the music of Nirvana, Liz Phair, Beck, the Strokes, and the White Stripes.”

Young’s wild onstage antics helped establish Pavement’s reputation early on, with the drummer handing out cabbage, mashed potatoes, and cinnamon toast to fans and doing headstands while the group performed live. “This guy was from another planet,” Nastanovich said. “He could drink some of the largest quantities of some of the worst vodka ever made.”

While Young left Pavement after their 1992 Watery, Domestic EP, he returned to produce two tracks on their final Major Leagues EP in 1999, and reunited with his former bandmates for two shows in 2010.

In later years, Young released solo projects including HospitalThings We Do for You, and The Grey Album under the name Gary Young’s Hospital. He also worked with recording engineer Richard Selleseth in 2016 for the record Malfunction.

This spring, a documentary on his life entitled Louder Than You Think premiered at SXSW.

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