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Drummer Michael Shimmin’s ‘Albums That Changed My World’: Chili Peppers to Zappa

Drummer Michael Shimmin’s ‘Albums That Changed My World’: Chili Peppers to Zappa

Raised in a Musical Family: Michael Shimmin (Photo/Katy Batdorff)

EDITOR’S NOTE: All musicians can trace their inspiration to key recordings that captivated them and influenced their careers. Writer Ross Boissoneau today showcases recordings that changed the world for percussionist Michael Shimmin, who performs with a wide range of Michigan stars. Scroll down for a Spotify playlist of his picks as well as tracks from The Olllam, of which he’s a member.

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Well-versed in everything from folk, rock and world music to jazz and classical, Michael Shimmin is one of the most in-demand percussionists in the state of Michigan. “A lot of what I do, especially in Michigan, is in the folk scene,” says Shimmin, citing his work with the likes of May Erlewine, Joshua Davis and Seth Bernard.

Mike Shimmin (Courtesy Photo)

He comes from a musical family (as you’ll read below). While studying at Western Michigan University, he played in the Kruziki Transatlantica Quintet, which won multiple DownBeat Magazine Student Music Awards, including “Best Jazz Group,” and “Best Classical Chamber Ensemble.” He also joined Millish, an Ann Arbor-based Irish-fusion group.

“My main project now is The Olllam,” he said, an Irish-inflected trio with uilleann pipe player John McSherry and Shimmin’s old bandmate from Millish, multi-instrumentalist Tyler Duncan (uilleann pipes, whistles, guitar, Rhodes).

This weekend, Shimmin plays in the band accompanying May Erlewine for shows Friday at The Mendel Center at Lake Michigan College in Benton Harbor and Saturday at The Ark in Ann Arbor. Get tickets and info here.

1. Immigrant Suns, “More Than Food” (1998) – It’s a Detroit band. My uncle was in the band. It was world music fusion, a blend of Greek, Albanian, Roma, Mid-East and originals. Mark Sawasky (percussionist) was my first drumming mentor. I was probably 12 years old and they’d get me into clubs, bars, where they’d let me sit in. Those guys taught me how to be a musician. That album: It’s amazing stuff. I learned how to play in odd time signatures, Arabic music. I was one of the only kids in school listening to Albanian music.

Listen: “Girl”

2. The Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Blood Sugar Sex Magik” (1991) – I think it might have been a different uncle who turned me on to the Chili Peppers. I’d listen to it once a day. I was playing clarinet, then I’d try to play Chad Smith’s drum parts. There are so many amazing elements. Where that band was in its development, lyrically it was edgy. I had to keep that one away from my mom. I was playing guitar, too, at the time. I probably still have almost every second of it memorized.

Listen: “The Power of Equality”

3. Frank Zappa, “Weasels Ripped My Flesh” (1970) – Frank Zappa is big in my family. I was probably given it as a gift by a third uncle. I’d heard some Zappa on the periphery, but had never put headphones on. “Didja Get Any Onya” starts with an insane cacophony of sound – crazy sax, drums are churning, an odd time signature – it was definitely over my head at the time. I might have been a little scared by it (laughs). It opened me up to the avant garde.

There are more accessible songs, too. It was just so weird and opened my mind as a little kid. Frank Zappa is one of my favorite artists to this day. I was exposed to other performance artists later. I saw one do something at a loft party in Detroit. She was standing in a vat of goopy water with hula hoops and bubbles with a saxophone. “Weasels Ripped My Flesh” blew the gates open. “Oh, you can do this?”

Listen: “My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Mama”

Currently Loving: John Coltrane, “Dear Old Stockholm” (1993 release; recorded in 1963 and 1965) – I’m bad at keeping up with the latest. I have to listen to new music I have to play. So what I listen to in my free time is jazz. I’m trying to catch up with the masters. This whole album is great. It has a really calming effect on me. He plays beautiful tunes with his quartet.

Listen: “Dear Old Stockholm” 

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