Gary Young, Pavement’s original drummer, has died at the age of 70. “Gary Young passed on today,” Pavement frontman Stephen Malkmus wrote on Twitter/X. “Gary’s pavement drums were ‘one take and hit record’…. Nailed it so well. rip.”
Born in Mamaroneck, New York, played in local bands while living in Stockton, California, including the Fall Of Christianity, and booked acts like Dead Kennedys, Circle Jerks, and Black Flag. When Stephen Malkmus and Scott ‘Spiral Stairs’ Kanneberg co-founded Pavement in the late ’80s, they recorded at Young’s Louder Than You Think Studio. Young provided studio drums, which led to him becoming their first drummer.
Young played with the band through their 1992 record Watery Domestic, after which time Steve West took over. He also produced two tracks on Pavement’s 1999 EP Major Leagues and reunited with the band on two shows in 2010. After Pavement, Young put out three albums under the moniker Gary Young’s Hospital. A documentary about Young’s life and career, Louder Than You Think, premiered at SXSW in 2023.
Pavement have shared an official statement on Young’s passing, writing:
He was made to play drums in rock and roll bands. He came from the “Keith Moon school of drummers.” It’s an unofficial school. But, Gary graduated from it with honors. We’ve had the great pleasure of seeing insanely talented drummers. He drummed very hard from a different planet despite being born and raised in Mamaroneck, New York on the easiest birthdate ever to remember (5/3/53).
To us and all who knew him, he was a fearless fireball. His enthusiasm for playing live music was relentless and unrepentant.
He was the best storyteller we’ve known and a unique judge of character. The things he experienced before we knew him blew our minds.
Gary loved tension. He wanted to make people excited and anxious. He accomplished both. We embraced him and he taught us myriads of things that we never thought about. He was an educator. In ways, we were his apprentices.
Pavement has been an extremely fortunate endeavor from the start and, somehow, continues to be.
Without Gary, many people would not have noticed us. In all of the best ways, he was a freak show. He was magnetic. He was magical. He was dangerous. We could think of him as an uncle, an older brother that none of us had. But, he was a rare breed called Gary aka The Rotting Man. We loved his parents, Bob Young and Betty Quick. On many occasions, they looked after us.
We all loved him and it was life changing to have a staggering weapon to play music with.
Collectively, our hearts go out to Geri Bernstein, Gary’s wife, who was with him for nearly 50 years and kept him going and staying as vibrant as possible past the age of 70.
Love you Gary. We’re sure you’re doing handstands off of roofs, biting high hat cymbals, fake drowning at the bottom of your pool and dodging rocks glasses and police-fired bullets aimed at your head.
The Plant Man lives on every time Pavement steps on a stage and will continue to do so.
Pavement’s record label, Matador Records, also paid tribute to Young on Instagram. “We were exceedingly lucky to know the amazing human, drummer, producer and solo artist Gary Young. Much love today to his family, friends and bandmates,” the label posted.