Man vs. (Drum) Machine: Jojo Mayer in “Between Zero and One”

“If we surrender the things that separate us from machines, we will be replaced by machines. And the more advanced the machines will be, the more human we will have to become.”

As drummer Jojo Mayer explains in this engrossing short, when he came to New York, it was with a desire to play in jazz and R&B outfits. His plans, however, were thwarted when he realized he had come “four years too late.” But it was when he heard drum and bass for the first time that his whole world expanded — “I could imagine this is what it must have felt like when you heard Charlie Parker for the first time, or Hendrix for the first time.”

Between Zero & One from ApK on Vimeo.

Inter-cut with clips showcasing Mayer’s frenetic, propulsive, hypnotic drumming, the short explains the rise of the drum machine, designed to emulate human drumming, but with its binary technology limited to the zeros and ones of the title. In seeking to take back the role of the human drummer, with his ability to play in that space “beyond zero and one,” Mayer is pushing to beat the machines at their own game, to do the thing they cannot do, as a living, breathing, human musician and artist.

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