By Ryan O’Connell
George LeHoop will play the kayak, specifically the electric kayak. He will play cardboard boxes. He will play blank canvases attached with bungee cords to metal frames. He will play anything he can get his hands on. LeHoop will use chopsticks, mallets, traditional drum sticks, brushes and hot rods- pieces of bamboo tied together to bang out his rhythms. Having played drums for 46 years, LeHoop has moved well beyond using only a traditional drum set to get his rocks out. Driven by the sound and creation of rhythm, LeHoop has evolved into an eclectic and wild, performance art, percussionist who is no longer just creating music with his rhythms.
In 1993, the idea to create art with his drum sticks “just popped in his head.” Old Georgie LeHoop started to think that if he dipped his various drumsticks in paint, then “something would come out.” It wasn’t until the summer of 2001, when prompted by his friends, that LeHoop took the plunge, finally taking paint-covered drum sticks to canvas. He hasn’t looked back since. After years of playing rock n roll and occasionally some jazz, LeHoop has devoted himself to his new art form- drum art. This past year, he has taken his show on the road, performing at summer festivals and gatherings in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York- most recently the Philadelphia Folk Festival and Bethlehem Music Festival.
“Would you like to hear one of my paintings?”
That’s how Georgie draws them in, makes the festival folks and art crowds curious. To get them started, LeHoop will hand them a pair of headphones. Once putting them on, the sound of his drumsticks and mallets bouncing off the canvas in manic rhythms and furious taps comes resoundingly into their ears. Then he shows them a painting, maybe “Cosmic Swimmers I” or “Rhythm of Rock,” a painting about the Grand Canyon.
This is the painting you’re listening to, he’ll tell them.
LeHoop’s paintings are remarkably defined and intricate- surprising considering how they were created. When starting one of his paintings, LeHoop will have an idea for the piece; an end goal he wants to shoot for. This idea is accompanied by a rhythm. The rhythm has a look to LeHoop; it has a feel. LeHoop then starts out, hoping to create a visual representation of the rhythm that is running through his head. Each stick or mallet he uses has both a different sound and texture; “a different effect on the canvas, a different look.”
LeHoop’s style of play is influenced by some of the greats, rock drummer hall of famers like John Bonham, Keith Moon, and Billy Cobham. Watching LeHoop wail away on his electric kayak- a traditional kayak outfitted with pads and microphones underneath which he also plays at festivals, is at times, eerily similar to watching one of those rock monster drummers in the middle of a solo. LeHoop yells and throws his head back. He hoots loudly after an especially wild section and twirls his sticks theatrically throughout his performance. John Bonham used to play portions of his solo in “Moby Dick” with his hands. LeHoop seems to have really run with that idea.
In the late seventies, LeHoop played drums for the local band Pickins. The band released an album nationally on Ariola Records, distributed by Capital Records. His last recording was in 1999, when he played percussion on the soundtrack to the foreign film, “Zaya.” So far he has released one album as a drum artist, “Rhythm on Vinyl,” which is 11 rhythms he has used in his paintings.
Many of LeHoop’s pieces are inspired by his travels, which are extensive and largely on foot. An avid hiker, LeHoop met his wife along the Appalachian Trail. The two got to talking and were soon hiking from Georgia to Maine together. Since then they have hiked from Mexico to Canada, around the Canadian Maritimes, and parts of the Middle East. And then there was the trip when they took to bicycles and made their way around the United States.
“A lot of my paintings have something to do with what I’ve seen in the outdoors,” LeHoop says. The Grand Canyon in particular, a place that is very familiar to LeHoop, is a popular muse for him and has been portrayed in several of his paintings.
LeHoop’s paintings have a wild sense of adventure to them- undertones of risk mixed with brash overtones of reckless abandon. It is hard to wonder where drum art will lead LeHoop, as it so often seems LeHoop isn’t sure where drum art is leading him. But that is part of the allure of his work- whether it’s his paintings or electric kayak jam sessions, they are exhibits in freedom and expression and life.
So, would you like to hear a painting?
To view and purchase some of Lehoop’s artwork, log onto www.drumartist.com. While there, we suggest you check out videos of his work while in its progress, as seen on both YouTube and Allentown Morning Call’s website, and Lehoop’s paintless drum performances. George Lehoop can be reached through his website, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.