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

Gary Young, the influential and enigmatic drummer on Pavement’s earliest releases including their 1992 debut album Slanted and Enchanted, has died at 70. He passed away at his home in Stockton, as confirmed by his wife Geri Bernstein Young.

Young was born on May 3rd, 1953 in Mamaroneck, New York. After touring in punk bands and working as a talent booker through the ’80s, the ex-hippie settled down in Stockton, California where he eventually crossed paths with Pavement founding members Stephen Malkmus and Scott “Spiral Stairs” Kannberg in 1989. Young offered to play drums for the duo while producing a session at his home studio Louder Than You Think that resulted in Pavement’s 1989 debut EP Slay Tracks: 1933–1969. After the release gained traction, Young was enlisted to produce and perform on their follow-up EP’s, 1990’s Demolition Plot J-7 and 1991’s Perfect Sound Forever.

As Pavement launched into a full-fledged touring band, Young began to attract specific attention for his eccentric antics at live shows, such as giving gifts and serving food to concertgoers, leaving the stage mid-song to ask for cocktails, and performing headstands during other members’ solo songs. His bizarre on-stage behavior aside, “The Plant Man” was crucial in establishing the band’s powerful yet loose playing style that characterized their 1992 debut album, Slanted and Enchanted, now considered an alt-rock classic and one of the best albums of the decade.

Despite the significant buzz surrounding Slanted and Enchanted, Pavement parted ways with Young after releasing the Watery, Domestic EP in late 1992. He would appear again on the band’s final EP, 1999’s Major Leagues, and took part in their 2010 hometown reunion show in Stockton.

In the intervening years, Young recorded three albums under the moniker Gary Young’s Hospital between 1994 and 2004. He also developed, patented, and hand-crafted the Universal Shock Mount for microphones. His final solo effort, Malfunction, was released in 2016.

A documentary centered on Young’s life and career, titled Louder Than You Think, premiered at the 2023 SXSW Film Festival in March, where it won the Audience Award. Coincidentally, a screening of the film and Q&A with Kannberg was previously scheduled for Friday in Melbourne, Australia.

In a statement shared via Pavement’s socials, the band stated Young “put Pavement on the map” and “made all of their early songs happen as [he] tried to grasp their youthful mayhem and, make sense of it all.” In parts, Young is called “a fearless fireball,” “the best storyteller,” “an educator,” and “an older brother that none of us had.” The post concludes with the message, “Never fear. The Plant Man lives on every time Pavement steps on a stage and will continue to do so.”