Ed Farnsworth

Neil Edward Farnsworth III (photo by Kevin Moist)


Name: Neil Edward Farnsworth III
Date of birth: September 8, 1966
Instrument: Drums
No, really: Ed plays a vintage Ludwig drumset. Actually a hodge-podge of various kits, the shells date from 1965 through 1970 and all feature some variety of the Ludwig black oyster shell finish. He uses a 20″ bass drum, a 13″ mounted tom, and a 16″ floor tom. Ed’s snare is a vintage wooden 6½″ Slingerland that dates from 1953: his back up snare is a metal 5½″ Slingerland that dates from 1967. Ed uses Zildjan cymbals. Going from left to right, he uses 14″ hi hats, a 19″ Rock Crash, a 20″ Rock Ride, and an 18″ rock Crash. He uses mostly Pearl hardware, although his snare stand is a Yamaha, and his foot pedal and throne are made by Tama. He uses Vic Firth wood tip 5B drum sticks.

Ed behind the drums, in near-Earth orbit (photo by Roman Sokal)

Ed was born Neil Edward Farnsworth III on September 8th, 1966 in Harlan, Kentucky. The number one song in the country was “Sunshine Superman” by Donovan. That same day, Charles Manson responded to a casting call for the television show The Monkees. (Interestingly, the first album Ed ever bought, at the tender age of 9, was the Monkees Greatest Hits.) His ancestors include The McCoy’s of the Hatfield and McCoy feud as well as some of the principals of the Clay County Wars. In Old English, “Farnsworth” means either “an enclosed farm” or “an enclosure of ferns.” Ed has always liked ferns.

The son of a drummer, Ed began to take drum lessons in the 5th Grade. However, he did not take kindly to the practice regime as it interfered with his ability to watch his favorite TV programs so he did not continue with formal lessons in the 6th Grade. He did hold onto his sticks and happily played on sofa cushions and Ottomans throughout his middle school years. In the 8th grade, Ed had his first exposure to punk rock (The Buzzcocks Singles Going Steady album) and New Wave (Gary Numan performing “Cars” on Saturday Night Live) and his desire to play drums was again brought to the fore. Through his high school years, Ed went through various musical phases including flirtations with the Punk Rock, Synth Pop, New Romantics, Mod music and American Hardcore. Mod music (and the music of the 60’s generally) and American Hardcore stuck and Ed was involved with the usual tiny high school clique consisting of him and four or five friends who were convinced that a revolution was happening in music and they were the only ones who got it.

Ed began sneaking into the city to see underground all ages shows in 1982 and was thus privileged to see some of the finest and most important punk rock bands of the day. Graduating from high school in 1984 near the top of his class, Ed traveled to Australia where he was an exchange student for a year. Having already graduated from high school, Ed spent most of his time working on his host families’ wheat and sheep farms and even spent some time working on a lobster boat. In Australia, Ed’s political views under went a seismic shift and Ed returned home a committed leftist convinced that a revolution was happening in the world and that he was the only one who got it.

Beginning his studies at Temple University in the January of 1986, Ed continued his love affair with independent music, now enamored of the neo-psych and garage rock of the day, and radical politics, becoming involved in anti-apartheid, Central American, pro-choice, pro-NEA, anti-CIA, and AIDS activist groups. Eventually graduating with honors and a double major in American Studies and Political Science, Ed joined his first band, Napalm Sunday, using a borrowed drum set, in the Spring of 1987. Consisting of Ed along with Gerry McGoldrick, Steve Mercanti and Matt Fredericks, Napalm Sunday was a fixture in the Philadelphia alternative music scene for five years openning for acts such as Dumptruck, Miracle Legion, The Lemonheads, Yo La Tengo, the Dharma Bums, Gang of Four and Nirvana. They released two singles on Shark Sandwich Records and a full length on Record Cellar Records before disbanding in 1992.

Towards the end of Napalm Sunday, Ed was approached by Ben Vaughn (a local music legend now world famous for being the man behind the music of such hit television shows as Third Rock From The Sun and That 70’s Show) to play in the Wipeout Gang, a band that performed obscure cover songs from the 60’s. Through the Wipeout Gang, Ed was introduced to the Friggs, the all girl garage rock band, and appears on their first single under the name “Edna.”

Soon after, Ed co-founded Emma with Rick Henderson, another fixture of the Philadelphia music scene whom Ed had played with in the Wipeout Gang and who had formerly fronted the Chowderheads. Along with Dean McNulty, they released one double 7″ and two full length CDs on Schwa Discs. Though the band has not broken up, they have been on hiatus for several years.

While playing in Emma, Ed joined Ashtabula, a band founded by Bob Malloy, the genius behind the Strapping Fieldhands, and Rich Fravel, formerly of the Uptown Bones and Latimer. Along with Rick Henderson on organ, Ashtabula recorded one single and two full lengths for Siltbreeze Records. Ashtabula had the pleasure of opening for Guided By Voices four times before disbanding in 2000.

In the Fall of 1997 Ed joined Vibrolux, a band founded by the visionary Brother JT, for a two week tour and can be heard on the live album Dosed and Confused released on Bedlam Records.

In the Spring of 1998, Ed was approached by Bardo Pond to fill in for Joe Culver for the Lapsed tour. Ed was an old friend of the band, having filled in on drums during one of their earliest shows, somewhere around 1992. Given Joe’s increasing personal and professional commitments Ed continued to rehearse with the band after the completion of the Lapsed tour and was soon playing all of the band’s out of town shows. By 1999, Ed was doing all of the live shows and made his first recorded appearance with the band on 1999’s Set and Setting, performing on “Walking Stick Man” and “Again”.

With the release of 2001’s Dilate Ed was an “official” member of the band. In addition to Set and Setting and Dilate, Ed can be heard on various songs on Volumes 1, 2, 3, and 4, as well as various singles and EPs, including the Three Lobed subscription release as well as the recent Terrastock singles box set, and the split 12″ with Subarachnoid Space released on Camera Obscura Records.

Ed currently lives with his cat in the Northern Liberties section of Philadelphia where he recently organized the very successful Second Annual Northern Liberties Music Festival. In addition to making music, Ed DJs a monthly night of mod music at the 700, a club in Northern Liberties. After the latest mid-term elections, Ed is firmly convinced that a conservative reactionary backlash is happening in the world and he is pretty fucking pissed off about it.

Top photo by Kevin Moist, bottom photo by Roman Sokal. Text by Ed.