Friends and colleagues are commemorating Sversvold’s contributions to punk rock – both locally and as a wider culture.

Legendary punk rock drummer Michael “Bam-Bam” Sversvold passed away on Saturday, May 11 at the age of 57. Sversvold suffered from a long-term autoimmune disease, according to a report by AZ Central. He is survived by friends, fans and colleagues who have been singing his praises on social media all month.

Sversvold was a pioneer in the skate punk subgenre – particularly in Phoenix, Arizona, where he was a local legend. He broke onto the scene in 1981 at the age of 14, playing drums in the band JFA – or, Jodie Foster’s Army. The group’s vocalist, Brian Brannon, told reporters that Sversvold was “right up there” among the greatest drummers the genre has ever seen, adding: “Bam-Bam held it down and took it above and beyond where anybody else would even think of going.”

“Bam’s approach was just all-out but with a sense of style and flair that was beyond up-tempo,” he went on. “He was made to play punk rock. I don’t think JFA would’ve been what it was without Bam pushing us. We were the fastest band in the land back then.”

AZ Central spoke to bassist Michael Cornelius and guitarist Don Redondo as well, noting that both of them were several years older than Sversvold. Cornelius said: “When Bam came in, he had that overactive wiry energy that made it all work. And he was really good from the get-go. It wasn’t like he was a beginner drummer at 14. He could play the [expletive] out of the drums at 14.”

Local record label owner Tony Victor worked with JFA in those days and spoke with reporters as well. He said: “Bam-Bam was very accomplished at a very, very young age and he just got better. By the time he was 19, he’d toured the country three times and, in my opinion, was one of the premier drummers in punk.”

The bandmates shared some fond memories of traveling with Sversvold as well, but admitted his youth and impulsivity became an issue on tour. Victor mentioned that Sversvold had problems with substance abuse and alcoholism, and that it was his responsibility to keep things running smoothly while touring. Sversvold reportedly left school at 15 to tour with JFA, with his mother’s blessing.

“I was sorry to see him go,” said his mother, Joanne. “But I knew it was his destiny because he was just born to be a musician.”

Of course, the skate-rock band also needed to show some prowess at the sport itself, and Sversvold was good for that as well. However, Sversvold ended up quitting the band twice – first because he didn’t think his bandmates were serious enough about making a living as musicians. Brannon said: “We played skate rock, which meant we skated first and foremost, and then we played music.”

“The three of us never saw music as a way to pay the rent,” Redondo added. “It was something fun to do, to hang out with your friends, where Bam looked at the world – and rightly so – like he was good enough, he could’ve been a musician.”

The Phoenix music scene and art community are honoring Sversvold this summer – most notably with a celebration of life on Saturday, July 20 at The Rhythm Room. JFA will play an acoustic set. Proceeds will be donated to Joanne. Details on the event are available on the venue’s website.

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