Rockin’ in the Free World

Daniela Lemke is playing in a man’s world. She is a drummer and “drums in particular are still very much a man’s world,” she says.

That’s why Lemke wants to share her story with other women.

“It’s all about rockin’ it out for the chicks and hoping the love will spread,” she says with a grin.

Lemke is one of a three-piece band called Krew52. She, along with ex-husband Mac Mclachlan and guitarist Jim Shewuck, have played together for the last five years, honing their sound first as a basement band, then eventually playing various Whitehorse venues and festivals.

Lemke remembers music in her life from day one. Her father played in a band in Germany, but gave it up after he married her mother. He continued, however, to play at home.

“There was always music growing up,” she says.

Lemke and her family emigrated to Canada when she was seven years old. They landed in Winnipeg, where the son of the friend throwing the welcome party had a set of drums. She started playing and got hooked.

“I played all night,” she chuckles.

Soon after, the family moved to Whitehorse. With Daniela’s brother and father playing the guitar, the three of them formed a family band. Daniela provided the rhythm by banging on pots and pans with knitting needles.

Once she turned 13, however, she changed her style.

“It just wasn’t cool anymore,” she laughs.

At 16 years old, she bought her own drum kit, which she still has today.

Eventually, Lemke wanted to progress and write her own music. She left the family band to travel the world in search of different styles and rhythms.

Once back in Whitehorse, she quit playing for a while after renting an apartment—she didn’t want to disturb the neighbours.

But once she bought a house, she set up a basement recording studio with Mclachlan and they formed a band. Mclachlan played bass and Lemke laid down guitar and drum tracks.

In 2008, Mclachlan and Lemke separated. Divorce came soon after. The split was amicable though, Lemke says, and they both made the decision to continue with their music and not let the past stand in the way.

With the addition of rhythm and lead guitarist Shewuck, in 2009, Krew52 was born. They found their groove playing rock, alternative and blues, and writing mostly original tunes.

But the band still had not played publicly. Eventually, with the encouragement of long-time Whitehorse musician Ivan Zenovitch, Krew52 played live one Thursday night at the Gold Rush Inn’s jam session.

“It’s a small venue and a great way to start,” says Lemke. “We were very nervous and needed to learn to relax while playing.”

The band continued to play every Thursday night, getting better and more comfortable with each gig. But Lemke often worried during those early days what people would think of a 37-year-old woman playing drums in a band.

Eventually she stopped thinking about it and concentrated on the music.

“I held my own,” she says.

In 2010, they were accepted at both the Moonstroke and Sunstroke music festivals in Whitehorse, held in January and June respectively, where they played 40-minute sets. They have played every festival since.

This year’s Sunstroke festival, held from June 22 to 23, will probably be their last gig together; Lemke has moved to Vancouver for good and is coming back specifically to play the festival with her old band.

“Breaking up the band was a hard decision,” she says with a sigh. “When you practise two times a week, two to three hours per practice, the band kind of becomes your family.”

She does not discount a future reunion with Krew52, but right now, Lemke is concentrating on her new life in the big city. The next step, she says, is to go to open mikes and jams around town.

She’s not sure if she wants to play in another band quite yet, as it is a big commitment, but she is staying open to possibilities.

Looking back, Lemke realizes that, in the end, she was the one who held herself back at the beginning of her career.

“I was never professionally trained, so I always wondered if I was good enough,” she says. “We are our own worst enemy.

“My mother always said that men play with power, but women play with feeling. You can always add power, but you need to have the feeling first.”

To this day, Lemke is grateful that her parents recognized her passion for the drums and supported her choice.

She is glad she never gave up, despite her doubts, and now she wants to send the message to other women to just get out there and do it, no matter what anyone says.

“I’ll always continue with music,” she says. “It’s like breathing. It’s about doing what you love, and loving what you’re doing.”

And with a smile, she adds, “It’s about the acceptance of knowing that us women can rock it too!”

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