Thinning the Herd’s Gavin Spielman Speaks About the Death of Their Drummer Rick Cimato


On December 26, 2012, drummer Rick Cimato of Brooklyn stoner metal band Thinning the Herd was killed in a car accident. He was 37 years old. We reached out to the band’s guitarist and founder Gavin Spielman and asked whether he’d like to share Rick’s story, as well as his plans for the band’s future. He agreed.

How did Rick come to join Thinning the Herd?
Rick had heard through the grapevine [in 2011] that I had asked a mutual friend of ours to play, and he couldn’t do it, so Rick jumped on it. It’s funny because I looked at past emails, and Rick had emailed me when I started the band in 2006 asking if he could join. But at the time he was in another band, and I didn’t even consider him because I didn’t know him, and I already had a drummer. So it was almost as if he was always meant to be in the band. That’s why it’s such a great loss–because he was the drummer I was always looking for. He was the guy that got what we were doing.

How would describe Rick for people who will never meet him?
He was an amazing guy. Everyone who met him was left with a positive energy. He was never negative in public. He even told me he loved life. He had the tattoo on his knuckles that said “Love Life.” He tried to live by that. He was very, very smiley and hard to be an asshole around. Rick was a beloved person. There were over 400 people at his memorial. The amount of love was very strong.

Can you explain how the car accident happened?
Rick and his girlfriend Ashley and his brother Nick…were coming home on the 26th [of December] in the morning. They were coming home from visiting their brother in Maine in the hospital. Rick’s [older] brother, Tony, had been in the hospital for some neurological condition for years, and he wasn’t doing very well, so Rick wanted to spend the holidays with his mom and with his brothers and sisters. So, they visited Tony and then left the hospital around 10 [pm] and started driving home, south, on Route 15 through Connecticut. And there was a driver coming north-bound on the south-bound lane, and Rick had pulled over into the breakdown lane just to make sure the lights that were coming weren’t coming at him. But, I guess the [other] guy was in the breakdown lane, too, and he was going about 70 miles an hour. Rick veered to the left, and he got the brunt of the hit and was killed on impact. His girlfriend fractured her eye and broke several ribs and ruptured her spleen, and his brother [Nick] has some severe leg damage from it, too. Both passengers [Ashley and Nick] were lucid during that time. They both saw it happen and saw [Rick] die. Horrible. They also had a dog in the car. It lost one of its legs. It’s terrible. The whole thing is particularly horrible.

How old was the other driver?
22. He was killed also. I don’t know if he was drunk or not…but I’m pretty sure he was drunk. That’s what has been said to me.

When did you get the news?
I got it that morning. I went out to eat breakfast that day…It was a normal morning. I just went out alone, and when I came back home, I had an email from his mom. And then Rick’s [older] brother died the next day. Tony [Cimato], the guy that was in the hospital. He died. On the 27th. So, the Cimato family had two major blows. [Tony] I think probably had no more will to go on because his brother just got killed in a car accident.

What does your band name, Thinning the Herd, mean?
I’d wanted to name the band something that had to do with death that was more philosophical about death. At the time my father had just passed away four years earlier, and I needed something to cope with his death…I thought the name Thinning the Herd would work. I liked the Southern feel of it. I liked the cow idea, and I also liked the idea of Darwin’s theory of selective random elimination of herds of people and of animals, which is ironic because now I have this death in my band.

You seem to accept death as a part of life.
Yes. I pretty much follow Eastern philosophy in the sense that I don’t believe that death is a bad part of life. I think it’s just as divine as coming into this life and living experiences. It’s just another experience. But, when it hits so close to home, as a creative individual, for someone who needs to speak and let it out, I find it’s cathartic to embrace it and not run from it. The sad thing is, if you listen to our next album that was recorded by Steve Albini, a lot of the songs have to do with this idea of losing friends. And this was while Rick was alive. A lot of the songs, I sing about losing friends or about waking up to reality and not denying yourself of an enlightened future based on understanding the past and culture and death. That’s what I’ve put out there…Obviously, the songs are a little prophetic as to what’s happening right now.

Anything else you want to add?
I just want to emphasize that I want to move forward, and if there’s anybody that is interested in auditioning with us, try to find us through Facebook or something because we’re open to anyone at this point. We didn’t see this coming.

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