I grew up an Army Brat (Brat, for short, from here on), in that "fine" world most folks affectionately call The Military. I must admit I don't look back on it as affectionately as many, but it was a great way to get exposed to all types of musical styles and instrumentation. I developed a fondness for percussion at an early age and was told "If you take piano lessons for a year or so, we'll get you a nice little trap set". Two months into my piano lessons with Heir Piano Man (a German teacher who knew very little English. Of course we were living in Germany at the time) I became a bit worried that I would never own a set like Gene Krupa and stayed up nights worrying about it. Being the typical Brat, I had no interest in learning German and did my best to remain the Ugly American I had so proudly been raised to be. Mr Pianomeister wasn't helping any either, as I believe he had decided early on that I was a complete musical idiot and I deserved the drums. I was just another melodically challenged animal. I had been listening to Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit" and the Who's "I Can See For Miles" and I wanted to play just like those guys....Mozart didn't cut it.....at least not till much later.
That first drum set......hmmmmmm.....what a beauty! It was a mother-of-pearl 3 piece (yes, 3-piece...didn't have enough money for a floor tom, yet) 8-ply Sonor set direct from the factory in my neighborhood (I was living in Darmstadt, Germany). I was 7 years old and "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" was the hit of the day. My father had hand-chosen each drum and assumed we would add to the set as I progessed with lessons. There was a rickety bass drum mounted cymbal stand and a funky, clunky hi-hat stand with huge round rubber foot pads. The bass drum pedal had a black plastic foot pad with the same kind of polyester strap you see on backpacks. Truly funky. Who would have thought Sonor would become the giant it is today. Initially, I only had Zildjian hi-hat cymbals. The ride and crash cymbals came much later.
I cut out as many pictures of drum sets like mine that I could find in various Ludwig, Slingerland and Sonor catalogs. I still have the Sonor catalog (in German). Pictures of Gene Krupa and Jake Hanna. They were the only heros I had at the time. I wasn't into sports (I was a total science nerd), I hadn't really discovered women yet, and I was a hyper kid in an introverts body. I really looked up to those guys. I'm not really sure why I never really warmed up to Buddy Rich (ooh, blasphemy!), but I just thought he was really stuck up and kinda mean looking. He was a full-blown technical metronomic wonder though, and I did respect that.
It took me a few years to discover Downbeat magazine and the world of drummer/percussionists it opened up for me. I devoured the drummer interviews and drum-set layouts. Always looking for that special tuning or slightly alternative setup. I was totally hooked on Billy Cobham's solo fusion work and Carl Palmer's classical rock style in the 70's. I went out and bought the obligatory 6 piece- "double mounted/double floor tom setup: A fake-wood finish (what was the name of that particular finish?,Kortex?) Ludwig with a 24" bass drum and a 14" Supra-Phonic chrome snare. I tried to incorporate a mix of Cobham's long rolls and Palmer's bombastic tuned percussion style in whatever I did in my late high school years. And then I saw Louis Bellson's total Roto-Tom set on a Concord Jazz LP......I had to try it. Any drum....tunable at a moments notice!
I sold the rock set (which was probably the most egronomic/"fits like a glove" set I've ever owned) and went out and bought the 6" through 16" Roto-Tom setup and used my old Sonor 20" bass and Ludwig Supra-Phonic to fill it out. I could finally get serious tone. Ah....... but how was I to know just how poorly they would project with my low quality microphones. It was a great recording set, but not what I'd call a touring set. I now use most of those drums for add-ons and tonal flourishes.
After a bout with what I like to call the "stovetop system" (A desktop system with PEP rubber practice pads cored out and filled with Yamaha DT-10 triggers and routed to an Alesis D4 Drum Module), I've slipped back into the acoustic drum mode with my new wood hoop Ayotte Custom Drums set. Truly, a set to come home to.
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