“You just missed Chad,” DW’s artist’s representative Scott Macartney said, soon as arrived at the DW factory an hour north of Los Angeles. Dang, I thought, I’ve been wanting to say “hey” to Chad since seeing him drum the roof off the Baked Potato with his fusion band, the Bombastic Meatbats. I love it when you see drummers play genres outside of their notoriety (like a hardcore punk drummer playing quietly playing brushes in a jazz trio). It’s a reminder that we drummers can’t afford to be limited to just one style of music.
The best drummers serve the tune irrespective of what sort of song it is. Doubt it? Listen to how a furious John Bonham tamed down to play deep in the pocket of Led Zeppelin’s Since I’ve Been Loving You. I digressed….sorry! I’ve been playing DW drums for years. Each product bearing the company emblem is drummer-designed to be durable, making gigs easier and joyous.
Much of the credit goes to founders Don Lombardi and John Good, two guys running a drum-centric music school in Santa Monica in the early 70’s. To help keep the school going, they started selling small stuff, drum sticks, whatever. They noticed that while other musicians had quality crafted gear like Fender Stratocasters and Marshall Amps, working drummers were slogging it out with shoddy equipment that was poorly designed and didn’t last. One of their first improvements was the bass drum pedal (ever noticed how you can hear John Bonham’s pedal—you know the one–squeaking on the song mentioned above?). With so much room for improvement, the DW 5000 pedal was born. That’s the pedal I still play! So here’s to Don Lombardi and John Good:
I didn’t have appointments with either of these guys, I was coming up to pick up a unique 12 x 22” bass drum (almost a “Scotch size” drum) that was color matched by DW’s master finisher, Louis Garcia. Almost nobody plays a 12 x 22” bass drum any longer, yet this Collector’s Series size has the unique trademark of providing a very focused bass drum sound that can be tuned to a low pitch. 90% of my drums are finished with a natural wood stain, I guess I like that best, although DW’s array of burst and fade colors is very tempting. In the end, my favorite John Bonham pictures having him playing a natural finish maple drums that seem cool and vintage to me. It’s a matter of personal taste but I always go back to the natural wood colors.
Scott and I went to the shelves where outgoing orders are stacked searching for a carton that said “Lucky Lehrer.” I saw finished drums in cartons addressed and being shipped out to a who’s who of drumming including Aaron Spears (Usher), John “JR” Robinson, Curt Bisquera, Mick Fleetwood, Roger Taylor (Queen), Max Weinberg (Bruce Springsteen), Dave Grohl, and so on.
Walking down the hall, I ran into John and he invited me to chat for a while. John Good, “the wood whisperer,” always has several new projects going with the goal of continuing innovation. I promised to keep a few of the most exciting things quiet for a while. One item I did see is a set made of Stradivari Legno, harvested from the same tiny forest where the wood used to make Stradivarius violins is sourced. I wanted to ask John a question about snare drums ever since my friend, Glen Sobel, tweeted that after deliberation he selected a DW 6½” bell brass snare drum for the tour he’s out playing on with Alice Cooper. I am trying to decide between brass and bronze. John explained DW’s bell brass snare reaches a little higher, which makes sense when the stage has several wailing electric guitars. DW’s bronze snare cuts through the same, with a slightly warmer tone.
There’s a room at DW called “the candy store” where some of the newest products and finishes are displayed. That’s where I ran into DW founder Don Lombardi. Don keeps improving the Drum Channel and promised we’ll be taping more episodes of The Hardcore Drum Hour soon!
That’s the show I did that’s dedicated to punk, indie and speed metal drummers. Don is, first and foremost, a drummer and he has a real passion for education. I told Don I’ve been studying with Freddy Gruber disciple Bruce Becker for nearly a year. Bruce has an amazing roster of students that includes guys just getting started as well as Grammy-winning drummers still looking to tweak their chops. We spoke about Freddy (Freddy was roommates with Buddy Rich in New York when they were both young drummers starting out). I mentioned to Don that a lot of what I’m working on with Bruce is structured and I was taking it on faith that this would eventually make me a better drummer. Don dropped Freddy wisdom that made everything clear: what you practice is what you practice, what you play is what you play. A cryptic line like that was vintage Freddy Gruber and it’s true! Don’t worry where repetitious hand exercises fit in your quest. Trust a good teacher that methodical moments invested with a monotonous metronome will magically materialize into making more quality music.
On the way out the door I bumped into Gil Sharone, who I recognized from the cover of MODERN DRUMMER MAGAZINE. Gil was excited he was picking up a brand new kit made of stainless steel. These are not metal wrapped wooden drums from the 70’s. Instead, the drums are made of 1.5mm steel shells. I had played DW stainless steels drums earlier that day in the “candy store,” imaging myself with a set and convincing myself I “needed” a stainless steel drum set because of how resonant and big they sound.
That was cool, Gil recognized me too and we grabbed a snapshot with 2 more amazing DW people, Steven Vega and Jerry Zacharias, of DW’s LP Latin Percussion division. I was playing DW drums long before my endorsement. The sturdiness of DW hardware and the projection of DW drums makes DW the choice of serious drummers.