Blackened

Shot the first coat of lacquer on the shells and hoops last night.

That’s my friend Henry Parker manning the HVLP rig.

Since last night, I went there on my lunch break and sanded the first coat while Henry sprayed a second coat.

I am trying to fill in the gaps on the hardware- still need to get a couple of things.

Patience….

the new bass drum pedal

Here are a couple of details I meant to mention in that first entry:

It didn’t seem right or prudent to play a calfskin head with an Iron Cobra ( m/ ), so I went and bought this:

Got one of those big, puffy lambswool beaters, too. Should have just the right sound, I think.

I plan on mounting a 40 watt lightbulb inside the shell to keep the calfskins warm and dry when it’s time to play. I’ll post photos once I figure out how the hell I am going to do that. It’ll probably be some variation on the “replace internal washer with structural metal” method that the May internal mics use.

I was thinking of using this to mount the rack tom to the kick drum:

the Maxwell consolette.

The kit is going to have two floor toms, and I just happen to have a stray Gretsch techware floor tom leg bracket, so I will probably copy what this guy did and do something like this with the 14″ tom:

I am going to put legs on the 14″ x 15″ floor tom.

back from the dead to tell you about…

the drum set I am building….

So…

It all started when my friend Will came by my studio with some drums he’d been a-tinkerin’ with.

He said “I want to make a kit like Levon Helm used to play.”

and he showed me this picture, or one like it:

and I said… “I can dig it.”

He told me, “I have three of the drums already, and oddly, they were made within a couple of days of each other at the Ludwig Factory.” and he showed me the drums, and they looked like this:

And I played them, and y’know, they sounded good. Actually, great.

So, I thought to myself…. “No one really cares if you mangle single-tension marching drums. I want to make myself a little kit of those, too. They’re all single ply, with single ply maple hoops. …Get some calfskin heads and some alligator shoes, I bet I could play for TOM WAITS…”

I was thinking, y’know, massive bass drum, some old-school toms and a wood-hooped snare. It’d be like playing a pirate kit… y’know, if pirates played jazz.

The first thing I went hunting for was a bass drum. There were a lot of cool single tension bass drums on eBay, but I kept missing them by a few dollars, and shipping was… rough. I lamented this to a friend of mine who said “Look here, son. I got an old Leedy bass drum out in the garage, I just bought it for the calfskin head for my other 28″ Leedy. You can have the drum.”

So we ran out there to have a look, and I said “Are you sure this is a 28″? It seems a little smaller than that.”

and he said “Yeah, I’m sure, because it’s bigger than a 26.”

“Well, yeah, it just seems smaller than a 28″ to me….” I said, so we measured it.

I am glad we didn’t put money on it. Because the drum is a 27″. No, really.

So, he got a little sad and said, “Well, I reckon you can have the heads, too.”

Well, now I have a lovely off-white, sort of cream colored bass drum, 27″ with calfskin heads and a cool painting of a naked lady on the front, and nickel hardware. I don’t have a photo of it all put together, because as soon as I got it home, I started messing with it.

I soaked the hardware and called Will and said “Hey, man…. I think I am a-gonna start buying some of those single-tension drums like you like.”

and he said “HUH? I CAN’T HEAR YA! I AM PLAYING MY NEW DRUMS I JUST BOUGHT!”

So I hollered “I said I THINK I AM GONNA BUY ME SOME OF THOSE SINGLE-TENSIO…”

and he said “IT’S NO USE, IT’S TOO LOUD IN HERE WITH THESE NEW DRUMS!! THEY ARE PRETTY RULIN’!! YOU WANNA BUY MY OLD LEVON DRUMS???”

and so it was, I drove over there couple days later, and I am now the proud owner of the Levon drums.

But, well, I like black drums. A lot. And I got to thinking maybe I could make all these drums the same color. I wasn’t really feeling the big French vanilla Leedy drum, and it didn’t have a badge, wasn’t the original color, all that, so I stared hitting them with some grain filler in preparation for shooting them with black piano lacquer.

Word to the wise: Don’t put grain filler on old paint. It’ll crackle like crazy and you’ll have to strip it after that.

Fortunately, the drum is one solid piece of mahogany, and it was a snap to get the old paint off.

(Now, I hear some of you purists crabbing already. There’s a million old Leedy bass drums out there that AREN’T 27″, so no one wants this drum more than me. If I ever do sell it, I will probably have to have had Remo make me some custom heads… this drum is going to be my own little white elephant, only it’ll be black lacquer. So… shadduppayouface. There’s a plenty of other Leedy bass drums in non-ridiculous sizes. Run along.)

Here’s the bass drum hardware:

and the snare drum hardware:

I was over at a friend’s house, the same friend who sold me the bass drum, and we were looking at his old Leedy bass drum, which was black lacquer, only it has copper hardware.

And I said, “I sure like the look of that.”

He said “Well, you can get just about anything copper plated if you know the right guy.”

So I did some hunting and found the right guy. Boy, did I. He did this drum in nickel plate for another drum geek:

Charlie Lockhart is his name, and I can give you his phone number.

I sent an email off to Charlie, and he sent me an estimate. And it was… a lot. But, that’s understandable, considering I am asking him to copper plate a whole kit.

So, I balked, told him I’d have to maybe catch him on the flippity-flop, because, well, I mean, that was a lot of money, etc…

Then I got to thinking about it, and I decided I’d wait and see. Get the kit lacquered, get the heads on it, and then see how it sounds. It is sounds like a million bucks, then it’s worth getting that hardware copper plated. Otherwise, it’s Cape Cod cloths and coffee and just do it, do it, do it until it’s all done, live with a little flaky chrome and yellow nickel here and there…

if it sounds like a dream, though, I am going to get the copper hardware.

SO, this week, it’s been grain fill and sand, grain fill and sand, repeat, ad nauseum.

Three of the drums are ready to shoot, now, though. Here they are, all masked off:

Tomorrow the bass drum and the biggest tom get a final buffing with 320 grit sandpaper, then they get the masking tape and newsprint treatment.

After that, it’ll be time to wait for a sub-50% humidity day in Georgia summer.

Wish me luck!

This is where metal is going

You should check out the live footage of the Baroness show from the Bowery Ballroom.  I dig these guys.  Their idea of metal is much closer, I think, to Can than it is to someone like, say, Megadeath.  I think it’s a lot more interesting, this sort of improvisational metal.  However, it can get a little too proggy for me at times, and I get Black Flag cravings. I definitely think it’s sort of a ‘metal-fans-only’ genre, this weird new byzantine jammy metal, but it’s a nice break…     

The drummers’ sushi roundtable

Over edamame, spicy tuna rolls and Kirin last night, I was fortunate enough to find myself alone at a table with Hugo Burnham and Curtis Crowe, the drummers of Gang of Four and Pylon, respectively. (You can read a fantastic interview with Hugo at Gordon Lamb’s excellent music blog.)

I don’t mind telling you that I was a little awestruck. You won’t find two drummers more responsible for the entire rhythmic element of dancepunk and a huge slice of ’80s pop music. I found myself reflecting on the difference in their styles- Curtis is more of a linear powerhouse drummer. He’s very straightforward and his style is muscular and propulsive with open highhat on the and of one and three that would sound fey if any other drummer did it. Somehow Curtis makes it both danceable and brawler tough. He’s not prone to any sort of eggheaded Mastah Drummah frippery. He just drives the beat like a tractor. Hugo has the same powerful impulse, but he tempers it with a very English drummer/post-ska swing. He has all the effusive force of Curtis’ playing, but his style also has a bit of understatement- a kind of subtle extension of the fact that he’s a complete gentleman. Unfortunately, I have never seen them play back-to-back.

Hugo was in town to DJ between sets at Pylon’s show at the 40 Watt last night, and my understanding is that he’s no longer messing around with Gang of Four. Evidently, there have been some bad management decisions and (once again) the best thing to do was to quit while he was ahead.

My favorite moment last night was when Hugo and Curtis were comparing “My kids dig my band” stories. Curtis’ son came to one of the recent Pylon reunion shows and sat with his cousin while the band played, watching intently. Of course, the rest of the bar did what people do at a Pylon show, which is jump up and down and dance like crazy people. Curtis kept trying to get a read on what his son (who was 14 at the time) was thinking, but from behind the kit, it was impossible to see too clearly what Stacy’s reactions were. After the show, Curtis was driving home and Stacy said “Dad, you’re in an AWESOME party band.”

Curtis said it was the best review he’d ever gotten.

Hugo, on the other hand, said that his highest moment was at the first big Go4 comeback show in London, after they’d played two encores, and they came out to do their last bows to a RAPTUROUS crowd in a sweat-soaked, completely packed London club. The fans were completely beside themselves, and Hugo was giving them one final wave when his lovely young daughter ran out onstage and leapt into his arms. Hugo told me “…and then the audience just went COMPLETELY insane. I walked up to the mic and said my last goodnight and carried my daughter offstage. It was fantastic.”

I have new drums

By the way, I don’t think I have posted photos of my new drums here yet.

Well, here they are….

I am not sexy enough to deserve these drums.

Back in the saddle

Well, kids, you’re not gonna believe this, but I am going to be drumming for the Psychedelic Furs on their upcoming US Tour.

Ain’t that a gas?

My friend Hugo who plays drums for Gang of Four was supposed to be doing this tour, but his family back in England needed him badly, so he’s going home.

The Furs management called me today and asked me if I could do it, and I said “HELL yes.”

So we’re working out documentation and income tax stuff… I fly out to start rehearsals on Sunday night.

And I am gonna blog the whole thing here.  Yeah.

Who do you want to make your stuff?

and are you willing to pay the difference in price?

This is footage shot inside the Zildjian plant. They make thousands of cymbals a week. Amazing technology for making perfect cymbals:

and this is Robert Spizzichino, artisan cymbal maker from Italy:

I like Spizz’s cymbals a lot, but they’re not durable enough to be Music Hates You cymbals…

Maybe if i played more of this kind of stuff:

A Little Bit About the Low Lows

the band with whom I am going to Europe is The Low Lows, and here is a brief excerpt from an email I sent SteveAudio last week when I got the news that I was onboard:

melancholy rock band the Low Lows have asked me to be their drummer on their upcoming European tour. I will be “On the Continent” for a month playing very Velvet Underground-ish beats behind their sort of Sparklehorse-y melodic drone. It’s interesting- it’s a HUGE step away from MHY… their music calls for the Moe Tucker sort of rumble and bash, but even MORE austere… a style I am referring to as “LESS Tucker.”

There is also an element of a battered existentialist cowboy ethos to tracks like “Miss November,” “Tigers” and “Five Ways.”

I am going to email Parker and ask if I can post a couple of songs here so that you folks can get a little taste.