Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Not taking your health for granted--Part 1 By Lee Kelley

When anyone sets out to be a musician, there is one thing that doesn’t really come to the forefront of the thought process…Personal health. Because being a musician is a somewhat taxing physical career and we just barrel through days, weeks and years of gigs, we tend to follow the mentality of “the show must go on.” Think about how many gigs you have played with a cold, flu, a muscle pulled or torn, or even worse. Sometimes your health is as such that the show cannot go on but may have to go on without you. So,what happens when you have spent years playing only to have a health issue come up that is unavoidable and has to be dealt with, even at the cost of having to step away from playing for a bit? This is what happened to me during the back half of 2008.
It all started innocently enough with a day on the lake in early August. In the latter half of the afternoon, we were hanging out with friends from my fiancée, Denay’s,job. We decided to go cliff jumping on one of the islands. Well, I decided to take a jump from the highest point of about 42 feet. Probably not one of the smartest decisions, you know? I jumped,and instead of landing straight in the water(Perpendicular), I landed at a slight angle. This felt like my lower back was slammed against a concrete floor, knocking the wind out of me in the process.
Once I came back to the water’s surface, I knew something was wrong. My back was in very intense pain and my mobility was limited due to that discomfort. I slowly got back to the boat with a little help,and someone pulling me part of the way with their jet ski. Denay and friends helped get me back on the boat and seated, but I knew this was really bad. I got our jet ski back from the friend riding, slowly got it back to the launch, got it on the trailer, towed it back to our house and unhooked the trailer….all while in extreme pain.
I made my way into the house and upstairs to lie down and wait for Denay to get home from where they were parked at the local marina. Every little movement shot pain through my back,and down my legs. I got as comfortable as possible (no easy feat) with 3 pillows to support my lower back. My fiancée got home and had some back and body medicine for me so I took the pills and sat back hoping for my back to have a bit of relief.
That relief did not come in 1, 2, 3 or 4 hours, even with extra medicine. The pain got worse and my body became stiffer, to the point of screaming at almost any movement. With a road trip for two shows with Mark Chesnutt, my main artist gig at the time, coming up the following weekend, I made the choice to call the band leader, Slim Yamaguichi, and try to set up a substitute for those shows dependant on what my doctor’s prognosis was the following day.
I made an appointment with my physician, Dr. Michael Beckham, the next morning to see him that afternoon. He decided it was a severe sprain, put me on some prescription medication and suggested that I sub out the upcoming gigs to let my back get better. With what would have amounted to roughly 42 hours on a bus (just under 2700 miles), setting up, playing a couple of 2 hour shows and tearing down Dr. Beckham strongly advised against my trying to make it. I went home, got in touch with Slim, subbed the gigs out, took some medication and prepared to just rest and let my back heal.
A couple days into this I noticed a strange development. One of my inguinal hernias that I had as an infant looked like it had ruptured. Upon another trip to Dr. Beckham, he pointed me toward Dr. John Boskind to have it examined. Sure enough,
my suspicions were correct. Luckily it wasn’t serious enough to need to be repaired right then. I went back home to rest for another week or so before having to be back on the road. I just had to make sure to not strain myself or lift anything heavy.
After a couple of weeks of working both in town, on the road and my back feeling a little better, my hernia was beginning to irritate me a little more; nothing too painful, just uncomfortable. I decided then it was time to get with Dr. Boskind about getting it put back in place. Scheduling the surgery for a month or so later, I went back to playing and continued to avoid any overly strenuous activity. I also went over this situation with Chesnutt’s band leader to arrange for a substitute in order for me to spend 2 weeks, of the recommended 4, healing from the surgery.
The last run I would make with them started on September 18th, 2008 and went for the next 14 days. In those 14 days, we would travel a total of 6,500 miles and play 6 gigs….2 in Texas, 3 in California and 1 in Washington State. During this run, my discomfort continued and I can safely say between the ridiculous amount of travel with minimal gigs, my growing frustration of working for an organization with no progressive thinking,and with no control over that, along with the pain, discomfort, medication (prescribed, over the counter and extracurricular), it didn’t make me the most pleasant person to be around, to say the least. I was looking forward to getting on with the surgery and healing process and subbed out the next two road gigs over two weeks. I also decided to take a full month off from any in town work that was a regular thing,or that came up.
The operation day came and went without much of a hitch. I then kicked back to let it heal as the pain and discomfort was quite something to deal with. Just going through the days as lightly as possible and taking the medications required by the doctor. I would only take the prescribed medications as directed and no more, trying to wean myself off of them slowly as I realized during this process how easy it would be to become addicted to the pain killers given to me. I did however notice myself getting a bit winded from simple things like walking upstairs in our house. I just figured that was due to the surgery I just went through and expected it to clear up as I healed; more on that later.
The following weekend, my second weekend off the road, Denay decided to do some painting in the kitchen and I was feeling somewhat well enough to try and do some light work. Not only in weight, but we literally had a couple of new lights to replace the old ones outside our front and back entrances. It was a pretty nice day. A warm day in October, but not too hot, I decided to give it a shot since it didn’t seem too strenuous to hang a light or two.
It began all well and good. Got about 2/3rds through the project and got extremely winded and dizzy. I sat down on the patio for a minute thinking it was just momentary, but a cold sweat broke out and Denay insisted I go inside and lie down, as I probably should not have been doing it to begin with. A couple hours later I felt better and finished that one, but figured I better call Chesnutt’s band leader to discuss my stamina concerns.
I called Slim on October 12th to discuss my issues and concerns with him, how I would be coming back on the 18th, but would still need a good bit of help getting my kit up and down. Upon this call, Slim informed me that Chesnutt and his management had decided to make a change,with me being let go. In other words, I am fired while healing from hernia surgery. As I stated before, I was not the easiest person to travel,or play with at this point, so I can’t say I blame them really.
This was, however, quite a shock as anyone can imagine. Luckily for me, my family was amazingly supportive. They have all understood the precarious and bohemian lifestyle of a musician, especially my fiancée. While I couldn’t really see the forest for the trees, so to speak, she immediately believed, without a shadow of a doubt, this change was something that should be taken for great advantage. She was right.
Denay said not to worry and take the actual 4 weeks to heal. After that time, get back to playing my local gigs, slowly get back in the loop for more road work, but most importantly, just look forward to the joy of our upcoming wedding the following month. Sounded great to me.

Part 2 next month....

Monday, June 15, 2009

Evans Artist Spotlight:Tommy Igoe-Birdland Big Band

NAME: Tommy Igoe

AGE: Older than Tony Royster and younger than Yoda.

CURRENT JOB(S): Music Director and leader of the Birdland Big Band. Principal Drummer and conductor of The Lion King on Broadway.


THE EARLY YEARS: (some information on where you grew up, where you studied, degree(s) earned)
Grew up in Emerson New Jersey. Studied piano and drums.

ONE THING YOU ARE PRACTICING RIGHT NOW IS: One thing? There’s a lot more than one, but I guess I’ve been partial to the Linear Time Playing book lately by Gary Chaffee because it’s always a mentally stimulating challenge.

MY PLAYLIST OF “TOP (5) SONGS” WOULD INCLUDE: this is an impossible task!

Adagio for Strings
Fool in the Rain
West Side Story (all of it)
La Fiesta
Beethoven Piano Sonata

QUICK PRACTICE TIP: Relax, Breathe and videotape

WORST NON-MUSIC RELATED JOB, DESCRIBE: Meat packer at ShopRite during high school. Title says it all…

HOBBIES INCLUDE: cooking, martial arts and lusting after cars I have no business looking at. You know, like late model Lamborghinis. I can’t help myself…


I had three educator/mentors who influenced me greatly during what is typically a very influential time in a young man’s life. You know, that period between 14 to 18 years old; those years can set you up for success or disaster. These three mentors, Darryl Bott, Dennis Delucia and my father, Sonny Igoe, showed me the way. By example, their obvious passion for what they did was to become the guiding light for my career. You see, they showed me the most important thing of all: That it is okay to give your all—everything you have— to music. That teaching, playing, writing, performing, all deserve everything you’ve got, every time. In fact, don’t waste your time if you aren’t going to dedicate every ounce of yourself into the art. Because, that’s what it takes to make art worthy of an audience. I thank them often as I go through my musical adventures.


I went behind the Iron Curtain in 1983. My first trip overseas and it was to be probably the most amazing. I went to Poland. Not the Poland we all know now, the old Poland. The beaten down and absued by the Soviet system Poland. Everything was grey. Everything. No color. But the people… Joyous! Full of life and energy! We played a concert (The Glenn Miller Band) that contained a lot of WWII era music and they were weeping openly. Men and Women. The music we played was smuggled in during the war. The people there had a connection to the music I couldn’t even begin to comprehend. An emotional connection that formed who they were. I’ll never forgot the feeling, the privilege, of playing for that audience.


Something with law enforcement. I think there is something inherently honorable about trying to keep people safe and “getting the bad guys”. I know that’s a naïve way to look at law enforcement in our complex world but I can’t help it: I still have a 5-year olds outlook on the matter. Get the bad guy and we win! One can dream…

Additional Media:

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Dave Mattacks Discusses Snare Drum Sounds

Ask ten drummers what they’re looking for in a snare drum sound & you’ll likely get ten different answers. The usual descriptions often come up "Fat /Big" etc., but when one digs beneath the surface, especially if one has been doing this for a while,those replies can get very detailed. I think that with few exceptions,"Tone" is relatively high on everyone’s agenda & while we (hopefully) all agree that there’s no substitute for a great touch, having a basic handle on not only the ability to tune a drum well but to understand the effect different heads have is important. It’s worth spending a few minutes reading up on the different characteristics.

For me & the snare drum sound I’m after, it’s usually a 300 Opaque on the bottom & a G1 Coated or Power Center Reverse Dot on top. I’m learning that the drum is the thing that makes the different sound ; occasionally I’ll "Amplify" a snare’s tendencies with an appropriate head - for example an EC2 coated or an ST Dry on an (already)dry-sounding snare, but typically I’ll put on the heads listed above. What’s important here is consistency from head-to-head ; if you have two supposedly identical 14” batter heads that simply aren’t ( like some manufacturers) your reference point gets blurred.

It’s also really important to get decent snare wires. I use Puresound and they have a staggering array from which to chose (dry / wet – wide / narrow) so you can take that snare drum further in the direction it’s already headed. And if you haven’t "Got This" already, be very careful how you actually set the wires up. Too close to one side or the other &/or with only the slightest twist [ on the horizontal plane ] & you’re not making the most of your investment !

Finally, to re-iterate, how you strike it is probably more important than anything - & that doesn’t mean “ how hard you can hit it “ either. Good luck !

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Phil Rudd-Less Is More (Cliched, but true ! )

"Less Is More" You've heard that so many times, that it's become a cliche, right ? Well, I have to say that it can't be more true, in my opinion, especially when it comes to "Commercial Drumming"(that is, songs that will make it to rotation on commercial radio.) Legends like Ringo Starr, & Charlie Watts have come to personify this philosophy to most players.However, on the heavier (yet still quite commercially viable) side, the one name that personifies this for me is Phil Rudd (Full name :Phillip Hugh Norman Witschke Rudzevecuis-You try to pronounce it correctly, I can't !) of AC/DC.

I discovered AC/DC in 1979,at the age of 13, & my intense enjoyment & love of this band continues to this day. At that age, I was so "Wide Eyed& Eared" to everything that I was exposed to in that magical year. Having been playing drums for about 3 years at that point, I soaked up everything I heard & saw. While I was fascinated by the complexity, & difficulty of Neal Peart for instance(who wasn't, right ?), I was equally captivated by the "Deceptive Simplicity" of Phil Rudd.

Having been aware of the name AC/DC through advertisements in the music press of the day(Circus/Creem/Hit Parader/Rock Scene magazines,etc), & all important "Word Of Mouth" I had yet to actually hear them. I knew they were just one of many, many "Cool Bands" that it was imperative for me to discover. A guy that I was in my first band with bought(he was 2 years older than I, & had a paper route!) their then new "Highway To Hell" album. He called me one day, & was frantic on the phone saying "Steve, you've GOT TO come over as soon as you can, you MUST hear this band !! " Our next rehearsal was later that week, so as soon as I was dropped off at his house, we raced upstairs to his room, & slapped H.T.H. on his turntable.(yes, glorious vinyl, folks !) Within literally 30 seconds of hearing the title track, I was absolutely transfixed ! While I knew the pattern that Phil was playing was within my grasp, there was something about the feel & the sound that left me slack jawed ! Needless to say, we immediately attempted to add H.T.H. to our very sparse & limited repertoire of songs. Easier said than done ! After attempting about 1/4 of the song, the other two guys(2 guitars, no bass!) stopped the song & said "That doesn't sound like the album, Steve" I was frustrated by that comment, as I knew they were right ! All I could come up w/ as a retort, was "Well, I'll never be as good as that guy !! " 30 years later, that's still quite true !! HAA !

You must take into consideration that this was WAY before the internet, & all that was available was pictures in the aforementoned magazines,etc. So information on things like gear, were very hard to come by. I say that because this was also the time period that I began my almost life-long obsession w/Sonor drums & hardware. The first pic. I saw of Phil's kit was of the beautiful Oak finish "Phonic" kit that he used on the H.T.H. tour. The sizes were 22", 12"13",14"16" F.T. & 18" F.T. I have since found an almost identical kit in the same finish, but w/the sizes 24"(always my preferred B.D. size, by the way) 13",14",16"18" w/ a matching 8" snare ! If I had a 12" tom, it would be almost exact ! (Yes, I have been scouring EBAY to no avail !) One of the things I found peculiar, was the way Phil muffled his rack toms. He had Gaffer tape on each resonant head in a sort of crescent moon shape. While I personally loathe any kind of dampening on toms, I have to say that his drums sounded quite unique to me. I still feel that way when I frequently spin (there's another vinyl reference, folks !) AC/DC's older albums. A great track for Phil's then "Signature" tom sound is "Walk All OVer You" from Highway To Hell. The fills in the intro are just so....PERFECT ! The sound is of course a combination of gear/room/player, & the incredible production talents of Robert John "Mutt" Lange, who would later go on to much success w/Def Leppard, among many,many others. The kit he's using here is what was used on the "Powerage" tour the previous year, & are the same sizes, in the Mahogany finish. The muffling is curiously absent, assuming that it was deemed unnecessary for the video, since no audio was being recorded.

I got to see AC/DC for the first time in 12/81 at N.Y.'s "Madison Square Garden", whilst touring for the "For Those About To Rock...We Salute You" album from the same year. (How I missed the "Back In Black" tour the previous year, I don't know ! And, tickets were a mere $8.00, w/ Ronnie Montrose' "Gamma" opening !!)Naturally, I was glued to Phil the whole show ! The first thing I noticed was "What happened to all his toms? " Phil had removed his 12" & 14" toms, & moved the 13" tom up to the position previously held by the 12". The 16" & 18" F.T.'s were left intact. That configuration stands to this day.

Just how much Phils unique "Feel" was missed is evident on the recordings & tours he was not a part of. Phil left the band just after the recording of the "Flick Of The Switch" album from 1983. I'm still not exactly sure why that transpired. His replacement, Simon Wright(another Evans endorsee, & great guy !) was absolutely the right choice for the band at that time. While there are minor sylistic differences between Phil & Simon, the overall sound of the band was left pretty much intact. The major change in the sound of the band came upon Simon's departuare in 1989.

His replacement was Chris Slade, best known at the time as a member of "The Firm" the partnership between Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin) & Paul Rodgers (Bad Co.) in 1985&'86. While I always thought of Chris as a great player, what he brought to AC/DC didn't fit, in my opinion. The commercial success of "The Razors Edge" (1990) & the subsequent document of that tour, "Live" (1992) are undeniable, but the change was too great, to my ears. That is a matter of some debate amongst AC/DC devotees, so I'll leave my opinion at that.

All was right again in 1994, when Phil returned to the fold. 3 more albums, & world tours followed w/"Ballbreaker" (1995), "Stiff Upper Lip" (2000) & the excellent "Black Ice" (2008). I began "Chasing" Phil's long time tech, Dick Jones in 2002, & I didn't let up until things finally fell into place in 2008, & Phil tried Evans Drumheads, & became an endorsee ! Phil & Dick settled on the EQ2 batter for the B.D., clear EC2, & EC Resonant for the toms, EC Reverse Dot, & Hazy 300, & PureSound "Blasters"for the snare. Speaking of the EC Rev. Dot, that was the head that sealed the deal w/Phil. He said : "This head feels no pain". Apparently, longevity of the snare batter during a show has been an ever-present issue in the past. Not anymore !The Gaffer tape on the toms is long gone, but Phil's sound is still his sound, & Evans is there w/him all the way !

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A new pair of shoes part 1

I remember as a kid getting a new pair of shoes. It didn't really matter what brand they were, they just seemed to make me faster. I always think about asking my Dad to time me, to see how long it would take me to run around the house. He was usually there when I got back, and he would tell me that I had topped my old record and it had to be the shoes. It's the same with fresh heads. How many of us feel that our drums are not performing properly after weeks and months of playing without changing the very target of our abuse? Drum heads are plastic and are not meant to last forever. Like sneakers, tires, underwear, toothbrushes, and the comedy of Robin Williams, old drum heads need to be thrown out and replaced. I have the great honor of hosting 20-30 drum tuning nights a year in some of the finest drum shops in the US. It's amazing to me that while the talk about batter heads is fairly well received and nods of approval are quite common, but when the subject of changing resonant heads comes up and i recommend changing resonant tom heads every third time you change the batter, I become Frankenstein's Monster and the villagers are looking for torches and wooden rakes. The fact is, all of your tone is coming from the bottom head. Typically to get a fuller and warmer sound, the bottom head will be tuned higher, to bounce the vibration from the top head back up like a trampoline. The top head being looser will vibrate slower and allow to sound to die out without losing tone. Think of Matt Chamberlain on Edie Brickel's "Mama Help Me". The general feeling is that bottom heads don't get hit, so they don't need to be changed. The bottom head being tighter is vibrating at a higher rate than the batter causing the molecular structure of the plastic to break down, thus leading to a decrease in tone. Think of it as the soles of your shoes going smooth.
New heads mean a new or updated sound and allow for greater tuning range than worn heads. I have found that I have more confidence when I present myself better than normal, this falls into my rule of a shower every Thursday, whether I need it or not.
I have been building drums and tuning professionally for over a decade and dealt with a lot of inconsistencies with heads. I can honestly say that Evans has been a huge step in being able to find a sound and duplicate it consistently. My new pair of shoes is the G Plus. The G Plus is a 12 mil head but still a single ply. I get a very warm tone that holds up for me, better than a regular 10 mil head. Since I am such a huge fan of warm, organic tom sounds, I have started using the coated G Plus on the bottom head as well. I use thin shells. Thinner shells vibrate more than thick shells and have a longer voice. Adding 12 mil heads top and bottom darkens the tone and when combined with a thin shell, lengthens the note. I have looked for a head combination for years and have gotten close with coated G1's, but The G Plus allows me to do this every time. Please take the time to check out the site and find your sound at
I am still that kid with the new shoes. I run around the house every time to try something new to see if I am faster. I feel better and play better with fresh heads. When you make the investment in your gear, you invest in your sound and your skill. This is a new day and there are so many ways to improve your sound with Evans drum heads. Who knows, maybe my dad will time you.

My re-introduction to Evans

My first set of drums was a Mickey Mouse “kit” that my parents bought me when I was about 7 years old. I think they were tired of me hammering on our pots and pans while they listened to their Led Zeppelin and Chicago records. I can still remember the picture of Mickey on the front bass drum head, playing a guitar and dressed up like someone from the Monkees during their heyday in the early 70’s. Man, that makes me feel old…..

Obviously, time passed, the Mickey Mouse drums found their way to the garbage after wearing out, and I joined the school band. I hammered around the percussion section while there, and got my first real kit soon after that. I now clearly remember that at that point I didn’t even realize drum heads could be changed…replaced. That they wore out after awhile.

Fast forward to 1985. While in high school, I was still heavily involved with drumming, from rock bands to musicals, and from community orchestras to drum corps to symphonic wind ensembles. I was also becoming more aware of various drum equipment available, as most drum geeks eventually do. I was using drum heads from another major drum head manufacturer at that time because that was all I knew. That brand of drum heads also seemed to be the only brand that the local music stores stocked.

When I discovered that my favorite drum hero was using Evans, I thought I would give them a try. He was using Evans Hydraulics in red, because his kit was red, so I tried them in blue, since my kit was blue! Why not? I had to special order them from my favorite local music dealer since they didn’t have them in stock, but I eventually got them.

The sound I got was what I expected out of Hydraulics; The deep “thud” that easily characterizes their signature sound due to the light coating of linseed oil between the two plies. I loved them because my drum hero used them. As far as I was concerned, I was now officially COOL because I was using some drum gear that this immortal drum god was using. Surely, I was well on my way to being a superstar too, right?

You see?? Product endorsements DO work!

I discovered, however, that the Hydraulics lost that “sound” fairly quickly. If I remember correctly, I tried blue Hydraulics one more time when a friend of mine got me a new set for my birthday. After some time however, I eventually went back to the drum heads I previously knew and was comfortable with, and kept it that way for awhile.

Although my mother wanted me to be a dentist (or something like that), I eventually went off to college in 1987 as a music business major at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell. I remember my parents didn’t really understand what I was going to do with a music degree. In fact, years later, my father admitted to me that, at the time I had made my little announcement that I wanted to major in music in college, he felt he was going to be supporting me for the rest of his life…..however, they supported me in my decision, and off I went.

Fortunately, it didn’t work out that way. I was able to earn a living in the music products business and was eventually hired in 1998 as a district manager for the Yamaha Corporation of America, calling on dealer accounts throughout New England and upstate New York. See, mom? See, dad? I TOLD you I could make a living in the music business!

It was at about this time that I learned another large and respected company within the music products industry, D’Addario, had begun to branch out beyond manufacturing strings, of which the company was best known for. I was interested to discover that the company had purchased Evans, moved it from Dodge City to New York, and was now under full control of manufacturing the heads, along with employing a massive research and development effort to make them better than ever, in terms of consistency and high quality construction processes. As a drummer, this interested me greatly.

In the years prior that had passed (late 80’s to mid 90’s), I had become more aware of the sound I was trying to achieve behind my kit, as all drummers who gain a certain level of experience do. I had tried a number of different types of heads from a few different manufacturers while gigging quite steadily throughout this time period, which gave me ample opportunity to “audition” any heads I wanted to try out. I admit that Evans was, at that time, not on my radar. My previous experience with them while I was in high school made me feel there was perhaps no reason to go back. They weren’t all that heavily promoted within the dealer community at that time either, making the heads difficult to try and discuss with dealers’ sales staff members. Evans was, at least for me at that time, “out of sight, out of mind.”

In early 2001, I was calling on a dealer near Cape Cod. The store owner had just installed a new Evans display full of heads. I needed some new heads at that time, and I felt by looking at the display and the great things I had begun to hear about Evans that I would perhaps get reacquainted to them…a “re-introduction” to these heads, as it were, from the original time I had tried them back in the mid 80’s. Fortunately, this dealer had a percussion specialist who was able to answer all of my questions. After concluding my business with the dealer, I spoke with this staff member at length about what I was looking for in a drum sound. We carefully went through each drum head offering they had on their display, and after quite a bit of discussion, I decided to go with clear G2s for my tom batter heads, clear resonant heads for my tom bottoms (very important!), coated EMADs for my bass drums, and a simple coated G1 for my snare drum. Armed with my new set of heads, I got home and put them on my Yamaha Beech Custom kit that I had had for a couple of years.

I never looked back after that.

The sound and feel I experienced was tremendous. The consistency of each head was, in my opinion, as good as one could expect. I was getting plenty of cut and warmth out of the tom heads (8” to 16”), ample “crack” from the snare, and a sound from the EMAD bass drum heads that has, literally, changed the way that we now think as drummers of achieving our ultimate bass drum sounds. All heads I had tried before offered something, but also left me wanting something. These specific models of Evans heads on my kit left me wanting nothing. I had found what I was looking for.

Fast forward to 2006. After a number of years of working in the industry, I was now given the opportunity to work with D’Addario…that same respected company that was manufacturing those exceptional drum heads that I had been reintroduced to about five years earlier. I took that opportunity and, again, haven’t looked back since. Sometimes, I simply cannot believe how fortunate I have been working in this business. D’Addario simply continues the journey for me.

D’Addario has done amazing things in the world of drum head manufacturing. Without question, the bar has been raised, and, from being on “the inside,” I can tell you the future looks even brighter. I encourage all drummers out there reading this to continue to keep your eye on the future of Evans. We have many more exciting things planned…stay tuned…!

Monday, March 30, 2009

A Chance to See the World

As I boarded my flight from JFK to Frankfurt last night to attend my 10th Frankfurt Music Messe, I couldn't help but reflect on the international travel I've done over the past 10 years. Compared to many, 10-years of international, or Frankfurt Music Messe attendance is not so much, but for me it is a bit of a milestone.

Over the past 10 years, I've had the chance to visit the following countries (listed somewhat geographically as to not tax my memory too much):

New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Philippines, Taiwan, China, South Korean, Japan, Russia, India, U.A.E., U.K., Ireland, France, Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Poland, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Canada, Mexico, Guatemala, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay.

I've been slipped a "mickey" in Bangkok, Thailand; abandoned at the airport in Jakarta, Indonesia, and most recently I was in Siberia, Russia in November! I've also seen so many beautiful cities, met fantastic artists, outstanding businessmen, and great people! While the cultures of the world are fascinatingly different, the love and joy of music is universal.

As a young drummer (aspiring to be a percussionist) growing up in the corn field of Central Illinois (Sullivan, Illinois to be specific), I had aspirations of playing professionally and teaching at the university level. And, while that didn't work out as planned after graduating from Millikin University with a music business degree, and Northwestern with a masters in percussion, I couldn't have had a more wonderful and enriching professional life! After working for the Percussive Arts Society and Yamaha Corporation of America, my opportunity to do business internationally started in 1999 when I was at SABIAN. Since then with SABIAN, SKB, and now with D'Addario I continue to travel internationally.

As the wheels touched down last this morning, I couldn't help but reflect. There are more countries I'd love to travel too. What ones have I missed that you'd recommend?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

New Evans Products @ Dom Famularo's Studio


On Fri. 2/13 (Friday The 13th. ! Haa !) I ventured out to Port Jefferson, N.Y. to Dom Famularo's residence. As some of you know, Dom now hosts a live, interactive online Master Class, live from the new studio on his property. The studio is essentially an "Out Building" recently erected in his back yard. Inside, it's very roomy, climate controlled, & essentially a drummers dream, as it's filled w/gear, a computer, video monitors, a camera, practice pad set ups, etc. A very comfortable, well lit place to make music!

There, I outfitted the 2 Mapex Orion kits (identical configurations of 10", 12", 14", and 16" toms, 14" snare, and 22" bass) with the newest products that Evans now has to offer. Those include the Onyx tom heads, which are two 7.5 mil plys w/ a matte, satin coating. The Onyx EMAD, which is a single ply 10 mil in the same black film & coating,along w/ the Onyx Resonant (single ply 7 mil w/ a dampening ring, & a 5" off center port) & the EC 1 Reverse Dot, which is a 14 mil single ply w/the EC (Edge Control) ring, & a perforated dot. I mated the Onyx batters w/ clear G1's on the resonant side of the 10" & 12", and the "EC Resonant" on the underside of the 14" and 16".

The EC1 R.D. was mated w/ the trusty Hazy 300 (always my choice) & a set of Puresound Blasters 20 strand snare wires...always my choice as well, for every snare I own (and I own about 20 at this point). There's something about the way the end plates are shaped...bent to bow the wires into the head more...that seems to give more response & tone. It's not a night and day difference compared to the Custom Series, but it's enough to notice, I think.

I was very curious about how the Onyx heads would sound & feel, as I usually utilize the MX White" tenor heads (2 x 7.5 mil plys) as tom batters. Not the norm I know, but anyone who knows me will tell you that I rarely go with what most players deem normal, to say the least !

Since they are both 2- 7.5 mil plys, I thought they'd be very similar, but they're really not. Comparatively, the MX White are more "Warm" in tone, overall, and with less attack. The Onyx had noticeably more brightness compared to the MX White, but not to the point where it was undesirable. However, compared to the G2 or the EC2, the ONYX are noticeably darker sounding. The matte, textured coating makes for an interesting visual, as well. Overall, these are definitely for heavier hitters, but will really work for just about any style short of jazz. After a couple of weeks with the heads, Dom commented that "The black Onyx heads on both drum sets sound fantastic. I was so amazed at the full sound with each tom. My students have been so inspired to play the kits even more than usual. They smile when they play! Again, Evans sets a high standard on innovation!"

Since it's debut, the EC Reverse Dot has been my snare batter of choice and is my absolute favorite designated snare head that I've ever tried, and that Evans has ever made! That being said, the EC1 Reverse Dot is absolutely great! The sound is similar to the EC Reverse Dot, but how it feels is the main difference that I noticed. Just like the EC1 tom batter (single ply, 14 mil) feels different from the EC2 tom batter (2- 7 mil plys), there is the same difference in feel w/ these snare batters. They're a little more firm than a G1 or even the Power Center, but they still feel like single-ply heads should...providing a little more stick rebound and more give than a 2-ply. Compared to most single-ply heads, however, users will be well rewarded w/increased durability and overtone control.

The EMAD Onyx reacted pretty much like the original EMAD, but with a little more punch and a darker sound. It's easy to immediately fall in love with the EMAD, which I did back in 2001, when it debuted. In my (and many other players) opinion, your bass drum will sound like it never did before with the installation of this amazing batter head. I installed the AF (Aramid Fiber) patch as well. It's unrivaled in durability, and adds some "Slap". I usually play in un-miced situations with a wood beater that's been cut down at an angle, so as to maximize the impact by getting the full width of the beater to strike the head. The AF patch has not let me down yet!

I always play with an un-ported resonant head, so it's hard for me to comment definitively on any sonic relevance that the matte coating produces on the Onyx Resonant. To me, it was more of an aesthetic thing. You simply rarely see a matte finish bass drum resonant head, and it just plain looks cool!

There was also a concert snare and a marching snare in the studio, as well. Those were outfitted with a Strata Staccato 1000 and an Orchestral 300 for the concert snare, and the Hybrid batter and the MX5 resonant for the marching snare.

Credit must go to two of Dom's students who were gracious enough to give of their time to help with the stripping & installation of all drums. That would be Jimmy Scott, & Jake Sommers, two seriously talented young players who you will be surely hearing more about in the future! I also must mention the contribution of Rick Drumm (D'Addario President) who helped out with the maintenance of the Orchestral & Marching snares.

So, tune into Dom's master classes to get an idea of what all these heads sound like in a "Real World" application. You are sure to learn something from all the great players that will be participating in these classes.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

For the Love of the Music

For the Love of the Music
D’Addario is fortunate to have a large number of associates in various jobs throughout our company that still play their instruments professionally or for personal enjoyment. Starting with CEO Jim D’Addario (guitar), President Rick Drumm (drums), Fretted/Planet Waves product manager Brian Vance (guitar), Evans product manager Mike Robinson (drums), Rico product manager Robert Polan (oboe), Custom Install manager Robert D’Addario (drums), Rob Cunningham (guitar), VP Sales & Marketing David Via (drums) are but a few of the musicians we have. They have very full time positions and responsibilities that encompass the design, manufacture, marketing and sales of D’Addario strings, Evans drumheads, Rico reeds and Planet Wave accessories yet they still play. First and foremost, they play for the love of the music. Also, because we are still active musically, we keep a deep connection to those performing and teaching the music as well as their equipment needs. We not only have the inner passion to play music, we have the desire to make better products for everyone that shares our passion.

This past year I had the opportunity to play with jazz saxophonist Frank Catalano on a number of occasions. I have attached a YouTube link to a gig we did at the Hollywood Highland Center this past June. I also had the opportunity to play the Peaks Jazz Festival with a tremendously talented group of high school musicians in the Crescent Super Band. Here is the links to a couple of the tunes we performed. It was great to see the level of commitment and the love these kids have for the music.

Whether you play professionally, semi-professionally or just for your own enjoyment, know that we understand your desire and passion. The musicians at D’Addario are committed to continually creating new and better products that help you realize your musical dreams.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

In the EARS of the Beholder

I've been visiting the popular drum forums lately and doing my best to answer questions and give some insight behind the design and function of Evans products. It's always interesting to read about the various experiences people have with products and the perceptions that develop as a result...both the good and bad.

One example that I found really intriguing had to do with our frosted (see through) coating that we use on the coated EC1, EC2, G Plus products, and our EQ1, EQ3, and EQ4 bass heads. Some players find that this coating allows the head to resonate more...that it's thinner than out white coating and therefor damps the head less. Conversely, other reports (specifically those on the drum forums) said that the frosted coating makes the heads sound more focused...that it damps the head more than the white coating does. How could people have such opposite experiences?

The truth of it is that the two coatings are nearly identical. The only difference is that the white version contains Titanium Dioxide...which gives it the "white" appearance. This difference has almost no effect on the sound of the'd need a dog's ears to hear it. The reason we have the two different coatings is for a visual difference. The frost coating on the EC1 and EC2 allow the ring to show through. We received SO MANY positive comments on the look of this coating (nobody else has anything similar) that we decided to apply it to the new G Plus heads.

The irony of this phenomenon is that while many players swear by one coating vs the other...we don't actually offer two identically built products (one with the frosted and one with the white) to make that apples to apples comparison possible. Players are making the comparisons between G1 and G Plus, and G2 and EC2. It's more likely the film thickness difference of the G Plus (12mil vs 10mil) or the addition of an 'Edge Control' ring on the EC2 that causes the difference in sound. Additionally, there are numerous other variables that can affect the sound and feel...not just head selection and coatings. Subtle differences in tuning (i.e. bottom higher or lower than the top) can drastically affect a players perception of sound and feel. See Bob Gatzen's video "Sound and Feel" (below) for more on this.

In the we perceive a product (see, hear, and feel it) is as crucial as how it's designed...if not more important. They can make or break the success of products in the market. Sometimes those perceptions are predictable...and sometimes not. It's understanding these perceptions that makes designing product for musicians so interesting. You can apply as much science to the process as possible (and we do try), but in the end it always comes down to a very personal experience.

See more artist lessons and performance at The Stage!