Wednesday, April 1, 2009

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…!

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