In the last few years Bath-based cymbalsmith Matt Nolan has made a name for himself around the drum circuit thanks to his mixture of deliciously dark handmade cymbals and beautifully sculpted (and often completely off the wall) gongs.
We spent the day at Matt's studio and not only were we treated to a demo of him creating a bat wing gong before our very eyes (check out the video below) but we also got the lowdown on his fast-rising reputation.
How did you first start making cymbals and gongs?
"I started about six years ago. I had a bit of a fascination with cymbals and I've been a drummer since I was 12. I was buying all sorts of junk from eBay and some of that involved me taking a jigsaw or grinder to them to make more unusual things. At around the same time I met Steve Hubback who is another cymbals guy. I went to see him and he showed me a few tips to help me along the way with hammering and heat treatments. It all snowballed from there until two years ago when I started doing it as my job."
How do you split your time between traditional cymbals and more unusual pieces?
"In terms of number of pieces I do more hi-hats, rides and crashes, but in terms of hours I probably spend more time on the gongs and the more unusual pieces."
How does the material you're using affect the process?
"They all have their own thing that makes them nice to work with. Stainless steel has a very distinctive sound. Dry and dark and sort of trashy, which can be useful for making certain rides for jazz players for instance that are dark but with great stick definition. Bronze is great because it's easier to cut and it makes a more traditional sound. Nickel silver is fantastic for gongs."
We've seen you make a bat wing gong today, when do you first come up with those?
"The first one I made was about two years ago when I was playing in a percussion trio. I made the first bat wing for that for my own rack of gongs."
And how about the bat heads?
"I made my first bat head before the first wing, but it was before I found a supplier for metal so it was two pieces of metal soldered together. So it was a bit of an experiment, but it was very fiddly!"
How did the bat theme come about?
"It all stems back to one of the first things I did when cutting shapes out of cymbals. I did the batman logo which just came about my thinking of where I had to cut into the cymbal and knowing it needed to be symmetrical so it just came to me to make a bat shape and that was probably the turning point in terms of people saying, 'Hey, can you make me one of those?'"
For more on Matt visit www.mattnolancustomcymbals.com.