The secret weapons of your favourite drummers
Us drummers are a funny old bunch, we all have our own quirks, style and sound, and we’ll often have a surprising piece of gear tucked away in our set-up that makes a huge difference to our playing.
Here we delve into the kits drumming’s elite and pick out a few unusual choices that help define the sound of these players.
A lot is spoken about whether any given drummer is a fan of maple, birch, bubinga, oak, just about any material you can think of. While some drummers make their choice and wear it as a badge of honour, former Slipknot drum hero Joey Jordison prefers to mix and match when it comes to his shells.
Norm Costa, Joey’s tech, told us in 2013 that the Scar The Martyr man’s Pearl Reference kit is a mix of maple and bubinga.
He explained: “The first three toms are maple. The last rack tom and the floor toms are bubinga which is a lot warmer. You get your attack and brightness out of the higher pitched toms and then your depth out of your lower pitched toms just from the wood.”
Where do we start with Neil Peart’s kit? It is quite simply a monster. But, there was one piece of his Time Machine kit that jumped out to us – his unconventional 23” kick.
Neil’s tech Lorne Wheaton explains: “I was having a discussion with John Good at DW one day and I was saying that when we used to open shows in those days a lot of drummers were using 24-inch bass drums. I used to love the way they sounded out-front through the PA but I never liked the way they played so I always went with a 22-inch.
“John said, ‘What about a 23-inch?’ I said, ‘There’s no such thing.’ And he had to make the shell, get the Remo drum head company to make 23-inch heads and all of that came out of that discussion.
“That’s how eager he was to try it and of course the 23-inch bass drum not only works so great for me but a lot of other drummers are finding that too. I love the collaborative aspect of that.”
Want to see more? Click here for a Neil Peart kit tour.
Mastodon’s Brann Dailor’s set-up may be based around a need to lug it all in the back of his car, but his trio of rack toms remain key to his rig.
“I’ve always tried to keep [my kit] as simple as possible, but I can’t seem to get rid of the three toms up top,” he explained. “I like having the three toms there. I had a bigger kit when I was 14 or 15 and when we went to play our first gig, I couldn’t fit all the drums into one car, so I had to get a hold of a truck to come over and pick up the rest of the drum kit and bring it to the gig.
“The set-up that I have now was out of necessity back then to be able to fit the drums into one car. That’s why I got rid of the actual double bass that I used to have.
“I had a big Ludwig rocker kit when I was 14. It was massive and wouldn’t fit in one car, so I had to downsize.”
Want to see more? Click here for a Brann Dailor kit tour.
We’re getting into controversial territory here. An increasing number of drummers are taking to the arenas and stadiums of this world using a double kick pedal and two bass drums (with the second purely for show), Black Sabbath’s Tommy Clufetos maintains that having a bass drum for each pedal is paramount to his sound.
“I don’t get why drummers would have two bass drums and only use one kick. I hate that. There’s a certain sound you get with two kicks that is so much fuller than a double pedal. You can’t make those two kicks sound exactly the same and I think that’s cool. Once you get used to that second pedal it’s way hipper than playing a double pedal. To each their own, though. I just think there’s more power and coolness to having two kicks opposed to playing a double pedal on one kick. Plus, I would never want anybody to see a picture of my drumset from behind with two kicks and one pedal. It’s like those bands that have amps that aren’t plugged in or they’re using a stupid dummy cabinet.”
Take a look behind Bosnian Rainbows drummer Deantoni Parks’ kit and one thing will definitely stand out – the keyboard! This has one hell of an impact on Parks’ playing, as it means that he can often only play one handed.
The challenge of playing with just one stick in his left hand is one that Deantoni clearly relishes. “You’re forced to do a lot of things you’d do with two sticks with one. My left hand is faster than most guys’ both hands together so for me conceptually, take away a stick, you’re not going to miss it,” he says. “It means I can play additional parts to help the song. Most drummers or musicians aren’t interested in that.
They are usually trying to find a way for themselves to be shown and respected. I feel like I’ve already gotten the respect of these people and that’s all that I need. I don’t need to prove that I can play fast. I’ve already done that. To me it’s not respectful to the modern day where drumming is to just go out there and play a solo. So what? What are you thinking? That’s what people want to know. What’s your process? It’s very intellectual. It’s not a dumb jock thing. I hate to put athletes down but it’s not just putting a ball in a hole, it’s so much more advanced than that yet people of the world look at athletes in a higher regard than they do artists. What are you going to do?”
Killers’ drummer Ronnie Vannucci loves a big pair of hats. On the band’s early material can be heard playing 15” Zildjian As, but by the time he got to 2008’s Day and Age he was using a monster mash-up of 18” hats, and he’s even been known to whack a 22” crash onto his hi hat stand.
“Big hats came from that I had these hi-hats from the ’50s, old A’s, 15", they sound amazing and I was really, really happy with the sound I got. And we started layering all these guitars and a bunch of other things on, and the only frequency we could pull out was a very high-end frequency and I hated that. I hate glassy sounding hi-hats, I want more of the low-mid range sound that I have. And it also feels better for me to sort of dig in. I like smaller hi-hats but for the music I really like that frequency, I guess. Maybe I do care about frequency! On Sam’s Town on almost every song I’d overdub the hi-hat part with my voice just going, ‘Tchik-tchik-tchik- tchik-tchik-tchik-tchik- tchee-ik’ [Ronnie voices a 16th-note hi-hat pattern] and I was like, ‘How can I catch that live. So I brought out some bigger cymbals and put them on the hi-hats and bingo! So I played with 18" hi-hats on Day And Age, and on Battle Born I used 18"s, 17"s and a pair of 16"s; really, really nice, a couple of K-Con crashes.”
Want to see more? Click here for a Ronnie Vannucci kit tour.
Joey Castillo rose to stardom during his eleven-year stint at the kit for Queens of the Stone Age. Back in 2012 Joey told us that there was one piece of gear that was key to his sound throughout this period – his 14”x8” Sonor snare, a drum that was formerly owned by punk icon Chuck Biscuits.
“That’s my pride and joy. It’s the favourite thing I own. I used that with Eagles [of Death Metal] as well. The snare I use is a 14”x8” that actually belonged to Chuck Biscuits. It’s completely banged up. It’s a total mess and my tech every time says, ‘Can we fix this?’ but I have to leave it exactly as is. It’s not a true round diameter anymore but it’s a great, great snare. I love it and it works amazingly. He’s [Chuck] my guy. I’ve seen every band he was in and he really is the guy who inspired me most. He was somebody I was able to see and get close to multiple times and he blew me away. He’s amazing.”
Want to see more? Click here for a Joey Castillo kit tour.