For those of you who may derive some peculiar satisfaction in knowing about lug nuts, lock washers and cam screws, not to mention drum diameters, heads, cymbals and weighted sticks, you might be mildly ecstatic when you read this laundry list.
For the uninitiated, the drum set is a highly complex series of interconnected pieces of wood, metal, and plastic levers, chains, pulleys, springs, sprockets, and dynamic tension dynamos all conspiring together to go BANG! These seemingly unrelated and inanimate objects that taken individually appear to belong to some kind of surrealistic erector set actually require great care and sensitivity in their practical application.
Over the years I have used a wide variety of acoustic and electronic equipment. Some kits have been huge monsters (this needs little confirmation), some medium gauge and some absolutely tiny, depending on the gig, type of music, live or studio, and more importantly, who the hell is going to be carrying around all this stuff. For now I will try to keep this list to what I have been using most currently.
On recent Tull tours and records I have primarily been using the new Premier Series Elite or the Genista Series birch drums, although occasionally as the situation dictates I may use my maple Signia Series, which some of you may remember as my 25th Anniversary “Thick as a Brick” set. These sets comprise, with some minor variations: 18×24 or 18×22 Bass Drum, 16×18 and 16×16 Floor Toms, 12×14, 10×12 and 8×10 Rack Toms, 5×14 Wood Hooped Snare Drum or 7×14 Wood Snare with die cast hoops, usually fitted with a 42 Strand snare on the bottom.
Head-wise I have been using Remo coated Ambassador heads for all of the toms and Remo coated Emperor heads for the snare. The Bass Drum batter head is usually a Remo Powerstroke 3 with a small muting EQ pillow up against the batter head of the bass drum. All Rack Hardware is by DW and my A440 concert Glockenspiel is by Premier.
Cymbals are all Paiste in either the Signature, Dark Energy or Sound Formula lines that vary in weight and size according to live or studio situations. My live setup comprises a 20” medium heavy ride, occasional 20” flat ride, a combination of 18”, 17”, 16” or 14” full crashes, 10” and 8” splashes, 18”, 16”, 12” thin chinas and 1 pair 14” heavy hi-hats and 1 pair 13” heavy hi-hats. I also use 2 tuned Wuhan temple bells mounted over my 14” hi-hats and a Rhythm Tech hanging tambourine. My double bass drum pedal, hi-hat and remote hi-hat are all from the Drum Workshop 5000 series. Sticks are either 2S or 5B DP Signature Series or Acid Jazz model by Pro-Mark. Additional striking implements include Pro-Mark Multi-Rods, Mallets and Brushes. I wrap my sticks in a gauze like tape made by Stick Handler which enables me to keep a fairly loose grip on the sticks even when I am sweating profusely in concert conditions. It is very similar to what tennis players and golfers use to wrap the handles of their rackets or clubs. Interestingly, this one small accessory makes an enormous difference in my ability to play long shows. Because the gauze absorbs the sweat it allows you to maintain a relaxed, loose grip. You can therefore retain the control that would otherwise be lost when unconsciously gripping the sticks tighter, because of wet hands.
I use the Kickport on my bass drum, which adds a very natural and warm low end resonance that I can feel and hear onstage. It also makes an enormous difference to our front-of-house engineer, allowing him to let the natural quality and resonance of the bass drum come through relatively unaffected by any EQ. Latin Percussion provides the cowbells and woodblocks and other useful accessories that accompany me everywhere are my Roland Dr. Beat Metronome for counting off tempos and a small, yet powerful device known as a Beat Bug by L.T. Luglock. This real time metronome has a small sensor that fits on my snare drum and is connected to a LED readout which clocks the real tempo I am playing at any given moment. This is a particularly useful instrument to gauge the relative tempos of sections of music which are not necessarily intended to be played at one tempo from beginning to end. For example in “Budapest” the beginning starts off at one tempo and when we get to the instrumental bridge it deliberately moves up four clock points from 96 to 100 beats per minute to give that section the added lift needed. Then it drops back to the original tempo for the last verse. It is also useful for when the occasional sample appears to know beforehand that I am in the exact tempo range in order that the sample does not sound too fast or too slow. I have been asked if this inhibits my playing. I don’t feel that it does because it is only meant to be used as a general barometer for tempo management. I am not watching it every beat or even every bar; if I did, it would be neurosis inducing. Obviously there are small fluctuations in tempo and feel night to night that have to be adjusted to, my own and everyone else’s, and it only is meant to be used as an objective means of measuring all of our onstage tempos. In that regard it serves a very useful purpose because we can all feel things a little differently every day according to how much or how little sleep we got the night before, what we had for lunch or how much coffee we’ve had that day.
I have been using an assortment of Shure microphones across my entire kit and Shure’s in ear monitoring system since 1998. After a short period of adjustment, I have found that I far prefer this way of monitoring myself and the band. The old way of having large monitors certainly produced a lot more onstage volume that the front of house sound engineer had to deal with in order to get a decent sound. I think this makes his job easier, results in a quieter stage sound for us and a better out front mix for the audience.
Hope that answered most of those questions!