Nick talks drums
Nick is a classically-trained pianist, who switched to the drums at the age of 16. He has amassed a collection of vintage kit which has helped him develop a distinctive drum sound. He talked us through rare snares, specialist cymbals and a wide range of beaters.
From the age of five I used to play the piano, and by 16 I think I’d given up on the classical piano lessons and the grades, so friends at school said, Nick, we’re forming a band, you can play the drums can’t you? You play the piano. And I thought, OK, there’s rhythm in there somewhere, and we bought a drumkit from someone at school, an old Tama, for about 50 quid. The whole thing was falling apart, holes on all the skins, cracks to the cymbals, and then we basically had a school band for a few years, which was a bit of a disaster. But I kind of learnt the drums, and then eventually moved to Leeds and there was a band in Leeds.
He was originally inspired by Bobby Gillespie and the 80s goth rock sound.
When I started out drumming, it was very much Bobby Gillespie’s drum style from Primal Scream, and sort of the Velvet Underground, stand up and very simple drumming. I think that was a good way to learn, because the simple drumming and simple rhythms you can then build on. Going forward from there I was very much influenced by all the 80s drumming, very much from the goth rock area, Budgie from Siouxie and the Banshees, very tribal drumming, and then very much Boris Williams from the Cure, very 80s, lots of tom rolls, etc. But I think going forward from there, I’ve been more influenced by more classic drummers and certainly jazz drumming, which I can only be mainly in awe of. People like Buddy Rich, Art Blakey, and hopefully one day I’ll be able to play as well as they can, maybe when I’m 80. If I’m lucky.
His current kit is a Premier APK.
Premier APK 3000
I thought it had a lot more balls and a better sound.
When I bought the shells, the actual drumkit, it was a choice between the typical Pearl Export or the Premier APK. I thought the Premier APK had a lot more balls, a lot more depth, a better sound, and I thought the actual mechanisms of the equipment as well, in terms of the stands, everything was more robust, and I think less people had Premier APKs, a lot more people had Pearl Exports, certainly in the 90s, and I was very happy that I went with this.
The star item of his kit has to be his Ludwig 400 snare, which he feels very privileged to own.
A few years ago I finally bought a really good snare, Ludwig 400, it’s 1971, it’s got a stamp inside, beautiful snare, best thing I’ve ever bought for the drumkit. Amazing drum shop in town, called Tom’s Drum Store, above a guitar shop in Denmark St and it was by pure chance, this day I went in, because I’d been in there quite a few times, buying odd bits, and they’ve got a whole range of vintage snares. And they pulled this one out, and I practised on it and played it, and then the rest of the band came, and we sort of slept on it, and the next day went in and that was it, had to buy it.
Ludwig Drums 400 Supraphonic snare
Best thing I’ve ever bought for the drumkit
Every time I take it back for a bit of tinkering or servicing they say, oh we wish we’d never sold it, because we never had a snare like it. It is amazing. I mean I can’t tell you who played it, but they did reel off loads of people who’d played it. It’s all chrome, it’s all one piece, and the sound it projects, and the feel… and also, being metal, it will last potentially a lifetime, whereas buying vintage wood is a bit dodgy because obviously it can warp. And you can tell the difference, because in the recordings the snare has a real crack and it comes straight through. Whereas the other snare was a bit more, sounded like a sort of toaster or a bit pathetic really.
Nick’s got an unusual collection of cymbals, as well, nearly all from Zildjian, and mostly vintage.
The Hi Hats are from the 70s, I’m surprised they sold them to me because you can’t find these, basically. They’re 15”, they’ve upset the band, they’ve upset a lot of sound engineers, because they’re very loud and I’ve always thought, oh yes I’ll get a smaller pair and something a bit lighter, because they’re very heavy, very chip sound, but they’re great. They’ve helped me form my style. So in contrast to really heavy Hi Hats, I have really thin crashes, to compensate, a 16” paper thin, a 14” paper thin. Sadly Zildjian don’t make these any more.
Zildjian Paper Thin Crash
Really quick crash sounds
The 16” is kind of early 90s, this (14”) is more sort of mid-90s. And then, back to Tom’s drum store, moving away from my Sabian heavy ride, which is really more like a gong, I bought this 22” Zildjian flat top ride, which is probably from the 80s. It’s not too heavy, it doesn’t shimmer too much, and gives it a great jazz feel whereas the other ride gave it too much of a rock feel. It’s very precise, doesn’t ring, and also fits well with the music. So a kind of interesting combination of loud and precise and really quick crash sounds.
Zildjian 22” flat top ride
Great Jazz feel
For drumsticks, he currently favours Pro Mark, though he has a variety of implements.
I used to use really thick drumsticks, which I realised was limiting some of my drum work, and eventually went to Pro Mark, which I think are probably one of the better makes on the market at the moment. Sadly I think there’s quite a few makes on the market who are using lesser quality wood than they used to. The Pro Marks are very good, I’m using the standard 5As. I also use mallets, which are Pearl, standard general percussion mallets, which are doing tom work, cymbal work, they’re really versatile. And they’re really good. And sometimes I use the Lightning Rods, but less so these days. And brushes.
Pro Mark Hickory 5A
Nick’s drum pedal is made by Pearl.
I think a lot of drummers will use Pearl pedals. I use it on the hard part of the mallet. It answers very well, it’s a very good response, it’s a single mallet, I don’t drum with double bass, as you can see, or even double head.
He’s a fan of Remo heads.
Remo Pinstripe Heads
Without doubt, they are the best
Remo are the standard, without doubt they are the best. Just Remo tops and bottoms, these are Pinstripes on the toms, the bottoms are actually different to the tops. You get a different feel.