In every sense of the word, the drumkit becomes the office for a series of dates. This ‘office’ moves from venue to venue so it’s important to set up the area in a functional way that can be easily replicated at the next gig. For me the kit is set up on a carpet that has been marked with white gaffa tape and labelled for where the various pieces of the kit are to be placed. This makes life easy when someone else sets up the kit. Likewise the hardware is all labelled (crash 1, crash 2) and there’s some tape at the points on stands where legs should be opened to, heights etc. To the right of the drums I have the lid of road case that doubles as a table. On this table, goes all the things you need quick access to – including towel and water (or wine!). I also put my sticks, brushes and mallets on this table as it’s actually quicker than reaching for the stick bag sometimes. That said I also have my stick back hanging on the floor tom. I always keep the tuning key, Moongel and personal items close to me on the table too. It’s just a cool way to feel ‘set up’.
This is worth mentioning on its own as I opted to use a single snare drum for this tour. I had the choice of having two snares – one tuned medium/high and one super low and dead but in the end I went with one. This was for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I don’t always use two snares so it was a comfort thing – especially when I’d use the second snare for a whole song. The other reason is that I decided there was a handy solution to getting a different snare sound for a variety of settings. This technique was actually shown to me by a couple of very talented drummers and it’s a winner. Take an old drum head, cut out the middle of the head so you’re left with just a completely flat disc – no hoop. If you put this on the snare drum, you get an instant dead, deep and dirty sound that is reminiscent of the deep 80s type ballad snare drums without having to change tuning. For me, I made the cut out smaller – about 10 inches – as I have some moon gel on the snare in the first place and it the smaller disc fit better. It also still did the same thing each time. Curiously, it actually sounds better when the drum is tuned a bit higher so I don’t have to compromise the times when I need a bit of ‘crack’ from the snare. You can experiment with the tension of the wires too. You guessed it – all snare accessories go on the table close at hand. When there’s a ballad, I go straight for the extra skin. Amplified and eq’d, it works every time.
As mentioned in last month’s column, I’m using mostly bigger Zildjian Ks for a darker sound but there are some others too. The Zildjians currently include 15” K Light Hats, 19” K Dark Thin Crash, 18” K Custom Dark Crash and an 18” K EFX. The EFX wasn’t my first consideration but I tried one and it’s so damn musical! Not the full ‘china’ vibe either which was more suitable. My ride is actually a 20” Bosphrous Traditional Series – great blend of light, crashable with a usable bell. To add variation, I have a set of hi-hat jingles, except the mount was already broken so I just put the jingles on the hi-hats sitting over the clutch. They work fantastically for some of the shuffle type tunes or when you feel like you need an extra layer to the sound. I also have a home-made sizzle chain that I use on the ride cymbal for the ballads. I literally just grabbed a dog tag chain, cut to length, made a loop at one end and gaffa’d. Put this over the nut of the ride cymbal stand and you have a great texture that is killer during quiet sections – particularly in bigger theatres where you can hear everything. Lastly and whilst not essential, I had a universal tablet holder (on a separate stand) to keep the ipad handy. On here, I had charts with metronome markings for every song (app called GigBook), regardless of whether I knew the tunes well or not. It’s good back up. It was really great at the start of the tour when I was finding my feet. Now, I know the gig so well, it’s not there but it was a great safety net.