Ross Garfield – Behold, the Doctor of Drums!!

Ross Garfield, the Drum Doctor!Today, my friends, you are in for a rare treat! It’s not often that I’m able to bring to your G.A.S.-y table someone with this much experience, talent, passion and MOJO, but somehow I managed it… and YOU are going to rock the benefit!

 

If you’re a studio drummer and session player in L.A., then… well, dude, YOU ROCK!!! You’re among the best in the world. But then, you know that, because you see other world-famous musicians everyday.

 

You also probably see, every day, drum kits assembled, repaired, tuned, delivered, customized and perfected for the studio environment by none other than Ross Garfield. His company, “Drum Doctors”, has been serving the drum community, and the recording studios, since 1981. His talent, finesse and work ethic are unrivaled… probably in ANY city. If you’re a drummer, and you want to sound the best you can be, then you’re going to talk to Ross!

 

My Familiarity With Ross

I first came to know of him back in the 80s. Matt, my roomate and drummer of our L.A. band, “Reason Y”, worked for Ross. Matt would come home at night regaling us about setting up various drum kits in various studios for various “God would hire him” players, like Vinnie Colaiuta and Jim Keltner. I felt like I knew the guy ‘cuz about every day I heard about him and Drum Doctors, tho’ I never drove over to meet him.

 

Schnee studio
Schnee studio control room

I’d also come home and talk about who came in to record that day at Bill Schnee Studio (today part of Larrabee Studios) where I worked nights. We were quite privileged kids to be able to work and hang with some of the best musicians of all time. Unforgettable inspirations, and skill-honing you just don’t get in little home studio.

 

Ross’s amazing company is known for having just the right kit, all set up and ready to go, for any type of session that highly- respected drummers might need. The creme of the crop have used Ross’ kits, and also paid him to come in and personally tune the drums for these important L.A. session.

 

For a really good look at Ross in his ultimate drummer’s man cave, WATCH THIS VIDEO first.

 

Our Little Chat!

Okay, maybe not so little – it was almost an hour long!!

 

But that just goes to show you one thing; the thing that I most noticed in talking with Ross. It’s something I relate to, because it’s exactly what this website is all about: our appreciation and love of music gear! You can tell Ross really enjoys what he does.

 

But then, really… who WOULDN’T in his position?! Ross not only works with the coolest, most sought-after drum gear in history, he also gets to hang with the greatest players of those drums, decade after decade after decade! Now that’s what I call a killer day job!!

 

Of course, all this didn’t come without serious effort, perserverance and great skill. It’s because of Drum Doctor RESULTS that the best in the industry flock to him. It’s what it always comes down to – who has the best sound around?!

 

The idea for this interview came when I was writing THIS POST on drum tuning.  I thought I’d see how Ross did it. After the interview, however, it was clear that Ross provided insights far beyond my original thought, and it was obvious that his discernment about what produces legendary, world-class drum sounds needed to be shared.

 

So today’s the day! We may not be studio engineers or producers in L.A. (though some of you are!), or work in the biggest studios in the industry, but we still have the same drive as Ross… to produce standout, superior recorded tracks, no matter what the instrument. Well, for drums… you won’t find any resource better than Ross!

 

Our conversation was pleasant and fun. Ross is a genuinely pleasant person, quick to help, ready to fix any issues, and obviously still loving what he does after all these years…

 

And what he does… is DRUMS!! Let’s hear what he has to say…

 

Ladies & Gentlemen… the Doctor of Drums!!Ross puts on new heads

(Phone ringing)

 

ROSS: Drum Doctors!

 

TEAJ: Hey, Ross!

 

ROSS: Yes.

 

TEAJ: This is Matt’s band mate Teaj, calling from Detroit!

 

ROSS: What’s happening, Teaj?

 

TEAJ: Hey, I’m doing an article on  drums and I wanted to get your thoughts on a couple things. That cool?

 

ROSS: No problem, Teaj.

 

Bottom Vs. Top Heads

TEAJ: So, I know you like to first choose the right drum SET for projects. I totally get that. But on each drum set, or certain drum sets,  do you tune the bottom head and the top head the same? Different? Or is it different for every drum kit?

 

ROSS: Um… yeah it’s different. A big part of what I do is try to make the sound for the project. It’s gotta be appropriate for the project.

 

TEAJ: So you’re gonna tune them differently – like you might let the bottom head be lower, to get that fat tail sound on one project, but then you might not tune it the same way for the next one.

 

ROSS: Right, and the way the shell is constructed will make a difference in that too. So if you have a shell that has reinforcement hoops, that’s gonna react differently to tunings than shells without reinforcement hoops.

 

Or, if you’re working with a drum set… like, right now I’ve got a guy who asked me to put a, uh… a set with calf-skin heads on it. That’ll be a different animal too.

 

TEAJ: Yea, no doubt! (laughs)

 

ROSS: So, it’s all about what is right for the song… like, for example, if somebody wants a set of, uh… Let’s say they want a Charlie Watts sound. I’ll bring them an old Gretch kit, so that they’re starting with the right drums, and I’ll experiment with the heads to make sure that the style is what they’re looking for, ‘cause a lot of times what Charlie uses live is different than what he uses in the studio.

 

TEAJ: Definitely, yea.

 

ROSS: So I’ll experiment to get the right heads on there. If they want it to be a deader sound, then, you know, we’ll tune ‘em a little lower, the top and bottom a little lower, put some more muffling on ‘em.

 

TEAJ: Gotcha.

 

ROSS: If they want a “live”-er sound, well, we’ll probably leave the bottom heads a little tighter and a little less muffling, that sort of thing.

 

Who’s in Charge of the Drum Sounds?

TEAJ: Now, Ross, who is making that determination though? Is it the engineer? the producer? or the drummer who’s playing your drums that makes that decision?

 

ROSS: (laughs) The drummers hardly ever make any of the decisions.

 

TEAJ: That’s what I thought. (laughs)

 

ROSS: (laughs) In fact, here’s a great story you may wanna… are you recording this??

 

TEAJ: Yea, I wanted to make sure I get you verbatim if I quote you, so I’m recording.

 

Ringo Starr is Ross Garfield's customerROSS: Okay. Here’s a great little story. I get called up by Jeff Lynne to come up and tune a drum set that Ringo’s gonna be playing on… for some tracks. So I get up there at like noon, or one o’clock.  I change some heads, start tuning the drums, and…

 

A lot of times in these situations, the talent doesn’t show up until I’m long gone. Especially somebody of Ringo’s stature.

 

TEAJ: Right.

 

ROSS: I’ll work until 2 or 3, and he may show up at 5 or 6, ya know, whatever works for him that day. So I’m sitting there, and we’re to the point where we’re getting sound, and I’m playing the drums, and Ringo walks in! He arrives early, and this is like the first time I had met him. And I just, I stopped playing, ‘cause if Ringo walks in… HE should be playing the drums, man!

 

So, uh, he goes, “No, no – carry on. Carry on.” I said, ”Well, how does it sound to you? Is this how you like ‘em??”

 

He goes, “I don’t give a F#@$! As long as Jeff’s happy.”

 

TEAJ: (Laughs)

 

ROSS: (In other words) as long as the producer’s happy, I’m happy.

 

TEAJ: And that’s probably the way it is across the board, right?

 

ROSS: Yea. Most of the time, that’s what it’s about. There are people that have a certain concept that they’re after and, with time, I’ve gotten to the point where if somebody calls me up and says, “We want it to sound like… whatever… Metallica’s ‘Black Album’”, I know what to do for that. Whatever it is.

 

Who Do You Make Happy?

TEAJ: So, when our buddy Matt was setting up for you, he did a lot of setups for Vinnie Colaiuta, and when he would set up Vinny’s kit, you would prepare that kit for what the producer and the project wanted – not necessarily then what Vinny would just automatically do for himself, right?

 

ROSS: In that situation, there’s a fine line, ‘cause I have to keep the drummer happy too. That’s a big part of it – understanding how to make the drummer sound his best.

 

And Vinnie was one of these guys… he had a thing that he was going for.

 

and I try to… do what he was doing, but… make it even better than what he would do himself.

 

TEAJ: Based on a project, right?

 

ROSS: Yea, well, the engineers used to tell me that. They’d say, “You guys are a good team”, ‘cause Vinnie’s like… the most amazing player and you get drums sounding so good that he just comes in and he just plays ‘em! He doesn’t have to mess around with ‘em.

 

TEAJ: Exactly!

 

ROSS: But this is all generalization, because it could very easily be a situation where we get the drum sound, and the engineer and the producer are thinking of the first song they’re going to be doing, and we get like a, you know, a ‘Doobie Brothers’ sound, or whatever it is – something big and punchy.

 

And then they move on to the next song, and the next song needs the drums to be DE-tuned, and really dead.

 

So, like I say, you gotta have a place to start.

 

TEAJ: Exactly.

 

ROSS: You help ‘em know that all their mics are working, and what effects their outboard gear is having on the signal, and then they can go from there. But the more you do it, the more you realize that, uh, it SHOULD change from song to song, to some degree. Ya know?

 

Standard Tuning Method vs. the Project

TEAJ: I agree. But what about tunings? We know that there are some standard tunings, like tuning your toms to the interval of a musical THIRD is pretty popular. But when you send out a drum kit to a studio do you have a standard tuning of the toms, or…

 

ROSS: I don’t… uh, it’s not like I say, “Okay, I’m going to tune these to be a third apart, or I wanna take the top heads a third tighter than the bottoms. I tend to do that naturally; I tend to get that nice interval between ‘em.

 

Somebody one time pointed that out – it was actually Steve Lukather. We were working for Toto, and he pointed that out to me, that I was actually tuning the drum set to “C”, which was the key of the song. But I was just tuning the drums so that they sounded GOOD in the song. I didn’t realize I was tuning them to an actual key.

 

Since then I’ve had people actually have me do that, where they say, “Okay, we want the rack tom to be a “C”, we want the next rack tom to be an “E”, and the last one to be a “G”, or whatever it is.

 

TEAJ: And is that the engineer or the producer asking you that?

 

ROSS: Yea.

 

TEAJ: Wow.

 

ROSS: They want it to fit perfectly in the song.

 

TEAJ: How often do you get that?

 

ROSS: Not very often.

 

TEAJ: So most of the time, they just trust that what you sent is gold and they go with it.

 

ROSS: It’s gonna be good when I send it!

 

Perfecting a Kit for a Recording Session

ROSS: It’s much better though when they have me come in and tune, and work with them.

 

TEAJ: Which is a separate transaction, right?

 

A kit set up like Ross wouldROSS: Yea. I’ve got over 400 sets that I send out. So if somebody calls me up, I try to send the best set in my warehouse for that project.

 

But if they’re reeeally serious about it – they want it to be just golden, they have me come in and work with them for, you know, at least an hour or two, just to kinda tune ‘em into the room and work with them with the mics, make sure everything sounds good through the headphones.

 

Usually when I do that, and I come back to pick up the drums afterwards,   the producer or the engineer are raving about how good they sound. Because I didn’t leave it up to chance. It was a situation where I dialed ‘em in, in the room, and… I have fun with it! After you’ve been doing it for 35 years, you get to a point where… it’s FUN to make it sound really good. I love it when I can do that.

 

TEAJ: Oh, Ross, I’m totally with you. I mean, my website for example is all about musicians and our gear and how we love it and how we have fun with it. That’s what my website’s about, so you’re definitely talking my language.

 

I could write and talk and sing and do all kinds of stuff about gear and music all day and all night so I am totally with you.

 

Different Kits for the SAME Recording Session

TEAJ: Now, have you ever had it where, because a drummer’s going to go into a session, the first song, yea, the kit might be perfect, but then they might go to a second song that is so different than the first one that they might even need a totally different kit. Has that ever happened?

 

ROSS: Yea. Yea, we do that quite a bit, actually. And lately especially. It seems like people are having me bring down, like, a big rock set, for example, in the big room. And we’ll have a smaller kit, like maybe a little hip-hop kit or a little tighter set in the smaller booth.

 

Never too many drums!And if it’s a big enough project they’ll have options on bass drums and… I always bring options on the snares. Obviously, that’s a bigger budget project. But that way, you’re not like trying to set a square peg into a round hole.

 

TEAJ: No doubt, man.

 

ROSS: You’ve got the right gear. It’s kind of like, “Yea, for this song, a bigger, slower song, let’s put up the 26” bass drum. That kind of thing.

 

Dead or Alive?!

TEAJ: Now here’s an important question, again with regards to recording, ‘cuz most of my readers are about recording: a lot of people say that you should tune your drums so that each one of them sings out as clear and as resonant as possible and not try to dilute the ringing – just let the drums ring as much as they want to ring, and then the engineer, in post, can take that out.

 

But then some other engineers say, “No, I want you to put on the heads that stop the ring, and I want you to put a towel in the kick drum and all that.

 

What do you see happening most of time?

 

ROSS: All of it! All of it – it happens.

 

It really all depends. There’s no rule. Basically these sessions are experiments, and I find that each team is different.

 

Like when I work for Beck, their guys always, always want the drums really dead. They want, like, T-shirts on top of the drums! That’s Beck’s production team.

 

Live or studio, Ross delivers!So, every team is different. Everybody has a way they like to do it. They have a system, and fact that I’ve worked with, like, the Beck team, for the last 15 years or something… they call me up and I know what they’re looking for. We’re talkin’ the same language from the get-go. I don’t bring ‘em a Vinnie Colaiuta set that’s tuned wide open because they wouldn’t be happy. They’d be like, “Okay, what else do you have??” Like, “Where’s our set?? Where’s the kit that we like so much?!”

 

Then there’s other guys I work with… you know, 20 years ago we had a bass drum shoot-out, for example, where we brought out TEN bass drums, and we listened to them all, with the same mics, in the same room, to basically figure out what was the best bass drum for a producer, for his “sound”.

 

Then we did that with the snares, we did that with the toms, and once we figured out what those drums were I put that set aside for him so anytime he wanted it, he’d call me and say, “Bring me that set!”.

 

So we spent like a day or two figuring out which drums were going to work for what his thing was. He built the sound that way. That was our starting point.

 

TEAJ: Man, that’s a great idea. The studio I have here, I have two drum sets just of my own and I just keep them exactly like I want them, but with every recording session I change tunings, toms, cymbals, snares… it all makes a difference.

 

Heads & Shoulders Better!

TEAJ: Now, what about heads? Because you know that the kits are all going to be so different you can choose a specific kit that’s going to give you that specific sound like, you know, maybe an old Motown sound versus a Led Zeppelin sound but… are you tending to use, you know, like, Ambassador heads on everything or do you even go to many different drum brands of heads to try to get a different sound?

 

Remo Ambassador heads

ROSS: I do use different heads for different sounds depending on what the project is. That being said, I tend to use a lot of Ambassadors, especially on the toms.

 

TEAJ: Don’t we all! (laughs)

 

ROSS: Yea, a lot of coated Ambassadors. They have the sound. There’s something to be said to the fact that when we grew up listening to music, whether it was on the radio or vinyl or whatever… that’s probably what they were recording, and that kind of was ingrained in my head – what was “a cool drum sound”. You know what I mean?

 

TEAJ: Heck yeah.

 

ROSS: So, that’s our reference. We’re saying, “Wow, man… that Led Zepplin song had the best, greatest-sounding snare drum ever!” What was he using?? It usually turns out to be, ya know, a Ludwig snare with a white ambassador or a white Emperor on the top.

 

TEAJ: Great combination. Can’t go wrong there.

 

ROSS: Yeah, and I tried to like Evans heads. I don’t have a use for ‘em.

 

TEAJ: If they don’t make what you have sound good, then why bother?

 

ROSS: Yeah, I find that they… I think that they’re trying to make a head that’s easy for novices to tune.

 

TEAJ: Probably. Yea.

 

ROSS: I think that’s what it is. And by doing that, it limits how much life the heads have. If the head has to much life, it gets wild, it gets outta hand.

 

TEAJ: And that’s part of the reason I write these articles, is… you know, there are players out there that don’t even consider tuning their drums! They just play them and they’ve never stopped to consider what what tuning is; what it can do.

 

They think that just working on their technique is going to make them sound great, and, I mean, that’s a part of it, but I’m always mentioning that this is something that can really bring your playing, and your sound, to life.

 

So what would you say to those kind of people who’ve never really stopped to consider what tuning, and the type of drums, and all that, has to do with their sound?

 

ROSS: I think they should just call me, and have me do it.

 

TEAJ: (Laughs)

 

ROSS: That is one of these things that… a lot of guys never get it. And the guys who DO get it appreciate what I do even more.

 

Ross the Drummer!

TEAJ: Why do you think you got it? Because I know you were a drummer so what was it that suddenly you know slammed you into wow this is really my gift?

 

ROSS: I’ll tell ya what I think happened: when I came up in the 70s basically, and I was listening to a lot of Rolling Stones and Beatles and Led Zepplin and Little Feat and bands like that.

 

TEAJ:  Great stuff.

 

ROSS: Yea, that was the kind of stuff that I grew up listening to. And I’m not sure how I tuned my drums (back then).

 

And then I got recruited to audition for this reggae band. Their manager was hiking behind my house while I was practicing, when I lived in Northern California, and he basically knocked on the door and he said, “Man, we’re looking for a drummer and it sounds like you could do it!”

 

Ross played reggae like Marley's tunesTEAJ:  Wow.

 

ROSS: So, to make a long story short, I got the gig playing in this reggae band  and I started listening to all these Bob Marley records. There’s a hundred great reggae artists but… the drum sounds on Bob Marley records are pretty phenomenal. And I started to make a study of that, and I started thinking to myself “How do I get to that? How do I get that sound?”

 

By getting that gig and then having to change my sound completely around, to try to cop that reggae thing, it really made me conscious of what drum sounds were.

 

And then as an offshoot of that… I used to tour constantly. People saw me playing and started calling me asking if I could do sessions for ‘em. So I’d go into the studio. And I’d be playing on all kinds of different stuff – a country/western thing, or a punk rock thing, or ya know, a straight up rock thing, and… I started really getting into kind of being a chameleon that way, with my playing as well as my tuning.

 

Ross Becomes the Drum DOCTOR!

ROSS: Then when I moved to Los Angeles I tried to make it playing, for a few years. But once you see what’s really going on out there, you realize that to be a musician and make a living and actually be able to put your kids through college and that kind of thing, it kind of struck home with me that “I don’t think I can compete with these guys!”

 

I felt like I was smart enough to realize that if Jeff Porcaro is… if someone can call HIM, or call me, for a session… they’re not gonna call me!

Ross Garfield & Jeff Porcaro

TEAJ: (Laughs)

 

ROSS: Ya know?! And back then, the cats that I used to see working the most were Vinnie, Jeff, Jim Keltner, Pete Erskine,… all these guys. One day I just said, “Ya know what? If ya can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!” And I figured I’ll be the guy that helps them get their shit together.

 

So I started working for Vinnie. Back then, Vinnie’d do two or three sessions a day! He was just a monster.

 

TEAJ: So Vinnie was your first customer!

 

ROSS: Yea. He was the first guy.

 

TEAJ: Wow.

 

ROSS: Yea. The thing is he needed personal servants. He needed to have somebody, first of all that he could depend on, ‘cause he’d have, like, a 9 a.m. start at Warner Brothers on a TV show, or a movie soundtrack… and he’d be working at Universal or Sony or… any of these big scoring stages.

 

So, we’d have to load in at like 7:30 or so, to get it ready, for when this 60-piece orchestra was ready to hit it, at like 9 a.m.

 

He’d do that for like a three-hour call, and then he might have another session in the afternoon at like one or two. And on the really busy days, he’d have another one that night, like at six or seven! So I’d be reprogging (?) drum sets from studio to studio, get him going at one place, then go back, get another set, take it over to another place, and then go pick up the one from the first session and maybe take that to the third session!

 

And what happened was, I was working for Vinnie one day at Ocean Way, and I saw Jim Keltner in the hall. He was working in the other studio. So I just basically told Jim, I said, “Man, I’m a big fan and I’d love to work for you.” And Jim’s just the nicest guy on the planet. He said, “You know what? I could use somebody like you. If you’re doin’ Vinnie, you obviously have it together. Here’s my number. If I don’t call you in the next two weeks, call me.”

 

TEAJ: Ah HA!

 

ROSS: Sure enough, I called him, and he goes, “You know what? Next week I’ve got two sessions and… this is what I want for the one, this is what I want for the other. Let’s give it a go!”

 

TEAJ: And the rest is history!

 

ROSS: Yea. I’ve been working for Jim for like 31, 32 years! Something like that.

 

D.D. Kits Only??

TEAJ: So these players like Keltner, and Vinny – are they always using your kits? There’s never a time, in other words, that they take their personal kit? Or is there?

 

Steve Gadd on the latest Recording Custom kitROSS: No, they do use their own personal kits. Vinnie, most of the time, used his own drums (and back then he was using Yamaha). That was kind of his thing: it was a Yamaha Recording Custom: a ten, twelve, fourteen, sixteen, floors for the 22, and he almost always used a 5×14 Supraphonic.

 

Sometimes he would get stuck and he’d use one of my kits, and if he used one of mine it would usually be like an 80s Gretch kit. I had some  of those that he really liked.

 

But Jim… Jim is probably the most experimental guy I know. He’ll use different stuff on every single gig. He was using my stuff in the beginning a lot. Like a 1930 Reedy kit with 1920 snares. I have a bunch of old Ludwig snares that are bitchin’.

 

But these day’s Jim uses primarily his own stuff. And DW will build him whatever. If Jim sees something that I’m using, like some old 1920s set or something, and he likes the way it sounds in my shop, I’ll let him borrow it. He’ll take it out to DW, and then they’ll make a DW copy of it.

 

TEAJ: Man!

 

ROSS: Yea, so he’s got friends in high places.

 

TEAJ: No doubt!! (Laughs) And no surprise. I mean… he IS Jim Keltner!

 

New Heads?

TEAJ: Now you still make it a point that every time a drum set is brought into the studio it has brand new heads? That’s just a given, right?

 

ROSS: I wouldn’t go so far as to say “brand new”. Sometimes they’ve been played on for a day or two, and they sound so good that I can’t bring myself to change ‘em. So it’s not always “brand new”. As long as they’re not dented, you know what I mean?

 

TEAJ: If they sound good and nobody can tell that they’re not new, then why not?

 

ROSS: Yeah, and sometimes they sound better than new, when they’re just broken in just the right amount. The player played ‘em but he didn’t hit ‘em too hard and they’re kind of finessed. They get to the point where they’re real sexy… like I say, “better than new”.

 

TEAJ: I know what you mean, because in the studio, when we put them on, right when I first put them on they’re not usually what I would want to record. But after the drummer’s kinda played for a couple hours then we’re ready to go and they sound great.

 

ROSS: Yea, sometimes they sound a little too brittle or a little too bright when ya first put ‘em on. You gotta kinda break ‘em in a little bit, and then that gets you kind of like a sweet spot.

 

Best Kit Ever!!

TEAJ: Alright, so you’ve had this long, rich history – this is a killer question that you might not even be able to answer, but if you could just have one kit, which one would it be??

 

ROSS: (Laughs)

 

TEAJ: I mean I know that there’s so many and you might not be able to say there’s one but… I had to ask! (Laughs)

 

ROSS: Yea, it’s hard. It’s hard for me to answer a question like that. You know, I might… I might go back to the original Ludwig set that my dad bought me when I was 12.

 

TEAJ: Awww, man… we’re all shedding tears here now!

 

ROSS: Yea, that might be the one… for this conversation, anyway!

 

TEAJ: Exactly. What year was that?

 

ROSS: That was a 1969 Ludwig Super Classic.

1969 Ludwig Super Classic kit

TEAJ: Wow. Do you still have it?!

 

ROSS: Yea.

 

TEAJ: Do you ever rent it out?!

 

ROSS: Yea! Here’s another great story, and this happened like ten or twelve years ago:

 

At that point I probably had 250 to 300 sets of drums. Something like that.

 

I get a phone call from an artist, and they’ve looked on the website, and out of all the sets that I have, they wanted to rent THAT SET.

 

TEAJ: (Laughs)

 

ROSS: They said, “Yea, we want THAT SET! The ’69 Ludwig set. And we want you to send it to Compass Point, which is in the Virgin Islands.

 

TEAJ: Oh, my goodness!!

 

ROSS: And we’re gonna rent it for, like, a month or two.

 

TEAJ: Hohh!!!

 

ROSS: And when that kit came back, I called up my dad and I said, “I just got the rental check on the set that you got me, for the last six weeks, and… I wanna pay you back for that set.

 

TEAJ: (Laughs)

 

ROSS: ‘Cause, I made more than what he paid for that set.

 

TEAJ: Yea, probably 10 times or more!

 

ROSS: (Laughs) We won’t go into the details, but he wouldn’t… he wouldn’t take my money.

 

TEAJ: Of course not. That’s how dad’s are.

 

Homeless musicianROSS: I said, “I just wanted to let you know what I’ve done with drums, because there was a time when my parents were like, “Oh, God, our kid’s a musician!” and “We hope he has something to fall back on” and all of that. Obviously they were just worried. They wanted to make sure I had a good life.

 

TEAJ: Sure.

 

ROSS: But there was a time when they were like, “Oh, God, we worry about you!” (Laughs)

 

TEAJ: I think we’ve all had that, if we’re musicians, at one point or another. Man, if I get out there I definitely have to see this ‘69 Super Classic kit. Is it on the website?

 

ROSS: I think it is.

 

TEAJ: I’m gonna have to look that up later.

 

ROSS: Yea. “Sky Blue Pearl”. And what’s crazy is: now I have just about every Super Classic finish from 1969. That turned out to be a very good year for Ludwig, and I just got lucky that that was my first kit. They had the Beatles, you know, they were selling a lot of Ludwig because of Ringo.

 

And they finally got to a point where they weren’t just slapping ‘em together. ‘Cause for a while there was such a demand for those sets they couldn’t make ‘em fast enough so they weren’t making ‘em as good. But by ’69 they really had it down.

 

Drums Through TimeRoss likes his drums old school!

TEAJ: Do you think drums are better today than ever?

 

ROSS: I tell people: there’s drums that were made in the 1920s that are way better than what’s being made today.

 

TEAJ: (Laughs)

 

ROSS: It’s true! I do a lot of repairs, and a lot of customizations on drums still. By doing that you really see what different drums are made of and where they, ya know, cut corners. That’s when basically they’re just trying to make a profit on each instrument they sell.

 

TEAJ: I think the Ludwig kit that I have in the studio here is an 82, and my Pearl kit is ’87. Much later, and much different than your original Ludwig kit!

 

ROSS: Different shells. Those are different shells in a 60s kit. Ludwig changed their shells probably… at least four times by the time they got to the 80s. They made the mistake of trying to be like the ‘other guys’.

 

TEAJ: They probably didn’t need to do that.

 

ROSS: No, it was a mistake. It was a bad call. They should have kept to their guns. They should’ve said, “We have a good thing going here, so don’t try to compete with Pearl, or Rogers, or anybody else, just… stay on your path and do what you’re doing, ’cause it’s good.”

 

But I see the differences they started making. People bring ‘em in, you know… bring ‘em in to have ‘em repaired or modified or whatever. Most agree they kind of lost their way at that time…

 

TEAJ: They certainly changed things up.

 

ROSS: Yea, and what’s crazy is now, their latest shell, the thing that they’re touting the most, their top of the line shell, is a copy of a shell that they were making in, like, 1972.

 

TEAJ: (Laughs)

 

ROSS: BUT, they’re having it made in Taiwan or something. But, ya know, you can’t blame a company for trying to make money but… you gotta keep the integrity or you’re just going to lose your following.

 

TEAJ: Yea, I mean look what’s happening with like Gibson guitars I mean they’re potentially going to go out of business! I can’t even believe that. It’s just hard to fathom that somebody that makes a Les Paul can go out of business. It’s just unfathomable to me.

 

When To Hang Up the Sticks!

ROSS:  It’s a different world now out there than it used to be. There’s lots of people that ask me… like, I walked into a studio like two or three months ago. I’m delivering a set of drums. The studio manager looks up and he goes, “You’re delivering the drums?? Why don’t you retire?!

 

Stormtroopers tuning a drumTEAJ: (Laughs)

 

ROSS: And then he’s like,Don’t you have guys to do this?!” I said, “Dude, this keeps me young, man! I’m out here movin’ gear and I set ‘em up and tune ‘em and I still like doing it!  And because I still like doing it… it just gets better and better. I didn’t let it get diluted by handing it off to some manager or some employee of some sort.

 

I still try to be at every session! Even if I don’t deliver them. Like tomorrow morning I’ll have my crew deliver a set, but I’ll show up and tune ‘em. I’ll make sure that when somebody hits’ those drums they’ll say, “Hell, yeah!! This is what we’re talkin’ about. THIS is why we got the drums from Drum Doctors, because it’s this down!!”.

 

TEAJ: You love what you do, man. I’m the same way. I just… I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else and I could spend the whole day doing it and probably after 24 hours still keep going even if I am tired because it’s just so much fun! (Laughs)

 

ROSS: Yea, it’s very satisfying.

 

The Perfect Snare…?!

TEAJ: This one isn’t so much for my readers, but just more for me: I’ve got probably 7 snares but you know how it is you’re always looking for the “gold snare sound”, right? Just this sound that will bring your recording to life.

 

So, out of all the ones you have, which snare has really just sounded great for recording?? ‘Cuz I’m going to purchase another one here soon and I’ve really been researching what’s great for recording, for the studio… and I know there’s different genres but for just straight “rock/pop” what is The Golden Snare for you??

 

Black Beauty Supraphonic drum
The Black Beauty Supraphonic!

ROSS: Well, I’ll tell you: probably what you’re looking for is, like, a late 60s, early 70s Black Beauty. A 6.5 x 14. They’ve become very collectible, and the price has gone up.

 

But there’s a drum that I get from a company called George Way (it’s like a little boutique drum company) and they use a real nice solid brass shell on this drum. So I buy that drum from the George Way drum company and I modify it to sound like an old Black Beauty.

 

TEAJ: Nice!

 

ROSS: So, instead of spending, like, $2,500 or $3,000, like that, on a Black Beauty, for like a thousand bucks you can get one of these little modded drums that are a real close second (to the Black Beauty). Are you in L.A.?? Stop by and see one…

 

TEAJ: I’m in Detroit now, but I gotta make it out there again soon, see the old band, stop by your man cave. Sounds like I’ll be flying home with a new snare carry-on!! (Laughs)

 

ROSS: Great! (Laughs)

 

The Trash Can Ending!

TEAJ: Well, Ross, thank you, man. It’s really a pleasure to talk to you! I’ll give you a heads up when I’m out your way. I’ll probably bring your ol’ employee Matt along with me!

 

ROSS: Alright, Teaj, well… thanks for the call. Thanks for the interest.

 

TEAJ: Keep up the great work, Ross. Talk to you soon!

 

Sick Drums?Drum Doctors logo

Well, now you know where to take them?!

 

Do yourself a favour and check out Ross’ MANY available rentals if your on the West Coast. You can’t go wrong by going Drum Doctors.

 

So, what did you get out of Ross’s answers? Did you learn anything? Do you prepare your drums the same? Differently? What questions would you like him to answer that I didn’t ask??

 

Lemme know in the Comments. For now, after my longest post yet here on SeriousG.A.S….

 

… it’s time to take a DRUM BREAK!

 

Now, go… make… sounds!!

 

Teaj

 

 

 

 

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