Gear & Equipment
Every drummer’s favorite subject! Here’s some information about a few of the instruments and tools I use for live performances and recording.
Sonor Phonic kit setup in my backyard in summer.
Sonor Phonics - circa 1970s
The highly sought-after early Phonics have a certain magic to them. They have thick shells from old-growth German beech with sharp bearing edges and a rosewood outer veneer. These drums were given to me by my dear friend and amazing drummer, Jerome Deupree, a founding member of the revolutionary Boston band Morphine.
A few years ago, I had the honor and privilege of playing drums on Further On: The Songs of Billy Conway. The album was a tribute to the late, great drummer, also a member of Morphine after Jerome. It features many talented artists interpreting some of Billy's beautiful compositions. I used Billy's Sonor Phonic kit on the record (originally given to him by Mr. Deupree) and instantly fell in love with their punchy, rich tones and dynamic range.
When I expressed my love for those drums, Jerome replied “I think you're ready to join the Sonor family. I have a kit in mind for you.” He then proceeded to chose a beautiful set from his vast collection and present them to me. I think of it more as a stewardship, caring for them and one day passing them on to another deserving drummer. This is the kit I use live the most, not only for the great tone but also for ease of transport.
Gretsch USA Customs - 1979
That great Gretsch sound is unmistakable. They sound great tuned up or down, but in the mid-range, they have an aggressive bark that no other drums have. This kit has quite a history. The original owner was Billy Beard, a friend and in-demand Boston drummer. The drums were covered in a black chrome wrap from the factory. He played the kit during his stint with the Boston band Face to Face, featuring Laurie Sargent on vocals.
Later on, Billy hired drum guru Stephen Badalament of Innovation Drums to completely restore the kit. The wrap was removed and a beautiful cherry sunburst lacquer finish was applied. The chrome plating on the lugs and hoops was redone in a super high quality finish.
Billy used this kit during on tour with Patty Griffin for her Flaming Red album. This kit was also featured prominently on my solo record Random Misfires, and more recently on Midlife Chrysler, the solo release by Jeremy Moses Curtis.
Red Gretsch Custom Kit
Ribbon pattern on bass drum.
Gretsch Bass Drum - 1970
I found the Gretsch bass drum on eBay many years ago. It was originally a concert bass drum for the Brooklyn school system's music department. It has a very thin shell and an outer veneer of beautiful, ribbon mahogany.
I've always loved giant bass drums, and this one is my favorite. It really packs a wallop when you lay into it, but it has a wonderful tone at low volumes too. I use thin, un-ported heads and usually keep it as wide open as possible.
Slingerland Toms - circa 1970s
The toms are thick-shelled maple Slingerlands from the 1970s. I bought them from my good friend and musical collaborator Pete Weiss. They were kept at his studio Verdant in southern Vermont for many years. I used them on many sessions there and really fell in love with them. When Pete sold Verdant a few years ago, he was kind enough to give me first dibs on them. When I restored them, I had master woodworker Jody Lutz of Stellar Drum make some beautiful maple hoops with mahogany inlays for all the drums.
This is my main recording kit that stays set up at my house surrounded in microphones. I rarely use it live for obvious reasons… for instance, if you put the 28 inch bass drum in a hard case, it's about the size of a Toyota Prius!Stellar Drum Shop Website
Noble & Cooley Flat Black Custom
Noble & Cooley Flat Black Custom
This is my go-to snare. The shell is single-ply, steam-bent maple, with in-house made maple hoops. I saw this drum for sale online at Drumazon, a wonderful boutique drum shop in Wales. I showed my wife the drum and she recognized that familiar glazed look in my eyes that said “I gotta have that…” When I checked the website the next day from the road, my heart sank that it had been sold.
On the phone that night, I mentioned my little sob story to my wife and she started laughing. She had purchased the drum for me! Like Mark Sandman of Morphine sang, “A good woman is hard to find.”
I found one, indeed.Noble & Cooley Website
Rogers Dynasonic Reissue
Big, fat tone, incredibly sensitive all over the head, the quality of these reissues is top-notch.
Bell Brass Snare
Gretsch Bell Brass
Tempus Carbon Fiber
A wonderful drum, the 15-inch diameter gives it a certain depth and thickness, it's like being punched in the throat (and I mean that in a good way.)
Radio King Snare
Slingerland Radio King Cloud Badge
From the 1930s, there's no substitute for a drum shell that has aged for almost 100 years.
FlexBeater dynamic beaters
Bass Drum Beaters
FlexBeater bass drum beaters. A game-changing product from the mind of Rich Farago. They have a section of the shaft made from a plastic material which flexes upon impact.
The best way I can describe these is: imagine you've been driving a car with no power steering your whole life, and then you try a car with power steering. These things just feel great!Dynamic Beaters Website
I use the R88 and R92 models from AEA. These world-class ribbon microphones beautifully and accurately capture all the rich, complex tones and subtle nuances of drums and cymbals.AEA Website