Monday, 31 March 2014

March/April 2014 Updates

Tiki Snare Building Course
When I first came across Tiki Drums of Brighton at the London Drum Show in 2012, I instantly fell in love with their beautifully hand-crafted bespoke snare drums. I soon discovered that master craftsman Preston Prince also ran snare drum and full kit building courses from his little workshop. The following year I went and chatted to Preston again at the L.D.S. and signed up for the course for the following March. It seemed a long wait, but the weekend eventually arrived and I found myself gathering up all my research and ideas together ready for a full on 2 day course.
Preston talking us through shell choice.

Arriving at 9.30am, I was soon bowled over yet again by the incredible work-in-progress projects lining the walls of Prestons' workshop. I urge you to head to their website or facebook page and have a quick look at his work. The course is limited to just 6 people and after a quick introduction we went straight into shell selection. This is where it instantly got confusing, the choice was amazing; maple, rosewood, bubinga, zebrano, etc. Some even had different species/plies and you could choose between either 13" or 14" diameter and whatever depth you wanted. Preston expertise really helped here, guiding us through the different properties and trying to help us find what would work best for our individual needs.
There was a rogue zebrano stave shell which I fell for straight away. It was a little extra money, but I had always wanted a stave drum (constucted entirely differently to a 'normal' plied and molded drum) and thought this would be a good oportunity to get my hands on one. The guy who hand built this managed just 15 a year, it's a true labour of love to produce one of these. 

Once the shells were chosen, we had a quick briefing of bearing edges, their history, use and how different companies approach them in their own designs. We were working on the tried and tested 45° angle. Preston runs the workshops as hands on as possible, as he puts it "you'll be making your drums, not me" and after a quick demo on the router we are cutting in our edges before we know it. I was surprised how much 'kick back' there was, I guess I was working on a super thick shell though!
Halfway through bearing edges.
Once the edges were done it was on to marking up for the hardware. For this, Preston has his own Tiki marker mats. All you do is lay your shell down, decide how many and what kind of lugs and throw-off you want and then tape/pencil mark up. Now, I failed GCSE woodwork and have never been great at this kind of thing ie measuring, but with a bit of guidance we were well on our way.
Once marked up, we had to sand down our snare beds, before drilling some pilot holes and then, after a quick lunch break, got on to sanding down and finishing with a couple of layers of Tung oil.
The second day started with the most dreaded part; the drilling. The thought of attacking our beautiful shells with a hand drill and 8mm drill bit made us all pretty nervous. We did have some brilliant tutoring and a quick practice on a spare shell to try out some techniques to avoid splintering. Actually, after the first 4 or 5 drills, it got a hell of a lot less scary and I actually started to feel pretty confident. Another quick rub down and we were ready to wax our shells up, we used Black Bison Clear wax and it was incredible how the wood just came to life. What was great is that we all chose different woods and sizes and watching everyone elses shells come into life was truly exciting.

With all the most worrying parts done, it was just left to assemble everything and just hope beyond anything that all the measurements and drilling was done correctly (we heard one horror story of someone making a 9 lug snare) I went for a vintage Gretsch/Ludwig style lug, a Dunnett R7 Throw-off and Butt and Tiki Snare wires. Preston talked us through basic tuning techniques and snare wire set ups which proved invaluable and then we set off down to Monster Studios to all eagerly play our new born snare drums. What was great was being able to hear at this point how everyone's choice affected the final sounding outcome, whether you chose a 13" or 14", a Bubinga or Zebrano, a 5" or 8.5" (yes, really!) it reflected in the sound no end. You hear a lot of people saying that most of the sounds come from the head of a drum, and even though there is a lot of truth in that, this weekend has shown us all first hand that size and material make one hell of a difference to. Personally, mine was exactly what I was after, a versatile, sensitive but cutting beauty, which I cant wait to gig and record with, I know it will fit in and cope with whatever my musical life throws at me.
I would like to say thanks again to Tiki and Preston for an incredible weekend and I urge all you drummers to head to and check out their wares.

Ducking Punches Album and Tour
Pre-orders are now up for 'Dance Before You Sleep' from No Panic Records and Shield Recordings, I'm very excited to announce that it will be released on Gold, Gold/Black Splatter and Black vinyl as well as CD and tape. We will be doing a 3 week European Tour from the 10th July as well as recording a video for 'Big Brown Pill From Lynn' in April. You can stream the album at and keep up to date at

Congratulations to all of my students that took and passed their Rockschool exams in Period A, some absolutely amazing results and feedback from the examiners.  

Rad Times Promotions Interview 
The great chaps who run Rad Times Promotions were lovely enough to ask me for an interview, you can check out what I had to say at