I vividly remember being sixteen years old. I was a band geek sporting a 98% average in school. I never really cared about anything else. My life revolved around practicing drums and listening to music. At the time I was your typical teenage metalhead. If it wasn’t Pantera or heavier I wanted nothing to do with it. It had to be screaming and aggressive, badassness all around. Until one fateful day I walked into my drum teacher’s house for my lesson. He stops me just as I’m sitting down, before we got into anything. He tells me that I HAD to listen to this new CD he just picked up. I said alright, trusting his judgement, assuming it was something crazy. He then proceeds to put on the first Vital Tech Tones album. For those of you who are unfamiliar it’s Steve Smith, Victor Wooten and Scott Henderson. Truly terrifying stuff, a fantastic fusion album. If you haven’t already heard it I strongly suggest you pick it up. I’ve linked the name to it’s page on Amazon.
I’m sitting there with my shaggy long hair putting my books on the music stand and getting ready to go and then it starts. These incredible sounding drums resonating through his basement for a few bars of wide open groove and then a swiss triplet fill down these beautiful sounding toms and BANG the band explodes into the picture with this funky, heavy just sick sounding music I had never experienced before. About 45 seconds in the break into a jazzy section and that was it. My whole world changed in under a minute. What was cool musically had been turned on it’s head. I had discovered fusion, musicianship, dynamics beyond fortissimo and of course I had never in my life imagined drums could sound like that. At home I had a Ludwig kit with a pair of 24″ bass drums, yet Steve’s 20×14 sounded massive in comparison.
Of course at sixteen years old, good luck ever acquiring drums like that. High, even medium end Sonors were drastically out of my price range working produce at a crappy grocery store across the street from my house… I never was able to get that sound out of my head.
Over the next seven years I tried almost everything I could get my hands on as far as drums go, trying to at least somewhat get that sound. It just never happened. I even remember the last kit I bought before I got a Sonor. It was a Pearl Masters with MMX toms and MRX bass drums. Those series’ within Masters likely don’t exist any more. I recall when it showed up getting it home and tuning it up and just being completely disappointed. I’m not saying Pearls are garbage or anything, they just weren’t even close to my sound. But I started to get used to it. What I paid for that kit was roughly equivalent to a pair of bass drums in Sonor’s Designer series (which at the time was their equivalent to todays SQ2). I spent a good year or so playing that kit. It was pretty big, five toms, pair of bass drums and a couple snare drums on my rack with a ton of cymbals. It sure was pretty to look at.
Until one day I walked into Long & McQuade and saw sitting up on a riser a black Sonor Delite kit. 10×9, 12×10, 16×16, 22×17 with some random snare drum. I excitedly asked my friend at the counter what it was doing there and how much it was. He told me it was a Thomas Lang clinic kit from way back that sat in rentals for a little while and now they were trying to just unload it. I talked him into keeping the snare drum and trading a pair of congas in that I rarely used ending up with a price I couldn’t refuse.
The next day after I made all my arrangements I got home with the kit and sat it across the room from my big Masters kit, which although it didn’t sound how I’d wanted my dream kit to, it had become my baby. So I set up the Delite and told myself I was going to use this kit for practice. I’d get all my work done on it, then when it came time for having fun and writing I’d go play on the Masters when I was all done work.
Those plans quickly changed after I cleaned up my Delite and played it for the first time. It still had it’s beat heads from rentals on it but after my first hit I realized that the Sonor sound… That inherent woody quality you can only find on a German made Sonor wasn’t the studio magic I had convinced myself it was. It was just how those drums sounded! I was flabbergasted! I didn’t even know what to say. I played around for a good couple hours in which time I realized that nothing else would do.
I stacked up the Masters kit. I stacked the other kits I had including a Tama Starclassic, a couple exports and a Rhythm Traveller and began the process of selling everything I had that wasn’t Sonor. I didn’t even want to look at another drum let alone hear one. I’ve since replaced every single drum I had with Sonor because NOTHING sounds even close.
I came to realize that woody character I talked about previously which I can only describe as the “Sonor” sound exists in all their wood drums from the German factory. That’s an amazing thing for me because it’s like having a TON of variations on your favourite sound! I have birch drums, maple, beech, you name it. They all have that quality. They all sound like Sonor with their own uniqueness on top of it.
A year or so after that initial experience with my Delite (Which I still have to this day) I had been an endorser for some time and decided it was time I ordered my first SQ2 kit. I had no idea what I was in for. The kit in question had beech heavy toms with beech medium bass drums and gong drums. All in Stratawood High Gloss with Makassar Ebony inner veneers chrome hardware and slotted tension rods. Sexy. The bulk of the kit showed up in my second order and I was ready for it. I already had new heads waiting to go and had reserved my friend’s studio for the night to just try them out in.
I pulled all the drums out of their crazy octagonal boxes and just stared at how beautiful they were. Then I went at getting the heads on them. From smallest to largest I replaced heads and tensioned them tightly. Once I was done I went back, detuned and pitched them up to sound good. One at a time and placing them in position in the live room. By the time I was done I figured I’d have to go behind the kit and tweak them all to sound right together and deal with any problems in my initial tuning. Somehow that wasn’t the case. I sat back there and it was absolutely perfect.
That “perfect” drum sound that I’d had in my head for over a decade at that point had a big surprise in store for it. I couldn’t even believe my ears. Somehow this kit sounded BETTER than my idea of acoustic perfection! I had never even dreamed it was possible, but this was truly my perfect kit. I was speechless. All I could do was play. I played for a good couple hours then just sat and stared at them. I really had no idea what to even say. By the time I collected my thoughts I decided the only way to express what I was feeling was with my first tattoo. So I took the Sonor mallet logo, the exact same size as the SQ2 drum’s badges and had it tattooed on my neck.
Thank you to everyone at Sonor for being a massive part of my sound and inspiring me every single time I sit down to play.