Monday, July 7, 2014

My Drums

For those that know me best, I sort of pride myself on not being terribly materialistic.  I don’t really care for gadgets, technology, and other “stuff” unless it is actually useful for something.  If I have something that I’m not using or that I’ve not used in a while, I’ll usually get rid of it.  As a matter of fact, I’ve sold quite a few beautiful instruments this past year simply because they were sitting in their cases, slowly collecting dust.  I’m not really into any sort of collecting just for the sake of having.  In addition, I’m sort of getting to an age that whenever I DO buy something, I either want it to be the last one that I’ll buy or I want it to last a very long time.

At the time I bought my Pork Pie drums (the ones I currently play at church), I had been playing another brand name of drums for about 7-8 years, and I had put them through the ringer.  I was on the road with them almost every weekend for many years (sometimes multiple times a week), and I had also done my fair share of recording with them as well.  Although they were in fairly water-tight cases, they had been rained on, baked in the sun, snowed on, dropped in mud, rolled down stairs (not intentionally), frozen, and beat to death for years.  While they had held up, I was finally in a place about 10 years ago where I could purchase another set.  During this time, I was still hopeful that I would be playing music full time someday, so I made the decision to research before investing in my next kit. 
When searching out what kind of drum set to get, I had decided to get a small-shop kit.  What I mean by this is I wanted to buy something from a small shop with a good reputation and attention to detail.  Instead of buying from one of the major conglomerates with hundreds of employees with various factories in a few different countries, I wanted to get an instrument that wasn’t produced for the masses.  I had been introduced to Pork Pie a few years earlier, so I decided to do some research.  Long story short (and one very, very fortunate eBay auction later), I had my kit.

Here’s my sad attempt at a bird’s-eye view of my drums (You will rarely see a kit set up with at tom off to the left.  I ended up doing this during late autumn last year because I was having some pretty serious back pain, and the less I twisted, the better off I was.  I ended up really liking it over there, so I left it.):

General specs:
Snare – 13” (width) x 5” (depth)
Rack tom – 12” x 9”
Floor tom on the left – 14” x 12”
Floor tom on the right – 16” x 14”
Kick drum – 22” x 16”

Where did the name “Pork Pie” come from?  The following comes from an interview Drum! magazine did with Bill Detamore (CEO of Pork Pie) back in 2009:  The name came from a movie from New Zealand called “Goodbye Pork Pie”. My friend Mark and I [Bill Detamore] were watching the movie trying to think of names, and I said, “What do you think of Pork Pie Percussion? He said, “It’s perfect.”(from

In terms of construction, I guess I’ll start with the shells themselves.  The shells are made by Keller.  Keller shells have been a standard in various boutique/high-end drum set companies such as Orange Country Drums and Percussion (OCDP), Truth, Spaun, C&C, and DW in the mid/late 1990’s. 
So if Pork Pie uses the same shells that other companies do, what makes this particular company so great?  One thing that Pork Pie does is order a set of shells in graduated plies depending on size.  In other words, the bigger the drum, the more plies (to a certain extent).  In doing this, the kit actually sounds like one instrument as opposed to just a sum of its parts.  No drum is any louder or softer than the other, and no notes seem to “stick out.”  I’ve played many drum sets where maybe the kick drum (or bass drum) sounded great, but the low tom lacked rumble, or maybe the high tom was way louder than the low toms.  I’ve played a set where the smaller toms sounded great as did the lower toms, but they had two different tones.  It’s almost as if they could have come from two different kits.  This is not the case with my current set.
Another benefit of ordering a Pork Pie kit has to do with the hand-cut bearing edges; Pork Pie is probably the most famous and well-known for this.  The bearing edge is the wooden edge around the “rim” of the drum shell.  Without a good bearing edge, drums are difficult to tune and simply sound poor.  Not only are the edges perfectly sanded and cut, Bill Detamore cuts the edges himself…on every custom kit that leaves the factory.  As a matter of fact, he does such a great job cutting edges, many famous full-time drummers send their kits to Bill to have him re-cut their edges as well.  Here’s a picture of Mr. Detamore cutting the edges on a custom kit. (Picture courtesy of

On custom kits, after the edges are cut, the hardware installed, etc., Bill Detamore hand writes the serial number, his signature, and the born-on date inside of each individual shell.  While this picture is not of one of my drum shells, it is very similar to what mine look like. (Courtesy of

When I first got my drum set, I checked the numbers.  The serial numbers are sequential from one drum to the next.  Bigger drum companies tend to make a lot of the various-sized drums and then put them together in sets (and serial numbers will be all over the place in terms of order inside the shells): however, Pork Pie makes one drum set at a time.  I was very lucky to actually pick up a set with a snare drum with a sequential number to the rest of the kit.  Their snare drums are so good that when folks sell their used kits online, the snare is oftentimes missing (people tend to hang onto them).

I’ve had a couple of custom pieces made at Pork Pie as well.  The one that’s the most popular with choir members and anyone else that’s been up close is my drum seat, or what’s known as a drum throne.  Here’s a picture if you’ve not seen it:

Yup, that’s leopard print on a purple seat.  For Christmas one year, Marci got in touch with Pork Pie and ordered the seat, ordered a separate backrest, and had a the backrest shipped directly to the company, and they wrapped the back in matching material (mine is one of three that exist). It’s by far the most comfortable thing I have sat on besides my recliner at home.  After they had completed the work, they threw in a matching stick bag as well (you can see it clipped to my floor tom).

Another year for Christmas, Marci had this custom drum head made for me:

When Marci called Pork Pie, Bill Detamore himself answered the phone.  When she put in the order, he said, “I’ll get started on this today.”  Bill, himself, actually made this for me.  I’ve heard many stories about how when people call Pork Pie, Bill answers the phone and is more than courteous in answering questions regarding products and services.

In closing, I need to share this:

When I first got this set, I set it up in the little dining area in the tiny house that Marci and I were renting at the time.  I was so happy to have it, elated even, to have been able to get something pre-owned which was so hard to find at the time.  The first day I got them, I tuned up and played them for quite a while, and then I noticed it - just a little bit of rust on one of the rims.  I remember getting a rag and trying to polish it out to no avail.  The thought crossed my mind to get on the internet and order a brand new rim to get rid of the one with a little rust.  As soon and I did, this verse popped in my head:

Matthew 6:19-20 - “Do not accumulate for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But accumulate for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy and thieves do not break in and steal.”

I felt like it was as if God was reminding me that no matter what we have, whether it be brand new, pre-owned, played, not played, passed down, packed up and forgotten, etc., it’s all going to pass.  No matter what possession we have, it will eventually break and fall apart. It will wear out.  It will mold.  It may be stolen or misplaced.  In my case, it will rust. 

Even though I love my drums, I know that eventually they will return to the ground from whence they came, along with my car, my house, my recliner, and anything else I own.  I believe that we need to use what we have (be it a skill, gift, or material possession) for God’s glory while we have the chance.  They are all His anyways. 


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