Features One Question Interviews What's That Noise? DEAD

What's That Noise?

One Question Interviews: DEAD

Jem (DEAD - drums, WeEmptyRooms – label operator)

SPB: Walk us through your kit and offer insight as to how you arrived at your sizes (shells and cymbals)?

Jem: I have never owned a complete, matching kit and probably never will. I'm a tone chaser and I imagine when I find the "perfect" kit is when I will die. My kit is set up specifically for playing live shows but...who knows when that will ever happen again. In the studio I change it from the below. I don't follow any brands.

Kick Drum: Tama Artstar Cordia 24x16. Coated Emperor heads front and back, no muffling. I love this thing. It's loud and obnoxious which suits this band just fine.

Kick Pedal: Pearl eliminator, strap drive, wood or hard felt beater. Never been a chain guy and I think the strap makes some things easier and a lot of things much harder but it's the feel I like.

Snare Drum: Gretsch 14x8 Hammered Brass, Die Cast hoops, 3ply or kevlar top head. I started using super thick heads for economic reasons but as long as you have a loud drum to begin with it sounds great too. The only drum I've ever bought new. Got it for $300 on a US tour and they went up in price a LOT soon after. Don't have a whole lot of luck with drum stores but can't rate Drum Center of Portsmouth enough.

Mounted Tom: 14x13 Tama Artstar II Maple, Die Cast Hoops, double ply head w/dot. Tuned just above finger tight. It's white, I wish it was a cooler colour.

Floor Tom: 18x16 Tama Starclassic Birch/Bubinga, Die Cast Hoops, double ply head w/dot. Tama have completely lost the plot lately with their wraps and this thing is as ugly as fuck but it sounds great. I recorded one of our albums on Dale Crover's Tama Bubinga kit and loved the shit out of it.


Hats: 15" ‘80s Sabians + a broken cheap as shit cymbal on top of the top hat. I know nothing about these but they have not broken and served me a long time so I give them two thumbs up. The broken cymbal on top makes them dirty and good for the improv bits of our set. I tend to find 14" hats stick out a bit too much - like they're yapping away in the corner whereas 15s blend into the kit more.

Crash: 22" paiste 2002. I live in fear of the day this thing breaks and I have to replace it. It's only a matter of time. I know it's a big size for a crash but it works for me.

Ride: 22" Sabian "metal" ride. On our last US tour my ride broke somewhere in the midwest and when we got to Seattle a friend of Ben Verellen offered me this cymbal for $50. I decided I would play it till it broke and 5 years later I'm still playing it. It is amusingly brash and it makes me laugh a lot but I've become very fond of it. I prefer a 24" ride but I guess 22" is more versatile for the way Jace plays.


Sticks: Vick Firth "metal" wood tips or Power 5bs if we're playing a quit show. The sticks have the biggest effect on the sound of the above kit. I've never understood why people don't pay more attention to that. I use the tree trunk style sticks for volume and for the thud sound on the drums. It's a compromise 'cos you lose all subtlety in the cymbals. But Neanderthal style is my happy place.


I've always loved big drums; I love being inside the kit like it's a fort. They are easily found now but it was not the case when I started playing live. Initially I was very drawn to ‘60s and ‘70s drums. Partly because they were cheaper (I miss those days!) but I also loved the more subtle tone. As I began to play louder and louder I realised that you were pushing shit uphill to play that kind of gear in a live setting. I got sick of repairing my kit mid set and not being heard. So I basically seek out the heaviest shells I can find, with solid hardware and play thick skins and beat the crap out of them. You lose about 90% of the dynamic range but I enjoy the challenge of working within that remaining 10% and the sound you get from hard hitting makes me very fucking happy. It's a sound that's really ugly on its own but then works when I pair it with Jace's rather confronting bass tone.

I find the 8" depth snare a lot more versatile than shallower ones and it's a sound you feel in your chest. What's not to love about that?


Writing this all down has made me really miss playing live!

Listen to Raving Drooling by DEAD.


Words by the SPB team on July 14, 2020, 7:12 p.m.

images provided

Shellshag - FUTQ
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Posted on July 14, 2020, 7:12 p.m.

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