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.