If These Drums Could Talk

by Bobby Rock

There’s no question: I love the virginal sheen and lacquered aroma of brand new drums. But older drums tend to emit more character... to carry human history in their wood... and to absorb and reflect all of the spiritual and kinetic energy inflicted upon them via their guardian's innumerable hours of sweat and toil. It’s impossible to extract that kind of mojo out of fresh new drums from the factory (although beating character into them can certainly be a joyous process over time!).

Meet the Alpha Kit. This beautiful monstrosity has been my primary practice room/solo project drum set for more years than I can recall. It’s essentially a hybrid merging of instruments unique to my personal journey, so the collective “vibration" of this kit is palpable. Sitting in the middle of all those drums and cymbals is like being suspended in a vortex of cultural totems and sacred nostalgia. You can feel where these drums and cymbals have traversed, and you can’t help but wonder: If these drums could talk, what stories would they tell? 

A big chunk of the kit is my original Radial Bridge drum set that Steven Volpp and the Peavey gang built for me back in ’99. I started with those drums, then once I began to develop the alphabet drumming concept—where I play certain words and phrases in rhythm—the set began to expand into its present 360 degree design. I can face forward or backwards as it's essentially two giant kits melded together.

Because I’m more of an accumulator than a collector, I had amassed a wide variety of drums and cymbals in storage near my practice room. And as my vision for this kit expanded through the years, each new piece was brought in as somewhat of a functional placeholder for what would surely, one day, be some mammoth new custom-built drum kit, sparkly and pristine, with its perfect maple shells and glistening brass and chrome. After all, this was just the 1.0 Frankenstein version of the Alpha Kit, right?  

But then, somewhere along the way, after countless hours of playing this kit and listening to its glorious tones reverberate around the woodshed, something unexpected happened: the “Frankenstein" nature of the kit became its own unique thing—its own twisted choir of percussion voices—and it simply sounded like no other set of drums I’ve ever heard. In other words, the unorthodox configurations and unconventional drum and cymbal groupings created their own original, collective sound. And I knew I would have to record this exact set-up, just as it is.

So now, I’m in the middle of cracking the code on how/where/when to finally finish drum tracks for a long-awaited new solo record: a “soundtrack" for my last book, The Boy Is Gonna Rock. I’m reluctant to throw any more projected release dates around because I’m the ultimate “boy who cried wolf” with missing deadlines. BUT—know that this new record, which has already been underway with Brett Garsed on guitar and Carl “The Fox” Carter on bass, is top of mind, every day.

In the meantime, here's a one-minute walk-around video tour of the Alpha Kit… all 40 drums, 30 cymbals, and 10 foot pedals of it.