The legendary Simmons head kit

When Simmons started producing the SDSV, a sculptor named Coleman Saunders, friend of Dave Simmons, built a handfull of custom shaped drum pads compatible with the SDSV. Basically it was intended to attract the crowd for the whole Simmons product line. It was never intended to become a mass product like the SDSV. A picture of this headkit was printed on the backside of the one and only SDSV catalogue:

This headkit was recently made a subject of a discussion in the Simmons newsgroup. Reason enough for me to sum up the scanty documentation about these kits. Bob Henrit wrote in the Complete Simmons Drum Book:

“…The shapes which epitomise the possibilities of Simmons customising, have to be the ones which resembled ‘human heads’. (They were actually made as a publicity stunt, to sell more than one regular sets.) They were modelled in fibreglass, by an artist friend of Dave’s named Coleman Saunders, and were evidently inspirde by the Presidents heads at Mount Rushmore. Two clay ‘masters’ were made from which a pair of rubber moulds were fashioned which ultimately went on to produce something like ten sets. They were available in red, blue and yellow upon which Dave simmons did a great deal of airbrush work and fitted with cut-glass eyes. Evidently they all turned out to be slightly different. The top of the cranium was sliced through to fit the wood and ‘riot shield’ playing surfaces. These of course needed to be fitted as usual with aluminium edging strip which was no mean feat. (The shape of human head is not particularly regular as I’m sure you’re aware!)…”

At least two music videos are known to feature a Simmons head kit. First is Landscapes ‘Einstein A Gogo’:

Second is Felony’s ‘The Fanatic’ (although the drum sound definetely comes from acoustic drums ;-)):

Finally a small anecdote that Baz Watts, former keyman of Simmons Electronic Drums, told me: When they took the photo of the head kit for the SDSV flyer, they did not have a working fog machine. On the spot they set the paper bin on fire. So what you see in the picture is no fog but real smoke coming from a burning paper bin…

2 Responses to “The legendary Simmons head kit”

  1. Ed Rose says:

    While I ultimately find the SDSV series pads more attractive, the Saunders kits represent the world of possibility opened up by the electronic format. The fact that no one really took off with this idea still bothers me. Part of the beauty of electronics is that one could break from the traditional layout of the drum kit and set up in a way that was comfortable and ergonomically correct. Also, it gave drummers artistic license to turn anything into a trigger. In fact, I remember seeing a drummer use trash can lids to trigger his SDSV back in the early ’90’s. Anyway, thanks for documenting this wonderful kit and I hope it inspires someone out there to think of triggering in more creative and artistic terms.
    Also, love the burning paper story. Makes the picture that much more evil.

  2. Ed says:

    I lived with Art Bleah the drummer in Felony when he received his human head aet. The comment on the posted video indicates that is the sound of acoustic drums. I attended the studio during the entire production of that album. I can tell you the drums are most definitly the simmons human head drums. Only real cymbals were used. Interesting studio tricks were also employed. The kick was played back thru an autatone near feild monitor placed in a brown shpping bag. That was mic\\\’d, tracked and mixed in. Art would play live thru a peavy cs800 and ampeg 8 x 10 cabs for personal monitors. Recorded and live, they sounded huge.

    These drums are extremely rare and it was nice to find your post.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.