Archive for October, 2009

Impressions from Ludwigsburger Trommeltage Part II

Saturday, October 31st, 2009

I just finished editing part II:

By the way: Sibi exactly 25 years ago:

Impressions from Ludwigsburger Trommeltage

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

The first snippet of my audio and video material is published on youtube

Sibi Siebert, who had the idea for this performance, obviously had a lot of fun…

Ludwigsburger Trommeltage

Monday, October 26th, 2009

The “Ludwigsburger Trommeltage“, famous drum event in Germany, has been a very entertaining event featuring (among others) Mike Terrano, Pete York, Carmine Appice and … last but not least … Sibi Siebert perfoming on a digital/analog hybrid Simmons kit, half SDSV, half SDX. Likely the first SDX live performance after at least 10 years (since Bill Bruford returned to acoustic drums and Danny Carrey changed to Mandala)

9 SDX pads plus 2 SDSV racks with 8 SDSV pads (cymbal included). He did a great show. And everything worked perfect (apart from his kick pedal and a noisy output at his sub mixer).I have a lot of audio and video material but it will take a couple of days to process all the raw material. Stay tuned!

The Complete Simmons Drum Book

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

I think it is not exeggarated to say that the Complete Simmons Drum Book is the holy bible for every Simmons fan. Even more since this book is not available anymore. It was written around 1987 by professional drummer/editor/tester Bob Henrit. It tells the full story of Dave Simmons and his Companies “Musicaid” and “Simmons” from the very beginning until the announcement of the SDX.

As I am no contemporary witness of this period, I am really glad to possess my very personal copy. It cost something around 50 Euro. Probably today the only source to obtain essential information about at least the first (and better) half of the company’s history.

To get to the heart of this post: I really wanted to provide a PDF version on my site for free, but a book is more than a catalogue or an advertisement and I did not want to hurt anybody’s rights. So I contacted the auther Bob Henrit to discuss the idea of making it puplic domain. Unfortunately he was aversed to this idea what I absolutely respected. He preferred the idea to distribute it with a required fee. But my policy is to keep my site non-commercial, so I refused. In my opinion a fee would have reduced the number of readers (and the expected sales) to a very minimum.

The only thing I can tell is if you have the chance to get your hands on a copy: Take it. It was expensive, but is still worth every cent. Promised.

Simmons still good enough for chart productions

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

Did the Simmons sounds become silent after the company collapsed in 1995? No, they didn’t. Ronnie Vannucci, drummer of the chart breaking US rock band The Killers just stated in an interview that the drum sound on their hit single “Human” is a result of mixing his natural drum sounds with the output of a vintage analog Simmons SDSV console.

Good choice, Ronnie! You really picked my favourite for this purpose…

What's so magic about the SDX?

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

Whenever I ask somebody which Simmons kit has the most appeal, he will answer “SDX”.

I remember that this was exactly my thought before I had the opportunity to bye my first one in 2003 for pretty much money. My expectations were that I’d get a piece of gear which would sound more extraodinary than I ever heard before. But I anticipate that this was not the case. When I first switched it on, got familiar with the basic functions, I tried all the kit libraries that came with the package and experienced that the SDX sounded like a common sampler. Somehow disappointing, but wait! The SDX was built in 1987, this is (from 2003) 16 years back into the past. In “computer years” this is half of an eternity. Imagine if you buy a personal computer, how long does it do its jobs before it needs to be replaced by a new one? 3 years? 5 years? My longest lasting computer was an Apple PowerMac 6100, bought in 1994, replaced in 2000. Today the SDX is even 22 years old but all of these countless innovations that streamed into this piece of history are still unique and the design is absolutely timeless. It is still good to provide a competitive sound and a few are still in use in recording studios. Bill Bruford and Danny Carey played the SDX even long time after the Simmons company collapsed. This must be love!

Next weekend I am looking forward to the “Ludwigsburger Trommeltage“. My Simmons buddy and former Simmons representative Sibi Siebert will perform on my SDX (which was his original demonstration model for the Frankfurt Music excibition back in 1988). And this is a big portion of the magic of SDX: serial number 19 of 250…

Have I been messed up in the 80s?

Saturday, October 17th, 2009

Today I heard on the radio about the reunion and the upcoming tour of 80s cult band Spandau Ballet. I guess I was 12 when their first chart breaking single “True” has been released. John Keeble sat behind a pure white SDSV kit with even two bassdrums. However I was also wondering why he was always playing acoustic drums on live pictures and videos. 25 years later I heard him say in an interview that the only track they ever used Simmons sounds for was “Chant No. 1”. It was all an illusion! John got his Simmons by Dave Simmons personally. Serial number 3! AND HE ALMOST DIDN’T USE IT FOR RECORDINGS? Unbelievable. A reason to feel messed around? No. Much less artists really used Simmons drums on their recordings as those who affected using Simmons due to pounding on hexagonal pads in front of a camera. The Linn 9000 was used on records much more often. Still I have to state that Simmons drums and the MTV age stimulated each other very much. Both were a stroke of luck for each other.

I must admit that I was (and I am still) one of those who were more blinded by the design than by the sound. I became aware of what the Simmons sound is actually about much later. Still there were enough artists that established the sound also on countless recordings. So what… I think I wouldn’t have hasitated to use Simmons pads on “Top Of The Pops” as this really had the potential to accelerated the record sales. And I am really thinking about getting myself a ticket for a Spandau Ballet show, also in order to ask John Keeble to sign on one of my pure white beauties 😉

Good night

How to store your pads right

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

Have you noticed that the playing surfaces of most SDS9 pads sunk into the pad? The reason is simple. The SDS9 pads (Mark IV) had so called floating playing surfaces. This means the outer rubber was stuck to the edge and a thin piece of wood was glued on the bottom side without any contact to the edge. So this wooden plate was fixed only by some glue and the tension of the rubber. But over the years this rubber material becomes streched by it’s own weight with the result of a sagging surface. This phenomenon already happens if you keep your kit set up over a long period like a couple of years. The worst thing you can do is to pile your pads one upon the other because the weight affecting the rubber is even multiplied. So what is the best way to store your pads over a long time?

  1. If you have enough space, lay them down on a plane ground with the playing surface to the bottom.
  2. If you don’t have enough space: Put the pads vertically one next to the other:

How about other Simmons pads?
The SDX pads react similarly, although they don’t have this “floating playing surface”, but in this case the grey rubber will even completely come of if you store them with the rubber surface to the bottom (which is ok for the Mark IV pads). It is very important that this does not happen because otherwise the FSR foil will oxidate faster. So the best ways to store SDX pads are

  1. If you have enough space, lay them down on a plane ground with the playing surface to the top.
  2. If you don’t have enough space: Put the pads vertically one next to the other

Mark IV and SDX are the critical pads. The SDSV pads really don’t care how you store them. They are tough enough to pile even up to 10 pads one upon the other

The same with SDS8 and early SDS7 (Mark III) pads though it’s not that easy to pile those because of the unfortunate position of the screws.

Hopefully these words help to keep some more pads in a good shape over the next years, Good night….

Simmons and the plagiarisms

Monday, October 12th, 2009

I recently won an auction where 2 vintage hexagonal shaped pads had been offered. Although the description did not say anything about “Simmons”, the picture really made me believe that they were. Finally I got these two pads for a reasonable price of 1 Euro. Yes, a bargain. But when they finally arrived, I was very astonished what I had actually bought: Two pads manufactured by a polish company named “Polmuz” (“POLish MUZak”):

I was not disappointed at all knowing that I probably got something that might have been even rarer than any other Simmons pad I already owned. An almost 1:1 copy of the SDS7’s MKIII pads. Today I could hardly resist when I saw another two pads of a U.S.S.R. manufacturer named “LELL”. Just the same as my Polmuz: hexagonal shaped pads, made in 1984, obviously Simmons copies. While Simmons hardly clamped down on plagarism, the eastern bloc manufacturers had always been protected by the iron fence.

In western countries, the hexagonal shape associated with electronic drums was registered as a trade mark. That’s why Simmons could tackle against competitors like Pearl who initially delivered there DRX-1 console with hexagonal shaped drum pads as well. But Pearl was forced to change the shape into something between octagonal and round as you probably remember. Some manufacturers tried pentagonal pads like Dynacord or Maxim, some produced octagonal pads like Weinberg or Cheetah. But there was no company that did not copy anything from Simmons at all: either the design or the sound generation.

If you are generally interested in what the Russians produced during the cold war, I recommend the Museum Of Russian Synths

Analog BBQ

Saturday, October 10th, 2009

A couple of weeks ago, Michael Buchner (the “e-drum whisperer”) invited Oli Rubow and me for a BBQ. On a pretty sunny day Michael prepaired everything: Meat, sausages, drinks…

and he also tiedied up his “laboratory” and draped his vintage gear for a report I was going to write for the Sticks magazine:

Michael loves to develop and optimize things: For example he showed us the current stage of a single channel SDS3 clone optimized for use with mesh pads:

One of his past inventions is an acoustic drumset similar to a cajon but with real drum heads formed like the body of an acoustic guitar:

Some more impressions

A complete collection of Dynacord Percuter sounds:

Why necessarily round mesh pads? Prototype of a hex-shaped mesh head bassdrum

Michael explaining the main board of an old Siel synth:

UV light to clear eproms

several designs of circuit boards:

Sonor Mamut pad:

Dynacord Add-One and P-20

Roland TR-909

Fricke MFB-512

SDS3 clone with self developed analog cymbal module (left):

Well-fed, happy and overloaded by all the impressions of the day Oli and me started our journey back home. Next year I will suggest Michael Buchner for the “Synth Nobel Prize”
To be continued……