Pilgrim’s journey to England

If I’d say I have never been interested in meeting Dave Simmons, I would have lied. I didn’t take much effort contacting him though. However I did not refuse to contact him last year in association with the production of AD Reelmachines. Finally, after 8 years of collecting, we met personally at his house in England for an interview which is supposed to be published in a German drum magazine soon. I thought he felt quite blandished that there are still a couple of freaks who keep his gear at the surface of awareness. Furthermore he is still (or again) following the e-drum development with much interest.

It wasn’t very hard to convince my wife of this trip: “Darling. you wanna go shopping in London?” So I organized a nice 3 day trip:

  • Thursday: Travelling to Kings Lynn/Norfolk
  • Friday: Shopping in Kings Lynn, in the evening seeing Howard Jones performing on the Market Place, between soundcheck and concert: interview with Jonathan Atkinson, his drummer (Jonathan is actually the guy who’s taking two of my SDS9 pads on tour with Howard)
  • Saturday: Trip to London. Shopping, shopping, shopping, dropping wife at the Airport at the early evening
  • Sunday: Trip to Dave Simmons’ house

As usual the weather in England is perfect whenever I go there. A Howard Jones fan asked me to move there. The 800km are done in short 12 hours drive. In the early evening we arrived as Ramada Kings Lynn, a nice and very British hotel with great (and heavy) english breakfast. The next morning we went shopping downtown and I was abused as a living hallstand. I had to carry up to 25 pieces peak and I was glad when my wife asked me to bring her back to the hotel. Then I went back to the Market place where Jonathan was already setting up his eletronic drum kit: Today he used his own DDrum4 as a midi frontend (on tour he often uses a borrowed TD-20, but only for midi) triggering an ESX24 software sampler in his Mac Book. The samples are the original percussion sounds taken from Howard’s 2 inch tapes from the 80s. Funny enough that the original sequences are now played by a live drummer! Jonathan invited me to a local pub and we did a nice interview which will also be published later this year.
After the soundcheck I picked up my wife, we had lunch and enjoyed another concert by synthesizer legend Howard Jones afterwards.

Saturday. Again english breakfast. All diet efforts of the last 5 years for nothing. We are leaving for London. To my wife’s fret Oxford Street is devided by the currently running anual CSD parade 😛 It takes endless 30 minutes to “cross the street” through the underground and cross the street.

Again my destiny is to play the living hallstand… I can still feel the muscular soreness from yesterday. After this hard shopping day I bring my happy wife to the airport. For the last night I will stay on my own in a picturesque B&B near Stansted.

The next morning the sheep on the neighbouring meadow woke me up … at 4:45am. I use that time and start writing down the recording of Jonathan’s interview until breakfast is ready. Another cloudless sunny day.

At 8am I am leaving for Dave Simmons 300 year old farm. What a nice place! Master Dave is already waiting at the car park smiling (no, I wasn’t late). Beside the main house the farm features several barns which are partly developed. First I get a guided tour. Dave shows me the original workbenches where the last products of “Simmons Digital Music” had been manufactured until 1999.

Somewhere in the garden there’s a freight container with all remaining documents and parts from the Simmons era: circuit diagrams, endorsee correspondance and stuff like that. All on the way to rot…

Dave is showing me his small airplane which he built himself. “Where did you get all that knowledge from to built an airplane?”. He responds “I got myself a book” with a self-confident smile. What a guy…

We are doing the interview in the garden. We are talking about the beginning, Musicaid, how it was like to develop electronics at that time. What happened to the early prototypes; We are talking about endorsee policy, the rise and fall of Simmons Eletronic drums, the SDX and it’s huge number of innovations which have not been adopted in today’s electronic drum systems for whatever reason. We talk about Guitarcenter and Dave’s visions and plans.

Time runs much too fast… At the end I think we were both happy that we met. Dave Simmons is a very friendly, open minded gentleman genius. A short but intensive trip to England has ended much too early. I feel assured that my strange hobby is the best soeone can have 🙂

To be continued…

9 Responses to “Pilgrim’s journey to England”

  1. Patrice says:

    Sacred Path… 🙂

  2. Carlos says:

    Congratulations, Nice to see Dave Simmons after all these years, that man
    is one of those person who can fascinate every person in contact with him,
    a genius. I got high hopes he can re-gain back his name from GC.

    Please post the interview here!

    Good Job, Thanks!

  3. jesper says:

    Great hobby indeed! 😀

  4. Roger says:

    Thanks for sharing this with us Wolfgang!

    I do believe you’ve peaked now, however! What else is there really? 😉

  5. Well done Wolfgang,
    Dave is a great guy and a Genius, I have kept in-touch with Dave over the years, and he has helped me a great deal in starting my own Electronic Drum Business in late 1997 with the hope of getting him interested again, he is and has remained a good friend, he has supplied me with bits’ n’ pieces from his surplus stock of Simmons components so that I could do repairs for people who needed them for their Simmons modules etc, I still keep a generous amount of Simmons equipment but have had to part, (reluctantly), with some of my Simmons stuff over the years.
    nice to see him on here, KEEP UP THE GREAT WORK YOU DO.

    Colin Schofield

  6. Bruce Mason says:

    Well Done Wolfgang !!

    Nice to see Dave again after all these years, I knew him quite well back then, he even made me a custom remote Trak-ball for my SDX…the method :…cut up a full SDX top cover and build a box around the trakball and buttons…a direct & practical approach !!

    Daphne Sears, Mike Sears, and Dave’s father were the only people left by the end [at Sound Unit Ltd]….they were all great people !!

    Dave’s approach to creating [in SDX] a truly ‘open concept’ machine which was [and is] so far ahead of the competition..it’s so much more than a replica drum kit…it really can create unique sounds…the only limit is the users imagination !!

    Such a shame that musicians in general have such a narrow view of what a drummer may contribute to the sound and texture of a band.

    SDX is the ultimate ‘drum-pad controlled’ sound unit !!…and let’s not forget it’s a keyboard unit too !!

    I have owned & tried them all: TD-20, ddrum3, ddrum4, Dynacord ADD-one, ADD-two…some are very good at being a ‘drum kit’ …the ddrum3 is a serious piece of kit, the ADD-one functions as a creative ‘synth-style’ drum unit ..although it’s only 8 note polyphonic on 8 mono channels.
    but…for me…NONE COME CLOSE to THE SOUND and THE FLEXIBILITY of the beast that is SIMMONS SDX.
    Thankyou Dave…20 years on and my SDX’s are still working and I still love them !!
    Best Regards,
    Bruce Mason

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