Interview with Dave Simmons on Digital Drummer Mag

April 26th, 2011

Allan Leibowitz, chief editor of Digital Drummer Mag, had one of the rare opportunities to make an interview with Dave Simmons. In a very open manner Dave reflects upon the “good times” back in the 80s, the “bad times”, Simmons’ influence on today’s electronic drums and also his conflicts with Guitarcenter.

Simmonizer – SDS3 clone

April 17th, 2011

With only 100-200 units built around 1980, the SDS3 is one of the most sought-after drum synths.

It is very hard to find a reliable working unit. After I got mine in 2005 I forwarded it to Michael Buchner asking him to do some repairs and to give him the opportunity to study and draw the (real) schematics (Dave Simmons’ original schematics had some errors). One of Michaels following projects was a one channel clone. In early 2009 I had the pleasure to check a prototype which was more or less only a ball of wire, but it worked perfect and sounded like 100% SDS3.

In the following period Michael completed the project with a perfect board layout, perfect chassis and perfect design.

The target of Michael’s project was more or less fun. But short time later the German synth manufacturer Touched-By-Sound also started to develop their own 5 channel clone. Michael shared his board layouts and during the 2011 Frankfurt music fair the Simmonizer SDS3 clone was shown for the first time under Touched-By-Sound’s label Mode Machines.

I had the opportunity to check it although at this stage it is still a prototype. The Simmonizer provides 5 channels: 3 drum channels, one Hihat and an FX channel, for example for a crash sound. It can be triggered with midi or with pads. The filters and sound were pretty mouch SDS3 (which should be the minimum requirement of an SDS3 clone). Still it has some errors which are quite funny. For example if you turn the noise/tone to “tone”, you get the noise and vice versa. The filters did not work very well. To be honest: Regarding the simplicity and the fact that I have seen a perfect working clone at Michael’s, I would have anticipated more of a 1599 Euro device. Not really pocket money and even more than the most expensive original I have seen on Ebay in the past. Hopefully the producer gets a grip on the technical issues. I am confident that they will manage to develop the Simmonizer till series maturity. I will have a look again in Frankfurt 2012. Promised…

First German drumkit museum

February 22nd, 2011

It was last year in November when I exhibted a red SDSV at the edge of a huge drummer meeting in Karlsruhe/Germany. I met a lot of vintage geeks such as Marcel Vogelmann, Ludwig supporter, living encyclopedia and owner of “Herr Vogelmann’s Wunderbarer Trommelladen” (which means “Mr. Vogelmann’s wunderful drum store”) in LUDWIGsburg, Germany (no joke!). Likely Germany’s biggest fan of John Bonham, owner of several collector’s devotionals such as very very very rare and old Ludwig gear, probably the most important trader of vintage spare parts in Germany and a really nice and enthusiastic buddy. He was recently forced to move his store to antother location, but luckily he found a large hall providing 2 floors: one for the store and one for his long time dream: a drum museum! Obviously a great opportunity for me to stage one of my SDSVs right there. Marcel was thankfull and keen about that idea so we had our appointment today for the handover. The museum is supposed to open in March. There is obviously still a lot of work to do but I am confident that this is going to be successfull. If you ever happen to be in the Ludwigsburg/Stuttgart area: Have a look at original Bonham, Keith Moon, Ginger Baker or Buddy Rich gear! After the official opening I will file more pictures subsequently…








1981-2011 – 30 years of hexagons

February 16th, 2011

It must have been the first half of 1981 when Dave Simmons exhibited 3 sets of prototype pads

During 1981, the company (still Musicaid EP) exhibited at the British Music Show at Olympia in London. They weren’t members of AMII, (the manufacturer’s association), so were forced to exhibit nearby in what was known as the ‘over the road show’, in a slightly sleazy hotel. It took them a week to get just three hand-built kits ready for it. One was heart-shaped and sprayed in some sort of velvet, another was ‘bat-wing shaped’, with no straight sides, and aimed somewhat optimistically at heavy metal drummers, while the third was the now familiar hexagonal shape which has become their trade mark. (Unbeknown to the general public, neither the ‘bat-wing’ nor the heart-shaped kits actually worked!). All three set up in precisely the same way, like a traditional drum kit, with a vertically mounted bass drum with wide-spreading, tubular spurs. The proportions were purposely kept close to those of acoustic drums, the small pads measuring 11 inches across the flats, with the bassdrum roughly 22 inches. ...” (The Complete Simmons Drum Book)

Stage fright

December 20th, 2010

I’ve been playing around 1200 gigs since 1993. But this next gig will be different. For the very first time I will play an SDSV on a stage. There are only 4 days left for preparing my gear. Two weeks ago I already set up the same kit for an exhibtion where I got trouble with one module on the second day. One critical part of SDSV, at least after almost 30 years, is the socket where the modules are stuck into. Over the years the preasure of the sockets seemed to have displaced the soft tin-solder on the card side. I also found out that it only takes about an hour to put a fresh layers of tin-solder on the card’s plug-in connector.

All modules work great again now . I can even shake the whole frame without any drop outs. Hopefully this will reduce my nightmares till Thursday. Another issue is that I am still working on the right setup. I rather like when the people have a barrier-free view on the drummer and his movements. That’s why I will mount all 3 toms on the right side from top to bottom instead of left to right starting right above the snare.

Instead of an SDSV bassdrum I will use a Jomox MBase01 triggered by a Roland KD7 and use the bassdrum slot for a side snare instead. The MBase is a full analog bassdrum synthesizer and likely more appropriate for the music I’m going to play. Another point is that kicking “four on the floor” for a whole set of songs will either break my leg or the pad. Playing the KD7 is much more relaxing, but the KD7 is not really the right pad for triggering an SDSV bassdrum module. It’s trigger pulse is simply too pulpy. Still I will set up the SDSV bassdrum pad: It just makes the visual impression complete.
So keep your fingers crossed. I will reward you with media…

SDS64 – Hard Rockin’ Software

December 8th, 2010

SDS “what”? Sometimes I stumble over a Simmons gadget which I had forgotten in the meantime. Still these accessories are worth to mention. This time I found the SDS64 which I have actually never seen or even tried before. It’s a sequencer software for … Commodore 64.

Simmons has drummed up a great way for electronic drum players to expand their drumming.
Together with our new SDS64 Drum Sequencing Software, your Commodore home computer and any Simmons drum controller, you can pre-programm patterns to create an even more electrifying sound. SDS64 software allows you to program over 250 different drum patterns which can be adjusted for any tempo and time signature that you choose. By connecting a series of patterns you can form sequences that can be combined to form songs. Patterns, sequences and songs can be stored for easy reference and future performance. Available in disk or cassette, Simmons SDS64 software also features multi-color graphics and comes complete with interface cable and user’s manual. When you consider what SDS64 software can do for your drumming, a list price of $94 is hard to beat.

How come my father did not believe me when I told him a Commodore 64 would help me doing my homework… ?

BTW: Have you noticed that the advertising slogan (“The first name in electronic drums”) is the same that Guitar Center uses to promote their ************ ? (censored…)

Germany’s first Electronic Drummer Meeting

December 5th, 2010

Review of Germany’s first meeting for Electronic Drums 27th November, 2010

During a huge drum event earlier this year I philosophised with two buddies about the question, why there is no anual event exclusively for electronic drummers at least in Germany. We considered that there are a lot of questions but only a few answers as the whole market is dominated by just a very few products providing more or less obsolete technology. We raved about the idea to organize a meeting where the visitors exhibit as well, self-crafted and vintage kits preferred. We checked the demand for an event like this by launching a discussion on We were rather surprised about the great and positive feedback. With a very restrictive budget but nevertheless enthusiasm and motivation we sucessfully found a local location.
With „Final Virus“, a great German Rock act featuring Sibi Siebert on a hybrid Simmons SDSV kit, Oli Rubow and Robert Huettl with his „Drumallover“ trigger suit we were lucky enough to find fitting live acts.

People from the whole nation came to present their constructions: A welded full metal kit, a kit wrapped with Zebra skin, the brand new Drumi5 Mk II, Simmons SDX, Drum-Tec Pro and many more. Some sets were Software based using Superior or Addictive Drums, some were triggering standard V-Drum or DTX modules. Everybody was invited to test and compare every solution. And every exhibitor was helpful to explain every detail of his instrument.

It’s a pity that no manufacturer dared to join the party. After the success of the initial electronic drum meeting and the coverage of Germany’s leading drummer magazines „Sticks“ and Drums&Percussion“ it is rather unlike that Roland, Yamaha & co. Can afford to ignore the next issue…

Oli Rubow exploring the Simmons/Musicaid SDS3


Sibi Siebert, former Simmons staff, performing on his hybrid kit


Oli during his Workshop with lot’s of analog effect devices


Robert Huettl introducing his trigger suit


Sibi’s kit from behind


Drum-Tec Pro Sapeli kit


SDSV kit retrofitted with mesh heads


Software based DIY kit featuring Addictive Drums


DIY kit – glass/glitter wrapped with standard foil from the DIY superstore


Simmons SDX – #19 of only 250 built


Drum-Tec Diablo


Wronka custom kit – made of welded light metal (see


Exploring the possibilities of DIY


Jobeky Stealth kit with Toontrack Superior Drummer


Handy DIY kit with Roland TD-6


DIY Zebra Skin – needs to be groomed instead of polished


2box Drumit5 MkII

SDSV – making people smile :-)

December 4th, 2010

one week after our successful electronic drum meeting I followed the kind invitation of Marcel Vogelmann (at least Germany’s craziest collector of Ludwig gear and good buddy of Bill Ludwig II) and exhibited a fully loaded SDSV at Württemberger Trommeltage. Everybody was invited to check the sounds and the feel of this dinosaur. The reactions where absolutely positive but also different: While the young guys (less then 15 years) asked where this “coolpiece of gear can be ordered”, there daddies got nostalgic feelings.

Some could not believe that they got the opportunity to play a Simmons for the first time (and probably for the last). Even the staff of the local music store raved about that vintage kit. When I tried to find a fitting stand for the cymbal pad, all the employees of the drum departement came to marvel about that strange thing 🙂
The SDSV: Never to old to inspire…

The earliest days of SDSV pads

November 17th, 2010

1981: At a British Music Show in London the young Simmons/Musicaid company exhibited 3 hand-built kits. One was “heart shaped”, one was “bat shaped” and the last one had the classic hexagonal shape.

The Complete Simmons Drum says:

The purpose of these more exotic shapes was to demonstrate that anything was possible. But the company were more interested in popularising the ‘more classical’ six-sided shape. So, that became the standard kit, and ‘weird and wonderful’ shapes were really only available to special order.

After the show, a case maker and ex-drummer named Andy McCullough was contracted to produce enough of the six-sided blanks of wood, which were to become the pads, to make 20 sets. These were delivered in a rough form to St. Albans. Many happy hours would then be spent by any of the half-dozen employees available sanding, filling, under-coating and lacquering. It seems that whatever they were actually employed as, they still mucked-in and helped with manufacture in those early days. they had a spray-booth of sorts in the back of Musicaid made from pieces of discarded plywood and a fan from an old Ford Cortina, driven by a small motor to help extricate the fumes. Dave’s special forte was a sunburst finish applied with an airbrush.

Unfortunately they’d spray the pads and leave them to dry overnight, only to return the next day to find flies and other insects embedded in the paint. They would then be forced to start all over again! However, this situation did not last for long, and plastic pads were introduced when stocks of the wooden ones were used up…


back in 2010…

In the meantime I am in the lucky situation that extreme curiosities often find the way to me: A couple of weeks ago a guy contacted me in order to get some advice how to restore SDSV pads. I demanded some pictures to get an idea of the actual condition. But I saw exactly one of those rare early sets made of solid wood. I could not estimate any value as this was the first time I saw a kit like that (I already owned one of those pads from the Trevor Horn kit I picked up In London in May). I knew that the wooden pads were hard to play, above all 3 pads came without tom mounts (which are actually sawed off Pearl tubes). I was absolutely certain that it would be a fair deal for both sides to change that pad set for a set of my mint white pads with stands included. The owner agreed so we made the deal.

The pads really look like being 30 years old. I think I will only fix the missing tom mounts but leave the rest. Probably these pads are the greatest evidence of Simmons’ “happy times”

Howard Jones? THE Howard Jones? (part II)

November 9th, 2010

Yes, I followed Howard Jones’ invitation to join his show at Indigo2 in London. During this special concert he was supposed to play all 24 (!) songs of his first two albums “Humans Lib” and “Dream Into Action”. Some of these songs he had even never played before. Saturday night my wife and me went to the O2 arena and really: 2 V.I.P. tickets had been deposed at the box office. With these V.I.P. passes we were previleged to listen to a moderated sound check where Howard explained his gear, basically a Jupiter 8 and a Roland G8. He apologized that his Juno 60 disintegrated over the years. He even explained the story of the Simmons pads from “his friend Wolfgang from Germany” :-))))))

I met Steve Watts in the audience, a former Simmons employee. We had some amicable email conversation before and I recognized him from his Simmons jacket. It is absolutely fantastic when nice online relationships become “real persons”.

The concert itself was superb. Howard was accompanied by Jonathan Atkinson on drums (Roland TD-20 plus the two Simmons pads) and Robbie Bronnimann who controlled Howard’s vocal effects, master of the midi environment and Ableton. The sound was the best I have heard for a long long time. The venue was ideal, the sound programming, synths, TD-20, FX, everything was programmed with love and passion. Not to forget the songs which still worked after almost 3 decades. The show was rounded off by a multi media LCD show which run syncronous to the music. A very special experience.

After the concert we had access to the after show party for the meet and greet, but on the one hand we were tired and strung out by two and a half hours of standing, on the other hand about 150 hungry fans were waiting for a picture with the main artist so rather I preferred to wait for another occasion instead of an unpersonal handshake in passing.