AJP Custom DrumsCustom Corner by Sean Mitchell // February 18 2012
This month's Custom Corner feature is AJP Custom Drums based in Cleveland, Tennessee. These guys have an incredible line up of styles and features as well as an amazing eye for detail. Read on!
Nestor, let’s talk a little bit about your experience. How did you get started drumming?
Well, I come from a family of musicians. My grandfather plays the violin, my mom is a piano player and all of my uncles play some sort of instrument. I grew up in a Pentecostal church in Argentina. At the age of twelve, I started playing the drums at my church. It was very hard because I didn’t have my own a drum set. At that time, my father had a recording studio in our home in which I’d often sneak in after hours and play on the sets that different musicians would leave behind—later taking some reading lessons. But my hearing ability was always more leaned to the sound-tuning and construction of the instrument than actually spending time on working on my chops. Today I play at a local church and teach drums at a Christian music institute in Chattanooga.
Tell me what got you into making drums?
Well my grandfather who migrated from Bulgaria used to build pianos and acoustic guitars. As a kid I used to watch him build and fix all of the local musicians’ instruments. He taught me all the tricks about wood finishes and sounds—how to pick them and work with them. I still love the smell, tones and the natural sound of wood.
How did the AJP Company get started?
I started doing lots of research on how and where to obtain the best quality products. I decided to build my own snare, and after receiving several compliments on that first drum I decided to build a full kit. Before I knew it friends and friends of friends began to ask me if I could build them a kit as well. I really enjoyed the work and took on the challenge. It’s been tough at times but totally worth it.
Let's talk about the drums. What sets your product apart from the rest?
At AJP Custom Drums we are dedicated drummers with a passion to build the best drums that fit you and your unique musical style. We work very hard at keeping the lowest price without sacrificing the quality of the instrument. We listen and understand your needs, and with our experience we promise that you will not be disappointed. We work directly with you to create the sound that you are looking for and a look that is truly your own.
What products best represent your line?
Our snares. We are not only building a great quality snare drum, but we also make it more personal, adding your own signature, bible scripture, or any thing that you may want—allowing you to have a piece that will sound amazing and reflect who you are.
You have many incredible finishes and lug styles. Where do you draw your inspiration for the look of your kits?
I personally have a preference for a neat, clean and classy look. I also pay very close attention to modern, minor detail. I believe that less is more and try to stay away from finishes and lugs that are too bulky or busy. With that said though keep in mind that I create whatever the client asks for as well.
I understand you give back 10% of your sales to charity. Can you tell me about Vision PTM and what they do?
Yes, Vision PTM is a non-profit organization that has a heart for orphans all across the world. They are currently supporting orphanages located in Africa and South America. Our goal is to give to organizations such as PTM to see young lives changed. We are privileged to do this, and as the company grows we look forward to supporting at a greater level.
Where is the company located and what is the business climate like for a custom drum manufacturer?
We are currently located in Cleveland, Tennessee, just two-and-a-half hours outside of Nashville, aka “Music City.” We are the only custom drum builders in this area and benefit greatly from all of the musicians that are here.
Tell me about your lines. Do you only make one-offs or do you have consumer lines?
We build one kit at a time. This is our way of maintaining high quality. We enjoy making an original for each customer and we’d like to try and stay away from line production at this time.
Any new stuff we can look forward to in 2012?
We just began applying to all of our drums the new AJP Venting System. The AJP Venting System is quite simple. At the bottom of each shell, below each lug line, a 0.195" hole is drilled through the shell (see photo sample), What this does is let the air travel as far down as possible before escaping evenly though the holes that are spaced evenly around the perimeter of the drum. You’ll find extreme snare action, with incredible sensitivity and response. A compressed type of sound. With the force of the blow pushing the air all the way down, the drum reacts like it is being a bit compressed, More volume, focus, sensitiveness. As for the toms, there is an increase of sustain, focus, tone and volume.
As a drum maker, what makes a good drum that resonates well with your ears?
Great question… I’m always looking for an open, focused, and warm sound. When I hit my drum I want that baby to resonate until my next hit, with perfect decay, and a warm tone. I look for a sound that will move me inside.
Tell me about your artist roster. Who is using AJP?
Well most of our guys are great hard-working drummers that dedicate a lot of their time playing in churches and/or inspirational bands. To name a few: Keith Comer of Manic Drive (Canada), Martin Alcedo of No Bragging Rights, Paul Martinez (independent Drummer), Jacob D-Vera (independent drummer), Ron Brown from the Gabriel Bello Band, and Terry Baker from Kirk Franklin’s band.
What is generally the turnaround time for a standard size five-piece drum kit? And, how much can we expect to spend on a standard kit?
Turnaround is 45 to 90 days. A five-piece kit is approximately $2,500.00.
Where can we purchase these drums?
How does a custom builder stay competitive in a very saturated market?
By building great quality drums at an affordable price. Customer service is also key! As CEO, I enjoy taking the time to talk to each of our customers/clients.
What does the future hold for AJP? Where do you see the company in 10 years?
We’d like to expand not only our roster but our facilities as well. We’d love to see AJP Drums played all across the world.
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About the Author
Sean has 15 years experience behind the kit, studying under greats like Mitch Dorge and participating in master classes with Dom Famularo and Zoro. It was these life-changing exchanges that prompted the Canadian-born drummer to create a global drumming community, The Black Page, that was easily accessible to drummers of all backgrounds and levels of expertise. In addition to his work with BP, Sean is one-half of the world soul group The Mitchells.
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