Galane Custom DrumsCustom Corner by Sean Mitchell // October 30 2012
Let’s start from the beginning, Bernard, literally. How did Galane get started?
Well, after finishing the conservatory of Vienna and working with many artists in my home country (Austria), I felt it was time to move on and expand. I always dreamed of coming to America and knew that drumming would be my ticket, so I bought a one-way ticket and moved to Los Angeles in 2002.
I landed with absolutely nothing except one bag and a couple hundred dollars. It was an exciting and magical, but sometimes very tough beginning in this country. I was always lucky enough to make a living as a drummer and constantly played gigs and taught people in and around Los Angeles, which was also quite challenging, since my English was far from perfect. I got the chance to play and hang around with many of the LA session players, most of them between 15 to 20 years older than myself. I realized from the very beginning how radical the music business changed, especially from a drummer’s point of few. Beside that, I had always many other dreams on top of being a drummer, so I educated myself and also learned everything about the business world.
I believe that these days you have to be a born entrepreneur on top of being a very skilled player. I saw how extremely limiting this business could be and hated the thought of depending on others all the time. I am very driven and simply love to work. So after endorsing several mainstream brands, some since my teenage years in Europe, I came up with the idea of managing everything myself. That way I could operate totally independent, go full speed ahead without anything holding me back and expand in many different directions exactly how I wanted to. We started with a few wood hoop kits and after only two years our instruments were in 12 countries.
I love running my own company and the best part about it is that I can also combine all my other passions with the brand, such as fine art, fashion design and maybe very soon unique Latin percussion and string instruments. Being independent is very important for an artist, I believe. You can see all these products on our website.
You are unique in that you also make cymbals, as well as drums. Who are the incredible builders that make up your team? Do you do a lot of the work on your own?
(laughs) No, I am not building the drums myself—just playing them. I have several drum makers across the United States, depending on what the customers want, and two assistants as well, one of them is in Europe where most of our drums go anyway. Our cymbals are made in Turkey.
What sets your drums apart from other custom companies?
To be honest, I am not really following other companies too much anymore. We simply try to get the customers exactly what they want. We built several wood hoop kits over the last two years. They just sound and look so amazing, I wonder why so few people play wood hoops on all drums these days. Most of our drums are also very short, like 10x5, 12x6 toms and 14x11 floor toms. So far people really enjoyed the short toms in combination with wood hoops.
What types of wood do you use for your drums? Why have you chosen to work with these woods? Do you source shells from a company, or do you make your own shells?
Well, it really totally depends on the customer's wish and budget. We do not make the shells ourselves. I am in touch with several shell makers, some in Europe, Canada and the USA. Very few people ordered exotic woods so far, but we can get these too. We sit down with the customer, if location allows it, and go through every detail. If they want a certain wood, we definitely try to get it. If they like Keller maple shells, then we use these too. That's the beauty about the close relationship with a customer. It becomes such a personal instrument. I am talking about our Custom Elite series; that's the line that is really designed from scratch for the customers. As I mentioned before, I have an assistant in Europe, because around 80 percent of custom orders go overseas. Europeans and Asians simply appreciate the custom stuff and are willing to wait out the building process, which can last up to 16 weeks.
I understand you also make sticks as well. What sizes do you offer and what types of wood do you use for your sticks?
Our sticks are made of American hickory and come in natural and lacquer finishes. They are named Omega, Ohm, Alpha and Beta, and are similar to 7A, 5A, 5B and 2B, just a tiny little bit thicker than these regular models. We also plan on doing full custom sticks in hickory and maple. Customers will be able to pick any color, signature and tip. There will be many, many new and unique models. I believe there's so much room left for innovation in the stick sector.
What can a customer expect for hardware? How many styles of hardware do you offer on a finished shell for toms, kick, and snare? What are your favourites?
Again, whatever the customer desires we will try our very best to make it happen! There are some incredible metal workers and spray painters out there who can basically do anything in any color—also really exquisite effects, like, for example, a gun metal with a matte powder coat finish. Of course these orders can get very pricey. Most of the customers like the classic silver and black chrome look.
What is your turn-around time on a standard kit? How long does it take to build your drums?
Depends on the size of the kit and the complexity of the finish, of course. I would say between 5 to 16 weeks.
You also offer acrylic drums as well. What styles and colors do you offer?
We offer 15 colors and any possible shell size. You can see the colors on our website in the wood shop menu.
It must be a substantial difference between building wood drums and building acrylic. Which is easier to work with and what challenges do each present?
The builders who make our acrylic drums are specialized in working with the more fragile material. An acrylic shell must also be assembled very carefully. Shells crack easily when the lug screws are too tight. I would say it's easier to handle and transport wooden drums.
How “custom” is custom at Galane? Can we build our dream set from the ground up?
Yes, absolutely. That's the vision behind the Custom Elite line. We will try our best to make every special request happen. We also prepare several color samples until the customer is 100 percent happy. So, for example, if you want a dark green color, you will get three samples in dark green tones, for a start. Once the customer gives us the OK, the building process starts.
Tell me about your practice pads. You offer them in some great packages. What are they made of and how did you develop them?
Our pads feature three different surfaces (soft, medium, hard), which can be exchanged within seconds and are magnetic. We are working on more surfaces for next year. The basic part of the pad is made of solid wood. Around the actual playing surface we put a stylish stainless steel ring. The pads are made in Europe—it took quite a while to develop them. My assistant tried many different surfaces before finding the right ones. The pads can be purchased in combination with my hand technique books and DVDs.
What types of cymbals do you offer, and what are your personal favourites in the Galane arsenal?
We offer three different series: Brilliant Elite, Balance and Les Noirs. Our cymbals are extremely high quality instruments, hand-hammered by a small group of cymbal makers in Istanbul, Turkey, the heart if cymbal making. Since I come more from a Jazz fusion background, I like the Balance series a lot. They sound warm and low. Beautiful cymbals. For next year we plan to come out with some unique new models. Custom orders are possible too. If a customer wants a certain ride cymbal a little thinner, we try to make it happen.
I saw a comment on your site about the floor tom/bass drum combo. Can you tell me more about it?
It is basically a bass drum which also has floor tom leg mounts. So, on a big gig you have a fat sounding floor tom that turns into a small bass drum within seconds. People like that drum a lot.
What is the most challenging order you have done?
That was probably creating a shiny glacier blue color with an extremely light pearl effect. Honestly, the most beautiful color I have ever seen on a drum. It took a long time to create this fine tone between white and shimmery blue.
Do you have distribution through any dealers? If so, who?
No. Several dealers asked us, but it’s just impossible for them to put custom made drums in their stores. Times are rough for many music stores; they are happy when they sell even the very cheap kits these days. We do it all online and in person. I travel quite a lot, so do my assistants. It worked great this way so far. Besides that, I actually like to keep it personal. Who knows? Maybe in the future.
Where are you located and how can a potential customer order a kit?
I am located in Los Angeles and also in Vienna, Austria. Since most orders come from Europe, I am considering opening a showroom in Berlin, Germany. I love the city and many Germans like our drums.
Do you do endorsements, and can you give our readers an example of what your company looks for in an endorser?
Many people ask and email for endorsements. We only did some major discount deals with a few drummers in Germany, Austria, and here in the US, who really, really loved the drums, recommended the product and play it out whenever they can.
I do not believe that the idea of old-fashioned endorsements work in today’s music industry. It became so random, so flat and generic. There are less and less unique artists out there, unfortunately. But of course I am open to working something out, and we also invite people to send some info about themselves on our page for potential discount deals.
Visit Galane Custom Drums online at http://www.galane.net
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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