Liberty DrumsCustom Corner by Sean Mitchell // February 01 2012
As part of the new look and feel of The Black Page, we have added a great new section to the site. We call it Custom Corner. Custom Corner is a focus on the custom builders, cymbal makers, stick makers, etc, who don't always get the exposure they deserve. It is our nod and thank you to the unsung heroes who sometimes find that being a custom shop can all too often be a labor of love. If you are interested in being featured in Custom Corner, please see our contact page for more details.
Our inaugural custom builder is Liberty Drums. Liberty Drums is a UK company based in Shildon, County Durham. Owner and operator, Andrew Street, took some time out from an incredibly busy schedule to talk drums with us. Enjoy!
Tell me about the humble beginnings. How did Liberty drums come to be? How long has the company been around?
Liberty Drums really started back when I had my first kit in the 80s. I then began fixing and rebuilding bits of kits to make gig-able on a stage. Many years down the line I eventually built my knowledge of why drums/shells sound like they do and began crafting shells for myself and for others on request. In 2006 Liberty Drums was registered as a business.
How did you decide you wanted to build drums for a living?
Over time my portfolio had grown and started to accumulate a build schedule for customers via word of mouth and first hand exposure to my drums at gigs and events. The requests became so frequent that I decided to register my work, as we now know to be Liberty Drums, in 2006.
Where did the name Liberty come from?
The word Liberty itself is an expression of freedom, individuality and to express one's self which I hope comes across in the builds. The logo sounds and looks good too!
Introduce our readers to the staff.
Currently it is just myself that builds the shells, so I am the only permanent employee, however I do contract in extra hands when required.
Without giving away any proprietary secrets, what makes Liberty Drums stand out from the crowd?
The most important aspect that stands out as most important to me is that I build my own shells, forming each sheet of timber by hand to create some great acoustic drums.
Most custom companies buy prefabricated shells. Why have you chosen to do your own shells? How does this benefit your consumer?
A true custom drum company will mostly make its own shells—90% of the industry tend to buy shells in due to cost and quickness of manufacture as long as the quality is good. For me I would rather be the real deal or not at all. Building my own shells enables me to build the exact requirements for the customer which has great benefits, as they get the personal touch and a fully tailored drum or drums.
Tell me a bit about your snare line? Why the focus on deeper snares?
Our snares do cover the whole range but recently I have been acting on some industry requests for sizes such as 13x9, 14x8, 14x10. These are whopping sizes but were built for purpose and also work well cranked up with a good medium crack to a beefy low punch.
Tell me a bit about the process, how long does it take to make a standard kit?
A standard build will take from eight weeks based on a four- to five-piece kit.
Why might a custom company choose to have some preconfigured lines as you do? What types of configurations do you offer?
I always wanted to have kits ready to go off the shelf as a preconfigured model, which benefits the customer as they get a high quality kit at more affordable prices. Also creating preconfigured lines creates a constant and reliable range of kits that people can order time and time again knowing they will get the same quality each time.
If you could build the ultimate kit, what would it look like and what type of woods would be used?
One ultimate kit for one person to the next will vary, so it is hard to pinpoint the ultimate kit. It is down to preference and application needed, but the main thing is that the shells are acoustically sound and well made. The MPX is my personal favourite which I designed and engineered to sound great for recording and near field environments. One thing to note is for a kit to be acoustically sound how you want, it won't always look like how you think. Different sizes for different sounds offer an interesting mix.
Tell me about your wood choices? You have some unique ones. What are the best options for a great sounding drum?
There are a multitude of woods that can be used but my most popular is birch, locally available and with the right ply count and sizing it will match a whole range of wood types. Again a great sounding drum is down to preference which can sometimes mean mixing a selection of woods in different ways.
Tell me about your endorsement process. What types of players does Liberty look for?
My target market is mostly unsigned musicians. I like to see and support talent that want the sound of Liberty, but all applicants will be vetted and current portfolio will be assessed based on exposure and potential as a musician and/or band.
What lines best represent the Liberty Drum name? How have you developed them?
Maple Pro. This kit is extensively used in the industry and is the flagship of Liberty Drums. Designed for intense stage use, durable and always come up with the goods that sound engineers love to work with.
What is the industry like at the moment? Is this a great time to be a custom company?
At the moment the industry is tough as a whole, but, at the same time, an exciting opportunity to put UK drum manufacture on the map. I am passionate about what I do, and it certainly is a good time for Liberty Drums as a drum company in this climate to be successful by focusing on crafting high quality drums and not getting distracted.
Visit Andrew and Liberty Drums online: http://www.libertydrums.co.uk/
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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