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Musikmesse 2010

Article by Rich "Doc Spoons" Spooner // April 02 2010
Musikmesse 2010

At the end of March, I went to the annual Frankfurt Musikmesse in Germany—a pilgrimage I try to make every year and one which is now more important since I moved to Switzerland. Frankfurt is a three-and-a-half hour drive north from where I live on the unrestricted Autobahn (a roadway with no speed limits) and a very nice trip it was too. Whiling away the kilometres listening to the iPod and checking out the very green German countryside makes a change after the months of snow we still had here in the mountains of Switzerland.

The Musikmesse is the European equivalent of the NAMM show in LA and always takes a couple of days to visit everything on offer. I always go to catch up with some friends who demonstrate for various companies, grab a beer with some other muso pals who have a break in their schedule and, like me, come along to hang. It’s also a great opportunity to say ‘hi’ and ‘thanks’ to all the great companies and individuals that look after all my percussive needs. Oh yeah, and I get to check out all the latest shiny drum gear, of course!

I wasn’t sure what would await us this year in the drum hall. The global economy has taken a bit of a hit, and I was expecting less of a turnout than previous years. I was right. On first glance most of the usual big boys were in force, some with less on display than normal but a couple had just gone all out and thrown everything they had at the event. However, there were considerable gaps between stands and lots of spaces to chill out this year over previous years. A couple of major manufacturers had no presence at all and even some brass and guitar stuff had crept into Hall 3 to fill the space.

I arrived early for my first day (day 3), a pleasant German beer fog still clouding my head from the night before, to find the drum hall pleasingly free of too many people. There was hardly anyone walking around, clubbing defenceless drum kits and cymbals. I had a nice wander around with a cup of strong coffee, shook a few hands, and got some kind of orientation and order in my head about what I would see first.

Now despite some companies having less on display—and those who chose to be elsewhere—there was a lot of lovely gear on show, and my attention was drawn to some of the smaller bespoke manufactures. These guys in particular are sometimes easy to miss when it’s packed with visitors, but this year I suspect many may have benefited from the extra space and certainly they had some very, very impressive instruments on display. So it’s with the little guys I shall start my highlights of Frankfurt, 2010.

 

MATT NOLAN CUSTOM CYMBALS

If you have not yet seen or, better still, heard Matt Nolan’s frankly amazing and very beautiful/wacky hand-forged cymbals, gongs or ‘sound sculptures’ then I urge you to do so…now! Matt is from Bath in England, and he hand forges all of his wonderful instruments using traditional techniques with some not so traditional metals like stainless steel and nickel silver as well as the more familiar bronze. I have to say the stainless steel crashes were awesome and the set of cymbals he had on the demo kit (which I will get to in a minute) were sonically superb, as well as stunning to look at. Don’t even get me started on the Bat Head gong or Stainless Bat Wing. The most massive sounds came from the huge hand gong which was deafening and threatened to involve the noise police at full chat. As well as being an obviously talented craftsman, Matt is a really nice guy, easy to chat with and genuinely enthusiastic about his creations. I for one am glad he chucked in making microchips for cymbals. Long may he continue.

HIGHWOOD DRUMS

Another small British company rapidly gaining an international reputation with outstanding quality instruments beautifully handcrafted to order. Highwood had only one kit at the show, sharing a stand space with Matt Nolan Custom cymbals. The kit was very subtle compared to some of the ultra gaudy, in-your-face show kits other people were displaying, but looking a little closer revealed meticulous attention to detail and beautiful craftsmanship on the ultra thin-shelled, jazz-style set. The sound was bright and clear with tone so sweet that notes rang out over the background din of the clattering masses. A really beautiful sounding—and looking—set of drums.

HESSE DRUMS

A small but interesting German company producing drums from PE or polyethylene—a kind of plastic—offering shells in 4mm or 6mm in all colours, either matte or polished. It gets a little more interesting when you look at their ‘The Light’ set up. This is a set in white matte PE and inside each shell is an LED light set that hooks up via an interface to your laptop on which you can program the drums to light up in a variety of colours at different times, like a full on, mad-illuminated jellybean kit! Unfortunately, although it looked superb, when I heard the kit later on some dude was beating seven bells of crap out of it, and the tuning was diabolical, to say the least. Add to that its hefty price tag and you have a very cool looking, not so cool sounding rather expensive gimmick.

CVL DRUMS

Some truly outstanding craftsmanship on these Italian made instruments. The finish on all the show kits and snares was absolutely flawless and very desirable—completely custom made to your individual specification or a few off the shelf products available. The small booth had crammed on a whole bunch of lovely snare drums, a really interesting Cajon kit and a huge double kick 6 tom monster in a beautiful high gloss red. I fell in love with the monster proportions of the baby blue sparkle 24” kick Bonham style job with oversized toms. Sounded like thunder itself.  Just brilliant! 

After a bit of a sit down, a bratwurst with some spicy mustard and a beer outside the marquee stage (that pounded out some extreme metal and sub bass frequencies so low only worms could hear them), I hit the hall again to check out what the big boys had to offer.

PREMIER DRUMS

What an absolute joy to see a legendary brand rise from the ashes of a few years of poor management and bad finances. Premier is back in the hands of some real enthusiasts and producing what looks to be some great drums. Of course, we have the standard hardworking offerings of the last few years, like the lovely flagship Premier Series and the trusty APK etc.etc, all finished to a high standard. But the big news was the re-introduction of the classic line from the ‘90s. Yes, that’s right, the Genista is back, and boy have they done a fabulous job! There were three examples on the stand and I would have gladly snuck off with any of them, or all three given the chance. We were treated to a dazzling blue (almost turquoise) sparkle standard 5pcs kit, a very slinky Black Sparkle with Red Sparkle Stripe 5pcs fusion kit and my personal fave, a chrome covered 1 up 2 down rock monster. Some small changes to the original design see slightly smaller bass drum lugs (not a bad thing in my eyes). It was terrific to see the re-introduction of the big red ‘P’ badge. I truly hope Premier sorts itself out. I think that with these drums they have a fighting chance. Then again they have let themselves down by the fact that whilst writing this piece, some three weeks after the show, I am disappointed to note there is no mention of these wonderful new drums on their website. I hope they sort that out asap.

DRUM CRAFT

Relative newcomers to the scene, Drum Craft instruments are German engineered and manufactured in the far East. Neat, slick, clean and un-fussy; maple, birch or Plexiglass. Three different series and some really nice finishes and utterly superb sounds from drums at all price points. Definitely worth a closer look.

PEARL

The usual high quality display from Pearl: all manner of beautiful finishes and mouth-watering set ups. But, by far and away, the most popular item in the entire drum hall had to be the new E-pro Live kit. I can’t tell you much about it because it took me almost two hours to get a decent picture, and the queue to have a go was so long I gave up.

I can however tell you that it’s an e-kit that looks like a real kit and it’s got brass cymbals that when 700 German kids play it, it’s almost silent—apart from the clattering together of many weary and slightly mucky drumsticks! I did catch the demo and it sounded as superb as you would expect at a major trade show, so I guess the proof will be in the playing?

MAPEX

A truly enormous stand from KHS, the parent company of Mapex, showcasing just about every musical instrument family. The Mapex section was proudly displaying some stunning new finishes on now recognised high-end drum lines like the Orion and Saturn, and some really amazing value for money with the lower end Horizon and Meridian lines. Also a whole new bunch of Black Panther snares sat temptingly within reach and were looking very desirable indeed.

PROTECTION RACKET

The UK based drum case specialists were sporting their new line of semi-hard cases and AAA tour luggage and very nice it all is too. The new cases have a plastic inner re-enforcement and are tough, as well as keeping your tubs nice and warm in a fluffy liner.

LUDWIG

The usual high quality, mouth-watering display of drummy goodness from Monroe. Nice to see the lovely new Keystone series featuring new keystone lugs and brackets and 5 ply oak/maple/oak shells. Also I was pleased to see the lovely new Bun E. Carlos Signature Legacy Classic kit in Citrus Glass Glitter, which, incidentally, no photographs do any justice at all. In the flesh (as it were) it’s a stunning set of drums. Also got to have a little chat with Carl Palmer who, after signing autographs all day, was in a surprisingly jovial mood.

PAISTE

Opted to downsize the display on their stand this year and focus their attention on the new Alpha ‘Brilliant’ line and have a nice line up of artists available for signing like Dave Lombardo, Vom Ritchie, and Johnny Dee. Best of all was a rather good VIP room serving great coffee and a refreshing beer when it all got too much.

TAMA

Another giant stand with some really well presented drumkits and snares. Some highlights were the Silver Snow Finish with its racing stripe on the Starclassic Bubinga and the Dark Stardust Burst, so dark it sucked all the light from my camera and I couldn’t get a good picture. Also loving the Mirror Chrome on the Superstar—just missing a big poodle perm and Lycra leggings. 80s ’tastic!

ZILDJIAN

Zildjian were showcasing a whole bunch of new models for 2010, including some bonkers ZXT Trashformers and very funky K and A Custom EFX Cymbals, as well as a whole host of European artists wandering around soaking up the vibe.

YAMAHA

Yamaha are so huge they get to have their own hall at the Messe. This has some distinct advantages and disadvantages, in that everything is beautifully presented but the drummers get no access to any acoustic drums at all. Having said that, all the classic Yammy drum lines were there displayed in expected resplendent untouched glory. However the amazing DTX-950K e-kit was available to all and sundry for a damn good thrashing. The queue, as expected, was enormous, so I hung out to watch my mate Simon Edgoose, Yamaha’s Euro demo guy and all round nice bloke, take it through its paces. I’m pleased to say I was duly impressed, even more so when I got to have a go on it. The new silicon pads are a huge leap forward and leave all the other e-kits a long way behind in terms of realistic playability. The samples and loops are current, modern and amazing quality. It is a fantastic bit of kit. Well done, Yamaha!

Well that’s about it for my highlights. Posthumous mentions must also go to Dixon for the ‘Cow Kit’ which raised a big smile, the poor rep on the UFIP stand who had his head in his hands as I walked past his stand full of children with sticks, Giovanni Hidalgo for taking time out for a lovely chat, and Bootsie Collins and TM Stevens for being so damn funky and so approachable in the guitar hall. Roll on next year, and see you lot next month! Cheers, Doc.




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About the Author
Rich "Doc Spoons" Spooner

Richard “Doc Spoons” Spooner is a British professional drummer and educator, based out of Switzerland. Doc is touring & recording with multi-platinum selling artist Philipp Fankhauser. Doc proudly endorses C&C drums, Paiste cymbals, Agner drumsticks, Baskey Drumruggs & Luggs, Hardcase Cases,Protection Racket Bags & Tour Luggage,Porter & Davies Monitoring, Big Fat Snare Drum, Kelly SHU, Tuner-Fish. Visit Doc online at www.docspoons.com  or follow him on Twitter@DocSpoons



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