A Season of Stuff is a writing challenge that I will be doing for the length of Spring 2016. The plan – to pick some object from within my personal possessions each day and write about it – its history, its significance, etc. Come on in – check out my stuff.
I started playing the drums when I was in the fifth grade. It is probably not apparent when watching me play that i’ve been playing them for three decades, but indeed I have. I got my first drumkit when I was in sixth grade, so 1985-86? It was a Tama Rockstar kit, “misty silver” I believe was the color. We got it from Sines Music in downtown Quakertown. Having my own kit was the doorway to playing in the middle school and high school jazz band, something I did fairly poorly. During those years I took drum lessons and learned a bit but never played in any bands of my own.
It wasn’t until college when I got into punk rock that I began actually regularly playing in bands. As I mentioned last week, I began my band career as a “singer” but quickly moved behind the drums where I have pretty much stayed ever since. For the next couple decades I would continue playing on that Tama set that I had. In ’02 or ’03 I got bored with the “misty silver” color and spraypainted them red, added some more cymbals (china cymbal, oh yeh!), etc, but they pretty much remained the same.
It was also around this time that I really began having a sweet spot for some older vintage jazz kits. At this point I was going to a lot of shows and these old kits always caught my eye, especially old Ludwig kits. My friend JD (of Io/Belegost fame) played a Rogers kit, a brand I had previously not been too familiar with and I really liked the look and sound of it. After a few years of constantly being in bands, regular show playing and some light touring, I thought maybe I deserved a “new” kit. I began regularly perusing the drum listings on ebay.
Then one day I came upon this sparkly red vintage 3-piece Rogers kit. The person was asking what seemed like a really reasonable price from them. The price was kinda in that range of “I might be paying more than these are worth, but I really like them, and actually this seems like this might be a really good deal. I might be getting these for cheap, but honestly I don’t know.” So I just did it – BUY NOW!
And I regret nothing. There are few imperfections on this kit. The bass drum has some fading in the color where it must have been left in the sun. The trim on the bass drum is broken and coming off in a couple places. If you’re a purest, you may note that this is technically not a complete kit — the floor tom does not actually match the mounted tom and bass drum. They match in color but based on the Rogers badges, the floor tom appears to be from the late 50’s and the rest of the kit appears to be from the 60’s.
Late 50’s era Rogers badge
1960’s era Rogers badge
Despite my lack of understanding about the proper way to tune drums, these things almost always sound great. The sparkly red really lights up a photo. They’re just really fun to play.
A great part of all of this meant that I now had two sets of drums, so one set (the old Tama kit) could always stay out at Eric the Red’s house where we practice and this one could stay at my house. This meant that I had access to drums at home so I can play in between band practices without packing up and hauling the kit back and forth. It also means I don’t have to run out to Eric’s before shows to load up my drums. So the Tama’s are still the major workhorses but the Rogers are the ones who make it out on stage.
As noted, I am not really a particularly adept or serious musician. We still have a band, we practice roughly weekly and try to play a show a month if we can. We have no pretensions about anyone liking us, getting a record deal or doing any extensive touring. But there is something about having found a musical instrument that really feels yours. Something that you feel comfortable playing and produces the type of sound you want.
We like to think that our “stuff” isn’t so important, that we aren’t defined by our stuff. But as this “Season of Stuff” project shows, there’s some story behind a lot of our possessions. We might not be defined by our stuff, but they help tell our story. And there are some things, and I think musical instruments often fit into this category, where the object and the owner create meaningful connections. We openly assign these objects with special meaning and significance – sometimes treating these object as “the one”.
When it comes to stuff we are so often striving for something different, something new. Something shiny and fresh is catching our eye. I have a hard time walking into a bike shop and not getting a crush on some new bike. But ever since getting this Rogers kit I’ve never thought about buying a different one. I still see other nice kits and think “Those are nice drums,” but I always come back to what I have and am extremely happy. This kit just feels like me. It’s my one.