Alan Dawson on Drums, Gear, and Individual Sound

Alan Dawson

SKF NOTE: This excerpt is from an in-person interview with Alan Dawson in his living room over a tuna fish sandwich. The more complete back story is here.

Here’s Alan Dawson answering my questions about the need for us to own and use the exact same drums and gear used by our drum heroes.


Scott K Fish: When you first saw or heard Jo Jones did you have a burning need to know what size his drums were? What kind of heads he used? And what size his sticks were?

Alan Dawson: No. That never even occurred to me. Frankly, he’d sound that way on any drums. He had his own sound. An individual sound. These guys sounded like they sounded no matter what drums they played on.

I didn’t rush out to buy a drumset like Jo Jones’s. Now, just about everybody that heard Jo Jones play the hi-hats wanted to get that kind of a sound. They were experimenting with cymbals to get that too.

But, that’s a little different. That’s not like trying to duplicate by gettinng the same size drums, heads, and all of this business.

I had a drum manufacturer say to me, “I’m not all that interested in having jazz drummer endorsees. Who cares about Buddy Rich? How many drums does he play?”

The average rock ‘n roll star has eight or more drums, usually. And a bunch of cymbals. If a kid sees Carmine Appice and says, “Hey, I’ve got to have a set like that,” then I can see the dealer being a whole lot happier than if a kid comes in an wants to buy a drumset like mine: five pieces and three cymbals.

Everyone has a right in this free enterprise system. If a person has a business, he can’t ignore profits. But, I still think there’s an obligation to deal with profits, and deal with artists, from some artistic perspective; in terms of what they’ve contributed to the music, their feelings about the music, and their commitment to it.

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