The Modern Drum Shop

Joe Cusatis polishes shells behind the glass of his NYC inner city paint booth.

Behind the glass, Joe Cusatis doesn't get distracted easily

You can find this photo full-size in my gallery. Joe Cusatis was a sweet guy, at least to me–I’ve heard stories. You run a drum shop in New York for decades and you can’t please everyone. I interviewed Joe for Modern Drummer magazine, or, perhaps, for Drum Business magazine. Maybe for both. Glad I kept the interview tapes because Joe  had so many opinions — provocative views — that inspired me and, no doubt, would get you frothing at the mouth.  A the back of The Modern Drum Shop, Joe taught several drum students. He employed an early sound-on-sound tape system that enabled his students to hear themselves playing in a band context.

Joe would willingly debate the merits of his drums, right down to the labor-intensive finishes he’d apply with foam or bristle brushes. No spray bombs allowed! Joe claimed his finishes were indistinguishable from industry standard sprayed lacquer jobs. I’ll always remember the look in his eyes after he made that statement. Did he believe what he was saying or was he propagating some myth? Hard to say. His drums looked good enough. The proof in the pudding was the sound, and the consensus was that Joe Cusatis’s snare drums, toms, and bass drums (including “nestling” kits: toms fit inside bass drum for ease of transport) sounded really good. Joe was meticulous about tone and dynamic range, understandable since he was a name player in the early sixties. I wish I could have spoken to him longer than the two hours scheduled. Actually, only a portion of our chat has been published. That  gives me an idea….