Get Wittet: I have finally secured the drumset of my dreams, an all-brass WorldMax International/Taiwan kit

Patience was a virtue, then a curse as days turned into months, then years, and then the next unit on up the line. God smiled, though, and a week ago the door bell rang, the animal barked, and I reaped the rewards: a WorldMax, International (Taiwan) all-brass Vintage-Standard drumset. As you can see from the video clip, I am enjoying it immensely. The question is: Why all-brass drums or all-metal, for that matter? Fine for snare drums, you say, but for an entire kit?

Get Wittet! One possible WorldMax Vintage brass kit configuration I mess with cursed snare stands to hold toms in lieu of drilling bass drum shell

 

Best brass shell drum kit is WorldMax says T Bruce WorldMax Vintage Classic brass tom 1920s style

 

And why WorldMax and not, say, the ever-threatening Ludwig Stainless Steel? Or, back a spell, the Spizzichino gray metal kit? Yes, when Roberto still walked among us, I approached him on the subject of his proto drumset.  And back even further into the mists (sounding like Nicholas Cage in Raising Arizona) I actually purchased a full stainless steel kit from Ludwig brand new when the kit was the hottest thing.

The answer is simple. The WorldMax is the best metal drumset I’ve seen, heard, or laid hands on. End of story.

When Hera Lo responded to my call, from Taiwan, following two years of me inquiring from WorldMax USA director Walt Johnston, who has enjoyed considerable success with the Black Dawg series of snare drums, if I could buy the flagship brass kit that graced the WorldMax booth for two years at winter NAMM, 2013 and 2014, I was elated. I’d tried to purchase the mascot kit—and that which drew me to the WorldMax NAMM booth—for two years running only to hear, to my dismay, that the all-brass kit was destined for Musikmesse in Germany and would not be available for purchase in America. You read about it first here. I had visited the WorldMax booth so many times, just to tinker and tap those brass drums, they began to shoot me—that is, photograph me. Perhaps this was industrial espionage?

Next year, they invited me to sit down at the booth and peak at their digital album, which documented booth traffic from the previous year. There I was. Oops, there I was again! And again.

This time round, I assured WorldMax I wasn’t stealing specs. I was simply a drummer who believed their brass kit was unique in the world, literally world, of drums. Now, having just received my hard-fought, hard-earned kit via courier traveling the high seas, I have every reason to confirm my early suspicions. This was a drumset!

You know, I was trying to explain my reasons for purchasing an all-brass kit to my colleague and friend Wayne Eagles, with whom I’ve recorded extensively, and all I can say to him is, in lieu of us getting together, is check out the video. Like me (except he composes great material and I do my one tune every quarter-century) he comes from that rarefied space wherein jazz met rock; where Miles and Tony met Billy and Ginger; where Tony Oxley and Kenny Clare met Robert Wyatt—help me, I think I’m losing the thread, man! Point is, if the metal shells are sufficiently sturdy, I can extract credible rimshots–often difficult to impossible with wood shells and that’s but the start of it. What I need to emphasize again to you, and to Wayne and Phil Bova, another extremely long time colleague, is that it’s not just a matter of blazing new paths, discovering new worlds, and such; it’s a matter of maximizing the percussive capability of scarce resources. In that regard, the WorldMax kit again triumphs. From the 1920s strip hoops to the shell beads and shells themselves, there are sound lying in wait. Today I discovered a few more. None intrudes on that basic “recordable drum sound” somehow.

Here’s a little gossip. It’ll be our little secret. I’m not telling lies and talking dirty; just suggesting a reality in the drum industry. To whit: WorldMax International, Taiwan, has  built snare drums for at least one major American manufacturer whose latest drum I have reviewed favorably in these pages. I won’t name names although it’s plain for you to spot without undue sleuthing.

Until two years ago, I’d known about snare drums both under the WorldMax banner and (I’d suspected) OEM. What I didn’t know was that drum designers at WorldMax, Taiwan had gotten frisky, done homework, cast an eye to drums of the past as a guide for a new series of metal drumsets. These are not people who make graven-images. This is a company that builds real drums that far exceed expectations for musical instruments in the percussion family.

What’s the deal?

For one, and this is the least of it, it’s the vibe. Toms and snares feature the 1920s style strip brass lugs, also known as stick-choppers, which tighten by means of clips and conventional (but gold/brass plated) tension rods into early-century style tube lugs. These tension casings, unlike, say, Ludwigs of the day (like the 1927 Ludwig Standard I sold to help finance the current kit) feature inserts. But the inserts are not self-aligning; they do not swivel, no big deal to me and certainly not a deal-breaker. What it means is that there is zero probability of any lateral movement, or rattling, when recording. Larger toms and bass drum feature a double mid-section flange. Ludwig used to claim that the bead afforded strength. That may be but, over the years, to me the bead simply looked retro-good.

Imagine walking into winter NAMM 2013, day-1, and beholding the kit I’d envisaged since Noah and the tablets. I told you about it.

Don’t blame me; I was literally an adolescent when I got bit by the brass bug. My inspiration was Christian Vander, the daring and sometimes chaotic drummer/leader of the French group Magma. Push came to shove with the release of the Magma album 2001 Degrees Centigrade, which stands as a tightly wraught work balancing anarchical arrangements with polished gems. I couldn’t sing you a single vocal line if you put a gun to my head because Magma created their own language, partly Germanic, part fanciful, all gutteral. But I could sing you several of the beautiful melodic themes that distinguished this album from many of the nascent jazz-rock and prog albums circa 1970-73, Soft Machine excused, especially circa Robert Wyatt.

Christian Vander was one of those drummers I idolized in short pants.I’d listen to him and Eddie Marshall (The Fourth Way) and Elvin Jones (on A Love Supreme) and Ringo Starr and Dave Mattacks. They worked well, melded well, with all time fave Mitch Mitchell, especially proficient on Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland (in Scotland, Electric Lassieland), were complete. Until a year or so later, another story.

The difference is that Christian Vander used an Asba, custom-made metal drumset with 16” bass drum. And it sounded good, cranked up. It sang like a bird. That bird was a crow. I loved it. This was the ring of truth, to me.

That ring rang-home 3-weeks ago, when the amazing Ms Hera Lo, WorldMax Taiwan official, made good on a promise and sold me a complete kit of brass drums that’d make ‘em all—Christian Vander, Carl Palmer, to boot—envious.

The WorldMax brass kit is heavy. How heavy? If you’ve got a bad back, you need help carrying the bass drum. The floor tom weighs like two snow tires with wheel rims. The smaller toms are a little more reasonable, as is the snare, and there is something of a graduated-shell-girth logic at work here. Prehaps we can speak about that another day.

You can purchase it, Bruce, but I’d rather you not review it

I was incredulous. Hera Lo suggested I not review the WorldMax Vintage kit. I found this curious. I mean, here I was, face-to-face with the drumset of dreams and unable to review it? This kit will respond with the flick of a finger nail, the softest swish of a brush, yet, as you can hear unaffected on the tease video clip, will pillage and plunder. The bass drum beater hits home and upstairs the dog jumps off the couch and barks. Musicians pull their hair out. That powerful.

Each drum is so broad in dynamic range it’s frankly frightening.

I’m not going to claim I wish I’d had them in the studio for the last four freelance albums I did with Phil Bova, bassist and producer and long time colleague, at Bova Sound, because Yamaha kindly furnished (thank you Sean Browne) a new Absolute Maple Hybrid and Phil tried to keep calm but just about soiled himself each time he’d hear them. Yamaha could have sold those drums for twice what they’re getting (around 3-grand) and those-who-know would take it in their stride. Those drums cut through the tracks with musicality and presence. Glad they arrived for that last album (Sills & Smith, as yet unreleased) because I began with a kit I thought’d be perfect, a Ludwig Monroe-era multi-ply, thick walled kit, good in theory but pathetic in practice, what with the old T-mount on the bass drum and other attributes that shall go unmentioned.

The WorldMax, similarly, poses a problem, more pleasant in resolution. The bass drum comes undrilled. My first instinct, and I ought to know better by now and should have done the deed as perceived, was to drill the bass drum for a Yamaha or old Camco or old Rogers receiving end, then drilled the toms to allow the solid hex rod to penetrate and enter the inner sanctum; this way I can control sustain by moving the tom up and down on the rod.

But I deferred to my colleagues’ advice and held off. Consequently the WorldMax toms are now supported by snare drum stands. I’m biting my tongue again but let’s just say that an old Camco or Rogers hex mount is more convenient, sets up a choir-like sympathetic response among drums, and allows for tweaking of resonance/sustain.

Freaking Sistine Chapel or what?

I should have stuck the rod into the shell. I’ll do so after the buzz dissipates and the dust settles!

For now, these toms…well, they do it all. The shells are fully active; instead of a clack like a horse’s hoof for a cascara I can get a pervert’s triangle tone, a sharp ping, a hollow whack or any number of interesting alternatives to the usual stick against ply-shell tone.

I can affix a Remo Diplomat or Evans J1 and will soon be doing them up with Aquarian Vintage heads; point is, like my old Camcos, all sound good. And unlike my Camcos, the WorldMax bass drum doesn’t die three paces from the kick. This one’s a live one! And yet for all the volume, I suspect when I get these into Bova Sound in a week, they’re going to exhibit a rare controlled array of overtones/harmonics but I shouldn’t speculate at this point. I know what I hear and I like it: sound and, especially, feel.

You know, these drums, sort of passive-aggressive in nature, sit perfectly with Paul Francis‘s new/old A Zildjians. You hear me? You can now buy the A Zildjians Philly Joe used to play with Miles—the classic thin-edged A Zildjian that, if you get the right one, embraces the tones of the Turkish-made Ks of Philly’s era but adds something special—an almost sizzling, Doppler tone. These cymbals mate with the WorldMax brass kit so well I’m going to have to pull out my credit card and make a bid for the 23” A Zildjian Sweet Ride, a classic, 16 and 18 medium thing crashes, and 15” New Beat hats. No kidding: this configuration will cut any gig on this planet and probably the next.

More very soon. Thank you WorldMax director, and one who is savvy about drums down to the wing nuts, Ms Hera Lo. You have done drummers a service you are too modest to acknowledge.