Hello, everyone, the name is Ben Homola, and I’m extremely honored that Modern Drummer has asked me to write up a blog entry for their website. From the beginning, I’ve been an avid MD reader and made sure to never miss an issue.
Here’s a quick overview of the past few years of my drumming/drum tech career. I got my start as the drum tech for Brian Lane, drummer for the Long Island band Brand New. I eventually became the band’s auxiliary drummer as well as drum tech. I not only took care of the drums but also got a chance to play on stage with the band every night. This later led to playing with a singer/songwriter from Brooklyn, Kevin Devine, who I continue to play with to this day. I also fill in playing drums for the Atlanta-based band Manchester Orchestra. Luckily for me, not only are all of these guys great musicians, they’re some of my best friends. These relationships have led to a new band, Bad Books, which is a Kevin Devine/Manchester Orchestra collaboration. Our debut record is out now. Recording it was a quick, intense process that has produced an album that has a raw but natural feel to it. We hope you check it out.
But what this entry is really about is the relationship between being a drummer and a drum tech. Often the importance of performers’ support system is overlooked. In this case, the support system would be the drum tech. I consider myself fortunate that I’ve had many experiences playing and teching, and I’ve learned that there is a symbiotic relationship between the two roles, with the performer and the tech each benefiting from the other.
I’ve always loved drumming, but at the same time I’ve always been fascinated with the drum itself. This interest has been further developed through my tech jobs. It’s amazing that materials that are so primal, raw, and simple could make up such a beautiful instrument. The drum geek in me can’t get enough info about the variety of woods used in drum construction, as well as the tonal quality of cymbals and the different types of metals used in their construction. I continue to explore things like what drumhead is suited for the right situation, the difference between bearing edges, and so on. I not only want to work on my overall technique as a drummer but also learn the drum inside and out. My teching has given me the opportunity to observe other drummers up close and personal. From this perspective I’ve learned that a good drum tech becomes the drummer’s shadow. Simply put, you have to put yourself in their skin as a player. Seeing how other drummers set up and how they engage their kit influences and shapes a smart drum tech.
As a drummer you learn to play to a room, and as a drum tech you learn to tune to the room. I know that being a drummer gives me that extra insight into being a great drum tech. You get what a drummer wants and needs out of his setup. You understand the complex language that only drummers understand. If you think outside of the box, you’ll be surprised by what you discover. For those looking to pursue being a drum tech, read everything you can get your hands on, take your drums apart and put them back together, and watch other players. But don’t just pay attention to their playing—listen. Keep in mind that just as each of us has our own unique voice as a drummer, our drums have a voice of their own as well.
Before I let you go, I’d like to share my set up with y’all. For a while now I’ve been playing C&C drums out of Gladstone, Missouri. I met them through Brian Lane of Brand New, who has endorsed C&C drums for some time. Bill and Jake Cardwell build some of the best-sounding drums I’ve ever had a chance to hear and play. Currently I play a mahogany kit with maple reinforcement rings, including a 14×24 kick, a 9×13 rack, and a 16×16 floor. If you get a chance, check them out, as they’ve also started building their own shells in house and are one of the only custom companies doing so. As far as cymbals go, I play Zildjian Ks and As, mainly bigger sizes including 16″ hi-hats and 24″ rides. I use Remo Vintage Emperors on the batter sides of my toms and snare and clear Ambassadors on the resonant sides, and I use a coated or clear Powerstroke 3 on the kick drum. I’ll use any hardware but can’t play without a DW 9000 kick pedal.
That’s about it. If you have any questions or just feel like drum geeking out, please feel free to email me at [email protected] Thanks for reading!
For more on Ben Homola and Bad Books, go to www.myspace.com/badbooksmusic.