A Workshop at Drum Workshop
Stepping into progressive drumming legend Terry Bozzio’s practice room inside the Drum Workshop headquarters in southern California elicits a bit of sensory overload for the eyes and ears. This former lunchroom has been reconfigured for the artist-in-residence to demo projects, rehearse, tinker with various instruments and accessories, run his Drum Channel affairs, and of course, find a home for his mammoth drumset.
The set, which is dubbed T3—Bozzio says it’s his “third big kit,” and it’s one of four he has stored around the world— occupies half of the room and features several rows of toms tuned to specific notes, plus a massive array of Bozzio’s Sabian Radia signature cymbals. Just getting seated at the throne involves some mild body contortions.
Though it’s now a permanent fixture in the room, T3 is a well-traveled rig, having been all over the U.S. and Canada and also making cameo appearances in India with Zakir Hussain and Giovanni Hidalgo. Bozzio has since retired the kit to the room because he doesn’t always have a tech available to break it down and build it when needed.
“It takes me at least a week to get it all set up back there by myself,” Terry says. “And everybody else around here is real busy. It has sort of become a part of the DW tour. Everybody who comes in here gets to see it.”
Just outside Bozzio’s room is a percussion table with rolling casters. Although it’s loaded with an amazing assortment of rhythmic goodies—including custom gongs and various items from the drummer’s immense collection—the table appears diminutive when sized up against T3. “I figured, Man, I’m going to leave all the old gong stands at home and rebuild everything here as rolling racks,” Bozzio says. “So it’s a DW rack system with these casters, and there’s a mix of different gongs and chimes and stuff. It’s got the mallets, and everything is ready to go. You can literally just roll it into the room.”
Stored below the shelving in the adjoining DW warehouse are some of Bozzio’s other kits. Terry points out a unique-looking metallic drum rack and explains the customization process. “I had the guys burn it with propane, and then I hit it with a grinder, so it’s got this kind of coloring,” he says. “I’ve always been into the ‘look’ thing, and I always wanted my racks to be black. But it’s difficult, as the powder-coating process adds a layer that just destroys everything. Now they have a new process, which I’ll use next time; it’s really good because it’s chemically safe and cheap and nontoxic.”
Next, Bozzio shows what he calls the “sick jazz kit,” a decidedly smaller outfit featuring a full set of chromatic Rototoms, five standard toms, and three bass drums (one is remote), plus several crashes and Chinas. Like the percussion table, this set was built for portability, utilizing a rolling rack setup. “I put the carpet down, roll it through those doors, get it in position, lock it down on the carpet, and then just set up the bass drums,” Bozzio explains. “In about ten minutes the kit is ready to go.”
Bozzio has been at DW headquarters for nearly four years, helping to run DrumChannel.com, an Internet “edutainment” site that features online lessons, master classes, and performances with invited guests to talk everything drums. “It’s a total dream gig for me,” Terry says. “I do everything. I help set up, I make coffee, and I interview and play with the greatest drummers. I even give tours of the factory.”
Back inside Bozzio’s room, there’s a desk with a computer set up as a Pro Tools rig and a customized drum with the shell featuring the sheet music to Frank Zappa’s legendary drum feature “The Black Page No. 1.” There’s also a large collection of percussion on a table, including various Indian and African instruments. The tablas, doumbeks, cuicas, finger cymbals, Moroccan clay bongos, and glow-in-thedark skull shakers are representative of nearly forty years of collecting instruments. “A lot of these things I’ve bought cheaply here and there, and the other things other percussionists have given me,” Bozzio says. “I have lots of found objects and junk that I use as well.”
One of Bozzio’s percussive finds is unusual but not all that exotic, considering that it was purchased from Target. “You can get a set of bowls that comes with these plastic tops,” Terry explains. “They can be used several different ways. You can put them on the floor without their tops. If you turn them over, they have another kind of sound and pitch.”
Bozzio’s room also sports a museum-worthy collection of music memorabilia, plus musicology books (“Very special stuff to me—enough to practice for a lifetime”), a Parker pen collection, old LPs, photographs with famous drummers and celebs, and a Peavey mixing console with a 16-track, 2-inch 3M tape machine. And though he has all his tools at his disposal, Bozzio doesn’t always have a chance to get in his practice time. “I inevitably get sidetracked,” he says, “and I’m such a hundred-percent guy that what
ever I’mdoing, I’m doing too much. So if I’m off the road and I get involved in Drum Channel stuff, I find myself going days without practicing. Then I get back on the road and have the chance to get my chops back up and start thinking about music again. I come back off the road with my chops on fire and wanting to play more and more. I always try to practice something I don’t know how to do. So depending on what I’m thinking about at the time, I just work on that. It’s usually an ostinato figure that I can’t do while soloing on top of it, so I chip away at it.”
But whether he’s conceiving jaw dropping ostinatos or messing around with drum-related gadgetry, Bozzio has been able to make the best use of this former lunch spot. “There’ve been times when I’ve had three kits in here,” he says. “The floor’s always filled with parts and something I’m working with. It’s like Santa’s magic toy shop for drummers.”