Whether he’s developing new drumsticks, cymbal combinations, or electronic instruments, Johnny Rabb, who’s currently playing with the platinum-selling rock band Collective Soul, likes to remain on the cutting edge of innovation. “I had just graduated from Berklee and moved to Nashville,” Rabb says when asked about his first venture into product design. “I was waiting tables at Red Lobster, when suddenly this stick idea came to me. I drew it out on a napkin, and in that instant the RhythmSaw was born.”

The RhythmSaw is a drumstick with teeth-like ridges in the middle. When scraped along drum rims or other surfaces, these teeth allow a drummer to create unique sounds. “I wanted to be able to make sounds similar to a DJ scratching records,” Rabb explains. “I had a prototype made and then created new playing techniques. The possibilities are endless, and once you start adding these elements to full grooves, a new musical vocabulary is born.”

Rabb has a knack for converting what’s in his head into real-life, playable gear. “Meinl was always cool about considering my ideas,” he says. “I showed them a concept that I developed by using a combination of other cymbals that already existed. I wanted a cymbal that would do more than just crash or ride. I was focused on replicating the sounds of drum ’n’ bass, house, and other electronic music. So we developed the Safari ride, which comprises a small splash that sits on top of a flat ride. This combination produces a trashy, staccato sound with a decay that can be controlled by the amount of tension applied to the wing nut.”

Rabb was also responsible for Meinl’s Generation-X Drumbal. “It’s a splashy cymbal with waved edges and a handle,” he says. “Its versatility has exceeded my expectations. I can press it down on the snare to create a vacuum-type clap, or I can hit it for a white-noise sound.”

For electronics, Rabb is exploring some new ideas. “I had an opportunity to work with NFUZD,” he says. “Their pads easily convert an acoustic drumset into an electronic kit. The NSPIRE module comes with preset kits, but they encourage users to utilize the many choices of drum software libraries. The pads can fit on any drum in an instant. Simply press them on like a food container lid. I like the simplicity of their concept, and the open platform is intriguing to me because I have plans to create my own library of sounds. NFUZD is distributed by KHS, the U.S. distributor of Mapex, and that’s what prompted me to check out their drums. I’m impressed with the consistency of Mapex drums and the quality of the hardware. I also love the support I get from their team when I’m on the road with Collective Soul.”

While Rabb continues to develop his NFUZD setup for clinics and other events, the electronics he uses with Collective Soul are relatively simple. “On the last Collective Soul tour, I used a Roland SPD-SX pad to trigger in real time,” he says. “I’m able to control intros, solo sections, loops, and keyboard parts. But we don’t play to any tracks, which I love.”

Drums: Mapex Saturn V in custom white finish
A. 5.5×14 snare
B. 5.5×13 snare
C. 10″ Johnny Rabb UFO snare
D. 9×12 tom
E. 16×16 floor tom
F. 18×22 bass drum

Cymbals: Meinl
1. 15″ Byzance Traditional Medium hi-hats
2. 17″ Byzance Brilliant Medium-Thin crash
3. 20″ Byzance Dark ride
4. 18″ HCS China with 16″ Classics Custom Trash crash on top
5. 20″ MB20 Heavy crash
6. 10″ Candela Percussion splash

Electronics: Roland SPD-SX multi-pad and BT-1 trigger pad

Hardware: Mapex Falcon series double pedal, hi-hat, and stands and T750A throne

Percussion: Meinl Slaptop cajon

Sticks: Johnny Rabb 5B Straightneck model

Heads: Remo Coated Ambassador snare batters, Clear Emperor tom batters and Clear Ambassador resonants, Powerstroke 3 bass drum batter and custom Drumstatic LED logo head on front

Miscellaneous: ProLogix Ostinato signature practice pad, Maxonix Zero-G stick holder, Great Leather stick bag