“When we were rehearsing for the latest album,” says modern pop group Awolnation’s drummer, Isaac Carpenter, “Masters of Maple owner Sahir Hanif brought his bell brass snare, and it seemed like our band sounded twenty-five-percent better. You can hit it on the side [of the head] or in the middle, and it always has such a good tonal quality. It’s not overly loud; it just has such great presence. It has all the cliché attributes that you’d want in a snare: great top-end volume with nice low end that hits you in the chest.

“We’re not using any electronics,” Carpenter continues. “Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but when I go to a live show I would rather see a singer try and fail with conviction than see him sing to a bunch of tracks and be ‘perfect.’ I’d also rather see someone try to approximate the sounds of the album—perhaps by using a different instrument—than to play the exact sounds with samples. I use tons of samples when I record, and [Awolnation leader] Aaron Bruno adds beautiful electronics. But live, you might as well see someone do it for real. So many bands are playing to tracks. It sounds perfect, but it doesn’t give you any sort of charge. There’s no risk; there’s no danger.”

Regarding his choice of cymbals, Isaac says, “I’ve been using Zildjian forever. The Ks can be delicate, or they can be washy. For instance, if I hit my ride really hard on the bell, it can be extremely piercing. But the thing I’m most excited about now is my lethal trash guy—the Trashformer! I never thought I’d add something like that into my setup. It sounds like a different hi-hat stab. It’s even caused my left arm to get stronger because I always want to do accents on it. It’s fast and kind of extreme, but it fits into the mix really well. Sometimes it almost sounds like a shaker. I usually hit it right before or right with the snare.”

Carpenter’s tuning generally leans toward the tighter side, but on the Awolnation gig he says he’s cranking his drums higher than ever. “Tuning this way helps the drums cut through,” he explains. “Our guitars and synths are loud. And our engineer, Bob Strakele, gates the toms, so he can add a lot of low end to them and it won’t affect anything else. He has a crazy old vintage ADR Compex F760 compressor/expander on the overheads, so he can make one song really hyped and then make the next one really subdued. People think he’s using triggers on the drums, but he’s just using a lot of gating and EQ.”

Drums: Masters of Maple
A. 6.5×14 bell brass snare
B. 9×13 gum/rosewood tom
C. 14×16 gum/rosewood floor tom
D. 16×22 maple/gum bass drum

Cymbals: Zildjian
1. 15″ New Beat hi-hats
2. 14″ Trashformer with a 12″ Spiral Stacker on top
3. 19″ K Dark crash
4. 22″ K ride
5. 20″ K Dark Thin crash
6. 20″ Oriental China

Sticks: Vic Firth 5A

Hardware: DW 9000 series boom stands and hi-hat (with Mega Clamp attachment for the stacker), Tama Iron Cobra Rolling Glide kick pedal

Drumheads: Remo Clear Emperor tom batters and Clear Ambassador resonants, Coated X14 snare batter, Powerstroke 3 Black Dot kick batter and Starfire Chrome front