E-drums show off in Manchester

Tuesday, 1 October 2019 10:53 am

Electronic percussion was well represented at the UK Drum Show which ran at the Manchester Centre exhibition complex in late September, as Allan Leibowitz reports.

Pearl used the show to officially launch its new e-drum chapter with the e/MERGE kit going on sale in the UK. As we reported from NAMM in January, the new system was developed with Korg and consists of a module and a new triggering system honed from the Wavedrum line.

Pearl also unveiled its first endorser for the new line, Germany’s super-sub, Dirk Brand, best known to e-drummers as a Roland artist and to digitalDrummer readers for his custom presets for brushes.

Why move to e/MERGE? “The feeling is so different from the competitors. This is completely new technology that feels so natural,” Brand said during his demo. “It’s very sensitive and you can hear the toms ringing after you hit them.”

Hybrid drumming was a big theme at Roland’s extensive stand, dominated by a stunning British Drum Company kit finished in custom Roland hybrid black and blue.

Roland UK drums and percussion head Jules Tabberer-Stewart said the kit, coupled with external triggers and the TM-6 PRO module, gave visitors a real sense of the potential of hybrid drumming.

“When I talk to end-users, the biggest worry is whether it’s all too complicated,” he said. His response: “Hybrid drumming is problem solving for drummers. We spend so much money on our (acoustic) kits – beautiful shells, good heads and really nice cymbals – and we often end up with this really thin sound among all the amplified instruments. So even adding just a kick and a snare trigger and putting that through the PA can make it sound like the kit is miced up.”

Making a kit sound like it’s all miced up has been top of mind for Simon Edgoose who has become the face of Yamaha’s EAD 10 acoustic electronic system. Besides working on the design and presets for the system, Edgoose has been on the road demonstrating the EAD.

Edgoose was in action again in Manchester – but nowhere near the 18 demonstrations he managed on some days at NAMM in January.

UK e-drum maker Jobeky had a full Prestige kit, some pads and a mix of electronic cymbals on show in Manchester and Jane Ackroyd was pleased with the visitor response. “It was a very busy show and there was lots of interest again, with a lot of people doing a double-take as they walked past,” she said. Ackroyd says awareness of electronic drums is rising, especially as more companies make ‘full size’ kits. “People are realising that e-drums are versatile and should be taken as seriously as acoustics,” she noted.

Alesis had a very busy booth, with plenty of interest in its vast range of e-drum kits, from entry-level to the flagship Strike Pro set. And the new Strike Multipad also took something of a thrashing, with many drummers impressed to see an alternative to the Roland SPD-X line that has dominated the market for years. The company’s new 2,000 W drum amp was also on show – although not fired up.

Notable absences from the show were 2box, Gewa and Kat. Yamaha was pretty low-key, with only a hybrid kit and a stack of EAD 10s on show at the booth. There was no representation from the VST world, although Tobias Hunke, founder of AbletonDrummer.com, was on hand to check out the use of his favourite tool. And he wasn’t disappointed, with Ableton in action on a number of the demos and performances.

Perhaps the most impressive demonstration of the performance power of electronic drums was the Roland artist combination of Michael Schack and KJ Sawka who, according to Hunke, were “rockin’ out triggering sounds plus the videos live”.

Schack is now at the top his game as a solo performer/DJ drummer. His performance in Manchester came just days after his launch of his own music label and his first single. “It’s actually a dream come true – this is something I was planning for a long time and I made the decision that I am not going to be a drummer for some artist; I’m going to focus on putting this on the map,” he said.

For Manchester, Schack teamed up with American musician, record producer and DJ KJ Sawka, who is also the drummer with Pendulum and Destroid.

“What Michael and I are embarking on for this performance is something for the drummers. We have tracks that we have made, the integration of video and stuff like that – it’s a well-rounded, all-encompassing performance as opposed to just drums,” Sawka said.

The show had a strong clinic and performance programme, with Matt Garstka, Aaron Spears, Ralph Peterson, Chris Coleman, Ray Luzier, Miguel Lamas, Nikki Glaspie, Gergo Borlai, Dom Famularo, Zach Danziger, Marco Minnemann and Benny Grebb in action.

Besides the artists on stage, the event was well attended by pro drummers, and digitalDrummer caught up with a number of artists who have featured in previous editions, including Kaz Rodriguez and Emily Dolan Davies.

Howard Jones drummer and a regular contributor to digitalDrummer Jonathan Atkinson dropped into the show to check out the gear and the industry people, taking time out from his rehearsals for an upcoming Kim Wilde Greatest Hits tour. Atkinson continues to use mostly acoustic kits, supplemented with Ableton, triggered by a Yamaha DTX M12. “It’s good to see that there are so many solutions out there now,” he said in reference to the gear on show in Manchester.

See our gallery here.