Mediocrity is at an all-time surplus. I sadly realized this when my Fibes kit finally conceded to old age and I went searching for her replacement. Underwhelmed by what was available I turned to my woodshop to make my own shells. The vocabulary learned from 20 years a furniture maker easily translated to drum building and years later here we are, building the best solid wood shells we can… all of our obsession, passion, love and neuroses distilled into a circle.
Named for my daughter, Ms. Ruby Sugar, we are a slow-growing family, one member at a time. Every drum built follows a conversation of intent, particularity, preference, need, itch, utility and nuance specific to the drummer, engineer or producer for which she is built. The only person who should care as much as you about the drums you play should be the one who builds them. We care that much.
I named this company after my daughter, Ms. Ruby Sugar… my divine, resplendent, more than I ever deserved kid, without whom everything would seem quite a bit less important. And rightful of the title she is, as all profits funnel not into college preparations but rather a future therapy account in hopes of undoing all I’ve blundered. Typical doting of a boundlessly proud dad aside, she’s an empirically spectacular human and I wouldn’t dare put her name on anything unworthy of it.
Family... Endorsement, Redefined
Remember when ‘endorsement’ simply meant approval, affirmation, validation?… before greed and entitlement piloted its descent into a barter of product for praise? No one should play an instrument they don’t love. And we would never ask someone to promote if the sentiment was not sincere. We are not a corporation but rather a collective. We use no contracts, no leash of exclusivity, no purchased enthusiasm. We are merely skilled and devoted builders making circles for skilled and devoted people playing/recording them.
Acknowledging the depth of colloquial grooves long since cut by the industry, we humbly offer an alternative to the endorsement quandary… one based not on proprietary promotion but rooted simply in respect… respect for dedication, discipline and talent… respect for effort, kindness and sincerity. Through this respect and its serendipitous reciprocity, this proud company is building not a roster but a family.
The Corruption of Custom
One can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a ‘custom’ drum company these days. It seems the criteria for custom has been relegated to a phone order of pre-made plywood shells, a quick coat of shiny paint and a store bought batch of lugs. Suffice it to say, this crap deserves a different title.
There are only a handful of us still building our shells, designing and fabricating our hardware and quite frankly, caring enough to honor the pure definition of ‘custom’. These drums are not for everyone. They are incredibly labor-intensive and subsequently, not inexpensive. That said, if your instrument and your art are truly important to you, then avoid the omnipresent detritus clogging superstore shelves and find someone to whom the building of instruments is of equal importance. You’ll be happy you did.
There is no ‘ugly’ side. There is no part of a drum less important than another. These are not ‘products’, they are our offspring and the relationship formed with every drum built in the shop precipitates an investment insuring their quality.
When you swap heads you should be just as impressed with the inside as with the out. Your hands should feel surfaces and edges just as smooth and polished no matter where on the drum they grab. Everywhere should feel equally tended to and as such, the drum will perform and appear as well as it absolutely can.
As a woodworking student I was taught to build for that one guy in that one gallery who couldn’t help himself from getting on his hands and knees to verify the underside of a table was dressed as perfectly as the top… and we were always ready for him. We like that guy because to him, like us, all things matter. Neurotic?… undoubtedly. But our curse is your blessing.
All of our shells are stave-built from solid wood. We do this for 3 reasons:
- Solid wood offers the greatest breadth of tone, color, musicality and nuance in drum building and only with stave-built construction can drums be built from any species of solid wood.
- Stave construction produces a circle at rest… no bent stress, no uneven tension from manipulation of fibers or cell structure… just a perfect circle, calmly awaiting your bludgeoning.
- Stave construction rules and we’re really good at it.
Solid Wood Density Scale
Different woods have different voices, rooted primarily in their respective densities. Soft woods for warmth and swamp, hard woods for cut and audacity, medium woods for a marriage of the two.
Our Solid Wood Density Scale simply and concisely denotes where in this range each species lands, facilitating quick and easy understanding of their particular nuance.
As the voice of the kit, our snares are raised like well-loved pups… bred and nursed with a surplus of attention. Like our kits, every snare is built from a single tree, insuring congruency of color and tone. Staves are orchestrated to visually flow from one to the next, aesthetics equaling performance in priority. Shells are built slightly undersized to avoid contact with the drumhead ring, allowing for solid wood expansion/contraction and maximizing resonance. Bearing edges are shaped by hand creating fluidity from shell to head, snare beds gently dipping to facilitate acute and sensitive responsiveness. Trick throw-offs, Puresound wires and our own Sugar Percussion lugs finish the outfitting. A boatload of time, effort and love go into these beauties and we couldn’t be any prouder of them.
One Tree, One Kit
Every full kit we build we do so from a single tree. This insures consistency in quirk, as every tree is unique, even those within a single species. Location, climate, soil, exposure… all these contribute to the growth of any individual tree and can affect color, density, grain pattern, etc. Rack toms should match the kicks they neighbor, floor toms should flow from one to another. Congruency in both performance and aesthetics are paramount. Everything matters, everything is important.
From the beginning, much of our focus has been on making tools for the studio… to build drums that facilitate great and efficient recording, needing little to no tweaking, EQs or gates. These drums are a joy and an ease to record. They are the result of an acutely targeted approach to building shells specific to the needs of the engineer/producer, possessing all the good while removing the bad. Where true colors are revealed, under a microphone is where these circles really shine.
“What the fl!*#$ is that?!!” “Check the board, man… no EQ!!!” “HOLY SH!7!!! I didn’t have to touch it!!!”
These are a few of our favorite texts, all from FOH engineers meeting our Sugar offspring for the first time. Flat EQs and no help needed, we’re making jobs easier every night.
The Eric Valentine Signature Kit
Renowned for his deft and thunderous drum production, Eric Valentine is a tireless, dedicated and infinitely generous human being. He is also a good friend and collaborator. Tasked with building a custom kit for his LA studio, so began weeks of discourse, a ping ponging of ideas between Eric and I (some salient, some crazy… all entertained) with the ultimate goal of a kit built specifically for recording… possessing all the tone and presence of great shells while simultaneously removing all the engineering annoyances wrestled with constantly in the studio. Employing shallower, thicker shells, blunter bearing edges and based on prime number dimensions to diminish sympathetic resonance, the EV Signature Kit is both robust and concise, specific and congruent. It speaks as a collective unit, facilitating balance and performance, recordable with a single microphone.
We’re happy to announce our recent collaboration with Vintage King Audio. Their prowess in the pro audio world is unrivaled but more importantly, they’re just good people… knowledgeable, capable and kind. We’re honored to be their first and only drum company and the fit couldn’t be better. Visit any of their showrooms to test drive one of these kits for yourself.