My Disdain for Musicians who Destroy their Equipment

I started playing drums at age 4. I’m 61 now, so I’ve been playing for a LONG time (and I promise I won’t use the worn-out joke about my arms being tired).

My father was a music director at Centralia Community College and my mom stayed at home and took care of my two sisters and me, so we didn’t have a lot of extra money. For this reason, my first drum set was made from Folger’s coffee cans with wooden stands my dad made for me from lumber he had stored in our garage.

At age 9 I received one of those child’s tin drum sets — the kind with the snare and tom attached to the bass drum, and one, protruding cymbal stand topped by a cheap cymbal which had more in common with a pie plate than a musical instrument. Nevertheless, even though the set was minimal, I loved it. I remember wearing my dad’s Koss headphones and playing along with the 45-RPM record I got for Christmas that year, “Quick Joey Small” (anyone remember that musical masterpiece?)

At my next birthday I was thrilled to receive my first “real” drum. It was a green-sparkle, Slingerland snare drum complete with carrying-case and practice pad. I think my dad got it either for free or close to it from his friend, Randy Baunton, who at the time was the principal percussionist for the Seattle Symphony.

I soon received another wonderful surprise. It was two more drum set pieces, a bass drum with one mounted tom. These were red-sparkle (which I thought was awesome), and later I was able to order a matching floor tom from Montgomery Ward. I remember I had to save and save to accumulate the princely purchase price of $50.

As you can see, receiving any kind of drum equipment was a big deal to me (it still is, actually), so when I see musicians mistreating their equipment, it turns my stomach. Guitar players smashing their guitars, for example.

Obviously, this is particularly true when it comes to drums. I remember watching a video a few years ago which showed a drummer at the end of the band’s performance kicking over his drums, dousing them with lighter fluid, and setting them on fire. I was enraged as I watched his instrument become a useless pile of charred wood and melted plastic.

I complained to a friend of mine and fellow drummer Donn Bennett about what I had seen. Donn owned a drum shop in Bellevue and worked with many drummers touring with well-known bands as they passed through the area. He assured me the drums were cheap, and destroying them wasn’t ruining anything of consequence.

Perhaps the drums were cheap, but the cymbals in the video I watched were Zildjian — a brand I use which are very good, very expensive, and certainly not inconsequential. Even if the drums were inexpensive, I still bristle at the thought of their destruction. Those drums could have brought years of untold joy to a child whose family has limited means.

Does the entertainment value garnered from destruction justify such waste? Perhaps one could argue that’s true; just look at what Hollywood has done to countless collector cars over the years (pre-CGI). Not surprisingly, I have a hard time watching cool cars get wrecked, too.

Maybe the strong feelings I have surrounding the indefensible destruction of drums is why I’ve decided to produce videos on my YouTube channel (Chris the drummer Kimball) in which I purchase neglected, inexpensive drum sets, fix them up, and resell them. By the time I buy missing parts, take the time to clean them up, and repair them, I’m pretty sure I lose money on every one. However, it makes me feel good to take something neglected and turn it into something someone can love as much as I loved that first, red-sparkle drum set.

Re-creation instead of destruction. Maybe that’s something the world should embrace.

Drummer, motorcyclist, classic-car lover, music lover, Rotarian