DW Drums Factory
August 5, 2017
Writing and Photography by TourBusLive.com
Sure, everyone in high school thinks the marching band is just a bunch of band dweebs. But high school band dweebs are actually some of the most talented kids you will ever meet, and many of the coolest of the band dweebs are always on the drum line. So, watch out who you make fun of, kids! Those band dweebs often grow up to be rock stars!
And on Saturday, we were lucky to meet DON LOMBARDI and JOHN GOOD – the rock stars behind DW DRUMS – which is now celebrating their 45th YEAR in the business of making some of the most beautiful instruments we’ve ever laid our eyes on!
Starting originally in Santa Monica, California in1972 as a drummer’s school, Lombardi offered to teach his skills to would-be drummers and those who wanted to hone their craft. He named the school Drum Workshop, which is what DW stands for to this day. At some point soon after, then-17-year-old eager drummer Good signed up for lessons and, with a shared love for the instrument, Lombardi and Good formed a friendship and began working on product ideas together. Good toured as drum tech and roadie with the likes of Earth, Wind & Fire and Frank Zappa in order to keep capital flowing in the early days of the DW company, but his continued work in the field actually helped him learn what hardware drummers really needed and what hardware did and didn’t work in the long run, which then helped DW design some of the most durable and long-lasting hardware in the industry.
Eventually, DW began to manufacture the actual drums – but they carved out a rare and unique niche – they were producing custom-built handcrafted drums in a mostly automated world. And as time passed, and DW moved forward, another unique thing happened – John Good developed the skill for hunting the best wood on the planet for making those handcrafted drums. YEP – the best wood.
AND THAT IS WHAT SETS DW APART – the best wood used by the best craftsmen to make some of the best looking and best sounding drums around! Good travels the globe to find some of the most exotic (and sustainable) wood available – often from trees whose stories are as deep and rich as the timber itself.
Take, for example, the story of the Neil Peart R40 kit: Neil Peart of RUSH (arguably the best drummer on the planet) has always been careful when selecting his drum kits for tours. In 1996, after years with Slingerland, Tama, Pearl, and Ludwig, Peart discovered DW, who then crafted his Test for Echo tour kit (with red sparkle finish), and a relationship was formed. The black DW Peart R30 kit followed a few years later, a beautiful red kit for the Snakes & Arrows tour, and then the bar was raised higher than ever – as DW crafted the Time Machine Tour kit –a steam-punk inspired beautiful wood-meets-gear themed kit, complete with moving parts – which was as much a part of the show as any instrument on stage! The kit even enjoyed some enviable attention at the 2011 NAMM show in Anaheim when it made an appearance at the DW booth. And after the same kit was used on the Clockwork Angels tour, RUSH began plans to wind down their touring life after 40 years as their current lineup (to every RUSH fan’s dismay) and went out on the road for their last full-blown world tour – R40. So that tour definitely required a special kit.
What was made: THE DRUM KIT OF ALL DRUM KITS with the wood of all wood! Good had been contacted about a log that had been procured from a forest in Romania. The tree had once grown along the banks of the Olt River. This ancient oak topped around 1,500 years ago into the river, and was buried in silt for centuries. The log was brought up from the river’s bottom in 2014 – right about the time Peart was in need of a final tour kit – and Good brought the oak home to the DW factory in Oxnard, California. Peart tried out a few prototype shells from the old oak and knew immediately that this was the one. So DW built the kit from that 1,500-year-old oak log – and the rich history of that wood gave a rich sound to the backbone of the last RUSH tour ever – one history helping to tell the end of the story of another history.
[Side Note: The rest of the wood leftover from that same 1,500-year-old oak that made Peart’s tour kit was then made into a limited number of signature custom Icon Series snares with the same R40 finish as Peart’s. Those lucky owners have a part of real history – both of the tree AND the band!]
But I digress.
Today, after 45 years in business, DW is the drum shop of all drum shops – handcrafting original, gorgeous, reliable, customized, incredible, and memorable pieces of art that just happen to make a huge sound.
And, luckily for the drum fans in Southern California, DW’s factory stayed local, resting now among the celery fields and lemon groves of beautiful Oxnard (seriously, the complex that houses DW’s two buildings rises up like cathedral spires for all the pilgrims to see!). And this past Saturday at their annual DW DAYS event (co-sponsored by Guitar Center), DW opened its doors (and its transformed parking lot) to drum enthusiasts and the families who love them.
As we parked our car and walked towards the gates to the event, the familiar sound of paradiddles and rim shots filled the air.
Scores of attendees were treated to free gifts (we got egg shakers on our way in!), drums to try out, a drawing for free gear, several food (and shaved ice!) trucks, great sales on product, and everyone could also sign up to take a very extensive and eye-opening tour of the actual factory! There was also a stage set up for interviews with Lombardi and Good, and performances by both Eric Moore (formerly of Suicidal Tendencies) and Tabitha (Stephen Perkins from Jane’s Addiction on drums in his side project with the Okai sisters, Mayuko on guitar and Tsuzumi on bass! That. Band. Rocks!
All in all, it was a fantastic summer day, and just so happened to be how this writer spent her birthday! J
If you missed the DW Days fun, don’t fret (uggh – a guitar joke in the middle of a drum story)! You can stop by the factory for a free tour every Thursday! Just visit their website for details!
SPOTTED IN THE CROWD: Drummer Thomas Lang (stOrk, Peter Gabriel, Robert Fripp), drummer Anthony “Tiny” Biuso (TSOL, The Dickies), the most adorable Boston Terrier, and a ton of as-yet-unknown young drummers! Look out, world!
“But the oaks can’t help their feelings
If they like the way they’re made
And they wonder why the maples
Can’t be happy in their shade.” ~ Neil Peart/RUSH/Trees