What happens when two veteran drum geeks get together over coffee? Well, any idea of an organized interview goes out the window and instead they end up discussing the finer points of shell thickness and bearing edge design.
I recently sat down with Paul Dickinson, proprietor and chief drum builder at Udrum (the Underground Drum company), in Burlington Ontario. Paul has been building custom drums for a little over 20 years, and there's not much that he hasn't seen or tried when it comes to drum technology.
Paul's goal as a custom drum builder is simply to create "the last drums you'll ever buy". An admirable mission (and, given most drummers' propensity for collecting, probably not attainable). But if you're in the market for an instrument that fits you like tailor-made clothes, custom drums like Paul’s makes may be the answer.
I thought my own drum vision would be impossible to realize: this finish, those sizes, re-rings or no ... it's a fairly long and precise list. Paul's response was, "Looks good," as in ’no problem’.
What sets a custom drum apart from the mainstream is that it can be tailored to your wants and needs from the ground up. My dilemma is whether to buy a vintage kit and spent a couple of hundred dollars bringing it up to date, or for a few dollars more have drums built that would give me exactly what I was looking for. One of Paul's strengths is that, along with building drums, he's a player and a drum tech, and he's been repairing and restoring drums for many years. So he knows what the vintage drums are all about. He also works with some of the major drum companies, and is familiar with how they do things these days. And so he can replicate just about any sound and configuration you’re looking for, including vintage types.
Like the majority of drum builders, Paul uses off-the-shelf parts, including the shells. Some of the major companies do the same. And Paul isn’t limited to one source. If it exists, there's a good chance he can get it. But if all that choice is to much to cope with, Paul has a short list of quality components that meet his exacting needs.
I've seen and played Paul’s drums and they are magnificent -- among the best I've heard. As for the price, expect it to be below what you'd pay for other top-of-the-line sets. And for the record, Paul’s bearing edges are works of art.
You can find out more at the Udrum Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/UDRUM (udrum.com).