Admit it; you’ve got G.A.S. too.
Gear. Acquisition. Syndrome. It’s more common than you might think. Nowadays, we can log on anytime we want and surf the web to find out what gear our favorite musicians are using. Among the glitz and the glamour of the images and videos of the latest and greatest, it’s easy to forget that all of them are only a means to an end. You’ve gotta pick the right Tool for the job, and guys like Danny Carey know how to use their tools as well as a master craftsman or a distinguished surgeon.
Just about anyone who has ever picked up a pair of drumsticks, or even thought about it, has heard of Danny Carey. His main band, Tool, has a legacy that spans over 2 decades and would require its own blog, at the very least. If not, a book or two. The rig Danny uses with Tool keeps all of us gear junkies frothing at the mouth and the banks our credit cards are drawn on giddy.
Danny’s acoustic kit, while not changing drastically in layout, has gone through several iterations, specifically regarding the drums he’s used. The current foundation is a pair of bass drums cast from the cymbal company, Paiste’s (rhymes with feisty) Signature bronze alloy. These were a part of an entire kit that was designed by Paiste and John Bonham’s former drum tech, Jeff Ocheltree for Danny. While he has used the kit in its entirety, in an effort to maximize efficiency and ergonomics, the bass drums and an 8” deep by 14” diameter cast bronze snare drum are all that are currently used on tour. Above the kicks, in lieu of traditional rack toms, Danny is using a pair of Remo Rototoms. Then, to his immediate right, is a 14”x14” ebony Sonor floor tom, and to the right of that is a custom clear acrylic gong bass, also made by Sonor. The acoustic drums, however, are only the beginning.
For over 20 years, Danny has endorsed the Swiss cymbal company, Paiste. They have created a very unique palette of sounds for drummers to choose from and the bronze that surrounds Danny’s kit illustrates this. Let’s start on the left side of the kit. There are 3 pair of various splashes and bells mounted on top of one another in such a way that each one can be played individually. They include a 7.5” 2002 series cup chime over an 8” 2002 cup chime, a 6” 2002 accent cymbal over an 8” Signature Series bell, and an 8” Signature Dark Energy splash over a 10” Signature Dark Energy splash. Above all of them, is a massive 20” 2002 Novo China cymbal with its distinctive inverted bell. Moving to the right, there is an 18” Signature Full crash, a pair of 13” Signature Sound Edge hi hats and a 19” Signature Power crash. If you’re having trouble visualizing it, yes, the hats are mounted directly between the 2 Rototoms. While it’s a very non-traditional location, Danny needed the area to the left of his snare to place some of his electronic drums, which we’ll dive into shortly. To the right of the 19” crash is the mighty 21” Signature Dry Heavy ride. The cymbal set up is rounded out with a 20” Signature Thin China, a 20” Signature Power crash with a 5” 2002 cup chime inverted above it, and an 11”/18” Noise Works Dark Buzz China stack all on the far right side of the kit. Lastly, a legendary 40” Symphonic gong provides the physical and sonic backdrop to this percussive landscape. We salute you, fellow cymbalholic!
Nearly everyone who has seen his kit in photos or in person knows that electronics play a significant role, so much so that Danny worked with the Synesthesia Corporation’s Vince DeFranco to develop the Mandala pad to fulfill his sonic needs. The Mandala is a high resolution, position sensitive MIDI controller used to trigger whatever sounds or samples one would like. Danny uses his 7 prototype pads, 4 to his left and 3 to his right, in conjunction with Native Instruments Battery drum sampling software to create all of the non-traditional drum set sounds he needs to perform Tool’s library of songs. Other electronics used include an original Korg Wavedrum and a Roland Handsonic HPD15, both of which can be used with hands or sticks. These both differ from the Mandala in that they contain their own internal sound libraries. What they have in common is that they are the stuff that we gear nuts dream about.
So now what? Do we all rush out and try to replicate Danny’s kit in hopes that it will unlock some hidden internal ability to play like him? As much as we can hope, we also know deep down that it’s just not going to happen that way. Practice on what you’ve got and keep getting better and better at whatever instrument you play. All the while, save your pennies, because even though it won’t make us better players, there’s nothing like the rush from picking up a new piece of gear!