Eric Holland and Mike Meadows are, in their own words, a “great partnership.” Holland is the designer and builder at Swan Percussion; Meadows the professional musician and chief product tester. They met when Holland went to hear Meadows’ band and became intrigued by his drumming style. Eventually the two decided they wanted to combine Holland’s interest in drum building with Meadows’ desire to upgrade his beloved African hand drums. In 2008 they began building their Black Swan, loosely modeled on a Ghanaian goumbe that Meadows had played since college at Berklee. The Black Swan shows a lot more Austin innovation than Ghanaian tradition. It features an instant tuning system, and a quick-change head setup that accepts any 16" tom head. And it is rugged enough for pros, Meadows key contribution to the drum. “I know what I want as a player,” he says, “Like? can I travel on an airplane with it, or can I find a head for it, or use any pedal? What if something goes wrong? Can I fix it?”
Since finishing the Black Swan, the duo has been bringing out innovative new products at a rapid pace. Their “variable” shakers developed when Holland was experimenting with different elements inside the shaker. Their Swangos are cajon-style bongos he built on a whim. Their cajons offer three playing surfaces and an internal string-tuning system. And the KnockBox is a hardwood foot pedal with an internal transducer that makes a versatile addition to any setup.
“Innovation, versatility, and quality – those three need to exist for us to pursue making a product,” says Holland. “We don’t want to do something exactly like something others are doing.” And as you can see, they don’t.