It Puts the Hip in Hip-HopBy Brad Schlueter Originally Published in DRUM! Magazine's February 2004 Issue
Pork Pie Drums is an innovative custom drum company with some very hip design concepts and cutting-edge aesthetics. Just look at their Red Bull snare drum, hourglass shaped lugs, Polka-Dot sparkle drums, or their animal print and sparkle covered stools that look like they’ve been buried in a time capsule after being stolen from a 1960s Tiki Bar. Even their logo is an example of this. Is it a porcine pirate or a Harley loving pig wearing a doo-rag, earring, and an eye-patch? Either way it gets your attention. Clearly, this is a company with a visual flair but there is more to this company than just an eye for style. They’ve created an innovative Loop Kit designed for use in drum ’n’ bass and hip-hop music that I was lucky enough to check out.
Lime-Ade. We received a four-piece 100-percent maple shell kit in what they call “Dom’s Green,” named after one of the artisans in their shop. I think of it as a lime green sparkle finish. The drums sent were an 18" x 16" bass drum, 12" x 6" snare, 10" x 8" mounted tom, and a 14" x 12" suspended tom. The kit came fully outfitted with Remo heads. There is only one bass drum hoop on the kit (more on this later), and it features a matching lime sparkle finish. The kit came with a D’Amico bass drum cradle for the very unusual kick drum supplied.
Cosmetically, the drums are flawless inside and out and have oodles of aesthetic appeal. The lime sparkle lacquer is very striking and beautifully rendered. The hourglass lugs, tom mounts, and tasteful gold Pork Pie badges compliment the elegance of the finish. This looks like an expensive kit. Snare. The 12" x 6" brass snare features an eight-lug steel hoop with 16-strand snares and one-piece tube lugs. It had a coated single-ply Ambassador batter head and a snare-side Ambassador underneath. The first thing I noticed was the visual beauty of the drum. It has a verdigris patina finish that I found very appealing, with subtle green and blue streaks and a low gloss. I loved it the second I saw it.
My second impression was that this is one heavy snare drum! I think it’s in the 13-pound range, which is surprising since its small size made me assume it would weigh much less. The kit’s bass drum weighs just a pound more. Potential backache aside, this is one articulate and bright sounding snare. It’s very sensitive from edge to center while providing great rock rimshots. Dropping the wires gives a nice, long timbale-like decay. Unmuffled, the drum has a longer decay than many small-diameter snare drums. Rim clicks on this drum are also better than I expected, but are woodier with heavier sticks. The strainer is simple, but reliable and sturdy, and held the snare tension wherever I set it. When I played Squarepusher-style accelerando snare rolls the drum sounded killer.
Toms. The toms have thin maple shells without reinforcing rings, steel hoops, chrome hourglass lugs, and gold badges that nicely compliment the finish. The 10" x 8" tom has a 6-ply shell while the 14" x 12" suspended tom has a 7-ply shell. Each is fitted with coated Ambassador single-ply heads on the top and clear Ambassador heads on the bottom, and has a suspension mounting system. Bearing edges were sharp and smooth and have been designed to help enhance each drum’s tone, attack, brightness and sensitivity. These toms sing with a strong fundamental note and have a long and smooth decay. All the drums tuned easily and sounded great. They needed no muffling, unless you prefer a shorter decay with enhanced attack.
Bass Drum. The 18" x 16" 8-ply maple bass drum has eight lugs per side, and has just one bass drum hoop. Here’s the remarkable part; it has one 20" head and one 18" head. The batter head is 20" in diameter, 2" larger than the resonant head. Think of this drum as a miniature gong drum, but with two heads. The theory behind this type of design is that using a larger batter head on a smaller shell provides added sustain to a drum, much like the way a timpani head does as it interacts with its copper kettle. The enclosed air cavity (two heads with no resonant head port) lengthens the decay as well. Many years ago, when most of you were just a twinkle in your father’s eye, Pearl released a cosmetically challenged drum series called the Extender line, which had larger batter heads that offered great sustain, but never caught on.
You probably wonder how this works. The resonant head is mounted the same as on any other drum, with key operated tension screws, stamped tension claws, and a bass drum hoop. The batter head is mounted via swiveling tension screw receivers that come out of the lugs and swivel via chrome links from a motorcycle chain to accommodate the larger batter head on the drum. There are small die-cast claws that grab right onto the drumhead collar for tensioning. There is no hoop on the batter side at all. This unconventional design functioned well.
How does it sound? The drum has a pretty deep sound given its diameter and a long decay, which I believe was intended to sound something like a Roland 808 drum machine common to drum ’n’ bass music. The included clear Powerstoke 3 and Black Powerstroke 3 logo head complimented the drum well. I got plenty of attack out of the drum plus a low-mid fundamental pitch that if miked would perfectly suit any rock song. Tuned low, this drum sounded much larger than it was. It was a little boomy in the low-end that I liked and should probably be played wide open. Tuned higher it could work as a jazz bass drum too. I think I’d choose Suede, Fiberskyn, or vintage-style heads for the drum in this application. I had to play with more of a heel-down technique since burying the beater cut-off the decay and tone of the drum. A ported head might help if you’re a heel-up only player.
The drum comes without spurs but since it is intended to sit in the D’Amico bass drum cradle it doesn’t need them. The hoop is finished with the same care as the rest of the kit and has the same Lime Sparkle finish as the shells. There is no tom mount on the bass drum shell — as is the case with most professional level kits — and the drum has two vent holes. You must mount the toms on a rack or from cymbal stands. All tension screws are drumkey operated and not the T-handle variety, which can be easily loosened in transit to a gig or get caught when putting into a case. The claws on the bass drum are functional, though I’d love to see die-cast claws with rubber gaskets on the kit.
I think I’d feel better about this drum if it had a batter-side bass drum hoop and tension claws in place of the existing head mounting system, though I’m not sure if it would interfere with mounting the pedal to the cradle. My reason for this is because of the bearing edge protection a hoop provides. As it is now, the batter-side bearing edge isn’t protected. Covered by just the drumhead, it could be damaged during transit if care isn’t taken. You’ll need a 20" hard-shelled case with this drum, and preferably one with some internal padding. A soft bag just won’t offer enough protection for the batter head’s hardware and bearing edge.
D’Amico Bass Drum Cradle. The supplied D’Amico adjustable bass drum cradle worked like a charm. It elevates the bass drum to allow the beater to strike the center of the drumhead, resulting in more tone and resonance from the drum. The cradle fits any drum 8 1/2"-20 1/2" in depth and 16"-22" in diameter, has Velcro underneath to secure it to carpet, and a black powder coating. Its heavy gauge steel construction was extremely sturdy with the necessary trade-off that it was fairly long and weighed more than I liked.
Applause. This Pork Pie Loop kit features beautiful drums and a great sound. The set’s innovative gong bass drum features a revolutionary design that provides just the type of sound it set out to produce. The diminutive snare drum is a gorgeous and articulate drum. This kit could work as a hip-hop style kit, jazz set, or even as a very portable rock kit in low volume situations. Clearly, it is designed to a standard, not a price. It’s an excellent specialty kit from one of America’s finest custom drum manufacturers.
Model: Pork Pie four-piece Loop kit in Dom’s Green (Bright Lime sparkle) lacquer finish and eight-lug stamped steel snare hoops.
Sizes & Prices: $4,825 for kit, $199 for bass drum cradle. 18" x 16" bass drum $1,825, 12" x 6" brass snare $1,180, 10" x 8" mounted tom $775, 14" x 12" suspended tom $1,045.
Shells: All drums feature 6-, 7-, or 8-ply 100-percent maple shells with no reinforcing rings. Snare features a brass shell in a low-gloss patina finish.
Heads: Remo coated Ambassador heads for tom batters, clear Ambassador on tom bottoms, coated Ambassador for snare, snare side Ambassador for the snare bottom, Powerstroke 3 bass drum batter head, and Black Powerstroke 3 for the logo head.