Pork Pie Drums has been around since founder Bill Detamore started making drums as a hobby in 1987, but despite nearly two decades of building a devoted fan base in the drumming community, the company still retains somewhat of an underground feel. A smaller-scale manufacturer, what Pork Pie may lack in sheer size, it makes up for with daring designs that are both ear-grabbing and eye-catching. For its snares, drum kits, and hardware, the philosophy appears to be staying the original course: center the products around high-quality, often handmade materials, and keep the passion for drums alive. Let’s check out a few of the company’s unique snare drum offerings.
The first of the group to get scrutinized was the 12" x 5" “Little Squealer” ($500). With an 8-ply maple shell, the Little Squealer follows the company tradition of a visually arresting presentation, although not with the outrageously hued lacquers and wraps that it creates on a regular basis. Instead, this drum is adorned with an ebony satin finish and black chrome hardware that come together for a highly attractive appearance that absorbs light, instead of dazzlingly reflecting it. The overall effect makes the Little Squealer appear to be made of brushed metal instead of wood, and the drum quickly earned the nickname “Darth Vader” in my studio for its stark, dead-serious presence.
Closer examination revealed a tight fit and finish, with a relatively smooth snare throw-off mechanism, and all lugs and tension rods working as they should. Hoops are triple-flanged steel (as opposed to die-cast), and their fluidly arched curves add to the artful effect of this drum’s visual design. The snares have steel wires and steel ends. Unlike the other products in this review, which are made in Pork Pie’s Canoga Park, California shop, the Little Squealer is made in Taiwan.
On the snare stand, the Little Squealer proved to be a very fun and flexible addition to the kit. It has the athletic feel of a piccolo snare, while delivering the fuller, stronger punch of a bigger drum. Tuned high, it could skip along quickly and crisply with the live drum-’n’-bass/electronic styles that I play frequently, but it also works well tuned lower, sounding like a larger drum than it actually is — all the better to dig down into slower, harder pockets. I preferred to kill the ring with my trusty PureTone muffler, but the drum also sounds great unmuffled. Rimshot the drum and expect a sharp bang with lots of highs that really cut through the rest of the kit, plus any other instrumentation piled on top of that.
Like any good instrument, the Little Squealer provides inspiration all by itself. It’s fun to play, especially encouraging fast strokes, double-stroke rolls, and creative fills with its bounce. The fact that it’s equally comfortable in a big rock pocket makes this black hole of a snare drum even more appealing.
While the Vistalite inspiration of the transparent acrylic amber-finished 13" x 7" Amber Piglite ($660) is easy to see, this is no blast-from-the-past throwback. Instead, it’s a drum that blends a vintage sound in with a modern feel. Coming out onto the snare stand, it makes an immediate statement that this is a drum with an attitude and purpose. The thin, elegant tube lugs form a perfect line with the tension rods, a minimalist design that shows off the maximum amount of the 7" thick burnt orange shell.
The shell and affixed hardware have some interesting touches. The aforementioned lugs are solid brass and chrome-plated, attached again to triple-flanged steel hoops. Snare wires are high quality steel, with solid brass ends. Pork Pie says their bearing edges are “always perfect,” and so they were here. Looking inside, the immaculately smooth edges and meticulous internal lug hardware makes the Piglite attractive on the inside or outside.