Acting on a tip from his management, drummer Scott Anderson left his digs in Minneapolis, Minnesota to hook up with East Coast rockers, pete, six years ago. Sequestered in the basement of their quirky old Victorian house in the bowels of Newark, New Jersey, the band grew like mushrooms in a dank cave. Anderson imbued pete’s sound with deeper shadows and heavy rhythms. As he explored more twisted ways to push the music over the top, he tapped into the realm of electronics and found a proverbial Pandora’s Box of sonic manipulation to enhance his role as rhythm coxswain.
Since those early days, not only has Anderson incorporated a sampler, processor, effects rig, and trigger-happy homemade pads into his live setup, but he’s gone all out and created his own home-baked electronic kit. This guy’s a modern-day Dr. Frankenstein — the main difference being that instead of picking up a shovel and digging up body parts in a graveyard, the innovative drummer donned oven mitts and foraged for scraps of Corian at the shop where he built cabinet tops as a day gig. With these fragments of Corian — a mineral and acrylic composite material from DuPont — Anderson pieced together his vision, forming, routing, welding, steel re-bar here, a touch of Roland electronics there, and a brain.
The band recently released its self-titled debut album; a lush journey through the garden of grim, replete with distorted drum sounds, samples, and thickly-layered guitar tracks. As the band gains momentum, we heard tell of Anderson’s creation and wondered, for pete’s sake, what makes this drummer tick? We caught up with Anderson via cell phone as he was taking a little time off from touring to poke around the Lyndhurst Mansion in Tarrytown, New York. It was a nice day for a trip up the Hudson, he said, but what he really wanted to do was see the creepy basement of the gothic mansion. It’s not surprising, really, to find him seeking cellars given the band’s fecund beginnings.
Where did it begin? Well, Anderson admits that he’s always been into electronics and sampling unusual things. “I’ll sample something like the sound of a rock being thrown against a wall and then mess it up somehow — make it unique. I like to take a guitar sound and twist it until it doesn’t sound like a guitar at all.” With this penchant for manipulating natural sound, he was a shoe-in for the mad scientist society. When he joined forces with pete, he wanted to up the ante. So he hatched a plan.
“Before we got signed, I built Corian countertops for work. I was always thinking ‘Man, I could do something cool with this stuff.’ I started thinking I could make an electronic drum set out of it if I really wanted to. I had this idea of creating this kind of monolithic alien-type thing.” So he stashed Corian away in sheets and waited until everyone had left for the day to work on his experiment. It took him about four months to build the kit. “Any chance I got to do this or that, I’d take it — get the welder and weld stuff up, sand things down.” Let’s take a peek at the method to his madness.
Anderson made up a design and set to work, seaming the Corian together and forming it with a router, using templates that he made out of wood as a guide to make the round pads. He then sanded it down. “It comes out like stone when you’re finished,” he says. The shell piece that the rim sits on is made of Corian as well. He shaped these pieces with a little Easy-bake action (when exposed to high temperatures, the material actually becomes pliable). “Throw it in the oven at 300 degrees or so for 20 minutes, and it comes out like floppy rubber,” reveals Anderson. “Form it and let it cool, and it retains the shape.” After the shells had been formed and sanded, Anderson drilled holes for the lugs, and put brass-set screws on the bottom to hold them in.
He used Roland V-Drum mesh heads for the crowning glory, and outfitted each pad with Roland foam-rubber cone triggers, placing a sensing device in the center of each pad under the head. “It’s pretty much the same design as the V-Drum pad, except it’s made out of Corian mounted on this steel frame. It works just as good as any other electronic kit I’ve played,” he says.
The trapezoidal cymbals are also constructed of Corian, with a metal plate on top and a thin layer of gum rubber. “They feel and play just like regular cymbals,” claims Anderson. Tabletops for the rack and the brain were simply constructed of cut pieces of the composite material. The rack is bolted to the frame. The brain, well the brain just sits there.