Scott Anderson's DIY Electronic Kit

DIY Electronic Kit

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.

A Plan Emerges

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.

In The Lab

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.

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Spider Inspired

A welded, spider-like skeleton of steel re-bar comprises the spindly but strong frame. “I bent it and welded mounts onto the re-bar,” says Anderson, an accomplished welder. To make the base, he took a broad piece of Corian and attached a thick piece of diamond-plate steel upon which everything is bolted. “I drilled holes, and put posts through the bottom of the base,” he says. “Once it’s bolted to the frame, it’s real sturdy — you can do a handstand on the thing and it’s not going to bend.” The spider frame is one piece, and all the pads can come off by simply loosening up little hex screws.

Brains

Of course, an electronic kit must have a brain, and Anderson chose the Roland TD-10 (not the AB Normal Brain!). The brain interfaces with the rack of gear that perches upon the frame-mounted custom tabletop, a rig that includes a Tascam DA-40 DAT machine, Akai S6000 sampler, DrumKat midi controller, Iomega Zip drive, and mixers. Mainly, he runs the TD-10 into the sampler so he could mix the samples with the V-Drum sounds, and he runs separate stereo outs from both devices. He plans on using all of the TD10’s eight individual outputs eventually.

The cymbals incorporate three velocity-sensitive Roland triggers that have been strategically spaced to avoid dead spots on the pad. By wiring the grounds together and twisting the three positive leads together at the jack, Anderson can send all three triggers through one cable. Although there are three triggers, it only has mono triggering action. He aims to set up the ride cymbal with dual-trigger capabilities soon and is on the path to figuring out how to modify his cymbal pads to handle choking. He uses a Roland hi-hat controller for realistic hi-hat action. The snare drum is dual trigger to accommodate rimshots, but the toms and both kick drum pads are single-trigger.

Heavy Metal

Anderson hasn’t taken the Frankenstein kit out on the road yet, but used it recently on an MTV online event and uses it regularly for rehearsing, and creating and recording new material on his Digi001 Pro Tools system. “It’s a beast to move around. The base itself probably weighs a couple hundred pounds. When I originally designed it, it was more of an artistic, workable thing that I sculpted and welded. But the spider frame comes off — it’s only bolted onto the base — and I can get it in the van; it takes up the whole van, but I jam it in there. I need more than just the drum tech I have on the road with me now to move it.” Frankly, it’s too heavy.

It’s Alive! Until he has more than one Igor to help him move the monster kit around, Anderson uses a more portable acoustic DW kit with an epic 13"-deep Pearl brass-shell snare for his live shows. He enhances the acoustic sound with four homemade Corian and re-bar pads to trigger samples, and ddrum triggers on all the drums to trigger the V-Drum brain. “It puts the sound over the top,” says Anderson. “You could put an 808 or 909 thump on the kick drum so when you hit it, you feel it. It sounds really cool.”

Anderson is essential in filling out the four-piece band’s live sound, especially in recreating the multi-layered sound that’s on the new record. To bring that vibe to the live shows, Anderson took samples created for the album and transferred them over to his Akai S6000 sampler, which he controls with the four pads. “I also control a DAT machine when we play, because we use some guitar backing tracks.” When the band calls for a sound-scape between songs, he’ll twist an organic sample to fit the bill. “I’ll take a something, like a piece of metal, sample it, then I’ll time stretch it and lower the pitch and really degrade it until it’s unrecognizable from the original sound. Then I’ll either put it in a loop, or on DAT, or just use the sound as an effect.”

Creature Control

For an even greater level of control, Anderson uses Shure in-ear monitors while performing. He deals with the drawback of lacking lows from in-ear monitoring by incorporating a Guitammer ButtKicker underneath his throne to help him lock into the feel. But sometimes there can be too much feel, if you know what I mean, so he finds it necessary to put a compressor/gate in line with the Butt Kicker to block out any other stage sounds. “If I didn’t use the gate, things could go nuts,” says Anderson. He sends all his drums through his mixer and splits the signal out to the house. “That way, I get my own in-ear mix of my drums, my clicks, my samples, everything — it’s all contained in my little box so I don’t have to worry about anyone else controlling it. I can do it all on my own.” And it is all about control, isn’t it?