BY DON BENNETT
In 1996, the members of Journey were packing their bags to hit the road. The impending world tour would not only promote the multiplatinum arena rock band’s most recent album, Trial By Fire, but marked a highly anticipated reunion of their classic 1980s lineup after nearly a decade-long hiatus. Steve Smith acquired this Sonor Designer series set in preparation for the tour, featuring double bass drums and six toms that would provide ample power needed to fill the stadiums they’d soon be selling out.
Unfortunately, the ill fated tour was canceled before it ever started as conflicts within the band boiled over. Before everything fell apart, Journey did manage to shoot a video of one of the album’s tracks called “When You Love A Woman,” in which you can see the full set in all its glory. With the tour canceled, this kit’s history could have been a very short one, but instead it was only the beginning.
Smith would soon call the Designer set his “East Coast Kit.” At the time he was living in Manhattan, enjoying the freedom of being an independent artist, and playing gigs with a wide array of musicians based in New York. For the next ten years Smith used this set to record and perform on a long list of East Coast projects, including Vital Information, Buddy’s Buddies, and The Buddy Rich Big Band.
The set includes two 22″ bass drums, 8″, 10″, 12″, 13″, 14″, and 16″ toms. These drums were mixed and matched in a wide variety of configurations depending on the gig, although the only time Smith played both bass drums was for the Journey video shoot. The snare I received when I acquired the set is a 14″ x 6.5″ carbon steel Dangerous Ocheltree made by Smith’s tech at the time, Jeff Ocheltree. This is the snare used on the audio recording of “When You Love A Woman.”
Smith retired the set in 2008, and when it finally sold it was divided into two separate kits. However, thanks to some very diligent collectors, all the drums were located, reunited, and returned to the original complete configuration you see above.