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Molecules Drums - Like Nothing You've Ever Seen or Heard Before In Your Life
Each year, at NAMM, we look forward to viewing the latest innovations, those presenting their new products to the music industry for the first time. This year we again found the wacky, the wonderful, and some stuff that is just plain wrong. We also found one of the coolest drum sets you will ever see. It started in the press room.
Click through for the rest of the story and to see and hear these drums!
Wakitu was enjoying a few minutes off her feet with a side of hot tea while jamming fresh energy into depleted camera batteries. In walked Rob Lerner, a young man with an odd blue ball, which he set up on a stand on the small press conference stage in the press room. There was no conference slated for that time, he was obviously a little nervous, and that blue ball was just so odd that Wakitu had to say something. That broke the ice and she learned it was his own product, his first NAMM and, in fact, his first press conference and he wasn’t quite sure of the protocol. Veteran that she is, she advised him to assume everyone wanted to hear what he had to say, and just get up there and do it. He took the podium and - with the look of that drum combined with his knowledge of and obvious obsession with his fascinating product - he gave one of the best presentations of the day. Molecules drums are totally unique. Needless to say, she made arrangements to follow up at the booth with the entire crew to learn more about them.
The crew rounded the corner to find a set of bubbles with heads on em. Wow! What a look. Even in the visual cacophony that is NAMM, those spherical drums sure catch your eye: clear acrylic, gleaming hardware, suspension-mounted rims and a shape like a bubble hanging from a wand. Seriously - if you blow a standard bubble almost free of a typical bubble wand and turn it bubble down that is what these look like. It isn’t just the look that makes them spectacular, however; there is far more method to their madness. It is a combination of precision design, unique materials and decisions made early in the process to create a particular sound. Standard-sized, single-head design makes them easy to tune. The spherical bottoms eliminate overtones or ring and excessive sustain. The design creates a sound box that is, as they say, “pre EQ’d” - balanced and articulate. The shape creates organic compression with awesome tone and bottom end. They resonate rather than ring and really project. Even in the harsh NAMM conditions, in a warehouse-sized room full of drums and loud guitars you could hear them, clear in tone and balanced in volume. Flip ‘em over and they fit in a standard case. Blue, pearlescent, clear and filled with light - your choice of options for drawing all eyes to your stage setup are practically limitless.
It is difficult to describe the difference in sound. Their tagline is “If you want big bottom Molecule’s got ‘em.” That part is easy; it is a nice clear, fat tone. Yet it is crisp and articulate. They say that recording with them is a dream: no gates, pre-EQd, pre-compressed, just close mic and go.
I brought in my percussionist Ric Tortorete (I call him “Scratch’n’Sniff” for his brush work). He played them for a while and I asked him to hold back and play us individual drums and combinations so we could show them off. To record this, we plugged a single SM-57 directly into the camera to approximate the sound of a stage mic. They sound good in the video; they seriously sound amazing live.
In the video we talk to Rob and his partner Darryl BoneBrake (no, really). Two guys obsessed with perfecting the sound they were after with a brand-new twist on the old hollowed-out log. We also talk to Ric who played them for an appreciative crowd of 20 or 30 curious onlookers. We talked to some of them; everyone was fascinated with the look and had good things to say about the sound.
The drum has evolved. From logs to creatively hollowed logs, shells with skins stretched on top and on and on until the traditional drum sets with snare, bass, tom toms and cymbals. Every culture has its drum, every genre has its twist and, unlike some instruments, every possible style ever made is still in use today.
It has really been a while since anything has changed significantly when it comes to traditional drums. Drum technology took a different path. The move, as expected, has been digital. Nowadays we have electronics that mimic every cool drum sound you can make. You can program tracks and add groove tech and really make it sound like a human groovin’ – natural, dynamic. Every possible drum sound for hundreds of years has been captured, synthesized, tweaked and peaked and made available at the touch of a screen. Except one. Molecules Drums. Back to work, nerds.
Publisher’s Note: Great news! Soon after we left the boys at their booth they had a special guest show up. Stevie Wonder sat down and played them and by the time he left there was a huge crowd. We missed him by minutes but the good news is Stevie Wonder himself bought a set. That’s how good these things sound. Oh, they look cool all right, but they sound great!
Rumor has it that Matt Sorum (Guns’N’Roses, Velvet Revolver) also found them irresistible.