Solid shells vs Ply? This is a debate that many drummers will contemplate when considering purchasing a new snare drum these days. There are a few different routes a builder can take to create a solid shell. For example, segmented block could be an option but these are typically time-consuming and expensive to produce. Steam bent shells, which were made popular by Craviotto, might be an option but then you have to deal with potential fiber splitting with certain types of wood and the grain runs horizontally and some people claim that this affects tone in a bad way. Then you could be like Brady drums and simply hollow out tree trunks. I do happen to think that this is the best method personally but this method may not be an option for everyone trying to build a drum. And then finally, you have stave drums.
Stave drums are becoming exceptionally popular with a community of woodworkers turned drum builders lately. It is more affordable, less tedious than other solid shell construction methods and you can get pretty creative with finishes as well. The grain runs vertically down the shell which interferes less with tone and there is far less glue involved than with a ply shell. Sounds good, doesn't it? Well, it is good. Very good.
Predator Percussion hails from the small community of Whiteland, Indiana. A community less than 5, 000 people and yet on Instagram alone Predator Percussion is followed by nearly half that figure in short time. I find it amazing that people from rural towns can have such a wide audience online. I digress, but I think this is an amazing time for free enterprise.
Predator Percussion has been in business now for 2 years and is really starting to make a name for themselves. Predator Percussion has signed artists such as Joey "Bones" Parasole and Scott Allen Huff. I keep hearing the name Predator Percussion and for good reason; the name Predator Percussion is resonating well in the drumming community.
A self-proclaimed "handy man", Mike Martin, began looking into how a stave drums are built and referenced some of the industry's finest drum builders for both inspiration and tips on assuring a quality build. Mike really focuses on making his builds personal by taking pictures of the raw wood materials for his clients. He is the kind of guy that wants to get inside of the heads of his clients in regards to the sound that they are looking for. Overall he includes his clients in the birthing process of the instrument to make it a special experience for his customers. I think that his hands-on and personable approach to dealing with his customers is something that really sets Mike apart from the "big brands" and convinces me further that boutique drums are the way to go for drummers these days.
In the following interview, we discuss Mike's personal story about how he found woodworking, his experiences building his company, where he wants to see it in the near future and much more.
DG: Tell us a little bit about Predator Percussion. MM: We are a new company. About 3 years into this venture. Myself and my partner Steve Teepe. We make stave constructed drums. Mainly snare drums. But we are working on a kit in between snare drum orders. And we plan on making other percussive instruments in the future.
DG: How did you become interested in building drums? MM: My drum building interest started 5 years ago. But I've always tinkered with drums. I've restored drums since I was a boy. I didn't come from a rich family, but I wanted a drum set. I had a friend when I was 13 that had a set of drums that I would play when I went to his house. I ended up with a few pieces from him when he upgraded. And a few pieces from another friend. They needed some work so that's where my obsession began with restoring and repairing for others. But I got hurt at work severing most of the tendons in my thumb. I hand nerve damage that causes numbness and it makes it hard to play for any amount of time. So being in a band came to a halt. But I became interested in stave making before that. I hadn't made anything at that point. But the injury pushed it forward.
DG: What is your background as a woodworker? MM: My background as a serious woodworker is small. I'm a jack of all trades but a master of none as they say. I've worked in construction all my life. Learned most of my skills from my father gutting out a house we lived in room by room. It seemed like I lived in the hardware/lumber yard when I was young lol. But I'm good with my hands, this is my strong suit for sure.
DG: It can be difficult to answer, I know.....BUT try to list your Top 3 albums. MM: Top 3 Albums... Physical Graffiti - Led Zeppelin Love Stinks - The J. Giels Band Home - 7 Dust
DG: If you were building a snare drum for yourself, what would you build? MM: I actually have build a drum for myself. After a couple of years of doing this. I built a Canary wood snare. The specs are as follows:
DG: Ply shells have been the norm for many years. Recently it seems that stave shells are becoming a preferred alternative by many. What benefits does a stave shell offer over a ply build? MM: I'm a little biased because I build them lol. But my theory is that stave constructed drums have 100 times less glue than a ply shell. As there is glue totally covering each ply being 3,5,6, or 8 plies. VS a Stave shell that only has glue in between the joints. In return lets the drum breathe and has more tone and volume!
DG: When you source out wood supplies, what qualities are you looking for in the material? MM: The qualities in the wood I look for is moisture content. Wood that doesn't have cracks, splits, and free of mold or nails if we are using reclaimed wood.
DG: Who do you draw inspiration from as a builder? MM: I draw my inspiration from a couple of builders. Tony Kessler of Bellwether drums. Fraser Murry of Murry Drums. And Micah Doering of Cask Drum Craft. Top level builders in my opinion.
DG: What is happening with that glass drum I saw on your Instagram? MM: The glass drum is on the priority list after we finish with a couple customer builds. We were stuck on a bearing edge issue. But we've come up with a solution. The drum should be finished by the summer hopefully. I'm a glazier by day. I cut custom glass for a living to pay the bills. That's where the idea derived from.
DG: With your apparent growth, where do you hope to see Predator Percussion in the next 3 years? MM: We've caught a lot of interest in the past year. Plans in the next three years are hopefully to be working full-time at Predator Percussion and not have to work for someone else anymore. That is the major goal. To be self-sufficient.
DG: Are there any shoutouts that you want to make? MM: I would like to shout out to Kurt Aslett for all his advice on spraying and finishing. Wouldn't be doing what we're doing without him. A big thanks to Scott Allen Huff of Colorship Media and Design for the great logo design, stickers, banners, T-shirts, business cards and everything else we need for art projects we do. Also a big thanks to my good friend and work associate Paul Smith for all of the tips he has lent me, be it math or woodworking. Finally and most importantly, my wife for letting me turn her home into a drum shop. I love you, babe! Thanks for putting up with my dooty!
It is apparent that Mike has great hopes for his little company Predator Percussion. I for one hope that the drumming community continues to embrace his products, bringing more clout to his brand. For me personally, I want to have a more in-depth conversation with the man behind the drums on my podcast....perhaps in March we may have that special opportunity at DrumGAB to speak with Mike Martin in more detail.
I want to thank Mike personally for taking the time out of his busy schedule to speak about his drums, background, and company. It has certainly been a pleasure getting to know the guy and if you want more pictures, information, quotes on a build or anything else concerning Predator Percussion hit Mike up on Facebook or Instagram.