Be My Frankenstein: Or, My First Kit
So typically a ‘Frankenstein kit’ is one that’s been pieced together from disparate drums with disparate parts. Many of us have had one at one time or another – either in defiance of shiny purebred kits or in the interest of assembling our fantasy combo OR just ‘cause that’s the way the drum rolled – whatever the case, we ended up with mismatched-yet-dependable monstrosities.
It was a dark and rainy night (no, seriously) when I went to buy my Frankenstein, or bride of Frankenstein, if you like. My kit at the time was a dinky relic from my youth, a tiny drum kit my parents had bought for my little brother when he was 10 – so the thing had been through a lot. It was a no-name kit that had served me just fine when I was starting out a few years ago, but when my band started gigging more intensively, and as I started to get better, I needed to ramp things up a bit, equipment-wise.
I had seen the ad on Craigslist – for a 1976 Slingerland 5-piece. Money was quite an object at the time, so I was looking for something respectable but cheap – and something that could do an adequate job rocking. And this one was cheap! I looked at the pictures – classy off-white, vintage Slingy logo font on the bass drum, rock-solid-looking hardware – it looked mighty impressive.
The guy selling the kit lived in the Catskills, so even though it was a work night, my whole band thought it would be kind of a fun adventure to come with me on the buying trip. We all piled into our van and headed toward the mountains. Of course as we pulled out, it started to pour, and it only got darker and rainier as we got closer to the address I had written down. So as bleak weather would have it, I started to have my doubts: Was it really worth it to drive the 2 and a half hours out of the city for an unknown kit? This was a big purchase – had I picked the right one? And most importantly, was I really going to knock some stranger’s door at 11pm on this mountainous road on this rainy night?
Turned out the answer was yes. We ran from the car to his doorstep, trying to avoid the rain, and our knocking was met with a wispy older man who smiled and invited us in. He told us that his knees weren’t as good as they once were, so he’d had to get a smaller kit, and without further ado, offered to show me my prospective upgrade.
I walked into the room where the kit was set up and did a double-take: the kit was a mess. I mean, it was a lovely mess – cream-colored, vintage-looking, clearly cared-for – but it was a train wreck. The hardware didn’t match the drums, and the finish had been messily re-done, all crooked at the seams. The owner had written “Slingerland” on the front head of the bass drum in slightly-shaky Sharpie, which, in the ad, had looked like the real-deal logo. Not to mention the drums were huge – not fundamentally a problem, but too big for an at-the-time rookie like me.
But then I sat down and played it. Tentatively at first, and then more like I meant it. And I can’t exactly explain what happened in that moment, but it was some kind of patchwork-drumkit alchemy. I fell in love. The kit felt solid and deep and loud, like the Real Live Drum Kit I’d been wanting. And then came the stories! The owner of the drums came and stood over me as I played. He told me that for years he had been the house drummer at a number of resorts, historic Jewish vacation spots in the Catskills, These drums had been the house kit at one such place, and had been the kit that backed Billy Joel and James Taylor – among others – when they came to entertain there. He had spent 18 years on these drums – refinishing them, adding stronger hardware, making them his own. He showed me all of the curiosities – the hand-built wooden stopper in his drum rug, the tiny splash attachments and accessories, the age-old cymbal stands, all rusty and chicken-leg skinny. He was really sad to give them up, but hoped whoever played them next would love them as much as he had.
By the time we left his place, I was more than sold on my new monstrosity. Equipped with its rich history, its stories and the feel of its rebound still in my hands, I was psyched to start playing it. There was something so refreshing about this kit, something old and alive and totally weird, in the best way. And yeah, it wobbles sometimes, and sometimes the drum geeks notice that the Slingy logo is written in Sharpie. But it’s my Frankenstein, and for that I love it.
xo, Temim Fruchter
Temim Fruchter is a Brooklyn-based drummer who taught herself to play at the ripe old age of 26. She played her first show only a few weeks after she picked up her first drum stick. Now the drummer for The Shondes, she spends much of her time working on deepening her skills, building her chops, learning about driving the rhythm in a rock band, and writing and reading about different ways to bang on things. Temim has spent a lot of time thinking about what it takes to be a confident and kick-ass gigging drummer when you didn’t quite expect that that’s what you were gonna be. And she plans to write about some of that here.