Topher and Remo Drumheads – Feels Like Home

I’ve written about endorsements before and I certainly have specific ideas about them.  Not surprisingly, those ideas have changed over time (I think, for the better).  I definitely don’t take the concept of an endorsement lightly.  I know it’s a two-way street and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  A two-way street means a lot of things.  That informed my recent decisions to make a big change in my gear.

If I’m endorsing something I want to feel like I can say “Hey, I use this.  I love it.  This is what this product does for me.” Ludwig, Istanbul Agop, Vater, SKB, Big Fat Snare Drum, Toontrack, and all the rest… by using these companies I am saying “I believe in this.  I love these products.  I would use them anyway – deal or not!”  That has to ring true for me.

Which brings me to Remo.  I had been endorsing Attack heads for nearly 10 years.  They are a very good drum head.  But, an endorsement isn’t just about getting gear (more on this later).  It’s about the connection you have with the people creating the products and working to get those products out to the masses.  I didn’t feel a real connect with who I was with.  I wasn’t able to pick up the phone and say ‘hey, what’s happening?  What’s new?  How’s the family?  How can I be help get the name and product out there more?’

It was within this atmosphere that I really began to look and see what my options were (if any) to find a new home from a drum head perspective.  That would require some research to make sure I had all of my ducks in a row.

So, I bought and tried a variety of different heads from the main manufacturers out there on a typical 4-piece set up like I normally use.  I kept the tuning consistent and gave each head time to seat properly in the same kind of environment.  I didn’t want to ‘game’ the results in anyway.

What I found was that Remo sounded best to my ears and felt best under my sticks.

Great!  But, how do you get an endorsement with the biggest drum related company in the world?

As is often the case, a lot of it comes down to non-playing, everyday interactions.  It’s about who you know, and the impression you make when you have the chance to.

I met Bruce Jacoby hanging out watching our mutual friend Kevin Stevens play at a club in Hollywood.  Bruce’s tech skills have been used by guys like Bill Bruford, Pat Mastelotto, and Danny Carey (just to name a few).   He’s also a real drum historian and has a story or anecdote for almost anything.  He’s a respected name within the industry and he’s a total sweetheart.  The first time we met we geeked out until the wee hours.

So, it came as no surprise when another mutual friend, Chris Ralles (currently playing with Pat Benetar) recently suggested I come up to lunch and hang with him and Bruce near the Remo facilities in Valencia.  “Come up.  Hang out.  Have lunch.  Let him get to know what you’re about.”  It sure sounded like a lot of fun and the potential to find out what Remo was looking for in an artist relationship was very appealing as well.

Apparently, Bruce was already ahead of me.

From that initial meeting at a club in Hollywood (the better part of a year before), Bruce apparently had not only checked out the website and clips; but he had also seen me play:

“Hey, you were playing with Deana Carter last July 4th in Studio City, right?”
“Yeah.  I was.  Were you there?”
“Yeah.  It sounded really good.”

We talked about everything from touring and traveling and weird gigs, to music we were checking out and lots and LOTS of gear.  By the end of a long and hilarious lunch he said he wanted to ‘bring me into the family.’  I still don’t think I’ve gotten the stunned smile off of my face yet.

Now, what does all of this mean?  It means the same as is the case for all of my other endorsements.  Here’s the deal:  I don’t, as a rule, get free gear.  I don’t expect it and I certainly don’t demand it!  Surprised?  Don’t be.  This is how most endorsement deals are structured:

You (the artist) get a certain percentage off of gear that you can either, A) go and pick out/up yourself, or B) get it drop shipped to you directly.

An endorsement means YOU endorse the product.  Yes, the company endorses you in so far as they are giving you a deal and that means they believe in your talents and abilities.  But, make no mistake it is YOU that are endorsing the product.  YOU are out there using the product.  YOU are the one that is getting asked questions about the gear you use.  That means, if you don’t dig the product and you’re using it… then you are kind of living a lie.  This is an aspect of the endorsement equation that I’m not a fan of.  And we’ve all seen it happen.  People switching from company to company – whether chasing a dollar or free gear or just feeding their egos.  Look, it happens and the chips will fall where they may as far as this practice goes.  But for me, I really want to be sure that I am happy with the products AND the company I am endorsing.  I have made my decisions about what I use for very pragmatic reasons – I REALLY LOVE it.

I can honestly say, I’m VERY happy.  I’m also very honored and humbled.  Remo didn’t have to take me on.  I’m not a Vinnie or a Weckl or a Bill Stewart or a Pete Lockett.  I’m me:  carving out a niche for myself in one of the biggest small towns there is and making a living playing music.  Trying to be true to myself.  That, ultimately is what you leave people with and how they, quite frankly, judge you.  By being myself, I was honest – not only about who I was and what I was doing; but also why I loved the product and philosophy of a company like Remo.

Now that I’m here, I really look forward to sharing my knowledge about their products with you – be it via email or in person after a gig or session.  I also look forward to working WITH Remo in the capacities of artist endorser and ambassador (no pun intend) in whichever ways they need.

This is the beginning a really wonderful partnership and I’m very excited to get to work.

Oh yeah.  We all went dutch on lunch too.  Though, if Bruce thinks he’s paying for sushi next time, he’s crazy.

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