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Spikes and studs? Leopard print? See-through clear? Maybe some kind of unholy combination of all of them? Whatever oddball drum fantasy you can conjure, Orange County Drum & Percussion can build it. In the world of custom instruments, it doesn't get much more innovative or flashier than the shells 'n' skins made by the 14-year-old company. Vice president and co-founder John Machado shared some of his trade secrets.
How did you get started?
We opened a shop in South County and built custom drums in addition to being a full retail outlet. After a few years of that, retail wasn't working out, so we shut down that operation and went to custom drums only. By that time we'd picked up some pretty high-profile endorsers—namely Chad Sexton from 311 and Adrian from No Doubt. At the time we picked Adrian up he wasn't that big of a deal, but then Tragic Kingdom came out. We got fortunate. A couple of our endorsement picks we got ahold of when they weren't anything—Limp Bizkit, Slipknot—they came onboard as endorsers. Blink 182—when we first got Travis he was in the Aquabats. That worked out well. Right now he's probably the most famous drummer. We were making different weird stuff, and a lot of people see it. At this juncture people are copying it too.
So endorsing the right guys early went a long way.
That's what really got us rolling. And of course the fact that we were pushing the envelope—making unusual drums. It's actually changed the whole industry worldwide. Nobody was putting flames on drums till we did.
What were you doing that was so different?
We'd come up with this vented snare drum that was tremendously louder than a regular snare drum, and practically all of our guys have one of those. Then we started doing stuff with lights—put lights in the drums for Adrian. That was out for the Super Bowl. Working our booth at the NAMM show is like working the Ferrari booth at a car show. It's intense. Crowded all the time. The other builders are all trying to figure out how we did stuff.
It sounds like custom car stuff.
The guys that did one of those Harley shows approached me. I kind of turned them down. We would have got our T-shirts in department stores. That was dumb.
Are you the Ferrari of drums?
We're probably more specialized than that—Lamborghini, perhaps. We're way over the top. We do all the weird stuff.
How do you feel about drummer jokes?
Well, we have a bunch of them posted around here. Believe me, a lot of the e-mails I get I can practically smell the pot coming through my computer monitor. A bunch of our bands are pretty heavy pot bands—Kottonmouth Kings, 311. You practically get the death penalty for smoking pot in Japan, yet all these bands are pretty big in Japan.
So you've made stuff with marijuana leaf motifs?
Oh, yeah. I've actually been published in OC Weekly because I used to write letters to the editor all the time. I'm actually an ultraconservative born-again Christian, but the company is not, overall.
Perhaps your opinions might not match those of some of your bands?
I have a strange mission field.
ORANGE COUNTY DRUM & PERCUSSION, 1609 E. MCFADDEN ST., STE. D, SANTA ANA, (714) 564-0667; WWW.OCDRUM.COM.