As the owner of West Coast Drum Center and drummer for the Steve Carson Band, Darren Carr is all about hitting things with sticks.
Are Orange County drummers a unique species?
Absolutely. The things at our store that sell I find catch on with the rest of the country four years later. Seven years ago everybody in Orange County scaled down the amount of drums they used, like a traditional four-piece kit. And everybody started using bigger cymbals. I started stocking the shop with those kinds of things—smaller kits, vintage-looking kits. The box stores were trying to put people into drum sets that the manufacturers wanted to make, not necessarily what people wanted to buy. So I've actually been able to have a little influence with manufacturers because they saw I was having success with these things. Now the rest of the country is getting behind that and they're finding success with what we do in Southern California. Los Angeles and Orange County are at the forefront for a lot of things—especially recently with that stupid show The O.C.
What is West Coast Drum Center's history?
It's pretty long and sordid. It's been around since the mid-'60s with a handful of different owners and many locations, pretty much always in Santa Ana. I started taking lessons there in '90. I wanted to work there and offered up my services for free and didn't get any action out of that. Six months later there was an opening. I was pretty much a grunt—take stuff off the UPS truck, fix up drums and help keep the shop clean. The old owner of the shop was actually murdered. He was robbed in the middle of the day. He and the Tama sales rep walked up into his new house and they were tied up and shot in the back of the head. It was pretty tragic. His nephew took over the store, and I got hired right after that happened. His nephew did not want the drum shop and I did. We worked out a deal that when I finished up college he would sell me the shop. I bought the shop in '98. It'll be eight years this July.
You play drums in a band too?
The Steve Carson Band, or SCB. We've been compared to U2, Coldplay. It's that kind of thing. We call it wuss rock.
Does owning a drum shop affect your playing?
I just try to stay out of the way and just play for the songs. I'm around drums all the time and hearing people going off all the time, so that's kind of the last thing I want to do in my musical endeavors. The "less is more" philosophy for me is the right approach. Just because you can doesn't mean you should. But I listen to a lot of drummers who are crazy and over the top. The industry is built on chop monsters who do drum clinics and way-over-the-top-style drumming. That definitely helps drive the industry. As long as they know when to use it and when not to use it, I appreciate all sorts of guys and their musical abilities.
What plans do you have for the shop's future?
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I like to play golf, so last year I decided to have a golf tournament for the drum store and give all the money to charity. We got a lot of corporate sponsors. We had a lot of rock stars—Adrian Young from No Doubt, Erik Sandin from NOFX, John Tempesta from the Rob Zombie band, Danny Seraphine from Chicago, Stewart Copeland from the Police, and Brian from the Mark & Brian radio show. We raised $13,000 for charity, and we're going to do that again this year on Aug. 28. All the information is on our site.
Ever have noise complaints from neighboring businesses?
We're a busy store and on the phone a lot. We don't really have drums accessible to just play for playing's sake. If you want to just go and make a bunch of noise, go to Guitar Center. They're totally good at that. However, if the customer would like to play it I've got rooms where we take the time, we set it up, we tune it, we bring in anything they want to do. Let's spend some serious time and play and make it right. I've spent three hours with a customer helping them pick out a drum set and some cymbals. I want your business forever, so I'm going to spend half a day, all day if that's what it takes.
WEST COAST DRUM CENTER IS LOCATED AT 3686 S. BRISTOL ST., SANTA ANA, (714) 545-2345; WWW.WESTCOASTDRUMS.COM. STEVE CARSON BAND WITH ROCCO DELUCA & THE BURDEN, DECCA TREE AND FLORENCE LEVA AT THE GYPSY LOUNGE, 23600 ROCKFIELD, STE. 3A, LAKE FOREST, (949) 206-9990; WWW.THEGYPSYLOUNGE.COM. FRI., 8 P.M. $7. 21+. VISIT MYSPACE.COM/SCB FOR MORE INFO ON THE STEVE CARSON BAND.