BY NICOLAS GRIZZLE
So, a cymbal company from Canada and a drum maker from Texas walk into a Southern California convention center, and, ah, well, I don’t know how it ends yet. Nobody is spilling the beans on the details of the collaboration between Sabian and A&F, but here are a few theories on what we might see come out of it.
Sabian Cymbals and A&F Drum Co. have joined forces to collaborate on something, according to a new short film premiered at a private screening in Anaheim, CA, just before the start of the 2019 NAMM show. Drum! was fortunate enough to be invited to hang out at the event with some of the best instrument makers (and players) on the planet. The film is beautifully made but scant on details, so we did our best to grill the head honchos at both A&F and Sabian as to what the fruit of collaboration might be.
They told us how great it was to be working together. They gushed about each other’s values. They talked about the discussions over fine Cuban cigars that led to the project. In short, they did a wonderful job of not mentioning a single thing about the actual end result, or even hinting at what it might be.
Though they were tight-lipped about the end result, both Sabian president Andy Zildjian and A&F president Ramy Antoun were very excited about the partnership when we spoke with them. Antoun in particular was excited to continue to grow his young, Austin, TX–based company without having to sacrifice quality to scale up production, mentioning that his company had just moved into a new facility about three times the size of its current digs just a few miles away.
“You can’t go through earning the story about a company, and seeing all the parallels and destination of where you want to be as a small company, you can’t do all those things and not be inspired to create something together,” Antoun says in the video. “I can’t wait to show you this stuff. And it’s coming, but you’ll have to wait and see.”
While we will be on the lookout for something coming out later this year, we speculate here what we might (or hope we might) see. Let us know what you’d like to see in the comments below!
Bell Brass Snare Drum with Cymbal Bronze
How cool would it be to see an A&F metal snare made of Sabian bronze? Well, Sabian has contributed to a bell brass snare in the past with their 2013 collaboration with DW resulting in a hybrid birch/B20 DW Edge snare. The limited edition series was limited to a run of 50 snares. In addition to this historical precedent, A&F just released a series of very thick, very heavy Bell Series snares in brass, steel, or copper—but not bronze. Was bronze omitted to keep space open for a Sabian collaboration? (Unrelated to the collaboration, I asked Antoun for his definition of “bell brass,” since the term is thrown about the industry in different ways. He says it’s more about the bell-like thickness and tone than the specific material.)
A&F Drums are known for their old-world aesthetic, which often includes a heavy dose of dusty-looking patina. The look of aged drums is very chic at the moment, and though many companies have jumped on the bandwagon A&F’s version of this process stands on its own, both visually and sonically. Dark, dry cymbals have been a hit for many years now, and Sabian is a company that excels at expanding the familiar into new territory. Other cymbal companies have experimented with patina-covered cymbals (I’m looking at you, Dream), with each sounding like a totally different cymbal. Perhaps a a vintage-inspired ride co-designed by the two companies is in the works?
Hi-Hats with Personality
Each of Sabian’s hand-hammered cymbals, as well as A&F’s handmade drums, has a unique personality. Not just the different models, but each product, since they’re handmade, is a little different than the others in its family. At NAMM, we spotted an unbranded pair of 15” hi-hats amongst the square, octagonal, and other unusual cymbals set up alongside the kits at the A&F booth. Upon playing them, we were immediately struck by their versatility. They had huge, heavy, raw bells with just a couple strips of lathing, and thin bows out to the edge with a generous sprinkling of small hammering. From splashy and open to tight and ticking, they were even fun to play solo, just as their own instrument. They even sounded pretty good as crash cymbals. Could we see some personality-dripping hi-hats to pair with these personality-dripping drum sets?
Hand-hammered snares are nothing new—Mapex and Tama come to mind in the current market—though they are not exactly common due to the intense amount of labor required for the process and the cost that comes with that. Sabian’s got this hand-hammering thing down pretty well, and A&F is also a hands-on kind of company. What about hand-hammered A&F drums? The amount of detail already put into each A&F drum is staggering, and adding another human hand to the mix fits with both companies’ ethos. With A&F being such an ambitious company, might we see a snare—or even a full drum set—with some hand-hammered touches in the future?
Entire Drum Set with Cymbal Bronze
That leads us to our next theory: What about an entire A&F drum set made of Sabian bronze? Paiste did it with Sonor for Danny Carey’s monster drum set, and others have melted down used cymbals to make more reasonable-sized kits. What about starting with fresh bronze? Sabian does have its own foundry in Canada, as featured in the short film mentioned above. I’m no metallurgist, but it might be easier to make custom drums using one’s own factory to melt, mix, and form the products than trying to get a third party involved. Plus, imagine the sonority of playing cymbals and drums made from exactly the same material.