BY PHIL HOOD
Tim Root has more experience with electronic drums than almost anyone working today. As a player, performer, teacher, and music store employee, as well as a salesman, marketer, manager, and clinician who has worked in the past for companies such as Simmons and Roland, he has had an intimate relationship with almost every piece of electronic drumming technology for three and a half decades. In fact, when I asked Norm Weinberg, the groundbreaking professor, drummer, and author who wrote the first serious electronic drumming book decades ago how he got involved with electronic drums, he said, “I bought a kit from Tim Root in the early ‘80s in Texas.”
"Be brave. Take risks. Nothing can substitute experience."
In 2015 Root joined Alesis. He was hired to help the team that was then developing the next generation of Alesis drums, which would become the Strike and other new models introduced in 2016-17. I interviewed him last week.
DRUM!: You’ve been at this about as long as anyone. What triggered your enthusiasm for electronic drums?
Tim Root: I first saw Bill Bruford with King Crimson playing the Simmons SDSV on television. I think that was about 1982. Also, I had seen Carl Palmer from Emerson, Lake, and Palmer using electronics in his drum solo. Around 1983, I was teaching drum lessons and working at The Drum Shop in Houston when we sponsored a Simmons clinic with Bruford. I was able to go to dinner and get to know Bill and Glyn Thomas from Simmons. I started learning more about electronic drums and selling them at the shop. Then I moved to Los Angeles in 1984 to work for Simmons. That put me into the epicenter of the electronic drum movement. “Right place at the right time” for me.
Let’s fast forward to how you got started at Alesis.
Alesis approached me in early 2015, because they were looking for someone with electronic drum experience to help focus their efforts for their electronic drum and percussion division. I accepted the job and started in June 2015.
At the time Alesis only had the DM line? How did the Strike and the new line of products get developed?
The Strike kit was in the beginning stage of its development when I arrived. The Alesis team was already moving fast and had a lot of great ideas. I just brought the perspective of a someone who had been working with electronic drums for most of their life.
I jumped in on the Strike project on my first day and was able to contribute with the design of the pads, rack, and module. I recorded a lot of the drum samples for the kit. That was the first and only time I have done a multi-sample drum project. We spent a lot of time on it, and it would get very tedious, but in the end we came up with some really good instruments and kits.
Who deserves the credit for the latest designs?
The whole Alesis drum team deserves credit for all the products. One of the things I’m really excited about is how our Alesis drum team is growing, and that it is made up of really passionate drummers. Everyone on the team plays drums and has their different strengths. We cover the whole gamut.
What’s your best-selling kit now?
The Nitro Mesh kit is the #1 selling electronic kit in the world. It’s absolutely amazing how many we’re selling. I can’t believe how many people are playing Alesis drums right now.
How is the e-drum buyer of today different than in the past?
I think over the 35 years that I have been involved with electronic drums the one thing that stands out is that buyers are much more knowledgeable than in the past. Today’s drummers are comfortable with technology. And, in the past, the number one reason beginners or advanced players wanted electronic drums for is for practicing. Now, they want them for performance, as well as practicing.
What’s the number one use for a higher-end product like the Strike kit? Learning? Practice? Recording? Performance?
All of the above. Most of our customers are using it to practice at home, but we’re seeing more and more drummers use the Strike to track in the studio, especially rock and metal players.
As far as performance, everyone knows churches are a big market. Do you see an increase in people using e-drums in other venues?
I do see Strike kits used in a lot in videos and local performance stages as well.
A few months back I wanted to ask you why Alesis hasn’t produced a new multipad. But now there is a Strike Multi-Pad.
The Strike Multi-Pad is the most powerful multi ever created. It has so many advantages, starting with more than 8,000 sounds on board. There are tons of drum and percussion loops all ready to go. Also, it samples, so you can create your own original sounds or loops. With 32 gigs of memory, it has twice as much as anything ever made. The intuitive lighting system is super cool. At a glance it gives drummers the ability to remember what’s on each pad per kit—no tape needed. It’s got a real-time looper, built-in effects processing, lots of expandability. It’s just a great product.
Do you have any other electronic drum tricks up your sleeve at Alesis? NAMM is around the corner.
Of course we do! You’re about to see an explosion of product. But I can’t say anything yet.
Tell me something we don’t know about Tim Root.
I love playing the piano.
Also, while in Frankfurt, Germany, playing drums at my first Musik Messe show in 1991, I was shot in the back with a .357 magnum while I was in a taxi. American military doctors patched me up and sent me back to my hotel room without finding the bullet. I woke up the next morning and put on my shoe… and found the bullet in my shoe. I’ll have to tell you the whole story sometime.