BY AJ DONAHUE
Back in 2015, Josh Allen left a position at a major American drum manufacturer to pursue building his own company. Under the name INDe Drum Lab, Allen was free to create a collection of drums and hardware exactly in line with his own vision. Trading on lively and highly resonant sounds, innovative hardware, and affordable pricing, INDe was an immediate hit.
But even with INDe’s growing success, Allen wanted more. So, the Michigan-based craftsman made recently launched a second firm which he’s calling Great Lakes Drum Company. INDe will keep rolling ahead full steam, but GLDC gives Allen an opportunity to build and design with a very different aesthetic. We reached out to Allen to get a little more insight into what led to the creation of the new brand, and why he felt the need to introduce it as a separate entity.
WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO START A SECOND DRUM COMPANY?
I basically had some ideas for a different way to build a drum, and didn’t think it fit with the INDe brand. INDe is about making versatile, timeless drums at a great value—something that would be a great option for any working drummer. Great Lakes is different. The drums are works of art, totally handcrafted locally, and designed to give a more unique look and sound. I wanted to work with some local manufacturers and material suppliers, and do more fabrication in-house. It’s a bit more experimental, and gives me some more creative outlets.
HOW ARE YOU SEPARATING INDe AND GREAT LAKES?
I felt like it would be like putting handcuffs on the concept to make it part of INDe. It would have been easy to put INDe lugs and parts on the shells and call it good, but that would have gone against the whole concept. I felt by separating the two, it allowed me to follow more of the “what-if’s” that popped into my head, and create something unique.
WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS WITH THIS NEW COMPANY?
I really just want to use Great Lakes to push the envelope and explore new ideas. If it happens to pique the interest of drummers, and they sell well, that’s great. But really, the whole idea is to have a different creative outlet, and a place to test new ideas, as well as support some local manufacturing businesses.
HOW ABOUT THOSE DRUMS?
I built several snare drums and a kit to display at PASIC this year, and they are essentially production models. Each drum is one-of-a-kind, so “production” is a bit of a stretch—but we are ready to make more as orders come in.
We have a number of brass and copper snares in different sizes. We have some 14” x 6.5” and 14” x 5.5” snares, along with a 15” x 3.5” drum that offers some unique tones. All of the snares feature our patent-pending Infinite Snare Bed, which basically makes the entire snare side bearing edge a continuous curve, giving them a much larger tuning range, increases sensitivity, and makes the drums really easy to tune. We also built a 20”, 12”, 15” kit with copper shells, which is just a stunner both visually and sonically. On all of the drums, each lug, strainer, spur, etc., is hand-made in our shop out of brass.
WHAT IS AN INFINITE SNARE BED?
Instead of a flat bearing edge with a bed cut into it, the Infinite Snare Bed is a continuous curve all around the drum. A conventional bed typically forces a compound curve into the head, which requires the head to stretch unevenly. This is a continuous curve in one dimension, so the head doesn’t wrinkle and tunes just like any batter head.
It is easier to tune, with a much more usable tuning range, and it produces a very sensitive drum. I am finding some unique sounds at the “just above wrinkle” tunings—stuff that just doesn’t work on any other snare drum. On most snares, I tend to just tune the snare side fairly tight, and then get the sound I want with the batter side, but with these, there are so many more possibilities. Tight batter side heads and loose snare side heads can give some really cool sounds!
THE FUTURE IS FLEXIBLE
The whole concept behind the design was to make a really flexible platform to create an unlimited number of options. We have lots of shell materials to explore, and can make virtually any size drum. I think there is a lot of experimentation to do within the basic design of the drums. We are also bringing some of the ideas generated with Great Lakes to INDe, starting with some in-house made aluminum snares using the riveted construction and Infinite Snare Beds.