Scott McPherson is the founder of and brains behind Tackle Instrument Supply Co. His Minneapolis-based boutique specializes in reliable and stylish gig bags and accessories inspired by the far less disposable wares of an era when we expected durable goods to be, well, durable.
We’ve talked to McPherson about his company in a past edition of Meet Your Maker that ran a few years ago, but that short piece barely scratched the surface of his career and contributions to the drumming and musical communities.
Prior to his time with Tackle (and presently), McPherson spent years touring behind a variety of punk and indie bands including Elliott Smith, Beck, Bright Eyes, M. Ward, She & Him, Neil Finn, Mark Kozelek, Samiam, and Sense Field. Given his experience on the road, we reached out to pick his brain about how that time influenced the product designs at Tackle, and also to get a few pointers about touring essentials.
How did your time touring influence the creation of Tackle?
Having spent a lot of time on the road, I experienced first-hand that most drum, stick, and cymbal bags are cheaply made and fail regularly. I’ve always been greatly inspired by the way bags and other goods were constructed in the 20th century. At that point in history, things were made to last and people cared enough about the products they bought to maintain and repair them rather than simply throwing them away at the first sign of wear. I saw this weakness in the options available to drummers, and so I combined this practical gap in the market with my life long admiration of the quality of older products, and Tackle was born.
What are some of the Tackle products you’ve created to help solve problems you encountered while touring?
The first thing I created to fit a need specifically was the Roll-Up Stick Bag, which came about because I love the simplicity of old tool roll bags I’d seen. It’s the hardware elements on a bag that are most likely to fail (snaps, zippers, etc) and the Tackle Roll-Up Stick Bag was designed to contain as few moving parts as possible. No snaps, only a small zipper pocket on the front, and leather laces for hanging it on a drum and for securing the bag when it’s rolled up. This simple design gives the Roll-Up an extremely long lifespan, and since canvas is so durable and yet also easy to patch and repair, wear and tear can be mended which adds even more years to the bag’s life.
But I’d have to say my personal favorite “drummer-specific” need that Tackle has supplied a solution for is the Waxed Canvas Gig Pouch. I had found nothing that simply addressed the problem of where to keep my personal stuff (wallet, phone, keys, etc.) during a show, other than just putting them on the floor. But in a dark club or on a dark stage, it’s easy to kick, step on, or lose those things if they’re just strewn about. The Waxed Canvas Gig Pouch is a simple but classy solution to that exact problem; a simple pouch with a larger main compartment and a smaller zipper pocket on the front that holds all those things securely and hangs on two floor tom tension rods so you always know exactly where they are.
What are some of the problems you’d still like to try and solve with future Tackle products?
We could tell you, but then we’d have to kill you (just kidding . . . sort of). Seriously, we’ve got some things in the pipeline that aren’t ready for the public just yet, but there might be a hint later on in these answers!
In your opinion, what are the most essential back-up or spare parts a drummer can bring on the road?
Especially for fly dates or any backline situation, I of course always bring my own snare and cymbals. Beyond that, I’d say a kick pedal that has a different tension or overall different action than what I’m accustomed to could throw my gig, so I might bring my own pedal. Lastly, I carry an extra hi-hat clutch with me in these situations too. Showing up to a backlined kit with either a sub-par or missing hi-hat clutch can really throw a wrench into the workings of the show or even day.
What about non-drumming related essentials? What are some of the personal health or comfort items you absolutely have to have with you?
I’m constantly bombarded by my own brain with new ideas for Tackle products or other sorts of bag ideas, so I always bring a sketch pad and a few pens and pencils. I want to be ready when those moments hit so I can capture the initial ideas and work on them while they’re fresh and exciting.
Other than that, my personal laptop/messenger bag is a big factor in my daily life, especially when on the road. It’s something that I’ve had lots of experiences with, and I have my own version of a solution rolling around in my head a lot these days (HINT HINT); something designed for fast airport accessibility and lots of day-to-day use.
For first-time touring drummers, what would you say are the five most critical things they should bring with them (other than drums, cymbals, etc.)?
I always have my laptop with me. It allows me to work on the road more easily than I would be able to with just my phone.
A nice day bag is great should you find yourself with some time off in a cool city.
A blank notebook or sketchbook for writing set lists, rehearsal notes, etc.
Quality sound-isolating headphones for noisy airplanes, busses, vans, green rooms, etc. It can sometimes be hard to find personal space on tour, so being able to block out some sound can help you feel like you’ve got some space to yourself, even if the space is just mental and not physical.
Lastly, I’d say bring an open mind and the willingness to explore uncharted territory. Go walking and get lost. Don’t travel back on the same road on which you embarked. Let the spirit move you and be grateful for the opportunities that life affords you.