A Gonzo Exclusive Interview with Vancouver Based, Woods Custom Drums Founder, Jeff Woods

Success has come with a lot of hard work, but the time and expertise have paid off, with high profile clients that include Ryan Van Poederooyen, Dave Abbruzzese, Jeff Ocheltree, Reuben Spyker, Bill Hicks and Al Webster, to name a few...

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Kootenay Cabin Resort

Jeff Woods is a Canadian-born BC man, bred in the bone on gritty tunes and vast wilderness expanse.

He started Woods Custom Drums – a Vancouver based company -manufacturing custom snare drums. And he’s garnered attention from key players in the music industry. Not surprisingly, Jeff is a drummer himself. Before his collective experience resulted in the genesis of Woods Custom Drums, he played with numerous notable Vancouver and Vancouver Island-based bands, including two current projects titled, The Thick of It, with a five-song EP to be released soon, and Cover2Cover – a cover band playing corporate events and casinos. Former bands Jeff held down anchor position (Drums) in: The Deadwax Collective, Kill Rhythm, and KOARK.

GO: What first made you decide to build your own line of drums? Was it the notion to build yourself a kit, and that went well, so you continued on? Or did it start as a business concept?
Jeff: I first became interested in building drums after I met Ray Ayotte , while he was restoring an Ayotte snare drum for me. I was completely blown away by his skill as a woodworker and drum smith. Initially, I started adding veneers to old snare drums and playing around with different finishes. I quickly taught myself how to build shells and the rest is history from there!

Is it a healthy market – the custom snare drum market? Or is it in relatively early stages of development?
There is quite a large demand for custom drums worldwide, especially those crafted by boutique companies. Although there are many custom drum builders around the world, WCD (Wood’s Custom Drums) is currently the only drum company in Canada offering handmade ply shells to customers.

Introducing the young, Reuben Spyker, ladies and gentlemen, riffing on a Woods Custom Snare Drum. Well worth the watch – this guy has got chops.

What can you share about your process? How much planning goes into building a kit? Where/how do you start? Rough sketches? Written concept? Or just dive in?
Some builds are collaborations with customers, while some builds come from daydreams. Sometimes planned builds evolve during the process.

What are your plans for the company? Stay small and do custom orders, or do you plan on expanding into retail manufacturing?
My plans for the future are to maintain the quality and hands-on approach I’ve been recognized for. If I can’t be involved in the construction from very beginning to the very end – it’s simply not a Woods Custom Drum.

Who are your favourite drummers? Any mentors?
First, and foremost, my biggest influence, mentor, and friend in the drum making business, is Ronn Dunnett. Otherwise, there’s not nearly enough space in this magazine to list my favorite drummers!

All things percussion has been a big part of your life. What got you started playing drums? What was the quintessential turning point?
Santa brought me a 1960’s Olympic drum kit in the mid-80’s. I’ve been a slave to drums ever since.

Are there any cool, interesting, or otherwise bizarre and fascinating stories involving drums from your career as a touring musician?
Well considering this is probably a family friendly interview…… Haha. But seriously, I have so many stories that we could literally sit around and consume 100 beers together and I would just be getting started!

(Okay challenge accepted, then. I’ll cast a shadow on your doorstep soon, and give you a couple days notice, to round up the 100 beers. DU)

Do you stick to a specific line and look with your drums, or have you done specific custom work, where a customer will hand you design elements and say: I would like this… etc…
I like to keep my line of drums consistent. If a customer is looking for something the “other guys” are doing I’ll refer them to another supplier.

How do you approach building a snare drum: is there a philosophy that goes into it? What is it, exactly, that you want to achieve? In terms of tone and resonance?
Again, basically, the wood species, shell thickness, and depth are going to determine the tone right off the bat. I always strive for maximum snare response and maximum sustain.

What makes your kits worthy? Why will people buy your drums over other drums on the market?
I think my drums sell themselves. Also, word of mouth in the industry is a big motivator.

Are you involved at all in creating your own proprietary drum loops, effects or sounds? Or is this an aspect of the market outside of your reach?
I’ve been working on a proprietary lug for my drums for a few years now. With any luck, I’ll produce them and offer them on my drums in the near future.

Is there a specific quality that all your drums MUST have before they go out the door?
The beautiful thing about doing all the work myself is that I have total control over quality assurance. If I’m not happy with it, it doesn’t leave the shop.

Are there various woods that one must use when building a kit? How do you choose what is right for Woods’ drums?
I use thin 2-ply veneers for my drum shells. Other builders use wood blocks to build stave or segmented shells, while still others build solid shells by steam bending solid wood planks.

Are there certain genres that your kits are particular to?
Anything from orchestra to death metal to jazz to polka!

I read a quote on Bloomberg, that many are saying “they don’t build kits like they used to.” Do you find this to be true?
It’s so true. But a handful of manufacturers build them better than they used to!

Is there are a certain amount of hands-on craft involved? Or mostly machined work?
Hands-on. Everything is built with my hands!

Is there a certain set or brand of vintage – or contemporary drum – that you try to emulate as far as sound quality goes?
I think I get most of my inspiration from the classic styling and sounds from the old Ludwig and Slingerland brands. As far as modern drums go I’m definitely a big fan of what guys like Dunnett are doing. I was also a huge fan of Ayotte drums when Ray was still involved with the company.

Do you gravitate to any particular colours, finishes or flourishes on Woods kits?
Satin finishes are my go to. I love natural finishes but I also love mixing dyes and coming up with unique one-of-a-kind colours and fades.

Any high profile clients as yet?
Some current owners of Woods Custom snare drums are- Ryan Van Poederooyen, Dave Abbruzzese, Jeff Ocheltree, Reuben Spyker, Bill Hicks and Al Webster to name a few.

Are there any stages of production that can go terribly wrong if you make a mistake?
Basically all the way through a build you run the risk of making an irreversible mistake. Anything from an oversized shell (where standard drum heads won’t fit) to poor layout of hardware to drilling a hole in the wrong place. It’s a battle the whole way through that requires constant concentration.

What is the single biggest factor in determining sound in drum manufacture?
Wood species, shell thickness, and depth. Currently, I offer 12”, 13”, 14” diameter snare drums from 5”-8” in depth. Common wood species I use are maple, birch, walnut, mahogany, and oak.

Do you have any other company you feel is a direct competitor in the marketplace?
Always keep your friends close and your enemy’s closer! Everyone is a competitor in my eyes!

What is the price range of your snare drums?
$850-$1250

Where do your snare drums sit in relation to manufacturers like Mapex, Tama, DW…. ?
Handcrafted in Canada vs. mass produced overseas or mass produced in the USA.

Check back soon for more on this most excellent, all-Canadian snare drum manufacturing company.

Woods Custom Contact- woodscustomdrums@gmail.com Woods Custom Drums is on Instagram Facebook Twitter Website:www.woodscustomdrums.com

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During his 25-year career in the media and publishing arts, Dean has been editor for numerous successful publications including BC Musician; Gonzo Music, Film and Culture (Gonzo Okanagan); Snowbirds RV Traveler, Bodysport Magazine (now owned/operated in Las Vegas), Guide to Dining Out in the Okanagan, BC Sports Fishing Guide, and Canadian 4x4 Magazine. He was media writing and professional development instructor at Centre for Arts and Technology, and has been a feature and investigative writer for numerous national magazines and newspapers. He's had short stories published in The Malahat Review, and Wild Life Magazine. Beyond his capacity as managing editor, he's been published extensively in the Vancouver Sun, Okanagan, Okanagan Life Magazine, B.C. Historical Society Journal, both the B.C. and Canadian Wildlife Federation publications, and numerous newspapers throughout coastal BC.

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