David Raouf 08/10/2020

Drumstick vs. Chainsaw all photos by David Raouf

David Raouf is the Bob Vila of drumming, and the Buddy Rich of woodworking. Whether he is wailing away on one of his refurbished drum kits, or getting groovy with his circular saw, the guy is always blasting at least 80 dbs of sound from his shop. 

Undaunted by warning labels, his superpower is voiding warranties with extreme prejudice, while detailing the carnage every step of the way. Breaking out the heavy machinery to cut cymbals and bore through drum shells, David Raouf spits out new instruments such as pancake drums and trash cymbals. If you are looking for drum hacks—like using gum machine sticky hands as budget drum dampeners— check out his videos.

What did you pick up first? The hammer or the sticks?

Physically, it was the sticks. But, as a kid, I would flex my mental hammer by playing with Legos, building forts in the woods or attempting to put together model kits. Actually, when I was in middle school, I remember asking my mom if we could get a welder. Clearly, she said, “no.” It wasn’t until college that I took a deep dive into woodworking, metal fab, etc.

What is the lure of modding or tweaking something until it’s just so? What mental itches does that scratch?

For me, it’s just something cool to do as a way to add my own character. In general, when it comes to design, I like things that are either super clean and neat, or things that are well worn and have been used. I would look at something like a cowbell and think, “This looks too new.” Then sand off the paint and let it sit outside in the rain. It’s evolved far from that, but adding my own touch of character is still the rationale.

This vintage Vistalite kick drum looks like its had the same blanket in it since the 70’s.

What is your process for bringing an idea from the pupa stage to uploaded and ready to view? Do you typically edit on the same day?

I think through an idea before committing to it. Sometimes, I go straight to filming since I know I have the tools and materials to get it done. Other times, the ideas will marinate before I figure out exactly how to do something. I could have an idea from years ago then out of nowhere that light bulb moment will strike.

When it comes to the video, most often I’ll film and edit in chunks. So, I’ll start filming a project, get to a good stopping point, then start on the edit. It’s pretty obvious how long I drag out filming. Just count the different shirts that I wear in one video.

What was the most frustrating video for you to shoot?

For some reason, I’ll always think back to when I made a Ching Ring. I bought some doofy circle cutting drill bits that would get dull just by looking at it. Now, imagine trying to cut steel with it…

What was your greatest thrift store score?

Honestly, I don’t find too much drum stuff. Recently, I found an incomplete Ludwig Standard kit for under $200. The only other notable item was a Ludwig Acrolite I found for $20. I have a few friends that resell stuff they buy from thrift stores, garage sales, and flea markets. I tell them to send me pictures of any music gear they find, but usually it’s just cheap beginner junk. I bought a Brady Snare off my friend that he found at a thrift store for $10. Even that was garbage since it had a massive crack right down the shell.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s cool stuff out there, but I have better luck on Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace when it comes to finding deals on drums.

What is it about an old Ludwig Acrolite student model snare drum that keeps them sitting next to Noble and Cooleys in the professional’s snare rack?

Those drums have always been sleepers. Aluminum shelled snares have a certain dryness to them that makes them great at any tuning. It’s the kind of snare you can use on any recording or any gig for any genre and get the sound you need. On top of all that you can find them for pretty cheap. I’ve owned 5 myself and each one I was able to get for under $100.

The Tower of Accrolites, a new fantasy fiction novel by J. R. R. Prosze.

What multitool are you slinging?

None. I hate having stuff in my pockets. 

How do you balance playing for the song with showing off that crazy flamadiddle that you just figured out?

The internet is a strange place. You can have the most solid feeling groove and people will call you out for being boring. Then you think, “okay, I’ll show you!” So, next time you bust out the chops and someone will complain how you need to groove more and it’s not all about showing off. I stick to the groovier side of things but will bust out the spice when the time calls for it. 

What is your drum lug lube of choice? What else can I grease up with it?

White lithium grease. There’s that WD-40/Duct tape flowchart meme. Really, WD-40 should be replaced with WLG on that.

Do you use soap or lube on wood screws to drive them in easier? 

I’ve never used either. I’m sure it works, but I’ve never come across a situation where I couldn’t drive one in. I guess that came from all the old timers that would drive screws by hand. I’ll stick with my power tools. 

Have you played the song Telstar by the Tornados* on your Vox Telstar drums yet? How do you like that weird bass drum? Does it slide less?

The new Vox Telstar. No, this isn’t a photoshop mishap.

After looking up the song, I don’t think I will. Maybe if the drummer played more than the hi-hats I would consider it, haha.

The Telstar is a killer little kit, though. I have no issues with the bass drum. It tunes up easily and sounds like — guess what— a bass drum. It feels rock solid and doesn’t creep away. It’s definitely a novelty kind of thing and after playing if for some time now it’s lost its mystique. I would still love to find an original Trixon Speedfire.

Is that your music playing in the background of the videos? Are there any other players?

I used to use my own music for the background tracks and some of the playing demos. Most of it my own music, but occasionally I would bust out a track from one of my old bands. It got to the point where I was trading music making for video making. Earlier this year I started using stock music for everything in my videos. I can’t complain since I have access to any genre of music now. Plus, I have access to all the stems of those tracks so I can remove the drums and add my own when it comes to the playing demos.

Studio remodel, with sweet DIY diffusion panels to stop reflections and standing waves from turning the room into a sonic mudbath.

Once Covid clears up, if your favorite band’s manager tapped you on the shoulder, would you jump in the van, or stay in the shop?
When I started playing drums my dream was to go on tour and travel the world and play sold out arenas. Of course, I never got to that point. 100% I would take that opportunity just to say I did. My shop will be there when I get home. It’s not every day you get the chance to play with your favorite group.

Do you schelp your cymbal stands in a professional drum case or the army surplus store duffle bag?

Back in 2007 I did a thing called “Bike Virginia.” You would start in one spot, bike 50-100 miles to the next location, camp out overnight, then repeat for 7 days. You would chuck your gear in a giant box truck and it would take it to the next spot. I bought the biggest, baddest duffle bag I could find just for that trip. Sure enough, it turned into my hardware bag after. My stands barely fit inside and I was scared it would explode every time I picked it up. Down the road I invested in an SKB hard case with a nice extendable handle and wheels on it. It takes up more space than the bag, but it’s totally worth it.

What is your beef with traditional cymbal wingnuts?

Ha! I don’t have a problem with them. A crash will move more freely without a felt and wingnut on top. People claim that no wingnuts will increase the resonance of the cymbal, but I think that’s BS. If you really bash or have your cymbals at some crazy angle then wingnuts make sense. Otherwise, as long as you have a sleeve and a bottom felt, your cymbals will be fine. I guess for me it’s a look thing.

A wingnut oppressing Salvadore Dali’s splash cymbals.

Funny story though: one of my friends was at a studio tracking drums and asked if I could come by to help with some percussion parts. For one of the songs, he was playing some crazy, weird,complex part which involved a couple cymbal chokes that were too fast for him to do. 

I got recruited to stand next to the kit and choke his cymbal after he hit it. Sure enough, we’re doing a take, and I’m standing there and he wacks the cymbal. A millisecond later there’s wingnut flying towards my face at Mach three and smacks me in right between my eyes. I was fine and it was a good laugh, but from that day, I could never trust another wingnut again.

What interface/DAW do you use to record drum mics? 

Right now, I have two analog preamps, the Focusrite ISA 428 and Warm Audio WA-412, that run into my interface, a Focusrite Clarett 8Prex. I also have a Focusrite ISA 828 with an A/D card giving me an additional 8 inputs. I started out using Logic Pro 9 and it was only at the beginning of this year that I made the switch to Logic Pro X. 

Time for controversy! Some folks say that a drum sound is 80% drum head. What say ye?

Well, I would say more than that. If you don’t have any heads then how will the drum have any sound?

Hahaha, fair enough!

But seriously, man, I could ramble on about this forever and don’t even know where to start… Everything about a drum comes into play when talking about sound. Bearing edges, shell thickness, material, moisture content, grain orientation, # of lugs, type of rims, etc. Try getting your birch kit to sound like a set of Vistalites. No drum head will get you remotely close. 

Alright. Who left all these friggin’ drums lying around?

Old school Internal mufflers: Keep ‘em or chuck ‘em?

Meh.  I’m indifferent. The only time I use them is on snares. I have plenty of kits with them but never touch them on the toms. Nowadays, people would laugh if some high end kit came stock with them. Though —kinda ironic— in today’s age of drum technology, every company brags about the amount of resonance their shells have, yet people will still muffle the shit out of them.

Besides drum keyholders that can mount to almost any stand or surface, what is another favorite Sugru project?

A drumkey holder fashioned from Sugru and adhered onto a clamp-on beverage holder

The DIY practice tips is probably my favorite. Some more practical ones like a magnet embedded in a drum key and pedal clamp hoop protector are some that I still use to this day.

Where is the best BBQ in Richmond?

Easy, Ronnie’s bbq

Who are three underrated drummers?

I recently came across ZackGrooves on yt and ig. He’s a young dude that straight up RIPS. Alexander Flood is another that comes to mind, again, a younger guy that is crazy on the kit and has a deep understanding of rhythm. Then last, Corey Fonville. He plays with Christian Scott and a band called Butcher Brown. All three are worth checking out.

What new projects do you have in the works?

A “jellybean” kit, comprised of random drums of different makes and colors.

That’s classified information, you’ll have to sub to my channel to find out 😉

The thing is crazy! Check it out!

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