Chad Sexton

Chad Sexton

311’s Drummer Tells How to Snare the Perfect Sound

When you get to arena-filling status, it must be nice to basically get your pick of instrument endorsements. Besides the adulation and the riches, for any serious musician, success brings those two magic little words — free gear (or at least one hell of a discount).

Take 311’s funky powerhouse drummer, Chad Sexton, for example. Sure, he did the drum corps gig and he can rip off the cleanest 11-stroke roll you’ve ever heard in your life. But more notably, with the success of their 1995 “Blue Album” and subsequent tours, Chad finds himself with the luxury of playing basically any kind of drums he wants to. And he doesn’t mess around. Like many of his peers, including No Doubt’s Adrian Young, and both Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins of the Foo Fighters, Chad is driving an Orange County drumkit.

Still, while Orange County surely makes some high quality, and esoteric, instruments, Chad still longs to have his first kit back. We caught up with Chad during the recording of 311’s as-yet-untitled upcoming album to talk about hole-ridden snares and sentimentality.

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Describe the first drum set you had.

It was before second grade, a long time ago. I was at a hotel with my parents — I can’t even remember what state it was in. And they had a friend that was at that hotel that had an old red sparkle Gretsch kit, and he just thought he should give it to me for some reason. So that was my first drum set, even though I never really had it all set up correctly. I wasn’t behind it rocking, I would just bang on it. But finally we got rid of that set, which is funny… I know the girl who has that set today, in Omaha. And she won’t sell it back to me. She just will not relinquish that drum set. It’s just weird. I’ve offered much compensation for it. I told her I’d buy her a whole new kit, anything she wanted. She just won’t let it go.

How did you get involved with Orange County drums? What’s their story?

The guys that started that had a drum shop called Orange County Drum and Percussion. They started making drums, and I think they started out with just snare drums, but I’m not 100 percent sure. But it so happened that the demand for the drums increased to the point to where they had to shut down the drum shop side of it and just strictly make drums. I met Dan Jansen, who is one of the owners there, in about 1994. He gave me a snare drum and I really, really enjoyed it, it had a great tone. From there we developed a relationship, and it just worked out better for me. I absolutely love those drums.

What kind of snares were you using on Transistor ?

It depends on what song you’re listening to. For the most part I generally tried to stay with a 5.5 inch x 14 inch or 6.5 inch x 14 inch. Sometimes I was using a free floating cage. I don’t know if you’ve seen the snares they’re making with the holes in them, but lately I’ve been using this one snare that’s a 5.5-inch x 14-inch free floater that has these holes in the shell. The holes are about 1.5-inch in diameter, all around the shell. There’s about five of them, in between each lug casing. It just cracks.

What is the difference between a drum with holes in it, like that one, and a regular solid-shell drum?

Really, when you hear that snare compared to another snare, the difference is that there’s more snare sound, more responsiveness. You can’t necessarily tell that while you’re playing it. If you’re hitting it and you’re above the drum, you can’t really tell. You have to have someone else hit it and you be standing like five to 10 feet away from the drum, and then you can really tell the difference.

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