Darren Jesse

Darren Jessee

A Different Vintage Point: Ben Folds Five Drummer Darren Jessee Talks Traps

The voice continually haunts me, “Man, you have to get a DW drumkit, everybody has one.” Then I promptly stick an obscenely overpriced Les Paul neck up the obnoxious guitar player’s posterior. Drum Workshop, Pork Pie, D’Amico, Gucci, custom this, custom that. There’s no denying drum and hardware quality has significantly improved in the last 20-30 years, but doesn’t anybody resist the urge to buy the newest craze in drums, from carbon fiber shells to synthetic sticks?

One such drummer is 26-year-old Darren Jessee of Chapel Hill’s Ben Folds Five. Whether propelling Ben through Burt Bacharach’s “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head,” or screaming, “Give me my money back, you bitch,” the Charlotte, North Carolina native unashamedly has a penchant for aged equipment.

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Why do you like old drums so much?

It’s not like I’m hung up on vintage gear, I mean, I do like new stuff. I just love the sound of warm drums. When I go into a music store and shut my eyes, I invariably find that I like the Ludwig of Slingerland kits from the ’60s. It’s just the way they talk.

What have you been using on the Whatever And Ever Amen tour?

It’s a little weird, since it’s the first tour I’ve done without my blue sparkle Slingerland drumkit. I’m using this ’60s Leedy kit. It’s got a 24-inch bass drum, 13-inch rack tom, and 16-inch and 18-inch floor toms. Black oyster finish. It’s really cool.

How about your cymbals?

I use all different kinds of cymbals. All Zildjian, A’s and K’s. My personal favorite is this really old 24-inch K ride, I have no idea when it was made. I stumbled across it at a pawn shop years ago, and it had such a beautiful sound I had to get it. The high hats I use are A’s, old 14-inch and 15-inch sets.

What about crashes?

I have too many crashes. Some with sizzles, some without. Whatever the mood is, that’s what I use. Guess you could say I’m sort of a cymbal freak. I do endorse Zildjian, but most of the stuff I tend to use on recordings and live, I’ve had for years.

What was the first drumkit you ever had?

The first “real” drumset I owned was a Tama kit, it was great. They’re versatile and sound really good in a lot of different situations, different musical styles. Plus they’re not all teched-out like DW Drums.

Were the drums your first instrument?

Actually, no. When I was younger I wanted to play guitar. All the local kids were picking up the guitar around 12 or 13, my mom actually gave me the idea to play the drums. She said, “If you played the drums, maybe it would be easier for you to get in a band.” The light bulb went on. I mean, it was a great idea, so I bought this cheap CB700 kit in the newspaper for 150 bucks. And she was right, I was playing with people pretty quickly. And I just fell in love with it, and once I started doing it, I took off, which is a lot more than I can say for my guitar playing.

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