Gear Stories With Sylvia Massy: Trixon Speedfire
May 21, 2010 4:42 PM, By Sylvia Massy
MY OBSESSION WITH STRANGE DRUMS
BIZARRE AND UNCONVENTIONAL
Reminiscent of a Salvador Dali sculpture, the drums are bizarre and unconventional works of art, yet their unusual shapes serve a purpose. The egg-shaped kick drum on the Speedfire model has a partition down the center of it (behind the drum head). The kick is played with two pedals, and each partitioned chamber has a different tone. The two kick drum tones can be played individually or with two feet, making the Speedfire way ahead of its time—the first double-kick drum design I know of.
My Speedfire also has a Jetsons-style array of toms connected to the top of the kick drum. The toms are mounted opposite from a typical right-handed kit, with the smaller sizes running from right to left. This was done for a specific reason: Drummers who use their right foot as the dominant foot will want the larger, deeper chamber of the egg-shaped kick to be on the right side, making it necessary to mount the toms backward to accommodate the lopsided shape of the kick!
At the original factory in Hamburg, Germany, in the ’50s and ’60s, Karl-Heinz Weimer of Trixon made several unusual drum designs, including the early Telstar conical drums that used sound compression to create tone and power; the Jet Series in 1968 pioneered the use of Fiberglas shells; and Trixon’s most recognizable Speedfire design. And for a brief period in the ’60s, Trixon also imported drums into the States under the Vox name brand.
Later, Trixon was absorbed into Sonor Drums. The partners in the original Trixon company attempted to revive the brand in the late ’90s but an unfortunate factory fire destroyed the original molds for the signature shapes that made Trixon drums so special. There is hope that a new Trixon company, recently organized in 2007, will pick up the banner of innovation where Weimer left off. The new Trixon maker is currently in production, building traditional-style drum kits, beautiful cocktail sets and marching band drums.
Okay, so after all of this, what does it sound like? I brought my kit down to a session at The Village Recorder in West L.A., where legendary drummer Jim Keltner (Steely Dan, John Lennon, Eric Clapton) was cutting tracks; it was a delight to have him play the Speedfire on a song. The Trixon’s array of concert toms are built like bongos and their custom calfskin heads gave them a ping that’s very different than modern toms. Using a pair of Neumann U87s on the overheads to record the kit and direct-miking the front of the kick with a Neumann FET U47, the drums sang with a delicious warm and resonant vintage character.
If you’re interested in learning more about Trixon drums, there are excellent reference books written by Ingo Winterberg available at www.trixondrums.de. Also, Pro Drum Shop in Hollywood does a top-notch job of making custom calfskin heads, so don’t be afraid to purchase an original Trixon drum kit—they are a work of art and historic innovation!
Sylvia Massy is the unconventional producer and engineer of artists including Tool, System of a Down, Johnny Cash, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tom Petty and Prince. She is a member of the NARAS P&E Wing Steering Committee and Advisory Boards, and is a resident producer at RadioStar Studios in Weed, Calif.
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