Vintage drum gear: North Nexus kit

6th Feb 2012 | 16:24

Vintage drum gear: North Nexus kit
North Nexus kit
Circa 1972-74

Each month Rhythm Magazine tracks-down and checks-out vintage gear in order to marvel at a bit of drum-making history. Here we look at a real curiosity of a kit from US maker Roger North…

Drummer Roger North, of Portland, Oregon, studied engineering at the prestigious MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), and back in1968 he came up with a unique design for horn-shaped fibreglass drums.

He constructed his first set in 1970 and by 1972 had a small factory, eventually making 60-plus kits by hand. Then in 1976 he struck an agreement with MTI (Music Technology Incorporated) of New York for larger scale production with injection moulded shells.

Vintage drum gear: North Nexus kit
North Nexus kit
The fibreglass drums originally had round metal badges, but these had to be replaced.

North’s concept was inspired by horned instruments like trumpets to project the sound directly to the audience. His design involved “exact calculation of physical and geometric properties” to push out the sound while the lengthy chamber brought out the deeper frequencies.

Billy Cobham and Doug Clifford (Creedance Clearwater Revival) became high-profile supporters.

Our featured kit was restored by Coventry drummer Ted Duggan who’s been playing since 1962, although he’s never had a kit like this one before.

He bought the kit via Gumtree from a drummer in Reading for £100 and that included a Tama snare. However, the drums were in poor condition and Ted embarked on a complete and expensive overhaul.

Vintage drum gear: North Nexus kit
North Nexus kit
Outer edges of the horns have a black vinyl finishing ring. Kit was originally in Arctic White but has been customised in blue sparkle.

The kit is a Nexus with dimensions 22x22-inch, 6-inch (with 10-inch bell), 8-inch (13-inch bell), 10-inch (15-inch), 12-inch (17-inch) and 14-inch (19-inch) toms.

“It was the original white,” says Ted, “and was missing the floor tom legs and one spur. The originals were old Camco bayonet type spurs and I searched everywhere but couldn’t get one, so I had to get a new pair. I got floor tom legs off eBay for 10 quid but the tom leg at the back is extra-long and the original had a bend.

“I got all the metal parts re-chromed by Marquee Restore of Coventry who also put a 10-inch extension on the floor tom leg. It all cost £500, but they did do an amazing job - the chrome looks like new.”

The paintwork was done by vintage motorbike restorers Lewis Templeton. “I originally asked for white, but then I saw the blue sparkle,” recalls Ted. That cost £500 too, but, says Ted, “One lad in the design shop was a drummer and he painted the North logo on the bass head for £20.”

Vintage drum gear: North Nexus kit
North Nexus kit
Drum key-tightened floor tom leg. All the metal parts of the kit had to be re-chromed.

Ted actually managed to track down Roger North. “I sent him the serial numbers of the badges but he didn’t have any reference for them.

"He said the later MTI kits have ‘Made in Italy’ underneath the lugs. I had to take them off - and the [original metal] badges - for the re-spray and they were not the Italian ones, so it seems I have an original, early kit. I got replacement badges printed for £30.”

After all this, Ted sold the kit to a prog drummer in Birmingham. “I was never going to use it live. Having to set the toms up on a rack they are too high. And as for finding cases... forget it!”

Vintage Gear continues each month in Rhythm Magazine.

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