Nick Hopkin, funder of Nick Hopkin Drums took the time to answer our questions. After several years touring in Europe as a drummer, Nick started Nick Hopkin Drums… from a hobbie to a full time job, he tells us the story of his company.
Could you please tell us about Nick Hopkin Drums? Where are you located?
I’m an independent drum shop specialising in classic and vintage drums. Located in Wales, UK, I ship worldwide with customers in USA, Canada, Australia and Europe so far. I sell Full kits, snare drums, stands, pedals, cymbals, spares… you name it really. 1940’s-1980’s.American – Ludwig, Slingerland, Gretsch, Rogers; English – Premier, Beverley, Ajax, Olympic; European – Trixon, Sonor ASBA, and lots more. I at least clean all the drums that come through my shop. Some need a complete refurbishment. Original fittings and parts are replaced as required. I also sell Remo drum heads including pre-international sized for pre-1968 premier drums.
What initially motivated you to set up an online drum shop, and when was that?
I started restoring a 1960’s Premier set in red glitter some years ago and began attending drum fairs and reading lots of books and articles online about vintage drums. I soon outgrew my garage and needed a workshop; I outgrew that within 3 months and so opened a shop! Its something I’ve always wanted to do, and it all just kind of happened. People heard what I was doing and got behind me; other dealers offered me spare parts and advice and it quickly grew into a fully fledged business. Its still very early days and I have lots of ideas and plans, but small steps at the moment.
Are you a musician yourself? If so, when did you start to play, what styles/genres. Are you still active in bands and other projects?
As a child i always banged pots and pans. I have memories of drumming along to The Dave Clark Five’s ‘Bits n pieces’ on tupperware tubs, filled with a few marbles and covered with greaseproof paper and sellotape… the heads never lasted long! I played snare drum in primary school and progressed to lead drummer in the Boys Brigade marching band aged 12 and then onto my first kit, a 1960′s Premier in red sparkle with a matching Royal Ace snare. It won my heart and I still have it now. I spent my teens and twenties playing in numerous bands – pop, funk, jazz, metal – playing thousands of gigs across the UK and Europe. I stopped playing in bands 10 years ago, and until about a year ago have been recording and producing my own music and releasing it online. I sometimes play in my local church on a Sunday and take along the latest kit to come in!
What do you consider the biggest challenge for drum dealers today?
Quality. So many vintage kits appear on auction sites, but they’ve been adapted over the years with newer parts;they often have extra holes or the original wrap has been painted or removed. Its hard to pick up classic drums that are both original and in good, playable condition.
How do you choose what products to carry?
The market is open to all brands – some people prefer American, some English, some European; some buy only from a particular era, so I try and buy across the board. I try to stock the classic English and American snare drums and good quality drum kits. As a rule, I stock drums that are in good condition structurally; wrap and chrome can be cleaned and polished to look new again, but drum shells with too many extra holes or structural damage are a no. Occasionally I re-wrap the drums.
What is the coolest drum set you’ve ever sold? A great story to share?
I recently sold an early 70’s Hayman Vibrasonic set to legendary British drummer Steve White (Style Council, Paul Weller, Oasis, etc). I’ve just acquired a Premier Projector kit in a custom black glitter (22,10,12,13,14,16) which was made for Nigel Glockler of Heavy Rock band Saxon, in near mint condition. A great story? A lady in America bought a 10” Ludwig tom in champagne sparkle for her husband last month as a birthday surprise…he’d been looking for one for 3 years! I wish I’d been there to see the look on his face.
Do you have any personal favorite drums in your shop? If so, why is said drum your favorite?
I fall in love with pretty much every drum I buy, but have to let them go (most of the time!). I adore a 70’s Slingerland ‘Buddy Rich’ wooden snare drum with TDr strainer; Kit wise I’m currently torn between the 70’s Ludwig Super Classic in 24,13,16 and the 60’s Gretsch round badge in 22,13,16…both kits go out as studio hires, so I have the chance to play them at lunchtimes! The 70s niles badge COB snare drums are pretty nice too!
Given that this is for a blog, what role has technology (the internet, your website, etc.) played in the success of your business?
It has been invaluable. Presently, 90% of my sales are done online. I realised a full e-commerce website which offered worldwide shipping was important from the beginning, if my business was going to be successful. I’ve been fortunate enough to be featured on popular drumming websites and on specialist sites such as Vintage & Rare; along with sites such as facebook, twitter and linkedin, I’ve been able to develop a positive online presence for my business. The many drumming forums have enabled me to connect and communicate with the worlwide drumming community.
Is there a general trend to the people who purchase from you, in terms of how skilled or experienced they are?
No, it’s right across the spectrum from beginners to professionals. I try to educate young players and show them that they can by a vintage kit that looks and sounds stunning, often for less than a mid range modern kit. Vintage English drum kits are very affordable at the moment, and with quality shells and die cast hoops, they sound great!
What advice would you give to somebody looking to purchase a drumkit from you?
Decide on what drum sizes you prefer and what your budget is, and take it from there. I recently read an interview with a famous drummer who said that all the classic kits were 20 or 22” bass drum with 13” tom and 16” floor tom; this wasn’t a mistake! Tonally, those sizes complement each other. Despite the modern trend to add smaller toms and larger floor toms, I think the 4 piece set up will always remain a best seller.
How do you see the international vintage drum market today?
Its very exciting, as I constantly come across kits and snares that have been stored for 40 plus years and are in great condition. Thanks to the internet and specialist sites such as Vintage & Rare and my own website, vintage drum kits are easier for customers to buy.
Are your drums especially common among musicians playing a certain genre or style?
I think that a classic drum kit will sound good within any style or genre of music. Head choice, drum sizes and tuning play the key roles in adapting to different styles. Taking Gretsch as an example, vintage Gretsch drums can be heard on most of the great jazz recordings, all The Rolling Stones’ records (Charlie Watts), and on the new Feeder and Take That records (Karl Brazil). Unlike guitars and amplifiers which have distinct sounds associated with particular genres and eras of music, I think the sound of a vintage drum kit is timeless.
Any famous last words?
Don’t you just love the smell of a vintage drum when you first take the head off….