Hello, this is Todd at A Different Drum. It has been a while since I’ve written an update. I haven’t had anything new come into the store lately, but I wanted to touch base with all my friends again. As I mentioned before, the new arrivals will be fewer these days as I focus on the truly underground, independent, and some great values that come into the store. I have to keep things small and simple these days.
I thought that I’d start a series of historical posts that may or may not be interesting to those of you who have followed A Different Drum’s business through the years. In this update I will post the first part in an ongoing series of thoughts and stories about where A Different Drum started and the road that the course that the business took through the years.
First of all, I’ve initiated a small sale for this week, with 20% off all releases on A Different Drum’s website, excluding the newest arrivals. The 20% discount will be applied during checkout– so you’ll see the lower price once you go through the payment process. Please note that certain items have limited quantities and won’t be restocked once they are sold out. If you order anything that has just sold out, I’ll send a refund for that item unless it is coming back in stock right away. Here is a link to the sale info :
Also, I continue to have EBay auctions for CD lots, so you can pick up great deals from time to time, in bulk. Sometimes there are mixes of new synthpop CD’s with mainstream used CD’s. You can check here for the auctions :
HISTORY OF A DIFFERENT DRUM - PART 1 - A KID ADDICTED TO MUSIC
Since A Different Drum has always been the business venture of one person, Todd Durrant (myself), it makes sense to begin this informal history by giving some of my own background which led to the creation of a small-scale music business. I always had a love of music, much of it passed to me from my parents. We always had music in our home, and I remember frequently pulling out my parent’s vinyl records, which my siblings and I played over and over again. The Best of the Bee Gees (this one ), The Beatles (this one ), and The Carpenters (something like this ) were often heard in my home while I was in elementary school.
My mother signed me up for piano lessons while I was very young and I took to it quickly. However, I started to struggle with piano because I had a tendency to memorize whatever classical music was assigned, and then play it back to my teacher from memory rather than reading the music, and eventually I preferred making my own tunes rather than playing what my teacher assigned. So, despite my ability to impress my friends at school with my piano skills, I didn’t always make my teacher happy. One day I took the opportunity while my parents were away on a trip to China, to quit my lessons. Though my mother was not pleased when she returned, I promised that I’d keep playing, as long as I could do my own thing. I had quickly become interested in the new sounds I’d been hearing on the radio by bands like Soft Cell, The Human League, Yazoo, etc. and I soon convinced my mother that my true interest was in playing an electric keyboard rather than an old-fashioned piano. I was truly a lucky kid, because rather than shut me down, my mother went out and found a keyboard for me– a Korg EPS (Electric Piano and Strings). I loved that instrument, and I played it constantly.
It was about that time, while jamming my own tunes on that Korg EPS, that I took an interest in recording the music that I played. They were basically long jam-sessions, since most of my songs were created on the spot. After a little while I wanted to add more tracks, but I didn’t have anything remotely resembling a studio, so I would record one track on a tape recorder, then play it back into another tape recorder while playing a 2nd track. This resulted in some very fuzzy, horrible recordings, but I was very proud of my efforts and my interest in electronic music continued to grow from there. Here is an example of such a 2-track cassette recording from around 1984–a track I called SOUNDS. I loved music by Depeche Mode, New Order, Howard Jones, Blancmange, and was hypnotized by the ultra-electronic grooves of Kraftwerk, and I eventually became a huge fan of Yello, who I thought was one of the most unique electronic acts in the world. Many other bands became favorites.
I slowly built my little studio, adding an early drum machine called Dr Rhythm to my Korg EPS. With the help of a simple mixer and microphone, I began recording actual songs with vocals. Despite the fact that I had no vocal training and no real talent when it came to singing, I had no fear as a kid…after all, nobody was listening. All the parts were played live, often while I was singing at the same time, trying to keep up with my drum machine, fumbling all the way. Here is an example of one of those early songs with the drum machine and live singing, etc. It is from about 1985 and called MR. SEAGULL. Eventually I added a wonderful analog synthesizer called a Roland JX-8P and a Tascam 4-track cassette recorder to my little bedroom studio, and I could finally start adding layers. Here is a song called TENDER HEART ATTACK which featured my new synth and some of my first layered vocals (yep, tried to harmonize with myself). I spent every free moment recording my own songs. I think that I, my older sister, and my mother are the only people in the world who heard all my songs recorded as a teenager. I wrote dozens and dozens of songs, compiling them into albums that also reached a couple dozen.
Collecting became a part of my life, as I felt the urge to own any music that I loved. I remember begging to buy my first cassette tape, which I believe was Herbie Hancock (remember the song, “Rockit”?) . My mother told me that it would be a waste of my money because it was just a passing fad and wasn’t timeless music, like Beethoven or Mozart. I eventually won and bought my first tape. I remember buying Yazoo, Alphaville, and others. I owned probably three dozen cassettes when tragedy struck. My sister had a teenage party while my parents were out of town, and a bunch of crazy friends came to our house. When the party was over (I believe the police had something to do with the end of that party) my entire collection was gone. Somebody had stolen all my tapes. That’s when I stated buying vinyl records, which I continued to do for many years after that, amassing quite a large assortment of albums and 12-inch singles. I was particularly fond of the 12-inch singles in the 80’s– if there was a long version of a favorite song, then I wanted it! I started making my own extended versions of my silly songs, just because I wanted to be like my idols. Before I finished high school, I had volunteered as a DJ for several local church dances, since I was the kid in the neighborhood with the biggest dance music collection. I dreamed of finding a job in a dance club some day. I spent countless hours either crashing school dances all over Salt Lake County or trying out all the local dance clubs several times per week. Music and dancing was my life…and yes, eventually starting college was in there too…but music and dancing was my real love. I rarely dated…I just danced.
When I think back on my youth, I see that the roots of A Different Drum were already forming, both with my interest in the music itself, and in the business side of the industry. When home PC’s were a relatively new thing, my father purchased a Kaypro 10 (I think that was the name). It was back in the days of DOS, and a computer with a megabyte of memory was considered huge. I learned to program C-Basic and wrote my own game. If I remember correctly, there was about 40 pages of C-Basic code in my game once it was finished, and it was no surprise what my game was about. In the game you signed bands to a record label, then set up tours in big US cities and sold records. You had to manage things right to get your sales up. Honestly, I think it was impossible to lose in that game, but it was a big achievement for a freshman in high school to put together such a thing. Once the Kaypro computer died, so did my little game, but as I look back, I can see that I was already dreaming of what I wanted in my future– if not making music, then selling and marketing music. It was a part of me that would never completely fade away, even as I moved into the adult world years later.
Coming next update: Part 2 - Trading Childhood for a Career
PS. Thanks for reading, if you made it this far. I’ve always thought it would be fun to look back at the journey I’ve been through for what probably amounts to the first half of my lifetime (unless I die sooner than expected). Sometimes you have to wonder what contributed to the person you are today, and for me, this current reflection also has a lot to do with the discover of what will become of me during the rest of my life. I guess that all remains to be seen.
Oh, and I don’t expect anybody to be impressed with the musical links above– they are honest, musical snapshots of my childhood, and certainly not professional in any way, shape or form. They were never meant to be marketed…and only included here for fun.