There are drips of blood on the carpet where Mike Ciprari’s septum hasn’t quite healed properly. Outside, the rain heaves, rattling off the roof of the SJC factory and punctuating a potentially awkward situation.
Danny Poulin, SJC’s Brand Manager, is standing uncomfortably, explaining why the person I’d driven for five hours to interview has gone home. “A couple of days ago Mike had surgery on his septum but we thought it would’ve healed by now.” Danny gestures at the floor. “He was here, but it bled so much he couldn’t talk properly.” Admittedly, this is a problem – as an interviewee the ability to communicate your thoughts and opinions is quite important.
Luckily for Mike, the company he founded alongside his brother Scott Ciprari do not pride themselves on offering succinct medical advice. They build custom drums – the type that make unforeseen complications seem very trivial.
In many ways that’s a gross understatement. What started out as two high-school kids making drums in their grandma’s basement has evolved into a company who are one of the most prolific and recognisable names in the industry today. More remarkably, this has all happened in a little over 10 years.
SJC’s workshop is located in the small and unassuming town of Worcester, Massachusetts. From the outside, there’s little to set it apart from many of the other neighbouring industrial units. Inside, however, it has the Tardis-like ability to appear much bigger than it looks, organised with an efficiency of which Henry Ford would’ve been proud. Except here there’s no automated assembly line. Each and every drum set is completely custom made by hand.
Independent manufacturers are often caught between a number of conflicting ideals, being required to make unique instruments in a short time frame whilst ensuring the end product remains competitively affordable. By all accounts, SJC seem to have struck a balance based on their output and the ambitious and innovative nature of their work. This isn’t to say there haven’t been problems, however. Sat at a table with Danny (who now looks less awkward) and Bryan Rushton (Head of A&R), we discussed the trials and tribulations of life at SJC. Without Mike.
Copyright © The Drummer’s Journal 2014
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