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Stuff We Like: Punk Rods

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Life can be a funny, strange road. A few months ago, I was in the midst of clearing out some gear from the old practice space. Craigslist is my go-to in this situation because I hate dealing with shipping and all the nonsense that can go wrong with it. Nashville’s Craigslist is an active place, considerably more so than Atlanta’s. Maybe it’s just that I tend to always have gear that’s not for everyone, especially in the cymbal department. It’s safe to say that over half of the Paiste cymbals I’ve owned were discontinued immediately after I made the purchase or in the next few months. Due to my, let’s say, eclectic taste, I’m no stranger to using Craigslist aggregators that pull in results from all of the listings in the country. I’ve bought and sold gear this way, but it’s never happened internationally. Fellow Paiste endorser (though I was unaware at the time) Jan Pohl emailed me about a set of discontinued hats I had listed on the Nashville Craigslist. Jan wanted them shipped to the Netherlands.

Moments like this are a part of what I love about the internet. Not only did a drummer from another country get the hard-to-find cymbals he desired, we also made a connection. Our email thread hit the 50 plus message count and Jan told me about this product he was making: Punk Rods.

Coming off the heels of recording White Violet’s upcoming release “Stay Lost” with Scott Solter, I was on the lookout for some weird stick/brush/hitting implements. Solter had these strange “bundle sticks” that he had made, but they were not suitable to be transported on the regular. Jan’s Punk Rods seemed like they could potentially fill the sonic need I was looking for. Jan sent over 3 pair: one for me and two for me to give to buddies to try out. As soon as I put them in my hand, they felt great and I was excited.

My two main issues with almost all bundle sticks are a) they always feel strange in the hand and b) they usually sound thin instead of just quiet. Punk Rods solved this issue by having a larger overall diameter, wrapped with a thicker grip, and using more small rods constructed of bamboo. In the months since I’ve received them, I’ve put them through the paces the best that I could and I really only have one complaint, which I easily solved.

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Punk Rods have a feature that not a lot of bundle sticks have: an adjustable slide to tighten or loosen the dowels. Vic Firth makes a set of Rutes that have this feature, but they have a varnished wooden handle that feels awkwardly oversized in my hands, but it was my go-to for years. Punk Rods use two o-rings to control the tightness of the dowels and it’s an adjustment with noticeable differences. Sliding the o-rings to the front gives you the traditional “Hot Rods” sound, but with more body out of the drums. Going to the other end of the spectrum yields a cloud of wide, airy “clacks” that have less low end, but still sound balanced. My favorite combo thus far for pocket playing is with one with the o-ring in the middle and the other all the way to the handle. Since I’ve had them, I’ve only used them on one session, but they translated wonderfully under the mics. Granted that I am no heavy hitter most of the time, I’ve yet to break any of the dowels, but they do handle rimshots nicely. The profile of the rods is not quite a circle, but it’s closer than a lot of bundle sticks thus making rimshots not as awkward.

Honestly, my only complaint is the one that I initially lodged with Jan: the grip doesn’t quite cover the butt of the stick as well as I’d like. In my initial extended periods of fiddling with them, this issue cause some irritation at the edge of the palm. However, the balance and length of these feel better and more natural/stick-like than the other bundle sticks I’ve played. I solved my grip issue with gaff tape around the end, which is undoubtedly the duct tape of the music world. So all in all, I’m incredibly pleased with Punk Rods. Pleased to the extent that I reach for them more than any other bundle sticks I’ve ever owned. As a player that has always reached for my Vic Firth AJ6s for extreme volume control over any other option, I think those days might be fading. It’s funny how those things you have always gone to can shift and morph over time. Like the best drummers, life should be dynamic.

You can buy them HERE.

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