Music Learning Systems - Guitar, Piano, and Drums


Interview with Charles Fisher, Off-Set Bass Drum Pedal Company

by Omar on September 1, 2010

in Article, Drummers, Product Review


Several months ago, I was looking through one the drum magazines, like I usually do (well, like most of us usually do), and I came across a somewhat peculiar product.  It was a picture of a strange looking double bass drum pedal.  I’d never seen anything like it.  The two beaters were in the middle, instead of in the usual location, on the right.  Once I saw that picture, right away I knew that these pedals were special. As a matter of fact, I thought that these might be the most practical double pedals in the entire market.  (I have seen Will Calhoun use the Sleishman Twin Pedal when I attended his drum clinic a while back, but that is a significantly different design [a little more on that later]).

So I immediately contacted the company, and before long I had the pedals in my possession (because I just had to have them).  Well, let me backtrack a little.  I previously had used the Vex Pro Touring double bass pedals, of which I created a series of videos detailing how to configure them.  My intention with the Off-Set pedals was to review them as well.  But once I got into the details of the pedal for myself, I was hooked.  No more Vex pedals for me!

I did end up writing an extensive review of the Off-Set pedal (which, of course, I strongly encourage you to read if you haven’t already – very educational and informative).  In the meantime, I’ve been keeping in touch with the founder and owner of the Off-Set Drum Pedal Company and hence creator of the Off-Set double bass pedal, Charles Fisher.

Mr. Fisher is very passionate about his product and his company, and his candor is very contagious.  I thought it would be a great idea to hear (or read), in his own words more about some of his background, how he came up with the Off-Set pedal design, and why he thinks his pedal is the best in the industry.  I think you’ll find what he has to say very compelling, and is an excellent complement to the aforementioned review of his Off-Set double bass pedal.  If you thought that this pedal was too extreme, or too different, now you’ll have even more to consider!  TheParadiddler.com thanks Charles Fisher for making himself available to talk us.

The Paradiddler: A little about yourself, Charles!  How and when did you start drumming?

Charles Fisher: I was born before Rock, back in the 1940’s. I started studying music, mainly percussion, in second grade, came up through the school music program, which at that time was very good.  I started taking piano lessons in fourth grade and studied piano for four years.  I started tap dancing when I was six years old, so I always had pretty fast feet.  I got my first drum set (Slingerland) at 13 and played my first gig in the Jay Moore Polka Band at the VFW in Coalport, my home town, at 14.  My mother had to chaperone me because I was under age.  The last formal gig was The University of Pittsburgh Varsity Marching Band, in which I played snare drum for three years while in the School of Dental Medicine.  Later, I became known in the area as ‘The Doc(tor) of Rock’.

TP: Who were your early influences musically, drumming or otherwise, and what drummers and musicians inspire you these days?

CF: My initial influences were what my mother was listening to:  classical, jazz, swing, and then formative Rock & Roll with Bill Haley and the Comets, etc., all the first R&B groups, and then, of course, The King.  My early influences concerning drumming were all the great jazz and swing drummers, for example, Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich, Joe Jones, Philly Joe Jones - it goes on and on.  And believe me, they could play rings around today’s drummers.

TP: When in your musical development did you start to become interested in double bass drumming, and was there any type of formal training regarding double bass techniques at that time?

CF: The first time I saw Cream.  I just had to have two bass drums like Ginger Baker.  Cream was the cream of the crop at that time - the ultimate blues rock trio:  Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce, and Ginger Baker. (You are probably not old enough to remember when they were calling Eric Clapton the “God” of blues rock guitar.)  I was playing in Cut The Mustard, a five piece that I put together that did all original material, mostly southern style rock.  Absolutely the first local band to go record an album and actually sell it through the stores.  We are still regarded in this area as the band that started other bands thinking, “We can do it if CTM did it.”  And we recorded at Jeree’s in New Brighton, PA, where Donnie Iris and Tommy James and the Shondells did a lot of their recording, so we went first class right off the bat.

There was no formal training in double bass drum at the time.  Remember, we are talking about the 70’s now.  With me, it was all instinct.  But I had a head start because of the tap dancing history.  I was a very good tap dancer, and had very fast feet.  As a kid, I used to win Fire Hall talent contests all the time, except when the girl in the wheel chair showed up with her accordion and got the sympathy vote.  Later, when I practiced dentistry she was a patient of mine and we used to joke about the talent contests when I was treating her.  I’d say, “I’ll get you this time for winning that one back in ‘55.”  It was all good natured.  In retrospect, it was one of life’s good lessons, on how to accept defeat even though you knew that you were better than the winner, and develop compassion for the less fortunate, which is sometimes really hard for precocious children to learn.

TP: When and why did the idea of the ‘off-set’ design come up?

CF: In the fall of 1999 I decided to go back to doubles after playing single in a country band for a year.  But I did not want to lug two bass drums around, and the formats were simply too small for that kind of set-up.  And the mounted toms must be directly in front of me.  So I sat down behind the bass drum, centered in front of me, with the mounted toms centered in front of me on the bass drum, sat the snare between my legs and (it was a “no brainer”) said, “A pedal board on each side.”  I immediately got up, went to the Musicians Friend catalog, found what I needed, and ordered two Pacific double bass drum pedals.  Between the time I ordered, and the time I received them, I finalized the design on paper.  Once I had them, I had the first prototype finished in two days.

TP: When you decided to switch from double bass drums to a single bass drum, what concerns or problems did you encounter with double bass pedals at the time?

CF: Absolutely none!  I had never played a double bass drum pedal of any kind before I sat down behind my first prototype.  Why would I?  They were all the same;  they all put the bass drum and mounted toms somewhere in outer space;  and the hi-hat God knows where;  and they were all designed wrong, with absolutely no concern or regard for the human skeletal system.

TP: When you came up with the ‘off-set’ design, what was the reaction of the first person you presented the design to?

CF: The very first person to see the unit was Ray Ayotte, at that time the head of Taye Drums. It was at the 2000 Winter NAMM Show.  I was showing the Point Classic Tremolo at the time, and just threw it in a box and took it along to show some people.  You have to understand that, at first, I did not build the pedal as a commercial venture.  I built it for myself because it was what I wanted, and, at that time, nobody had designed or built what I wanted. Ray was the one that informed me that the first double ever designed was the Sleishman, and it was bi-laterally symmetrical also, but completely non-adjustable, with no in-direct linkage for adjustment purposes. Ron got the bi-lateral symmetry thing correct the first time.  I have no idea why nobody else used that idea but, instead, came up with the design that everybody but me uses today.  Ray also told me that I could probably get it patented because of the multi-adjustable facets of my design, and that if I ever did get “paper” on it, he might be interested.  That was what got me thinking of the possibility of marketing it.

TP: When actually getting into the nuts and bolts of the ‘off-set’ design, what factors did you take into consideration to ensure the pedal would be taken seriously, due to the radical difference of the design?

CF: You have heard the saying, “You can’t see the forest for the trees.”  Well, when I stepped back and looked at the big picture, I realized that the picture was so big, that very few were going to see this “tree” for the forest.  The competition was just too large.  So the only thing I could do was design the unit to be much stronger, faster, and more multi-adjustable than anything on the market, so those who did take the time to check it out, would instantly realize that this was a serious piece of well designed, well built hardware.  For instance, it took John Buswell, owner of Drum World in Pittsburgh, PA, and an executive board member of the Five Star Drum Shop Organization, only ten minutes to realize that it was the best pedal in his store. He was the first, and one of only 14 stores, that would agree to retail the unit.  He just kept shaking his head and saying, “And you’re a DENTIST, from COALPORT!  (Coalport is in PA also.)  And this is the best xxxxing pedal in the whole xxxxing store!”  He was prone to expletives.  He was honest as hell.  He told me flat out, “Yeah, I’ll take a look at it.  But if it is junk, I will have absolutely no qualms about telling you so.”  Instead, he was blown away by it.  He said, “Do you have any more?”  I sold him three right off the bat!!

TP: How do you feel the industry in general feels about the ‘off-set’ design compared to the typical double pedal configuration?

CF: In the beginning, when it first came out, I think most of the larger companies felt it was a passing fad, not a serious effort at re-directing the development of the double bass drum pedal to a higher level.  But since the Off-Set’s introduction at the 2003 Summer NAMM Show, I have had to take issues with three of the larger drum manufacturers who have attempted to duplicate the design using their own base products.  First in 2003, second in 2005, and the latest, the day before the 2009 Winter NAMM show started. The design is so totally logical that sooner or later, the ‘bigs’ were going to realize that this is the way it should have been done in the first place, like so many of my customers keep telling me.  The ergonomics of the unit is far superior with reference to the handicapped drummer or those with injuries restricting range of motion. And the bass drum has just got to be in the center of the set.

TP: Do you feel the typical double pedal configuration has reached the point of diminishing returns as far as improvements go?

CF: Yes.  All the bells and whistles have been addressed on the standard design except the ability to change the size of the drive wheel without tearing the pedal apart.  The only pedal to have that feature is the Off-Set Double Bass Drum Pedal.  The diameter of the drive wheel can be set infinitely between 1 1/2” and 3” with only a drum key.  And the title of the patent is “Bi-lateral Drum Pedal.”  Pretty hard to get around that one!

TP: Due to the uniqueness of the design, many may be skeptical as far as the practicality of the Off-Set pedal.  Can you think of some reasons for the skepticism, and how would you respond to those concerns?

CF: I will answer this question by transcribing a letter from a recent purchaser.  His name is Greg Tustin, Director of Design and Development at Tappan Street Restaurant Group, Inc., in Alpharetta, GA:

‘Charles,

Just a quick note to let you know I received the double pedal and hi-hat stand and all I can say is “WOW!”  What an incredible difference.

I spent a great deal of time reading about all of the double pedals out there and the pros and cons were about 50-50.  Then I came across a review done on your  pedal by the “paradiddler” (an amazing review by the way) and the only negative comments came from people that have never seen it or even tried it and the rest absolutely loved it... and now I see why.

As a drummer of many decades I was hesitant about “going against the tried and true” but I could not get past the fact that your pedal is the way it should have been done in the first place!

For the first time ever I feel comfortable behind my drums.

Thank you.

Greg’

TP: There are very few companies that manufacture double bass pedals in this configuration.  What distinguishes yours from the others?

CF: There is actually only one other company making anything that looks remotely like the Off-Set pedal, and the only reason that is happening is that I am allowing it. The only other bi-laterally symmetrical unit is the Sleishman double, but uses no drive rods and, as such, has very little adjustability. The Off-Set design allows for maximum adjustability in every arena, allowing the player to tailor the feel to exactly his/her liking.  And it never seems to break.

TP: Without revealing company secrets, what do you see in the future for the Off-Set pedal?

CF: There are no company secrets.  What you see is what you get. I believe the Off-Set design will, in time, be regarded as a break-through in double bass drum pedal design, and accepted as a viable option for all drummers.  Bob Sperzel invented and patented the locking guitar tuner around 1983. This was a breakthrough in tuner design.  But, although Bob came up with the idea of a locking tuner, once the idea was introduced, several other companies were able to develop other ways of making a locking tuner that did not impinge upon his patents. Once his patents expired in about 2003, those who had not come up with a viable option before that time started to simply duplicate his design.  Now, every tuner company has a locking tuner.  Why?  Because it is the way it should have been done in the first place.  Sound familiar?  That is not possible with my product because, as I mentioned previously, the title of my patent is “Bi-lateral Drum Pedal.”  No company can make a double with a pedal board on each side, no matter what it looks like, without violating my patent.  But I predict that by one year after my patent expires, every drum company will be marketing its own bi-laterally symmetrical double bass drum pedal as part of its product line.

TP: What do you see in the future for the Off-Set Bass Drum Pedal Company?

CF: The company will continue to grow as the design is more universally accepted.  I will then sell the company to Ray Ayotte and retire to my island in the South Pacific.  “Hey, Ray!??”

TP: What has been the main reaction of those who’ve switched from the typical double bass pedal to the Off-Set pedal?

CF: Comfort and speed!  The most common comment that I receive is that the player first experiencing the unit feels instantly that he/she can play much faster, either because of the pedal’s construction, or the fact that they at once feel more comfortable behind their kit, and therefore, can perform at a higher level, or both.  Second, would be pedal response.

TP: One more question!  Many drummers may be reluctant to go for the Off-Set pedal for various reasons (valid or no), be it due to brand name recognition, radically different design, etc.  What words of encouragement would you offer to those to coax them to give the Off-Set pedal a shot?

CF: There is a seven day money-back guarantee on the unit.  If, for any reason, (you don’t like the color “blue,” etc.) you do not feel that the unit is right for you, simply return it within seven days of the date of receipt in the original condition, and your money will be cheerfully refunded-except the shipping charge.  Shipping is non-refundable.  Since 2005, I have had exactly one unit returned, and that was because the customer decided that he was just too old and set in his drumming ways to start learning doubles.  “Hey, Ray!??”

And that was the end of the interview!  I was impressed with both the pedal and the designer, which is why I’m a fan.  As I mentioned in the review, these pedals come very close to being the perfect pedal, and definitely worth trying out.  I hope my conversation with Mr. Fisher at least inspires you not only to re-address what you consider to be a practical double bass pedal, but to never be satisfied with what you have.  Always question your setup, your tuning, your throne height - everything. Along the way, you’ll be a better musician for it.

Off-Set Bass Drum Pedal Company web site

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Tyler Zeringue November 23, 2010 at 4:09 pm

My name is Tyler and i’m paralyzed from the waist down and absolutely love playing my drums but the only prob I have is I can’t do the double pedal for the bass so I been trying to find a device or something to rig up or hook up to my pedals and put something in my mouth to operate the pedals by biting down. My question to u is, is do u have any ideas to help me out. Thanks Tyler Zeringue

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