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Mike Ciprari, running one of the hottest custom drum companies on the planet and touring the world with his band No Trigger.Check out SJC and read about Mike and the company below.

What’s it like to be a touring drummer yourself and the head of a company that connects you with many of the best drummers around?
Being on the road is the best thing for the company I think. SJC was in it’s growing stages while I was on the road with No Trigger in the early days, and I realized how important it was. It directly connects me with our drummers and potential customers and it allows me to talk to kids one on one instead of via email or the phone. It also gets me directly in touch to see the real life situations drummers on the road have so I can level with them more because I know what it’s like to have something go wrong on the road and need something immediately. It puts a face to a name and makes what SJC is all about more real. We’re a family and this is my life, and I can get the opportunity to show other drummers that SJC isn’t a “business suit corporate company” kind of thing.. we’re drummers and musicians doing it for the love just like them. I couldn’t ask for me, I get the best of both worlds and I get to grow the company and get new ideas and spread the name while playing music.

Was there any particular artist that has reached out to you that sort of left a surreal feeling and the impression in your mind that your hard work has paid off? Did you think you’d be working with the caliber of drummers you are working with when you started 10 years ago?  Was that a goal?
I always dreamt of getting in touch with a bigger name artist and getting them behind an SJC kit. SJC started as a hobby and my brother and I just kind of went with it, and it’s turned into something more than I could have ever imagined. I remember Panic At The Disco playing on the MTV Video Awards when the band first came out, and that was like our drums first big TV appearance. I remember watching it and freaking out, just so stoked and I really felt like we “made it.” Charles Haynes played on the Grammys with Lady Gaga and Elton John last year, which was insane to me.. I remember watching with my dad and grandma and going “wow!” and my mom and all my friends texting me freaking out too.

I get calls out of the blue all the time from managers and drummers and I’m just like “what?!” I remember Chad Sexton from 311 called me a few years ago telling me he’s opening a drum store in Hollywood and wants to carry SJC. I had to call him back because I was freaking out. Chad is one of my “hero drummers” and he’s the reason I started playing when I was 9 so that was crazy to me. I realized then that we could really do anything because my dreams had almost come true, so anything else was just extra on top of that so I began just going nuts trying to network and get every drummer to at least know about SJC.

Your roster is packed with super solid drummers.  What is it about SJC that draws so many to you?
I’m definitely proud and honored of the family of drummers we have on SJC. We’ve worked very hard to network and get them the kit of their dreams and take care of them as family. It’s not just drums, these drummers are on the road and need attention and backline and a bunch of other things that you need to be ready and willing to help out with, and we’ve got an awesome team at SJC that’s literally 24/7 ready to do whatever is thrown at us. I feel like the quality and attention to detail we put into our drums and the service and family vibe we offer is what draws people to SJC and we’ll continue to pride ourselves on this as we get more and more drummers relying on us.

How did you go about building that first kit?  Did you know what you were doing?
My brother really just took apart an old kit and re-wrapped it and spray painted the hardware to make it look cool. He went off to college and wanted a kit for himself, so he bought all the raw parts and did it from scratch.. he’s still playing that kit today. We made myself a kit when No Trigger went on the road, and I’ve still got that kit in my basement. We knew what we were doing to a degree, it was “trial and error” kind of work and I messed a lot of stuff up. My knowledge of building is a lot less of my brothers and the guys at the shop, but I focused on the marketing and sales side of the business. Most of what we did in the beginning days was just like “I want to do that.. let’s figure it out” and mess up a few times and get electrocuted trying to powdercoat lugs for the first time, but we figured it out on our own and now we know what not to do. Today, we have an awesome crew who are drum building machines and we all learn from our mistakes until it gets right and I think that’s the best way. By doing this, we come up with new ideas and new options to offer, so we’re always moving forward and making a pro out of a con.

When you are wading through the endorsement emails, how do you select drummers you work with?  Are there any guidelines? Is there anything someone can put in an email that instantly turns you off to them? What makes someone stand out, even if they might not have the touring and recording credentials of some of his or her peers?
Endorsements are always a question people ask, especially these days with so many options out there. A lot of people think it’s getting free drums or “better” service. Really, an endorsement is a reciprocal thing between the drummer and us. It’s “we support you, you support us” and with that motto, really, any customer of ours is technically endorsed, because we treat every single drummer the same. Everyone needs a different level of attention and different specs, but at the end of the day, they are playing SJC and that’s all that matters to us. We’ve got drummers touring around the world who need a backup tension rod or backline for a TV show to drummers who just play at their house and might need a backup lug or something.. or a drummer whose got a performance on the Lopez Tonight show to an artist who has a local show.. either way, we’ve promote it on our website just the same.

With that said, when drummers email us for an endorsement, we’ll offer different levels of discounts off the price of the drums. We don’t have a set “A, B, C” tier that we work off of. Everything is based on the individual, and we look at their credentials and what they have going on. Label support, tours, etc. all have a part in what we offer. We’ll offer a % off for a drummer who has a lot going on, because that means SJC is going to get a lot more time in front of people, so it’s worth it. It’s all about networking and getting your name out. Drummers who are striving to get out there but not touring, we’ll hookup as well, because they’ll be behind an SJC kit. We’ve got an awesome team at SJC that are constantly hitting drummers up and responding to emails super quick, which we really pride ourselves on. We’re open minded and always willing to work with people, because we were once that striving drummer who wanted an awesome deal.

The only thing that turns us off is when we get an endorsement email and all the other drum companies are CC’d, or if they email us and the first sentence is “hey *other drum company*!, I’m so and so and I want a free kit!” We’re like.. we’re SJC.. sorry! haha

If someone wants to make the move out east and build drums for SJC, what are some basic qualifications?
We get people asking for jobs all the time, and it’s tough cause I wish we could have all these people working with us. All the people involved with SJC either play drums or have a love for drums and music, and that’s really all we ask for. Everything else comes with time, persistence, and passion. The crew at our shop all come from different backgrounds which make them an asset to SJC, and they build on that to bring it to drum manufacturing. We’re always keeping peoples info on file if they have a specific background we’re interested in working with in the future.

Any crazy plans for 2011? SJC hardware perhaps?
We’ve got a lot of awesome stuff planned for the rest of the year. We’re involved with a lot of awesome festivals around the work, including Groezrock (Belgium), Bamboozle (NJ), Slamdunk (UK), Warped Tour (US), The Fest (FL) that we’re stoked to be a part of. We’ve got a ton of awesome artists on the road on some pretty rad tours, and a bunch of new artists we’re stoked to announce. We’re always getting ready for the NAMM show in CA which is in January, designing new and crazy drums. We’re always thinking ahead and have a lot going on, which is awesome. Not sure on SJC hardware, we’re really focusing on getting our drums done perfectly and in a good turnaround time, and there are some companies out there that have hardware on lockdown, so we’re not really interested in competing with that.. we’d rather build awesome and crazy drums that speak for themselves.

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