Monday, 13 October 2014

Review: Graham Russell Drums

The best and biggest drum shop in the UK ...

A lot of drummers in the UK (and probably beyond) will already know about Graham Russell Drums.  Despite the fact that he has never run a big ad campaign or put billboards up or anything, his business has been gone from selling some second-hand drums in his garage (albeit a very nice garage!) to a warehouse store on a busy industrial estate.

The business model is deceptively simple.  Buy used drums and cymbals at a fair price, and sell them on - still at a fair price.  Whatever this approach might lack in terms of profit margins compared to new kit, it obviously makes up for in volume.

The store has now grown to the stage where Graham will never turn down a part exchange, has main dealer arrangements with many accessory & consumable suppliers, and is able to buy up new overstock items and bankruptcy stock.  All sold at competitive prices and available via (normally next day) delivery via mail order - for those unfortunate enough to not be within striking distance.

Many drummers I speak to have never been to a specialist drum shop.  I suspect this is both a sign of these (Internet) times, as well as the fact that most musical instrument shops are forced to stock a wide range of musical instruments just to stay in business.  Certainly all of the stores in my area have one drum kit (if you're lucky) and it will normally be a half-size effort in the window, under several years of dust and faded from the sun.

A specialist drum shop is a revelation in itself, let alone one the size of GRD.  At 5,00 square feet, over two levels, with soundproof rooms for trying out gear, rehearsal rooms, toilets, and ample (free) parking - it can be a little intimidating the first time you arrive!  However, the friendly and helpful nature of Graham and his staff soon put you at ease and despite sensory overload at the sheer quantity of shinies on display - you will discover a method to the madness.

Downstairs, on display and  playable are the majority of the drum kits.  They are adorned with hardware, cymbals and pedals - so you really can step right up and try something out.  Now, I say the majority, because there are way too many kits for them all to be set-up on the many drum risers Graham has in the showroom.  Many of the kits have to be stacked-up like Russian Dolls, but if you need to take a closer look or to hear something it will get set-up for you.  Also downstairs is a bewildering selection of pedals, sticks and skins.  Around the bottom of the double staircase are some sofas and coffee tables (you WILL have hot beverages forced on you!) so you can take a break, or in my case encourage my other half to park-up with a cup of tea and a magazine while I am off busy drooling.

Going up the staircase you will pass a show-kit at the midway point on a glass platform (it will depend on stock, but there a gorgeous gold-plated DW kit there for a long time) before you get to the upper level.  At the top of the stairs is an entire side dedicated to cymbal trees.  You could be forgiven for thinking you were in a massive distribution warehouse, I kid you not.  Around the stairwell will probably be some low-end kits and electronics, to one side a hardware forest, to the other more cases than you have ever seen in one place (GRD is a Protection Racket main dealer) and at the end are the soundproof rooms.

I have visited half a dozen times since Graham moved into this new place, and every time there is more gear.  Popular stuff changes hands so quickly that it sometimes doesn't even make it to the website so if you have a particular need (or spot something highly desirable on the website) I recommend you give Graham a call as quickly as possible.

I've tried to give you a flavour of the shop, because no pictures I've seen have done it justice.  What you also can't get from a picture is a sense of the service.  With next day delivery, you don't have to be local (but it does help).  Several times I've bought something from Graham (once a Bonham kit, once a DW Edge Snare) and not been able to settle with them.  A quick chat with Graham and things can be sorted out at little or no cost.  Whether it be an alternative, a refund, or just some advice on how to get the best from your purchase.

Graham doesn't do sponsorship or discounts (he argues his sale runs 365 days a year) so you can be assured that my favourable review is based on my experience and my hard earned cash - and nothing else 8-)