“I started on one of those extraordinary Trixon kits,” says de Krom, “and I’ve still got it. They have real hide heads, so they are great to play in winter, but in summer…!” De Krom’s early years were spent mid-way between Utrecht and Arnheim. “My father was a very good amateur drummer, today he’d probably be termed a ‘semi-pro’, and I guess I learned about 90 per cent of what I know from him.”
De Krom’s first stab at serious playing was when he moved up to high school and met up with some other like-minded individuals who were interested in forming a jazz-rock band. “We tried to play jazz/blues/fusion and were quite successful. We must have been together for around three years.”
Then, in 1988, the family moved from Holland to Belgium. “That’s when I started playing in clubs with professional musicians,” he says. “I was about 17. It was great, because I was playing with people who’d played, for instance, with Chet Baker. They were mostly jam sessions and were held on a Monday night. And because I wasn’t yet 18 couldn’t drive so I had to make sure that I got the last tube home, as, of course, I had school on the Tuesday morning.”
By the time he left school, de Krom didn’t want to go to a conservatoire because of the classical mindset. He felt he’d be better off learning jazz in the clubs and contemplated a trip across the Atlantic. “I thought that the only way to learn jazz properly was to go to the States.”
So in 1992, after attending a course that Berklee college was giving at an Italian Festival, he gained a scholarship (he was studying law at the time) and upped sticks and went to Boston for five years.
In his Brussels jazz club days, he says: “I used to play the house kit in the clubs but at home I had the Trixon. All the heads are odd sizes. It’s bizarre; the bass drum is a 19-incher and one of the toms is a 13!” Over in the States de Krom turned to a Pearl World series model.
“I still have it. It’s the one I use for my jazz gigs here. I love it too much but it’s beginning to fall apart. The worst thing is they don’t make it any more; it’s got an 18- inch bass with a 14-inch snare, a 14-inch floor tom, a 12-inch mounted tom, two cymbals and a hi-hat – a real jazz kit.”
His other kit is a Pearl Master’s Custom similar to the World kit, but it’s made from 6-ply maple, he says. “I love the really round-toned sound as it plays well either loud or soft and the dynamics are really good. Again, I’ve got an 18-inch bass drum, two mounted toms – a 12-inch and a 13-inch – plus a 14-inch floor tom and a 14-inch snare. Then there are the three cymbals, plus a hi-hat. It’s the one I use on Jamie Cullum’s gigs. For Jamie’s gigs I also use a 13-inch piccolo snare, because I need something snappier, harsher, with more attack. It’s a Marvin ‘Smitty’ Smith model with a copper shell.”
De Krom also has a Pearl Rhythm Traveller, which spends most of its time in his parents’ basement in Belgium. “It’s a practice kit really. The shells are about half the normal size and it has a really small 10-inch bass drum. It’s the shape of a crab and stands on a couple of legs – everything comes out of the bass drum. It has a snare, a floor tom and two other toms, it’s like a triad – a great little kit. The sizes are only about 8-10-inch, but it doesn’t give a muted sound at all. It really does sound like a proper drum kit.”
De Krom uses this for rehearsals, because as he says “it’s so light, so small and so easy to transport”. He also has a Roland Electronic V drum with a TD20 module. “It has two mounted toms and two floor toms. It doesn’t bother my neighbours and I can attach an iPod to it if I need to learn something.”
As for cymbals and sticks he says he has a pair of old ‘K’ hi-hats, but regularly uses ‘A’ Zildjian 15-inch hi-hats, “they’re big but sound fantastic”. Relying on a 20- inch ‘K’ light ride as his main ride cymbal, with five symetrically divided rivet holes he says: “I usually have two or three rivets in, but sometimes I’ll have all five holes covered – it’s a great cymbal. Then I have another 20-inch ride ‘K’ Constantinople ‘thin high’ and it’s really fantastic. My crash is also a K Zildjian.”
He uses Vic Firth SD4 combo sticks because they resemble 7As but have a squarer tip. “They give me the sound I’m looking for, particularly on the cymbals”. For brushes he uses the metal wire Regal Tip. “I use the ‘black handle’ type. I also use mallets from time to time.” All de Krom’s drum heads are Remos coated and ambassador-type. He also uses a felt bass drum pedal, because, he says, it’s softer than a composite. When it comes to cases, de Krom doesn’t compromise.
“I use five Hardcases. When I’m touring in Europe there’s a lot of wear and tear, so there’s really no alternative.”
However, if de Krom’s playing a local gig, he’ll grab a “soft” set. When he’s travelling the world, de Krom just takes his cymbals and sticks. “I could take my snare”, he says, “but I find it’s just too awkward. If we’re touring in the States, I’ll call up Pearl and tell them what I need at a gig and they make sure it’s there waiting for me when I get there.”