Note: This post was first published June 6, 2010. It was revised and updated July 24, 2021.
Bill Bateman is featured in the May/June 2010 issue of Drumhead magazine, mostly talking about the craft of drum building. Bateman began building kits for his own Bateman Drum Company a few years earlier, and he talks, in detail, with Drumhead about the why and how:
“I noticed that some of the drum companies have made choices in their production that aren’t geared towards a better instrument, but rather are a by-product of mass production. Some companies are good. Gretsch still does it the old 1940s way, which is great. Ludwig is kind of imitating what they used to do, but they have all butt joints. They didn’t have butt joints in the old days.”
Bateman is revealed as a true drum gearhead, with an astounding knowledge of styles and companies. He even talks at length about studying Civil War-era snare drums, eventually building two rope-tension snares in the 19th-century style, according to Drumhead. Much of the article is about how he and his brother-in-law experimented with making wood shells. But Bateman always keeps the player in mind, even when selecting hardware (which he gets from old drums): “All of that double-braced hardware isn’t going to fit into the back of your Toyota,” Bateman told the magazine. “Even if it did, your back would be pissed at you the next day.”
What are the odds of you getting a Bateman Drum Company set? Not so great, according to an interview in the August 2008 Blasters newsletter American Music:
AM: Are you still making drums for sale through the Bateman drum company?
BB: Yes, I’ve made 8 sets, but I just can’t part with them. I have a customer in Finland who has to have a Bateman drum set at whatever cost. The drums are worth more than money to me. I don’t really like to let them out of my possession.
Unfortunately, a recent check-in with the Bateman camp reveals he has not been building any drums in recent years. Fans who see The Blasters in 2021 (including an Aug. 1 super-bill with X and Los Lobos at the Pacific Amphitheatre in Costa Mesa) can expect Bateman behind something cool and likely vintage. (A recent photo shows him with a great Ludwig bass drum with the unmistakable Blasters logo on the head.)
More Bill Bateman on nofightin.com:
The Drumhead story wraps up with three Bateman gig anecdotes: Road stories about dodging beer bottles thrown by angry Queen fans, bleeding all over his white marine pearl 1951 Slingerlands, and hopping on stage behind Eric Clapton when God’s drummer bonked his head.
Writer Kelly King offers this bio of Buster:
Don’t pigeonhole Bill Bateman as just a craftsman. He has an impressive musical pedigree deeply rooted in rockabilly, punk and blues, with recording and touring credits to back it up. Bill began his drumming career at an early age and has been a member of many bands including The Cramps, The Red Devils and the Stumblebums. However, it’s for his work with the legendary Blasters that he is most commonly recognized. Bill was a founding member of the Blasters and in 2008 returned to the band after a fifteen-year absence. Bill has played a vital role in the West Coast music scene, attracting notable fans such as Mick Jagger, Henry Rollins and Brian May. A conversation with Bill is a history lesson of the days when there was less hype, more playing and all-around craziness.
It’s pretty rare to read magazine articles on any of these guys (again, this one is from 11 years ago). Issue No. 21 of Drumhead is available at drumheadmag.com, and issues crop up now and again on eBay.