“Did you feel that?” my buddy asked. “Uhhh….wait…that wasn’t just me?” I responded. “No! You felt it didn’t you?” “Yeah, we aren’t crazy are we?” In February, 2014, a rare thing happened. The earth shook beneath the feet of several hundred thousand South Carolinians. The seismologists claimed it to be a 4.1 magnitude earthquake. Around the same time, another rare thing happened. A company based out of Greenville, South Carolina, Pintech Electronic Percussion, was presenting their wares at NAMM, the National Association of Music Merchants. Out of over 10,000 companies manufacturing and/or selling musical equipment and merchandise, Pintech won the top award of “Best In Show” for “companies to watch.” What????? Greenville company? “NO WAY! You must be joking!” Nope. I’m not. Thus begs the question…was that really an earthquake in upstate South Carolina, or was it the shockwave of a down home, top shelf, under the radar bad ass drum manufacturer that just won one of the most legitimizing awards in the United States for music equipment manufacturers? I’m no conspiracy theorist (well, sometimes, maybe), but I’m going with option B. The company made waves and we felt it. YAY Greenville, YAY South Carolina!
Let’s ask all the readers a question. Raise your hands if one of the following is a customer of yours: Lady Gaga, Black Eyed Peas, Linkin Park? Anyone? Anyone? Maybe, but I’m guessing only one in the crowd, if any. Well, every one of those multi-platinum artists calls these artisans of electronic drums/percussion to place orders, orders to be conceptualized, engineered, custom designed, all to spec for their needs and desires, and polished to a stylized perfection of both look and sound to present to hundreds of thousands of fans in arenas world-wide. And as I stood in possibly the most non-descript manufacturing facility you can imagine (you wouldn’t possibly notice should you pass by it on the road at the beginning of the cul-de-sac it makes its home upon), all I could think was WOW, we have THIS in Greenville? Yep, we do. Again, YAY us. Oh, by the way, five minutes before I walked in to meet the Pintech crew, the owner was taking an order from ZZ Top’s drum technician. So cool. Duck Dynasty beards eat your heart out!
In any event, let’s get to who Pintech is. And “who” is what matters, because the quality and success of its products is precisely because of who makes up this team of artisans. And yes, they are artisans of the highest quality. One tour through the facility illustrates a somewhat bizarre combination of genius electronics engineers with almost the old school Appalachian potter. Why? Because shelf upon shelf of circuitry, switches, wires, and other gadgetry that makes our lives easier without us regular folk being the wiser, surrounds you wall to wall. But then there is a drum shell, or a “blank” ready to be crafted into a piece of art that will be called a cymbal, which is only dealt with by a single pair of hands that treats the product to be created as one of the Masters began a blank canvas. The result? The finest electronic drums, cymbals, accessories, and modules that exist. There is a reason the artists, from the biggest of the big, to the up-and-comers, want Pintech product. And for those of you that know the music “gear” world, when I asked who Pintech’s biggest competitor was, the answer was Roland. For those of you that do not recognize that comparison, it’s like suggesting that a one location computer retailer says his biggest competitor is Apple. The thing is, Pintech isn’t boasting, and Roland…well, when it comes to electronic drums, they ought to be afraid…very, very afraid.
Pintech is a family. I visited with the owner and staff for a brief hour and a half, and even I felt right at home. It began as an electronic pin company (I didn’t know what that meant, but is basically means custom plugs that you stick into wall sockets, but they were doing made-to-order for theatres and such that you couldn’t find in any Home Depot). This was the brain child of Larry Easterday, and being a drummer, he wasn’t satisfied with electronic pins, so he started tinkering, and as so many innovators of industry do, the electronic drum evolution began for the company. This was the late 1980’s. In 2002, Dan Gilbert took over, buying the company from Larry. And progress, evolution, and growth in the marketplace continued. Recently, Dan decided to sell to the new owner, Ryan Guard (I’m going with “the new Guard” because he is doing incredible things for this “little giant” of a company, but Ryan may fuss at me for that ridiculously easy double entendre). Dan is still there, shepharding this well-loved company to the next generation of ownership and leadership. There also stands an intensely loyal and talented staff, all of whom treat every piece of product that is created in the shop as if they were giving away a piece of their soul.
Ryan was a long time music gear retailer in Vancouver, Washington. Seven months ago, he and his wife, Nichole, took a massive leap of passion and belief, and moved to Greenville to take over Pintech. He already knew everyone there, but he arrived to take the helm with Lorrie Landry, manager top to bottom and, shhhh… I think she’s the boss, but don’t tell Ryan, because he is a wizard at this gig (but c’mon, she’s been there 12 years and knows everything about the business!). Then there is Lorrie’s daughter, Fawn, who is the master fabricator. This young lady hand crafts or oversees the crafting of every single “Visulite” cymbal and electronic trigger (yes, gentlemen, she is a soldering master!). Pintech makes its premier cymbals out of acrylic blanks that she and Craig Hansborough cook, form, then hand sand, shape, and polish to shiny deliciousness. And Craig, the master sergeant at arms, apprentice fabricator of cymbals and drum tech and master of all things mechanical throughout the shop, including the vehicles should they desire to malfunction (though he says he doesn’t do diesel). I swear I’m not exaggerating. You can feel it with these folks – in both their humility ‘aw shucks’ attitude and their pride in quality. Oh, did I mention….Pintech is 100% AMERICAN MADE. Yep, it’s true. Over 50% of their materials are manufactured within 100 miles of Greenville, SC. Most of that is actually in Greenville. The Pintech logo is an eagle – it’s on the business card. And nothing, I mean nothing, will make them stop this practice. American-made is not something most of us hear anymore. At least not with much truth behind it. Make no mistake about it – Pintech can make these amazing products with materials from China. But they don’t, and they won’t. And yet they maintain such relationships and run their business in such a way, with no flash, no pomp and circumstance, that they can afford to keep the prices down for me and you while guaranteeing the highest American made quality. We all hate that it’s not generally true anymore, but wow, what a pleasure to see such a philosophical and boots-on-the-ground commitment to doing it that way, and keeping it that way. No matter what. And if you didn’t notice, that’s why I stole Neil Young’s song title for the article, because Pintech is trying to preserve what is left of the “free world” that is supposed to be the thing that separates this United States from everyone else in the right and good way.
I feel like I made some friends at Pintech in my brief visit. They have a way about them that just does that. I guess that’s why they make products that the absolute beginner can afford (they have a $30 dollar cymbal line all the way to a $300 cymbal line…don’t quote me on that, but I’m close), and why multi-platinum artists make phone calls daily for that something special they need. How cool is that?! To fade out from this little missive, make sure you support our home grown big-little company. Don’t hesitate to give them a shout. Make sure to recognize their products in retailers around the world, from main street shops to Musician’s Friend or Guitar Center. And look for them on stage when you’re at a show. Oh…wanna hear a sample of what these humble artisans do day in and day out? Here’s a demo link Ryan sent me. https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=vb.131104733596094&type=2. Enjoy, feel the beat, and get excited, because music creation, be it the songs or the instrumentation upon which it is manifested, is not only alive and well here in SC, it’s growing like a weed (just not Colorado yet).