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Billy Ocean's Rhythm Stick & MegaDrum!

Seriously, the tech that's happened over the years has transformed possibilities for all percussionists but for The Jamma, and me, it's an unbelievable development and one that I dreamt of decades ago. So yeah, I’m quite excited about it!

The attempt to restart the Jamma in the 90’s went wrong (more on that tale soon!) and this green Jamma was originally built for Billy Ocean as part of a promotional campaign. But this Jamma never made it's way to Billy and somehow, even after an arson attack on my home, I’ve managed to keep it from harm.

I remember Billy and I working together in Battery Studios in north west London, Billy was signed to Zomba Records or Jive maybe; whose parent company owned Battery Studios I seem to recall. I was working there as a tech. In the photo I’m explaining some of the new features to Billy. Billy used and played the Dynacord version of the Rhythm Stick a lot - really, really well, and played it on his Love Zone tour in the mid eighties. He’s also one of the nicest men I've ever met. It’s great to see he’s still rocking it.

I’d arranged some sponsorship for Billy from Dynacord back in the day so the kit you can just see on the left was the then latest tech from Dynacord the Percuter... Back then, young people, the drum samples were played with plug-in RAM modules about the size of matchbox - for each drum! Yeah, really.

But they were the bollocks, the sound back then was really impressive and you even had two velocity triggered samples for some modules. So you could hit the Rhythm Stick hard to get a closed Hi Hat and gently for an open Hi Hat… Awesome stuff back then. Now with the multi layered velocity sensitivity in MegaDrum, you can really get a dynamic feel for each drum as velocity levels that you can set, trigger a multitude of samples of the same drum being hit progressively harder.

So back to now, and a few months ago I discovered SamplerBox - it's awesome! Based on a Raspberry Pi 3 it's basically a multi voice sampler in a tiny Pi box! I couldn't believe it, samplers back in the day were great big 19” rackmounts. I remember the classic question from Michael Jackson when i was teaching him how to play the Jamma while he was recording HIStory. I’d explained that all you need is a sampler - the Jamma will trigger whatever sound you want then I said. He looked at me with a big smile and turned to his engineers and asked “do we have samplers?”. He was standing in front of a 6 foot tall 19” rack stuffed with high end Emu (really expensive) samplers!

So I got a SamplerBox and quickly realised that the MIDI being sent from the Jamma was not very good, the 20 year old tech was clunky and insensitive.

I went to the Sound on Sound forum and shared that I’d like to rekindle the Jamma and asked what tech was available and someone mentioned the MegaDrum. Basically, it replaces all the old MIDI tech PCBs into a neat small PCB and a very cool screen to set up which MIDI notes are being triggered, by what velocity and much, much more.

Then, one sunday afternoon in the sun, I removed the old tech and hacked away with a chisel to make space for the MegaDrum module, all of which could be housed in the area that used to just house some basic MIDI settings. I had to do some serious re-wiring of the Fret

Switches which was really boring and I had to drag lots of new wires up through the neck wire channel as a result but i did it!

This is the MegaDrum newly inserted into the Jamma body (which I'm starting to spray black). I didn't find the instructions for the MegaDrum that easy to follow, probably because I’ve not been involved in electronics for over 20 years, but i got it in the end.

So yeah, the MegaDrum is now set up and ready to rock... more soon!

BiG LOve, Pete :)

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