Talking drums with Kirk Hovland

By Todd Houston
Exclusive to TRRT

Rockford Rocked Interview: Hovland Drums has been building custom seamless snare drums for a few years now. Let’s talk about what attracted you to the drums in the first place.

Kirk Hovland: I witnessed my first drum kit when I was six years old in my hometown of Rockton. It was the look of the drums that captivated me at first. A year later I finally got to play a kit, and I was hooked. I have always been a self starter, with that being said, I am also a self taught drummer.

RRI: Who were your influences growing up?

KH: I used to sneak into every wedding reception at the Legion Hall. I would also window watch drummers at local bars. Being the youngest in the family made it possible for me to check out my older siblings record collections. John Bonham, Carl Palmer, Mitch Mitchell, Buddy Rich and Max Roach are influential standouts.

RRI: Did you have an any kind of an apprenticeship before you decided to start building on your own?

KH: Like I said before, I’m a self starter and I’m also a self taught wood worker. I built my first piece of furniture at the age of 12. Around the age of 18 I started repairing vintage drums.

RRI: I’ve been told that it’s sometimes difficult to get quality woods such as mahogany and maple. Have you run into any obstacles trying to obtain the walnut used for making the snares?

KH: We use sustainable and ecologically stable American black walnut. Walnut is very abundant around our area. We plant four replacement trees for every tree harvested. We also have our own tree nursery and seeding mother trees to supply our saplings. Maple is also very abundant but walnut is the best wood for snare drum construction. We have the best hardwood right here.

RRI: Take us through the process of creating a snare drum from the ground up if you would.

KH: The process of building a Hovland snare drum starts with a chainsaw in a Wisconsin forest and ends with a custom wood lathe at our workshop in Monroe! We are the only drum company on the planet crafting drums in this fashion. I employ a very secretive method of carving and curing the wood, so if it sounds like I’m being evasive, I am. It drives other drum builders and woodworkers nuts. It’s very scientific, and it was not easy to figure out.

RRI: Are your customers based primarily in the United States?

KH: Hovland drums have been sold all over the world from Singapore to England. It’s very exciting that we now have six UK artists on board. As we speak, the first of seven snares is landing in Liverpool. I’m in the process of building six more that will be heading to England this spring and summer. Tours, albums and some big festivals are on tap. One of our artists is playing at Glastonbury. American artists are on my radar.

RRI: I’m going to say a word or phrase and you answer with whatever pops into your head.

RRI: John Bonham (Led Zeppelin drummer).

KH: My favorite drummer and not easy to copy.

RRI: Cheese Days Festival (Monroe, Wisconsin).

KH: Fried cheese curds in September.

RRI: Sgt. Pepper’s or Rubber Soul (Beatles albums).

KH: Orchestration and organics. Use headphones and go analog!

RRI: The Chicago Drum show in Villa Park.

KH: No drum show this year, too busy building drums. I know, I love the Chicago Drum Show. Full booth next year.

RRI: Where can we go to find more info on Hovland Drums?

KH: Check out Hovland Drums at hovlanddrums.com for the goods.

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