So says Jake Cregger, Northern Virginia drummer. He’s been playing gigs and recording around Washington, D.C. and Baltimore and going on tour for years. He’s in three active bands (grindcore, rock and punk), and owns three drum kits. One he pulled out of a dumpster; one he bought off a dude on Craigslist for $300 (he points out that when he picked up the drums, he met the seller in a McDonald’s parking lot), and one he bought for $75: “Apparently, it’s some beginner brand from Brazil," he says, "but it gets the job done and it sounds fine."

He describes all three kits in similar terms: “The kind of drums I play are cheap and accessible, meaning it doesn’t really matter,” although the Craigslist find is a kit he admits is actually pretty nice, “but it’s something I don’t have to worry about. I don’t need to polish it or worry that it’s gonna get scuffed up, 'cause I spent 300 bucks on it.”

Cregger concedes that he does care about his drum pedal, snare, seat and drum sticks (he will spend money on nice sticks) “'cause that’s the stuff that my body interacts with directly. Everything else is just shit that you hit, and it makes a sound. And as long as it makes a pretty loud sound, then we’re in pretty good shape.”

jake cregger drums
Courtesy of Aaron Nichols

Drummers care about drum heads and cymbals, though, don’t they? Cregger agrees that they do, “but when you really start playing out a lot, and you bash through heads and you break through cymbals, you end up ... for me, all taste in cymbals in heads has been reduced to, ‘What can I get for really cheap?’”

When a drummer plays raucous music like Cregger does, the nuances of brands of heads and cymbals are lost, he says. “Looking at what a working drummer needs, they just need something they can smack that will emit a sound that cuts through bass and guitar, and that’s what I go for.”

Then why does Cregger need three kits? “So I don’t have to transport stuff,” he says. “The other big deciding factor with why I use [the] gear I use is how much of a pain in the ass it is to haul.” He has a set of hardware for each kit, too, but “hardware is the heaviest and most cumbersome piece of gear to carry, in my mind, so I try to use as little of it as possible.”

For his rock band Multicult, he uses a simple set-up with his “dumpster” drum set: kick drum, floor tom, snare, two cymbals and hi-hat, “because I can haul that really quick.” For his grindcore band Triac, he adds a rack tom and another cymbal to his $300 kit. “But again, it’s as simple as it can get," he continues. "For the layman, I play basically what Ringo Starr plays. Picture any Beatles video: I play that plus one cymbal.”

This isn’t Cregger’s only connection to a drum legend. As for his $75 kit (the one he plays in Highway Cross), “I painted it canary yellow in honor of Tony Williams, who’s a famous jazz drummer,” he says.

“If you know how to tune a drum, and you know how to tune a drum to how you play and you know how to play it and kinda pull the right sound out, you can play on any kit,” Cregger continues. “Elvin Jones, who’s another famous jazz drummer, once said a good drummer can play on any kit and sound the way they sound. And that totally blew my mind, because I used to give a shit about gear in a meticulous way, and I realized that it’s not about the gear — it’s what you bring to the gear. And I thought that little nugget of wisdom from him was a good mark to aim for, personally.”

Don’t think Cregger is too much of a gear killjoy, though. “I actually love talking about gear and nerding out on vintage drums and all that stuff," he admits. "But in the grand scheme of things, I feel as though, for me, I should be able to deliver and communicate what I want to communicate through drums with any piece of gear put in front of me.”