In a time where big-box retail is gradually on its way out from the music merchant scene, independent stores are becoming more and more crucial for grabbing the attention of young players. Although the old guard have always survived on quality, legend, and long client lists, it’s exciting to see new independent shops, like Rufus Drum Shop in Vancouver, British Columbia, gain a foothold in the scene. The staff at Rufus comprises of a number of veterans of the metal and hardcore scenes in Canada, who are dedicated to offering a new perspective on music and gear to drumming in Vancouver.
We spoke with Nick Yacyshyn, one of the drum gurus at Rufus, and one of our favorite drummers going today. When he’s not playing drums full time in Baptists and Sumac, you can catch Nick hanging and teaching at Rufus.
Can you tell us a bit about how you got involved with this store, and what your role is?
Basically, a friend of mine Blaine McNamee (or Don McNamee, the Wolf of Alma Street) took over a guitar shop in town called Rufus Guitar Shop around a year ago now. A couple months ago, one of the suites around the corner from his shop opened up and Blaine nabbed it. With the idea of drums in his head, he contacted mutual friend and former drum shop owner Allan Harding to move here from Edmonton to get it all off the ground and to run the place. My buddy Bill tipped me off on this going down, and I called Blaine up right away and got in there as soon as they got the lease. Up until a couple days ago it was just Allan and I running the drum shop with Blaine over at the guitar shop with his crew, but now we have another kid named Arthur working with us. My role is “drum guy” and I also teach lessons at the shop.
Are the owners and operators all active musicians as well?
Blaine is a bass player and currently plays in a band called Precursor. Allan plays drums in the Edmonton-based band Black Mastiff and has played guitar and bass in a million hardcore and punk bands over the years. We have a dude teaching there named Tristan Helgason who plays drums in Molten Lava and Anion. Everyone seems to be knee deep in varying levels of musical exploits.
What is the music store scene like in Vancouver, that maybe led to you guys opening this place?
Up until we opened, there weren’t any drums-only music stores in town. There are the odd places that have hand drums or various other pieces, but nothing dedicated solely to drums and percussion. The last drum shop in town closed down in 2008 so there has been a huge void in the city. There are the big chain music stores in town that have drum departments, one of which is decent, the other not so much, but we have different ideas of what to carry in our store and how to do business.
Whats the meaning behind the name “Rufus”? Is George Carlin important to you guys?
Rufus Guitar Shop opened originally in Montreal, QC and moved to Vancouver 30 or so years ago. When Blaine took it over, he kept the name and opened this shop under the same name, as its been a huge part of the neighborhood for decades. And yes, I think Allan already has a t-shirt graphic with ol’ GC on it for the shop.
Why a dedicated drum shop? What do you offer above outlets like Guitar Center?
Why NOT a dedicated drum shop?! Portland has the Revival Shop, Chicago has the Drum Exchange, we need something that amazing and comprehensive in Vancouver and we plan on being the ones to do so. It’ll take some time to get there, but we are inspired and willing to step up. Right now as far as necessities go – sticks, skins, hardware – we basically offer everything that Long & McQuade and Tom Lee does (those are our big stores, we don’t have Guitar Centre here) so we can certainly compete on that level. We’re drummers who actually play and live what we’re selling and I think that goes a long way when you want to commit to purchasing a new instrument. And we play better tunes in the shop
How do you go about curating the vintage sets?
So far people have been reaching out to us! We’ve only been open a couple weeks but the drumming community has given us a warm reception and the word is spreading. Allan is the pro at this stuff, I’m still learning the ropes, but I’m stoked to see what the next few weeks bring our way.
We see private drum lessons are available, will you be one of the teachers? Tell us about the others.
I will be teaching, yes! The other teacher so far is Tristan Helgason who I mentioned above. He’s a killer drummer and was one of the dudes I was always told about when I first started touring Canada after high school. We also have a guy named Chaad Graamlich potentially joining the roster in the near future. He plays in Blaine’s band Precursor, and used to play drums in the pre-Baptists, pre-me band Jaws. He’s also great!
What kind of brands do you work with at the shop?
Right now we have Ludwig, Gretsch, Yamaha, Sonor, Sabian, Zildjian, Paiste, Istanbul, Vater, Vic Firth, Promark, Remo, Evans, LP, Toca, etc. We carry most of the big boys in the shop, and have access to everyone else if people want to order through us. We have some cool locally made snare drums right now from Dunnett and Woods, as well as some locally sourced percussion from Groove Masters Percussion. It’s really cool because these companies all want to be a part of what we’re doing, and we’re very lucky and appreciative to have that support.
Catch up with Rufus Drum Shop on Instagram (@rufusdrumshop) and on Facebook.