Interview with Eric Singer: His thoughts on the Milan KISS SpringLOCK Test
Eric Singer in Tokyo on October 23rd, 2013 wearing a Spacemaster Airbourne. Photo courtesy of BALL Watch, S.A.
On October 23rd, 2013, the world famous American hard rock band KISS had a concert in Nippon Budokan in Tokyo (Japan). During the entire concert, Eric Singer, drummer of KISS played wearing the new Engineer Hydrocarbon Airborne. The watch was equipped with SpringLOCK, BALL's new system that helps absorb repetitive shock. As expected, the watch did extremely well! Click here to read more about the testing performed at the Tokyo concert. Earlier in the summer during a KISS show in Milan, Italy, Eric wore two different SpringLOCK prototype watches as well as a third "control" watch. We discussed the results of the Milan SpringLOCK test with BALL CTO Philippe Antille a few days after the concert. Now that SpringLOCK is coming to market, below is an interview with Eric Singer where we discuss his first watch product test on stage during a live KISS show.
Rob Caplan: Before the Milan Concert, had you ever worn watches during an entire KISS show?
Eric Singer: Normally I will not wear a watch when I play drums for the obvious reason that I don't want to cause damage to the watch. Even if it's just a quartz movement, you could knock the hands off the dial, or affect the registers of a chronograph. It's also probably not a good idea because you could bang the watch and cosmetically damage it. Also it doesn't look cool or go with the outfit. Musicians who are really into watches and wear them on stage like Eric Clapton and John Mayer just stand up there when they play. They don't jump around and perform in the way that we do with KISS. The SpringLOCK test was the first time I ever wore watches throughout a whole show, though of course we changed the watches midway through and at the encore. You know what the results were [The Two SpringLOCK prototypes only moved a few seconds, while the watch that didn't have SpringLOCK lost a few minutes.] I'm assuming the one that didn't have SpringLOCK [The BALL Skindiver that was used as a control during the three song encore] probably just had standard incabloc protection?
The three watches worn during the Kiss Show in Milan: Two modified Fireman Racer DLC's with SpringLOCK, and my rubber strap Skindiver without SpringLOCK as a control.
Rob Caplan: That's correct. My EM2 Skindiver that was the third watch, just had the incabloc.
Rob Caplan: Had you ever worn a watch at all while performing with KISS?
Eric Singer: We performed for a German TV show called Wetten, Dass. It translates to "Wanna bet that..?" and is one of the most popular shows in Europe. They do the show five or six times a year out of different locals. They will go for instance to Norway, then do the show out of there. We were one of the performers on the show a few years ago. Truth be told, It's a show that's lost a little bit of its luster because during an episode after we were on, a stuntman almost died when he was jumping over moving cars, and this was on live T.V. When we performed they gave me a tourbillion to wear for the look, and I wore it for one song and that was it.
Rob Caplan: For those not familiar with his work, can you talk a little about Welhelm Rieber?
Eric Singer: Welhelm Rieber is an independent watchmaker in Germany from the Black Forest region. Anyone who wants to learn more about him can do a little google research about his Maybach Tourbillion. If you purchased the car, you could also purchase a special Maybach tourbillion that was made for you. He only makes a handful of watches a year, and I believe he also just opened a watch making school. His pieces are in the tradition of Breguet. He doesn't use a cad cam, or laser machinery. If you look at his watches, they are really beautiful. Even though they are of course fine high horological pieces, there is rawness about them that comes from having them made by hand.
Rob Caplan: When you drum how much impact do you think there is?
Eric Singer: While I've never tested it, my friend Mike Mangini, the drummer of Dream Theater, was involved in a test on the Discovery Channel that quantified the g-force and shock on the body when a drummer hits the drum. There's no doubt about it that it's a lot of pounds per square inch pressure. There is a lot of velocity and torque that goes into a drummer's motion. There's a whipping motion when you play that is probably not unlike a boxer or a martial artist. Just like those fighters, you have to focus inertia and energy into every single stroke or hit. The force is probably great enough that you'd expect to cause damage to a mechanical watch if worn continuously. I don't care how great the watch is, it's going to get damaged unless you have some type of special shock system that is made to absorb shock.
Rob Caplan: How did you integrate the watch into the "Catman" costume the day of the [Milan] Test?
Eric Singer: Well, when I play I wear terrycloth double-wide bands, so I just put it under the sweat band and it was fine. I needed to make sure that it wasn't too tight so that it wouldn't encumber me or restrict my movement in playing. I have so much adrenaline going on when I'm playing anyway, that I didn't even notice it.
As he did in Japan with the Airbourne under his wristband (pictured above courtesy of BALL Watch, S.A.), Eric wore the test watches under his wristbands during the KISS concert in Milan.
Rob Caplan: Aside from the impact from the shock of the sticks, do you think the watches took any direct hits during the test because of how hard you play?
Eric Singer: No, I didn't hit it into anything. I'd like to think that I am pretty accurate in how I place things, and how I involve my movements. It's not that I'm completely choreographed or scripted, but I know every song I am going to play in the set list, and I've played them so many times that I know what's coming all the way through the show. Even if I would have smacked the watch on anything, it was protected. Shock is shock though, even if it's not a direct impact.
Eric wearing the BALL SpringLOCK prototype before the concert in Milan in his full "Cat Man" costume.
Rob Caplan: Were you surprised by how well the SpringLOCK prototypes performed?
Eric Singer: Absolutely, and we saw the other watch that didn't have it which we only wore for three songs, and on that one, right away it totally altered the time keeping. Did they ever have to regulate that watch [Your Skindiver] or was it ok?
Rob Caplan: They did. Philippe [BALL CTO Philippe Antille] said those three songs basically shortened years off the hairspring. Philippe manually adjusted the hairspring and it is now performing well. He said that most watchmakers would have replaced it, as they don't have the experience to be confident manipulating the hairspring. The timing sheet he showed me after his adjustment looked great, and it's been keeping great time ever since.
Eric Singer: I would imagine that's what would happen [that the watch would need to be regulated]. A watch is just made for wearing and telling time. With BALL SpringLOCK, they want to have a watch for people that have a really active lifestyle. Some people don't want to take their watch off and want to use it to time their activity, and it's imperative that they wear a watch.
Eric & Philippe at the Four Seasons Milan after the show talking about the experience. Eric had never worn watches during an entire show, or participated in any kind of watch product development test.
The before and after testing sheets of my Skindiver which was used as the control watch for the SpringLOCK test in Milan.
Rob Caplan: Do you think that BALL's focus on shock resistance is worthwhile?
Eric Singer: I can't speak for BALL in particular but for any company to explore it, I think it's a good idea. All aspects of how a watch can be used in daily life or extreme activities are worth exploring. It's like we wear different clothing for more extreme activities. You wear boots in the snow, right? You wear a diving watch if you're a diver. It would be nice to be able to wear a shock resistant watch if you are an outdoorsman. Exploring all of these ways to improve the performance of what a watch does, even if it's a niche market is all good. Think about this Rob, all of these companies keep reinventing the wheel. It's just like with cars, where companies make the wheel bigger or make the car a different shape, or add new performance features. The main function of a car is to get from point A to point B, and the main function of a watch is to tell time. If you have it perform other functions or needs that go along with the main function, that's what keeps it interesting. Otherwise, what are you going to buy? No one who is a real watch person is going to just buy one watch and then that's all they ever wear. They keep wanting to buy and acquire different kinds of timepieces. Let's face it, a lot of times people buy them with features they will never use, that's why they call certain watches "Desk Divers". Some people don't even take dive watches in the water, but they love the look of the watch.
Rob Caplan: With all your years collecting watches, this was the first watch product test you've ever been a part of. How did it feel?
Eric Singer: I was glad that they asked me to do it, I thought it was really cool. It was a unique opportunity, because I not only play drums for a living, but watches are a big part of my life too. It's a huge passion for me. Combining the two things was a perfect storm.
Rob Caplan: Are there any other questions about the SpringLOCK test I should have asked to which you would have given interesting answers?
Eric Singer: We could have talked about what would have been other good tests for SpringLOCK. Another good real world test would be speedbag punching. One of my friends, Brian Tishy ,who plays drums, and used to play with Billy Idol, Ozy at one point, and a bunch of others is really good on a speed bag. He actually does speed bagging to the songs for practice. It's very rhythmic. He'd be a great person to put a watch on and test the product to see what kind of a shock it can take when punching. Or maybe get a martial artist UFC fighter to wear it while training. It would be interesting to see how it holds up to one of those guys. That's a different kind of shock than a drummer and could be a great test.
Rob Caplan: Do you want to be involved in the watch industry?
Eric Singer: Working in the watch industry isn't just my desire, it's my intention. When I'm in Europe, and I'm on tour I love going to watch factories and museums, but I want to learn all aspects of the watch business and a big part of that is retail. If I lived near Topper, and I wasn't touring, I'd love to work as a fill in person and maybe come in a day or two a week.
Rob Caplan: We'll have to find a way to take you up on that.
Eric Singer: I think it would be cool, don't you?
Rob Caplan: Absolutely. Forgetting the novelty of buying a watch from a famous musician, if none of that was there, they'd see the passion for watches right away.
Eric Singer: The way I look at it, it would be an apprenticeship for me. If I'm going to be involved in this business I'd need to learn from a store's point of view, and you could only really get that working in a store. Retail, dealing with customers, I think I'd be good at that, because I know how to sell well.
Rob Caplan: I think you'd be great.
Eric Singer: If I was one of your salesmen, I think you'd be amazed at how well I do. If you know watches, and you love watches, then how is it hard to sell that?
Will we really see Eric behind the counter at 1315 Burlingame Ave? Stay tuned!!!!
The Topper Blog consists mainly of original writing by Rob & Russ Caplan with occasional special contributions and interviews. All photography in the blog is taken at Topper Fine Jewelers , or on location unless otherwise indicated in the photo captions.