Main set-up and equipment
Most of the time I use the set-up below:
I still have the first pro-level crash I ever bought, in about 1998: a Zildjian A Custom 14". It still sounds ace. I love Zildjian cymbals.
The regular set-up consists of K Custom Hybrid HiHats (13.25") and Ride (21"), which for me represent the end of nearly two decades searching for the sound I wanted. The hats cut through without being tinny, they have character, they're crisp but they can also be loose, and they don't overwhelm the rest of the kit when they're open. The ride is the most beautifully crashable ride I've ever played, while still being controllable, having a great clean bell sound, and being incredibly versatile.
I use K Dark Thin Crashes, 19" and 17". The 19" is my main crash and the 17" is usually just above my ride. It took me a long time to come around to K crashes but largely thanks to my best friend (@drrolandparker on Instagram) getting some and them being amazing, I jumped ship from the A Customs I used to prefer. The Ks are dark and complex and all those words you hear to describe Ks. These two work beautifully together.
Then for accents and effects I have an 18" Oriental China Trash, a 19" K Custom Hyrbid Trash Smash, and a 10" K Custom Dark Splash. For me the China is just about large enough in sound without having too long a decay. The splash is quite honestly too quiet but I love the tone of it, it's a bit more sophisticated than regular A splashes. The Trash Smash I absolutely love, it's a darker and as you'd expect trashier sound, which blends really well with the K crashes but offers something a little more spectacular.
You can hear the way all these cymbals work together on my band's recording of Grace by Jeff Buckley, which showcases them nicely.
I've always loved and used Yamahas. My first ever kit was a Yamaha DP (their entry-level kit in the mid 90s) which was a basic 22, 12, 13, 16 set-up - I think I supplemented it with a couple of second hand Rock Tour Custom toms in a similar colour, 8" and 10". Then I graduated to a Stage Custom, lovely natural finish kit, which sounded amazing with careful tuning. For the drum-and-bass band I was in I used to use an 18, 8, 13 set-up with a 10x4 snare, a 14 x 4 snare and a 12 x 5 snare, that set-up was amazing! You can hear that on the audio page. Finally I wrote a book about marketing libraries (which is my regular job) and with the first year's royalty cheque bought an Oak Custom.
Initially I got 20, 8, 10, 12, 14 suspended toms, then when Yamaha and Sakae split and they stopped making the Oak Custom as was, I bought the last 16" floor tom in the UK and I'm really glad I did. For almost all gigs and recordings I use a 20, 10, 12, 16 set-up. Occasionally I find an excuse to put the 8" in there as well. It sounds amazing, but I just don't need 4 or more toms for most of the styles of music I play.
I like my ride to be as close to me as possible so I use the 10 and 12 to the left of the ride (rather than both over the bass drum) as you can see in most of the pictures on this page.
I also use all Yamaha hardware - except the pedals, more on which below, and the stool, which is an Ahead Spinal Glide throne. This is an amazing drum stool - as well as being rock solid and properly comfortable, it feels much better for your spine when you sit on it, and seems to reduce muscle fatigue.
I used to use Remos but tried Evans after discovering Carter Beauford who used them at the time. I think they're incredible. Easy to tune, make drums sound fantastic, and most impressively of all they hold they're tuning like nothing else. At the top level all drums and cymbals come down to personal taste but with heads I really don't understand how anyone could try Evans and not continue to use them, they seem (to me) actually better than the others on the market.
I use G2s on all my toms, the EMAD on my kit (with the Evans EQ muffler) and then a variety of heads on my snares. The Grestsch Vinnie Colaiuta signature snare just has a G1 on it, but normally I tend to use Genera HDs as their built-in muffling is very subtle and doesn't seem to interfere with the resonance of the drum. This is what I have on the Rock & Whiskey Copper snare I use a lot of the time.
Tama Iron Cobra Pedals
I started off using a cheap Gibralter kick pedal, then saved up for a DW5000 double-pedal, but I never quite got on with it. That's probably my fault because I'm not great with double-pedals, but when I tried out a friend's Iron Cobra it instantly felt better - more solid, quicker, responsive. So I have a power-glide Iron Cobra which I love, and the hi-hat stand which is fantastic, so much better than the DW. I also have a flexi-glide single pedal.
I recently picked up my dream drum, a Van Kleef Custom Drums 13 x 4.5 snare made of aircraft grade titanium, which I'm more excited about than any drum ever!
It has PureSound wires, Evans Heads, and steel lugs and hoops. I had this built because I love the look and sound of VK titanium drums, and because I've never been able to find a 13 x 4.5 snare. It is a stunning instrument. I looked at loads of custom drum builders as part of building up to buying this snare, and I'd recommend Van Kleef to anyone - absolutely brilliant company.
I mainly use a Rock & Whiskey (also sometimes known as RAWDrums) hand-hammered Copper snare, 14 x 5.5. It's such a nice snare to play - responsive at low volumes but with that perfect CRACK when you want it to.
The other snare that gets the most use is my Gretsch 14 x 5 Vinnie Colaiuta Signature maple snare, and occasionally for a higher sound I'll use a Pork Pie Little Squealer, 12 x 5 (also maple).
I still have a Yamaha Peter Erskine 10 x 4 Vintage Maple snare which I used back when I played live dance music, and a Pearl 13 x 5 Mahogany Omar Hakim signature snare, which I keep out of sentimentality as it's the first good snare I ever owned.
The most recent ebay bargain, which I've not tried out yet, is a Tama Starclassic, Birch, 14 x 5.5.
When I first saved up for top-level cymbals I was after a simpler and purer sound than I want now. I still have those cymbals and although I don't really use them live, I used them in the studio recently because I was going for a 90s sound with a cover of a Police song done in the style that Sting did it in the 90s...
The 18" Oriental China Trash is the same but otherwise it's all change - I'm using 16" and 14" A Custom Crashes; 6", 8" and 10" A Splashes; a 20" A Ping Ride; 14" New Beats HiHats and an additional 16" Oriental China Trash.
I also have a few cymbals I used in previous projects but that don't really get any outings these days: a 9.5" Zil-bel, 9" and 11" Trash Splashes, and a 20" A Custom Flat Top Ride. I also have an 18" K Custom Hybrid Crash, which I use when I'm only bringing a stripped down set-up to a gig on a small stage.
For drum-jams I'll sometimes set up a bigger kit and try and combine more of my cymbals and drums at once then I'd ever use for an actual gig - when I do it looks like this!