Iki Levy, the founder & CEO of Soultone Cymbals talks to us about the evolution of Soultone Cymbals, their journey into India and a lot more in this insightful interview.
ID : Hello Iki! How’ve you been doing? You guys at Soultone have been making a great line of products for 8 years now and business has grown immensely from the looks of it, how has it all been from your view?
Iki Levy: The Soultone Cymbals vision is to create a modern sound with the traditional cymbal making methods, unlike our competitors, the large, mass-producing cymbal companies. We are very pleased with our progress and growth as a family and as a company. We appreciate the fact that the drummer community is able to tell the difference between quality cymbals versus branding and advertisement, thus supporting Soultone Cymbals so greatly. It is due to these individuals that we have grown so much.
ID : When you began Soultone Cymbals, what was your main objective?
Iki Levy: In the beginning, I was simply a drummer endorsed by the big three leading cymbal manufacturers. I was so incredibly frustrated with the quality of the cymbals declining throughout time that I decided to take matters into my own hands and begin ordering hand-made Turkish cymbals for my personal use directly from the Turkish makers, as opposed to the brand names. Later on, I opened a Drum Shop in Los Angeles, California and imported the cymbals directly to my store for other drummers to have access to. This was an immediate success, inspiring me to begin my own cymbal brand.
ID : How different are Soultone cymbals compared to your competitors in the market?
Iki Levy: Soultone Cymbals are hand-made in the old fashioned method of cymbal making in Turkey, as they were made in the ’60s and ‘70s. Back then, there was only one type of traditional cymbals. We managed to recreate the same quality using six different lines, providing variety to every type of genre. What differs us from the original cymbal makers is our modern take on the sound and look of the traditional cymbals. Our competitors in the market are large companies who sell cymbals based on their past legacy. Due to high demand, their quality has gone down drastically, which we intend to avoid at all cost.
Iki Levy: Most of the large companies have established their growth based on mass advertising, which made it very difficult for us to receive recognition when we first began conducting business. We have grown solely based on word-to-mouth recommendations from drummers. If you believe in the musician, they will believe in your product.
ID : Soultone made its way to India recently and you’ve already got a few artists in here and the brand is spreading like a wild fire now. What are the steps you have take to spread the Soultone brand in India? How did this come about and what are your thoughts on India as a potential market?
Iki Levy: As a musician, I always admired Indian culture and music, particularly the rhythm. India is a large market for musicians, with tons of variety and possibilities for growth. We believe we will find great talent in India that will take us to higher levels. As we did in every other country Soultone Cymbals are found present, we began by supporting our artists, big or small. We were initially contacted by two different artists in India that began the noise; Srikrishna Natesan and Vineeth David. Once other drummers got to hear their cymbals live, everything naturally took off. It has been a blessing to have such talented drummers representing us in India; we hope to go far with them.
ID : Can you shed some light on the various stages of the cymbal making process at Soultone? And also how unique they are?
Iki Levy: The cymbals are produced using our special formula, B20 Bronze. The material is naturally melted with open fire in a traditional oven, unlike the modern machine-made cymbals found today. All of the flattening, hammering and lathing is done by hand by our Turkish cymbal makers. They are then thoroughly inspected and shipped to our distributors, worldwide. Before being shipped to our artists, they are hand-selected into matching sets.
ID : Maintaining good standards is always a concern among artists and companies alike. How have you and the rest of Soultone handled this while expanding to a lot of parts of the world?
Iki Levy: Our entire vision is to support the up and coming artists equally to the established, as they need just as much support, if not more. Since we have based our entire business ethics on this, we have established very close and personal relationships with all of our artists, which we intend on continuing. They are the reason we have succeeded so greatly, and we will continue to thank them for that.
ID : You’re a phenomenal drummer yourself, how long have you been playing the drums? Can you speak something on your life as a drummer and your experience and what made you to think about setting up your own cymbal company?
Iki Levy: Thank you. Being inspired by bands such as Deep Purple, Led Zepplin and Cream, I began playing the drums at age 12. It was only three years later that I landed my first gig, performing as a professional drummer for the band Strangers. I performed with them for six years prior to playing daily on a highly publicized TV Show. http://www.youtube.com/user/ikilevy
Iki Levy: For a complete list of the work I have done in the US, please visit http://allmusic.com/artist/iki-levy-p98120/credits
ID : What are the major transitions you’ve seen occur in the music business over the years? How tough or easy is it now say for a drummer or an artist to make a name for himself in today’s times?
Iki Levy: When I moved to the US in 1992, most of the music has transformed to drum machines and programming, as opposed to live drummers. This made it very difficult for drummers to get recognized for their talents. Now days, live music has made a come-back and has allowed drummers the opportunity to perform and record.
ID : What advice would you give to the drummers out there to get better at the instrument and to establish themselves in the field of music?
Iki Levy: Start with working thoroughly on your technique, perfecting every aspect. When performing with other musicians, in a band, try to support the music with your playing by listening to the other instruments. The most reputable working drummers are the ones who play musically as opposed to just technically.
Thanks a lot for doing this interview Iki! It’s been an honour for us to have this chat with you. The Indian Drummer team wishes you and the rest of Soultone Cymbals team the very best.
Iki Levy on Drums ::
Courtesy: Srikrishna Natesan