Passing by the Dwyer home, 369 Third St., in the Village neighborhood, you might notice that it’s a little different from the other houses nearby. For one thing, part of its ground floor is home to the Lil’ Brick Schoolhouse childcare center run by matriarch Renee and also doubles as the Mary Benson Gallery, a venue for art exhibits, pop-up shops and other events.
Its best-kept secret, however, is in the back portion of its first floor, which is the workshop for Warlock Drums, a small business that’s gaining international attention.
Joe Dwyer, 57, a teacher at PS #7 on Laidlaw Avenue, builds custom drums for jazz musicians and rock ‘n’ rollers from around the world with help from his son Joseph. By using different woods, angled edges and various craftsman tricks, Dwyer creates powerful drums with unique tones. Custom finishes and hardware ensure that his customers get exactly the look they want, too.
“They’re all handmade,” says Dwyer. “Our whole design and concept is about having the tone of the classic jazz drummers with the power and attack of the classic rock drummers. It doesn’t matter if you’re doing classic jazz or death metal. Our drums will suit your genre and never lose their tone.”
Dwyer, who’s been drumming across genres since he was 9, has high standards for his products.
“I build them the same way I would want them to sound for myself. I don’t let a set of drums leave the shop unless I would play them myself,” he says. “This to me is my passion. I love percussion, I love playing drums and I love building them…It’s just a part of my soul.”
Dwyer has created sets for big names like JC-favorite Winard Harper, Bobby Messano, Michael Peck, international rockabilly/punk band the Koffin Kats and others.
Even more orders have been rolling in since August 2013, when Warlock Drums was featured in a full-page spread in Modern Drummer magazine, a feat that Dwyer says is “almost unheard of for a brand new company.”
To accommodate the demand, the Dwyers are launching an online store where musicians can also buy Sabian cymbals, Gibraltar hardware as well as Latin Percussion and Toca Percussion hand drums.
They are also now hosting drum clinics at their Third Street space; the series kicked off with “Pistol” Pete Kaufmann this past November.
Dwyer, who’s lived his whole life in the Village, says he and his wife Renee hope Warlock Drums and their other business ventures can be part of the neighborhood’s Renaissance.
“I love it because I grew up here. I saw it in its heyday and saw its decline, and now have seen its rebound,” says Dwyer. “As a third-generation merchant in Jersey City (we go back over 100 years), to see the resurgence of the Village area means a lot to me personally.”
Warlock Drums is based at 369 Third St. For more information, call (201) 779-5893 or visit WarlockDrums.com
Village Business Spotlight: For over 100 years, small businesses have played a vital role in shaping the Village. The Village Neighborhood Association is committed to bringing awareness and support to those businesses that embrace the long-standing values and enduring community spirit of our neighborhood.
Photography by Mike McNamara