Erich Neugebauer, creator of Hiptrix glowing drumsticks
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Loosen up for a second and admit it: Drumsticks that glow in the dark could be pretty cool. That is, they could be cool if they actually worked. Enter Erich Neugebauer, creator of Hiptrix, the world’s first consistently glowing drumsticks. Neugebauer’s raising funds on Kickstarter right now to make his light-up dream a reality, and The A.V. Club caught up with him to get the full-on sales pitch.
The A.V. Club: Why light up drumsticks?
Erich Neugebauer: The idea was conceived over 10 years ago now. I was sort of playing around, and you know, when you’re in your first band, we were just playing around in the dark with a black light on, and I put glow tape on some sticks that I had laying around. The effect was kind of cool and so I thought, at some point, that someone’s got to make the ultimate glow-in-the-dark drumstick.
AVC: What’s taken so long?
EN: We sort of started from square one. I myself had no background in anything related to manufacturing. When I started, I didn’t know materials, and I just started with a concept. We ended up identifying materials to use, and going through prototype after prototype after prototype. Around 2005, we did release a product on a very limited basis, though I’d still consider that to be a prototype.
AVC: What was that like?
EN: I think after a long time of development, we just wanted to have something that sort of functioned, and we wanted the world to see it. It did fairly well and the effect was kind of neat, but it didn’t function as a drumstick. And, really, the effect was not as good as it ought to be, so we shut the company down, incorporated, and went straight back to the drawing board.
During that time, we learned a lot, and we’ve come a long way. A friend of mine, John “Bermuda” Schwartz, is the drummer for “Weird Al” [Yankovic], and he’s a well-respected guy. He said to me at a trade show that we needed to make an amazing drumstick first and then have it be an amazing effect, and that was our battle cry from there on out. It was a long road, though.
So, finally, now, we’re at this point where I met Bermuda again at a show in Indiana and he said, “Wow, you guys have really actually done this.” After keeping what he said the first time in your head during development, that’s a really nice thing to hear.
AVC: You are selling some products now, right? Without the Kickstarter project being done?
EN: We have a very limited amount of prototypes that came out of the last production. They did well enough, and we sold enough volume that we decided to start gauging the interest. We’re already out of a couple of sizes and colors, though, and we’re just selling those to recoup R&D costs. I wish we had mountains of them and it was a finished product, but we’re lucky that we got what we got out of that process.
AVC: How long do these things last? Are they like the glow sticks you get on the Fourth Of July that last for two hours, and then you have to put in the freezer?
EN: I don’t want to say they’re infinitely rechargeable, but ours last easily longer than 10 years. You can charge them up then just like you do today.
AVC: How do you do that?
EN: You can charge them through various sources. The more UV content a light has, the better the charge. So, black lights and UV flashlights are the best, but any light will do it, though. They’re at the brightest freshly off a charge, and then they slowly dim down, but depending on the color they last a while. Green lasts 30 hours. Aqua’s about 24 hours. The others are all over 12. At any time, though, you can just charge them up to full peak brightness by putting them under a black light for a few seconds, or you can take them out in sunlight for a few seconds. If you put them under a halogen or fluorescent bulb, that takes just a little longer. I don’t recommend the common household screw-in lightbulb, though. Those don’t put out a lot of UV.
One big thing about our drumsticks is that they don’t require batteries. Any time people have done these before, they’ve used batteries or electronics, and then you have fragile parts and bulbs burning out. With ours, engineering them into a good playing drumstick was a whole new ball of wax, but it’s been very well received.
AVC: What’s your day job?
EN: I do product procurement and sourcing for other companies. I’m just an entrepreneur at night. Trying to keep up with the development of all this, furthering it, keeping up with e-mails and everything, is quite time consuming. I haven’t had time for much of anything else. I’m not even watching TV anymore, which is odd.
AVC: You went with one of the longer Kickstarter campaigns. How’s that been going?
EN: We put a longer campaign out there because I don’t have the social network that a lot of people do, so we figured we needed a full 60 days to get the word out and spread it around. I’m really hoping we meet our goal, because there aren’t a whole lot of avenues as far as lending goes right now. I had been working with microloan organizations through the Illinois Small Business Association, but since the economy went down the tubes, we lost several microlenders in the Chicago area. We’re down to just one now, and their criteria are very strict. There just aren’t a whole lot of avenues for us besides Kickstarter.