On November 16, 2016, the Paiste cymbal company announced the death of Robert Paiste.
Robert was born in 1932 in the family’s country of origin, Estonia. The disruptions during the mid-20th century brought the family through Poland to Northern Germany, where in the late 1940s he joined his father, Michail, in cymbal and gong making. He moved to Switzerland in 1957 to found the company’s new and present home base.
“Father was making cymbals, and I just got into it,” Robert told writer Robyn Flans in a 1985 Modern Drummer magazine article. “I started in the factory after school, and then I began to learn the handicraft. I started working in production when I was 17. It began with learning how to hammer cymbals to achieve a certain sound. I found out what vibrations do, and how it’s possible to influence the metal.”
Robert and his younger brother, Toomas, took over the Paiste business in 1963 upon the death of Michail. While Toomas ran the administrative side of the company, Robert handled production. “Robert likes to go into the details of things, really diving into the problems and trying to solve them methodically,” Toomas told Modern Drummer. “That’s a perfect attitude for sound development.”
Robert’s work led to numerous innovations, inventions and patents, and among his many accomplishments were the Formula 602, the 2002, and the Signature Series cymbals.
“Sound is vibration, and vibration is energy,” Robert told Modern Drummer. “Life energy is vibration and sound, also. So, for us, sound is part of a very deep, basic truth. We are not the only ones who feel like this. There are so many musical-minded drummers who get the same exciting feeling from playing their cymbals. It’s not just the sound. It’s the vibration, the touch, how it feels, and how it speaks to the drummer. It’s a wonderful feeling to produce something, hand it over to the drummers, and see them get the same response. There’s a deep truth behind it.”