our first day as any first of recording is setup. this could take forever with tuning, mic placement, wiring and then actually getting sounds. our first day was no different. we decided to bring our complete setup of drums, guitar and bass rigs. Paul Hager our engineer/producer also brought some stuff. Paul being a vintage gear fan brought a 1970's Ludwig Vistalite drum set and the grand daddy of snare drums; a Ludwig Black Beauty. in addition to Paul's drums i brought my tried and true early 80's Yamaha drums. the story goes after i got married and my first son was born, my wife and i had moved into a small apartment. up to then i hadn't owned or even played drums for a few years so one day my friend Frank and i went into E U Wurlitzer on Newbury street in Boston. Frank was looking at gear so i decided to walk around and like something out of a movie, there it was, a used white Yamaha drum set. something in my head said to buy it. i remember bringing it home and getting "spoken to" about where was i going to play them or even store them. bad idea at the time but i've had those drums all these years, record several records and many many shows they still sound fantastic.
For guitar gear Paul Hager brought a Nash T72 deluxe which is a replica of a early 70's Fender Telecaster. This was added to our guitar player Paul Amenta's setup of a Dr. Z amp and his all original 1965 Fender Deluxe. the Deluxe was the classic "barn find" or in this case, closet find. the story goes that the original owner bought in the 60's, played it for a while but stopped playing and left it in his closet. the owner past away and his wife found it while cleaning out the closet. for recording a Royer and a SM57 were used on each amp. to capture the amplifiers in the ISO was a C30.
Rickenbacker 4001 bass
Fender Precision bass
Nash T72 Telecaster copy
so the first day was getting setup and getting sounds after the technical issues were overcome. the night before i changed the heads on my toms because the drum sounds i was hearing in my head were classic 70's rock such as John Bonham and Ian Pace. i was listening to Deep Purple's Machine Head recently and love the drum sounds. so i decided to use typical white coated heads. the cats back in the day were "reformed" jazz players so their drums were tuned high and wide open.
as i started to set up, Paul immediately suggested i use his vistalite 22" double headed bass drum. of course it's the same color as Bonham's classic set so who was i to disagree. he also suggested to use his classic Ludwig Black Beauty; again another great drum Bonham used to use. we came to the session with five snare drums to choose from but as soon as i hit the Black Beauty, the choice was made. at this point the setup was Vistalite 22" kick, 12" Yamaha rack tom and a 16" Yamaha floor tom. Cymbals are all Soultone Extreme series whom i have an endorsement deal with. the story of how i wound up with Soultone is a another long one for another blog. :) Cymbals are 16" hihats, 17", 18", and 20" crash with a 22" ride.
ok that's the gear, now the recording. first there aren't enough words to describe what goes into recording. for the people who don't know, it takes time to dial in the sound of each instrument and that requires someone to hit the drum(s).....for a long time. it should be the guy who will actually be playing them......i won. by 2:00pm we were ready to record but wait there is more prep work. these days it is best to play to a click track for many reasons, best one is to record multiple passes of a song and cut and paste the best pieces into one track. the hope is to get one complete take but that is not always the case and i'll talk about that later.
first song up to bat was "Roll me over". we had practiced the songs at our space with a drum machine in advance to find the right tempo. keep in mind we had been playing all of these songs out live for a while so we had a really good handle on tempos. right outta the gate the click felt slow. it's easy to tell because i found myself having to check myself and slow down. so now another common theme to the sessions was any tempo we "had" selected was bumped up two or three clicks.
for the next four hours we tracked many takes starting with "Roll Me Over", "I'll find a way", "Heart Attack" and "Far Away".
moving along at a pretty good pace the guys in the band talked me into attempting to track one of Paul's tunes called "Gun's and Roses". live this is typically our last song of the set because it is a higher energy song and i actually have a drum solo towards the end of the song. we had only played it to a click once to establish the tempo. i figured we would only use the click to setup the song but drop it once we got going. problem is trying to "solo" with the click i ALWAYS drift from the click. i got overruled and we tried the song, after a couple of takes it was not working with the solo. we then decided to try a pass without a solo; just play it straight and i would "overdub" the solo the next day. in theory it sounded like a good idea so to end the first day i finished the day with a "straight" pass of the song.
as a side note, Paul Hager has been touring around the world for years and knows ALL the good places to eat. after a full day at the studio he took us to Pepe's pizza at Mohegan Sun. great pizza and "interesting" people around the casino.
Day two at powerstation started out with breakfast at a local diner (again another Paul find) and Advil. i'm getting old and being as out of shape as i am, playing drums for hours the day before took its toll on me. now it was back to work and back to "Guns and Roses" grrrrrrr.
i'm not a jazz drummer and i don't like to solo but for this song it kinda screamed Keith Moon after the second chorus, the last few live shows i took the solo over the top....and sped up but without a click, it wasn't a problem. recording, it's a problem. the good thing was i hit it first thing in the morning so the vibe was back to the Keith Moon vibe on Quadrophenia; my absolute favorite record of all time. after a bunch of passes and a little comping by Gabe, we had a take. as this point we went back and listened to what we had done the day before to see if there was anything that needed to be redone. "Far Away" and "I'll Find A Way" both have sections were i ride the toms and of course i over played them. we decided to return to them later if we had time.
back to work with "Heart Attack"; another Dave tune. once done we move to Dave's angry song, Four Words, this time i swapped out the Soultone ride with a Paste dark rock ride for it's heavy brass sound with little to no decay. we then ran through "Highway Song", "Any Other Day" and "Out of your head".
Last song for the record was "No Surprise" and again another ride cymbal change to a Zildjian ping ride i've had since high school. this is another song with a couple of drum fills. by this point my mind was everywhere else but on the song and even worst, into the song. to this point i had been playing drums hard for 6 or 7 hours. i was junk. after a trip to Five Guys, i was ready to attack the song again. i think it was one or two takes and done after a greasy burger and fries.
for our sessions at Powerstation we have to thank Gabe Herman who's help was invaluable to the success there. also a very very big hug and thanks to my friend Paul David Hager who fit us in between TV appearances with Miley Cryus and Avril Lavigne. and of course my two best friends and band mates Paul Amenta and Dave Dunn.
Next phase of this record is to move back to our practice space for overdubs. our plan is to have the record tracked before Christmas so Paul can mix it before he goes off on tour with Miley "Wrecking Ball" Cryus. next blog will be from our space and my not so vintage equipment.
Joe Patten - Drummer in Huxster 11/1/2013