Whilst working on this project I took the opportunity to work on the drum sound I had been able to achieve so far. Ive always found something fascinating about the whole process of capturing drums, especially the huge variety of techniques employed to certain drum sounds and styles. Albums highly regarded for their sound often spark pages upon pages of forum posts, filled with engineers discussing how they think the drum sound was achieved.
A few albums/tracks I have always held highly regarded for their unique drums are:
- Queens of the Stone Age – Songs for the Deaf (2002) – A Song for the Dead (Eric Valentine)
Dry/Tall Drum Booth, No close mics, Cymbals tracked separate
- Hidden Orchestra – Night Walks (2010) – Tired and Awake (James Locke)
Brush Detail, Complexity, Depth
- Steely Dan – Aja (1977) – I Got The News (Al Schmitt, Bill Schnee, Elliot Scheiner & Roger Nichols)
High end sparkle, Tight, Natural (Tape crackle)
- Nirvana – Nevermind (1991) – Lithium (Butch Vig)
Perfectly engineered kick, Energy from room mics, Neve/Tape warmth
The Aristocrats – Culture Clash
I set out to achieve the drum sound in The Aristocrats – Culture Clash, which has a very sparkly top end and extremely wide and precise stereo image. The sound as a whole is very clean and clinical, with a tight and controlled bottom end. It is apparent the drums are close miced, but do not lack a sense of spaciousness. It sounds like this is due to the recording taking place in a large live room with good diffusion, and a wide pair of room mics. The room sounds inherently dark with the snare generating an RT60 of roughly 1.2 seconds. The dark aesthetic of the room is extremely real sounding, and created a lot of energy in the track. An emulation of this reverb could have an unrealistic level of high frequencies for a room of that size and often over emphasise the frequencies boosted by room modes (unless the emulation allows the level of diffusion to be set).
Unfortunately, due to the difficulty of the track, I was unable to find a bassist who was willing to trouble themselves with the task of learning and rehearsing the track.
Rage Against the Machine – Bombtrack
After a rethink, I decided on something that would be a lot less work for the musicians to learn, but still would rely on good musicianship and them locking in with each other. The track I chose was ‘Bombtrack’ by Rage Against the Machine. From their 1992 album, this track is the first on the album and likely to be the first thing many people every heard from Rage Against the Machine. The album itself was recorded live, taking advantage of the energy and performance musicians would project when performing.
The drums are heavy rock/metal sounding, but with a hint of Hip-Hop seeping through into the heavy kick, along with the rap vocals. The overheads are fairly wide, spreading the cymbals across the soundscape.
The drummer on this project (Elias Gargallo Aguilella) had met a talented rapper (Olly Hodding) when working on Toni Castells’ ‘Life From Light’, who was happy to be part of the project.
The track relies on the groove generated by the kick during the verses and heavy riff accenting beats two and four during the choruses. All instruments are hit hard, from the pick digging into the strings to heavy cymbal hits.