Learning Drum Tone
To kick this off, the first thing that we really wanna talk about, specifically that I wanna talk about is gonna be the sound of the drums. What I'm going for with the band Periphery. For those of you that don't know, Periphery is a fairly progressive metal band that's really known for very aggressive tones, when it comes to the guitars, the drums, everything. Very in your face, not so much, you know, kind of quiet and easy on the ears always. And I think because of that, because of that aggressive nature, it inspires a certain kind of sound that I always go for when we're recording drums or even when I'm playing live. And I think this started for me when I was really young. Whenever I would listen to a record of any kind, you know, I'd put on CD's in my basement, I'd play along the covers and jam, I would always pay attention to the sound of the drums and that sound, for whatever reason, I would always visualize what that drummer looked like playing. So if the snare drum sounded reall...
y big and boomy, I would envision that drummer hitting like, boom! Every time. So that's how I would actually hit the drums, based on what it sounded like. If it sounded really small and dinky, I would hit kind of lighter and a little bit less aggressively. But with Periphery, as I said, it's very aggressive in nature, so on one side of the fence I'm really really just kind of gravitating towards playing very very loud, very very powerful, or in a very very powerful way with Periphery, trying to get drum tones live that represent what we really kind of would program as a demo, which is, well, we can talk about that specific process a little bit later. But along with that it also comes down to, kind of, why you wanna go for that sound and I think that just depends on what music you're playing or I think whatever session you're working on. Just because the music sounds a certain way doesn't necessarily mean that there's one specific drum size or one specific setup that can work for that. And that's the other side of this, is as much as you wanna play physically and passionately based on the music, you also wanna figure out what is the right setup for you. And for those of you that know Periphery, you may know that I kind of change my setup often, and have changed my setup very often throughout the time that I've been in the band. And I think, in the beginning, we were really kind of just going headstrong, not as focused on the sound, and I think at that time maybe you as a producer were really just starting to dabble.
In recording drums, recording everything. I know that you were demoing your own stuff.
Yeah, no, I'd say I've really been focused on recording drums probably for only about two or three years now. And a lot of it's been in conjunction with you. Both in the studio and also live, we worked together engineering your drum sounds for live and we often record stands from our live shows and analyze that and we have a system down but I wanna hasten to add it's actually a system that is gonna translate very well to, pretty much any style of music. One of the really good things about drums is the core instrument doesn't actually change that much between different styles. Sure you can have different size drums, different types of head but so much of it comes down to the source, how you play them. So when we look at things like drum tuning it's gonna be really transferable to other styles. We're going to need to really look at certain things, like the durability aspect, with you playing as hard as you do, there are a lot of challenges involved in preserving a good drum sound, or even attaining a good drum sound if the head's simply aren't the correct selection or aren't tuned the right way. So it's gonna be a really in depth process looking at that.
Yeah, exactly, and so I think that's a good place to jump into kind of the evolution of my drum set, and also the way that I'm playing. So when we did start off, I was tuning the drums myself and because I was going for that really really aggressive sound, I really went for a very punchy, really heavy attack-based kind of drum tuning and to get that I just would put on the heads and go finger tight, as far as setting the head tension, and that sound can be really cool, if you're in a live setting, I think.
Yeah, or just in person if you're hitting that you're gonna hear a ton of attack, it's gonna sound almost like a kick drum.
In fact, I think you used to do that and kind of substitute kick drums with the toms.
Yeah, exactly. But it doesn't necessarily have that full kind of tone that you want. It doesn't really have any tone to it, to be honest, it's complete attack and, it's just kinda thuddy.
Yeah, and when you take away the volume aspect, when you put a microphone on that and you listen back to it in the studio aspects, much quieter, it's a big like when you record a really loud guitar amp, it sounds completely different once you actually take it down to a listenable volume. In that situation actually you just get like a papery kind of attack, so one of the things that we've gravitated towards is really learning how to get drum tones that really come across in a studio setting and on a recording setting sound really big and full, and still have the kind of attack that we're after. We'll get into tuning in a second but we'll talk about all that.
For sure. Yeah, and I think too, it really just took a couple years of Alex Markides, our head sound engineer, and you and the other guys being like, yeah, we get it, you like to hit hard, but there's no, it doesn't sound that good. Alex would say "I hate your four tom", he would really get on me about it. And when you started really touring with us, there was a little, I was a little bit nervous about letting you tune my drums. It would annoy me sometimes, like, no this is my sound, I know that they're getting in your ear about it. And I would see Nolly like, I'd come in the venue and we'd be set up for sound check and he'd be on my drums like tweaking things. And it's like, dude, what're you doing? You would ask.
Yeah, I would.
Fair enough, but it took a little bit for me to really say, alright, you're right, it is about the music. And I think, when we started really preparing for Juggernaut, that's when I decided that one, it would be better to have more drums, because then I can have more options. Previously this was not my setup. I was playing with really a minimal setup. One four tom, kick drums there, snare drums, sometimes two four toms, but I really wanted more options, I wanted more melody to the drums. And with that in mind, you really couldn't get much melody having the drums finger tight and tuned really thuddy, you'd get the basic low end of the drums but again, under the microscope, really didn't translate. So at that point, I had known that Nolly had been spending a really long time doing his homework, working on learning how to tune the drums, learning how to pick different mics to get the best sound out of the drums, and different kind of settings and so forth. So he kinda won over my trust and I let him sit down and start tuning my drums and now I don't know what to do without him. It's pretty awesome.
Yeah, it's cool. Well, I can't actually play drums, just so that everybody knows that as well. I can just kind of tune them, and that's where my enjoyment is.
Since I can't really...
So it's not like I'm putting you to work.
Not really, but and you know what, doing it is also, I don't know, I like to practice things all the time, that's kind of in my nature. And doing it every day develops a core skill set and something that, I mean as we said right in the beginning there are so many skills that you can learn without being in the situation under pressure, and I'm not a drummer but I own a drum kit, and I own a few microphones and for the last couple of years and still to this day I'll be constantly messing around with tuning ideas. Really trying to get my ear in on some new techniques, learning about microphone placement, just in my little studio room, which it's not a drum room. It actually sounds pretty terrible for drums, it's really dead sounding. But I've learned so much through doing that that when we come into a situation like this, we can be really quick and methodical.