The Cymbal Crashing Monkey
We've all seen things on the road, some of these things need not to be mentioned, but we all have stories about girls, dives we've played in, terrible sound, and crappy gear! I wanted to talk to you about a few things I've always pondered when encountering "so called" musicians whose gear is far less than adequate, even for that cymbal crashing monkey you see on T.V.! The most obvious of these devastating circumstances is the beat up and mangled drum set.
At the time, I was working at a club in downtown Tulsa as the FOH engineer, thinking I was all that cuz' I was the one behind the console. This was before I realized no one really cares who's behind the mixer, unless their boyfriends band is being booed, and well, then you've just become the target for all sorts of unearned criticism! Anyway, I remember this night particularly as I distinctly recall two instances where the drummers of two local bands had several things going wrong for them. First, I'd like to present you with this question. Have you ever caught a glimpse of someone and thought, "that guy sucks" before you've even had a chance of listening to his chops? Well, I use to have a bad habit of judging books by their cover. Mostly because I caught a glimpse of their equipment first. Usually, poor maintenance is a good indication whether or not they have skills. Nevertheless, I've been known to be wrong more often than not!
As the first band began loading their equipment on stage, I approached the drummer first as he was placing his kick drum on top of the coolest rug imaginable; zebra print! I then preceded to notice the front head on his kick drum wasn't up to the manufacturer's standard! My eyes followed the layered trails of duct tape from rim to rim. Looking closely I couldn't help but notice that a 12oz bag of Doritos had been taped to the drum head, as if this bag somehow was a proper way of fixing a massive whole in the drum head. The drummer noticed my puzzled look as I pondered over his 'Duct taped Doritos bag-whole patch' and said, "It helps the sound bro!". All I could muster up to say in response was, "Well, you put new meaning in the term 'Product Placement'!"
If I remember correctly, just after this band finished performing their garage style covers of unrehearsed material, the following bands drummer was no exception to this dilemma of crappy gear! As I began miking his drum kit, I noticed he was placing a second rack tom, but this was no ordinary rack tom. This rack tom was special! This rack tom sounded so incredible that when you hit it, you somehow received super drumming abilities from the universe, untouchable power-ballad strength, and one handed rolls Buddy Rich would die for, all inclusive and packaged with this drum! In all seriousness, this drum had a split all the way through the drum heads center, rim to rim! When I asked him if he knew his drum head was split, he responded, "I know man, I don't use it much, but actually man, this drum sounds better than the others. You'll hear it man!". At this moment I couldn't respond, I simply smiled and walked away and prepared myself for the noise yet to come!
Anyway, I'm telling you these stories because, one they really happened, and two, having great a drummer with great drums is a sure way to have a great sounding record! This is why I felt it necessary to start a blog series on drums. In these blogs I will reveal some industry secrets from drum teching to recording techniques. Great drums help drive a record and I hope to show you how to achieve great results! Get ready to start tracking drums like the pros!