From The Frontline - Myke Heath Blog - August 2015
Hello fellow drummer and readers of www.mikedolbear.com
This month I’ve been in a studio in South Wales recording the next Wounded Kings album. Now I must rather guiltily confess that being in the studio is a love/hate thing for me. Being productive and hearing the results played back to you afterwards is extremely rewarding and an important part of the process to nourish your creativity and improve your development as a drummer. Every time I record I feel like I’ve played just a bit better than before and in between recordings I’m always listening to recordings and think about ways I can make my performances better. On the flip side I usually then spend the rest of the session kind of kicking my heels a bit and disappearing into a slightly weird headspace. I think I’ve previously mentioned that I have an attention span roughly equal to that of a bored toddler and it’s hard to stay still and occupy my time in healthy ways. I think I might be getting better though but it’s still my least favourite part of being in the recording studio, although we had very nice accommodation and a good bit of sunshine, so I did get some much needed chill out time.
The live room sounded great and was unusual that the walls were mostly open stonework, but for the sound I wanted it was perfect. Bright and noisy! Not quite on par with Headley Grange, but not too far off. Although of course my right foot is a very long way off that of Mr John H Bonham...
I re-headed all the drums with (my now absolute favourite heads of all time by the way) Aquarian Super 2 coated on the toms and snare. Cranked them up tight the night before and left them overnight. The next day gave them a bit of tune and then after checking mics for an hour or so we were off! I figured that we would at least be spending the best part of the whole first day getting “the sound” but it took no time at all. I had earlier primed Chris the engineer of the kind of sound I was looking for via email and I think he already had a clear idea of what he was going to do.
Two things that were new to me were the use of a ribbon condenser mic in the middle of the room and a Sub Kick bass drum mic. The condenser had the compression ramped right up and isolated it was distorted and really dirty, but mixed in with the rest of the mics it just sounded amazing. It gave everything that extra attack and energy that I’ve always been looking for. It’s a really cool technique I’ve never come across before.
My new favourite love though is the Sub Kick bass drum mic. On a lot of the songs the dynamics really drop to an almost acoustic gig level and then back up to eyeball destroying super-loud. I always struggle in the studio with the 26” kick I use to get the full tone of the drum but with that sort of style of microphone it just totally nails it. When I played quietly the bass drum was open and natural and when I played full pelt it was big and warm. I honestly don’t think I can record ever again without one! To anyone who doesn’t know how it works or what it is the best way to describe it is a speaker in reverse. The cone is placed in front of the drum and instead of the sound coming out of the front it is going in to the speaker and out in to the desk. Such a simple idea but it really opened up the bass drum sound and it really effected the dynamics of my playing too.
It’s important little discoveries like that, which make it so necessary to be open minded and make me grateful that I get the chance to travel around from new place to new place and use things I haven’t tried before. Apart from some very important bongo overdubs I did later that week by 7pm on the first day that was me done. I did a little bit of walking and a lot of cooking and probably a lot of interfering with the rest of the recording but all in all it was a brilliant session and I was sad to leave.
When I returned back home and to work I got very incensed that I was kept being asked how my holiday was and all that went through my head was “How dare you! I’ve been working my bum off!” and although I wasn’t on holiday it wasn’t exactly like being at work either. I’m in danger of becoming a bit of a diva if I’m not careful! All that’s left now is a few days tweaking, adding and a lot of mixing then it’s off for mastering and then we hand it to the record label. Once the label receive and are happy with what we’ve done they’ll then get the ball rolling with duplication and music press etc. and we just have to wait for it to be released and then go from there.
It all sounds pretty easy going and casual and it’s certainly not the turning of the big machine wheels that maybe it once was and it’ll be a long time from the label receiving the record and the album actually coming out which means for a few agonising months we are in a state of suspended animation and worse still we’ll just be endlessly rehearsing! The new songs we have are a lot of fun to play and each album we have done has given the band more momentum. Everything is at least moving in the right direction but wouldn’t it great if it moved a little faster?
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