Producing Drummers

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  • 8/9/2019 Producing Drummers

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    are often thebutt of the jokes with the attached

    stigma that we're not really musicians.We've all heard the one about the drum-

    mer w ho locked his keys in the car; it took himan hour to get the bass player out! Ba'Dump

    Smash! Or how can you tell if the drum riser islevel? The drool spills out of both sides of the

    drummer's mouth. Ba'Dump Bump! Good oneindeed. But seriously folks, drummers are the en-

    gine driving th e band, the groovemakers,and the glue that shapes and makes the

    music stick together and gets peopleup dancing - or toe-tapping at the

    very least. Being a drum mer givesus a sonic vantage point, liter-

    ally and figuratively, of our ow n- after a ll, we do sit centrestage most of the time. Andonce we 've established a ba-sic rhythm, we can pick outphrasing that complementsother instruments, accentshooks, controls the dynam-ics, etc. It only makes sensethat some drummers getout from behind the kit, take

    charge oft h e musical direction,share their creative vision, and

    put their thumbprint on the mu-sic as a whole. This year's percussion

    feature focuses on drummers who havedone just that: transcended the notion that

    we're no thing more than timekeepers and evolvedinto world-class producers.

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    ym ^ ^ H ^ Our first contributor is Grammy^ L ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ Award-winning New York-based drum-

    ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ mer/writer/producer/musical director

    - Steve Jordan. Jordan's credits as a producerinclude Keith Richards, Robert Cray'sTake YourShoes O^ (Grammy winner), Buddy Guy'sBring 'E m In (Grammy-nominated), John Mayer's T ry and Continuum, Herbie Hancock'sPossibilities, and John Scofield's That's Wliat I S a y - to name a few.His workas both a session and touring drummer is jaw-droppinglyimpressive with such artists as BobDylan,James Taylor, BB King,Sheryl Crow, Alicia Keys, Bruce Springsteen, Eric Clapton,TheRoll-ing Stones - and the list continues to grow. As a musical director,Jordan has worked on high profile projectssuch as Superbow/XXXXand the Martin Scorsese/Antoine Fuqua filmLightning in A Bottle.A multi-instrumentalist and heck ofa nice guy, Jordan is one ofthebusiest and most influential musicians in the industry today, andmy guess is that will be true for decades to come.

    Next u p , originally hailing from Chicago and now calling LosAngeles his home, is a man who's making inroads very quicklyin today's music industryKeith Harris has toured the world ex-ecuting pop-rockin' beats as the drummer with the GrammyAward-winning band The Black Eyed Peas since 2003. His talentas a writer and multi-instrumentalist with artists such as MacyGray, Busta Rhymes, MariahCarey, Chris Brown, MaryJ, Blige, andothers quickly expanded into the roll of producer for Eergie, ex-ecutive producer on Juily Black'sRevival, and co-producer on twotracks for Thriller 25 , the reissue by none other than the king ofpop himself. Michael Jackson. Keith Harris is no doubt destinedfor greatness.

    As a founding member and drummer of Vancouver's Defaultsince iggg with 1.5 million albums sold and four releases to date,Danny Craig is spending his time in between tours working asa producer and songwriter with up-and-coming bands and art-ists such as Canadian /do/ finalist Chad Doucette,Rake, Sick Logic,and TheTravezty. He is digging his new role out from behind thedrumkitand gives us his perspective on this ever-growing labourof love and leadership.

    WHAT DOESA DRUMMERBRINGTO A PROJECT AS APRODUCER,AN D IS IT AGOOD THINGOR A BADTHING?

    Steve Jordan; i think the first thing you want to do is break down

    a barrier between drummers and other musicians. That's a bigmisnomer. The standard or educated guess would be.'Well, thedrummer would know where the groove is or how to buildwith-in the rhythm," but that's not necessarily it because there are alot of drummers that don't play in the groove at all. There arebass players, guitar players, and keyboardists that have a better

    S S IO N 2 0 0sense of groove, so that theory is out the window. It's not wdrummer brings to the chairas a producer; it's what type of mcian and/or songwriter he or she is."

    Keith Harris: Yeah, I think drummers come from a differenspective rhythmically and melodically. Because I'm a keyboas well, it goes hand-in-hand for me because I can either production from a drum loop or start something with mbut the thing that makes people buy music is the drums. Dmers have an advantage in putting the beat together and ming the kit its own instrument as well as a vocal/piano tracall of those good things ...so there is a slight advantage,

    Danny Craig: Well, I think drummers like being producedby dmers, I had played on several recordings prior to being in Dewhere the producer wouldn't change a thing about my p

    Then on the first Defaultrecord, we worked on a few songs Rick Parashar and he totaliy revamped whatI was playing,I loit ! Aside from that, the more records Iproduce, the more I tryapproach them from a global perspective and not necessfrom a percussive one.l never ignore the drummer, however

    M A K I N G T H E S W I T C H F R O M D R U M T H R O N E TO P R O -D U C E R ' S CHAIR IS NOT GOING TO HAPPEN OVERNIGHT,BUT YOU HAVE TO START SOMEWHERE. WHETHER ITBE THROUGH FORMAL TRAINING OR JUST JUMPING INAND BEING A SELF-STARTER - IT WILL TAKE TIME ANDEFFORT. HERE'S HOW EACH OF THESE ARTISTS GOTPRODUCTION...

    Steve Jordan: I knew my production career was able to takebecause I trusted myself as a songwriter, and I knew in my and heart what I thought a good song might be and what ma good recording since I love recording. When I started plother instruments, it helped me becomea better drummer, win turn led to being able to make better recordings. I think play one instrument, sometimes you get locked into the from that chair. When I started to play the bass, I realized the bass player needed from the drummer and viceversa. Whstarted writing music.I stopped thinking about what beat Ig o i n gto play ona song as opposed to just playing thesong. Ithit home when I was working on this album with a disco

    called Oddity; it had a big record cailedNative New Yorker duthe disco era. It was a real honour to be called for this sesbecause at that time in NewYork, and everywhere, there wateam and the'B'team -and this was definitely an'A'teamworked reaily hard on these rhythm tracks, and I used to actake them home, A lot of people didn't do that, butI was very

    1 started playing otlit% L-.-,ed me become, a bet tea* drumimmin turn led to being able to makebetter recordings. -- Steve .)ordan

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    sistent. If I could leave with the rhythm track, I would.They would make me a cassette...that wasn't common practice, but I would push for it. These tracks were just fantastic.There was a lot of care taken coming up with these parts. And then, when the recordcame out, the rhythm tracks felt very small and compressed, almost non-existent-thebalance wasn't right - the horns, vocals, every thing, it was terriblel I sa id,'Well,I could dothatl'CharlieConrad was the engineer on that session, and he taught me about gettingsounds and miking instruments, and i was a I ways fascinated by the sound he got on mebecause he got the best drum sound that i'd ever had up until that point.

    Keith Harris: I attended Berklee (College of Music, Massachusetts) from '94 to '98 . T U :graduated with a degree in music production and engineering. I started out in highschool messing around programming on keyboards, but once I got to Berkiee it took offfrom there.

    Danny Craig: i began producing in 2001 when a friend asked me to heip out his bandwith its songwriting and recording. I've always been a'take-charge' kind of guy, so therole fi t perfectiy and I had a blast doing it! I then began learning as much as I couldabout the craft, hiring pro engineers for my projects, sponging off top producers whomI've had the fortune of working with through Default, and learning Pro Tools and thescience behind engineering. I even built my own studio after months of researching thetopic-thank y o u , Internet!

    T H E BIC QUESTION IS: HOW OFTEN DO YOU AS A PRODUCER DECIDETOLA Y DOWN THE D R U M TRACKS YOURSELF VERSUS BRINGINGANOTHERD R U M M E RIN, AND WHAT FACTORS ARE INVOLVED W H E N M A K I N GTHATDECISION?

    Steve Jordan: I usuaily hire myself because i'm the cheapest drummer I can get for theproject [laughingj. When I hear a certain thing about the way a track should be ap-proached, I just feel that I might be the best person available to convey that for thebudget that I have. There may be times when I would love to have Jim Keltner play onsomething, but 1 look at the bottom line and i may not be able to afford it. When 1 dohave the opportunity to hire another drummer, I don't hesitate to - but most of thetime, I feel like I have the best understanding of what I'm trying to achieve.

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    P E R C U S S IO N 2 0gramming the drums and then going

    back and recording live drums. It de-pends on what the situation is and who

    the artist is, then we take from there.

    Danny Craig: More often than I'd !ike to! Being a recording mu-sician is a lot more difficult than most musicians think. In thestudio, the name ofthe game Is consis