On Aug 15th, Jimmy, Rob and I ascended into the Virginia hills arriving at Dragonfly East Studios to record three new songs for the upcoming Funny Money CD. Our host and engineer was our good friend Scott Spelbring. Dragonfly has a tremendous live room for drums, and Scott has a very impressive collection of mics. Probably more importantly, he knows his live room very well and knows how to get the best sound out of it. In fact it’s so live and loud, that when I told Scott that Rob and I intended to sit in the same room as Jimmy to try and get that live vibe down, he did a double take and said “man are you sure?” I said we were and he just gave me that kind of chuckle that people give you when you are about to do something stupid while they get to be endlessly entertained by your ignorance and discomfort!
Jimmy used Scott’s kit and brought his snare and cymbals. Scott got everything mic’d up with some nice super-high room mics to get all those pretty reflections of those drums bouncing off the wooden walls. We did some test drum tracks with Jimmy using his Zildjian snare, the one made from cymbal brass that he got from them back when he had an endorsement. It’s possibly THE loudest snare ever made. It sounded really good with some ringy overtones, and we weren’t sure if that whas what we were looking for. Scott suggested we try his Ludwig Black Beauty just for fun. Jimmy played for a few minutes and we recorded it and took a break to listen back. Jimmy decided he liked his Zildjian better. It did sound great, so did the Black Beauty but they were too different to compare really.
With the drum sound set, Scott took off for a few to get his dogs from his house and bring them over for company. Jimmy Rob and I decided to run through the arrangements of the three songs and we did quite well! Originally Rob and I had the idea of recording my bass and his guitar at the same time to capture the live vibe as best we could but we spent alot of time working on drums and we figured we’d probably want to redo some parts later anyhow. We decided we’d just sit in the room and Jam with Jimmy as he tracked his drums.
There is a famous story about Keith Moon’s antics in the studio during the recording of Who’s Next. He and producer Glyn Johns along with the first engineer had spent about three hours working on drum sounds, moving mics, changing drums, tuning drums, etc. When they finally “got it” Moonie asked the guys in the control room if everything was just how they wanted. They answered “yeah man we really got it” and Moonie asked “are you sure” they replied, “oh yeah perfect Kieth, just perfect.” Then Moonie promptly stood up, and walked right through the front of the kit, brandishing that wide evil grin of his. Great story.
The point of that story as it applies here is this. The room we recorded drums in was very live and hyperactive. I was sitting about three feet from Jimmy and his pounding the kit was so boneshakingly loud that I had to look up from what I was doing because it sounded like he was walking through the kit continuously! At which point I would be in rather serious danger of big heavy things falling on me. I play with Jimmy alot and I’m pretty used to being in close proximity of his powerful drumming, but when he has something he does not normally have – a gargantuan reflective room as an amplifier – it’s downright scary shit!
Here’s a video of some of what we did. It’s long and mostly pretty boring, it’s kind of like watching a video of somebody at work, nothing exciting about a bunch of people taking their job seriously. Even in a cool studio making music. But that is how it is in the studio and so here you go!