Today I had the pleasure of recording the drums tracks for local Austin poppy hardcore band, A New Hope. To get an idea of what I would be working with this morning I listened to their EP (available at anewhopetx.bandcamp.com) and instead of the basic Eric Sandin pop punk beat that I was expecting, Mark (the band's drummer) brought a more technical, almost grind core as if interpreted by Neil Peart, style to the songs. Needless to say I was excited to record something different.
When I spoke to Nolan, one of the band's guitarists, about working on their new album he let me know that they intend to track the guitars and vocals on their own but needed help with getting the drums nailed down. They had already recorded the drums twice(!) with student engineers but for one reason or another they never ended up leaving with tracks in hand.* Nolan stressed to me that all the band needed was for someone to track their drums and email the files to them, no mixing required. Easy stuff, but I still want the drums to sound good.
When I think of modern popular heavy music I immediately think of the "click click" of the kick drum sound that you hear in so many etc…core albums and I wanted to make sure that we got a full sound from the kit. I used a similar mike set up to what I used with Diving last weekend:
K - f-15
S - SM57
OV1 - Joe Meek 27
OV2 - NT1A
F - 214
I tried to cover as many of the surfaces as I could (equipment allowing) without crowding Mark, but still leave enough sonic space to give the drums some room to breath; this is actually one of the first recordings where I've wanted to close mike both toms and throw up some overheads. The fills on this album are insane and while I think the recordings sound good, I would like to be able to make a aural image with a fill just once. I'd also like to record a technical drummer with a couple of room mikes and make a very wide open breathy album but for now I'll have to settle for a happy medium.
When working with a band on just a few songs (or drum tracks alone in this case) I tend to charge hourly rather than asking for a lump sum. I assume that pricing this way is easier on the band or artist than saying "gimme $300!" or whatever even if the hourly stipulation puts a millstone around the band's neck, no matter how self imposed or imaginary that may be. This was my first recording session where it wasn't just me that was on the clock and I was a little apprehensive about working this way. In a situation where you're being charged hourly I understand that it's important to move fast and also somehow be as proficient as possible in executing the songs. Over thinking is the number one time consumer of a recording session. It goes hand in hand with self doubt and can ruin an animated take and, at worst, an entire session.
I think it goes without saying that the session went well, I wouldn't be writing about the recording if it was a train wreck (or maybe I will if I ever pick up some work that crumbles around me while it's on fire), hopefully A New Hope finishes their album without hindrance.
*This is not an indictment of student audio engineers. I too have had to record a band for a grade and promptly forgotten about the artist after I finished the project, I will never not feel a twinge of disappointment about this.