Barry Kerch: All The Bright Moves

To paraphrase a hackneyed expression: Excellence in drumming is absolute, its pursuit unending. “There’s always something to improve,” he says. “Right now I’m trying to work on getting back to the basics. Dom [Fomularo] really brought that out in me and I’m trying to improve my technique ever so slightly. I’d like to get my hands just a little bit better; a little more finesse and a little more speed and a little bit more independence, so I’m working on those exercises going back to the basics just to control things like that and hash it out again.”

Barry Kerch

Kerch’s Kit

DrumsPearl Reference Pure (Black Cherry Sparkle)
1 22" x 14" Bass Drum
2 26" x 15" Bass Drum
3 14" x 6.5" Snare Drum
4 13" x 8" Tom
5 18" x 16" Floor Tom
6 16" x 16" Floor Tom
7 14" x 12" Pearl Philharmonic Field Drum with Pearl ePro Live Head

Cymbals Meinl
A 14" Byzance Spectrum Hi-Hat
B 18" Soundcaster Fusion Crash
C 22" Byzance Stadium Ride
D 20" Soundcaster Fusion Crash
E 16" Byzance Dark Crash (top) / 16" Byzance Vintage Trash Crash (bottom) (played as closed hats)
F 19" Soundcaster Fusion Crash

Barry Kerch also uses Pearl 1000 and 2000 series stands and Pearl Demon Drive Eliminator pedals, Pro-Mark 747 Hickory sticks, Evans heads (Power Center with Reverse Dot on snare, Coated G2 on tom batters, Coated G1 on tom resos, EQ4 Clear on bass batters and Onyx on bass resos), Ddrum triggers (all drums except secondary snare), DrumKat module, Motu interface, Reason software, Westone ES-5 in-ear monitors, MD Sound subwoofers, Butt Kicker concert thumpers, Shure microphones. Practice Room: Dixon Jungle kit (Europe-only) with Pintech Acoustech conversion and Pintech snare, HänsenFütz practice pedals, HQ practice pad, and Samson Expedition portable P.A.

Kerch has a double-pedal setup on the main kick (separate from the custom-fabbed slave pedal that operates the 26" x 15") but it probably gathers dust more than anything. When he does two-foot it, the beater strokes are even and powerful. “I’d like to improve speed but also have the ability to have the independence of double bass where you can play different rhythms aside from just blasting out sixteenth-notes or triplets and really hone in on those things like Virgil Donati or Thomas Lang does.

“Maybe not on that crazy of a level,” he adds after a pause. “That’s what they have devoted their lives to. I’d much rather devote my life to groove playing and enjoying that side of drums more than the technical aspects.”

The appropriately named tune “Adrenaline” contains Amaryllis’ sole instance of twin-foot fury. It’s as though Kerch wanted to get this vulgar display of power out of the way. “That song just needed that, you know? I have double bass ability but I’m not going to really try to show it off. You’ve got to play through the songs and that’s why a lot of the songs are very open and the fills are very simple that anybody can pick up on. If you can make that pocket happen and make the song feel good that’s what matters.”

Down To A Science

Putting Shinedown’s songs before his own artistic needs, Kerch nevertheless allows his parts to evolve naturally over the course of a tour. “You keep the essence of the song, and if there’s a signature fill, like in “Second Chance” [from The Sound Of Madness] or one of those types of songs, you keep that fill. Other than that I like to dance around a little bit, not only to keep it interesting but as your musicianship improves and the band improves as a whole and as the song reacts with an audience, things may change here or there.”

Things like the pattern on The Sound Of Madness track “If You Only Knew,” a mid-tempo number with a Motown vibe. In the second verse, Kerch will usually switch to the secondary hats to his right and interweave the beat with floor tom to get more low end. “It would probably be overplaying for a record, but in a live setting it sounds really cool,” he says. “Live we try to funk it up a bit and have a good time with it so, yeah, I’m changing stuff all the time.”

Sound levels are another matter. As far as the instrument ratio in the in-ears, Kerch likes to keep it as close to the record as possible. The drums are probably the lowest thing in his mix because, as he explains it, he’s already playing them so he knows where they’re at. “I’ll have it pretty bass-, vocal-heavy, with a little bit of guitar in there so it’s not totally muddying up the click. So in order to keep the click audible without blowing out my ear, I keep the guitar a little bit lower than the bass or the vocals and I don’t keep the drums in there very much at all.”

In the past, Kerch never triggered except for an 808 sample on certain songs. As far as live shows went, it was complete faith in the mikes. Given Amyrillis’ dense sound palette and extensive use of backing tracks (electronic squiggles on “Enemies,” horn stabs on “I’m Not Alright,” the soaring strings on “I’ll Follow You,” orchestral percussion on “Through The Ghost,” etc.), the band is now doubling up with a blend of triggers and miking for performances. “You never want to lose that live organic drum sound, and I have a wonderful drum tech that tunes my drums very well (see sidebar) and beautiful drums, so why not mike those? But to make sure you have a consistent mix, both at the front of the house and in your in-ears, you have to at least trigger some. But a trigger could go down so you have to have your mike [for the audience]. At the same time it’s nice to have that consistent sound from night to night no matter what venue you’re in.”

The drummer has always used a click in the studio and on stage but he never felt the metronome’s necessity as keenly until tracking Amaryllis. “Because of all the backing tracks, the orchestra parts or whatever, you better have the click for those parts or else it’s going to sound like shoes in a dryer.”

With such elaborate sound design, Kerch in one sense has to work even harder to keep it all sounding like a real rock band, paying attention to sound cues and working with the technology, not against it. “Bands that are getting to our level, and that put on a big production, are running backing tracks,” he says. “If we left those offline it wouldn’t even sound like the same song. We have to have those because we’re not going to hire an orchestra every night.”

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