Dave Heilman of Jupiter One
Hometown: Fanwood, New Jersey
Previous Bands: The Figurines (NYC), STOMP (Off Broadway), Spring Awakening (Broadway)
It’s been a dizzying few years since 2003, when guitarists K Ishibashi and Zac Colwell decided to move from Austin, Texas to find fame and fortune in Brooklyn, New York. Within a short time they had assembled the original line-up for what would be known as Jupiter One, an infectious pop band whose sound is heavily invested in new wave synth sounds. Following a couple years of songwriting and rehearsing, they released their self-titled debut EP, which caught the ear of industry legend Jac Holzman, who ended up sequencing their 2007 debut full-length. The band has just release their latest album, Sunshower. Issued on Ryko, Sunshower was produced by the group and noted engineer Chris Ribando (Diamond Nights, The Black Crowes, The Fever).
How would you describe the feel of the new album,
I think the new album is a lot more human. We took a lot of steps to make the debut album feel and sound huge through interesting keyboard and guitar effects and the blending of samples. We also put a lot of time and care into our arrangements, which is still the case in this new record, but we decided to make the instruments feel more natural and warm. I think this allows each song to breathe and speak more as an individual story.
What is your favorite drum part on the new album?
It would have to be the choruses of “Volcano.” I remember doing a soundcheck in Richmond, Virginia, and our guitar player, Zac, started playing that opening riff. It was such a loose idea with an inherent groove of its own that I could do anything with it. I just let him loop that rhythm for about 16 bars and then came smashing in with that snare on beat 1. I saw my bass player, Pat [Dougherty], smile out of the corner of my eye and knew my Bonham-obsessed roots were creating something worth keeping. I really just love making the guys in my band happy, and I think that particular groove in “Volcano” makes us all feel a little larger than life when we perform.
Did you change your drum parts much throughout the recording
Not really. I'm pretty anal about going into the studio with a very clear concept of exactly everything I'm going to play. There are three other guys in the band who have a lot of ideas and need a lot of time to record them. We all agree the basic tracks are extremely important and they are the absolute focus of our studio time. But I also know that they can't wait for me to finish so we can begin our epic journey into overdub world. – stuff like piano, analog synthesizers, strings, acoustic/electric guitars, zither, bass, vocals, percussion. In general, I don't give myself any leeway in the studio because I know we have so much more to do and I usually take four to five days all to myself for drums and percussion as it is. There might be a situation where we listen back and realize my drum part isn't the best fit, but luckily that hasn't happened yet. We'll see about record number three, but so far I've been able to go in and lay down my ideas without having to change much of anything.
Did the recording process go smoothly?
There were some pretty heated arguments in that control room and Chris [Ribando] was able to just let chaos ensue without getting involved – he must be a middle child or something. We really appreciate how he let us fight our own battles and work them out on our own.
How prepared were you before going into the studio?
We took a lot of time in pre-production for this record. Locking out several days at a rehearsal studio in New York City where we'd eat, sleep, and breathe this album. We also rented a cabin in Montana for a few days and turned one of the rooms into our studio. We'd run in the mountains, make some food, and record our ideas all day and night. My goal in preparing for a record is to make sure that all the songs are set to the perfect tempo. Tempo effects music in such a huge way that it's important to make sure all our ideas feel good. Too fast and the vocals seem rushed; too slow and the groove feels like it's dragging. If you can find the right tempo first, all your musical ideas will follow a lot easier and feel more natural.
How long did it take to track your drum parts?
I think we did fourteen songs in six days. We decided to get as much “live” recording done as possible on this album. That meant tracking drums, bass, and guitars at the same time, which felt really good. We're all very happy with the way it came out.
Did you record to a click track?
Yes. Tempo can change the mood of a song, so once we decide on the right one we rehearse them for weeks. By the time we get into the studio, a click track is played – usually in my headphones only – and it feels completely natural. We like to keep the click out of the other guys' headphones so they can just feel the music without the responsibility of keeping metronomic time, because that's just boring and sounds awful. I'm really good at playing "“around” a click and allowing certain sections to push or pull. In some songs, the click is more like a horizon line. You just keep it in your sights while flying around, but it's more or less just there to guide you. In other songs, you have to see the click as a train you hop on. The minute you fall off, you're dead!
Do you play to a click or samples on stage?
We had a fifth member of the band who played keyboards, but can't tour with us so I trigger all her parts on a Roland SPD-S. They're analog synthesizer parts that were played live into the sampler, so I follow a click on stage, but the parts still feel and sound natural because a human played them.
Do you play your drum parts onstage exactly the same way that
you recorded them?
Not always, but usually. I feel like a live situation sometimes demands a different approach. You may not always know what's working, but you definitely know what isn’t working.
Do you use matched or traditional grip?
I use matched grip. I could never get that Bonham sound with traditional, but I'm envious of Stewart Copeland. How does he do that?
What techniques have you learned by listening to or watching
I learned from T.W. Walsh of Pedro the Lion how to listen to chords and imitate their feeling in my drumming. From Lenny Kravitz I learned how a solid groove with no fills can be the most honest and best choice. From Stevie Wonder I learned how to play like you're having a good time. From John Bonham I learned how to play a beat where every single sixteenth-note has a groove of its own. From Stewart Copeland I learned how to play on the edge of my seat when a song calls for it. And from Jim Eno of Spoon I learned how percussion in the studio can tremendously effect the feeling of a song.