Tony Thaxton Makes Motion City Soundtrack Go!
Photo by Anthony Saint James
Can you take me through a few songs on the album? You do creative things that add a lot of spark to the songs. In “Boxelder,” you play an interesting hi-hat-snare drum push at the end of the phrase.
That is a weirder song. It’s in seven, and for the sake of it being weirder, I thought it might be cool to keep the drum part simpler since it’s in seven. The kick pattern is just quarter-notes, and then every other measure there’s that fill, it’s actually two different fills. The first is a snare and a open hi-hat struck together, the second one is more of an actual fill. It was just that thing of the song being in seven then doing a simple quarter-note part, and it needed that little something to drive it. Playing in seven can feel cool, but it can also feel awkward, and throwing that little thing in there sort of emphasizes the fact that this is going to be a beat shorter than you think it will be. It’s right before we return to the 1.
In “Circuits And Wires” you play a really fast triplet roll around the kit — really fast. It’s like a part you would have to play if you were in a cover band. Why that roll instead of a more broken-up pattern?
Our bass player wanted a big fill right there, because it’s a quiet chorus. But then when it kicks back in it gets a lot bigger at that moment. So we felt like it should have a nice big fill right there, and it starts right when the vocal ends and then the big fill happens and everything kicks in.
Then in “The Coma Kid,” you’re playing a ride pattern on some sort of rim. It makes the drums stand out.
Actually, it was written with me playing on the snare rim, then in the studio we used a metal rod sticking from a mount and I played it like a hi-hat. I wanted to try things out on this record. On previous records, I always just wanted to nail the song, in as few takes as possible. I looked at as a challenge, and as a matter of pride. I can do this. Nail the song in a take and move on. I tracked without much coming from Pro Tools. But this time because the songs took shape in the studio, we had a minimal scratch track and I would play a guide, then we fleshed out the songs. Then as the songs took shape I would figure out my part.
Your drums sound very natural as if they weren’t heavily gridded in Pro Tools.
On some songs I recorded a section at a time so we could use different drum sets. In “Happy Anniversary” there are three different drum sets all being played at the same time and overdubbed one set upon the other. We wanted a really driving drum part. But we don’t grid the drums heavily. We do like a natural approach.