By Dave Constantin Originally published in DRUM! Magazine’s September 2009 Issue
Yes, The Sound Of Madness has been out for a year now. But fear not, the beat in this song is evergreen. And by learning it, you’ll be in possession of that relatively rare gem in the drummer’s bag o’ tricks: a killer 6/4 groove, the versatility of which you’re sure to enjoy no matter what kind of music you play. And this one’s universal enough that its possibilities are just about limitless.
That’s because complexity is not the issue here. The 6/4 is purely a feel thing. And for Barry Kerch, the feeling he had that day in the studio when he laid this beat down was nothing short of ecstasy. “That was one of those times when you’re sitting in the studio and the studio disappears and you’re just playing for the song, and you’re just having fun,” Kerch says, sounding a tad fatigued after a two-day whirlwind tour through Houston, New York City, Charlotte, and finally Johnson City, Tennessee. But talking about this song seem to perk him up.
“I think we did a few takes and the second take is the one you actually hear on there,” he says of “The Crow And The Butterfly.” The success of that second run-through was summed up in the reaction of producer Rob Cavallo (that’s right, him again). “I remember Rob, he got all excited and he got giddy, which he does sometimes, and he comes down and gave me a big hug and he said, ‘That’s how you play that song! That’s how you play that song!’”
No doubt, Kerch was anxious to hear some good news considering that at the time of recording, the “band” was in tatters, held together by just two people, him and singer Brent Smith. “It’s a long, sordid rock and roll story,” Kerch says of that tumultuous time, explaining vaguely how internal tensions finally erupted in the departure of two longtime members, bassist Brad Stewart and guitarist Jasin Todd, followed by recently added lead guitarist Nick Perri. “It was a rough time,” Kerch says, which is why the recording took about 19 months. “Basically because we kind of had to rebuild ourselves. You know, the band was in a very unhealthy place — the singer had to recover from his addictions. We lost a guitar player and a bass player. So really we had to do a big overhaul and fall in love with music all over again. And we did, we really did, and it’s stronger now than it’s every been.”
In the studio, Kerch and Smith were joined by a string of studio players, including session guitarist Tim Pierce and former Janes Addiction bassist Chris Chaney, whose stellar performances on the album are as seamless and professional as if they’d been playing in the band for years, and offered a much-needed bridge until those positions could be filled permanently. Eventually, the aptly named Eric Bass joined up on (you guessed it) bass, while guitarist Zach Meyers took over both lead and rhythm duties.
But in the run-up to the studio sessions, most of the creative responsibilities fell to Smith and Kerch, with the lead singer funneling ideas to the drummer, often remotely via file-transfers and CD swapping. “We also, during that time, did some demo work out of Atlanta with Rick Biatto,” Kerch says. “We went up there and actually did live drums and full demos there.” When they had about 40 or 50 tunes, they brought them to Cavallo, who helped them whittle that number down to 20 songs, which is what they brought into Capital Studios in September of ’07.
“We’d go in and try to knock out two to three [songs] a day,” Kerch says. “Maybe if we could, get to four. We’d do the drums for the tune, and then we’d record the bass afterwards while it was still fresh.” They started out with the album’s single, “Devour,” “of all tracks,” Kerch laughs. “The fastest, hardest one on the album. And I think ‘The Crow And The Butterfly’ was actually one of the last tracks, and probably the most fun for me.
“A lot of it had to do with that bridge section and the fills in the bridge section that now are incorporated to almost follow with the guitar solo, but initially they were more just kind of lead lines for the bass, and it just really fell together that day. I think that those are some of my proudest fills of this song.”
That’s because, while those fills may not stretch your technical capabilities, they are all about space and precision, and about keeping the tempo from running away on you. Kerch’s advice is to concentrate on breathing. “Really giving it that space there and just breath and lean back on it and try not to rush those fills,” he says.
We should also point out that there are a few things you hear in this song that you won’t necessarily need to play it at home: 1) A brass tambourine, which creates that faint jingle you hear on the snare hits. Kerch laid it on the snare in the studio, but he’s left it out of the live show. 2) A shaker, which was mixed in after the fact. “We did it in threes,” Kerch says. “You know, just ‘cha cha cha,’ and then we added a delay on it to give it the six feeling.” Live, he still has the shaker sample, but creates the staccato delay with his hi-hat. 3) A 21-piece orchestra, because, generally, these are hard to come by. “When we had the 21-piece orchestra play along with that, and hearing that come back and following the lines throughout the bridge and stuff like that was just — it gives me chills today to talk about,” Kerch says.
But samples and orchestras and monster guitar solos were just icing on the cake, and mostly the result of pushing boundaries in the studio. At its core, this song and this beat are about simplicity. “I like laying back in the groove,” Kerch says. “Blasting out is fun and it’s intense. You get to throw down and hit as hard as you can and put on a rock show, but when you get to lay back, those moments, those are nice.”
Song “The Crow And The Butterfly”
Album The Sound Of Madness