The biggest benefit to drum-sample replacement and the true beauty of eliminating extra bleed from each part of the set is your ability to change your drum sound as you see fit. If you’re in a metal band and need your bass drum to sound as heavy as the Hammer of Thor, there’s no better way than to mix in the right samples and EQ it to sound exactly as you need to. “If it’s a metal or industrial band and the bass drum needs to sound like a cannon, we might mix in a gunshot.” Simple little tricks like this might seem unnerving, but are incredibly common on professional recordings. It’s often the difference between a good session and a great session.
Editing each part of the song separately allows for you to get multiple sounds out of the same track. A great example of this is found in Pappas’ early playing. Finch’s first album features two songs, “Ender” and “Project Mayhem,” that prominently use what at first sounds like an electronic drum set or drum machine. Producer Mark Trombino did the postproduction in Pro Tools to make it happen, but both tracks are actual recordings edited to sound electronic.
“Anything you heard on What It Is To Burn was chopped from production and molded a certain way into a different sound. ’Project Mayhem,’ the whole electro part, is chopped out of the first minute-and-a-half of the song. Mark took it and did great post work. He chopped it out, and played around, and came back and said, ’Hey, I did this.’ He took it and had all the organic stuff augmented, distorted, and mixed in Pro Tools. ’Ender’ was as simple as chopping a drum loop from some sound I played, and putting it through the Tech 21 New York Sans Amp plug-in.
Looking back on his time with Mark Trombino has allowed him to learn more tricks. “My dad recently found some Hi-8 tapes of us recording that record; footage we didn’t destroy. I got to see us tracking drums, and I thought, I can see the microphones and the whole setup! I changed my overhead pattern to match it on the last recording I did. Mark pulled out a bunch of cool tricks for What It Is To Burn, originally teaching me about sample pasting, the heavy editing, doing some weird tricks, and mike placement.”
Originally, Trombino finished the actual recording of the drums and spent hours away from the band editing alone. It seemed crazy to the band back then, but now Pappas gets it. “He kicked everyone out of the studio like ’go away.’ Edited stuff for a week or so. At the time we took offense, but now, being in postproduction myself, I get it. I’m in the same boat where I now have to make albums sound worthy.
“I literally remember Mark was in there doing drum edits and we stopped by with food. He popped out like a cave man. We just wanted to say hi, see what was going on, and he was like, ’Alright, beat it.’ Now, I get it. Doing drum edits, I’m now the same way. A good mixer needs to be left alone in his lair. Everything’s going to be good. Every kick and snare is going to be gorgeous. All 4,000 strikes are going to be touched. It’ll be awesome, but you have to enter that zone alone to remain neutral.”
Dan Bogosian is a drum technician, freelance writer and blogger for Under The Gun Review. He teaches music theory at The Bronx Academy Of The Arts, plays bass guitar for Spillway, and drums for Webster. He’s currently writing a book on Finch. twitter.com/dlbogosian.