In The Studio: Mayorga, Philips, and Bottrill
“We really wanted that organic feel,” Dave Bottrill explains. “So many records in that genre have that sample-heavy or mechanical feel. We wanted the natural feel over the electronic feel. For some songs we fired up the 2” tape machine and tracked the drums at a faster speed, then slowed the tape machine to the tempo of the song to capture that analog feel, rather than using a digital plug-in to do it. It gave us that fat roundness without any digital aliasing. I’ve done that for years.”
“We used the Studer tape machine’s Vari-speed function to slow things down and get some dark boomy drum effects in places,” adds engineer Mike Philips. “We even went to half-speed with the tape machine at one point [heard in the segue between ’The Travelers Pt 2’ and ’Last Of The Real’].”
“I am a fan of real raw drum sounds and not such sample heavy drums like you hear so often these days,” Mayorga says. “On a lot of recordings now it’s typically like a 70 percent sample/30 percent real drums mix, but we did the opposite approach. I love the drum sounds that Dave Bottrill and Mike Philips got on these two records. They really have great ears. Plus, with Jay Rustin mixing, he really kept the true nature of the sound of my drums. It’s the best drum sound I’ve ever had in my career.
“I grew up listening to music that didn’t have any samples,” Mayorga continues. “I was into Zeppelin and The Who. So I am used to more natural drum sounds. Not to mention I do a lot of articulation and ghost notes that in the past, with this sample-crazed production, got lost. Half the time I would listen back to my drumming after the mix phase and some of my attitude and character would be gone. But now it’s really great to finally hear my drumming on record the way I hear it when I am playing it.
Mike On Mikes
Tracking with Stone Sour at SoundFarm studio in Jamaica, Iowa, Mayorga recorded on his DW Collectors Series kit and a DW custom “Bonham”-styled kit that mirrored the exact dimensions of Bonzo’s ’70s-era Ludwig set. As an added bonus, the drums were tuned by famed John Bonham drum tech Jeff Ocheltree, who lent Mayorga Bonzo’s actual Ludwig Supraphonic 402 snare, which, along with the “Bonham kit,” appears on “Tired,” “Taciturn,” “Do Me A Favor,” and “The Conflagration,” as well in as the live drum loops that were used in strategic places throughout the record.
Engineer Mike Philips, with his great expertise and gear selection, runs down the entire signal chain, from mikes to compressors to tape machines to reverb units. “Roy hits the drums like a monster and uses excellent gear, which makes my job that much easier,” Philips says. “A drummer that hits with consistency and confidence, coupled with a good-sounding room, is most of what makes a good drum sound.
“For Roy’s main kit, I used this setup: For kick in mike (about 8" from the inside drumhead in his 24" x 18" kick) an Audix D6. It has a wonderful point and presence without being too ’clicky.’ There’s a good amount of bottom end without being boomy and its midrange curve naturally filters out a lot of the mud that is found in the lower mids. This mike instantly makes your kick sound like it should. On the outside of the kick, a Neumann FET 47 placed in the center of the outside kick head. It adds a nice roundness and low end presence to the kick when blended in subtly. Then for the low kick sound, a Soundeluxe ELAM 251. This became a low end secret weapon on this record. I placed it about 4' away from the kick on the floor. It was mainly a room mike, but definitely accentuated the kick sound remarkably well, giving it space and dimension.
“On snare top and bottom,” he continues, “a Shure SM57 placed very close to the drum heads and strainer, positioned directly in line with each other, and flipped out of phase. I’ve tried many different combinations of snare mikes, but this one seems to be the one that works best 90 percent of the time, especially for big rock where you want that snare to cut through in the mix. Also on snare top, a Heil PR-20. Hi-hat bleed into snare mikes seems to be a constant battle when recording drums. We did a shootout between the Heil and the Shure. David, Roy, and I listened to both options. In the end, I put the 57 back, put the Heil on a different stand, taped them both together to make sure they would be in phase at all times, and recorded both. In the end this combination worked beautifully to capture the tone and attack of Roy’s various snares.
“On toms, 57s on top and Sennheiser 421’s on the bottom across the board,” Philips says. “Placed near the rim, pointing slightly in toward the middle of the head, about a finger’s width from the heads. Directly in line with each other, and out of phase from each other, mixed together and bussed to one track per tom.
“For hi-hat, a Sennheiser 451 placed facing away from the center of the kit, about 1.5' above the cymbals. Ride cymbal: a Sennheiser 451 placed facing away from the center of the kit, above the bell, but pointing away from it, about 2' above the cymbal. Overheads: Neumann KM84’s in an X/Y setup about 2' above Roy’s head with the snare as the center [negative] focal point in the middle of the X/Y.