In The Studio With Shadows Fall
Besides hi-hats, snares, and even bass drums leaking into the overheads, mounted toms are constant problems. In order to make them sound huge, Raskulinecz and Fig double-miked them so they would absolutely cut through the cymbals. In the past, they have fallen back on one mike, but Bittner required a pair on top and bottom to make for maximum punch. AKG 451s with a 10dB pad and hyper-cardioid capsule were placed above (FIG. 5), and Sennheiser 604s were set below. These latter pieces are clip-on dynamic mikes, whereas the AKGs are condenser styled. Condensers provide for a wider frequency range allowing for stick attack, while dynamic mikes assist in removing cymbal bleed. Again, keeping cymbals out of the drum tracks was paramount.
FIG. 5. One AKG 451 placed above each rack tom
After much thought, Raskulinecz and Fig chose a pair of AKG 414s for the floor toms (FIG. 6). These hyper-cardioid mikes sport hefty condenser capsules, and two of them were fitted above the drums. Another set of Sennheiser 604s (dynamics) were seated underneath with the pads set to —10dB. In fact, all tom mikes were spiked with the —10dB pads.
FIG. 6. One AKG 414 placed above each floor tom
What did the —10dB pad add to the sound?
“Jason hits hard,” answers Raskulinecz. “Condenser mikes are very sensitive; if you hit it too hard, it’s going to distort the capsule.” The pad made sure we get to hear every tom-pounding lick, no matter how brutal Bittner plays.
Capturing the overall dynamic elements of Bittner’s kit were Cole 4038 ribbon mikes situated in the studio itself. These, like the Royers, are ribbon mikes and grease the entire kit with a darker, punchier sound that combats the naturally bright and harsh-sounding cymbal wash. Actually, the Coles might better be defined as kit mikes since they are in proximity to the set itself, albeit in a wide, far-ranging arc on the sides (to create a fuller imaging picture).
“Yeah, [the mikes are] close because these songs are pretty quick and brutal,” defines Fig. “ So you don’t want something with a big, long throw. These have a nice, dry sound.”
There is a small amount of room sound caught up in the Coles, but the overall texture is captured with an AKG 414 Omni placed approximately 15 to 20 feet away from the kit. And an RC44 ribbon microphone is situated low behind the kit. This is the most vintage unit at 606, dating back to the ’30s, and it provides warmth, big body, and is mainly utilized to pick up snares and floor toms (FIG. 7).
FIG. 7. One RC44 ribbon microphone situated behind the kit
The RC44 antique runs headfirst into modern technology when it’s plugged into a “super-duper” GT2Q mike preamp. For the most part, all the EQs were set wide open and natural − no compression. In the past, Raskulinecz has compressed kick and snares, but recently he’s eschewed the process in order to ramp up the potential dynamics during the mixing process. “You can do it later because if you commit to it then, it’s done.”
No turning back. And when you’re dealing with a player like Bittner, you don’t want to limit your options. “Jason is like a drum hero,” Raskulinecz says. “I’ve got a responsibility to his fans and the kids that love Jason Bittner to make him sound huge, larger than life, enormous.”
Bittner, the drum hero, is still pacing. But you get the sense that underneath the restlessness is intense satisfaction. After all, he was able to complete his tracking responsibilities in a matter of days because his perfect drum sound was in place. And he, Raskulinecz, and Fig could then concentrate on the real matter at hand — trusting each other to get the perfect take.
“It [felt] like three people [who] have known each other for a long time,” Bittner says. “It doesn’t seem like we just met these guys and just started working with them. Nick shoots a lot of ideas out, [and] I’ll try them. Sometimes they stick, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes we go back to my own idea. It’s a very easy, relaxed atmosphere to work with.”
Bittner makes his way upstairs to the studio’s sound room, where Raskulinecz and Fig are in the midst of tweaking EQs and establishing monitor volumes for the first day of tracking with Shadows Fall bassist Paul Romanko. Only a couple channels need to be engaged for recording Romanko’s deep bottom end. On the other hand, when Bittner was beating the hell out of his shells, 25 of the board’s 28 faders were in motion.
Romanko limbers up, tunes up, and flashes a thumbs up when he’s finally ready to groove.
A rough mix of the song being worked on comes through the monitors. It is vintage Bittner, all furious double bass exploding in an unholy pattern and at an unbelievable tempo.
The burly console chief tosses Bittner an almost imperceptible nod, a visual exchange lasting but a moment. “I know, dude,” it says. “We killed these tracks.”