Some people asked me to tell a little more about how I created the (drum) sound for the current At The Drive In EP “Diamanté”.
First and most importantly, I discussed with Omar how to make the record sound. We were longing for a lush and extreme sounding EP. We didn’t want to make a modern sounding record. We were eager to create a statement. In my opinion that is what ATDI was always about. So I proposed to aim for a very special drum sound and put them in Clouds Hill Studio‘s very small but reflective booth. I wanted the drums to sound like a croaking animal. In the song “Amid Ethics” I added some delay to the drums to make them sound even weirder. We just copied that idea from Omar‘s original demo. I used our self-designed delay pedal “ECHO – Clouds Hill fx
Floppy Disc Delay” for that.
Then I talked to Clouds Hill Studio
drum tech Tim Schierenbeck
, told him about the ideas and then agreed to buy a new drum set for the production. We found this Sonor Lite and put Remo Black Suede heads on all shells including Snare. In most songs Tony Hajjar played our Sonor Phonic 14×8 Snare with either Black Suede or Emperor heads. I think we also used the Yamaha “Mike Bordin” signature Snare on one song as well. Cymbals – if I remember rightly: HiHat: Meinl Cymbals extra dry 15″, Crash2: SABIAN HHX 18″, Crash 1: Paiste Cymbals 2002 (not 100% sure) Ride: Paiste 602 Modern Essentials 22″. Hearing those drums in the chamber I (together with engineer and production assistant Linda Gerdes) decided to capture the sound with almost no close mics but a combination of various room and set mics. First, we set up two vintage AKG c12s using the “Glyn Johns” technique but a bit further away than usual because the drum sound in that chamber was already very dense.
For additional -very roomy- overheads we set up a pair of Sony C37a in xy stereo right above the snare under the ceiling. Due to the reflections, that made a super weird sound. We loved it! To give the snare a bit more impact, we added a Coles ribbon looking over Tony’s shoulder. For Bassdrum we chose a vintage Neumann UM57 (my favorite for BD!) and added a rare but fantastic B&O ribbon mic 1-2 feet away from the bassdrum pointing at the rim to also capture a bit of snaredrum and lots of bass from the bassdrum.
Then we added an AKG C451 between bassdrum and snaredrum, pointing towards the Snare and distorted it with a micpre and the 1176 blue stripe. That mic has a super aggressive attack when used distorted on drums. I just tried it a session before and used it the second time on this record. Then we had two RCA BX44 in two corners of the room, one pointing towards the HiHat and one towards the low tom. Both were positioned in the same distance to the Snare. Just for safety reasons we had a Josephson e22 on Snare, that also fed the Floppy Disc Delay in one song.
The idea behind the setup is to use extreme sounding drums with a fast and hard attack in an aggressive sounding room and combine it with rather slow responding mics.
Again: We didn’t want to make a record that could compete with the (boring) sound of modern rock records.We wanted to create a special sounding, weird and raw diamond. We recorded all signals to our Studer A820 24 track. Very hot as usual. In the control room I had to be careful with compression as there were so many reflections on the mics already that by compressing the signals the sound became even more roomy and weird. So I chose to use a combination of peak limiters and … whoops … aggressive parallel compression with slow attack and fast release and the limiters fast attack and moderate release depending on the tempo of the song. Haha …
For the Bass I used a simple setup. Paul Hinojos‘ style is very consistent. I just used some parallel compression/limiting with an RCA BA6A which gave the bass a bit more stability without ruining the nice attacks from his bass running through a vintage Ampeg SVT. The BA6A was also fed with some of the Moog bass which glued both signals together nicely.
The setup for guitars was quite special. Omar and I worked together on so many projects and especially for the Bosnian Rainbows
album I had a crazy setup with 3 guitar amps through a splitter being able to create 5/6 totally different guitar sounds (left only, right only, stereo, wide stereo with additional mid and mono mid only and room) in only one setup combining the amps in different ways. So this time he said: “I have used all amps in this studio, let‘s try to find something completely different.”
I remembered a very special amp I used to record James Johnston
‘s voice on one of the Gallon Drunk records. It‘s a Fradan Echomatic Tubeamp which is a weird little monster that can produce a unique sounding distortion with its tubes and tape delay. I found it by accident in a garage. Never seen it anywhere again. Hope it never dies. It‘s a diamond itself. That amp ran through a custom-made cabinet equipped with a vintage Electro Voice 12” speaker mic’d with a Sennheiser 609 and a RCA BX44.
Keeley Davis played through a Vox AC30 with an U67 and a Royer Labs
R-122. I set them up in a 90 degree angle to each other in our live room 1 and put a room mic in x/y stereo in the spot where their signals sounded equally loud. That way, I could let Omar play through Keeley‘s amp as well and use “his” room mic and the other way around. Playing around with different levels and combinations of the close and room mics and levels of the amps, could produce weird sounding reflections, which I used to spread the sound in the stereo picture. As always ORL Projects
and Keeley did their overdubs sitting in the control room and the amps in our very live sounding recording room 1. When it came to Cedric Bixler Zavala
‘s vocals, Linda and I put up three mics in a row. Two vintage Neumann U47s and an M49.
I wanted Cedric‘s vocals to sound unique, shimmery and reflective to match the rest of the sonically weird appearances. I panned the second and third mic left and right and the closest one in the middle, added some reverb, compression with a LA-2A and two Empirical Labs, Inc. Distressors and some EQ with a pair of vintage Pultecs. P EQ-1.
The rest: it‘s just levels.
I mixed it to our 1″ Telefunken M15 with Dave Hill Class A electronic.
It was mastered by Chris von Rautenkranz at Soundgarden Mastering door to door with Clouds Hill Studio. Thanks to At The Drive In for their trust and making me part of the journey. Thanks to Linda and Chris von Rautenkranz
for her fantastic work. And to Tim for the drums.
And .. Elke Toben for the excellent catering which gave us the energy to finish that record in 3 days!
About the author Johann Scheerer
Johann Scheerer, born 1982, started to be a professional musician in the age of 17 when his band signed their first major deal. He founded Clouds Hill Recordings in 2005 and the attached label Clouds Hill in 2010. As a music producer and engineer he worked with various international artists. In 2018 he released a best-selling autobiographic book. Johann works as Head Of Music Production at BIMM (British & Irish Institute for Modern Music) Hamburg.