May 18, 2007
Dropkick Murphys at The Outpost May 13-17 2007
I think this was my fifth session in 8 or 9 years with the Dropkicks. We worked on 21 songs for the band's upcoming first release for their new label, Warner, tracking drums and rhythm guitars in 4 days. Matt Kelly is one of my favorite drummers to work with: he's always ready to play, has plenty of energy, a really original style of drumming, and is an all-around nice guy. The band is easygoing and they've forged an original sound over the years which has gained them fans the world over. Their song "Shipping Out To Boston" was featured prominently in Martin Scorcese's Oscar winning smash hit "The Departed" and the Red Sox adopted their cover of "Tessie"as the team's official anthem during the championship 2004 season.
For the session we used Matt's green DW kit plus an extra 16" silver sparkle floor tom. As per usual at The Outpost, we removed the front head from the 20" bass drum and used a damper against the batter head. My trusty 6.5x14" Pearl Steve Ferrone (now sadly discontinued) was the snare drum of choice for the whole record. I used a Remo coated Center Spot batter on the Ferrone, coated Emperors on the toms, and a clear Powerstroke 3 on Matt's 20" bass drum. I tuned the 12" rack tom to "A" and moved down in thirds for the floor toms. Interestingly, DW had marked the inside of the 12" shell as having a pitch of "Eb". I've seen this many times with DW's "Timbre Matched" shells, where the drum's optimal tuning range is a few steps off from what's noted inside the shell. I found that this particular drum began to choke up if I tuned much higer than "A".
DRUM TECH LESSON # 533.3:Every drum has a small latitude of tuning where it sounds best. Deviate from that latitude and you'll find that on the lower tension end the pitch is wobbly or too slack, and on the higher tension end it can choke up or have a short, false note. In a good environment, like a nice quiet recording studio, you can critically listen to the vibration of the note and tighten or loosen accordingly. In a bad environment, like a loud club, you're screwed. But I digress...
Matt's style of playing incorporates traditional fife and drum and marching band techniques like press rolls and ruffs, etc., and like that style of drumming, he doesn't hit a lot of rimshots. It's a very precise way of playing and not just any old snare drum will work in the studio. First of all you need some body and depth for it to stand up against the formidable guitar assault of James Lynch and Mark "The Kid" Orell. You could potentially go with a shallower snare drum and rely only on tight snare response and brittle attack, but you would lose the "ROCK" edge that is the hallmark of the Dropkicks' music. Secondly, the definition of each stroke needs to be heard without the benefit of rimshots, so good response is a must. But I like a little looseness in the snares to make them a little sloppier and fuller. (It's hard to explain, but as Popeye said: "I'se knows it whens I'se hears it!") The Ferrone drum is perfect for this application. It's got a beefiness to it's midrange while still having enough attack to not get lost in the mix. It's basically a knock-off of a Black Beauty with thicker tube lugs and some construction differences, but the sturdy brass shell coupled with Pearl Power Hoops give it a weight and tone that records very well. Cheers to Pearl for designing such a great workhorse of a drum. Jeers to Pearl for discontinuing the drum after Ferrone left the company for greener pastures.
All in all a good time was had by all. Lovingly committed to tape and digits by recordist extraordinaire Jim Siegel, the drums pop right out of the speakers and even at this early stage it's easy to hear that this could be the best record of the Dropkick Murphys' career. Stay tuned...