A long overdue 2016 update / roundup.

So 2016 has been a very weird, perplexing year for us all and has been filled with many changes. I’ve been very quiet on here for most of the year because it’s been tough to know just how to comment on what’s been going on.

My work has been no exception to these changes – 2016 has seen the biggest change in my career since 2007 in that October File has come to an end. I’d briefly touched on this development on my Facebook page back when it was announced but there’s not really more to say about it than has already been stated on the official OF page. We simply ran our course, we’d not performed live in over a year and didn’t feel we could take things any further than we already had.

It’s been a few months now since we came to this decision but it does still feel weird somedays to think that we’ll not play any of our songs together again.

There are some positives to highlight from this year though.

Firstly, back in the summer I tracked 4 songs down at the SAE Institute in Oxford for producer Charlie Davies and these are some of the best sounding drum parts I’ve ever had the pleasure of sharing! Each song in the playlist covers a different sub-genre of metal as the project was used for Charlie’s engineering/production dissertation. If you’re interested in checking them out you can do so here.

Not long after this session I was incredibly fortunate to find what had become a snare drum I thought I’d never own – a Premier Artist Brass. These are pretty rare given that they were only available with 2 specific configurations of Artist series kits around 10 or more years ago. Essentially only two sizes exist to my knowledge,  14″ x 5.5 and 14″ x 6.5, with the larger being more rare due to only being included in a pack which featured a 26″ bass drum. This particular ebay listed stated that this beautiful specimen was 14″ x 6″ and I assumed it must be the 5.5″ model measured incorrectly. On inspection I discovered that it is in fact 6″ deep and contacted my Premier artist rep – apparently it’s a weird depth that shouldn’t really exist at all and he’s still looking into how it was created and how it got out there. I’ve added die-cast hoops of course and this snare drum is an absolute monster which chews through a heavy mix in a very distinct way that even my Flynn Drums “The Welly” signature model can’t do.

I’ve also caught up with a major session client from last year who popped over for a fleeting visit and jam session to investigate what he thought was going to be his “new sound” – in reality we ended up discovering that this wasn’t the direction he needed to be going in and by complete accident found exactly where he should’ve been heading all along. So far this is only in it’s early stages but with a little luck in our schedules there’ll be further information about this to share around next summer.

Which brings me to my most recent piece of news – over the last 4 weeks I’ve been rehearsing with a new project that I’m really excited about. There’ll be full details to follow very soon but so far it’s been great to push into a new direction with my playing and be really challenged by what I need to play to make this material work properly – it’s most definitely rooted in the modern / progressive metal genre but has a sound very much all of it’s own.

 

 

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Chasing Ghosts EP Recording Session at Chapel Studios

Right before Christmas I was contacted by a newly formed doom/goth metal band by the name of Chasing Ghosts to book in a last minute session at the prestigious Chapel Studios in Lincolnshire. There’s an underlying Paradise Lost vibe to the three tracks that have been recorded but the finished work definitely has a sound all of it’s own.

Chapel Studios has a fantastic live room and with the expertise of producer Tim Morris I believe we’ve captured the best and most natural drum tones I’ve had to date. We really understood each others preferred approaches and I can honestly say that this session has been the most relaxed and enjoyable recording session I’ve ever worked on!

For the session we used my Premier Artist Maple kit in it’s usual configuration (10″ and 12″ toms, 16″ floor tom and 22″ bass drum) outfitted with Aquarian Response 2 clear drumheads on the toms and a clear Force I on the kick. The tuning process was as quick and painless as ever due to my DrumDial, Sleeved Washers and Tuner Fish Lug Locks.

We only tried one snare drum – my Flynn Drums signature model “Welly” – and didn’t need to try any others ( I’ve yet to write a full article on this incredible piece of craftsmanship but will do so very soon). The overall sound was simply amazing: outfitted with an Aquarian Texture Coated Power Dot this drum delivered a fat backbeat which cuts through distorted guitars with ease but still allowed for subtle ghost notes to come through with great clarity.

Cymbals were a mix from my collection of Murat Diril models – we used my 14″ Renaissance Regular Hats, 17″ and 18″ Renaissance Brilliant Crashes, a 10″ Renaissance Regular splash, my 18″ Renaissance Regular Thin China and 20″ Black Sea Megabell Gold Ride.

The songs have already been sent for mastering and should be back very soon, I’ll be sure to post some samples along with links to the band when it’s finally ready for release.

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Endorsement Announcement: Aquarian Drumheads

It’s with great excitement that I can finally reveal that I am now an endorsing artist for Aquarian Drumheads! I couldn’t be happier to be involved with the company and the fantastic products they make and I’m so very proud to be able to say that they support my work.

Over the years I’d settled on one brand of drumhead but often found myself peeking at the Aquarian website and being rather blown away by the sheer scale of the product range – some models come in up to 4 different variations (with muffling rings, coating options, reinforcement dots and so on) and many heads that Aquarian manufactures have  no comparable model with any other drumhead company (they even make a snare head with a fully integrated triggering system). I always talked myself out of trying them as they can be harder to find in the UK but eventually gave in and tested out a Focus X Power Dot snare head – I couldn’t have been more blown away by the ease of tuning, the great tone and the incredible durability: this head has taken a level of abuse that would’ve left my previous choice of 2-ply snare heads “dishing out” in the centre and needing retuning or replacing and yet, after 6 weeks, it sounds as great as the day I fitted it and shows no signs of wearing out anytime soon!

But why does the brand matter? As a session player I place somewhat higher demands on the tools that I use then most drummers might. I change drumheads more frequently to ensure that the kit sounds clear and fresh for every session, I tune more often, I need a new set of heads to sound the way I expect them to based on the last set that were in use, I need them to tune quickly as time is often of the essence on a studio session and I always need them to be long lasting so that they can survive a session or series of live shows without breaking and without any degradation in sound.

With Aquarian I am able to have all of that quite easily – the head design allows each drumhead to sit flat on the bearing edge before I even place the hoop back on with allows for solid and extremely responsive tuning that is stable and the heads are not only incredibly consistent but they are exceptionally resilient to even the hardest of hitters! The drumhead collar also contributes to tuning stability by locking the drumhead film firmly in place.

A common misconception that’s easily found in online reviews is that Aquarian heads don’t sound as good as the other well known brands and this is not true in my experience at all.  The use of a slightly different mylar film creates a sound that is often a fraction deeper or darker than many players are used to and I can fully see why this may make them suspicious on their first try – on changing my tom heads I’ve found that I now have more low-end punch than I ever had before but I still have a focused sound with plenty of attack and even the resonant heads have made a big difference in the overall sound.

So why’ve I moved from a brand that I’ve used for around 8 years? Because in the last year or so my personal tastes in sound have changed due to my increasing session and studio experience – I’ve come to find that certain things that I felt sounded great no longer met my needs or could simply be improved upon to create an overall better sound / voice for my setup. In short, the voice I wanted had changed but my equipment wasn’t capable of letting me achieve it. My cymbal sound is now darker and fuller and less abrasive in the mix and allows me to offer a wealth of sounds to my clients, my choice of sticks gives me incredible flexibility to use just one model for all styles and now my drumheads allow me to offer a full and defined drum sound that can adapt to any situation and still be my sound at heart.

Setup.

I’ve chosen the following heads for my setup but Aquarian offer many models that I’d love to experiment at some stage:

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Snare Drum – at the moment I’m using either the Focus X Power Dot (for a full and defined snare sound) or the Hi Velocity (for even more articulation and durability). The Hi Velocity may well become my go-to head for touring due to it’s increased thickness and extra large Power Dot. The resonant head is the standard Classic Clear Snare Side.

Toms – I’ve started off with the clear Response 2 and have found that they bring out incredible low-end in my drums while still providing plenty of attack to cut through the mix. They’re also very consistent from one size to the next so I’m able to tune each in exactly the same way and be sure of how each will respond. In time I’d like to test out the coated version, the extra punchy Performance II and perhaps even the Response 2’s beefier brother the Force Ten. The resonant heads are the Classic Clear Gloss Black model purely for their visual impact on my white kit.

Bass Drum – I’ve always sought a very dry and defined bass drum tone to allow every stroke to be heard and have chosen the clear Force I as it delivers amazing punch while still having a really full tone that will lend itself very well to dual-mic situations both on stage and in the studio. So far I’m finding that this head, when used with the double kick pad and felt beaters, rivals the punch of my old bass drum head when using plastic beaters and I look forward to letting the plastic beaters loose at it very soon for even more definition. The resonant head is it’s companion model, the ported Force II in Gloss Black.

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I’ve already said it but it’s worth saying it again – I’m honoured to join Aquarian and integrate their fine products into what I’m proud to call MY sound!

The fine people of The Music Shipping Company deserve huge thanks for making the introduction to Aquarian, bringing all of this together and for the fantastic level of support they’ve shown me since I joined the Shaw roster last year.

 

A Special Live Announcement

Around 2 weeks ago I received word that some close friends were going to have to pull their biggest booking of the year, I was already booked for another show and had been hoping I’d at least have the opportunity to see them play with their new drummer – needless to say it was rather sad to hear that they weren’t going to be ready in time and were having to cancel on the event.

By sheer chance, my own booking was cancelled the following day which has allowed me to step in and cover the show.

So, on Saturday the 24th of August, I’ll be handling drums one last time for Sacrilegious Throne at Beermageddon. There’ll be a mix of known and new material for fans across what should be a pretty hefty set. The guys and I have already given it a test-run last night and will be refining it tomorrow evening.

Sacrilegious Throne’s set will start at 6:05.