Wednesday, February 02, 2005


I spent a good seven hours yesterday trying to lay various low-frequency drum patterns on untitled pop song to no avail.

what do the drums do?
what could the drums do?
what don't i want the drums to do?
why are the drums so boring?
are they always boring?
do i imagine drums at all on this song?
do i ever imagine drums on any song?
do i just add drums out of habit?
do people like drums on pop songs?
do people expect drums on pop songs?
were drums not present, would people miss them?
would there be a petition?
would there be union trouble?
do drums have to be there all the time?
could the drums have a short holiday, then come back?
what if the drums were later than expected?
do the drums sound like they're enjoying themselves?
who are we to judge the drums?
what would change the drums (apart from having no drums)?
will the drums ever sound like a part of the song now?
have they seemed distant lately?
has the drums' time passed, like a fleeting glimpse, a fancy, a wink lost on the breeze?
what is this, anyway?
shouldn't you be better at going with your gut instinct by now?
fucking loser.

So, yeah, what of it? I'm having a problem with drums. I'll admit it. I've been taking my kit to pieces and re-welding it into unsual and physically dangerous arrangements, because my god, I'm so bored of the drummy thing. You can construct the most gorgeous set of interlocking textures, shifting chord patterns and biting melodies, and then you slap a drum kit on and suddenly it's all

- snare
- snare
- snare
- diddly diddly
- snare

Dull, dull, dull, (cymbal crash) dull.

I'm more interested these days in drum parts that sound like background interference. Odd hits, rumbles, scrapes, at unpredictable volumes, now and then. This would all be well and good if it weren't an extremely introverted and selfish tactic: you end up with a pleasant enough song marred by what seems to be the soundtrack to an episode of DIY SOS underneath it.

It helps that Neil and Doug are so good at programming interesting, fluid electronic rhythms. I saw a local band called "A Lion" last week and they were a prime example of using a drum machine to good effect, in that they did it with no shame whatsoever, not attempting to emulate a real drummer, not hiding the machine's inadequacies. "Hear that snare? Sounds awful, doesn't it, but slam these two guitars on top, sounds reet smart. Wait a minute, wait a minute... it's about to do something massively over-programmed and mental... here we go... WAHAAAAY!" Afterwards, a few of my friends were saying that they would be interested in hearing the band with a real drummer. I was against it, in no uncertain terms. I thought it would remove a particular slice of their magic.

So we've begun to try and merge the electronic and the live drums more completely, with varying degrees of success: Some of the more complicated off-kilter patterns are difficult for me to keep up with because I'm not the best drummer in the world (to put it mildly. Ask me to do a paradiddle, I dunno what it is. Go on. Ask me. Ask me now. A what? No fucking idea, mate. See? Not a clue. Complete waste of time.) In the end, it's more likely that I'll "complement" the percussive arrangement. Like a bread basket. Or a side order of onion rings.


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