Here is the behind the EP plus some information on the recording process.
The EP is available on Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon, among other. Add us to your playlist....Thanks for supporting our music.
I met the great drummer Will Sanford during my tenure at Guitar Center #720 in Nashville, TN in 2014-16. We always talked about music, recording, and classic rock and I used to go see his band play at local venues. We talked about recording a project but just never seemed to get around to it.
I left GC in 2016 for another music store in Nashville but I kept in touch with Will, and we still talked about doing a project. He returned to Virginia during the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, but I still followed him on social media. On Friday 3 July 3, 2020, Will posted on Instagram detailing how he had gotten a recording rig to do recording at home. He iPhone messaged me a recording of a drum loop he had been working on. I took the loop and dropped it in ProTools, then added some guitar and bass. That became an early version of "Breakdown". I mixed it down to an MP3 and sent it back to Will on 6 July. He was very excited and asked if we could do an entire album.
We texted some ideas back and forth and I told him that it would be tough to do an entire album, but I would be up for a 4-5 song EP. I asked him to use his vintage Ludwig Vistalite drums and we would work through the recording process. It would be distributed recording – drums at Will’s house in Virginia, and everything else at my studio in Tennessee.
We did a Zoom session to talk about the project on Sunday afternoon, July 12, 2020. We decided to work on a 70s throwback instrumental project that focused on 3-4 minute songs with melodies, not just shred guitar. I immediately got to work on the songs – just ideas from ProTools sessions – focusing on melodies and how they fit together. I told him how boring I thought it was to see people on Instagram and YouTube showing how fast they can play and that is what I wanted to avoid....hey, look at me play a scale!
On Saturday, July 18, 2020 I sent four songs ideas to Will over Gmail and he went to work on the beats. I hurt my back the next day and wound up having to go to the doctor. I was out of work for two days and the medicine made me really sick. This week was a bust and I didn’t get much work done.
Over the next couple of weeks we got the five songs in shape and, using Google Drive, we sent the big files back and forth to each other. We had several starts and stops concerning problems with the files, but we worked it out over email and text.
I used my normal procedure for recording a project. That is, I do rough mixes and listen to them while I'm driving in my car. I mix them down to an MP3, transfer to a USB drive, and prepare to take notes.
We had a number of conversations about recording drums and dynamics in the music. I read an article by a very famous Nashville producer in which he talked about recording drums. He talked about Hal Blaine of "Wrecking Crew" fame being about to play at a volume allowing him to be in the tracking room with the rest of the musicians without headphones. The producer stated that is unheard of today, and young drummers tend to play way too hard. I ran into this producer at a guitar shop where I worked and we talked about drums, his techniques, and that you should try to record songs quickly before it becomes boring. He said a lot of people work on songs for so long that they become bored with the process and kind of give up. It was an eye-opening conversation, and he had some great advice.
The songs were recorded on an older iMac (five years old but has 16 gig of factory-installed RAM ) using ProTools 10.3 and 11. The interface was a Focusrite Sapphire Pro 26 using the iMac's Thunderbolt port. I used a Lacie Thunderbolt drive to capture the audio.
There were no megabuck plug-ins in use, and the real standout was the ik Multimedia Ampeg SVX bass amp plugin I used in a couple of spots. As usual, we used an old ’73 Marshall JMP 50-watt head, an early 90’s JCM-900 SLX 50-watt, our Traynor Guitar Mate Reverb combo, and a variety of speaker cabinets with Celestion speakers.
Breakdown: Rhythm – 1999 Fender Yngwie Malmsteen Strat, 1991 Les Paul Classic. Lead: 2016 Gibson R9 Les Paul, Carter Vintage Edition.
The Boy Wonder: Rhythm – Recent Fender Parts Strat (Roadworn Body, American Standard V-Neck, My Williams custom wound pickups); 1999 Fender Yngwie Malmsteen Strat. Solo: Fender Parts Strat, Recent Cry Baby Wah
A Morning Soundtrack: Rhythm: Recent Fender Parts Strat, 1988 Fender HM Strat. Solo = Custom Williams guitar with Williams humbuckers.
I Walked into a Bar: Fender Parts Strat with Wildwood Edition Mjolnir Overdrive, 1968 Gibson SG
The Kitchen Sink: Rhythm: Gibson Les Paul R9, Custom Williams guitars with Williams humbuckers. Solo: 1988 Fender HM Strat.
Picks: V-Picks, Fender Mediums (white and checkerboard celuloid)
Strings: All Ernie Ball for guitar and bass...Forever
Cables: George L.... Yep…we thought it was all hype, too.
Any secrets? As usual, a couple of things – use good quality strings and change
them often. Note: All you hear on this album are Ernie Ball strings. Have your guitar set-up by somebody who knows what they are doing. Use short patch cords between your guitar and amp or preamp. The
first take of the solo is usually the one you like best. Finally, if you start
getting frustrated while recording, take a break and come back to it.
Drums Notes from Will::
John and I had been friends for a long time before we even did this venture together, so to say this was a long time coming may be an understatement! As soon as I got the ability to remote record he was one of the first people I thought about asking to do a record. He really knows the ins and outs of the entire recording process. Really all I had to do was capture halfway decent drums.
Some songs it would vary to whether I would send him a beat first or he would come up with a riff. I work really well with reference songs, so he would use a term like Think Diver Down meets Wired, and I could have a framework from which to draw inspiration from.
For the first EP I used my 70s Ludwig Vistalite. The sizes are 13x9, 16x16, and 18x16 toms, with a 24x14 kick drum. I swapped between a Black Beauty and Supraphonic snare drums, both 14x6.5. I tune a little tighter than most rock drummers do these days. That’s mostly a taste thing but I personally think they sound and play better in those ranges. I tune the bottom head tighter than the top. I keep the pitches of the drums in tune with each other so they could play a chord if struck together. Mostly the intervals are 4ths or 5ths.
All the drums had Remo black dot heads which sound wonderful on acrylic drums. Very classic live Zeppelin and Van Halen tones. They were also very reminiscent tonally of Billy Cobham, another big influence. The snare drums both had coated Remo heads with 42 strand snare wires. That really helps when you only have enough channels for a snare top mic. Personally I’m not a huge fan of snare bottom mics anyways, so this works out for a nice compromise.
As far as muting goes, I don’t use a large amount. Sometimes I will use gels, gaff tape, or sometimes a leather patch on the snare. The vista’s have muffler’s built in, so occasionally I’ll have those engaged slightly if I need more punch and less tone. On the kick drum I use felt strips and unmuted black dot heads. I will use a P3 or a "Richie ring" style head for the resonant on occasion. I find that gives the kick drum more air to work with, which is so quickly lost on heads that come pre muted. Personally I prefer to start wide open and take away sound as needed. It’s a lot harder to work the other way around. Overall, my school of thought for muting is to have things that let the drums breathe a bit, and then act as a gate to control the overtones.
For microphones I used the Rode M5’s for overheads, a 57 on the snare, and a Sennheiser e905 on the kick drum. I used a few different placement techniques but they were all Glyn Johns variations. A big part to remember is running the overheads hotter than you would think. If you get it to where snare drum hits are causing it to clip, you are in the right neighborhood. That way they are sensitive enough to capture the fun kit. Dynamics and balance are key here because with minimal microphones it is completely up to the drummer to emphasize what part of the kit needs to be loudest. Most of the kick drum placement was on the outside on a non ported head, but on some songs I would switch to a port and mic just outside of the hole. All the mics went in to a Focusrite Interface, which was recorded into Logic X on a Mac. I’ll share the .wavs with John and we go from there!
Thanks again, and keep checking back!