'Lay Me Down' - Remembering a unique recording
March 13, 2023
This drumbeat was created by using the hands on the drum kit in an 'open handed' style. The song is from The Frames album 'For The Birds' and was recorded in a modest B'n'B guesthouse in Ventry, County Kerry, and here I describe my memory of that time.
A drummer friend of mine, Dominic Mullan, who was playing with Mary Coughlan in Galway at The Big Gig in The Leisureland, Galway last weekend, asked me to explain how I approached recording the drums for Lay Me Down. He said he had tried to learn it, but was using sticks and playing a right hand led crossover technique. It was an honour that such a talented drummer was talking about learning a drum beat that I created all that time back in 2000! A few people have asked me about it, so I thought it would be cool to make a quick impromptu video during the week. It was filmed by Peter McCarthy, award winning film director and songwriter. He was with me anyway on the day, making a lo-fi video of a song 'So Lo', that we collaborated on for the upcoming Side 4 album.
This is a step by step reconstruction of the beat!
We recorded The Frames album For The Birds partly in Ventry, Co Kerry and partly in Electrical Audio Chicago by Steve Albini (more on that experience in a future blog! ). We assumed that the Kerry recordings in Joan's B&B would be just demos but we ended up using half of the songs from Kerry because there was great spirit in the performance, we thought. This was important to an Indie band who were wishing to keep their integrity and avoid any sort of saccharine pop production that we were now running a mile from. I had tried to jam along with the song in rehearsal with some conventional Rootsy/Americana drum beats but nothing was really working. *I have uploaded some early demos here on Patreon. I had been learning congas at the time and so I fused a little bit of conga technique with the normal kit approach and eventually ended up with a beat that everyone in the band seemed to be enjoying. It was a quiet rehearsal and so I used my hands to keep it quiet. (There's a possibility that I momentarily couldn't find my sticks also!). My hero John Bonham is a big influence and had played part of his Moby Dick drum solo with his hands, including some mega whacking of the cymbals, which surprisingly doesn't hurt. Maybe its because I'm so butch.
I played a Yamaha 9000 kit on the recording in Kerry and The Frames guitarist and recording engineer Dave Odlum (sorry about the chicken skin gag at the time, Dave), now a Grammy Award winning producer, mic'd up the kit and we had a few gos, setting up in the sitting room by the fireplace, overlooking Ventry Bay and a field full of sad looking horses. The floor tom mic fell onto the tom during the 'take' and that's why you hear that unique gentle rattle of distortion. No 'Plug-ins' used there guys and gals!
*I got stoned for the last time during those recordings in Kerry. I remember rehearsing a different song and was so stoned that I had no idea where we were in the arrangement and even what song we were playing. I didn't like that 'out of control' feeling.. so that was the end of it. Never again, I vowed. I was kind of laughing like a jack ass but also freaked out. God knows what the others were thinking.
The Frames in The Hideout, Chicago at the time of the For The Birds Electrical Audio recordings 2000. I was pretty good at drinking, but terrible at smoking weed!
Thankfully I was the type to keep diaries and notes and photos, and, quirky and fairly illegible as this is, it serves as a cool kind of old fashioned document of the time.
For The Bird cross comparisons; Chicago V's Kerry notes and scores out of 10!