A Window into a Recording Session

May 02, 2024

Here’s my 7 day diary below which includes a radio interview, an insight into lecturing in University, making a music video with some Ballymun kids, all building ultimately into a challenging recording session. Oh, and a 2 year old who is always trying to distract me from being a Rock Starrrrr!

Sunday- Radio Interview

It started with a short interview with Radio Nova’s wonderful and spirited raconteur Kieran McGuinness. It was mainly about how my Side4Collective music project works, surely the most illogical, barmy ‘music layering’ project out there. Here is the audio below of the interview if you are interested in knowing how it works and to hear a really weird laugh I did when he said something to me about singers. Is that really my speaking voice? Going up in that Irish ‘LA’ kind of ‘ending with a question’ cadence which I hate when others do it.

Side4 explained

Monday- Recording for a soundtrack

I had to pick a peanut out of each of my 2 year old daughter’s nostrils while having having to persuade the Polish Sky TV engineer not to go home, and to install the dish even though he thought the house was too awkward for the setting up. Drilling and cabling. I suspected he just didn’t want to slide around on potato peels or inhale the combined fumes of old nappies in the bin and gone off fish from the fridge. Or experience nut excavations.

Then I went out to Clondalkin to help write and record some new ideas with the band Kila in our recording studio there. Some of these ideas are for a music soundtrack for a fascinating upcoming documentary about countries from the African continent and other parts of the world asking the British Empire for the return of the Treasures and artifacts that were taken from them over the centuries. We’ll see how that goes!

Tuesday- Making a Side4 music video

Filming a music video in Poppintree Youth centre Ballymun was a soul enriching experience. This was also a real eye opener. The fantastic youth work and community spirit is alive and well in Ballymun. Fittingly, the song, written by Colm Quearney with Side4Collective, is a love letter to what appears to be the disappearing soul of Dublin. Not on this evidence…. There is a new trend of kids with balaclavas on motorised bikes doing wheelies, and we had planned to film this, but in the end we made this part of the video more of a busking music performance, featuring those rehearsing with their band in the Centre.

Colm Q- Giving Us Wings

Colm Q- Giving Us Wings

Wednesday- 'Poo-Pooing' the doctor's ideas.

I went to the doctors to get a skin tag checked out because I have had one removed before which left a scar (that I tell everyone is a shark bite). Luckily they thought it was benign and that I just need to get Vaseline for it instead of ‘freezing’ it off. But it did afford them an opportunity to push for the jabs for my 2 year old daughter! They cornered me and my scab and warned me that she could get Measles, Mumps and Rubella MMR, and a host of other diseases. I told them I was more worried about the nostril nuts.

They were really pushy with it and my suspicious side always has hated the Pharmaceutical industry ( We all know the story about the Sackler family and their purposeful and cynical overprescribing of OxyContin through their company Perdue Pharma. For more History on scandalous misguided prescribing, including using vibrators for hysteria, read here ).

Seems good for the price?

Seems good for the price?

Anyway, What to do? I got the guilt trip lecture about being irresponsible and potentially harming pregnant women’s babies. Maybe they have a point ( assuming the pregnant woman is also unvaccinated) but I feel this particular doctor’s practice is still stuck in a very righteous Land of the Vaccinated and the cynical side of me wonders if these doctors are on a commission. It’s such a tough debate, the vaccination of healthy children.

She was healthy enough, thankfully, to be able to climb out of the bath that evening, and bring me something while I was distracted watching the TV. Not looking, I held my hand out for what she wanted to give me. It was brown, soft and smelly and about the size of a pine cone, but it wasn’t a pine cone.

Thursday- ‘Do what I say, Not what I do’

I lecture in BIMM University. I love lecturing, like my Dad did, and am pretty proud to have designed the 2 main drum courses that I do. Wow! So many incredible rhythmic ideas you can pack into these courses and what a responsibility…choosing the material (and in what order) these bright new generations of drum graduates will have absorbed and perhaps partly use to shape their careers. Teaching them all my bad habits, in a nutshell.

I was saying goodbye and good luck to the third years this week and I had one piece of advice… it was related to the exams that they have done with me. Sometimes they may not have liked or agreed with the feedback or perhaps the result/mark they got in exams. That’s not the point, I said. As a professional musician, or session musician, you have to be ready to take feedback and criticism about your drumming and ideas, and even if you are sensitive and hate it, it is good to listen and try the suggested solution (up to a point). Like any work or professional situation. But did I become a hypocrite in a recording session the very next day??

Friday- Recording session day!

Personnel list

Gerr Walsh- Songwriter Extraordinaire and great diplomatic leader of sessions

Anthony Gibney- Sonic Master and magician

Max Greenwood- Piano prodigy whose ideas know no bounds

Keith Duffy- Bass player who has the CV everyone is jealous of but most wont tell him.

So no pressure then! Plus they had already worked on songs for this album with drummers of such high calibre and international reknown (eg Adam Marcello, MD and drummer to Katy Perry and more).

Hey! That’s my Premier Gold Sparkle on the back of 'Ummagumma'! ( I suppose it could be!)

Hey! That’s my Premier Gold Sparkle on the back of 'Ummagumma'! ( I suppose it could be!)

We were attempting 4 songs on the day, made possible after a decent rehearsal the week before, which is quite standard when approaching a recording day. The morning started with quick conversations about which drum kit to use ( I had 3 there to choose from, 00’s Yamaha Absolute Maple Custom, 60’s blue sparkle Motown-esque Rogers, and early 70’s Pink Floyd-esque Premier Gold Sparkle ( see photo above)…and we listened to musical references, anything from Nick Drake, Prefab Sprout, Flaming Lips to Iggy Pop to help with the initial approach. I went for the Yamaha kit to lower the sonic risk on a busy day, knowing I could swop in vintage drums in seconds, Ferrari pitstop style..

Song 1- ‘Wilding Wood'

The Jazz Walsh !

This is a ‘jazz waltz’ rhythm. I used a beautiful maple premier 1970’s gold sparkle snare with triple flanged hoop for a deep wooden ‘clock’ sound for the ‘cross stick’. This originally was to have just bongos, no kit, but Gerr was persuaded when hearing the jazz waltz rhythm I tried back in rehearsals. He was eventually happy in the studio when he felt the ‘flow’ was there in the playing, on take 5. ‘Flow’ is a great word for a recording session, and indeed for life!

Even to try different parts of the beat where the snare goes!

So that’s one song done. Or was it? Apparently one of the mic stands drooped down and Anthony the engineer wanted to redo the track again for this reason, even though everyone was happy with the performance. This was the test! Do I say , yeah no problem ( even though I was worried we were behind time and I was getting a low in energy. He said, please Dave will you just do it one more time for me, and I replied “You’re not the one drumming“, in a kind of self-pitying way.

This was not good from my angle, doesn’t come across well to the other people in the room (who may or may not recommend me for a session in the future lest I forget). And it totally contradicting the advice I was giving the students the day before!

Beautiful playing to a beautiful song. Simple as that.

Song 2- ‘The Rest Of Love’

Trying to keep the energy going post lunch !

All happy with sandwiches in the belly, we kicked off the afternoon with a complete change of snare sound to a deep Ludwig black beauty with a ‘big fat snare’ head. I played quietly to make it sound even deeper. I played the 1/8th notes on the actual wallet on the snare and pedalled ¼ notes on the hi hat. Tippy Feely approach, but with control. 1/4 note pulse feel was vital I think.

Isolating drums and bass can be scary but often revealing

There's nothing worse than being asked ‘can you hear the click ok’? ( which happened at the end of take 2). It's a kind of musician's in- joke and can roughly translate as 'why are you playing out of time"? ( Not intended in this situation but funny nonetheless). Anyway, take 3 above was the take. Say no more.

More Max Magic!

Song 3-‘Golden Wings’ Yay! This is the song that I have been encouraged to cut loose for 2 of the chorus sections. Gerr seemed to imply that I should ‘suggest’ a groove, but not ever play it, just do rhythmic fills, every bar, all the way through the chorus sections. Like ‘beat fills’ I suppose. This was my chance to use the inspiration of Steve Gadd’s playing at the end of Steely Dan’s Aja ( not even close obviously, but that was sort of in my head). I tuned up the Black Beauty from very low to medium. I loved the trust I was given to cut loose. We did just 2 takes, in the spirit of Led Zeppelin One where they only allowed themselves 4 takes during a 36 hour recording session! And you can really hear the freshness in that record!

Getting into it! My friend from my College years said that when I play drums with my eyes closed, I look like a lesbian making love. I still to this day have no idea what she meant!

Song 4- ‘Ten Tonne Heart’

We’re on the final straight now and the last song featured a straight 4/4 beat with brushes, and shaker and tambourine overdubs. Essential underestimated percussion skills for every drummer. Back to the Premier maple snare. So warm!

I had a preconceived idea for this, but I let it go in the end, and didn't force it.

This was an unused idea with a ‘Stacker’ ( playing a cymbal on top of a cymbal). I kind of chickened out of playing it in the end. Another time maybe.

Saturday- A day off.

Of sorts. I was filling out US visa forms ( boy is the US immigration process exhausting) for a Kila tour this September and I could hear this noise coming from the kitchen. It was like tiny footsteps but in a part ‘scrapey-slide’. It was my 2 year old and I couldn’t wait to see what she had been ‘up to’ this time. Scrape , slide, scrape slide, around the corner she comes…She had got the butter dish down from the kitchen worktop somehow and had mashed her foot into the butter in the dish and used it as a kind of ski, sliding towards me with mischievous glee. We had the buttery footprint DNA evidence of another heinous crime to add to her lengthy rap sheet. There was I hoping to take myself seriously for the day, as rock stars do, and have a perfectly behaved child sitting down with perfect posture and perfect manners while I knelt down at my own alter, my own shrine. But no that generally isn't possible.

© Dave Hingerty 2024