The band worked in Electric Lady Studio A
Cross a Southern gentleman with death metal, and what do you get? Chris Adler, the drummer for modern-day heavy sound icons Lamb of God. As fiercely aggressive, powerful, precise and mathematically accurate behind the kit as he is soft-spoken everywhere else, Adler left his band’s Virginia home base to record the drums for LOG’s sixth album, Wrath, in the urban forest of New York City.
Adler’s trip up north to Electric Lady Studios (www.electricladystudios.com) to work with emerging star producer Josh Wilbur (www.aaminc.com) illustrates that New York City is still a desirable destination for artists working on the elite level. For Wilbur and the Grammy-nominated Lamb of God, the huge live room and SSL 9000J of Electric Lady’s Studio A were ideal to follow the 2006 Sacrament, which had seen Wilbur recording the drums for producer Machine at New York City’s Spin Music Studios.
“Electric Lady’s Studio A is huge — about three-quarters the size of a basketball court,” Wilbur explains of the studio choice. “It’s a darker room than Spin, and I thought it might be cool for this record to go a little darker and larger. Keep in mind that for cymbals, no matter how close you mike them, you can’t get rid of the characteristics of the room — just being in it will alter the sound.”
Wilbur (Steve Earle, Fuel, Avril Lavigne), who has been gaining notoriety in no small part for his ability to record superb drum sounds for albums that he’s engineering or producing, explains his approach to capturing Adler’s machine-like mastery of his double-kick Mapex drumkit.
“Everyone wants to know what mics you put on the kit,” says Wilbur. “I did things very similarly to the way I did on Sacrament — I even used the exact same Shure SM57. Chris’ toms are too close to the snare to get a full 57 in there, so we unscrewed the mic in half and extended the cables so that essentially the 57 was 2 inches long and put that in front of the kit. I also took a Shure Beta 98/S and taped it to the 57 so I could have a dynamic and a condenser mic, with a little piece of Moon Gel in between so the vibrations wouldn’t screw it up. The 98 gets more of a pong sound out of Chris’ snare, and the 57 is a little more crack.”
In addition to a Shure Beta 52A on the kick drum and an array of AKG 451s on Adler’s multitude of cymbals, Wilbur employed his trustiest secret weapon: a budget pair of Audio-Technicas that have been his go-to stereo room mics for more than 10 years. “I almost always A/B them against a Neumann U87 or a tube mic or some kind or ribbon, and I always come back to these mics,” he says with a laugh. “They just sound like you’re in there, and that’s what you want in a great drum room like Electric Lady.”
Next in the signal path, Wilbur specifies API, Neve and the SSL’s stock mic pre’s. “Neves have a very soft, pillowy bottom, and the APIs sound sharp and aggressive to me — the hi-hats and a lot of cymbals are the APIs,” notes Wilbur. “When SSL made the J, they kind of chased the Neve mic pre. They’re designed better than what was in the G Series, and I think they’re great.”
Recording at 96kHz/24-bit to Digidesign Pro Tools HD3, Wilbur relied on his extensive SSL training to fly on Studio A’s 80-input 9000J for tracking and mixing duties. He was assisted in the editing phase by Paul Suarez. “We ended up having 30 mics on this kit,” Wilbur states. “When it’s all said and done, in the actual mix the mics that are always open are the main cymbals, room, snare and kick. But all of the other mics’ files we delete in Pro Tools except for when their instruments are actually hit. The idea is that I don’t need the bleed from an open mic for six minutes waiting for a bell to be struck once. We’re making a metal record: It’s got to be tight and sharp.”
Adding to the intensity of the fast-paced sessions — two meticulous metal songs a day for 10 days straight — was the fact that the band and Epic Records installed live Webcams in the live room (complete with mic) and control room (no microphone) to give fans a view of all the proceedings as they unfolded in real time. Although it took a couple of days for Wilbur and Adler to get used to their reality-show status, the pair ultimately had no choice but to focus on the task of recording the Southern gent’s massive drum tracks.
“I like recording drums because — and I’m quoting the producer Garth Richardson here — it’s a big ship to steer,” Wilbur concludes. “That would make Chris Adler’s drums an aircraft carrier: That shit is huge, with a lot of planes taking off and landing!”
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