Ken Scott Mix Interview

A CAREER OF CLASSIC TRACKS
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KS_AbbeyRd.web.jpg

Ken Scott at Abbey Road, where he was one of the
engineers to help The Beatles record The White Album: “The myth is that these sessions were horrible...I hate hearing that because it wasn’t like that.”

Photo: courtesy Mike
Banks

The great appeal of Mix magazine’s popular “Classic Tracks” feature lies in producers’ and engineers’ curiosity about the sound of their favorite recordings. What happened in the studio, what equipment was used, what artistic decisions were made in that moment to create Booker T’s B3 sound on “Time Is Tight”? Or Patsy Cline’s vocal on “Crazy”? Or Keith Richards’ guitar riff on “Start Me Up”? Well, for anyone who eats that stuff up, who looks forward to “Classic Tracks” every month, it’s Christmas in March.

Ken Scott is the engineer/producer behind legendary recordings from The Beatles, Elton John, Mahavishnu Orchestra, America, David Bowie, Dixie Dregs, Devo, Missing Persons, Jeff Beck, Lou Reed and so many others. As a staff engineer for EMI and then Trident Studios (both in London), Scott had the opportunity to work with some of the most important artists and producers in the 1960s and ’70s, and to develop recording and mixing techniques that he still employs today. The good news for readers is he has no qualms about sharing. Scott’s latest release is A Ken Scott Collection: EpiK DrumS, a plug-in library of classic drum sounds, carefully made with the original drummers on some of Scott’s best tracks so that today’s engineers can re-create and/or manipulate Billy Cobham’s (Mahavishnu Orchestra) drum sound or Bob Siebenberg’s (Supertramp) or Rod Morgenstein’s (Dixie Dregs), etc. (See the sidebar “Ken Scott’s EpiK Drum SoundS.”)

Scott’s desire to offer these classic sounds to the masses stemmed from a conversation he had at a re-visit to Abbey Road Studio 2, where he became re-acquainted with Brian Gibson, a maintenance engineer he’d worked with on Beatles sessions back in the day.

“We hadn’t seen each other in donkey’s years,” Scott says. “He told me had specifically asked to work that day so we could have a chat about old times. And he said, ‘Do you remember, when we started here, there were all these old timers who had the most incredible stories of the beginnings of recording? And we used to just sit there listening, fascinated by what they were saying.’ And I said, ‘Yeah, absolutely.’ And he said, ‘Well we’ve now become them. The next generation now wants to hear our stories.’”

Here are just a handful of Ken Scott’s stories.
—Barbara Schultz

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The Beatles in 1968

The Beatles: “Helter Skelter”
(The White Album, 1968)

Scott sets the record straight about the mood in Abbey Road Studio 2 for these sessions, which took place early in his long career.

The initial attempts at “Helter Skelter” were done by Geoff Emerick, along with several other tracks on the White Album. Then Geoff quit the project, and I came in. This is one of the earliest 8-track recordings that we did there. Abbey Road wasn’t really set up properly for 8-track, so to be able to actually record anything and hear it back, we could only ever hear seven tracks at a time. We had to move things around if we were doubling something that had been already recorded. It wasn’t an easy project the way it is these days.

The sessions were a bit weird because George Martin had gone on vacation. He was having less and less to do with it on that particular album. Each individual [Beatle] was so much in control.

The myth is that these sessions were horrible. I haven’t worked on any project where there hasn’t been some tension at some point during the recording. We’re talking about a six-month project here, so there are going to be tempers flaring every now and then, but the majority of the time we had a blast. It was fun and they were so great to work with. The whole thing about how bad it was—complete myth. I hate hearing that because it really wasn’t like that.

Anyway, George had gone on vacation, and he had left his assistant Chris Thomas there. Chris had been hanging out for a bit, but he was always in the background, and this was one of the first, if not the first, track that he actually had to take over from George Martin and
be classified as the producer. I know he felt very intimidated by it sitting beside me the first session. They were always going, “How was that one, Ken?” with Chris sitting next to me knowing that he is supposedly the producer on this, but finally he managed to win them over. We did a lot of recording once he settled in. It became a very fast-paced session.

Paul wanted it loud and raucous, so they turned up loud and raucous. We would change things during sessions so what was finally used isn’t completely known. I can tell you because I’ve got two setup sheets that I did from around about that period, that on the bass drum it would have been an AKG D19C, the overhead either a Neumann KM56 or an STC
4038 ribbon. There would have been a Neumann KM56 on snare and a couple of other D19s sort of placed for the toms. Bass guitar would have been DI, and also either a Neumann U67 or an STC 4038 [Coles] ribbon. Guitars would have been Neumann U67s. You can see where I got my love of Neumann U67s. And the vocals would have been Neumann U47s.

A lot of it was cut live, though there were overdubs done. We’d only just moved from 4-track, so everyone was used to playing live at that point. Basic tracks were live, and we would tend to mix everything together still. We didn’t separate each individual thing. We had to make decisions up front. We did about 3 takes on that track. One of the quicker ones.

During overdubs, we put extra guitars on—probably with George [Harrison] and Paul [McCartney] playing together. In looking up [my records of the session], I saw that apparently there is some trumpet and some sax on there, which I have absolutely no recollection of, so I can’t tell you anything about that. And of course all the vocals were
overdubbed.

Back then I was still learning my gig, so I was concentrating more on what I was doing than what they were doing. I have very few stories from back then. I do remember doing a mix [of “Helter Skelter”] one day when they were particularly late. Chris Thomas and I decided to do a mix that probably today would have worked well, because we compressed everything out of it. We were using the typical Abbey Road Altec compressors, and we just squashed it, exactly like everything sounds today, and we loved it. But they hated it.

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George Harrison: “What Is Life?”
(All Things Must Pass, 1970)

Scott overdubbed and mixed tracks for this singular, Phil Spector-influenced song.

The album All Things Must Pass started off at Abbey Road by an engineer called Phil McDonald, who went on to do quite a lot of work with George; he did a lot of the Abbey Road album as well, which is how George got to know him. When they started off, they were
only 8-track there at that point. They recorded the basic tracks and they started to overdub, but they realized they were running out of tracks really fast. Meanwhile, I was at Trident by that time, and we were, I think, 16-track then, so George said, “Okay, enough, move to Trident.” We transferred most of the stuff to 16-track and then carried
on overdubbing there, and then mixing.

Mixing at Trident was always done through a Sound Techniques board. They had the one in the studio and one in the mix room. Eventually they installed a Trident A Range in the studio, but the mix studio always had the Sound Techniques board.

The producers on the album were George and Phil Spector. For the overdubs we never saw Phil and then for the mixes he would just come by now and then. Normally, George and I would get in there at 2:30 or 3:00 in the afternoon, we’d spend some time getting it to where we were both happy, then Phil would come by for maybe an hour. He’d pass his
comments, we would mull them over between us, and normally I think we made the changes he wanted. Then he would go and we’d finish it off, and then we’d come back the next day, start again.

Phil Spector was very precise in how to get his sound. I did a Ronnie Spector session with him. That was the first time I met him, and whilst he was downstairs in the studio teaching the session musicians the song, I was upstairs and I had got what I considered my normal sound. He came up once everyone was playing it well, and he had me make three
not great changes, and it totally changed from my sound to his. He knew exactly where to zero in to change it from my sound to his. I wish I could remember exactly what he had me change, but he knew exactly how to get his sound.

As a song arrangement, “What Is Life” was fairly well formed when I received the tracks. What I was presented with—the tape that came in—had bass, drums, keyboards and some guitar; it had the acoustic guitars, it had Eric [Clapton]’s rhythm guitar and some of George’s, but we did overdub more, and [add] some brass on it. We also overdubbed
orchestra, all of the backing vocals—all of the backing vocals were George, as well—and George’s lead vocals.

Now that was the tough part on all of the tracks on that album—the vocals—because all of the backing vocals were George, and there are masses of them. So we would put down four, bounce them down to one track, then he’d put down another four, and we’d bounce those two tracks together, because we only had 16 tracks; we didn’t have that many tracks to play with. It was continually like, once we knew we’d got something, we’d bounce it down and then overdub on top of that until we had all that we needed.

The mics we used during overdubbing would have been much the same as at Abbey Road. Acoustics would have been 414s, maybe 67s. Vocals for George were all 67s. On orchestra, the violins and violas would have been 67s. The cellos would have been 414s, trumpets and trombones would have been ribbons—and I think at that point, the ribbons we were using there were 4038s—and for saxes, it would have been a 67.

The monitors in the mix room at Trident at that point were Lockwood cabinets with Tannoy Gold speakers, I think. I’m not absolutely sure if they were the Reds or the Golds, but I think they were the Golds. We used the EMT plate reverb, of course, and at times some tape delay, either with the reverb or single-repeat sort of tape echo on things, and that would have been one the Studer stereos that were there.

At the time, we loved the way this track sounded. It was exactly what we were after, but as time progresses, people’s tastes change, and George came to hate reverb. We would both have loved to remix the whole thing before the re-mastering [for the reissue], but EMI didn’t like that idea; they said we had to put it out as people were used to it.

I certainly don’t regret it, but it would be nice to hear it not so “Spectorish.”

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Elton John: “Rocket Man”
(Honky Château, 1972)

After
leaving Abbey Road and joining Trident Studios, Scott found himself
traveling to France with Gus Dudgeon and a cutting-edge artist called
Elton John.

I had been working at Abbey Road, but I had a falling out with the management whilst recording The Beatles’ White Album
and decided to leave. I had been doing sessions with an unknown
producer at that time, a guy by the name of Gus Dudgeon, and knowing he
was doing the rounds of various independent studios, I said, “Where
would you recommend [I look for another job],”and he said I should talk
to Trident Studios. I went down, met with them, and they said, “Yes,
come on board,” and I loved the place, and so it started.

Initially, I was supposed to be working with Gus because we’d worked
together before at Abbey Road, but it didn’t finish out that way.
They’d put an up-and-coming engineer called Robin Geoffrey Cable with
Gus. Gus came in with this unknown artist called Elton John, and Robin
worked on it and did amazing records with him. Unfortunately, after
they recorded Madman Across the Water,
Robin had a really bad car crash. They’d done the recordings, but they
didn’t have any mixes of them. Because of the Gus connection from the
past, I was put on to mix that album and the next two albums, which led to Honky Chateau.

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Scott at Trident circa ’72

Photo: courtesy Ken Scott

Elton wanted a complete change; he was fed up with recording in London.
Plus, the English tax laws had changed, so if you recorded something
outside of England, you didn’t have to pay English taxes. I don’t know
if he or Gus decided to go to Château d'Hérouville [Hérouville, France], but that’s where it all happened. It was certainly very
different from recording at Trident.

It was actually a working studio. I believe we might have been the first big international act to record there, but various French acts
had recorded there before. I think they had a specially made board, which I really don’t remember too much about, but I think it must have been [a] 24-track. I can’t remember if [the recorder] was 3M or Ampex.
I know it wasn’t a Studer. I was totally into using Kepex gates at that time for drums, so we rented those.

For “Rocket Man,” we were actually there for the writing of the song.
We were there for pre-production, and Bernie Taupin would go every
night about 7 or 8 o’clock to his room. Every morning he would come
down to breakfast with a stack of papers which he would immediately
give to Elton, and Elton would go to his piano and he’d be going
through these pieces of paper and saying, “Nah, I don’t like that one,
throw it away.” He would keep going through the pieces of paper till he
came to one and said, “Oh, I quite like that,” and within 10 minutes,
he’d come up with the music for “Rocket Man.” We all finished eating,
the band got behind their instruments and started to play. It was one
of those amazing things.

We had them all set up in the studio live: drums, piano, bass and some guitar. When we were recording at Trident, there was a specified drum
room where the drums would always set up, but we didn’t have that
luxury at the Chateau. So, because all the piano tracks were live with
drums and bass and some guitar, we had to somehow sort out the
separation problem. Gus got in some carpenters and they built a box
that went right over the top of the piano and completely blocked out
everything without changing the piano sound too much. There were a
couple of holes in it that I could poke the mics through, and it worked
out really well.

Vocals would have been overdubbed later. I don’t think we even would have done rough vocals during tracking. It was so open that it would
have been picked up on the drums and all of that.

As for microphones, on piano it was either Neumann KM56 or a Neumann KM86 on the high end of the piano. I can’t remember when it changed
over from the tube-type mics to the FETs, but they’re much the same. On
the low end of the piano would have been a Neumann U67 or a Neumann U87.

On drums, I know on overheads I would have been using ribbons—probably Beyer M160s. The snare would have been Neumann KM56, 54 or KM84. Bass
drum would have been a D20 AKG. I don’t know what I finished up using on toms. Nigel was using concert toms, which had no bottom heads, so we actually miked from inside the tom. Now I would normally use a Neumann U67 or an 87, but with him I’m not sure. We may have tried those. I’m
not sure if we still used them. Bass I think I took the direct all the time.

On electric guitars I would have used a Neumann U67 or an 87. Remember that back then, these mics were the norm; it’s only now that they’ve
become expensive and collectable. On acoustic guitar, it would have
been either an AKG C12A or a 414—again there’s that changeover period.

We did a few more overdubs at Trident after we finished in France. For the overdubs, we would have used a Sound Techniques board, and we would
have moved upstairs to the mix room, and it was at that point, if I remember correctly, that the ARP synthesizer was put on by Dave
Hentschel, who was just a second engineer there at that time. That’s the sound of the “rocket” taking off and bursting in and out of the
atmosphere on the record.

Elton’s vocal would either have been a Neumann U67 or an AKG C12 or
414. That track was complicated to mix, because you have the intimate
sound of Elton and his piano, and you have the choir and the bigger
reverb sound later in the track. That was done with many hands on the
board. Gus always liked to take control of the drums, because he always
liked to push them up for the fills, so he would tend to take care of
the rhythm section, I would tend to take care of the piano, lead guitar
overdubs and vocals. Any other little changes that would need to be
done would be the second engineer, he would lean over the two of us. As
for the reverb, at Trident we would have used one EMT plate. Some times
we’d put delay on it, sometimes we wouldn’t, but everything was going
through the same reverb.

Gus and I had worked together years before. We thought along the same
lines sonically, and we both knew instinctively how things had to
happen. We both loved dynamics. With Elton, plus the blend of Dee
Murray, Nigel Olsson and Davey Johnstone on backing vocals—they just
went out there and sang, and it was like a choir of angels. They
sounded so good together, and the backing vocals were always so easy.

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America: “I Need You”
(America, 1972)

Back at Trident, Scott tracked and mixed the debut album from a transplanted folk-rock trio.

America sounded very Crosby Stills and Nash-ish vocally. It was a strange kind of thing because here we were in England. It was all
recorded at Trident. It was three guys, who were basically army brats.
They’d been playing around all of these different U.S. Air Force bases.

Ian Samwell and Jeff Dexter were the producers. Ian Samwell goes way
back. He was a session guitarist, and he wrote or co-wrote the B-side
of Cliff Richards’ first single for EMI. So he goes back a ways and had
a very rock ’n’ roll type background. Jeff Dexter, on the other hand,
was a very hip DJ at the time. DJs weren’t quite as hip then as they
are now, but still, it was a very strange pairing. Most of the time,
they got on very well, and they obviously had the same idea. The
combination of these producers and this almost folk-ish type trio was
different, but it worked.

The trio [Dewey Bunnell, Dan Peek and Gerry Beckley] wouldn’t sing when
we laid down the basic tracks. That was all put on later. Generally,
whoever was playing the acoustics would play. On the drums they brought
in a friend, and I have a vague recollection of having problems with
the drums, which could be one of the reasons they’re not featured that
strongly. That was all at Trident, so we could have had the A range by
then.

The acoustic guitars for everything would have been cut live, possibly
with some overdubs, and the drums would have been live, but the bass
may have been overdubbed.

The tape machine was a 16-track 3M machine. That was recorded on an A
Range and mixed on the Sound Techniques. All of the mixes done at
Trident would have been done to a Studer 2-track.

They had been making music together for a while, playing at these U.S.
Air Force bases. I don’t think they’d done much more than that, but
they had their harmonies all worked out. They stood together in the
room to do their vocals. I think I had them on three 67s—each one on
his own—and then I’d get the EQ and blend them upstairs [in the mix
room] if I remember correctly. I don’t think they were quite at a point
where they could do it, or we even wanted it, where the three of them
were round one mic. We separated them and got the blend upstairs.

I know that later on in their existence, they refused to sing choruses more than once, so they had to fly in the rest of the choruses. I have
to state for the record that on that album they sang everything. These
days, that’s common practice with computers, but it wasn’t quite so
easy to do it back then.

The only problem with [the album America] was that
Warner Bros. said they didn’t hear a single, so they went into Morgan
Studios [London] and recorded “Horse With No Name.” That was added
later. But the album did very well. It was certainly the first time I’d
ever been involved in it, and it may have been the first time it
happened, but they had simultaneously the Number One single and the
Number One album in England and the States.

I think we all thought that “I Need You” would be the single. But maybe
the label felt they needed something a little quirkier, which “Horse
With No Name” certainly was. We had a blast working together, though;
it was really nice. When I first moved over to the States, one person I
kept on running into just walking down the street was Gerry Beckley.
For a couple of years, we just kept bumping into each other. It was
strange.

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Devo: “Secret Agent Man”
(Duty Now for the Future, 1979)

Scott
and his family moved to L.A. when Scott was working steadily with
Supertramp. During this period, he was frequently found at Chateau
Recorders in North Hollywood, Calif.

I got a phone call from Devo’s management company saying, “Devo would
like to meet with you with regard to doing their next album. Would you
be interested?” I flew up to San Francisco, saw them play live, and
then we spoke at breakfast the next morning, and it took off from
there. My understanding is that they liked what I’d done with Bowie,
and that’s what brought us together.

The album was all done at Chateau Recorders. They had a Trident A Range
board, which they put in specifically for me. What the monitors were
I’m not sure. It was Studer 24-track, I think, and for some of the
stuff I did there, they actually had a 16 and a 24 linked.

Devo were a very professional band to work with. They had a stage
persona that they were complete lunatics, but in real life they were
nowhere close to that. I’ll tell you one funny story about that: The
owner of the studio wanted to show someone around midway through the
recording and asked me if that would be okay, so I said, “Yes, as long
as it’s quick.” He came in with this guy, and instantly, the guys
turned into their stage persona and Mark Mothersbaugh started to run
around screaming at the top of his voice and really scared the person
away quickly. But as soon as he had gone, we went back to work and it
was total professionalism again.

Typical of me, it was basically bass and drums, and everything else was
overdubbed afterward, so if we had to manipulate things, we could. We
did try some weird things, though. There was one guitar part, and I
think it was on “Secret Agent Man,” though I can’t absolutely confirm
it, but we wanted a really small guitar sound, so we finished up taping
a pair of headphones to a mic, and then we fed the guitar direct. I
distorted it like crazy, overloading mic pre’s and all of that, and
then we fed it out through the headphones and picked it up again
through the mic, and that was the guitar sound. Anything that works.

Another thing I remember that I loved about working at Chateau was the
way I could have the studio doors open; I would have one mic in the
foyer, which was all Spanish tile, and one in the bathroom or the
kitchen. I had to tell everyone who worked there, we’re going to be
recording, so please keep the noise down; all the phones had to be
turned off whilst we were doing takes, but that gave an amazing distant
miking. The studio was dead, but you could always open up that door and
put the mics out there.

Missing Persons: “Walking in L.A.”
(Spring Session M, 1982)
Scott saw something in the Missing Persons that contradicted label rejections and even his own better judgment.

When I first moved to L.A., we rented a house in the Hollywood Hills,
and we needed to get the gas and electricity turned on. So one day I
drop my family off so they could wait for all of this to happen, and I
go to work. I finished about 6:00, drive up to the house, and there’s
no one there. There’s no lights on, and they haven’t got a car, so they
couldn’t have gotten anywhere unless they’d called a cab or something.
I didn’t know where they’d gone, and I was sitting and wondering what’s
going on when my older daughter comes up and bangs on the window. She’s
there with another girl and she says, “Daddy, this is Moon.” I said to
myself, “Okay, I don’t think there are too many people called Moon.”
Next question she asks is: “Do you know a guy called Frank Zappa? We’re
at his house across the street.” What an introduction to the Hollywood
Hills.

So, she dragged me over there. I don’t think Frank was there at that
point, but I met the rest of the family, and we became quite good
friends. I went to see Frank play one night, and he had this new
drummer, a guy called Terry Bozzio, and I thought he was incredible.

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Cut to some time later. I’d moved by this time; I’d now bought a house
just down the road from Frank. I get a phone call one afternoon from
Gail Zappa, his wife, and she says, “Terry’s over here with his wife
and Warren [Cuccurullo], the guitarist from Frank’s band, and they’ve
formed a band. Would you take a listen to them?” I said, “Sure, send
them down.”

Five minutes later they banged on the door: this very strange woman
with multicolored hair and Terry and Warren, and they play me what is
probably one of the worst demo tapes I have ever heard in my life. I
thought, “My God, what have they got me involved in?” But I can only
assume it was my love of Terry’s playing that prompted me to take it to
the next step, which was to say, “Look I don’t like this, but let me
come and see you play live.”

“Well, we don’t play out, we’re just rehearsing.” “Okay, I’ll come down
and see you rehearse.” And it was terrible. But something grabbed me,
and I don’t know now exactly what it was, but I saw something there and
I said, “Yeah, let’s do some demos.”

Frank had just had his home studio built, and he knew my reputation for
finding faults in studios, and so he said, “You can go in, record your
demos in my studio free of charge, but remember no one’s been in there
before, so there are going to be things wrong with it.” He knew I would
find every single bad fault there was in that place, so he could go in
straight off the road and play. It was great for all of us. We knew
what the deal was, so we had the patience when things held us up a bit.
That was fine because we were getting the place for free and Frank
finished up with a fault-free studio.

So we recorded five songs, and I tried to shop them, and no one was
interested. We went through the American labels about three times, we
went through English labels, Australian labels. No one was interested.
So we put it out ourselves, funded by Warren’s parents. One of the
tracks finished up being the most requested record of the year on the
L.A. radio station KROQ, which was very important at that point. And we
sold out the Santa Monica Civic, which was 2,000-plus seats.

That was off of the EP that included “Destination Unknown,” “I Like
Boys,” “Mental Hopscotch” and [a cover of The Doors’] “Hello, I Love
You.” All of this then led to a deal with Capitol. They wanted to
release the EP themselves as a 12-inch, but they wanted us to dump
“Hello, I Love You,” and wanted us to replace that with “Words.” So we
went into Chateau Recorders to record “Words,” which, come to think of
it, we’d already done as a demo and we just tarted it up a little and
that was what finished up being the version.

Once the 12-inch EP had been put out, a short time after, it was time
to do an album, so we recorded everything else the way you would do a
normal album.

More often than not it was Terry, completely on his own. As he was
co-writer for most of the songs, he knew exactly what he wanted to
play, and then we’d start overdubbing from there. First off, it would
be bass. By this time, it was Patrick O’Hearn on bass. And Terry would
consistently be [saying], “No, lay it back a bit. I want everyone to
think the drums are pushing. Lay it back. Lay it back.” It was
horrendous for Patrick. [Laughs]

Then it would be guitars or keyboards, depending on which was most
predominant, and then it would be Dale [Bozzio, lead singer], and then
backing vocals.

By this time, I had a [bass drum-miking] technique that I came up with
when I was working on an album by Stanley Clarke. We used various
drummers, but at one point we used a drummer called Tony Williams.

We had put down a couple of tracks, and they were okay. We weren’t
jumping up and down about them, but they were adequate. We came to the
third track, and it just was not happening. Tony just wasn’t giving
what we needed. So I went out and had a talk with him. I’d first set up
the drums the way I normally did with the one head on and padding in
there and then the mic inside. I’ve got to give it to Tony: he didn’t
argue. He said, “Okay if that’s what you want, that’s what I’ll do.”

I said, “What’s happening? We’re not getting it from you. You’re not
feeling comfortable. Why?” And he said, “I’m used to playing with both
heads on the bass drum. I’m not getting the bounce back from it with
just a single head, and it’s holding me back.”

And I said, “Okay, disappear for 15 minutes, go and have a coffee
break, and I’ll see what I can come up with.” So I finished up
suspending, with wire, an RE20 inside the bass drum with the cable
coming out through one of the air holes. I put a little damping in
there, put the other head on, and put some more damping on that head,
and it worked perfectly. He got what he needed, I got what I needed,
and I continued to use that technique for quite some time after that. I
did that with Terry.

In fact, bringing just a little EpiK DrumS into this, on the EpiK DrumS Website,
there
are a bunch of videos we made whilst recording the various drummers,
and it shows this technique where I was doing it with Terry
in the studio, so if anybody wants to see how I did it, they can.

Barbara Schultz is the copy chief at Mix magazine.

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Sidebar
Ken Scott’s EpiK Drum SoundS

The drum sounds on Sonic Reality’s A Ken Scott Collection—Epik Drums
were created using as close a match of environment, acoustics,
equipment and technique as Scott could assemble. Most importantly, he
was able to work with the original drummers from several of his
best-known projects: Terry Bozzio of Missing Persons, Woody Woodmansey
of David Bowie’s Spiders From Mars, Bill Cobham of Mahavishnu
Orchestra, Rod Morgenstein of Dixie Dregs and Bob Siebenberg of
Supertramp. Two years in the making, the collection is distributed as a
hard drive containing more than 130 GB of drum sounds.

“I chose five very distinct drum sounds from my past,” Scott says. “I
contacted all of the original drummers, and they all jumped at the
idea.” Scott and the developers then went about finding out where they
could use Trident A Range boards in acoustical environments that were
as close as possible to the studios they’d worked in decades ago.

“We rented all of the same mics I would have used,” Scott says,
“basically 67s, and rented drum kits as close as we could to the
originals. The biggest problem there was for Bill Cobham and Rod
Morgenstein, because they used Fibes drum kits, which are now out of
business.

“First, the drummers were playing along with tracks that I had recorded
with them and I worked on getting the sound as close as we possibly
could to the original. Then we had them play as they originally had,
then modify their playing a bit, and then we just let them go. They
were absolutely phenomenal. Rod Morgenstein would go for 15 minutes at
a time. I had the easy part of the task.”

“Now consider, most of them are 30 to 40 years older than they were,
but they’ve got to try to play the same way they did back then,” Scott
continues. “Their styles have changed since then, but that was great,
because going back to that, they were playing it fresh. It was exciting
for them again. But they were going for hours on end with very few
breaks. The sweat was going everywhere. It was amazing.

The drum sounds exist as whole-kit sounds, as 3-track mixes, and as
individual pieces, where mics are isolated so that users can create
their own drum mixes. “A lot of engineers today have never recorded a
real drum kit,” Scott says. “We want the collection to be used both as
a tool for people to be able to use the sounds and a stable of
recordings—from the English glam-rock Bowie sound to the jazz fusion
things of Cobham and everything in between—so that engineers can
quickly, if they know what they’re after, zero in on specific drum
sounds and/or parts very quickly.

Scott plans to record a collection of bass sounds next. However, he
points out that, “Anyone can use the same techniques that I use, but
it’s going to come out differently, because we hear things slightly
differently, and we change minute things; we couldn’t even describe
what we change. We just do it instinctively and it comes out the way we
want it to. That’s what makes a classic track.”

For more information, go to www.epikdrums.com.