MIKE BORDIN | June 2015 | Rhythm Magazine
AS THE LEGENDARY FAITH NO MORE RETURN WITH A NEW RECORD, MIKE BORDIN TELLS RHYTHM ABOUT 30 YEARS SINCE THEIR FIRST ALBUM, CONFOUNDING EXPECTATIONS WITH THEIR NEW MATERIAL AND THE RHYTHMIC LANGUAGE SPOKEN BY THE BAND.
"I have no idea why I said I'd start playing drums." says Mike 'Puffy' Bordin. Faith No More's dreadlocked kit-smasher. He's making this admission while relating to Rhythm the fateful moment, in future-Metallica bass legend Cliff Burton's bedroom, that the teenaged pals decided that making music was what they would do with the rest of their lives.
"We had been good friends for a few years." says Bordin of his relationship with the tragic bassist, "listening to a lot of music and going to a lot of shows together in the area. and spending time really obsessing about a lot of the bands of the day. And we were sitting in his bedroom listening to his record player and Cliff said, 'I'm going to start playing bass,' and I said, 'Okay. I'm going to start playing drums.' And l did, and he did, and that's really how it started. It was really instinctive, I guess. I was 13, that was 39 years ago, we both started and jammed together and played together and learned together."
For Mike Bordin, that decision would kick-start a career in drums that has included a decade as hard rock godfather Ozzy Osbourne's go-to drummer, and now seven albums with Faith No More, including brand new release, Sol Invictus.
When it comes to alternative rock. Faith No More straddles the eras like a colossus - one foot in the decade that saw the fruits of the USA'S late punk bloom, after the British Punk Invasion snowballed into a home invasion across the 1980s; the other
transcending the post-Nirvana stump that has since seen "alternative" music appropriated into a by-numbers mainstream - and in the process creating a legacy that spawned nu-metal (with Slipknot, Limp Bizkit and more acknowledging a debt). The reason the band have been able to survive to be still held in high regard has been their considerable ability to confound expectations, while always sounding like no one but themselves.
Personally, they've had their trials. Original singer Chuck Mosley was fired from the band after, Bordin now relates, kindly, "he'd gotten himself into some chaos". Chuck's departure might have scuppered any other band after just two albums 1985's We Care A Lot. and 1987's better-mixed introduce Yourself, both of which featured the magnificent alternative rock hit 'We Care A Lot'. But it was just the beginning of Faith No More's success, in came a young, long-haired, big-shorts wearing kid called Mike Patton - and a run of groundbreaking, massively influential albums followed. The Real Thing (1989) was the first, and stood tall in a hurricane of zeitgeist-defining, still significant US rock releases from that time from the likes of Nirvana. Pixies. Chili Peppers, REM, Guns N' Roses, Sonic Youth. Fugazi. Metallica, Jane's Addiction, you name it. Backed by the tribal beats and rock-solid power of Mike Bordin's drums, with Roddy Bottum's majestically sweeping keys, Billy Gould's clamorous picked basslines and Jim Martin's awesome metal guitar riffs, Patton's boundless energy and incredible vocal versatility created a new beast entirely. The band never followed trends, instead mixing muscular thrash, funk, punk, post-hardcore and Sabbath-style hard rock on tracks like 'Epic', 'From Out Of Nowhere' and 'Falling To Pieces'. It was a template (of the very loosest kind) that they were able to put to the superb Angel Dust in 1992, which spawned the hits 'Midlife Crisis' and 'A Small Victory'. The band contributed a track. 'The Perfect Crime', to Bill And Ted's Bogus Journey (excellent!), with "Sir" Jim Martin himself sent through time to teach a class of future-dudes how to rock.
Confounding expectations again, the band recorded a faithfully soulful version of the Commodores 'Easy' added to later pressings of Angel Dust and released as a single. The band also did rock/rap, working with Boo-Ya T.R.I.B.E. on the awesome 'Another Body Murdered'. With the band continuing to broaden their musical horizons, the metal-loving Martin left the band acrimoniously and the follow-up album, King For A Day... Fool For A Lifetime (1995) failed to quite find the form of Angel Dust, and in the late '90s the band seemingly ran out of steam, despite the decent enough Album Of The Year (1997).
Drummer Mike Bordin went on to work extensively with a reinvigorated, post-reality TV Ozzy Osbourne on albums including Down To Earth (2001), Undercover (2005) and Black Rain (2007). as well as rerecordings of Blizzard Of Oz and Diary Of A Madman, made due to legal wranglings with original drummer Lee Kerslake. He also found time to work with Alice In Chains guitarist Jerry Cantrell.
But as far as Faith No More was concerned, that was that or so we thought.
In 2009 the band reformed for a 'Second Coming' tour that took in Download that year and went round the world a couple of times too. But, while the band proved they still had what it takes, most believed it was more of a nostalgia tour. while, pretty much in secret, Bordin and Gould were beavering away on what has now become Sol Invictus, the band's first release in 18 years.
"It's such a bad word, the 'n' word [nostalgia], for me - I don't like the connotations," says Mike. "So we played a bunch of times and it became like, we're gonna stop playing or we're gonna have something to say and if you feel like you do have something to say, you're serious about the steps you take."
Inspired by his time recording with Ozzy in his home studio, Bordin and Gould kept to themselves in the
band's rehearsal studio while they laid down the bare bones of the new material.
"It was cool and it was exciting but it was a little nerve wracking too because nobody had heard [the tracks] at all. Recording's changed, first of all it's changed a lot and it's changed a few different ways and a few different times, but in my experience it changed a lot when I was not in Faith No More, in the interim. I did some stuff with Jerry Cantrell [Degradation, 2002] that I really liked, I was really happy with it, that was a whole different way of
going in. And then doing an album at Ozzy's house was a really good experience because it was a really nice studio but it was at his place and it was just us, it was very much more informal. It wasn't like going into Olympic studios or A&M studios, where you walk in and there's a secretary and whatever this is like going into some dude's house. And so the recording and the writing was different and it was great, I enjoyed the hell out of it. And [this time] it was informal, just me and Bill basically, so it was nice just fucking around with it just playing music like we had I guess in the past we just played together and stuff would come out. It was just a rehearsal room, he'd set up just a desk and mies and I got the drums to sound really good, and off we went. Nobody told us we couldn't do it that way, so we did it that way, and we just carried on with it."
With Gould as producer and engineer, the sessions progressed with guitarist Jon Hudson and Mike Patton dropping by to flesh the tracks out, and the New York-based Roddy Bottum adding to the material remotely.
"We all have to be [involved]," stresses Bordin, "we're all still a band together but it's a process and the process a lot of the time starts with bass and drums, because you're building the cake and after that a lot of things happen to the cake but you've got to build the damn thing first."
The limitations of the recording space meant that tracking together was never on the cards, though. "This is a rehearsal studio," explains Mike, "like one room with a pretty high ceiling, concrete walls and carpet, and he [Gould] had set up lots of deflectors and baffles and things like that and then at one end of the room there's a recording desk with studio monitors, and in the other corner of the room was all our touring gear and that wasn't even what I recorded on. So to do keys or bass or anything more than one thing you're not going to have any separation. There was no separation between the cymbals I was hitting and the engineer's ears and usually that's in another control room so they listen to it through speakers."
Having a band member in charge of the studio knob-twiddling was crucial to the process for Sol Invictus.
"He knew what we were talking about, he knew not only as the engineer - he had that hat on but also as the guy in the band writing songs, he knew what we were trying to get to. God damn, it's hard to say too much about the work and the role and the effort that he did, and if you knew you'd kind a feel sorry for him because he worked his ass off. He wore all those different hats so was it comforting yeah, but I don't see how it could have happened without him in those different capacities when they were needed,he did the job of probably, s**t I don't know, five people. I feel bad I hadn't thought about that! But it was crucial, there's no other way we could have done it."
When it came to drum sounds, it was very much on the fly, though Mike puts the end results down to the quality of his Yamaha drums.
"Any process of recording, it's not just the broad data of what you get, of what I play, it's also how you handle it - and do you trigger things or sample things?" he considers. "[The drums] sounded pretty damn good when we recorded them, and they sound pretty great now. I've been a great believer in Yamaha drums for a long time, since the middle '80s anyway, and one of the things I really like about them is the sonority, the tone, the tonality you get out of them. My drums, I can leave them after a run of tour dates in a drum case and pull
them out years later without touching them and they would still sound good, they'd be in tune, they'd have held the tension.
"And it's kind of a testament to how unplanned this was, the drums I recorded this album with are my rehearsal drums, I never would even think about recording with those drums otherwise. It was a Yamaha Absolute Maple Custom kit and I always, always used the Birch 9000 Recording Custom, and after that for the Ozzy record and some other stuff I used those Oak drums that I use on stage, they sound amazing. But I was just doing these tracks on the rehearsal kit. The sizes were the same but that was a Maple kit and they sound fantastic, so you don't know until you try it. The snare, too, that's my signature drum and I love that drum, it's the copper drum Yamaha made, it's real thick and hammered by hand on one half of it and it's very warm sounding but also pretty bright and sharp too."
Mike, it seems, has not only settled on the brand of drums for some time. but also the exact nature of his set-up, regardless of whether it's for Faith No More or even Ozzy. Indeed when Rhythm asks if his set-up has changed over the last 30 years, he laughs.
"I feel kind of bad sometimes, I've been talking about drums for 30 years now and,yeah, set-up's the same! The only thing that changed over the years was I was using a 26" kick for a while, stopped doing that, went to 24,1 had a 15, 16 rack but that was early, early days. I try to learn and evolve and try to just keep playing 'em good, like I like, and that's enough of a challenge for me. "The only one difference was for [Ozzy's] 'Crazy Train' for the big rock'n'roll ending for the big wash, I had a double pedal for that, didn't really use it any other time. I've got big drums and big cymbals and I try not to hit 'em too much and make 'em sound good when you hit 'em."
Going in to record their first album in 18 years, you'd expect that Mike and co would feel a little pressure to deliver on the record but it seems the secrecy surrounding the project meant the opposite was true.
"There were no expectations," he says. "We'd already done 50 shows and we could easily have said, that's '2.0' it was great, we had fun, but the point is nobody knew we were doing it so nobody gave a s**t! We were just able to get on with what we were doing and focus on that rather than focussing on all the other junk. To me it was the opposite, and expectations? F**k, I don't know it mostly always seems to come from inside anyway. I don't know what anyone expects out of me, out of Faith No More. They can't expect anything, they kind of expect everything. Because we don't know what to expect. All we know is it's going to be unexpected. Like if people think we're a heavy metal band and nothing else, we didn't do that in 1989, why would we do that now? There's always lots of elements of the stuff we do, just 'cos we all have varied tastes or different interests or we all like more than one type of music. Is that such a radical concept in 2015? Liking different kinds of music? I hope not! So expectations are so wide and undefined, and I'm grateful for that!"
The other big difference felt from the informal setting of the band's rehearsal space was evident in the way the tracks came together.
"They feel pretty natural and the flow, the feel, is good and that comes back to an informal recording environment. I'm willing to f**k around with stuff and take chances. Back in the day it was, 'Stop wasting time, we've got the studio booked, it's $57,000 an hour here to work, it's the record company budget!' And any of that other stuff that's nothing to do with music. I feel like coming in at 10 o'clock, maybe we start recording at 11, maybe we fuck around with some music till 1, it doesn't matter and that to me is going to lead to good performances; that to me is going to lead to discovery of something you might not have discovered."
Mike admits though that choosing a favourite drum-track from the album, or one that he's especially proud of, is tough.
"I've always just been proud of trying to play stuff that fits all these different moods and feelings and approaches, to me I learn different stuff each day doing s**t like that, playing music that I hadn't really considered, coming from somebody whose opinion I respect or talent I respect, and trying to sort of see where they're going, how we'll get there. So [the new album tracks] are all challenges, and I hope I'm proud of them all, as corny as that sounds. I love all my kids. I don't feel like I'm a 'look at me' or a particularly stand-out guy, I always feel that what I do is like being on a good team and that's always been my approach."
Sol invictus is a great new episode for Faith No More fans to live out, and it could win plenty of new fans too particularly from devotees of the many bands that still give lip-service to FNM's legacy.
There's epic tunes a plenty, monster riffs, pounding rhythms and a heaviosity to tracks like 'Superhero' 'Separation Anxiety' and the atmospheric, gothic 'Matador' Throughout, Bordin once again proves his worth as a schooled rhythmatist and percussive powerhouse while the band again extend their musical reach with the Spaghetti Western-meets-reggae cross-stick groove of 'Rise Of The Fall' and strummed rhythms of ode-to-materialistic-frenzy, 'Black Friday'.
"I was stoked on 'Black Friday'," enthuses Mike when I mention that as one of Rhythm's stand-outs from the album. "That was one we farted around with for a long time, I was really proud of that song, I don't think we've ever done anything like that before, and that kind of made me happy. It's like you've got an old, old fruit tree in an orchard and like, oh, look-it there, there's some fruit on it! To me that kind of tells you you're going in the right direction that's evolving somehow. I liked that, but then again, if it's a s**tty song that's not gonna make it any better, so it's gotta be a good song and something you haven't done before.
"The thing too that I'm proud of is that looking back at the last couple of Faith No More albums the balance was out, as far as the type of material that was on those records, especially the last record, and this one I really like the balance, I'm really happy with the fact I feel it is in balance. And what I mean is it's got a couple of songs that are pretty heavy and pretty aggressive, I feel like the energy of those jumps out of the record at you, and that's important to this band. There's smooth stuff you've probably heard on an album or two but there's got to be a lot of different stuff, it's got to be all kind of balanced into a satisfying sequence of feels. And I'm pretty happy with that there's enough heavy also, because I feel maybe we didn't have as much, or it wasn't as directly obvious as it could have been [on Album Of The Year]. So you have 'Black Friday' but you also have 'Superhero' or 'Separation Anxiety', or even 'Matador' which is nice. You know, just a lot of weight."
When Rhythm suggests that such a balance of feels is what made The Real Thing and Angel Dust classic, Bordin readily agrees.
"To me the good ones are in balance. The Real Thing was pretty young and even in that album, like 'Edge Of The World' was strange for people, or 'Underwater Love' or 'Falling To Pieces', there were different feels, different moods in that - and as you get older and more experienced you can go deeper with that and your variety is even more varied. So I hope the balance is there for us, to me that makes it satisfying."
Back to the San Francisco Bay area in the late 1970s, where Bordin and Cliff Burton are planning their next move toward rock legend status. The drummer and bass player decided to join the band of a talented young metal guitarist named Jim Martin, in the next town over, and the seeds were sown for not one but two great bands in Faith No More (originally called Faith No Man) and future-Metallica, but it was at the University of California where things really started to take shape both band-wise and rhythmically for Bordin, when
he took classes in African Percussion with Ghanaian master drummer CK Ladzekpo.
"I did that for a year or two," recalls Mike, "and it was nothing to do with the drumset, it was a dude from Ghana who was really cool, just this little guy - and man, every single limb, more than one rhythm could come out of each limb, plus his dancing, singing and he just had everything, he had rhythm everywhere. And the way that they stack the rhythms and put them against each other was really something for me. He was the real deal, and the coolest thing ultimately in the long run - and it goes back to us talking about Bill, and him recording the music also as a bandmate, a rhythm section guy knowing what we need - Bill and Roddy at that time were roommates and they were also at school, they knew each other from LA. I would go back to their place and I would show those guys what that dude was teaching me almost every day.
"What that did was, we all kind of learned a language together and we were the only ones who really spoke it. Because they were learning what I learned but not only what I learned but how I learned it. It wasn't like they were taking the same class from that same guy and getting something different out of it I was saying, 'The guy said this or we did that, check this out. I think Roddy at the beginning, his melodies were very syncopated, pretty simple but very syncopated, but we were all playing percussion to each other, all syncopating with each other around the rhythm, we were all speaking the same damn language. Regardless of what happened in the class, you take a little chunk of that plant out of there and stick it somewhere else and it grows into something."
In addition to the influence of African rhythms, Mike also cites a number of British post-punk drummers as key to his development.
"I believe strongly that musically you s**t what you eat, and everything is going to affect you somehow," says Mike. "I mean, that was after lan Paice, Cozy Powell, the great John Bonham [for me] it was more like Paul Ferguson of Killing Joke and Pete De Freitas [Echo & The Bunnymen], because, f**k, they didn't play like anyone else. Hugo Burnham, Gang Of Four. So starting with the dude from Ghana and getting off the kick-hat snare thing and being able to open up your arms and play patterns or get textural, Paul Ferguson's a master of that thickness. thick textures. Add to that I was listening to Lee Perry or Black Flag at the time, and then mix that with where I came from which was Black Sabbath, and why the f**k not? Whoever said you had to have one type of anything? I don't believe in that. And having seen the Sex Pistols here at winterland that last show, you kind of see for yourself that things are changing, there are other possibilities out there, and as a kid who's trying to play an instrument or write a song that's pretty cool, because it tears down a whole wall and opens up a whole new field for you to play in."
Mike famously drums open-handed; as a left-handed player he never considered setting up with a leftie kit.
"At that point in my life I was 13, it was 1975 and I was a huge lan Paice fan, I mean loved him, and obviously an unbelievably brilliant left-handed player. A teacher of mine took from a particular teacher. Chuck Brown, who was a kind of guru around here [San Francisco Bay area] to a lot of drummers and had a lot of teachers who taught his method. He said it doesn't make any sense for you to flip around and have your right hand on the snare, your range of motion then was limited to the bottom of your left wrist by the top of your right hand when you're crossed over again, so it didn't make any sense to flip you over and tie you up. He was teaching matched grip, I guess I never thought about that, but if he didn't teach matched grip I couldn't have done that anyway... He just said you should try playing like this and I didn't know any different so I just did. I was pretty weak as a kid, pretty scrawny, didn't have a lot of arm strength, and I guess you're switching dominance and re-training in a way, so if you can have that side be your strong side then I guess you're better off. Drumming to me is feel, you have to have feel. And that's what's so cool about drums."
It's now exactly 30 years since Faith No More released We Care A Lot, what now does Mike think of his own playing on that first FNM album?
"I think a lot of things about it, I'm not sure I should say anything and be polite!" he laughs. "First of all, you're very keyed up about it, it's your first album and there's a ton of energy and nerves and tension. But if I had to go back that's a better way of doing it - and give advice to myself... no that sounds stupid. I wouldn't do that, you gotta learn, man! You gotta get where you're at, being where you've been! But if I listen to that I can hear myself playing a little too hard and not letting the room work, as far as the microphones, and I can hear the sound kind of flattening out and I know that's not me. But s**t, you're learning. I always had a specific sound in mind when I hit the drums and coming up playing in back yards or someone's barn without a PA, l always felt like what I sent out there was what was going to compete with the amps."
The band went from strength to strength after Mike Patton came in, how does Bordin feel that the band changed between Introduce Yourself and The Real Thing?
"I think it reflected us trying to be better at what we do, and what I mean by that is in songwriting and executing the songs and being a little stronger and trying to grow. Growth is the best word I guess. We were ready to grow, melodies and stuff like that. And Mike Patton, I think it's pretty well documented, the broad capability of what he's capable of doing at a high level. There's nothing he won't do, or I haven't found it yet! It was opening up new worlds, taking down walls and all of a sudden there's another world right there.
"And about the expectations for this album, there was way more expectation between Introduce Yourself and The Real Thing- think about the expectation for that? Twenty-year-old kids that had 'We Care A Lot' and got people's attention, how do you follow that? And, 'We want that guy from 'We Care A Lot'!' There's more expectation there, because there's a label involved and you're young kids and the band hasn't really established itself, it's like you can't change then!"
The Real Thing Came at a time, at the end of the '80s, when a burgeoning alternative music scene was bleeding into the broader mainstream in a way it never had before. How did Mike see Faith No More within that rich tapestry of alternative music from the time?
"I think that if we would have really shoehorned, perfect glove-fit, into a scene, we probably wouldn't have done what we did. I feel that the only reason we did what we did anyway is because we were all listening to a bunch of different s**t and nothing really caught all that. Like you have to go to different stores to get different things, there wasn't a store that had all that different stuff in it. People talk about a time Living Colour broke through, then Nirvana brought everything through. Before that, music was kind of segmented Metallica supported us a lot back then personally and professionally and that carried a lot of weight, Robert Plant was a big supporter and super gracious... and people are going to think about that. You had all these different little boxes to put all these bands in but we had some rock songs and some element of aggression, so people think, 'Oh, you're a metal band, but the metal people are going to say, 'You're not a f**king metal band, there's only two, like, rock songs... It's not so much like you're in all the fields, you're not really in ANY of the fields that's the distinction."
Which kind of brings us back to the band's new material, of which Bordin is fiercely, and rightly, proud.
"I never thought this record would happen but I'm really proud of it, and I feel good about that. The other challenges are always the same: to enjoy playing it and to have some life in it, to have it not be like a computer program where it does the same exact thing in the same exact way, the same exact time every day. I want to always have a living relationship with the music I play. There's always consistent stuff you do within the song but it's important to have it carry on and be alive and not just be something you repeat all the time. And stay strong enough to be able to physically play it like I want to play it on stage, that's also an important component of it.
"I'm excited that people are hearing it," continues Mike. "I've been sitting on this weird cool thing, this secret, with literally nobody knowing about it. Which is rare these days, so now it's ready to be released I'm excited about it, I've been living with it for so long. I can't tell you people are going to like it, and I can't tell you why they should, all that's bulls**t. Don't tell me your record's the greatest thing ever or it's better than this or that,
it's all down to how it tastes to you. And I'm kind of excited to share that."
MIKE ON WORKING WITH OZZY
Since FNM's last album, Mike Bordin has spent a number of years in the service of the Prince Of Darkness
You first recorded with Ozzy in 2001 on the Down To Earth album. How did that come about?
"My recollection was that we were starting to get popular with The Real Thing and the videos were on MTV, and I think Ozzy was at home, retired, watching Perry Mason on morning TV and I think he saw us and heard the sound, and we orbited closer and closer. We did 'War Pigs' on The Real Thing, then he heard that and was intrigued, or confused, and the first time we played the RIP [magazine] party. He came and sang it [Ozzy jumped up on stage to sing it with the band] and that was the first time we met. Black Sabbath was really important to me as a kid, growing up, I don't want to overstate it, but we sat and talked, and he said, 'You guys are so different, why did you do War Pigs? Are you taking the p**s?' And I said, 'No, Black Sabbath are super-important to my life and I owe a lot if not all of the path I've taken to that early influence and he remembered that.
"A couple of years later he was coming out of retirement on that Ozzmosis tour and we were just finishing the King For A Day tour and we played shows together in South America, and he remembered we were pretty strong on stage and so he liked what we were doing, we talked a little more. And we were going home and he was just starting, and he called after we went home, a couple of weeks later, and said, 'Do you want to come and play?' and I said yes of course, I'd love to."
Did Ozzy have much input with the drum parts or did he leave you to it?
"I would say both on both extremes. There times he would know exactly what he wanted to hear, when he'd get this thing in his head that he wanted to hear and you'd work with him until you got that... And there were just as many times - and I'm only really talking about the songs we did at his house, because that's a bunch of songs that were worked on that actually were recorded and became things - that Zakk [Wylde, Ozzy guitarist] and I were able to play a thing that was in Zakk's mind, and that was what was really fun.
"And I gotta say I really enjoyed doing that album, the playing and the looseness and spontaneity of it, it was really fun and I learned a lot from that. But there would be times that we were able to lay down a thing that Zakk wanted, the arrangement, and then Ozz would come in later and listen to it, 'Try this and try that,' and we'd listen to it some more. But like anyone, there were different degrees of him being involved."
BILL GOULD ON MIKE BORDIN
Faith No More's bass player on recording Mike's drums and locking in as a rhythm section.
How did you capture Mike's drums on Sol Invictus?
"We started with a pair of overheads, just to record some basic ideas and capture most of the kit, and for some reason the combination of that and the room - and drum placement - sounded so good that I continued adding, first with kick/snare mics, then close-miking toms... eventually throwing up room mies. It all sounded pretty solid and got better the
further we went, and we at one point had a totally miked kit, and came to the conclusion that we should probably start recording in earnest."
You were in one room, was there a problem with the separation from the drums and cymbals?
"The problems with separation weren't too bad, as my overhead mies were not overly bright and picked up a fairly nice balance of the whole kit. The drums were placed against a wall, with Mike facing the open room. I used strategic bass trapping sound damping here and there, especially behind his back in order to prevent early reflections into
the cymbal mics. One advantage we had was that the room has a very high ceiling but is not overly bright, so things decayed in a nice way."
Was there anything you had to do to get the drum sound right or was it perfect from the off?
"was a bit tricky, because we couldn't dial in the drum sounds from the luxury of a sound booth. And when he's hitting hard, especially with cymbals, it can be easy to lose objectivity when playing things back on the monitors. There were a couple of songs where the snare ring was so obnoxious that we needed to redo [them], something I didn't quite catch the first time around. Or I could be driving a pre-amp a bit hard and not hear the distortion because my ears were not focusing on the quieter details. These kinds of things would have never happened in a more isolated situation, but at the same time, there's something to be said about the trial and error experience in tracking... it keeps everyone thinking, it's a challenging situation but that can be a good thing. It all feels pretty natural to me. If you listen hard enough, you might even hear a truck go by in the quiet parts."
What have you learned about recording drums since you worked on Album Of The year that you were able to apply to Sof Invictus?
"Mostly that, aside from the physical drums themselves, which can always present a challenge, the integrity of the arrangement, the sound of the room, and the technique of the player can all have a lot to do with how things fit together. A lot of good tone is in the hands."
What is Mike like to play with as a rhythm section? What qualities does he have from a bass player's perspective?
"Well, we kinda evolved together as a unit over the years, both through writing and in doing tons of live shows, so for me, it's pretty effortless at this point. He punctuates his kick and snare very well, which is great for a bass player."
Was your rhythmic connection with Mike there from the start?
"Well, when we first started playing together I was I8.... so before I had only been playing about four or five years; there was plenty of room for me to grow... I think I only started playing with a pick after we began playing together."
Did you find going back in to work with Mike after all this time that you each still instinctively knew where the other was going to go?
"I would say that playing together as we have over 17-plus years, things definitely become instinctive. I often found that even when I wrote music during the break in the band, they were songs that needed his approach to rhythm to work properly.
Any tips for locking in?
"The best tip for locking in is full commitment. Being active, jumping and learning where to fall. I always like to pull just a hair behind as it adds more weight to me. What's most important in my monitors is kick, snare and hat... the band is important too but if I'm playing on '10' I need those basic sounds as signposts. Live we never play to a click, but recording, sometimes. It really depends on the song and what it might require. There are some grooves that only really work when things are totally tight."
You and Mike started the writing and recording process this time; is that how the band always worked, building from the rhythms up?
"Yes, the writing process on this album wasn't that much different from the previous ones."
What rhythm sections have inspired you?
"I am probably more inspired by rhythm sections than by individual bass players. Some of my fave bands for this: Jaybees, The Meters, NoMeansNo, Joy Division/New Order, Chic, Led Zeppelin."