Question about Nabil's Drums on the DVD

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Question about Nabil's Drums on the DVD

Postby Chunkaway » Tue Dec 23, 2008 11:30 am

Hey all, this is my first post, so be gentle. I have seen TLW several times and have been a fan of Nabil's drumming from the time I saw him play with Micro Mini-going way back. I know he used to use Boom Theory drums, but on the dvd it looks like he is using a Gretsch kit with a Ludwig snare. Anyone know what kit he is using on the dvd and did he stop playing Boom Theory drums?

Second part, I LOVE his front bass drum head! Anyone know how he did that or how to do something like that?

Thanks,
Paul

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Re: Question about Nabil's Drums on the DVD

Postby Liesbeth » Tue Dec 23, 2008 12:52 pm

Sorry to say I have absolutely nothing useful to offer on drums, but can I say how cool it is to see a drums question? It is all a complete mystery to me (like, what's so special about the front base drum head? I don't think I have ever even noticed it - my disclaimer is that the band play on different gear in Europe, but even so it still just means I never pay attention to the drums set-up) so I hope someone can answer your questions, I might learn a thing or two.

EDIT: on second thought, this may be a language thing: is the front base drum head the 'skin' with the LW logo?

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Re: Question about Nabil's Drums on the DVD

Postby Flyn » Tue Dec 23, 2008 1:59 pm

I don't have too much helpful info here, though I get my friend's band a vinyl logo for his kick drum, eleven or so years ago; it wasn't too difficult. But really, I wanted to comment on Micro Mini! It took me a while to realize that I actually liked that band's music at all, rather than just having the hots for the ladies, but they were way fun. On the Barsuk board, someone just brought up the Screaming Santas, and I'm getting all nostalgic for ecks-mas '97.

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Re: Question about Nabil's Drums on the DVD

Postby Chunkaway » Tue Dec 23, 2008 7:45 pm

Liesbeth-
Yeah, in the dvd the front "skin" says "The Long Winters" in a cursive script. I don' remember ever seeing that when I saw them live. I play drums in a band in Portland (played at the Shanty Tavern and at Jules Mae in Seattle) and I have a hankerin' for a head like Nabil's. Very cool!


Long live Micro Mini! (My favorite song is probably "Slide.") I was actually listening to The Screaming Santas today, with Mike Musberger from the Posies on drums. (What the heck is he doing now?) Good times!

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Re: Question about Nabil's Drums on the DVD

Postby John » Tue Dec 23, 2008 9:39 pm

Nabil does have a fabulous Gretsch orange sparkle kit, which is only one of several kits he keeps around. We had the front logo printed fairly cheaply at a graphics place in Seattle, and then we stuck it to a regular front head one sunny afternoon in my Mom's backyard. Liesbeth is right that we tour in Europe using Matt Pence's kit from Centro-matic, so no logo there.

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Re: Question about Nabil's Drums on the DVD

Postby Chunkaway » Wed Jan 21, 2009 8:22 am

John- I apologize in advance for these "technical" drum questions. Did Nabil use the Gretsch kit to record "Putting the Days to Bed"? Here is why I ask-
The drums have a very tight, almost close-miced sound (especially on Fire Island) although the snare buzz comes through like you recorded in a bigger room. Can you talk about how the drums were recorded?

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Re: Question about Nabil's Drums on the DVD

Postby John » Wed Jan 21, 2009 4:11 pm

Good ear. We recorded the drums a few different ways for PTDTB, and for Fire Island I wanted a pretty dead sound, so we set up the drums in a heavily padded iso-booth and recorded them dead and dry. Then we recorded the snare and cymbals as a separate take in the live room. You win the prize.

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Re: Question about Nabil's Drums on the DVD

Postby Chunkaway » Wed Jan 21, 2009 7:14 pm

John wrote:Good ear. We recorded the drums a few different ways for PTDTB, and for Fire Island I wanted a pretty dead sound, so we set up the drums in a heavily padded iso-booth and recorded them dead and dry. Then we recorded the snare and cymbals as a separate take in the live room. You win the prize.



That's a very cool story. My band has recently been recording (in an old church in Portland) which has led me to really paying attention to different drum sounds. PTDTB has a couple of different drum sounds (as you mentioned, even on the same song) which I thought gave the songs some added depth and texture. May I ask, how did you record the snare and cymbals separately? I heard about Dave Grohl recording an entire song one drum at a time, which sounds like a form of torture akin to medieval dentistry. Did Nabil record Fire Island in that manner? Once again, I apologize for bugging you with these technical questions.

Paul

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Re: Question about Nabil's Drums on the DVD

Postby John » Thu Jan 22, 2009 4:36 am

No, we didn't get all crazy and technical about it, we just started out recording the drums in isolation, and without any cymbals, because I wanted the tune to sound super dry and dead, but as the recording progressed it was clear we needed some more "air" around the drums, so Nabil played the snare and cymbals along with his dry drums and we mixed them together. We often do this, record basic drums and then overdub a different performance on different sounding drums. Commander Thinks Aloud is like five simultaneous drum performances.

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Re: Question about Nabil's Drums on the DVD

Postby sour29 » Thu Jan 22, 2009 7:05 am

Apparently I need to spend more time listening to the drums on the Long Winters songs! This is a very cool thread!

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Re: Question about Nabil's Drums on the DVD

Postby Chunkaway » Wed Jan 28, 2009 11:10 am

Thanks for the info John. So, I'm assuming that Nabil played to a click on that song to be able to overdub the different drum parts? Otherwise he would have to be one helluva bad ass to play different kits and have them line up perfectly. The Commander has a looser feel-as far as the drums are concerned, and I don't mean that in a bad way- so I'm wondering if it is just the drummer, or a click issue, the methodology used for recording the drums, or Pro Tools that gives PTDTB it's "tight" feel?

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Re: Question about Nabil's Drums on the DVD

Postby John » Wed Jan 28, 2009 11:26 pm

Nabil is actually a human time-piece, a total bad-ass, and the tight feel is entirely down to him. Playing snare and cymbals over a kit isn't the hardest thing, because there's no kick drum to worry about. We had a hilarious moment during the recording of PTDTB when we measured Nabil's tempo at the start of a tune and then again halfway through and again at the end, and he never varied more than one or two BPM through the whole tune. We were blown away. So, no, it wasn't that hard for him to play along with himself because his tempo was spot on to begin with. Which isn't to say that we don't use click tracks sometimes, because we like to have metronomic keyboard arpeggios, but it is the exception rather than the rule. The tempo on Commander doesn't actually vary because the first thing we tracked was me playing the piano and singing to a click. When Matt Chamberlin started playing along with my piano track he said "Turn the click off. John is so far ahead of the beat that hearing the click only throws me off." So Chamberlin played five overlapping complete drum tracks just listening to my fluctuating piano and playing along with himself. But he's a genius.

On this record we're working on now we found it much easier to "beat-map" the songs around Nabil's playing, because there were several tunes where I specifically wanted him to speed up or slow down dramatically in the song. He can drop ten BPM at the start of a chorus and pick it right back up again at the next verse and you hardly even hear the transition. So we made the grid match his playing rather than the other way around, which let me do some midi-sequencing stuff to tunes that didn't have a constant tempo. One tune we've been working on since Nabil moved to NYC this fall we had Jason McGerr play the drums for us, and it's another track where I played the piano to a click and Jason had to follow. Jason is also a genius, but I've gotten better at playing the piano to a click track since the Ultimatum days, so he listened to the click while recording.

I have a lot of experience in this department now, and I can say that the secret to overdubbing drums or to playing along with a wobbly performance is all in the number of takes. Even the best guys can't line up their kick drum perfectly the first time they try, and it's really the kick that causes the most problems. Snare flams actually sound super cool, and most other flams do too, but kick flams sound awful. Even so, ten takes down the line you'll find the overdubs start to line up pretty closely.

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Re: Question about Nabil's Drums on the DVD

Postby No You Are » Thu Jan 29, 2009 11:40 am

So you don't just press the record button, rock, press stop and go home.

Learn something new everyday, I do.

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Re: Question about Nabil's Drums on the DVD

Postby sour29 » Thu Jan 29, 2009 7:12 pm

That's ridiculous about Nabil's BPM variation, but is also a testament to his ability rock out with his chops out. I can't stand playing to a click, myself. It's the most unnatural and robotic form of playing music, ever, so I sympathize with JR's being "so far ahead". I'm interested to hear the new songs that require dramatic tempo changes ... I can't think of any Long Winters songs off the top of my head that have ever employed such a technique... maybe Blanket Hog? Man, I'm itching for this new disc!

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Re: Question about Nabil's Drums on the DVD

Postby Chunkaway » Thu Feb 12, 2009 11:56 am

John wrote:Nabil is actually a human time-piece, a total bad-ass, and the tight feel is entirely down to him. Playing snare and cymbals over a kit isn't the hardest thing, because there's no kick drum to worry about. We had a hilarious moment during the recording of PTDTB when we measured Nabil's tempo at the start of a tune and then again halfway through and again at the end, and he never varied more than one or two BPM through the whole tune. We were blown away. So, no, it wasn't that hard for him to play along with himself because his tempo was spot on to begin with. Which isn't to say that we don't use click tracks sometimes, because we like to have metronomic keyboard arpeggios, but it is the exception rather than the rule. The tempo on Commander doesn't actually vary because the first thing we tracked was me playing the piano and singing to a click. When Matt Chamberlin started playing along with my piano track he said "Turn the click off. John is so far ahead of the beat that hearing the click only throws me off." So Chamberlin played five overlapping complete drum tracks just listening to my fluctuating piano and playing along with himself. But he's a genius.

On this record we're working on now we found it much easier to "beat-map" the songs around Nabil's playing, because there were several tunes where I specifically wanted him to speed up or slow down dramatically in the song. He can drop ten BPM at the start of a chorus and pick it right back up again at the next verse and you hardly even hear the transition. So we made the grid match his playing rather than the other way around, which let me do some midi-sequencing stuff to tunes that didn't have a constant tempo. One tune we've been working on since Nabil moved to NYC this fall we had Jason McGerr play the drums for us, and it's another track where I played the piano to a click and Jason had to follow. Jason is also a genius, but I've gotten better at playing the piano to a click track since the Ultimatum days, so he listened to the click while recording.

I have a lot of experience in this department now, and I can say that the secret to overdubbing drums or to playing along with a wobbly performance is all in the number of takes. Even the best guys can't line up their kick drum perfectly the first time they try, and it's really the kick that causes the most problems. Snare flams actually sound super cool, and most other flams do too, but kick flams sound awful. Even so, ten takes down the line you'll find the overdubs start to line up pretty closely.


Wow, I knew Nabil was good, but I didn't realize he was THAT friggin' good. He is one helluva bad ass drummer. It seems that unless a musician is super flashy, plays a million notes, etc... most people don't take the time to recognize their abilities on an instrument. Their loss because they miss people like Nabil.

Thanks for sharing all of that info with us. I, for one, find it really fascinating to hear how this music we love was created. I especially love how you mapped the grid according to Nabil. I have never heard of that done before, so I'm excited to hear how that turned out. I'm certainly looking forward to hearing the new album so I can picture Nabil just pulling off some machine like time keeping, while still being creative. Sigh....back to the woodshed for me....

So here is a question for you, what do all these great drummers have in common? Anything? Nothing?

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Re: Question about Nabil's Drums on the DVD

Postby John » Thu Feb 12, 2009 12:52 pm

I had never thought about it quite this way before, but I've been in bands with over a dozen drummers in my life, and played with a dozen more. There are plenty of drummer jokes out there I won't bother repeating, but it can be generally true that tightly-wound dudes end up playing the drums. It's a trait that causes problems for bands: the drummer is unyielding, or unwilling to compromise, or thinks he knows best, or tries to take control. I've had several drummer exhibit these traits, and watched many friends' bands struggle with the problem. These drummers, not unexpectedly, tend to be busy, flashy players and nervous, angry dudes. The Stuart Copeland model.

On the other hand, the best drummers I've known have all been really confidant, relaxed people, not trying to force their personalities or their flashy fills on anyone. They bring an effortless ease to their playing, and to their social encounters as well.

Nabil exemplifies this better than anyone I've known.

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Re: Question about Nabil's Drums on the DVD

Postby Chunkaway » Fri Feb 13, 2009 10:49 am

John wrote:I had never thought about it quite this way before, but I've been in bands with over a dozen drummers in my life, and played with a dozen more. There are plenty of drummer jokes out there I won't bother repeating, but it can be generally true that tightly-wound dudes end up playing the drums. It's a trait that causes problems for bands: the drummer is unyielding, or unwilling to compromise, or thinks he knows best, or tries to take control. I've had several drummer exhibit these traits, and watched many friends' bands struggle with the problem. These drummers, not unexpectedly, tend to be busy, flashy players and nervous, angry dudes. The Stuart Copeland model.

On the other hand, the best drummers I've known have all been really confidant, relaxed people, not trying to force their personalities or their flashy fills on anyone. They bring an effortless ease to their playing, and to their social encounters as well.

Nabil exemplifies this better than anyone I've known.



I laughed out loud when I read that John. I feel the exact same way, only in terms of the lead singer/front guy in the band. (Is there some weird connection between lead singers and drummers?) I can definitely understand the high strung thing among drummers, having witnessed many a hissy fit thrown by my brethren. Being a drummer, I have noticed how much better I play when I am laid back and confident, although I can imagine the same would be true for any member of the band. The funny thing is, I think only musicians really appreciate that. It seems like most fans only notice the flash. (Think about how many non-musicians out there go wild for Stewart Copeland or Neil Peart.) How many drummers can you name that play flashy bits, but also relaxed, interesting pieces that fit in with the music? It just doesn't happen very often. Nabil barely gets a peep on this board and the guy is a stud. Damn shame, is what it is.

In my opinion, getting a situation where everyone is sacrificing their ego to make the songs sound better is a rare occurrence. When it comes around, it really stands out and has significance above and beyond the typical. Viola-The Long Winters.

So, is Nabil no longer with the band? Time to start calling Mike Musberger? (Might as well get all 9 former/current Posies in there.)

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Re: Question about Nabil's Drums on the DVD

Postby berkstin » Mon Mar 09, 2009 3:10 pm

sour29 wrote:That's ridiculous about Nabil's BPM variation, but is also a testament to his ability rock out with his chops out. I can't stand playing to a click, myself. It's the most unnatural and robotic form of playing music, ever, so I sympathize with JR's being "so far ahead". I'm interested to hear the new songs that require dramatic tempo changes ... I can't think of any Long Winters songs off the top of my head that have ever employed such a technique... maybe Blanket Hog? Man, I'm itching for this new disc!


I have to share my latest click track story (latest? ok, ok, only). I'm working on this recording project with 4 other guys - the singer lives in Austin (my old hometown) and the rest of us are in the Bay Area. We got the singer out here for a weekend and converged on the drummer's rehearsal space to lay down some basic tracks - the idea was to get the drums and vocals done, then we could pass the tracks around and get all the strings, keys, glockenspiels, gamelans, etc. done at our various "home studios."

ANYWAY, we all set up in the same room and knocked the tracks out live with scratch vocals. We decided that since we were going to be doing the whole 'recording-by-mail' thing we better work to a click track, which the drummer - though rock-solid - actually prefers.

The problem was twofold:

1) the only way to get the click loud enough for the drummer to hear over the full band action was to use a cowbell sound instead of your normal, um, click sound.

2) we were using this shitbox headphone amp that did not have separate volume controls, so if we wanted to hear the vocals (which we needed as a guide) we had to submit to about 120 dbs of cowbell clanging in our heads all afternoon.

Yeah, that SNL skit with Walken really isn't funny anymore.

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Re: Question about Nabil's Drums on the DVD

Postby NatureBoy » Fri Aug 21, 2009 10:21 am

Chunkaway wrote:So, is Nabil no longer with the band? Time to start calling Mike Musberger? (Might as well get all 9 former/current Posies in there.)


VERY prescient comment.

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Re: Question about Nabil's Drums on the DVD

Postby Liesbeth » Sat Aug 22, 2009 12:53 am

6 out of 9 (ex-)Posies, not a bad score at all!


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