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Author Topic: The Big ZZ Top thread  (Read 110715 times)


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Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
« Reply #60 on: April 02, 2005, 08:19:15 AM »

I'm REALLY surprized Billy Gibons didn't make the "Top 100 Guitar Players of All Time" in Rolling Stone a few months ago.



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Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
« Reply #61 on: April 02, 2005, 08:39:19 AM »

maxim wrote on Fri, 01 April 2005 21:52

... I'm trying to work out why exactly this process often involves replacing the original drummer...

it's so common, it's become an archetypal rock'n'roll story

is it to do with the difference between live playing and recorded drums

after all, it doesn't seem to happen (as much) with other instruments...

is "hit" drumming just about hitting the kick and snare hard on the alternate beats, and everything else is detracting from that feel?

i don't want to make this personal, but instead talk about it in a general production philosophy manner

could you elaborate on this phenomenon?

I think it is surely obvious that there is a big difference between professional session musicians and the average live band player.  There is no substitute for crisp, well played parts when it comes to putting together a production.  However, sometimes session players can sound "the same," and perhaps can lose the "trashy edge" that some bands have.

It seems that the drums are the most critical in this regard.  Drums are the most difficult to "punch in" parts, and they need, in most cases, to be completed before other overdubbing can commence.  For some reason, it does seem harder to make an average drummer come up to "pro record" level than the other instrumentation.  In almost all cases, the singer is the one that cannot be replaced, so you have a given there.  Guitars and basses and keys can be punched and punched, even in tiny segments, until they are more acceptable.

The standard way to get around the drum thing has been, short of replacing with a pro or using a machine, to record many takes and edit between them (aka "Metallica Syndrome").  But even with this, and perhaps sample replacement, there is still some hard to define difference that a studio pro "just knows" how to make.

Having said all of this, I will make it clear that my preference is always to use the actual players, to not edit between takes extensively, to maintain the best "live" feel the band can perform, in general to not resort to trickery.  But sometimes you do what you have to to get the best record.

Also I will reiterate that this is not referring to Frank, ZZ's drummer.  I stated before that I will not talk about certain aspects of the ZZ recordings, out of respect for the band and management.  Frank did a marvelous job on many records, and this reflects upon him as a great drummer.

Brian Kehew

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Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
« Reply #62 on: April 02, 2005, 01:41:20 PM »

Keep in mind the times: When ZZ started using drum machines (and Frank used triggers live onstage) guitar rock from the '70s was a dying (or dead) beast. When ZZ ruled MTV, where was Mark Farner, Frank Marino, Trower, Nugent? ZZTop survived by adApting, and adOpting the sounds of synths and drum machines. A whole new audience.

Remember when Bruce Springsteen started using synths "Dancing in the Dark"? Petty did ("Don't Come Around Here No More"), Van Halen ("Jump"), etc etc. To many rockers, that was practically "disco", or a move to it! But, it worked, and kept them current and on the charts.

In the case of drummers, natural human feel was OUT, and everyone was a slave to the machine rhythms. I mixed a Doobies track - the last studio recording with Michael MacDonald. The drummer was ON there, but he only played VERY VERY stiff - just like a drum machine - all the way through the song! Oddly enough, to further push the "drum machine" aspect, he had but ONE track, all the drums submixed in mono!

David Robinson of the Cars is one of my favorite drummers of that era. Listen to their first record and EVERY drum fill is memorable and musical as hell. By the third album, HE was a drum machine... they credit him, but it isn't him.

Just because I am odd, I still use an 80's programmable drum machine on pop and rock records... the samples aren't great, and we don't use loops. It does work - it's just a weird time that people don't accept that now...
Relax and float downstream...


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Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
« Reply #63 on: April 02, 2005, 07:04:37 PM »

terry wrote:
"I will make it clear that my preference is always to use the actual players, to not edit between takes extensively, to maintain the best "live" feel the band can perform"

that was my philosophy when i started recording

partly, because i wanted to differentiate myself from other 'laptop warriors', partly, because the records i aspired to, had human feel, partly, because i felt a machine could't replace a cooking grooving drummer, intuitively reacting to the rhythmic push&pull of a song, and, partly, because i wanted to make my life hell

i went for the 'metallica' approach, but trying to leave the edits large (verses and choruses)

i'm happy with the results, but

i've also been thinking about the psychoacoustics of pop production

it seems to me that the metronome is indispensable if you want to set up a hypnotic trance

in that state, our highest/frontal lobe functions are turned off, allowing us to give up on conscious control (and act like chickens in front of strangers (a bit like alcohol))

no wonder people think pop music is 'escapist'

so in essence, we want our drummers to behave like machines, and, perhaps, that's why they find it difficult

just thinking out loud
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