THE PARKER MERIDIEN

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The Parker Meridien: Bandcamp

1. First off, who’s in The Parker Meridien and how did the group come together?

Nathan Hubbard: Parker Edison and myself first worked together on the live video for his “Apefood” single. After that, he contacted me about putting together a group to perform music from his release “The Parker Meridien” EP, and Parker Meridien is the resulting group. Currently the lineup is Parker Edison on vocals, John Rieder on bass and myself on drums and production. As we rehearsed and performed this music, I started throwing hooks and music at Parker, he wrote verses and more hooks, and we started adding these to the set. So we ended up with a set that is one-quarter tracks from the EP and three-quarters original material. We spent most of 2017 working on recording this material, and the release date of our new album “Fists Like Gotti” on Nov. 1 [the record release party will be Saturday, Nov. 4, at Til-Two Club] will be almost exactly 24 months since our first gig.

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2. Give me a rundown on your equipment? Was this the primary gear used to record the album?

After writing and performing this material many times, we decided a recording was in order, and decided to keep it “in-house,” so to speak, so we recorded the entire thing at my house. We recorded on an old Mac G5 using Pro Tools and an Allen & Heath board for the preamps. I had recorded all the samples, keyboards and background vocals when we were writing, so with those in place, we started by tracking drums in the garage. Rafter Roberts came over and gave me a few cool micing options, and I spent a bunch of time getting specific sounds, changing snares and hi-hats depending on the track. We used a 24” ‘60s Slingerland kick, a bunch of vintage snares, and hi-hats ranging in size from 12″ to 16”. I would like to say that a personal goal for me was to make this record with no quantizing/beat detective/sound replacing on the drums — an honest take on how I play. So there are two tracks that are loops of my playing, and all the rest is full performances – if a take had problems, rather than use digital editing to fix it, I would just do another take. The only exceptions are “Someway About It,” where we punched in the double-time section with a smaller drum-kit, and I did move one kick drum hit over a bit in “No Sequels.”

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Next we moved inside, tracking bass via a DI – no amps were used for this recording. John has a cool take on effects, so we spent some time getting specific sounds for each track, using a Moog FreqBox and Lo Pass Filter, a Zvex Wooly Mammoth and my old green Electro-Harmonix Big Muff. We did a bit of double-tracking the bass, either octave doubling or doubling with different effects, or in the case of “Someway About It,” we beefed up the Freq Box track by layering in a bass-ier sound underneath it playing a condensed version of the bass line.

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Vocals were all tracked in my backroom; we built a little blanket isolation booth, and used a couple microphones – a hi-fidelity condenser for most of the tracks, a beat-up dynamic with a bit of squashed frequency range for “40 Foot Tall” and all the background vocals, and a homemade telephone mic for “New River” and “Dirty Blvd.” Parker has a strong, rich baritone range — so depending on the track, we used different mics to either amplify or modify those characteristics. From there, I mixed and cleaned up all the samples, layering in field recordings and re-tracked some the keyboard parts for a more unified sound across the record. I also added vibraphone and glockenspiel to several of the tracks. I wrote the track “No Sequels” specifically for Rebecca Jade to sing the hook and the ballad middle section, so the last step was getting Rebecca in to sing. Thanks Rebecca! From there, we made stems of the audio and took it over to Rafter Roberts to master.

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3. That outer kick drum is massive. Give me the lowdown on why you’re using a setup like that?

After tracking drums for a few weeks, I wasn’t getting the kick sound I wanted on a few tracks, so I switched out the 24″ for a smaller 20″ Ludwig bass drum. That drum sounds great and is a bit more punchy, but lacked a bit of bottom, so I placed a 28″ Ludwig Scotch bass drum with no muffling in front of the other drum and placed a condenser very close to the front head. By blending the two mics, I got the punch from the 20″ with more sub-by bass from the 28″. You can hear that drum on “40 Foot Tall.” On a nice sound system, it pushes some air.

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4. WTF is that weird can-looking mic? Never seen anything like that before.

The chili-can mic is a microphone from an old analog telephone; I wired it to an XLR jack and melted a garlic-chili hot sauce can to hold the diaphragm. I also modified an old mic clip to fit the can. It got used all over the recording, we used it as a hi-hat mic on the drums, on the piano for “No Sequels,” and most notably on the vocals for “New River” and “Dirty Blvd.” It has a super squished frequency range which really blended well with all the samples, making the vocals really settle into the mix. It has become such a defining sound of the group, we’ve been using the microphone on live performances.

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5. Talk to me about the Moog FreqBox — what did you use it for?

John Rieder: You’ll hear the FreqBox in conjunction with the Moogerfooger Low Pass Filter on “Someway About It.” The FreqBox is kind of hard to explain. It’s not a typical synth pedal that processes the signal of the guitar but instead uses the input signal to trigger an internal oscillator. The result is very frenetic, and a little unpredictable, synthy goodness. I selected a sawtooth wave shape on the FreqBox and then ran this into the low pass filter pedal. I have an expression pedal controlling the cutoff frequency on the filter pedal, which helps me attain all the vintage Mu-Tron-type filter sweeps that you hear.

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6. What’s a track off the new album that you’re particularly stoked on?

I really like the track “40 Foot Tall.” It was a hook I started singing to myself in the car driving somewhere, I sang it into a recording app on my phone, took it home and lined it up with a few samples, brought it to rehearsal and we jammed on it, realized we could go back and forth between the main groove and the more rocking half-time groove, and built it up from there. For me, it’s the track where we found a portal to what the possibilities for this band were: “Are we a hip-hop band? Are we a live funk band? Are we an over-driven rock band? F it, we are all of those things and more….” This was also the hardest track to translate our usual “sweaty, all engines on go” live performance into the sterile microscopic recording studio situation.

7. Aside from the record release show on Saturday, Nov. 4, at Til-Two Club, anything else coming up soon?

We have a 360 video of our full set from an AC Lounge performance a few months ago coming out via local production company Audioscope Radio. [Watch it here] This is a cool experience, with a phone or tablet you can turn the viewer to see both the band and the audience. With virtual reality goggles, its super intense, like you’re floating above the audience. Beyond the release concert, we’ll be performing in San Diego and surrounding areas well into the spring to support this album.

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GLENDON ROMETT / QUALI & RECYCLED DOLPHIN

Quali: Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Bandcamp

Recycled Dolphin: Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / SoundCloud

1. You’re primarily a drummer, right? What bands are you playing in at the moment?

I only have time to work on one project at the moment, and that’s Quali. I like playing drums in Quali because the music caters to my personal style, laggy and apathetic. When I had more time, I would play in other projects that were different from my personal style, to challenge myself to get better. Working in Quali is especially awesome for me because Isaiah (guitars, vocals) is a drummer first. When he writes a song, he has an idea of what he wants for the drum part. He allows me to be creative in my own right in the band, but if I am ever having trouble writing my own part, I can have him show me how he would play the part and pull influence from there. His drumming style is a lot different from mine but we have a similar approach to feel so it’s easy to communicate how he wants the song to feel and I can make that happen.

I’ve been fortunate to play with bunch of bands since I moved to San Diego including Primitive NoyesBruisecaster, Paper Forest, and I performed live with Indoor Cities, who made one of the best records I’ve heard come out of San Diego since I’ve been here, so I want to shout them out. When I can, I also make electronic music under Recycled Dolphin.

2. What does your current setup look like?

I have a ’71 Ludwig Blue/Olive badge kit with a pearl white finish. It was a gift from my amazing partner. My drum kit was stolen in the fall of last year in North Park. It was a ’76 ludwig Blue/Olive badge that had a fake wood vinyl finish. The dimensions were really unique: 24”, 18” and 14”, so if anyone sees it out there, let me know. I hope to get it back one day.

The kit that was gifted to me is exactly what I would’ve gotten myself. I feel really fortunate my partner took it upon herself to get me this amazing kit ‘cause honestly I was considering quitting. So many people went out of their way to support me when my kit was stolen. I feel blessed because as much as it sucked, I understand that the world is a tough ride for everyone and people are going through a lot of tribulations daily. Me losing my drums is not a big deal. Musicians around town were offering to float me kits, pitch in for a new one, and I was gifted new cymbals. It was really supportive. Thank you.

3. Outside of playing drums, you also program beats — what pieces of equipment do you use for your electronic stuff?

For my electronic music, my main instruments are a modded Gameboy with LSDJ tracker cartridge, a Yamaha Portasound PSS-470 digital synthesizer that I found at Amvets for $12, a Numark DXM06 DJ mixer, and various field recordings on my iPhone or a tape recorder.

I will usually start with a loop that I make either from a field recording or on the synth and build from there. I can’t really make the music that I hear in my head. I’m better at building on an atmosphere that I like and then just adding layers and layers until I have an ample amount to work with and then editing the shit out of it in Ableton with in-the-box plugins. Once I have the structure of the song how I like then I try out new melodies and rhythms track live over it. I keep going until my newer ideas don’t stick to the original. This could take months. When I feel I can’t add any more elements, I start to get into really trying to mix the song. And then…Ozone! Cause I can’t afford to pay a mastering engineer (hope to one day).

4. How does your approach towards playing drums differ, if at all, from making beats?

My approach to playing drums in a band, as opposed to making beats, is very different. In the band format, I love being supportive. My goal is to be a compliment to the song. If you’re writing songs and you have a vision of how to make them a reality in a band format and can communicate that with me, I think that I can be very helpful in making that happen, especially if I dig your style. I’m an introvert, so when I perform, I want nothing to do with front of the stage or talking to the crowd. I just want to close my eyes and try to get in the pocket with my bandmates.

When I am making beats, it’s totally different. I create atmospheres through field recordings and synths, and also program beats. Once the initial feel of the song is established, I’m off and running with the rhythms. I will program beats on beats on beats. Then, I will setup to record drums live and just make loops. I’ll set the BPM, feel, atmosphere and then just fuck the rhythms up by playing live over top of it so I have a bunch of live drums on top of the initial ideas. Then I take those and create loops in Ableton, and match and mix them to my liking.

A good example of that is in “The Yearning.” I created atmospheres over a drum break I played then built the composition of the song around that. I took samples of me playing drums, chopped them and ran them through filters. In the middle of it all there is even a short live drum solo. The song ends with an ambient blend of field recordings with me playing live drums over top of it.

Another example of a way I make beats is, if I like another artist’s feel, I will try to make a song with a similar feel in my style. I really like the Gold Panda song “You” and wanted to make a song with a similar feel. So I picked a BPM and recorded myself playing a 4-to-the-floor beat on drums in a variety of ways. Cut up my drums then built a song around that rhythmic feel. The result is “Don’t Die Alone.” I don’t know if I nailed the feel down or not because my goal wasn’t to copy another artist’s song, it was to create a similar feel, mood or pocket based off a piece I really like.

5. What new projects are you working on?

Right now, the only project I’m working on is the new Quali album. We are almost done tracking and I’m happy with the results so far. It will be the follow up to The Familiar and the Other [Listen/purchase it here]. Quali was founded by Isaiah Nery when he lived in LA. While recording the first album, he moved back to San Diego, and started to pull together people to play live with him. We’ve been really fortunate to receive a good response around California and have been able to connect with communities like OCDiy and Dirty Rabbit Records in SF. It’s been really fun to get out of town and play and I hope that we can continue to meet different creative communities with the release of the next record.

Many thanks to J. Smith (of NBC SoundDiego and Parker & The Numberman) for this interview.

ANDREW MONTOYA / ALE MANIA, THE SESS & BEATERS

Ale Mania: Facebook / Bandcamp

The Sess: Facebook / Twitter / InstagramBandcamp

Beaters: FacebookBandcamp

1. Tell me about the stuff in your photos:

In the photos are a mountain of steel: maple, birch, mahogany, acrylic, brass and aluminum snares collected over the course of 20 years or so. All based on tone and nothing but tone. Appearance is always secondary but it’s on the plus side if something sounds as good as it looks. I own many kits that get used a lot in the studio and on stage. There is never a shortage of tonal possibilities here at the studio [Pandemonium Recorders]. Aside from the snares, there are also a plethora of Remo roto-toms, Tama concert toms and miscellaneous percussion items.

The Pearl kit is from 1973 and is made of 100% fiberglass in standard sizes. This is the loudest kit I have ever played. It gives you so much sound per stroke of velocity. This is the kit I like to use in live situations especially when drum mics are not available. And they will cut through some of the meanest amps including Tommy’s [Garcia, from Mrs. Magician] extremely loud Satellite amp or Jeremy’s [Rojas] 2,400 watt bass amp. In the studio they have this natural brightness that works well with faster music such as metal or similar styled faster-paced music.

The Tama Imperial Star kit is from 1979, it’s made from 100% mahogany with an interior sealer. Its the mellowest, darkest and yields the most bass response naturally. They have a lot of low-end in recordings that help some of the lower tuning’s on slower tunes you might encounter. The hardware on this kit is well over-engineered to the point it is very heavy but also very dependable, not fun to load in and out on a constant basis unless your roadie is a bouncer on the side. Although a basic kit is displayed, an entire set of 8 concert toms, 5 standard double-headed toms and two floor toms are composed of this kit and available in all sorts of configurations depending of what is ordered.

The Ludwig Classic is from 1971 and is made of 3-ply maple and poplar with reinforcement rings. This the quietest kit with the best tone for general recordings from rock to jazz. With single-ply heads, these are the most musical sounding drums to record with, they have this distinctive tone that can only be associated with the Ludwig name. I can’t put my finger on it. The bearing edges are very irregular, untrue, uneven and hard to tune, however; I believe this accounts for that great classic tone you can not achieve with perfectly machined modern drums.

The Ludwig Vistalite is from 1972 or so. The shells are made of 100% acrylic Plexi-glass made by Cadillac, yes Cadillac – their plastics division manufactured these shells for Ludwig. The sound is very bass heavy, more bass than mahogany with similar loudness to fiberglass without the brightness. With coated single-ply heads on the tops and the bottoms, they become this very musical drum in the studio. Clear two-ply heads typically kill the musicality these drums are capable of. The bearing edges are not perfect but with a little patience, you can dial in that tuning and of course they leave nothing to hide of the drummer as their clear shells reveal every aspect of the drummer who usually likes to hide behind his kit. This is my favorite kit to play in general.

The 1984 Black Ludwig S/L kit is somewhat of a unusual American-made kit. It was manufactured during an era when Japanese markets were dominating the drum industry and killing companies like Slingerland, Camco and Rogers. They are nothing short of typical Ludwig American quality. The shells are made of maple/poplar with an interior sealer similar to that of older Tama shells. The hardware on this kit is very heavy in that it’s the same kind of solid core fittings found on their marching drums. It has that great Ludwig tone yet is very dry and dark with similarities to it’s Japanese counterparts. The bearing edges on this kit are perfect when compared to their older Ludwig siblings from the 1970s.

2. What song of yours (or any of your bands’) do you feel is the best portrayal of your particular sound/style? There is not one song that can sum all of that up for you; you have to spend some time listening to a few of records I have made over the years to really understand when and why. When you have nearly 30 years of drumming under your belt, diversity is really the only thing to keep you interested in what you do.

 

3. If money was no object, what’s the #1 piece of gear you’d buy and why? An API 1608 console to mix drums and music on.

4. Who is the musician you admire the most sound/gear-wise? Keith Moon, for his style and sound. As easy as that question is, its always hard to choose just the one. Although drums are my fuerte, there are plenty of other other instruments that kindle my interest in music. I have always admired good musicians who are good at their instruments and for certain talents in the many fields of musicianship and performing.

5. What is your current favorite piece of equipment? Ludwig Vistalite, because they sound and look awesome!

6. What do you and your bands have coming up that we should know about? I am currently recording a new record with a new band named “Teach Me”. It’s a power trio that is exciting and bit harder-sounding compared to some of the music I have been involved with over the years. Its very fun to play and an easy relationship within the band as the three of us exercise certain musical powers. More details on this project will be revealed as the record slowly simmers and manifests into fruition.

On May 15th, Ale Mania is playing a huge benefit concert called Hardcore Matinee at Bar Pink for the new Swami Records compilation. [INFO]

On May 21st, The Sess is playing at Soda Bar in support of the Mrs. Magician record release party of Bermuda. [INFO]

JAKE NAJOR / THE REDWOODS MUSIC

Jake Najor: Birdy Bardot / Taurus Authority / The Midnight Pine / Rebecca Jade & The Cold Fact / Cardinal MoonThe Redwoods Music / Instagram / Twitter / Website

1. Tell me about your current rig:  It’s a 1967 Ludwig classic 20”, 12” and 14”. I bought them in 2007 for $650 bucks. I love old drums and specifically Ludwig. So many classic recordings that I dig are Ludwig, from The Beatles to Led Zeppelin. I like the sound of old drums; they fit the vibe of most of the music that I play. Not a huge fan of modern-sounding drums. They just don’t do it for me. Vintage drums have a nice, warm sound – and sound great live and when recording.

2. If money were no object, what’s your “holy grail” gear?  The Ludwig Black Beauty snare. They sound great and are super versatile and have been used on so many records over the years.

3. What song of yours (or any that you’ve worked on) would you say represents you and your style the best?  “Lowdown Stank” by Breakestra. I played one-handed 16th notes on the hi-hats, with ghost notes on the snare – pretty much one of my favorite types of beats to play. I’m a huge fan of Clyde Stubblefield, the drummer from James Brown, who is most well-known for the “Funky Drummer” break. I’ve practiced the groove for years trying to get it just right.

4. What was your first kit ever? My first kit was a Pearl Export. It’s an entry-level kit; not the greatest, but it made do at the time. If I could go back, I would buy a vintage drumset (Ludwig, Gretsch, Rogers and Camco). They sound great and go up in value.

5. Do you still have it? Sold it about 20 years ago.

6. What’s coming up next for you?  The Redwood Revue is April 1st at The Music Box with Dani Bell & The Tarantist, Birdy Bardot, The Midnight Pine, and Rebecca Jade & The Cold Fact [INFO]. Just laid down drums for the new Midnight Pine record a few weeks ago. Also working on a record of my own, with some friends helping out.

[Extra credit: Read Jen Van Tieghem’s (my better half) recent review of the Dani Bell & The Tarantist record, Dark West, here]