I've collected from various publications information
about Stewart's playing, his equipment, and the
Police's recording techniques; mostly for my own
research purposes, but interesting nonetheless.
Stewart on recording techniques:
October 1980, Musician's Only
The new album has a remarkably 'clean' and sparse sound, with a beautifully nurtured drum and guitar presence, I observed. "Yeah, it doesn't have any of the heavy metal that I suppose was on the first two albums. But there are plenty of groups providing that already. There's not fuzzy guitar anywhere this time. The World Is Running Down for example started out as a heavy jazz number and then we Policeified it. We always do lots of overdubbing and employ the studio techniques to the fullest and there's a lot of cosmetic surgery on the tapes. We fill up the 24 tracks and more because we bounce down and by the end you could count up to forty or fifty tracks. But we don't use them all. By the mixing stage thatís when we lose a few."
It seemed that the drum sound was particularly prominent and Stewart had no shame about this. "Well thatís my usual contribution. You could set up a recording of me in the studio shouting ĎMore snare drumí. No I don't think the vocals are too far back. You can hear them okay. They are an important ingredient, I suppose. But a lot of bands forget that the drums are supposed to be loud. Itís not just that the drummer gets some attention - the beat is really important. It doesn't have to be loud so much as there. Think of Fleetwood Mac and the Beatles. The drums were always positive and loud on their records."
Stewart revealed that in the studio when putting down backing tracks he used a drum box but this was never used on the final product. "Sometimes Sting and Andy will put down some chords with a drum box playing. But we don't keep it in because it always sounds like a drum box. I'd rather duplicate it myself. Another of our favourite techniques, like on Message In A Bottle, is to record the song four or five times in a row without any kind of form. Just verse, chorus, middle eight - playing the different segments of the song in random order for twenty minutes and kind of build up a momentum. That way You don't think ĎThis is the take.í You can try a few things and when you've got twenty minutes down, get out the scissors and chop it all down. It's cheating, but then we're making records. On stage we can't do that and that's when we have to show we can actually play. And the general opinion is we are much better on stage than in the studio. So I suppose that means we can actually play the instruments."
"We often record ten tracks and find that there isn't a single number with an
ending. We all scratch our heads and try and think of some endings. So somebody makes a cup of tea, we change the
subject and never get around to it. A fade is a good way out because the tune never finishes in your head. I don't
mind fades. Itís a kind of cop out I s'pose. But itís not serious. I think we can be forgiven for that. Some of
the tunes you'll notice, like Canary In A Coal Mine and World Is Running Down run straight all the way through,
without any fluctuation in the beat. The drum pattern could have been a tape loop."
Stewart denied that he used any overdubbing on his tricky closed hi-hat patterns on his album, although he had in the past, causing problems for those drummers who have tried to copy Police arrangements. "I heard an album in a series called something like Top of The Pops where they hired session musicians to play all the current hits. I donít know how they made it cheaper that way but they only have to pay session fees and publishing royalties. Their Message In A Bottle is really a killer because all of the drum fills are totally random, and there is this drummer who has learned them all studiously and they're all present and correct. The poor guy, it must have been hard for him to work out the meaning of all those noises, crashes and bangs. 'Cos I do a few percussion overdubs on our records. If there isn't enough bang when a verse goes into the chorus, I'll overdub cymbal and bass drum and go "kerrrash," at the beginning of the chorus."
October 1982, Modern Drummer
RF: You mentioned One World (Not Three) in another interview as being your best playing. Why is that?
SC: Well, that's the most recent. It was done in one take; we sussed the chords out and there's basically just two things that go back and forth, back and forth. Sting sort of shouted some lyrics and we just banged away at it and got it the first time. Usually we learn the chords, go in and play it and then come back and listen to it and go and play it again. That's usually the take and if it's not that one, it's the next take or sometimes three takes, but that's when it starts to go downhill. This one was the first take. We talked about the chords and I went to the drums, which are in a different building, and the guitar was in the recording room and Sting was in the mixing room. We each went to our posts and played it and that's what is on the record.
RF: You recorded that in a room with a wooden door.
SC: It was a wooden living room of the building next to the studio; a dining room/living room, just a great big room with a wooden floor and glass windows. We were trying to achieve a live sound so I dropped a mic' from about twenty feet away with lots of compression, a technique called ambient miking.
Stewart on his playing:
October 1980, Musician's Only
I noticed that on some tracks Stewart stopped playing snare drums and just held the
beat on bass drum and cymbals for a few bars. "I do that quite a bit because the back beat, which all drummers
are brought up on, is important, unless you can provide another pulse which is understandable. Itís easy to do.
There are other things that will provide a pulse, a rhythmic hook to hang everything else on. The back beat has
always done it in rock and roll up to now, but the watershed in drumming, which West Indian music has brought about
means it's no longer so important. Alternatives have been discovered, such as bass drum four in the bar. Boom,
boom, boom, boom. And instead of a back beat on two and four, a rimshot on three."
Stewart says he can get off on playing a 4/4 beat for hours and does a lot of it on the road. It's something that requires more practice than rolling round the kit. Thatís just icing on the cake. You have to keep the beat and keep your ears tuned. You have to lock in to a beat, dum-cha, dum-dum-cha," says Stewart began to vocalise a ferociously solid beat. The boy undoubtedly has rhythm. "I can play that for hours," he said, recovering. "But speeding up and slowing down are weaknesses of mine." I was surprised at this revelation from a drum master.
"I suppose most drummers suffer from it, but I worry less about it. A lot of our tracks speed up and slow down, which makes the later editing stage more difficult. I usually speed up. Well itís organic innit," he said slipping in to his West London accent. The echo gadgets I use on stage have done a lot towards improving my consistency of tempo. But if I get excited, I tend to speed up."
October 1982, Modern Drummer
RF: You are a very physical playerÖ
SC: And physical person. I suppose I thrive on physical exercise, not of the jogging kind, but I like to be active. You have to be fairly fit. I saw Billy Cobham recently and the guy is a towering inferno of physical fitness. He looks like Muhammad Ali. I suppose you do have to be strong, but what you really have to be is coordinated; you have to know how to use your strength. I suppose I hit my drums harder and more times in an evening than your average drummer, but I'm able to do so without collapsing from exhaustion because I've got it to the point where I only use my energy when I really need it. It's like riding a bicycle downhill when you hit that groove, for lack of a better word.
RF: What do you actually do to keep in shape?
SC: I roller skate when I'm in London, I row a boat when I'm in the studio in Montreal, I swim in Montserrat, and wherever I am, I generally find something. I also pace a lot. When I was in a boarding school in England for a long time, I only had access to my drums once a week when I could get into the drama room when there wasn't a class in there. I could set up my drums and bash away at them for an hour until the next class would come in. Meanwhile, there would be complaints that week, so next week, I'd have to go find somewhere else to play. But I found I was actually able to make lots of progress by thinking about drums as I walked along and I would just have drums in my mind. Not just drums, but rhythm, and Iíd think in rhythm. In fact, I conceptionalise in rhythm and form word patterns in rhythm. I would find that after a whole week of not actually playing the drums, when I'd go back to them I had made real progress. Not necessarily playing the things I thought of, but I would just find that my hands were working more smoothly and I could get that feeling more easily.
August 1983, Music UK
Again on the subject of rhythms, I question Stewart on his flirtation with, and eventual
marriage to, the reggae beat. "I could never crack it until Sting sussed out the bass. One day I lent him
some Bob Marley albums for a party, and suddenly he wasn't listening to anything else. He came down to the next
rehearsal having sussed out the bass lines, and how it actually works, and suddenly I was able to achieve that
intake of breath that you get from the weird reggae dropped beat, and it worked. So the turning point was when
I had a bass player who could play the bass line, I mean it doesn't happen unless those two elements are working
together, you king of push and pull each other."
May 1984, Downbeat
CD: Over the various Police albums, your drumming has lightened up, become less busy, more spacious. Was this a conscious decision?
SC: I think I'm becoming more of a musician as opposed to a drummer, more interested in the gestalt than I am in my own personal chops.
CD: Despite One World (Not Three) (a Copeland chops showcase)?
SC: (laughing) Well, that was a jam.
CD: Do you agree with Sting's statement: "At our best we're a group that says something quite sophisticated in a very simple way"?
SC: Yes. There's many different angles on this group, and the main one, I suppose, is that with all our cleverness we can state something simple, simply (pause) and movingly; that's the most important thing, the emotion. A lot of bands with a lot of technique overshoot the mark, and it's very difficult not to.
CD: You're a very physical player, much more intense, even violent on-stage than is hinted at on your records.
SC: As a matter of fact, there's a horrible truth I've come to realise, and it's quite frustrating to me, which is the last three albums - the last two anyway - we've gone into the studio after a time when I haven't been playing for six months. Playing on tour, I just get a lot better, so my playing on-stage is always a lot better than what is captured on record.
CD: So your best drumming is live?
SC: Yes...well, actually my best drumming is on my home demo tapes. Whenever I get home from touring and hit my studio that's where all the best drumming is.
CD: What do you practice at home? On the road? To warm up with?
SC: For real practice, just to keep my muscles happening the way they should, I practice monotonous grooves, just get into it and stay there. Good for the muscles and a great meditation technique. On the road I practice music theory, just writing notes, scribbling notes, practicing using the musical language with greater facility. Playing gigs keeps my drums happening. Before a show I'll do some calisthenics, shake my hands around.
CD: Did the reggae influence in the band come from you?
SC: It takes two to tango, and three to reggae.
Stewart on his equipment:
October 1980, Musician's Only
We descended into the basement to inspect Stewart's music room and recording studio. Tucked in the bay under the upstairs window was a small drum kit which he showed no inclination to play at such an unmusicianly hour of the day. His regular kit is a Tama outfit, which make he has been playing for several years. "Tama are really innovative as far as design goes, and expanding the whole instrument using synth drums and oddly shaped drums. Theyíre still exploring the technology of drums whereas the other companies' drums are designed by retired jazz drummers who just didn't understand that todayís drum set gets a lot more wear and tear. Tama are up to date and they sound better. I have really thick wood shells on my drums and some of them are 9-ply. I've got three of their kits. The first one they gave me way back in Curved Air days and the second one I bought because I needed a kit in America and it was cheaper to leave one there. The third one they gave me back in England. But if they were to cut me off, I'd still go out and buy a Tama set."
Stewart uses syndrums, two digital echo machines, claptraps, and as he says, "almost as many knobs and gadgets and flashing lights as Andy. I don't use the syndrums in the normal way. I use it on the bass drum, tuned so it goes 'bow'. A kind of electronic enhancement of the bass drum sound. Also in long jams, I've been known to make sci-fi noises with it. Through the echo it sounds pretty neat. I've now got repeat hold; which I used on the last tour and means the drums literally go into auto-pilot. I can jump off the kit and run around the stage holding the claptrap to get synthetic clapping, while the drums are automatically pounding through the PA. Itís a great pose. And itís dynamite to be able to run around halfway through the set and stretch my legs and see what the audience looks like from close up. Iíve been on stage four years now and never been closer than five feet. I can shake a few hands and kiss a few babies."
Stewart has his drums very tightly tuned and despairs of the tendency of most rock
drummers to tune their toms very low. "You can't hear them, they just don't cut through. So I have mine tuned
very tight and without the PA they sound like tin cans. But with the PA you can fake a lot of roll on bass and
get a very fast response while they still sound heavy. Thatís what I like about Tama. They have a heavy sound on
very small drums. I use three tom toms on the front and one on the floor. That's plenty. Some guys use eight, but
there just isn't any difference. And I'm much too busy for any stuff like rolling round eight tom toms! You can
get that effect just the same on four drums. Sandy Nelson used to do that all the time. Ginger Baker only had four
and he was Mr Tom Tom. My snare drum I keep rock hard too. It's really easy for my roadie to tune my drums. He
just tightens everything until his knuckles turn white. My roadie is Jeff Seitz and he's a really good drummer
himself. All our roadies are good musicians and you get to a soundcheck and find them playing Message In A Bottle."
Stewart has a 28 channel Allen & Heath Syncom desk and when he first set up his home studio he got hold of a load of second hand tape which included some stuff by Siouxsie & The Banshees. "Bombs Away was written on a Siouxsie & The Banshees backing track. I changed the speed and did things to the EQ to change the drum pattern. So with the desk I can get my song playing, then press a switch and there's Siouxsie singing away."
October 1982, Modern Drummer
RF: What are some of the gadgets you use and why?
SC: Well, I'll let Jeff Seitz, my drum roadie, go into that with you, but the reason I use something is really because of him. He keeps his eyes open for all the latest developments. Whenever he sees something, he gets it, I try it out and if I like it, I keep it. What I've ended up with is what's on the drums right now. But that's changing all the time and the same with the cymbals because there are developments all the time. The only thing I actually do myself is tune the heads, which I do rock hard all the way around. The entire drumset is about to pop; I have them as tight as they'll go.
RF: Do you muffle the drums?
SC: Yeah, I use gaffers tape, one or two strips, although not always, just occasionally. Actually, one thing that I do quite like are the black dots.
RF: How many sets do you currently use?
SC: I have three sets; one in England, one in America and one that travels. One of them has the black dots.
RF: Are they identical as far as sizes and pieces?
SC: Yes. Actually, the set that I have with me right now is really terrific. It's definitely state of the art with the stands. It's got all the micí stands mounted on everything because Tama has got a new set-up with a whole line of things you can stick onto the stands. You can turn one stand into a whole tree of stands. I love these things that have ten different things sticking out of them - mic' stands and cymbal stands. I like small cymbals, little bell cymbals and splash cymbals, and I like to just have them all over the place so I can hit one of them in between hitting other things. These little cymbal attachments that you can stick on anywhere are great for that.
RF: You use a drum echo.
SC: The drum echo is a very important gadget. I use it a lot and it's just repeat echo on the drums. In different tunes I do, I put different things through it. Most of the time I have the hi-hat; sometimes bass, sometimes snare. I have the Octobans through it all the time and I have a Synare that goes through it as well. Actually, I have one on the bass drum as well. The kind that I have is touch-sensitive micro- phone, you put it on a drum and the drum triggers it off. I have two of them. One is on a Rototom. The reason why it's on a Rototom is because the drum itself is totally dead and it's small so I can stick it anywhere, which is under my left hand, underneath the hi-hat. I keep that one open and I can do anything with it. I also have another one on the bass drum so that every time I hit the bass drum, it sends a signal. I have that one tuned very low, for electronic bass drum enhancement, because I have a very small bass drum.
RF: Where did you first get the idea to do this?
SC: I first started using echo with Eberhard Schoener. The musical concepts were very weird and the show was two and a half hours long. He had lasers, mime artists, all this weird synthesiser stuff, a string quartet and all sorts of strange stuff. I would go "tinkle, tinkle, tinkle" through the quad echos and the ethereal music kind of washed it back and forth. I would hit a woodblock once and it would echo around and stuff, and I got into the echo. Then when we were touring in America and making the customary "English band in New York" stop in Manny's, I got a Roland Space Echo and an amplifier. I had it on tour with me, waiting to get home to play with it with my guitar. But it was frustrating having it sitting in the truck and never playing with it. So I pulled it on stage during a sound check and had it sitting right behind me. As I was using the echo, I figured I'd put my snare through it, so I got another microphone, stuck it on the snare, put it through the echo to the amplifier sitting right behind me, and immediately, a new device was born. I've developed it since. The Roland has three inputs and I can put three microphones into it and add three microphones to the drumset and it goes into the echo and into the amp. It's very simple. Jeff took it a lot further than that when I was able to afford a drum roadie. He knew his stuff and really went into it. He's got two digital delay units, really sophisticated, where you can just punch in the exact delay that you're requiring, you can switch back and forth, and you can go into repeat and hold. I've got an array of foot pedals next to the hi-hat which I hit with my heels to click them on and off. Sometimes I'll leave them in for a song with just an echo on one of them like a hi-hat or something, and sometimes I'll have the whole drumset in, but just click it in and out for specific moments. I do that with the different foot switches.
RF: What about for recording?
SC: Occasionally, I use it while we record as well, but usually not.
RF: What about other gadgets?
SC: I also use a Clap Trap which is synthetic clapping. You can have either one set of hands clapping or you can have several pairs of hands clapping or you can have a whole auditorium applauding. It's two sounds basically. One is a click, or several clicks, and it's quite cleverly done so it sounds like claps. You can make it deeper or higher and you can add a hiss to it too. I actually don't use the hand clapping sound; I use the hiss sound. I also have a device on the snare drum so when I hit it, it sends a trigger and Jeff, who is operating the gadgets behind me on stage, clicks on the Clap Trap himself. That's one that he controls. It just enhances the backbeat, so suddenly, the backbeat will come jumping out for heavy dance items. I suppose that the electronic noise that comes out of the speakers in the PA is like turning my drumset into a drum box. It's actually the same kind of sounds that are coming out.
August 1983, Music UK
I begin by asking Copeland if it was easy to stick to what is a very simple drum pattern on the recent single Every Breath You Take. "Yes, it was," he confirms. "In fact, the drum box played half of it and I played the other half. Sometimes it's cleverer to do less and, in fact, I'm proud of my playing on that record because I'm known as a busy player, but I do have taste! I thought I was being very clever, a lot of work went into what I did play. But I just didn't play very much at the end of the day."
When I asked Stewart about the Tama kit he's playing at present, he surprises me to say the least.
"Three tom-toms in the front are (shrugs shoulders here) kinda small, one tom-tom on the right..."
'Can you give me the sizes?', I probe hopefully.
"No...I can't," admits a slightly befuddled Stewart Copeland. "Well
they're small, they're generally small. The only comment is that they're small with very thick 9-ply shells, and
I'm not sure if that's the Imperial Star, the Superstar or the Wonderstar or whatever. They sound very deep and
thick, even when you tune the heads really tight. You can actually get more control over the sound of the drum
the smaller they are, within certain limitations of course. But I mean I've found I can get a bigger sound with
little drums. Okay, I have one bass drum which I think is a 22" - possibly, and a snare drum, a hi-hat, a
ride cymbal, a China type, an assortment of crash cymbals and the only thing that's different I suppose as far
as cymbals go, is I like to use little tiny ones. Most of these cymbals are Paiste with one or two Zildjian in
there. The little tiny ones are really good, 'splish', 'splash' and 'splosh' (a great name if the Police ever decide
to undertake any low key personal appearances). With a big cymbal you have to hit a bass drum or a snare drum at
the same time to give definition, but the little one will cut through all on its own.
I've augmented the kit in interesting ways for stagework. The bass drum has a contact mike on it which goes through the Tama drum synth, and with it I can electronically enhance the bottom end of the bass drum, really give it a hard definition. It seems to me I have the deepest bass sound of any group. Y'see that's why I use Tama - because they make all this neat shit.
"Different parts of the drum kit at different times go through the digital echo machines here, and I have a footswitch next to the hi-hat. I can click on a repeat echo and have a dialogue with myself. It's what people do in dub, in reggae dub.
"Currently my drum roadie, our man from Juilliard, explores the technology for me. If I say I want such and such a thing, he'll go around all the music stores in New York or LA to find it. He's looking for a tuned percussion synthesiser that you play with mallets. We saw an advertisement for it somewhere a long time ago, and he's looking for whoever makes it. It's probably some obscure little guy in Chicago, but we'll find him..."
May 1984, Downbeat
CD: How did you develop your individual sound?
SC: The sound developed itself through the drums. With the Tama drums I'm using, I'm able to tune them very tight and get response, so I can do clever stuff, but they still have a thick sound. It's a matter of getting the sound to cut through. The snare drum is really quite tight, and bright and quite thin until you get it in a big hall and put it through a big PA; the sound of the drums is pretty much like tin cans until you put them through a PA.
Stewart Copeland's Equipment
Stewart Copeland's basic gear is Tama and Paiste. "I use Tama because they make the best stuff and also the widest variety of stuff; I like to fiddle around with different shapes and sizes," says Stewart. "And anything that you can smash and hang on a stand, I'll give a try and Paiste makes the widest variety of targets." His Midnight Blue Tama Imperial Star setup includes a five-inch snare, 22-inch bass drum ("I use the Synare, triggered by the kick drum, to electronically enhance the bass end of the bass drum."), 10-, 12-, and 13-inch rack toms. and a 16-inch floor tom-tom, plus a four piece set of Octobans. Hardware is all Tama, mainly Titan, with a King Beat pedal.
Cymbally speaking, on-stage it's Formula 602 13-inch medium hi-hats (sans Sound Edge) and a 16-inch thin crash, two eight-inch 2002 bell cymbals, two eight and an 11-inch 2002 splashes, and RUDE 14-, 16-, and 22-inch crash-rides; in the studio Formula 2002 16- and 18-inch mediums, and a 22-inch 602 heavy ride replace the RUDES.
"I use a little duct (gaffer's) tape for muffling because, I suppose as everyone must know by now, the muffling that is built into the drums is totally useless and should be dismantled completely. I used to wrap my hands in duct tape too, but just last week I found some gloves (Drum Gloves, from Rug Caddy), and they're pretty neat, but they haven't got it quite right (for me) yet; at least someone is trying. This, unfortunately, is what happens after two or three gigs (holds up a pair with a worn-out thumb web on the left hand).
"I have Delta Lab, AMS, and Roland 2000 digital delays. triggered by on/off pedals next to my hi-hat for certain effects, that are attached to the different drums; the soundman has a list of what drums to put through at what times. I tried double-bass drumming when I was with Curved Air, but I found it messed up my playing, and I can now get the same effect with delay. So I've been using the delays for years and years, but I keep checking out the new ones. See, with longer delay times, you lose the high ends; but now the chips are getting smarter so you can maintain the high end over longer delays.
"I also have a whole percussion rack with a Tama Gong bass, timbales, bongos, xylophone, tuned percussion, bells, gongs, cup chimes - the whole Paiste array. For three or four numbers - King Of Pain, Wrapped Around Your Finger, the best is Walking In Your Footsteps - Mr. Oberheim takes over (the Oberheim DMX programmable digital drum machine) while I'm on the rack. It's a starring role for him, really, and quite complex - not just rhythm, he plays fills and all. It's my programs, with Mr. Oberheim's sounds running through a custom-built signal-boost device that triggers the Simmons electronics, so it's a combination of the Oberheim and Simmons drum sounds that comes out of the speakers. And I'm looking for new sounds to be triggered - everyone's using the Simmons programs now. At home I have an Electro-Harmonix device (an Instant Replay) that can record sounds, sort of like a one-note Fairlight. You make a noise into a mic, hit a pad, and the noise comes back. I just haven't had a chance to figure it out yet."
On the road Copeland figures out his new charts on his "suitcase studio" - a Yamaha HandySound HS-5O1 polyphonic mini-synth, a Casio PT2O monophonic mini-synth (that also plays chords), a BOSS Dr Rhythm, the Scholz Rockman (for studio effects), a Fostex X-15 Multi-tracker cassette recorder, Sanyo C mini-monitor speakers, and Sony headphones, plus a Fender Stratocaster for that dose of heavy metal.
Jeff Seitz on Stewart's equipment:
October 1982, Modern Drummer
RF: Why did Stewart's drums sound so good at the Forum?
JS: Stewart tunes his drums completely different than rock drummers of the past. From 1970 to 1980 there became this fad of sort of very deep pitched sounding drums, more like a rumbling kind of sound. It first started with Led Zeppelin and like that and then the studios really jumped on it. It became all this dampening and tuning the heads so you actually got a note; a nice, round, pitched note and in a studio or a small hall; that concept can work because you're not dealing with the amount of bass rumble or certain frequency sounds you get in a big hall. Consequently, drummers who went into big halls like that with drums sounding like that, a lot of the sound dropped off because it was just rumbling around. Now, Stewart is into a very tight sound and he also plays a lot of the rim of every drum he hits, including the snare. I mean, most rock drummers play rimshots all the time, but when Stewart plays his tom-toms, he's hitting the rims as well. So he's going for a very, very percussive attack/crack sound and I think you can notice the drums just barking out at you. He developed that concept by going to a lot of concerts and noticing that a lot of drummers' tom-toms didn't make it. Plus, the reggae influence is a sound that is very high pitched; sort of a timbale sound. But I think what comes through as a very percussive sound is really what you're talking about, rather than certain pitched drums. I mean, the drums have pitches on them, but that's not the most important thing to him.
Would you detail Stewart's set-up for me?
JS: Okay. They're all Tama, The Imperial Star Tama, which is a thicker drum with nine-ply shells as opposed to six. They actually take the beating better. The fact that he does go for a percussive type sound also presents a problem that he does want to get a pitch to it, so if by attacking a drum really aggressively, if the drum can't take the pressure, it will sound very tinny. He wants it to be percussive, but he also wants a nice tone as well, not just a crack where there is no pitch at all. All the tom-toms have Remo Emperor heads and the bottom heads are Ambassadors. The snare has an Ambassador head and an Ambassador snare head on the bottom. The kick drum is the black dot.
RF: How often do you change the heads?
JS: The snare drum is changed pretty frequently. He tightens them up to the point where they actually start to pull out of the rim or they just stretch out and they lose their resonance. He doesn't break heads very often because they're so tight. The drum head is actually stronger when it's tighter, plus the fact that he doesn't dent them and he doesn't produce what most drummers do, wear spots. I can't remember the last time I changed a tom-tom head. The top heads are tuned very tightly and the bottom heads I try to get a general pitch. I have to rotate the bass drum head before every show to change the beating spot so I don't have to change a bass drum head in the middle of a show. That is also tuned pretty tightly. We go for a basic attack effect on the kick drum. As far as sizes, the bass drum is 14 x 22, the snare drum is 5 x 14 and the tom-toms are 8 x 10, 8 x 12, 9 x 13. The floor tom-tom is 16 x 16 and he's using two supplementary floor rack tom-toms on his left which are 8 x 12 and 9 x 13. He uses a set of four Tama Octobans and that's it as far as drums.
JS: We're now using all Paiste, a new kind called the Rude. We have a 24" ride, two 18" crash/rides, two 16" crash/rides, an 8" ice belt, which is a special little pitched cymbal, and Paiste 2002 hi-hats which are 13". And we're using something called an Ictus, which is another ice bell which is a sort of metallic bell-sounding cymbal, and it is also 8". He also uses 8" and 10" splash cymbals and also a Chinese swish cymbal.
RF: Stewart mentioned to me that you usually turn him on to the gadgets and he'll either veto them or incorporate them into his set up. I wondered what kinds of things you are attracted to for him?
JS: Anything new, really. People send us stuff all the time. He plays through digital delay and presently, we're using Delta Lab (DL-4J and a memory module). Originally, he played through a Roland Space Echo and the quality of that is good, but not when you're dealing with frequency ranges from cymbal to bass drum. The Roland Space Echo is fine in sort of a limited range and when I first suggested a digital delay, he said he'd check it out. He liked it because the digital delay reproduces your frequencies from your lowest to your highest. The Roland Space Echo had terrible top and there was no bottom because of the size of the tape, which was small. The digital delay has no tape change. So I've brought certain gadgets, such as Syndrums. Whether they're useful or not really depends on the type of effect you want. We still use the Tama Sniper drum synthesizer (TS-200J) and those come with very small contact pickups that you can place anywhere on anything. The pickup triggers an oscillator which also has a built in sweep control. It can sweep down at a very fast rate or a very slow rate. We have pickups on some tom-toms where you get basically a Syndrum effect; a sweeping sound down. The other one is triggered by the bass drum mic' itself. I actually tune the oscillator to a very low sound so the live bass drum sound is actually mixed with the synthesised sound and you get a very deep bass drum effect. So the bottom end of the bass drum is actually artificially produced by this drum synthesiser. The effect is much like the Boom Box, which can't be used on a record. We get it down to around sixty or fifty cycles and youíre giving the bass drum a lower effect without doing it with equalisation at the PA board. But in a big hall, youíre dealing with the feedback of the room and if you try to get those low EQ's on the mic', you may get feedback from the room feeding back into the mic'. So we don't have to deal with that at all.
We also use the Clap Trap which can be triggered either manually or by a mic'. We use that on a few special parts just to get a real heavy backbeat feel. That would come up on a separate channel on the main PA as well. When he wants to use it, I just switch it on and it's there at the right time and then I shut it off again. We used it in recording as well, in Darkness on Ghost in the Machine. You wouldn't notice it unless you're listening closely for it. For a while we also used another digital delay which also harmonised called an AMSDMX-1580 made by an English company: It's a digital delay that can also be used as a phasing device and it also can harmonise. The Delta Lab gives you more of a punchier sound, though.
RF: What kind of sticks does Stewart use?
JS: Calato Regal Tip; the Rock model with the wooden tips. It's not a very heavy stick; he likes a lighter stick. He goes more for a slap rather than a big thud.
Record Mirror, Mar 1980
Musician's Only, Oct 1980
Modern Drummer, Oct 1982
Music UK, Aug 1983
Downbeat, May 1984
Rock World, May 1984
...for checking this page out! It has been here untouched since November 2002, and continues to get traffic daily. The results of all this research? This and this. Thanks for the inspiration, Stewart!