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70's Proto / Punk drumming and mixing tips

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70's Proto / Punk drumming and mixing tips

Postby PBD777 » Thu Aug 13, 2020 10:16 pm

Hello,

I'm a hobby musician looking to create demos in my DAW for a project that i'll eventually re-record with a full band. I'm a bit lost when it comes to recording and mixing for the specific style I'm after, particularly drums.

I'd like to land somewhere between the earlyish UK punk bands (Damned, Adverts, Pink Flag era Wire...) and the New York Dolls/Thunders/LAMF album- stuff that's closer to just rock n' roll. Sonically, I'd maybe include bands like Nervous Eaters and first Real Kids album. Not to get too band specific but this is what I want to sound like in the broadest sense.

I'm very much a novice but understand the basics of recording. To me the drumming sounds pretty dry, and mix-wise these recordings strike me as being fairly simple. One thing I struggle with is modern recording equipment and VST plugins being just far too good, or giving me that 'in your face' sound. How do I get everything to sit back nicely, muck it up a bit, and not sound so surgical? I hope that makes sense. I thought of looking up the equipment specific drummers were using and trying to find these as VSTs, but I'd still be lost mix wise. Do I want to limit drum mics to 2-4 and keep the stereo image very narrow, or something like that?

I thought I might be able to dig up old production interviews in Sound on Sound or just research players like Jerry Nolan, but am not finding much at all.

I know this is probably quite simple for you experienced guys so am hoping you can provide some insight as to what characteristics are important here from a mix / tracking perspective. The internet is full of 'punk = using what you've got' type questions and answers, but that's not the type of discussion I'm looking for, to be honest. I love this music and believe other things were being considered!

Thanks for any help.
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Re: 70's Proto / Punk drumming and mixing tips

Postby James Perrett » Fri Aug 14, 2020 12:44 am

I'm right in the middle of remixing some tracks from that era for future release although these were done at Polygram on 24 track rather than the 8 track at Pathway where many of the classic punk tracks were recorded. On the ones I'm working on there were separate mics on the drums with 7 channels in all. However there's plenty of spill on all the mics and, as we're going for a rawer sound than the original mixes, I'm keeping most of that spill. I'm not sure how you would go about getting that sound with VST's as it is all about roughness, energy and feel.

I'm not sure why you are dismissing the "use what you've got" ethos as that is exactly what punk was about - making the best of cheap drum kits and making something new and exciting. The reason why you don't necessarily see much about technique is because talking about technique was considered to be for the BOF's who came before punk. Punk was about just getting up and doing something for yourself. Recording sessions were usually fast and the engineers just set up the mics as they usually did and tried to get what was generally considered an acceptable drum sound.

A few thoughts for more research:

International Musician used to publish track sheets for certain sessions and I think they included some punk sessions in there. It may be worth keeping an eye on Muzines to see if they have any of the relevant issues up yet (they have my old copies from that era but probably haven't scanned them yet).

http://www.muzines.co.uk/mags/im

There's a great documentary on Dave Edmunds and Nick Lowe that features plenty of footage from Eden Studios - Nick Lowe was involved in quite a few punk records and the techniques would have been similar.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lII5UptbIf0

There's also a documentary about Rough Trade that features a section with The Raincoats in Spaceward Studio.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=loydtQRR4eA&t=2s

Hope that helps.
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Re: 70's Proto / Punk drumming and mixing tips

Postby zenguitar » Fri Aug 14, 2020 2:15 am

James is so right.

Unless you lived through the late 70's, you really have no idea what it was like.

Outside the majors, local studios were repurposed store-rooms at the back of small music shops with, at best, Brennell 1" 8 tracks and repurposed live mixers. The mics were the ones used for PA jobs.

If you were a guitarist, the holy grail was an H&H VS musician. Solid state, cheap, and loud.

Local music shops were driven by a small handful of quality 60's & 70's instruments that carried a massive premium. So much so that that the 2nd hand stock was available for hire by the day, weekend, or week.

All I can say is that the crap gear never got in the way of great music.Because, when push comes to shove, it's all about the musician and not the gear.

Andy :beamup:
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Re: 70's Proto / Punk drumming and mixing tips

Postby blinddrew » Fri Aug 14, 2020 9:54 am

On a much smaller level of advice than James' and Andy's above, if you want to roughen up your drums a bit, I love SoundToys Devil Loc. Crank up the levels stupidly high then mix in just a fraction of it in parallel. You could also just crank up the saturation and dial off a bit of top end to get a bit more lo-fi in feel.
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Re: 70's Proto / Punk drumming and mixing tips

Postby Sam Inglis » Fri Aug 14, 2020 10:57 am

I'm not convinced there's a characteristic drum sound that defines early punk rock, really. As much as anything, it's down to the drummer. For example, the first Adverts album was done at Abbey Road with John Leckie at the controls, so the reason it sounds trashy is not because of the technical standards, it's because the drummer could barely play. By contrast, Jerry Nolan from the Dolls was a pretty decent drummer, as was the chap from Wire.

I think if you go with fairly standard drum miking -- pair of overheads plus close mics on kick, snare and toms -- and not much processing you'll be fine, the harder thing will be to capture the urgency and rawness of the playing.
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Re: 70's Proto / Punk drumming and mixing tips

Postby PBD777 » Fri Aug 14, 2020 12:21 pm

blinddrew wrote:On a much smaller level of advice than James' and Andy's above, if you want to roughen up your drums a bit, I love SoundToys Devil Loc. Crank up the levels stupidly high then mix in just a fraction of it in parallel. You could also just crank up the saturation and dial off a bit of top end to get a bit more lo-fi in feel.

Thanks I will definitely check this out!
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Re: 70's Proto / Punk drumming and mixing tips

Postby PBD777 » Fri Aug 14, 2020 12:22 pm

Sam Inglis wrote:I'm not convinced there's a characteristic drum sound that defines early punk rock, really. As much as anything, it's down to the drummer. For example, the first Adverts album was done at Abbey Road with John Leckie at the controls, so the reason it sounds trashy is not because of the technical standards, it's because the drummer could barely play. By contrast, Jerry Nolan from the Dolls was a pretty decent drummer, as was the chap from Wire.

I think if you go with fairly standard drum miking -- pair of overheads plus close mics on kick, snare and toms -- and not much processing you'll be fine, the harder thing will be to capture the urgency and rawness of the playing.

This is just the kind of info I'm looking for. Thanks. I'm looking forward to playing around with mic setups and will start with what you've suggested. I'm less worried about the drummer as some friends have grown up on this stuff and can nail it, so the rest is up to me I guess. Thanks again.
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Re: 70's Proto / Punk drumming and mixing tips

Postby PBD777 » Sat Aug 15, 2020 2:52 pm

I had a reply to James' post but it must have got stuck in the mod filter or something. I love the Stiff stuff but didn't know about this video. Thanks a lot for the links, I'll check them out for sure.
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Re: 70's Proto / Punk drumming and mixing tips

Postby shufflebeat » Sat Aug 15, 2020 2:56 pm

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Re: 70's Proto / Punk drumming and mixing tips

Postby PBD777 » Sun Aug 16, 2020 11:32 am

shufflebeat wrote:https://www.soundonsound.com/people/undertones-teenage-kicks

https://www.soundonsound.com/techniques ... anarchy-uk

Go forth and amplify.

amazing thanks!
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Re: 70's Proto / Punk drumming and mixing tips

Postby Martin Walker » Sun Aug 16, 2020 7:06 pm

That was a great re-read for me too 8-)


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Re: 70's Proto / Punk drumming and mixing tips

Postby Dr Huge Longjohns » Tue Aug 18, 2020 2:56 pm

There's also a documentary about Rough Trade that features a section with The Raincoats in Spaceward Studio.

My band used to hire its PA from Spaceward when they still had the basement before they went all posh! Happy days.
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