Grammy Award‑winning American producer Howard Benson has helmed the desk for numerous multi‑platinum selling albums since he began his production career back in the mid‑1980s. These include albums by Kelly Clarkson, the All‑American Rejects, Adam Lambert and Daughtry to name but a few. Here he discusses how he achieved the drum sound on POD’s 2001 hit ‘Youth Of The Nation’.
“That drum sound is something I have always been asked about. Also, ‘Youth Of The Nation’ was a seminal song after 9/11. We wanted to get the deepest drum that we could. We were recording on digital at the time and decided that, on that particular track, we would record the drum part at around 30 to 40 percent faster. And we sped the tape up too. So we recorded drummer Wuv Bernardo playing the toms in the way they were supposed to be played and tuned but with the music sped way up. That way, when we played the tape back at regular speed, the toms, in their pitch and in the way they were played, went down a lot. And that was the best way to do that kind of thing back then.
“The drums were recorded at Bay 7 Studios in North Hollywood via a Neve 8058 desk. We could’ve used Pro Tools, but the plug‑ins weren’t that good for lowering the pitch, they’d be glitchy, so instead we sped the tape and we recorded the whole song at what sounded to me like double‑time speed. And we still weren’t happy with it, so what we did was we rented a bunch of timpanis and we recorded timpani drums over the top of the toms as well. And we pitched them really well down. We used three timpanis for the timpani part. When we had it all, the drum tracks (after transferring to Pro Tools) were sent to a guy in Vancouver, Canada who [engineer] Randy Staub had been using to do drum editing, to have it edited so that the toms and timpanis were tight. It was new to me to use outside editors and it changed the way I worked, because I started outsourcing the editing that I was always doing at that time.
Howard Benson: We were recording on digital at the time and decided that, on that particular track, we would record the drum part at around 30 to 40 percent faster... That way, when we played the tape back at regular speed, the toms, in their pitch and in the way they were played, went down a lot.
"To this day I have artists calling asking me how to get that drum sound I got on that record, but its almost impossible to do that. We have to rent timpanis, and do the whole speeding everything up thing and slow it down because the sound of the tape machine slowing down, you can’t really replicate that easily. There’s a lot of compression that would be needed, the analogue warmth it gives and everything.
“Miking was done with AKG C414s on the drums with [Shure] KSM 32s used for the toms, while for the timpanis it was most likely AKG C24s. We recorded the timpanis separately, together with a room mic. The drums were pretty complicated on that record. We wanted it to sound kind of tribal.
“We added a lot of compression in the mix to make it all fit in because it was pretty jumpy with all the drums. [Mixer] Chris Lord‑Alge usually samples the drums but this time around on this track, he couldn’t really do that. He had to use the live drums.”