Business in the front, party in the rear.

Back before Michael Jackson was hosting questionable sleepovers, hanging babies over balconies and serving up Jesus Juice, he released a string of classic albums. My favorite of the pre-Wacko Jacko era is, without a doubt, his 1979 release, “Off the Wall”. You don’t need to slip me a funny drink to enjoy this record.

off_the_wall

The drummer responsible for the infectious grooves on Off the Wall is John “JR” Robinson. Not only am I a fan of JR’s playing, we also have a few things in common:

1. We were both born and raised in Iowa.

2. We both attended Berklee College of Music.

3. We both sported mullets back in the day.

John "JR" Robinson

Loop #10

Today’s loop is a hat tip to JR with a post-mullet twist. A 16th note pattern keeps things moving while an AutoFilter and a touch of distortion add some sonic coloring.

Preview Here:

[audio:sholo.mp3]

Download the Logic session here. (33MB)

110 BPM

WWLD?

I’ll admit it. I care about what people think of me. This morning while sitting on the couch, eating a bowl of Cocoa Pebbles, I was flipping through the TV and landed on something awesome. It was a VH1 Classic episode consisting of nothing but British heavy metal videos from the early 80’s. Classic indeed. As the credits rolled for Judas Priest’s “Breaking the Law” and Matt Pinfield introduced Motörhead’s “Ace of Spades”, I had an epiphany:

What Would Lemmy Do?

WWLD?
WWLD?


What would Lemmy do if he found my little blog and listened to a few of the recent postings? Smooth funk beats. Syncopated jazz fusion grooves. Loops dedicated to James Taylor’s drummer?? I have a feeling his reaction would be something like:

What the f#*@ is this bloody rubbish!!??

He’d then take a pool stick (these heavy metal biker types always have pool sticks laying around) and smash the computer to bits. He’d then set it all on fire, using the bottle of Jägermeister in his right pocket as an accelerant. Finally, in order to put the fire out (realizing this might burn down his mansion), he’d relieve himself all over the pile of flaming circuit boards.

Or at least that’s how I think it would go.

This is NOT the kind of reaction I want to evoke from my readers… let alone Lemmy. With this in mind, I’ve set out to toughen things up around here.

Loop #9

Before recording today’s groove I chugged 5 Red Bull, told my wife to punch me in the face as hard as she could, and then sat down and played this:

Preview Here:

[audio:WWLD.mp3]

Download the Logic session here. (53MB)

Note – I’ve just set a personal record for most umlauts in a post.

162 BPM

This One’s for Bobby

One of my RSS subscribers
One of my RSS subscribers

I’ve been getting hounded with emails from ryangruss.com subscriber, Bobby Lee, (above pic) asking me to post some “real music”. Apparently jazz/fusion isn’t his cup of tea… or errr, can of Old Milwaukee. Anyway, I traced Bobby’s IP address and discovered he lives in Varner, Arkansas. I aim to please, so here’s a beat found in many of the songs of another Arkansas native, Johnny Cash.

Loop #8

This groove is a pretty straight ahead train beat. I used brushes on my brass snare and like yesterday’s loop, I didn’t muffle the kick drum. Bobby Lee, hopefully this gets your stamp of approval.

Preview Here:

[audio:YeeHaw.mp3]

Download the Logic session here. (31MB)

260 BPM

Saturday Night Fusion

In 1970 Miles Davis turned the jazz world upside down with the release of Bitches Brew. Featuring 20+ minute songs and an expanded rhythm section, Miles pushed the envelope of a genre that would be later be known as “fusion”. Blending jazz improvisation with rock instrumentation and grooves, Bitches Brew was a turning point not only for Davis, but for several members of his band.

Bitches Brew

One of those members was keyboardist, Joe Zawinul. After the release of Bitches Brew, Zawinul went on to start his own band, Weather Report along with sax player and fellow Davis alum, Wayne Shorter. Weather Report carried the fusion torch into the 1980’s, releasing several classic albums along the way including; I Sing the Body Electric, Night Passage and my personal favorite, Heavy Weather.

Weather Report
Weather Report

Loop #7

Today’s loop takes the hypnotic, vamping style of Bitches Brew and mixes it with the quarter note, cross stick grooves found on several tracks from Heavy Weather. I took out all of the muffling in the kick drum and tried to lay down the foundation with more “boom” than “thud”. Unlike many of the albums mentioned above, no drugs were used during the recording process (mom, I swear).

Preview Here:

[audio:BBrew.mp3]

Download the Logic session here. (20MB)

130 BPM

Make it dirty

Some things are better with a little dirt on them. Whenever I buy a new pair of white sneakers, I feel the need to step in a some mud. Steaks seem to taste better when cooked on a grill that hasn’t been totally scrubbed down. But you also have to be careful. Sometimes making things dirty can go terribly wrong.

souljacker

I first discovered The Eels while on tour a few years ago. We were zig-zagging our way up and down the West Coast and the album, Souljacker, was put into heavy rotation. I was immediately drawn to the interplay between dirtiness and lushness in the production. Not only from song to song, but within the tracks themselves. Clean, acoustic guitars intertwining with fuzzed out bass. Expansive strings arrangements bumping up against distressed vocals. Dirtiness and pureness living in perfect harmony. Much like 5 dudes traveling inside of a smelly van littered with In-N-Out remnants.

Loop #6

For this track I held a jingle stick in my right hand and went for a wide open, ringy snare sound. To dirty things up, I bus’d all of the drum tracks to an aux tack and inserted Logic’s guitar amp plug-in. With clean drums on the original tracks and the “re-amped” drums on the aux track, I was able to mix to the desired dirtiness. Who wants to FedEx me a double-double, animal-style?
Preview Here:

[audio:amped.mp3]

Download the Logic files here. (12MB)

100 BPM

Ode to the Floor Tom

floor tom

Can you imagine life without floor toms? The thought alone makes me want to crawl up into a ball and cry like a little girl. There would be no Sing, Sing Sing.. No awesome intro to Unskinny Bop. Oh, and you can forget about The Velvet Underground!

Rikki Rockett - Floor Tom Enthusiast
Rikki Rockett - Floor Tom Enthusiast

Loop #5

Dear Floor Tom,

You’ve kept people dancing since the 50’s. You’ve rumbled arenas around the world. You’ve always been there to support me (and my stick bag). This loop is dedicated to you.

Sincerely,
Ryan

Preview Here:

[audio:Big_FT.mp3]

Download the Logic files here. (33MB)

80 BPM

Butter

800px-western-pack-butter

Butter makes the world a better place. I love butter on english muffins. When I go to the movies, I ask for extra butter on my popcorn. I love butter so much, a few years ago I often starting using it as an adjective: “buttery”.

I think I first used the term “buttery” to describe the sound of drummer, Matt Chamberlain. Matt’s high cholesterol drumming started to make it’s way up the music charts in the late 90’s when he began to record with artists such as Tori Amos, The Wallflowers and Fiona Apple. With a combination of warm, earthy sounding drums and dark, shimmering cymbals, Matt’s playing produces a certain buttery goodness that make his grooves melt right into the track.

Matt Chamberlain - 'Butter is the magic carpet to flavour'
Matt Chamberlain - 'Butter is the magic carpet to flavour'

Loop #4

Today’s loop is something I would file under ‘buttery’ (looks like I need to update my categories). To achieve this sound I pulled out my super thin, super trashy hi hats, my 6 1/2 x 14″ brass snare tuned WAY down (with a few pieces of paper on the head to give it extra some “thunk”) and I placed an extra Shure SM57 on the bottom of snare to really capture the “whoosh” of the strainer.

Preview Here:

[audio:SoftHats.mp3]

Download the Logic files here. (99MB)

68 BPM

Brushes + Backbeat = Platinum Records

img_0170

After starting off my blog with two rather distorted and edgy loops I’ve decided to chill things out for today’s post. And in the world of drumming, nothing chills things out like putting down the sticks and pulling out a pair of brushes. When talking about brush playing, most people associate the technique with legendary jazz drummers such a “Philly Joe” Jones and Vernel Fournier While it’s true these men perfected the art of timekeeping with a bundle of wires throughout 1950’s and 60’s (this deserves a blog post of it’s own), I wanted to look at the use of brushes in a more contemporary light.

Russ Kunkel
russkunkel

I’m pretty sure the first time I ever heard Russ Kunkel’s drumming was while being shuffled back and forth to pre-school in my parent’s sweet station wagon. Russ Kunkel is a renowned session drummer who first broke onto the scene in early 70’s, recording hit albums with artists such as James Taylor, Joni Mitchell and Jackson Browne (to name just a few). With my mother’s affinity for light-FM radio programming, Kunkel’s grooves were ingrained into my little head from an early age. The thing that made the biggest impression on me was the SOUND he got out of the drums. Fuzzy, warm, funky and round… all at the same time.

It was a few years later (after receiving my first pair of brushes) that I discovered how he achieved this unique tone. Most drummers instinctively gravitate towards a pair of sticks when recording pop/rock music. Russ Kunkel was a pioneer in the use of brushes in this particular vein. On top of having an amazing feel, he also used the sound of brushes to carve out his own distinct identity in the world of LA session drummers. Just listen to the tom fills on James Taylor’s “Fire and Rain” and you’ll hear what I’m talking about.

My early exposure to Russ Kunkel came full circle (almost) several years ago while I was recording at LA’s famed Conway Studios. I was initially excited about the session because I had the opportunity to work with Peter Asher who was producing. As well as being an accomplished artist himself, Peter is the one who produced all of those early James Taylor albums that were such a staple of my childhood. To raise the “oh shit, what is going on?” factor up another notch, Peter had hired Russ Kunkel’s son, Nate, to engineer the session.

As we were setting up to record (and as I was trying to keep my cool) I overheard Nate say to Peter.

Dad might stop by the session later today and say hi.”

And with that, the “oh shit” factor jumped off the charts. With one eye on Peter and the other on the door to the studio, I spent the next 6 hours laying down drum tracks, just waiting for Mr. Russ Kunkel himself to walk into the control room. Four songs later and before I knew it, the session was winding down and the assistants began winding up the dozens of microphone cords strewn across the studio floor. Half relieved, half disappointed, I realized my chance encounter with Russ would have to wait for another day.

I guess the irony of this long-winded story is that I never reached for the brushes on this particular day. Between having Peter and Nate on the session, and a possible ‘drop in’ by Russ Kunkel, I don’t think I (or the world) would have been able to handle the magnitude of such a thing. It’s the kind of cosmic intensity that could have sent us (along with most of Southern California) tumbling into the Pacific Ocean. For the love of mankind and the safety of millions, I stayed with the sticks.

However (for all of you equipment geeks out there), I did get to use Russ’s own Yamaha subkick which Nate brought to the studio.

Loop #3

No distortion or crazy effects on this one. Just a clean brush backbeat with a nod to Mr. Kunkel. Hopefully our paths will cross someday.

Preview Here:

[audio:Brush_Groove.mp3]

Download the Logic files here. (26MB)

80 BPM

Thanks Ringo.

Today’s loop is dedicated to Richard Starkey aka Ringo Star. Ringo was the drummer in an underground pop band from the 60’s called The Beatles. I highly recommend going to your local vinyl shop and digging for some of their albums.

ringophoto

Why am I dedicating this to Ringo? Because Ringo came up with the ingenious idea of placing towels on top of his drums when recording in the studio. This technique resulted in the signature “Ringo sound” which was prevalent in their later albums; flat, punchy and ultra compressed. It is also my guess that Ringo used these towels to dry himself when playing drums on the beach. Talk about resourceful.

Loop #2

I took Ringo’s towel technique and ran with it on this one. Using close mic’ing on all of the drums, I cranked up the compressor and panned the toms hard left and right. Finally, I pulled out the bit-crusher and smashed things up a bit. The final result: This sounds absolutely nothing like Ringo but more like something Pharrell would produce after spilling Moët all over the console. Yet again, another reason to have towels in the studio.

Preview Here:

[audio:Towels.mp3]

Download the Logic files here. (10MB)

125 BPM

Time to cut the ribbon up in this piece.

ciexhibit1

When 2009 rolled around I made two New Year’s resolutions that were long overdue:

1.) Build a recording studio in my house.

2.) Create a blog to share and transfer drum loops and musical ideas.

Well, 32 days into 2009 and I seem to be on track (these might be the first resolutions that I’ve ever followed through on). The recording studio is up and running (primitive but functional) and ryangruss.com is finally making it’s debut on the internets. My goal is to record and post at least one track a day while providing a quick, flash audio preview and a download link to the original, multitrack Logic files. Ok ok, enough background on the site. Now onto some music…

Loop #1

b000bittnk01_sclzzzzzzz_

This is a pretty straight ahead funk groove. Sonically, I was going for something a bit trashy and low-fi. I’ve recently rediscovered Tom Vek’s debut album from 2005, We Have Sound. This record is chocked-full of overdriven loops and bitcrushed beats and I’m sure it influenced the recording of this track. To achieve this sound, I relied heavily on room mics, cheap, thin cymbals and a good dose of extra gain.

Preview Here:

[audio:dfunk.mp3]

Download the Logic files here. (49MB)

100 BPM