Things have been busy for me this week at The Loop Loft. Today we just released two new Multitrack Drum Sessions, “Funk Meets Fusion” and “Thick & Meaty”. Check ’em out below:
What would it sound like if legendary funk drummer, Clyde Stubblefield (James Brown) joined a legendary fusion band like Weather Report, and they only performed in dance clubs where the tempo was regulated to 128 bpm? Well, we’re not sure if such a bizarre/awesome union like this would ever occur, but if it did, the drums would probably sound a lot like our latest multitrack release, “Funk Meets Fusion”.
Just like the name implies, the Thick and Meaty Multitrack Sessions are loaded with drums that give you plenty to chew on… and more. Using one of our beloved birch studio kits, we slapped on some extra-punchy Remo Pinstripe heads and pulled out our ultra-aggressive brass snare drum, all to give you a sound that is fat, juicy and totally in your face. Along with all of the individual drum tracks, we also captured the room sound on a separate channel, putting an even bigger (and natural) sound at your disposal. Just adjust the faders and mix to taste!
This past weekend, while clearing out one of the bedrooms in my house to make way for a nursery (yes folks, there’s a little Gruss set to drop in December), I stumbled upon an old shoebox containing dozens of old cassette tapes from my years at Berklee. A literal time capsule back to 1996-2000, these tapes captured everything from late night jam sessions in 150 Mass Ave, board tapes from various gigs with Jonah Smith, instrumental funk tracks featuring a classmate named John, and most importantly, recordings of my drum lessons with the legendary, Kenwood Dennard.
When I was in high school, Kenwood’s drumming on Maceo Parker’s “Life on Planet Groove” was without doubt, the most influential of all of the CDs I owned. I must have listened to that album thousands of times, learning every funky ghost note and fill that Kenwood laid down on that record. My love for that CD practically bordered on obsession, which is probably why I was so estatic when I found out that Kenwood would be joining the Berklee faculty during my freshman year of college. It’s not often that someone gets to meet one of their biggest musical heros, let alone be mentored by them.
During my junior year, I performed in Kenwood’s “Music of James Brown” ensemble as well as studied privately with him. This was a great combination because he would have the chance to hear me play every week in a live setting with other musicians, and then we would break it all down in my lessons and tweak certain elements of my drumming.
Kenwood always had two drum kits set up in his office, so the majority of lessons were spent with the two of us playing together, refining various grooves and bouncing rhythmic phrases back and forth. Not wanting to forget a single note of our sessions, I always had a tape recorder running so I could analyze everything afterwards. It was humbling enough just playing with Kenwood, it was even MORE humbling listening to a recording of yourself playing with Kenwood.
At the beginning of one particular lesson in 1998, I was showing Kenwood some grooves in 7/8 I was working on. Nothing fancy, just some vanilla funk groove with a lot of emphasis on the “1”. What Kenwood laid on me next was something that would forever change my playing:
You can totally reconstruct the entire DNA of a groove by NOT emphasising the “1”. And when doing this in an odd meter, things can get really interesting. Find the weak part of beats and try turning them into the dominate ones. And this doesn’t only apply to odd meters… it can be just as effective in 4/4.
A few of my favorite moments of this lesson:
– 1:30 Kenwood and I trying to find the “e” of 4
– 6:59 Kenwood asking ME how to play the groove to Super Bad
– 9:35 “You can do that for the next 10 years.” He was right.
Here’s a quick transcription I did of the concept we were working on in that lesson (pardon the unattached 8th note stems). Notice, there is nothing on the downbeat of 1 (other than the hi hat), with the kick drum anticipating each bar by falling on the “e” of 4. Any snare note that isn’t a back beat is to be ghosted.
With Odd Meter Grooves Volume 1, we’ve produced a loop pack entirely focused on beats that go beyond the traditional framework of 4/4. Whileother loop sites only take these things as far as 7/8 (and charge twice as much!?), we’ve delved much deeper into the possibilities of space, feel and time. From Zappa-esque grooves in 27/16, to Mahavishnu influenced beats in 15/8, to (not so) straight ahead jazz in 5/4, to Muse-approved backbeats in 9/8, we’ve covered a wide spectrum of tempos and time signatures, all within one loop pack.
Due to the popularity and demand for our first edition of funk loops, we’ve been busy crafting a second edition of beats that will satisfy the needs of anyone producing music with a bit of soul. Funk Essentials Volume 2 mixes things up with loops ranging from old skool Motown vinyl, bounce-your-head-until-it-hurts Timbaland grooves, neo soul rimshots and heavy and aggressive Rage Against the Machine style funk.”
Check out this live video of The Pointer Sisters from 1974 featuring an excellent solo from drummer, Gaylord Birch (starts at 3:03). The dude is FUNKY…. and how has he been off of my radar for so long??
Such a pun-laden headline could only mean one thing: Another funk loop. And rather than picking up the sticks and burying the VU meters into the red, I decided to to go the subtle route and use brushes to lay down the back beat.
If you consider yourself a true music fan and live in Boston, then odds are you’ve been to Wally’s. Since 1947, it’s been a Beantown institution, known as a stomping ground for both Berklee students and touring musicians alike. The size of a small apartment (it’s literally the ground floor of an old brownstone), Wally’s is about as intimate as a venue can get. In order to safely walk to the bathroom, you need to squeeze past the hi hat and pray to god the drummer doesn’t do a fill.
While my friends and I were in college, Wally’s was our Mecca. You could find us there on any given Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday night. These were known as “funk nights”… and funky it was. The musicians responsible for “house band” duties usually consisted of Sam Kininger on sax, Eric Kranso on guitar, Adam Deitch on drums, and a slew of other musicians who would later go on to form the band, Lettuce.
This is a groove inspired by those late night jam sessions at Wally’s. Uptempo funk with a bit of conga in the mix. For this loop I used my little 10″ Premier snare and cranked it up nice and high with no dampening.
There is a special feel that was born from the brass bands of New Orleans. It first emerged around the turn of the 20th century and eventually worked its way north, merging into other styles of music along the way. This is a groove that is neither triplet nor sixteenth note based. It’s not straight funk and it’s not totally swung. It’s somewhere in between. It’s a feel that’s literally impossible to notate on sheet music and even harder to play.
There are only a handful of drummers in modern music who can truly find this “in between” feel and make it work in a variety of musical settings. Two of my favorites are Bill Stewart and Idris Muhammad. Whether they’re keeping it cool on a straight ahead jazz session or laying down back beats behind a funk band, they always manage to find this rhythmic sweet-spot.
Today’s beat is a four measure loop based on this “in between” feel. It’s a lazy funk groove that borrows more than a few licks from Bill and Idris (guys, the po’ boys are on me next time). And you, sitting in front of your computer, don’t even think about touching that quantizer.
Ok, get those violins out. Today I’m a bit under the weather AND I’ve got a bum wing…. well, wrist actually. I’m hopped up on flu meds, painkillers and I’m wearing a splint that makes me look like a professional bowler. I’ve actually been mistaken for Ernie McCracken three times today. Being a huge fan of Kingpin, I’m going to chalk it up as a compliment.
I was going to take the day off, get some rest and recover a bit, but then I thought about Rick.
On December 31, 1984 Def Leppard drummer, Rick Allen, lost his left arm in a horrific car collision. Most drummers would consider this a career-ending accident, but Rick had the courage and strength to come back and learn how to play drums with one arm. If Rick Allen could overcome so many obstacles and make a triumphant return to Def Leppard, how could I sit around and watch Seinfeld reruns all day? I decided I must record with one arm. I decided the blog must go on.
With 75% limb functionality, I put my left foot to work and used it to cover the hi hat pattern. I then laid down a funky, almost New Orleans style groove between my left hand on the snare and right foot on the the kick drum. The Pseudoephedrine and Oxycodone took care of everything else.