74_SlowLow – This might be on the slower side, but it’s definitely not for ballads. With a touch of distortion and a heap of compression, this set of loops comes with a wide array of fills and transitions.
94_Seven – My first full set of odd meter loops, this series of grooves in 7/8 will help you start the next Mahavishnu Orchestra. Just tell Jan to leave the keytar at home.
136_Bembe – This is the complete session from the “Backwords Bembe” loop I posted a few weeks ago. From cowbell to ride cymbal to snare rim, this takes the 6/8 bembe pattern and moves it around the kit like a military brat.
166_Reggae – Straight out of the suburbs of Boston, this is as authentic as white boy, dubbed out reggae gets. Hat tips to both Stewart Copeland for the delays and Pete Thomas for the fills.
220_Tonyish – I’m not talking about that Tony. This is a set of grooves inspired by the one and only Mr. Williams. A mix of post bop, fusion and straight ahead, it’s everything you need to fire your current drummer and replace him with a laptop.
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I’ve recently received a lot of requests for more reggae loops. Some via email, some via the comments section and some via the hippie who decided to camp out in front of my house and play his djembe all night. To prevent any sort of rogue drum circle from forming in my neighborhood, I spent the majority of today laying down new reggae infused loops.
I began by setting the click to 166 BPM and experimenting with different delays on the snare channel. As I’ve mentioned before, this is a trick I picked up from Stewart Copeland and can be heard on more than a few Police songs. The secret to making it really fit in the groove is to set the delay to a dotted eighth note and slightly filter the resulting notes. You can listen to Stewart explain this unique effect in this video (just forward to the 4:00 mark).
Today’s loop is a four bar phrase with one of Stewart’s signature tom fills leading into a crash on the “&” of beat four. And yes, you’ll be able to obtain the rest of the loops from this session when Volume III is released on August 1st.
I just realized my “Style” category was missing one crucial genre: Reggae. But then I also realized I have no clue how to play the real “roots” stuff. Apparently I forgot to take that “Reggae 101” class at Berklee (they still let me graduate) and Burning Spear hasn’t called me for any gigs lately.
To get in the right frame of mind for today’s loop, I trekked over to the nearest frat house, ate a few “brownies” and listened to Bob Marley’s“Legend” on repeat for three hours straight. I eventually wandered home (after stopping for another snack at Taco Bell) and recorded this beat.
When I moved to Los Angeles in September, 2000, I had a “to do” list which consisted of the following:
– Go to the beach and get a decent tan.
– Map out all of the taco trucks within a 10 miles radius of my apartment.
– Find Pete Thomas.
A long time member of Elvis Costello and The Attractions, Pete was (and still is) one of my all-time favorite drummers. I heard through the grapevine that he had recently relocated to LA and, in the back of my mind, wondered if I would be able to line up some lessons with him. Besides playing with Elvis Costello, he also did a lot of session work, including Elliot Smith’s spectacular album, “Figure 8”. This CD was the soundtrack to my summer of 2000 and rarely left the the Discman™ (via cassette tape adaptor) in my Pontiac 6000 LE aka “Gangsta Bitch”. Sweet music for a sweet ride.
After spending the first week hanging out at Venice Beach and eating my weight in tacos, I decided it was time to get going with “this music” thing. Plus, the $723 I had in my checking account was fading fast. I hopped in Gangsta Bitch and drove out to Hollywood to join the musician’s union. I was given a brief tour of the facility (a nondescript building with the charm of a government office), filled out some paperwork, paid my union dues and walked out a card carrying member of Local 47. They also gave me a bunch of stickers and a directory of other Local 47 members. With this in hand, I was well on my way to becoming a session god.
When I got back to my apartment I started flipping through the directory. I was shocked to see the names and home telephone numbers of all of the studio greats; Vinnie Colaiuta, John “JR” Robinson and as I worked my way towards the back, there he was, Pete Thomas.
I immediately picked up my cell phone and dialed the number. A young girl with a British accent answered. I asked to speak with Pete and within seconds I was chatting with one of my heros.
Hi Pete. Ummm my name is Ryan Gruss and I just moved to LA. And ummm I play drums and uhhh just joined the union. They gave me a directory with your phone number. Uhh I was wondering if it would be possible to set up a lesson with you. Umm uhh, I really like the way you play.”
Idiot! A few seconds of deafening silence went by, then Pete kindly replied, “I don’t really have a studio set up where I can teach, but I’m playing tonight at The Mint with a country band called Jackshit. Why don’t you come down to the show and we can chat?”
Yeah, umm uhhh sure. That umm sounds cool. Uhh see you tonight.”
And with that, I spent the next several months hanging out at Jackshit shows. Pete graciously took the time to sit and talk with me in between sets. He entertained my endless list of questions… about everything from gear (“what kit did you use on “Junk Bond Trader?”) to time keeping (“what’s your approach to playing with a click track?”).
I picked up all kinds of valuable tips and suggestions, but mostly I learned from watching him PLAY. Pete makes playing the drums look effortless, and this comes out in both his feel and his sound. Always flowing and totally natural. You could stick one mic in front of his kit and have the perfect mix. He’s a master in dynamics, able to keep things simmering during the verse and then unleashing bombastic beats during the chorus.
Pete, this slow jam goes out to you. For putting up with that kid who stalked you in LA 9 years ago. Thanks for teaching me Jackshit.