Working with Mark White from the Spin Doctors was a humbling experience for me. Mark helped us improve our song "Father" in ways we hadn't imagined.
Our session began with all three of us (Mark, Richard and I) jamming out the song together and recording what we were doing to fine tune our parts. My anxiety started to fade. Things were coming together and taking shape. Once Mark got a good idea of what he wanted to play we made a scratch track for me to lay drums down on. Because of lack of practice I've never done very well recording with another person and the click track at the same time. After 3-4 takes it became obvious that the drum line I had originally written wasn't going to work with Mark's bass line and needed to change.
Wait a minute... Why I should I throw away everything I had been working so hard on? I wanted the song to be recorded my way...
...but I knew he was right. I stepped out for a break and had an internal mental battle with myself. My ego was shaken. Mark's approval was very important to me and I felt like I was letting him down. After stepping back I realized I was more embarrassed that I wasn't listening to his playing as well as I should have been. And I should have been able to hear that what I was doing wasn't working for the song anymore.
What I had been doing was playing my bass drum rhythm like a bass guitar would since that was what the song was lacking. I had over time developed a busy pattern with snare drum ghost notes to fill the space. But now that the bass was present, my original groove wasn't needed anymore. Imagine my drums we're a repeating guitar solo that never quit throughout the entire song. In my mind the concept was great, but it wasn't fitting the style of the song with what Mark was doing. Another problem was that I had written some of the fills above my skill level, which was making it more difficult for me to execute well. With Marks' direction we rewrote the drums in the studio together.
I wasn't experienced enough to transition out of what I had been doing easily. Ideally I have my parts fairly nailed down before I even consider recording a song in a studio. I practice for countless hours developing the right fills and licks and placing them strategically in the song to make it more interesting and then build off of the suggestions of the producer or engineer during the session. But this time I was being pushed out of my comfort zone and honestly I wasn't really sure how to handle it. I didn't fight or argue or flip out, I just buckled down and worked it out.
It was challenging for me to not over play like I had practiced, but once the groove settled in and I started to feel it things really fell into place. One thing Mark suggested was that I should be playing with a metronome all the time and make it my friend instead of my handicap. I started to make excuses why I can't use it all the time, but in reality, it's because I'm not as comfortable with it as a drummer should be so I put it off. The only way to break that discomfort is to practice with it every time I play.
Overall I'm extremely happy with the final product, which is all that matters. Mark was worried that I was hurt or mad about changing the song and truthfully I was a little bit. It wasn't easy letting go of what I had worked really hard on, but I'm glad I was able to. I can see now why musicians can get so upset when their ego is tested.
The recording session could have easily turned negative and awkward for everyone, but instead I learned a lot and have become a much better musician because of it. We got more from Mark than we had anticipated and I can't thank him enough for his brilliant work. He could have easily just played his bass parts around what we were doing and not said anything, but he really stepped up and helped us create something special and think you're going to be really like what has come out of it. If I had to do it all over again I wouldn't change a thing. Working with Mark was more rewarding than I could have hoped for.
Here's a clip of Mark laying down some of his lines in the studio. I seriously can't wait for you to hear the whole song when it's finished.