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And now, the Studio Interview Series.  Here we go.

Ok, the first interview is with the legendary Spin Doctors drummer, Aaron Comess.  C’mon… everybody loves the uber-funky drum sound on the big hit “Two Princes.”  aaroncomessstudio2In addition to the Spin Doctors, Aaron has maintained a very in-demand session player reputation, working with Marc Cohn, Isaac Hayes, Aaron Neville, Roy Hargrove, Blues Traveler, and many others.  He’s currently living in New York, touring with Joan Osbourne, and recently released a solo record.  Aaron was super gracious and humble in responding to the interview questions – a genuinely nice guy.  Enjoy!

(Me) Is the Protools software and the whole digital editing world a positive or negative for the art of recording? (Aaron) It really depends on how it is used. It can be a very creative thing for sure and I like working with it. But also it’s a bit scary to know that once you play your track and leave the producer could do whatever they want to it later. I’m not a fan of beat detective at all. I don’t think music is meant to perfect. All drummers have a different feel and that’s what makes us all unique. We’re not meant to be perfect with the grid. It’s a double-edged sword for sure. Over all you can’t beat tape but it’s not practical to use it all the time so we’re stuck with Protools…

What’s a unique snare that you’ve got that you like for an unorthodox sound? Even more than a certain drum I like to try different tunings to make things sound unorthodox. For instance, tuning the snare so its super loose and making the snares on the bottom loose is a cool sound. Putting a towel on top of the drum can make for a great dry sound that I love to use in the right situation.  Also, using different mic techniques and compression can be a great way to get unorthodox sounds .

How do you handle hihat bleed and other cymbal issues?  It’s important to learn how to “mix yourself” when playing in the studio. What I mean by that is you should be able to react to how the mics are placed and if you are recording with much compression. If you have a lot of compression going to tape, which can be a great sound, it is better not to hit the cymbals too hard. I have learned over the years that sometimes you can get a bigger sound out of your drums and cymbals by not totally bashing while recording…

Are vintage Ludwig’s everything they’re made out to be, or is it just hype? The vintage Gretch, Ludwig, Slingerland and Rogers are all great drums. Somewhere along the way though they were not made as well.  Anything from the 50’s and 60’s are probably going to be pretty good.

How do you go about choosing a groove for a given track? Is there a formula or system that you use? I usually go with my first instinct when I hear a new song. But if the artist or producer hears something different then I’m all ears and will go down that path. I love it when they hear something different and push me in a new direction… as long as it works and helps bring the best out in the song, which is always the goal.  I’m never looking for a way to showcase myself…

How do you approach fills in the studio… strategically planned or “feeling it” in the moment? It really depends on the music. It’s all about making the right choice to complement the song and not get in the way of the vocals. Sometimes I find something that works and stick with it even if we’re doing quite a few takes. But sometimes it’s appropriate to feel it in the moment, especially if you are trying to come up with something quirky.

When is it appropriate to go with the obvious “stock” choice in your playing, and when do you try to stretch yourself and push for something unique and different? Once again I think it depends on the music. I’m always trying to push myself, even if it’s just playing the simplest thing. Even a simple groove is a very complex thing to make feel great.

How do you deal with producers who are difficult to work with? If I’m in a situation where I don’t agree with the producer I may make a suggestion… but ultimately I am there because the producer/artist hired me, so I just try to stay mellow and do the best I can do to make things sound good.

What are some of your favorite records that have influenced you the most? I love all the Aretha Franklin records with Bernard Purdie.  His groove is unreal.  All the Zeppelin records are amazing – Bonham rules.  The Miles Davis period with Tony Williams is some of the best drumming ever, as well as John Coltrane with Elvin Jones.  Also, anything Steve Gadd or Jim keltner played on is huge inspiration.  I could go on and on.

You can find more info and pictures of Aaron at his site

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