Creighton Barrett's drum setup
From South Carolina to Seattle and back again, Band Of Horses have followed a winding trail that has brought them critical and commercial success.
On the eve of the release of their third album, Infinite Arms, Rhythm magazine sat down with drummer Creighton Barrett, who joined the group for the tour of their debut album, Everything All The Time, in 2006.
Among the exclusive shots of Barrett’s setup you’ll see in this gallery are snippets from that interview, in which the drummer discusses his penchant for vintage kit, the importance of adapting your style to suit the band you’re in, and the recording process of Infinite Arms.
When it comes to gear, Creighton’s tastes run to the vintage end of the spectrum…
"I just got a beautiful Ruby Red Sparkle Renown from Gretsch in the States and it’s such a big-sounding drum kit, I love it. I’ve always played vintage since I was a working adult. I always thought new drums just weren’t going to sound good but no, their job is to make them better.
"My favourite kit is a ’65 Silver Sparkle Ludwig and I felt bad because I had it on the road. When I got the Gretsch Renown kit, it was like, ‘you finally get to go home, old Silver Sparkle. you get to stay in the house now!"
And the bigger the better…
"Big drums, big cymbals are what I like," he says and the proof is there to see in his set-up. He packs a 14" tom, 18" floor tom…"
"…22" K light ride from Zildjian, which he says, slightly shame-faced, he keeps breaking."
Creighton’s touring snare is a Ludwig Black Beauty that he can’t give up "because nothing else sounds like it. I really can’t get into wooden snares, I don’t know why."
Next: vintage gear
His other pride and joy is a hulking ’70s Rogers kit that features a 26" kick, 14"x10" tom and an 18"x16" floor tom...
"It’s just a huge monster kit. I leave that one set up at the house. The legs on the bass drum are these two spikes. I took that Rogers kit on tour with an older band before Band Of Horses, and everyone who carried that thing out would have a big hole in their thigh. I’m quite partial to it because a 26" bass drum is so ridiculous. It’s so hard to play and to tune."
Playing mid-tempo and being the timekeeper
When Creighton first reached Seattle, post-punk and math-rock were in ascendancy. Volume and speed were the principal job requirements for gigging drummers and it was only after joining Band Of Horses that Creighton realised the challenges presented by not playing at breakneck speed all night.
"Job number one with any project I’m involved with is not overplaying because that’s not your space, especially in this band. It’s a song band. It’s really important to know your place as a drummer in a band like this. You are the timekeeper.
"The hardest thing I’ve ever learned is playing mid-tempo. Playing fast it’s easier to hide your mistakes and your bad qualities that you’ve got from teaching yourself how to play drums.
"There’s so much more noise rather than actually trying to be the timekeeper. So that’s where I’m at now. It’s a struggle at times because there is so much more attention focussed on you.
"Being super-technical on the drums is so much fun, not that I can be that technical, but when it really comes down to what the drums are, it’s the rhythm. You’ve got to hold it down and be that anchor."
Next: drum sounds
Finding a drum sound that made Phil [Ek - producer] happy was no easy feat either…
"It took 16 bass drums to get the sound that’s on most of the takes that Phil produced on the record. We recorded it in Asheville, North Carolina, which is where Bill and Tyler are from so they were calling every single person who could show up and drop off something no matter what it was.
"We finally got something random like a Tama Rockstar mid-’90s kit, and that was the one that sounded the best. It was really interesting. you think, ‘These are my drums, I know how to tune them, they sound great.’ It’s like, ‘They sound awful.’ Well, I guess I’m not right!’"
Next: Sonic experimentation
That was not the end of the sonic experimentation for Creighton, who used everything from roto-toms to concert drums in the recording process…
"I got a ’50s Ludwig orchestra bass drum for $100 and it’s on every song on that record. We called it the Thunder Drum."
Then the group decided they wanted timpani on the album so Bill Bridwell called the North Carolina School of Music to ask about renting their set.
"The timpani weren’t allowed to leave the school. This kid who went there snuck them out at night and brought them to the recording. We had one day with these things, so there is always lots of timpani on the record. Timpani go out of key so quick, it was super fun."
Mastering the click and taking lessons
At the end of 2009, the band was in LA to finish up vocals on Infinite Arms so Creighton had some time on his hands. He used the break to take lessons with Sean MacKenzie, the son of famous drum educator Ted MacKenzie. Creighton started working with Sean roughly a year ago and the experience helped him when it came time to record the new album, although he still has plans for honing his craft further in the future.
"I think now I really want to be able to do what is asked of me, which is myriad things. My focus on this record was really getting better with the click. I struggled with it because it was such a foreign idea to me, so that was a big thing to get around when I started taking lessons with Sean.
"My left hand is still crap since I taught myself to play so I’m trying to work my way back into being a better drummer. There’s plenty of stuff I can do."
Now check out Rhythm's current issue 187 fronted by Stone Sour's monster sticksman Roy Mayorga. Or subscribe to Rhythm here for a monthly dose of new gear reviews, kit buying guides, pro drum lessons and all-star interviews.
Liked this? Now read: Slipknot's Joey Jordison's drum setup in pictures
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