Brendan O'Brien talks Matt Cameron, drum sounds and Pearl Jam's Lightning Bolt
Pearl are back with a brand new album and that, of course, means that Brendan O’Brien has been hard at work.
The producer has enjoyed a long and hugely fruitful working relationship with the grunge heroes dating right back to 1993’s Vs album.
Now, with new record Lightning Bolt set to drop on 14 October, we spoke to Brendan about working with Matt Cameron, drum sounds and why when it comes to miking drums, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel.
Brendan was first welcomed into the Pearl Jam camp way back in 1993, when Dave Abbruzzese (pictured above) was at the kit. Since then, he has gone on to produce six albums for the Seattle titans.
Discussing how he first got the PJ gig, he told Rhythm: “We first met, I don’t know exactly how he first got together, but I mixed Jeremy on their first album and we got to know each other. They stuck with me. As far as why it has worked for so long, I think we trust each other and that they trust me is a big part of it.”
When it came to getting drum sounds for Lightning Bolt, Brendan admits that little discussion was needed with Matt Cameron.
“We never even talked about drum sounds. We never talk about it. We go in and set them up. From day one a great drum sound starts with great drums and great drummers. Matt Cameron is a great drummer and has great drums. He liked his own drums. Usually I use all of my own stuff but he likes to bring his own. He pretty much leaves the sound to us, though. He’ll come in and listen to it and we’ve gotten pretty good at it at this time. As with every record I didn’t really think about it ahead of time. The drum sounds develop as time goes on, sometimes you want a tighter sound, sometimes a much bigger sound, it all depends on the song.
“We recorded over two different sessions. Usually we wouldn’t necessarily do all the tracks and then do all of the overdubs. We would do a track while we were doing the overdubs. So we left the drums up for most of the tracking sessions and Matt did drums right the way up to the very end.”
Miking Matt's kit
“I don’t know what people think, but miking drums is not a mystery.
"Everyone kind of does it the same, there are only two or three different techniques. It’s all kind of the same. What we do different sometimes is how you address it in the outboard and the playback stage. I tend to use quite a lot of compression, not for compression sake but for tone’s sake. With computers you have to manufacturer some of that. With tape you could slam the tape to get the snare to do certain things and the kit would be nice and easy and the cymbal would crush easily,. But you can’t do that with computers because they don’t care what you do.”
Working with a master
“Matt is an awesome guy. I’ve known him for 20 years and he is awesome. When you get the combination of a great guy and a great musician, that is a joy, it is a lot of fun.
"Matt in Pearl Jam has to turn his head around a little bit because he has to play a little differently because it is a little bit of a different band [to Soundgarden]. Although, technically he was Pearl Jam’s first drummer because I think he played on some early demos. They’ve known Matt as long as anybody and are all friends. It’s a little different though with Pearl Jam and I think we have to keep reminding ourselves that when making the record. But he is fantastic and would do anything we asked and he was smart about it. He understands the process and doesn’t bitch about it. A lot of the time I’ll have drummers who don’t make a lot of records and I’ll say, ‘Ok, we’re going to drop in the chorus,’ and they’ll say, ‘Well, I want to get it in one take.’ It is not a live performance, I don’t give a s*** about that, we’re making a record. Matt gets all of that."