Classic Drum Sounds: 'Give It Away'

In the February 2014 issue of Rhythm, on sale now, our monster cover feature presents the stories behind 10 of the most iconic drum sounds ever recorded and we show how you can create them yourself, with audio and video examples, mixing techniques, miking ideas and more!

As part of the feature we spoke to some of the drummers, producers and engineers involved in the tracks to get their expert take on things. We got so much information we couldn't fit it all in the magazine, so here we present some bonus material, deleted scenes if you will.

In this interview producer Brendan O'Brien remembers working with Rick Rubin and Chad Smith at the famous Houdini Mansion to arrive at the bombastic drum sound for 'Give It Away'. The track featured on the Chili Peppers' smash album Blood Sugar Sex Magik.

What do you remembers about the Blood Sugar Sex Magik sessions?

"I think everybody working on that record knew it was going to be a big record because they were in that big place. The [Chili Peppers] had just signed a big deal with Warner Brothers and they were getting a lot of attention. I just tried to keep my head down and get to work. There was a lot of work for me on that record. It started out very stressful and it ended up being the time of my life. It was awesome."

How much discussion was there about drum sounds before you went in?

"I don't remember ever talking about the drum sound [with Chad]. I just did this thing where if I had a good room I would gate the room to make it sound like a snare reverb rather than using reverb. We had such a nice room in that house that almost on that entire record we didn't have any reverb, it was just gated to sound like reverb. I still do that sometimes. Rick's way was just, 'Make it sound good and let me know when it's ready.' And I think Chad was the same way."

Did you spend much time dialling in the sound?

"Nothing took that much time. We cut a couple of songs a few times, but Jesus, there must have been 18 songs on that record and then a few left over like 'Soul To Squeeze' and a couple of other things. We recorded a bunch of stuff but it didn't take more than a couple of months to do the whole thing. We didn't do all the drum tracks then do something else, we were doing it all as we went along.

"We laboured over some stuff, it was a record not a live performance, so there was a lot of editing. We were working with tape back then so you fixed by editing and did pieces. Some songs we did all the way through, some we did pieces, so we edited later to make the song sound better."

Want your drum recordings to sound like Chad Smith's on 'Give It Away'? Find out more in the latest issue of Rhythm.

Rich Chamberlain

Rich is a teacher, one time Rhythm staff writer and experienced freelance journalist who has interviewed countless revered musicians, engineers, producers and stars for the our world-leading music making portfolio, including such titles as Rhythm, Total Guitar, Guitarist, Guitar World, and MusicRadar. His victims include such luminaries as Ice T, Mark Guilani and Jamie Oliver (the drumming one).