Brendan Buckley's drum kit in pictures
After joining up with Shakira for 1998’s Spanish language album Donde Estan Los Ladrones?, there was little indication that Brendan Buckley’s involvement in the Colombian songstress’s career would last any longer than a few studio sessions. However, with the record going on to shift more than 10 million copies, the New Jersey-born sticksman found himself propelled into one of the hottest pop gigs around.
And it’s a place that he’s occupied ever since, playing on a further five Shakira records, including 2001’s worldwide smash Laundry Service, and backing her on four mammoth world tours.
During the following 13 years he’s branched out into engineering and producing and played countless sessions, but he’s always returned to his bread and butter gig, selling tens of millions more albums and filling huge arenas night after night.
Rhythm caught up with Brendan to find out what it takes to play note-perfect shows every night to hordes of screaming fans, and here - among the shots of his massive drum setup you’ll see in this gallery - are snippets from that interview.
First up: a closer look at Brendan Buckley’s kit…
DW Clear Acrylic drumset: 12"x8" rack tom; 14"x12" floor tom; 16"x14" floor tom; 22"x16" bass drum
10"x6" Pacific Blackout snare drum; 14"x5.5" Pacific Ace snare drum.
Next: kick drum
You use a shallow kick on the Shakira gig. What is the thinking behind that?
"Right now I have a 16" on tour, I have used a 14". If you look at vintage kits they’re all 14" deep and they sound huge and killer. In the ’80s and ’90s we started getting into these cannon depths thinking they’d sound bigger or ring longer when I think the theories have been proven not so true.
"I’ve been in studios where the deeper the bass drum the less punch and low-end I had. I have a lot of friends that are drum builders and they experiment with all sorts of materials and sizes and I think that the trend is going back to 14" or 16" deep for the kick because it’s the optimum depth where you can get a lot of low-end but the air still moves quickly and it’s punchy.
"If it gets too deep maybe the air just circulates and gets lost before it hits the front head. I like 14" a lot for the studio or small live gigs and for something bigger like an arena I go for a 16"."
Roland SPD-30 Octapad, Roland TD-20SX, Roland PD-85 pads (x4), Roland PD 105x pads (x2), Roland KD-7 kick triggers (x2), Roland KD-140 kick trigger, Roland DB 90 metronome, Apple MacBook Pro 13" (x2), Native Instruments Battery 3, Digidesign Pro-Tools 8 LE, Apple Logic Pro 9, Bias Peak LE 6, Furman PL-Plus C power conditioner, MOTU Ultralite MK3 (x2), Glyph GT 050Q hard drives (x2), Radial SW8 a/b switcher, Midi Solutions splitter, Future Sonics in-ear monitors.
Next: electronics explained
How about electronics?
"There’s a V-Drum Kit tucked in there, there’s an Octapad. There’s a whole bunch of stuff mixed in and out of the drumset to cover all the different material in her repertoire because I’m doing everything from rock songs to ballads to disco.
"I don’t like clutter. I don’t bring anything I’m not going to use. If I don’t hit it enough I tell my tech to lose it. It bothers me to have junk in my life - on my desk, in my suitcase or on my drum riser. The fact that I have so much stuff on my drum riser right now freaks me out a bit!"
Sabian: Stack of 17" AAX Studio crash; 16" AAX Chinese; 8" B8Pro splash; 18" AA El Sabor Brilliant crash; 14" HHX Groove hats; 19" Vault Brilliant crash; 21" HHX Dry ride; 19" HHX Extreme Brilliant crash; 8" HH splash on snare; 14" El Rayo on snare; 40" Chinese gong.
LP Matador bongos, LP mounted brass cyclops tambourine, Remo 9" doumbek, Remo 9" riq tambourine, LP cajon, Argentine bombo, leguero.
Playing with a percussionist
Shakira’s live band also features a percussionist. Does that bring up another challenge of the gig?
"Every tour I’ve done with Shakira has had an auxiliary percussionist. Playing with a percussionist at times can be challenging. If the guy’s at a professional level you won’t have to deal with clashing or bad time, but there’s different styles of percussionists.
"Some guys will blend into the background, they’re practically invisible and sound like an extension of yourself, like they’re a couple of extra limbs. Other guys play on top of you and smother you with their percussion. It can be frustrating if you’re playing drums and this guy is playing louder and busier and fills every four bars."
Hardware, pedals and sticks
DW Super Rack, 9000 series hardware.
DW 5000 pedals.
Sticks, brushes and mallets
Vic Firth Sticks: 5AB wood tip sticks; SGWB Steve Gadd wire brushes; T1 timpani mallets; TW12 Tala Wands.
Remo Coated Ambassadors on snare batters; Ambassador Snares on snare bottoms; Clear Emperors on tom batters; Clear Ambassadors on tom bottoms and front kick; Clear Powerstroke 3 on kick batter PureSound snare wires and speedball beaters.
Next: in the studio
In the studio
Do you have to stay open to whatever Shakira, or whoever you’re in the studio with, wants?
"I think so. Everyone’s different, they all ask for different things. People ask for contradictory things sometimes. I’ll play with someone that loves open splashy hi-hats and then the next time it’s someone that hates cymbals and just wants groove on the floor tom and snare. You have to figure out what they like to hear.
"You still play the drums the way you like with your stamp, but they’re the one singing or performing and if you’re the new guy you want to just slide into the role as seamlessly as possible."
Is it a collaboration between you and the artist?
"Some people love to talk. Sometimes you’ll have meetings about what the music’s supposed to sound like. They’ll send demos and explain to you how it should be and some people don’t like to talk at all and let you figure it out.
"I’ve flown into tours and I start without any rehearsals, recordings or talk about what we’re going to do. They want you to just follow along. Sometimes it’s very collaborative and sometimes they just leave it up to you. It’s fun when people hire you and just trust you."
Next: manipulating the groove
Manipulating the groove
Is it frustrating when an artist has a set sound that they won’t budge from?
“It’s not if someone’s picky or specific or demanding, because I can be the same way sometimes. What could be frustrating is if they’re very picky about drum parts that don’t make any sense, the rhythms clash with the bass line or the fills don’t line up right.
“You try to politely say you’ll try something else but they want it exactly like that. That can be frustrating because you know what can make the music better but you’re not allowed to do it. You have to do it the bad way. It can be embarrassing because you’re forced night after night to play a groove that doesn’t groove.
“I smile and tell them I’ll learn it exactly like they want it. I play it like that once and slowly manipulate the groove over time so they don’t notice and by the end of the tour it’s the way I like it and they record a live version and love it!”
Next: the Shakira gig
The Shakira gig
Did you have an inkling that the Shakira session would go on to become your long-term gig?
"I still am surprised it’s such a long-term thing. I got the call to play on the record and then I got the call to do a show in New York and an MTV Unplugged and then the shows kept coming and suddenly I was in the band.
"Over time she’s included me in a lot more stuff, like the videos. I’ve produced and written songs with her. She likes to have people around that she’s comfortable with and people that can multi-task.
"Over the years I’ve managed to learn enough about Pro-Tools and programming and play a little bass, guitar and keys, so if she has four dudes like that in the room she feels like she can do anything. Sometimes I’ll be in the room with her, engineering, and I’ll think, ‘I am not an engineer, but this is my job today!’.
"It’s kinda fun, she challenges me to pursue all of these different avenues.”
It comes back again to versatility.
"I’m one of those guys who, if I’m asked if I can do something, I say yes and then go figure out how to do it. It’s more exciting and challenging if someone says, ‘Hey, do you play Middle Eastern percussion?’ and I say, ‘sure, I do,’ and then go take one crash course of how to play that before the gig starts."
Next: working with Shakira
Working with Shakira
What are the most demanding aspects of the gig?
"It’s very demanding in a lot of ways. One of the demands is that she happens to be a person that is really specific. I’m in a fortunate position where I’ve been in the band long enough where she trusts me now but still when we’re rehearsing I learn everything exactly like the record and I perform it that way through all of the rehearsals until we enter the period where it’s going to loosen up and we’re allowed to improvise a little bit.
"Once she likes something a certain way she likes it that way every night, so it’s about accuracy. Certain tours I do are more about musicality and improvisation and certain tours are about precision, performing it perfect night after night for 120 shows.
"Also with this gig I’m using acoustic drums, electronic drums and hand percussion, so I’m jumping around a lot. I’m all over the place, but I have to make it sound cohesive and solid and not like I’m a kid in a toy store jumping around hitting junk all night."
Improvisation (or lack of)
Do you become frustrated at the lack of opportunity to improvise?
"I’ve graduated to a position where I don’t need to play the same way each night, as long as I don’t surprise her with some displaced linear rhythm that’s going to throw her off. In rehearsal I still play the same way all the time because she’s working on her choreography, she wants to sing in tune and if she’s playing guitar she wants to feel comfortable.
"The idea is to get her into a comfort zone and when she’s on the road killing it night after night I make changes in the fills, add more ghost notes or mess with the kick patterns a little bit. The lengths and tempos are set, the freedom I have is in the subtleties. She doesn’t dictate the fills or beats I have to play.
"I guess part of the psychology of being a freelance is you have to find out what makes the singer comfortable."
Liked this? Now read: Drum kits of the pros: stars' live and studio drum setups in pictures
Get MusicRadar straight to your inbox: Sign up for the free weekly newsletter