Whitten: The Story Behind "What I Am"

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Mcjnic

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Always loved that groove and until recently always thought it was Matt Chamberlain.

Ditto.
Not to take anything away from Chris, but I’d be more than a little curious of where Matt would have taken this tune. He’s lived in my mind for so many years as the drummer for that tune.
 

Hop

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Watched this on YouTube a couple of days ago. Absolutely love these behind the music views and stories. Just excellent.
Ditto. I'm digging hearing Chris' thought process as well. It really answers my "why behind do" about a musician's choices/decision making for a given rhythmn/groove/fill they commited to a recording.
I really wish this kind of thing was happening 40-50-years ago, and I wish more drummers were interested in making this kind of commitment to sharing their experience with the drumming community.
 

Sinclair

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Nice Chris mentions the original drummer and credits him with the part. I've been on both sides of this situation and from either side, especially his, it can be a bit tricky. Part of the business.
Also not as easy as you might imagine to record the drums then overdub the hat and cymbals and make it feel just as seamless as if you recorded both on the same take.
 

notINtheband

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Also not as easy as you might imagine to record the drums then overdub the hat and cymbals and make it feel just as seamless as if you recorded both on the same take.
Definitely!
Back in 2016 I had to do that very thing. I too had to kinda play the drum parts on my leg between cymbal strikes just as Chris demonstrated.
Here is the photo I posted from that session.
F08729A3-D973-434B-B804-FE05EEC649D1.jpeg
 

Whitten

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Thanks so much for all the kind comments, and for 017's post. I didn't want to spam the forum.
In the 80's I replaced a lot of band drummers. The biggest issue they had and couldn't fix at short notice was consistency. After concentrating on that aspect of my playing, I prided myself that every bass drum or snare hit was the same volume and timbre. Competing with Linn Drums and Fairlghts at the time, that's what record producers wanted to hear - machine like consistency.
That was Brandon's downfall. In the producer's opinion he was not consistent enough. The Bohemians were a kind of proto jam band. They played with feel and from the heart. Brandon couldn't reproduce a take identical to the previous one. The producer often liked a drum take, but wanted to change a couple of the drum fills, but the next take wouldn't be as good and other bits of the drum part would have changed.
When I arrived there was a difficult vibe in the studio. It was the band's debut album and they had been signed (by Geffen) based on the songs and they way they played them (including Brandon on drums). I think it was a very difficult and gut wrenching decision for the band to agree with the producer that a season drummer would be brought in. Brandon obviously quit immediately after the studio sessions. Hence Matt Chamberlain coming along.
Regarding where Matt might have taken the song.
Given everything above I have just written, I saw my goal as reproducing exactly what Brandon had created over the months and years the band had gigged before making the first album. That was both the style and vibe the record label were hoping for, not The Bohemians with special guest 'Chris Whitten'. In fact I was not credited on the album as the drummer, hence the confusion over Chamberlain (who is in the videos).
 

Carlos McSnurf

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Thanks so much for all the kind comments, and for 017's post. I didn't want to spam the forum.
In the 80's I replaced a lot of band drummers. The biggest issue they had and couldn't fix at short notice was consistency. After concentrating on that aspect of my playing, I prided myself that every bass drum or snare hit was the same volume and timbre. Competing with Linn Drums and Fairlghts at the time, that's what record producers wanted to hear - machine like consistency.
That was Brandon's downfall. In the producer's opinion he was not consistent enough. The Bohemians were a kind of proto jam band. They played with feel and from the heart. Brandon couldn't reproduce a take identical to the previous one. The producer often liked a drum take, but wanted to change a couple of the drum fills, but the next take wouldn't be as good and other bits of the drum part would have changed.
When I arrived there was a difficult vibe in the studio. It was the band's debut album and they had been signed (by Geffen) based on the songs and they way they played them (including Brandon on drums). I think it was a very difficult and gut wrenching decision for the band to agree with the producer that a season drummer would be brought in. Brandon obviously quit immediately after the studio sessions. Hence Matt Chamberlain coming along.
Regarding where Matt might have taken the song.
Given everything above I have just written, I saw my goal as reproducing exactly what Brandon had created over the months and years the band had gigged before making the first album. That was both the style and vibe the record label were hoping for, not The Bohemians with special guest 'Chris Whitten'. In fact I was not credited on the album as the drummer, hence the confusion over Chamberlain (who is in the videos).
Thank You Chris for "behind the scenes". How recording have changed through the times...Nowadays recording is sampled, and if drummer/musician is not consistent - can be mixed with samples, electronics, cut, paste, quantized...with few clicks of the mouse.
That's why most of todays music feels dehumanized. Too much machine interference into groove
 

Whitten

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It's funny that the supposedly easiest instrument to play is the one where usually a member of a band is most likely to be replaced for recordings.

People don't realise the drums are the foundation over which everything else is based.
Unfortunately, drummers are probably more unfairly analysed during the initial process of making the backing tracks for an album.
 

Rotarded

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Also not as easy as you might imagine to record the drums then overdub the hat and cymbals and make it feel just as seamless as if you recorded both on the same take.

At my first ever studio session, I was tasked with doing this on 2 different songs. It was not fun, but a great learning experience.
 

mebeatee

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I really wish this kind of thing was happening 40-50-years ago, and I wish more drummers were interested in making this kind of commitment to sharing their experience with the drumming community.

It always has been...but much more “in house” and localized seeing as the communication avenues we take for granted these daze didn’t exist.....ie internet and all its ilk.
Sometimes the recording process and the approaches taken in the process can be the most unmusical way of making music.....and as stated above....sometimes not fun but a definite learning experience.
I was very lucky to start my own “recording” journey back in the heyday of Little Mtn Sound in Vancouver with some very forward thinking young recordists at the time.....late 70’s/early 80’s... We did more experimenting than actual tracking sometimes....like recording drums and cymbals separately in the vid, crazy mic techniques/placement, et al. Then there was the mixing experiments......
Our little combo at the time.....among others...had no problem being “guinea pigs” for these sonic experiments, as long as we got our record done. One of these recordings was just rerereleased on vinyl last year....40 yrs later......
bt
 

wflkurt

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Great stuff Chris. I loved that album then and I love it now. I knew it was you on What I Am but are you saying that you played the entire album or am I reading that wrong? My favorite track on that album is Nothing. It is so laid back and it has such a great feel to it. One thing that really stood out to me on that album (along with the great drumming) was the guitar playing. I found that playing to be great breath of fresh air among all the hair bands that were out at the time. The whole album felt pretty organic to me. If I were to honestly have one complaint (and it's minor), I would say the the piano sound sounds dated to me as it is clearly not a real piano and piano sounds were still not as good as they would later become. I loved hearing the insight on this.
 

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My favorite part is how Edie sings the chorus in E but the song's in B :D but the drums defo kick that one into a much higher gear.

Great stuff, Chris!
 

hsosdrum

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People don't realise the drums are the foundation over which everything else is based.
Unfortunately, drummers are probably more unfairly analysed during the initial process of making the backing tracks for an album.
Here, here!
 
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