Whitten: The Story Behind "What I Am"

Status
Not open for further replies.

JimmyM

Very well Known Member
Joined
Nov 30, 2021
Messages
667
Reaction score
647
Location
Sanford FL
Wow, so cool to hear the story behind the beat all these years later. I haven’t even heard it in yeeeears, but it takes me right back. This song was huge in my house (my dad was an avid fan) and got a lot of airplay - and even as a kid I thought (and still think) the drums on that track are really the soul of the song.

How amazing is it that we get to hear these stories? What a great time to be a drummer, and a great place to hang out. Love this forum.
Yep, you never got easy access to those stories before. I feel bad for their original drummer, though...hope he at least got paid.

EDIT: Looks like he's back in the band. I still say the best thing about that song is Edie singing the chorus in E over a B-based chord progression :D but the drums/bass are a strong #2.
 

Gunnellett

Very well Known Member
Joined
Jan 22, 2018
Messages
1,395
Reaction score
917
Location
Washington
Yep, you never got easy access to those stories before. I feel bad for their original drummer, though...hope he at least got paid.

EDIT: Looks like he's back in the band. I still say the best thing about that song is Edie singing the chorus in E over a B-based chord progression :D but the drums/bass are a strong #2.
I don't quite get what you are implying there both times you have mentioned Edie's singing. Are you trying to say she was not singing the part in the right key and that aspect didn't work to your ears or are you saying it was unique and actually did work to your ears?
 

JimmyM

Very well Known Member
Joined
Nov 30, 2021
Messages
667
Reaction score
647
Location
Sanford FL
I don't quite get what you are implying there both times you have mentioned Edie's singing. Are you trying to say she was not singing the part in the right key and that aspect didn't work to your ears or are you saying it was unique and actually did work to your ears?
Obviously it worked...it was a giant hit, and you don't argue with success. Did take my ears a couple times to get used to it, though it was actually pretty brilliant to do that. Couldn't change the key of the progression, couldn't change Edie's key because that would have been too low or too high, so singing it really bluesy in E over a B progression was pretty smart.
 

Gunnellett

Very well Known Member
Joined
Jan 22, 2018
Messages
1,395
Reaction score
917
Location
Washington
Obviously it worked...it was a giant hit, and you don't argue with success. Did take my ears a couple times to get used to it, though it was actually pretty brilliant to do that. Couldn't change the key of the progression, couldn't change Edie's key because that would have been too low or too high, so singing it really bluesy in E over a B progression was pretty smart.

Thanks. I was asking because I am clueless about keys!
 

JimmyM

Very well Known Member
Joined
Nov 30, 2021
Messages
667
Reaction score
647
Location
Sanford FL
Thanks. I was asking because I am clueless about keys!
Don't worry pal...we bass players got you covered for the keys :D

But seriously, I'm just coming back to drums at a slightly advanced age. They were my first love, but I got more into melody and chords as I got out of my teens.
 

underratedcowbell

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 2, 2020
Messages
449
Reaction score
460
Location
Lisbon, Portugal
I don't think it's super common.
It’s not. But some bands/producers have being doing it for a long time. Queens of The Stone Age to name a few.


I’ve done it 2-3 times because of a bad room and a lot of bleeding from the cymbals into the toms mics. I had to put fake foam cymbals jut to get the feeling right :). I don’t know about you but I find it super hard and not natural at all!
 

BennyK

DFO Star
Platinum Supporting Member
Joined
Aug 6, 2008
Messages
16,858
Reaction score
4,601
shave and a haircut two pence

Well done ,Chris !!
 
Last edited:

Trilock_Gurtu

DFO Veteran
Joined
Jan 8, 2017
Messages
1,753
Reaction score
2,273
Location
Vancouver, BC, Canada
Great to get the true insight into who/how the drums came about on this song. There certainly was a bit of confusion/misinformation floating out there. Such a fun tune. I remember covering it with a band in high school. Always enjoyable to play. The guitar line is especially funky/interesting, imo. Props to the other musicians.
 

Trilock_Gurtu

DFO Veteran
Joined
Jan 8, 2017
Messages
1,753
Reaction score
2,273
Location
Vancouver, BC, Canada
It’s not. But some bands/producers have being doing it for a long time. Queens of The Stone Age to name a few.


I’ve done it 2-3 times because of a bad room and a lot of bleeding from the cymbals into the toms mics. I had to put fake foam cymbals jut to get the feeling right :). I don’t know about you but I find it super hard and not natural at all!

Same. I've done it twice. Luckily for me the tracks weren't overly involved/fast tempo, and wasn't that awkward. That being said, I certainly wouldn't want to do it frequently.
 

High on Stress

DFO Veteran
Joined
Aug 3, 2006
Messages
2,360
Reaction score
952
Location
MPLS
Thank you for sharing so much here. I'm embarrassed to have not known much about your career until you started posting here … in spite of listening to and owning records you’ve made!
 

mebeatee

DFO Veteran
Joined
Jul 5, 2012
Messages
1,627
Reaction score
1,447
Location
Sechelt(ish), B.C. Canada
It’s not. But some bands/producers have being doing it for a long time. Queens of The Stone Age to name a few.


I’ve done it 2-3 times because of a bad room and a lot of bleeding from the cymbals into the toms mics. I had to put fake foam cymbals jut to get the feeling right :). I don’t know about you but I find it super hard and not natural at all!

No it’s not too common but done a bunch. In my earlier post I mentioned doing it waaaay back in the day and have also encountered quite a number of experimenting engineers over the years. I experiment at home a bunch....but these are for more “sound” ideas in sound design, not tracking drums per se.
Also Quincy Jones had his bits of mini plywood baffles, Peter Gabriel wanting no cymbals etc.... Then you get the total opposite with Simon Phillips bringing in his whole “outfit” just to play hat/snare/bd.
As I stated sometimes recording music can be the most unmusical way of making music.....which makes it even more challenging which means more fun!!!!!
bt
 

dale w miller

DFO Veteran
Joined
Jul 25, 2016
Messages
1,625
Reaction score
1,849
Location
Ocean, NJ
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.

I love Matt's playing, but forget him for the time being.

Obviously, Chris knows the story better than me, but it sounds to me in a classic-major-label-way they messed up the band. First I bet they were the ones to change the name from The New Bohemians to Edie Brickell & The New Bohemians. That alone would bring the comradely of the band down, but to replace a band member who the studio drummer himself says he was a great player is ridiculous and sabotaging.

My friend was in a similar major label situation. They were an amazing live band and the producer comes in and tells them they need to replace the drummer and the producer replaced him with his brother of all people.

The drummer decided to stay in the band, but it completely crushed the dynamics within the band and they never went far afterwards. To top it off, the album is a terrible representation of them. It lacks the energy they brought live and in turn it did nothing.
 

Whitten

Very well Known Member
Joined
Apr 4, 2009
Messages
1,241
Reaction score
3,667
Obviously, Chris knows the story better than me, but it sounds to me in a classic-major-label-way they messed up the band.

I replaced band drummers a lot in the 80's. I have a few things to say.
Although I wasn't being replaced, I did an album around 1983 where Jerry Marotta was hired to share the drumming with me. I sat in and watched him do his session. It completely blew my mind, changed my way of working and arguably MADE my career.
It always amazed me that when I replaced a band drummer, they would go home, or spend the whole time playing pac-man in another room. I mean for me it's a huge opportunity to figure out - what does this guy do so well that I can't do.
The songs are almost always simple, so it really comes down to consistency. Is your timing consistent, is every snare hit consistent (in volume and tone)? These are all things you can practice and become better at, but the replaced band drummers would never know because they didn't watch me or ask me any questions.
It's funny, because at the same time as we were recording the New Bohemians albums, a producer on the McCartney album I was working on (Flowers In The Dirt) was nagging Paul to replace me with a famous American drummer and Paul said no. So depending what level you are at, you can replace and be replaced!
But Dale is right, replacing drummers almost always damages the band and often leads to a band breakup.
If you look at Dire Straits - the founding drummer, who had a big part in establishing the band sound, was Pick Withers. Then they had Terry Williams for a few years.
Omar Hakim played on the Brothers In Arms album, Porcaro and Manu Katche played on the last album (On Every Street). They failed to persuade either Hakim, Katche or Jeff to play on the tours.
The replacement drummer thing really ceased with the advent of Pro Tools and sample replacers. These days you can fix any poor performing drummer with a lot of digital edits and replacing all their inconsistent sounds with samples.
 

Whitten

Very well Known Member
Joined
Apr 4, 2009
Messages
1,241
Reaction score
3,667
It came across to me that it was the producer Pat Moran who didn't want to record The Bohemian's drummer for the album. I'm sure he discussed it with the label and they backed him. It seemed also that the band had to agree to it. I'm not sure what would have happened if they had insisted Brandon played on the songs.
When I initially turned it down they spent a couple of days recording with Brandon and Pat was never happy with the results. That's when he called me again, determined to get me involved.
The first album was such a massive success, the band had much more power going into the second album. Pat didn't produce it and they had no freelance musicians involved. It didn't sell well and they were dropped by Geffen.
 

notINtheband

Very well Known Member
Joined
Apr 29, 2021
Messages
985
Reaction score
2,193
Location
Kentucky
It always amazed me that when I replaced a band drummer, they would go home, or spend the whole time playing pac-man in another room. I mean for me it's a huge opportunity to figure out - what does this guy do so well that I can't do.
Kenny Aronof talks about this very situation when he wasn’t used on the first John Cougar record. His reaction was to camp out in the studio and learn everything he could about why the session drummer got the call while he was sidelined, vowing never to give them reason to every need to do it again.
Apparently, that approached worked well!
 

bellbrass

DFO Star
Gold Supporting Member
Joined
Aug 11, 2005
Messages
8,224
Reaction score
2,604
Location
Bluegrass of Kentucky
I replaced band drummers a lot in the 80's. I have a few things to say.
Although I wasn't being replaced, I did an album around 1983 where Jerry Marotta was hired to share the drumming with me. I sat in and watched him do his session. It completely blew my mind, changed my way of working and arguably MADE my career.
It always amazed me that when I replaced a band drummer, they would go home, or spend the whole time playing pac-man in another room. I mean for me it's a huge opportunity to figure out - what does this guy do so well that I can't do.
Listen up, kids, because this is "musical maturity", otherwise known as a proper professional attitude, at its best. Andy Newmark said basically the same thing about Jim Gordon when Jim was asked to play on Carly Simon's No Secrets album. Andy sat in the drum booth with Jim while he tracked You're So Vain over 40 times in a row, and it changed his drumming life for the better. "Humility" is not a bad word.
 
Last edited:

Downbeat

Well-Known Member
Gold Supporting Member
Joined
Jan 30, 2021
Messages
210
Reaction score
338
Location
Omaha NE.
Wow, thanks to the OP and thanks Chris. This is some great stuff.
 

dingaling

Very well Known Member
Joined
Aug 27, 2018
Messages
609
Reaction score
737
Location
NYC
Great thread. I was replaced one time for a recording by a band I was in 21 years ago, by super drummer Earl Harvin. I was totally ok with that.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.


Top