Almost all of the drums and percussion instruments that were recorded for Hammers are from Charlie’s personal collection and have been used on numerous records and film scores, but he did call in a couple of favors to borrow some choice instruments to add more variety. From long-time friend John Tempesta, known as the drummer for White Zombie, Testament, Exodus, Helmet, and most recently The Cult, Charlie managed to secure one of the one-hundred Ludwig John Bonham stainless-steel reissue kits, made by metal drum-shell master Ronn Dunnett. These are monstrous drums, with an aggressive tone that matches their appearance, and they are a natural complement to Charlie’s own Ludwig orange Vista-Lite John Bonham kit. For the Bass Drums recordings, first-call percussionist MB Gordy dove into his storage locker and brought out a pair of amazing concert bass drums to complement the Bonham kicks. For these sessions, he generously provided a massive Yamaha 36” drum with plastic Remo heads, and Cadeson 32” shell with a plastic resonant head and a calfskin batter head, which was the one and only drum head used for the recordings that were made from organic materials.
Drum by drum, the collection included:
- Bass Drums: The Ludwig Bonham 26” kicks, the aforementioned Cadeson 32”, and the Yamaha 36” concert bass drums were all sampled, with the 36” and 32” drums appearing in hand-damped articulations, adding the 26” drum to the un-damped solo articulations, and a four-player ensemble using all of the drums at once. With Remo Black Dot head on the batter side and Pinstripe heads on the resonant side, the Ludwig kicks are punchy and solid, and the Yamaha 36” drum with coated Remo heads in its un-damped configuration (and expertly tuned by MB Gordy) produced an earth-shaking 808-like pure tone that must be heard to be believed.
- Surdos: A set of four Meinl surdo drums at diameters of 16”, 18”, 20”, and 22” were recorded, with the two largest sizes recorded individually, and al four drums played together in the four-player ensemble, and their synthetic heads and aluminum shells provide a warm yet punchy sound with a well-defined attack when played with thick, heavy sticks.
- Toms: The full set of six toms from both Ludwig kits were recorded, with all three sizes recorded in solo and two-player configurations, and with the four-player ensemble consisting of two 16” and two 18” floor toms. The solo drums were recorded with sticks, wire brushes, and soft 18” paint rollers, which deliver a sound similar to a wool mallet but with a more detailed and pronounced attack. Expertly tuned, with a mixture of Remo Ambassador and Emperor coated heads, they have a solid, massive sound with a long but controlled decay.
- Rototoms: Instead of the commonly-available 6”, 8”, and 10” Rototoms that are often seen, Charlie brought out his favorite 12”, 14”, 16”, and 18” versions, which have a nasty, aggressive tone, especially when slack-tuned as he prefers. Skinned with Remo Pinstripe or Black Dot heads and played with sticks, the 12”, 14”, and 16” drums were recorded as solo articulations, with all four drums being used for the two-player and four-player ensembles. Surrounded in the bright and dense reverberation of his recording space, these Rototoms produce a violent smack that is a great complement to the longer, warmer sound of the surdos and toms, and bridge the gap to the higher percussion instruments.
- Frame Drums: Since they’re usually intended to be played with hands or fingers, frame drums don’t generally stand up well to the abuse of being played aggressively with sticks, mallets, and brushes. But as this was the order of the day, multiple sets of Remo frame drums with FiberSkyn synthetic heads were used and abused, and most did not survive the sessions intact. The sizes used for these recordings were 14” and 16”, played with wire brushes and 18” paint rollers, and recorded in both the center and edge positions. The resulting samples have a very detailed attack and can produce performances with startling realism.
- Snare Drums: Although not originally on the list of drums to be recorded for Hammers, on a hunch Charlie brought out his vintage Ludwig Supraphonic 6.5” x 14” snare, and within a few seconds it was obvious that it needed to be recorded and included in this collection. With coated Remo Ambassador and Emperor heads, this snare was recorded both with snares on and off, in center, edge, and cross-stick positions, and sounds amazing right out of the box. By adjusting the playback pitch in the Hammers UI, the snares-off recordings can do triple duty, providing an alternative high tom or an ominous, dirge-like field drum sound.
- Darbukas: Like the frame drums, darbukas are generally played with the fingertips, and while the shells are made from aluminum, the plastic heads are quite thin and Charlie likes them tuned fairly tightly, so two complete four-drum sets were used, along with a bag full of spare plastic heads. Collected over the last 20 years, some of the drums sounded better than others in the room, so they were carefully compared, and the best four were selected for the recordings. Sizes of 5”, 6”, 7”, and 8” were played with stiff wire brushes, and individually sampled at both center and edge positions, with all four being played at once for the four-player ensemble.
- Scrap Metals: Long a favorite component of Charlie’s percussion grab bag, an entire road-case full of pieces of steel, iron, and brass hardware and scrap metal was auditioned and carefully selected to create four categories of tones; Pipes High, Pipes Low, Iron, and Misc, with that last category consisting of more than twenty of the best from more than a hundred bars, brackets, cans, lids, and other bits of hardware that Charlie has collected over the years for just this purpose. Altogether these recordings provide a wealth of tonalities ranging from tight ticky-tacks, to bell-like tones, to trashy and downright violent smacks and booms. The Loops provided the ideal source for the extensive processing used to create the Warps, and both the Loops and the Warps work especially well when played using the unique Reverse functionality in Hammers.