12 days of Christmas: Rak Studios' greatest drum sounds
2nd Jan 2014 | 09:00
RAK, the illustrious St John’s Wood recording studios was founded by legendary producer Mickie Most, who was best known for his hits with The Animals, Jeff Beck, Donovan, Suzi Quatro and Kim Wilde among others. Prior to that, Most had set up his own production office at 155 Oxford Street, sharing it with his business partner Peter Grant.
It was through Most's association that Grant was asked to manage The Yardbirds. In 1968, Most and Grant set up RAK Management, but Grant's involvement with The Yardbirds, which soon evolved into Led Zeppelin, meant Most had full control in late 1969.
Now firmly woven into the fabric of the British music industry, Most’s next move, RAK Studios first opened its doors in 1976 having been converted from an old Victorian schoolhouse in London’s St John’s Wood.
Artists who have recorded classic works over the years include, Michael Jackson, Paul McCartney, David Bowie, Al Green and Pink Floyd among many others. More recently the studio has played host to the likes of Laura Marlin, Rod Stewart, Adele, Arctic Monkeys, Shakira, Beady Eye, The Vaccines and Plan B.
Here, in-house engineer Mike Horner picks some of his favourite drum recordings to have come out of the famed studio.
For more on the history of RAK click here.
Placebo, Gallagher & Lyle
Placebo – Rob The Bank
“Because Steve the drummer was such a hard hitter and we wanted huge sounding drums without bringing up the level of the cymbals too much we fed the toms and snare through PA speakers either side of the kit for added power in the room mics. In most cases weused our vintage pair of Neumann M50s or a pair of Neumann TLM 170s.”
Gallagher & Lyle - Showdown
“This was the first record to be recorded In RAK studios in 1976. Some of my favourite drums sounds are from the seventies. Recorded to tape with minimal miking it's got a great sounding close drum sound with the use of screens and dampening around the kit.”
Robert Plant, The Who
Robert Plant – Calling To You
“Robert Plant has been a regular visitor to RAK studios over the years. This track demonstrates the great room sound in RAK studio 1. It's large but controlled with a massive sounding snare drum.”
The Who – Who Are You
“I couldn't have a list of great RAK drums tracks without including the legendary Keith Moon! This is great example of Keith’s feel and how he pushes and pulls all the way through the track. Also it’s a great example of how rock drum sounds have changed over time from being a very natural real kit in a room sound to being very processed and upfront.”
The Golden Silvers, Radiohead
The Golden Silvers – Arrows Of Eros
“We recorded this track in studio 2 at RAK in a different way. Lex Dromgoole the producer wanted a programmed vibe but with a live played feel so we set up the kit but then proceeded to remove pieces and record each element one by one. We then processed each bit through outboard and pedals giving a live played but processed sound.”
Radiohead – The Bends
“Produced by the legendary John Leckie in Studio 1 at RAK and assisted by Nigel Godrich. A big compressed room sound is the order of the day here. I love the way the drums sound huge but still don’t overpower the other instruments in the track. The sound of the room helps the drums sit in the track.
Feeder, Palma Violets
Feeder – Come Back Around
“Produced by Gil Norton and recorded by Adrian Bushby (as a side note Dave grohl said of Adrian that he got the best drum sounds he’d ever heard when they recorded ‘The Pretender’). This is a great drum performance by Mark Richardson (also of Skunk Anansie). It’s got a great tom groove in the verses and bridges and then opens up in the choruses. The intensity in performance builds really well through the track with a great fill in the mid section that sits massively behind the beat.”
Palma Violets – Best Of Friends
“This track has a great, raw trashy sound as the producer Steve Mackey wanted to capture the energy the band had at their rehearsals and live shows. Normally we would separate the band out and screen things off to avoid spill. Here we embraced it and placed the band at one end of studio 1 and closed off the other half and let them play live together. The spill gels everything together and creates a great atmosphere.”
Everything Everything, Razorlight, The Cure
Everything Everything – Cough Cough
“This track was recorded in Studio 3 at RAK. This session was interesting as we had two fully miked up kits for the duration as we moved between tight/dead sounding drums and large roomy sounding drums. Cough Cough was on the latter. There weren't many mics left in the building at the end of the session!”
Razorlight – Stumble & Fall
“This is another track that shows off the natural sound of Studio 1. There’s a great relentless pounding beat that really drives the song along with a stomped hat that leaves loads of space in the verses and is then used really well to define the different sections of the song. The kit was not massively processed leaving its natural sound intact.”
The Cure - Lovecats
“While not necessarily a great drum track, I picked Lovecats as 1) it’s one of my favourite tracks! and 2) it demonstrates how a drummer can provide an amazing groove without overplaying and it provides the bedrock of the track that all the other instruments can play around.”