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Magnetic Memories In 1985, preparing for the Power Windows album, we rehearsed the songs together, but recording technology at that time was becoming both sophisticated and “artful.” Coproducer Peter Collins and engineer Jimbo Barton urged us to try recording our parts separately. (We have always liked to have a coproducer, to give us an objective ear and as an “arbitrator,” but still carefully protect our own role in that department by calling it “co” producer.) The reasoning was not only for greater control sonically, but also for greater focus on each performance, so it seemed worth trying. The drums came first (as they should!), and I went out alone and played to a “guide track” of guitar, bass, and vocals. It really wasn’t any different as a “musical experience” — I was still playing to Alex and Geddy, and to the song. The guys stayed in the control room, as part of the production team and “panel of judges.” Under such microscopic scrutiny, pleasing everyone could be challenging, and even trying to a weary drummer’s patience. However, I could not deny that the drum parts were elevated by that process — they continued to get better, not just different. (A crucial distinction.) For my own “part,” so to speak, I felt better being able to work at a song for as long as I felt it needed, without feeling I was making anybody else work too hard.

By that time we had been playing together for more than ten years, so whether or not it was in “real time,” we always played to each other. One big improvement in this method was that when Geddy rerecorded his bass part to my master drum track, he could play to every detail and nuance, making our rhythm-section performance tighter and more sympathetic than real-time could ever allow. (I often ask for a copy of that bass-and-drum basic track — just because.) On the 2007 sessions for Snakes And Arrows, with Nick “Booujzhe” Raskulinecz, he urged us to try a few songs with all of us in the room together. We obliged, and he was soon convinced that it didn’t change anything, and returned to our method. For the recording of Clockwork Angels, in 2011, again with Nick, I pushed that method in a new direction. Determined to capture performances that were more spontaneous, I deliberately avoided preparing. In the studio, I would play along with a song a few times, get a feel for the sort of patterns and “decorations” that might work, then call Nick into the room and we started recording. I didn’t even wait to learn the arrangement — just followed the baton wielded by Nick in front of me, conducting me into the changes, directing me toward different areas of the kit for the next section. Between

takes, we would consult on what seemed to work, and what other ideas might work. That was different, all right — but once the basic arrangement was worked out, and magic (or lucky) moments were “comped” into the master, I was delighted with the results. As I wrote in a story about preparing for that Clockwork Angels tour, I was pleased to note that, “The way I play now is the way I always wanted to play.” That is a fitting reward for almost 50 years of effort!

OR NOT TO CLICK Back in 1979, along with introducing the click track, we also started using digital sequencers (like in the chorus of “The Spirit Of Radio”) both in the studio and live, and on subsequent albums they would figure ever more. At first I would just have those sequences up loud in my floor monitor (the root of my hearing damage, I am convinced), then I tried headphones — especially for the sixteenth-note sequence in “Vital Signs,” from Moving Pictures. The eventual development of in-ear monitors solved the audibility problem, and that part of the job became much easier. Until the Clockwork Angels tour I had never used a click track live, except once years ago to stay in sync with a rear-screen film. For this tour it was helpful



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December 2015

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DRUM! Magazine December 2015  

Try a copy of DRUM! and learn to play better faster. The huge (144 pages) holiday issue features jazz triple grammy winner Teri Lyne Carring...

DRUM! Magazine December 2015  

Try a copy of DRUM! and learn to play better faster. The huge (144 pages) holiday issue features jazz triple grammy winner Teri Lyne Carring...