Adrian Young: Following Up A Major Hit
There's no doubt about it--a hit record makes an easier time of it for a band for their next project. No Doubt was able to work in the plush, relaxed atmosphere of Royaltone Studios, where they could move in if they wanted to. But on the downside, the fame they established with their last record, Tragic Kingdom, made it necessary for the group's members to stay out of sight and work in an environment hidden from fans desperate to be near them.
Even with all of the trappings of success and the pressures of following up a successful album, the members of No Doubt have stayed focused. While in the studio they even made time to work out in the studio gym, "We're trying to stay in shape," Adrian says at the tail end of recording their tentatively named new album, Artificial Sweetener, due out at the beginning of 2000. "In order to do a good, energetic show, we're going to have to work on ourselves in the off time, because it's not going to come easy anymore--we're all getting close toe thirty. We lift weights, and Mike Heatlie, our trainer, takes us running."
Adrian was proudest to show off his drums, set up on a 2½'-high riser. "We were demoing tunes at SIR with engineer Sean Beavin for a few weeks before we went in to record," he says. "He put me on a riser set up alongside large subwoofers, and ran some of the drums through those, full blast. I really liked the way it made the demo sound, so I took the idea over to Royaltone."
"It has some intangible quality, to the low end especially," explains current No Doubt producer Glen Ballard. "It seems to give it a little more depth. If you're just on the floor, even if it's floated, it's not going to have the same flexibility that the stage does. I think somewhere within that flexibility some other air is getting moved in the low end.
"The drums are the backbone of the tracks," Ballard continues. "And if you don't get that right, you're flawed from the very beginning. It's like the DNA of the whole thing. The drums have to be right on a lot of levels--obviously time and tone are important aspects, but also they have to be party of the song. Adrian is always thinking about how to serve the song and how to get from point A to point B with the lyrics, melody, and what everybody else is playing in mind. He has a very mature and seasoned approach to it. He has a real good sense of arrangement and he's interested in all the details. And he's at the real center--the motor--of every track."
Young puts a great deal of thought into the songs because he says he doesn't like to repeat any parts. "We have more slow songs on this album than on the last one," Adrian says, "and I didn't want to do the 'Don't Speak' drum beat again. 'Home Now' has a little signature thing I did on the last record, though. When the chorus hits, I play the snare drum on all four counts, which is a similar beat to 'Spiderwebs' and 'Sunday Morning.'"
One thing Adrian says he did on the new album that he hadn't done previously was ride the floor tom. "I played 8th notes on the floor tom with the snare on 2 and 4 on 'Comforting Lie' and 'Home Now.' It gives the tune a lot of drive."
Adrian says one new tune in particular, "A Simple Kind of Life," was a magical creation. "It was kind of a last-minute jam, but now it may end up being a single," Young says. "Another one I really like is called 'Bath Water,' because I've never really heard a song quite like it. It mixes reggae with kind of a '40s swing feel. The verses are a reggae thing and then it goes to a swing thing in the choruses. It's a real melding of styles.
"Another interesting song we did is called 'Under Construction,'" Adrian adds, "but that might not make the record. The bridge goes back and for between 6/4 and 5/4 and the rest of the song is in 4/4. 'Staring Problem' is in 4/4 and on the bridge I go to 5/4 and everybody stays in 4/4. I tried to turn the best around and it ended up becoming a 6/4 pattern without my even thinking about it conceptually. It just evolved naturally."
Ballard says that despite the organic approach, the recording was very organized and focused. "We had three weeks of pre-production, and we really nailed the arrangements down. So when we came into the studio, there was a real clear sense of what we were trying to accomplish. We ran the song down two or three times and then fine-tuned the drums. Then it took the band one or two takes. It's remarkable.
"Many of these songs are over 150 beats per minutes, and Adrian's stamina and focus is impeccable," Ballard adds, clearly impressed. "His time is great from start to finish. We're recording on a Pro-Tools platform so there's all kinds of manipulation we can do to bring something into perfect time. But we haven't needed to do it at all. There's a little bit of the human give and take around a click, but for all intents and purposes, it's dead-on. It's been efficient because we're able to put up six or seven snare drums, try them all, and then whichever one we feel is the one, we go to it and Adrian carves the track. I think the listeners will appreciate that every song has an interesting drum sound, but it's not over-hyped--it's real. It's got an organic sound."
"I think we hit another level with this album," Adrian concludes. "Not to come across like I'm patting us on the back, but I really feel like there are no other records out like this one. We're not going to sound like every other band on the radio. We have a sound, but it's really different music."
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Courtesy Modern Drummer magazine. December 1999.