On Industrial Drums

Discussion in 'Industrial' started by Catalyst, Apr 25, 2014.

  1. Catalyst

    Catalyst Audiosexual

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    [​IMG]
    Every fan of old-school industrial knows that the sound of the drums is one of the most crucial elements at play in the mix: both the timbre of the used drum hits and the style of sequencing used in the drum patterns form a definitive element of the 80's-90's industrial sound. They're big, they're thick, they PUNCH; and the patterns are slick, infectious, and often subtle and unpredictable in their movements. And though occasionally (or often...) we hear the standard four-on-the-floor beat, we just as often find syncopated layers of rhythm that, while perhaps simple, nonetheless avoid cliche dance rhythms and form infectious patterns that stick in the mind for days, weeks, years...('Addiction,' anyone?)

    If you're like me, you've probably felt that a sad majority of modern industrial music has tended, rather oddly, toward using drums of a very different sort. Today's popular drums, disappointingly, are too frequently built from the standard trance-kicks paired with light snappy snares. And worse yet, these tend to play looping four-on-the-floor patterns with little (if any) variation.

    But I'm not here to insult today's drums, but rather to discuss how we can go about making Old School Industrial Drums, and bring this sound back to the genre.

    1. The Drum Programs
    I'm very picky about which drum programs I use inside my host. For my needs, Ableton's Drum Racks are the best thing out there, most notably because they allow you to apply individual effects for each drum sample in a simple and quick way (and furthermore, drum racks offer a collapsable mixer channel for each drum pad, so the extra visual element is there IF you want it). I can also drag and drop samples from Ableton's browser right onto the drum pads, which is also key for me, as it's a huge time-saver when I'm sorting through my rather ridiculously large library of drum sounds. Products like BPM, Guru and Battery allow for individual effects per pad, but only if you create new audio channels in your mixer and route the pads to them, which I find to be a huge workflow killer (not to mention a quick way to create a visual mess in your mixer). Battery and Maschine both have some built in FX, but if you're like me, you don't want to be limited by the native FX section, and need your bevy of 3rd party plugs on hand.

    It's also worth noting that sometimes it's nice to use (or create yourself) synthesized drum sounds, as opposed to sample based drum design. In this case I almost always use the excellent Microtonic drum synth made by Sonic Charge. The rest of this article, however, generally pertains to using sample-based drum programs like battery, drum racks, guru, redrum, BPM and so on.

    Last note: if your goal is to build industrial-style drum tracks, you can kiss goodbye the notion of finding preset kits in any of the above mentioned programs that will provide you with ready-to-go industrial drum sounds. You will, of course, find any number of glitchy, trancey, housey, techno-y kits out there among the vast preset kit libraries.

    2. The Samples Themselves
    This step and the next step are the most important on this matter; regardless of what drum tool you use, your drums are never going to sound suitably industrial if you don't a) use good samples to begin with and b) know how to make FX work for you (though I should note that sometimes, with really heavy FX like a good distortion plug, the FX chain can work magic on even the crappiest of samples, resulting in powerful drums regardless of your original source). I recommend hunting down one-shots (as opposed to loops) because extracting hits from loops tends to keep extra material like hats or other random percussive noises, which can get in the way of crafting a perfect, pure industrial kick or snare. I do, however, like using loops (either ones I've made in Maschine or others found online, from a library, etc) and filtering/EQ'ing and otherwise processing the hell out of them and then dropping them "behind" the primary kick and snare pattern, as this will often create a strong sense of additional movement to the overall pattern.

    So, back to finding good one-shots: here's my secret tip, take it or leave it, but guard it safely: the best one-shots for industrial music are those that come....from 80's pop music. Whether from 80's style sample packs, or literally sampled from 80's pop tunes themselves, much of industrial drumming involves taking 80's style kicks and snares and then processing them heavily with reverb, distortion and compression. No doubt this is simply due to the fact that industrial music started up in the 80's, and the industrial musicians of the time were, to be reductionistic about it for a moment, basically creating a counter-culture version of what was mainstream pop at the time: pet shop boys, a-ha, tears for fears, depeche mode, bowie's 80's phase, and so on. Here's some proof: go listen to some samples from Janet Jackson's "Rhythm Nation" album, and just pay attention to the drums. If you strip everything else away, what's left would fit at least decently well (if not far better) in any track from Mind: The Perpetual Intercourse or Front By Front. So: do searches online for 80's drum samples.

    There are all kinds of resources around the internet for finding 80's drums. Zenhiser sells some cool sample packs, as do Dance Midi Samples and PureMagnetik. But you can also track down 80's style drum sounds from numerous free sites; see my old post about "feeding your sample" for some great starting points. That particular 80's sound often came from early sample-based synthesizers (and also, of course, sample-based drum machines) that used small waveform samples to form a core library of available sounds that could then be run through the usual filters and modulations. The LinnDrum was an early example of this, and has an iconic sound still heard in popular recordings today (though if you want to know what LinnDrum samples sound like, just listen to any track from Prince's 1999 album). The sample-synth idea eventually evolved into the 'workstation' concept, fully realized in 1988 by KORG with the seminal M1 workstation synth. Check out Korg's excellent emulation (part of the KORG Legacy Collection: Digital) of this synth, and a quick run through the drum kits will reveal plenty of distinctly 80's sounding, crunchy sample-based drum hits. Synthesized drums naturally have their role to play in industrial as well, with the classic Roland beatboxes popping up all over, to name one example, the entire discography of Skinny Puppy. But purely synthesized drum hits (particularly the snares and hats) tend to have a thinner, snappier kind of sound that, while having their place in industrial, won't by themselves provide adequate material for big, crunchy drums (unless, like Cevin Key in 1985, you know exactly how to heavily process these things to full effect, using the sorts of tricks mentioned below).

    Needless disclaimer: Obviously I'm just talking about a specific sort of sound here, heard throughout much of the Classic Industrial backcatalog. It goes without saying that any kind of drum samples could be put to good use in industrial music, with the right creative tweaking. Oh, and maybe try some samples drawn from two rare, little-known machines that show up and now and then in the electronic music world, I think they're called the 808 and 909...

    3. Production Techniques
    This is where it gets really fun...but a whole book could be written on this subject. Your FX toolbox provides endless ways to toughen-up your drum sounds and make them really crash & clang. But I'll focus on a few FX tricks that lend themselves very well toward the Industrial 'sound'...

    1. Gated Reverb (plus a few notes on sample layering)
    It may have started with Phil Collins, but this trick is heard all over the industrial drums of the 80's and 90's. Usually you hear this on the snare drum, but often it appears on the kick (or more typically, one the 'click' layer of a multi-layer kick drum). Reverb Gating is basically where you run the sample through a big roomy reverb, and then run this signal into a Gate that effectively cuts off most of the tail of the reverb. The result is an expansive sounding punch to the hit (again, usually of the snare) that then quickly disappears, resulting in a much wider, crashier hit that can nonetheless be played repeatedly without numerous long reverb tails starting to overlap and muddy up the whole sequence. If you do this on a kick, I recommend layering your kicks such that one kick provides a lower, bass-centric 'oomph' and another provides less bass and more of a mid-range 'click' sound (you can sculpt these with your favorite EQ plugin) and then run the 'clicky' kick through the gated reverb. The combined result is highly effective, and if you want a perfect example of this kind of sound, just listen to 'Deadlines' from Skinny Puppy's 'Bites' album.

    2. Parallel Compression
    This is also called the 'New York' compression trick. Put a compressor on a Return channel and set it to a fairly high ratio (like 4:1 or higher); now put an EQ after it that scoops out the midrange, as we want the added 'oomph' to focus on the lows and highs, but not the mids, as these tend to sound grating and tinny when over-processed. The threshold setting of the compressor will have to be adjusted to taste, but it will usually be something of a moderate setting -- enough to pump a lot of the signal without pumping all of it, if that makes any sense. Now, use the Send on your Drum channel to send around %50 (give or take a bit) to the Return -- this will add the compressed signal from the Return into the mix, on top of the already heard drum channel, resulting in a beefier, snappier overall mix to the drums. Typically, compression is used as an insert effect in a serial FX chain; parallel compression mixes things up by using compression in parallel instead (e.g. adding wet signal to dry signal rather than dry becoming wet by a certain percentage) via the use of your DAW's send+return channels. If this all sounds a bit confusing, do a quick search on the difference between serial and parallel fx processing and you should be able to sort things out.

    3. Making Noize
    There's a wealth of tools out there to mangle your drum sounds. For industrial, a good distortion unit is always a good choice. Personally, I'm not too fond of extremely overdriven drums, e.g. the sort you'd hear in power-noise and it's brethren; but a subtle use of distortion or saturation can give drums extra grit and punch, and occasionally can be great for extreme sonic destruction, if controlled and sculpted appropriately. My recommendation for distortion (and for other crazy fx) is most definitely the kooky french group OHM FORCE, who make the most wicked distortion plugin you're likely to ever hear -- Ohmicide. This is a multi-band distortion unit that really just has to be heard and played with to be understood. You can find out more at www.ohmforce.com

    Well, that wraps up my introduction to industrial drums. I have a feeling I may revisit this territory again in the future; meanwhile, if you have any particular tips and strategies, or know of any great sample resources relevant to this kind of thing, please drop a comment below!
     
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  3. thisis theend

    thisis theend Noisemaker

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    Heck yeah. The 80's are a great source for all kinds of joy :break:
     
  4. Mr_Amine

    Mr_Amine Rock Star

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    Thanks Catalyst :wink: :mates:
    Really useful info :thumbsup: *yes*
     
  5. Catalyst

    Catalyst Audiosexual

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    By the way it's a common misconception that Phil Collins was the first to use gated reverb when in fact it was Peter Gabriel.

    No problem Mr_Amine, glad you found it useful. :mates:
     
  6. thisis theend

    thisis theend Noisemaker

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    Intro to 'The Intruder' - great sample source for badass drums (and it's still a kick-ass track) :drummer:
     
  7. Introninja

    Introninja Moderator Staff Member

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    I find Industrial to somewhat expressive, the music can go anywhere there is no Standard & limits.

    It's just Epic heart-pounding Music and wicked use in action scene enough of this EDM
     
  8. Catalyst

    Catalyst Audiosexual

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    [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
  9. IXV

    IXV Newbie

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    great post :thumbsup:
     
  10. beatroot

    beatroot Producer

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    Thanks Catalyst.Been doing this for quite sometime now!!!Thanks for all the extra tips and all the help up until now.Great work. :mates:
     
  11. Catalyst

    Catalyst Audiosexual

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    Never a problem my friend, glad you're enjoying your time here. :mates:
     
  12. jennyblack

    jennyblack Member

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    Great article! Very nice contributions Catalyst!
     
  13. floond

    floond Producer

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    Well, Collins played drums on that Peter Gabriel album ;)

    Very interesting article/guide, thanks for sharing!
     
  14. thisis theend

    thisis theend Noisemaker

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    Yes he did, and certainly deserves cred for his work. But they developed that heavy, nasty sound because it was perfect for some of the dark and frantic songs that Gabriel wrote for 'Melt', and it's said that it came about cause Gabriel specifically wanted a different drum sound during those sessions.
    So his vision was the spark for it, and he was always way more experimental than Collins. [​IMG]
     
  15. floond

    floond Producer

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    Oh ok. Yea Genesis was def. way cooler with Gabriel at the wheel hehe.

    According to wiki gated reverbs were used a few years earlier though :
     
  16. Catalyst

    Catalyst Audiosexual

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    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SOYZWD2E9Fs​
     
  17. thisis theend

    thisis theend Noisemaker

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    Catalyst - [​IMG] [​IMG]


    Yeah, but the thing that was special about the gated drums on Gabriel's album was that really heavy sound on a stripped down kit and the prominent role the beat had in the mix. I actually still remember the very first time I heard it. My older brother had bought the record and when he put it on and that Intruder beat started blasting through the speakers it was like nothing I heard before. Those drums are the main thing in the track, they made a stronger impression than the other instruments or even Gabriel's voice.

    It was the same with In the air tonight by Collins where they replicated the Intruder sound. I know exactly where I was the first time I heard that one. It was on the radio in a car. When that killer drum break came and the beat kicked in the driver almost had to pull over cause everybody was like "what - the - hell, [​IMG] that was fan-friggin-tastic!"
     
  18. Catalyst

    Catalyst Audiosexual

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    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rEpsRDy89yI

    Well then you'll love this rework by Dead When I Found Her.​
     
  19. thisis theend

    thisis theend Noisemaker

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    Yeah that takes me right back, makes me feel like a kid again :drummer:

    But I must admit I still prefer the original version by slick man Phil. Maybe I'm psycho material :wow:
     
  20. Catalyst

    Catalyst Audiosexual

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    Hey you can't compare, it's two different styles. We can have both. :grooves:
     
  21. Rob Humanoid

    Rob Humanoid Newbie

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    More great info... Thanks mate!

    I bought some of the 80's Zenheiser sample packs a while ago. They are great! :)
     
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