First, let me thank you, Michael, for sharing your experience with us...
I was wondering if you talk a little about how you feel about working with hired guns instead of band members(drummers in particular), and if you could share a couple of session stories that you had with some of the Legends (Vinnie, Gadd, Jeff, Jordan, JR, etc.)
Drummers are vital to a recording, hence a really good drummer is important and a great one is indispensable. For reasons of practicality, consistency (and good vibes) I prefer to work with a band drummer, however if they are incompetent (as is sometimes the case), they generally must be replaced. I feel that editing a poor drummer is like polishing a turd and even if you have a performance which is metrically in time because it was rescued by a computer, you have something which is lacking in character and emotion and sets the tone for whatever you record on top of it.
The replacement drummers I've worked with are generally more "band guys" (like Jack Irons or Deen Castronovo) and less professional session players. These drummers play stylistically appropriately for the session, understand the politics of a band and are sensitive to the other personalities in the situation- especially that of the drummer they are replacing. I haven't had the pleasure of working with any of the drummers you mentioned, except Vinnie- he was amazing, but in and out so fast, I barely got a chance to say hello.
I wanted to ask you about that aswell... How do you handle telling a guy he´s not cutting it? Do you know it right away or do you spend some time trying to make it happen?
How often "ghost musicians" need to be called to save the day?
While we are on the topic of session drummers and navigating interpersonal band dynamics -- would you care to comment on the Celebrity Skin session, specifically the criticisms leveled against you in the documentary "Hit So Hard"? Do you feel the documentary fairly represented those sessions and the way the session drummer was incorporated? In hindsight, might you handle that situation differently now?
It's fairly easy to tell if a drummer won't cut it on a recording session, it sometimes takes awhile for the truth to set in or for the timing to be right that the issue must be addressed.
I've always tried to be diplomatic- especially when I knew the drummer being replaced was beyond hope and wasn't going to rise to the occasion. The only time I was ever heavy handed was with a drummer who was absolutely superlative and wasn't pulling his weight. He not only rise to the task- he excelled.
I always take into account the fact I'm dealing with another human being who has feelings. I may have a job to make a great record, but they are going to have to live with the shame and humiliation of the decision to relieve them. For this reason, I attempt to handle the situation with compassion by recognizing my responsibility but also putting myself in their shoes. Additionally, for this reason, the decision to relieve the drummer must be made with the rest of the band and cannot be handled independently of them. This is nothing more than a power play and can cause the people you're working with to be uncomfortable around you, rather than respect you.
I can't say how often replacement musicians need to be brought in, but it's always a relief to know they are around to bail out a session in need.
Sure. Basically, the only thing that rings true about the movie or jibes with my recollection of what happened is that Patti Schemel was the drummer for Hole, I produced their record and she wound up getting relieved and replaced by another drummer. Just about everything else in the movie that pertains to my involvement with Patti is a complete fabrication- including the factors leading up to her replacement, how and why she was replaced and by whose authority she got replaced.
Given a similar situation, the same variables and the same alternatives, I'd have acted exactly the same way again.