Jeff Porcaro Kingdom of Desire Recording Session
This post is dedicated to the late, great drummer Jeff Porcaro. Jeff was a session drumming master who played with the group TOTO. His early death in 1992 shocked us all and left us with his recordings from 1972 to his 1992. Kingdom of Desire Recording Session. The Man with the Golden Groove! On the scene, it went something like this:
Day One, 10:00 A.M.
Matt Luneau and Paul Hurd of the Drum Doctor arrive at Studio A with Jeff’s equipment. They wheel in several different drum sets, an array of Paiste cymbals (including a couple of unidentified prototypes) and an Anvil case full of snare drums. The kit is set up in the main room of the studio–a large, ambient room with wooden floors and a high ceiling.
By 10:15 A.M.
The drums are locked into place and the process of changing heads begins. Coated Remo Ambassadors are installed on the top sides of the snare and toms while a Remo PowerStroke 3 is the choice for the bass drum. Jeff’s snare is cranked tightly while the toms are a bit looser–with the bottom heads tuned slightly lower than the top heads to produce a subtle pitch bend effect. A packing blanket is placed inside the bass drum and secured with a sandbag.
After tuning the kit, Matt and Paul depart and the engineers from A&M begin placing microphones. The selection includes an AKG D12 and a Neumann 47FET on the bass drum, AKG 414’s on the toms, a Shure SM57 on the top of the snare and a Sennheiser 441 on the bottom, a 452-10 condenser on the hi-hat, and six AKG C12’s as overheads–two directly over the kit, two approximately six feet in front of the kit, and another two at approximately 12 feet in front.11:00 A.M.Jeff arrives, tells a hilarious Ike Turner session story, grabs a pair of sticks, and starts to warm up behind the kit. After 15 minutes, Ross Garfield “The Drum Doctor” arrives with a snare drum for Jeff to try out. It’s a 5″ x 14″ Solid/Select maple shell, Tama die-cast hoops, a Sonor throw-off, and a 42-strand snare. Jeff loves it. According to Ross, “Jeff’s got the tuning thing down, but he likes to have a second set of ears sometimes.”
Engineer Greg Ladanyi wheels a pair of bass cabinets into the studio and positions them on each side of Jeff’s bass drum. His plan is to route the bass drum signal through the speakers and mike them for additional ambiance.
The process of getting drum sounds begins. As Jeff hits each drum repeatedly, Ladanyi works the huge Neve console like a mad scientist. With no outboard effects (other than a bit of compression here and there) he quickly achieves a very lively and very powerful drum sound. When he starts bleeding the bass drum throught the cabinets, everyone in the control room seems amazed.
As Jeff lets rip on the kit, Ladanyi rolls tape. Soon after, he invites Jeff into the control room to hear the playback. Jeff returns to the studio to tweak the 14″ floor tom and change a crash cymbal. Once done, he’s ready to track.
David Paich, the last band member to arrive, enters the studio and takes a seat behind his heaping pile of MIDI gear. The band is set up in a circle, face-to-face, in the same room. Each musician has a remote mixing console which allows them to customize their own headphone/monitor mixes. With the guitar and bass amplifiers isolated in separate booths, they’re ready to cut the basic tracks for “I’ll Never Hurt You” together, without a click.
After a console problem is fixed, they’re once again ready to roll. The first time through is solid, but, unfortunately, Jeff’s headphones fly off his head half-way through the take.
As an added precaution, John “JJ” Jessel–Paich’s long-time keyboard tech–brings in an Alesis SR-16 drum machine for a click reference. Jeff quickly creates a repetitive eighth-note handclap and cowbell pattern to play along with. A couple of takes later, it’s a keeper–with no overdubs necessary.Day Two, Noon.With the basic tracks for “I’ll Never Hurt You” in the can, today’s goal is to cut “Don’t Chain My Heart,” a mid-tempo shuffle written by Paich.
Jeff arrives and, along with Lukather and Mike Porcaro, starts to warm up in the studio. For this tune, Jeff is laying down a solid four-on-the-floor kick pattern with a tasty offbeat shuffle pattern over the top. He’s programmed an eighth-note triplet click pattern on the Alesis SR-16.
Paich finally arrives and the tape starts to roll. After the first time through, Ladanyi calls the band into the control room to hear the playback. Afterwards, everyone is convinced that Jeff’s track is a keeper.
After soloing the bass and drums, they indeed decide to keep the drums. The process of singularly overdubbing bass, rhythm guitar, and keyboards begins. Lukather, now behind the board, relates to Ladanyi, “Whatever we do, we’ve got to make sure that we don’t fix the life out of these tunes.” Jeff agrees. “If we punch the bass guitar in and out too much, my fills are going to start sounding stiff.”
With the bass and drum tracks now complete, the band gives the tune a high-volumed playback. Heads bob, harms flail, and high- fives abound. Lukather turns to Jeff, slaps him on the back and says, “Awesome man. Awesome. This is one of your finest!” And on that note, the control room empties. Just another day in the studio for the man with the golden groove.
Porcaro’s Power ToolsDrums:
Pearl MLX (maple)1. Alternates between: 3 1/2″ x 14″ Pearl Free-Floating brass piccolo, Pearl 5 1/2″ x 14″ steel, 5″ x 14″ Solid/Select maple, Ludwig Black Beauty (plus many more)
2. Brady 10″ soprano snare drum
3. 18″ x 22″ bass drum
4. 8″ x 10″ mounted tom
5. 8″ x 12″ mounted tom
6. 9″ x 13″ mounted tom
7. 12″ x 14″ suspended floor tom
8. 14″ x 16″ suspended floor tom
Cymbals–Paiste Signature Series:
A. 14″ hi-hats
B. 10″ cup chime
C. 6″ cup chime
D. 18″ crash
E. 16″ crash
F. 20″ ride
G. 17″ crash
H. 20″ Wuhan China-type
Jeff Porcaro also uses PureCussion RIMS, Drum Workshop DW-5000 pedals, Calato/Regal Tip “Jeff Porcaro” Performer Series drum sticks, Remo coated Ambassadors on batter sides, clear Diplomats on bottoms, and a PowerStroke 3