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William Fitzsimmons’ Aaron Sterling

Aaron Sterling of William Fitzsimmons : Modern DrummerHello! For the last eight years I’ve found myself working exclusively as a recording musician in Los Angeles. I grew up in Nashville and made my way to L.A. in the hopes of doing just this. Last year I had the pleasure of playing on William Fitzsimmons’ record The Sparrow And The Crow. If you haven’t heard this record, please check it out. I’ve done more than twenty records with the producer, Marshall Altman, over the last five years or so. While I work with many different producers here in Los Angeles, Marshall and I have a special connection, and I thought I’d share a little bit about the process behind this record.

The Sparrow And The Crow was actually recorded differently from the other records I’ve done with Marshall. Usually he’s got everyone in the room together, all playing at the same time. With William’s record, the music was so intimate that Marshall thought it would be best to record all the instruments separately and play as sparsely as possible.

Since William’s last record had minimal drum programming and no real drums at all, my job was to keep with that spirit but still add a human touch. Most of the parts on this record are pretty loop based. Basically, I would try to find a two-bar or four-bar pattern that would work for the entire song, and then I’d augment it here and there to help distinguish the different sections. There aren’t many fills at all–instead, the approach was mostly about adding or subtracting sounds. The main kit I used was an old Radio King with a 24″ bass drum, which belongs to the engineer, Eric Robinson. It’s a joy to play, and Eric really knows how to get a great tone out of it.

Here are a couple of my favorite tracks and a little description of what I did….

“Find Me To Forgive”
Beautiful waltz. I love this song. Marshall wanted the song to have a “rolling” feel to it, which is why the backbeat is in kind of an odd spot in the bar.

“You Still Hurt Me”
About as minimal as it gets. 808 hi-hat throughout. Then mix in some caixixi basket shakers and a splash cymbal taped to the concrete floor, and you’ve got a drum part!

“Further From You”
This was sort of my nod to Bjork’s song “Hunter.” No hi-hat, just a light backbeat with lots of press rolls in between.

“Goodmorning”
Pretty much the most blatant rip-off of “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover” ever recorded.

With each record I play on, I find a new appreciation for the sound of an old drum or cymbal I had given up on. Suddenly the energy of the room–the engineer, other players, artist, and producer–comes together and I find a new sound in something that wasn’t there before. The forever-changing environment of recording brings something different out in my playing every time.

A big thank-you to my sponsors, Istanbul, Pro-Mark, and Evans, for all their support.

For more information on what’s happening in Aaron’s world, visit www.aaronsterling.com.

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