Jim Archer of The Art Of Shooting
Greetings, Modern Drummers! My New York City band the Art Of Shooting has recently released our first full-length album, Traveling Show, and we’re excited about hitting the road to play for a bunch of new faces. I’d like to tell you a little about myself, our album, and a few tips I’ve learned along the way.
Recording The Album
We recorded Traveling Show in a few different studios, starting with Machines With Magnets in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, because we liked the albums they recorded for Battles, Lighting Bolt, and Chinese Stars. Their awesome engineers set up their six-piece Yamaha Maple Custom Absolute kit for me in their cavernous drum room with close mics and distant room mics, tuned the heads nice and low, and even re-tuned them after each few takes, which felt like quite the royal treatment. We recorded the second half of the album at Headgear Studios in Brooklyn with Paul Majahan, who recorded the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and TV On The Radio. He got some great sounds out of the kit, and also recorded my keyboard part on the track “The Keeper.” Our friend Andreea Zafareei helped us overdub percussion on some of the songs, like the army of marching drums that begin the album’s title track, as well as other songs that were initially recorded before their drum parts had really evolved. Finally, Paolo DeGregorio, who I’d worked with on Renminbi’s 2008 album The Phoenix, did an excellent job mixing and paring down our many guitar, vocal, and percussion tracks. While Traveling Show took longer to finish than any record I’ve played on, we’re extremely proud of the quality of the finished product.
Musical Evolution And Influences
Music has been an important part of my life for as long as I can remember. I got my first drum at age three, sang in choirs between the ages of seven and eighteen, and took eight years of classical piano lessons at my mother’s urging. While piano wasn’t my favorite instrument at the time, it taught me that I loved performing, and gave me a good musical foundation for when I joined the school band at age nine. My teacher taught me my first beat on the drumkit at age eleven, and I started playing with the school jazz band at age twelve. I taught myself to play rock drums by listening to my older brother’s record collection, which included the Rolling Stones and Guns N’ Roses, Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Cream, Hendrix, and Led Zeppelin. In college I got into indie and punk bands like Sunny Day Real Estate, Jawbox, Engine Down, Blink-182, Detachment Kit, Refused, Q & Not You, Sleater-Kinney, and the Dismemberment Plan. My family has been incredibly supportive: My mom got me my first drumkit for my fourteenth birthday and suggested I find other kids to jam with, and years later gave me train fare to get to my first New York audition while I was still living in DC. My dad helped me lug gear to and from gigs, my brother lent me his record collection, and the whole family endured endless hours of noisy basement practice and loyally attended my bands’ talent show performances. In high school and college, I played in a number of original and cover bands too numerous to mention.
Jog Your Memory
Sooner or later, a drummer might get in a creative rut or have a hard time finding inspiration to keep playing. Sometimes I find simply going for a run and listening to songs with awesome drum parts that inspire you can solve this. For me, some of the best get-out-of-rut music includes: “Rodeo Jones” and “Seven” by Sunny Day Real Estate; “Chinese Fork Tie” by Jawbox; “Hubcap” by Sleater-Kinney; “Geek USA,” “Cherub Rock,” and “Ode To No One” by the Smashing Pumpkins, Black Sabbath’s We Sold Our Soul For Rock & Roll, Riddle Of Steel’s Python, QOTSA’s Songs For The Deaf, or anything featuring Mitch Mitchell, Ginger Baker, or Art Blakey.
Add Some Variety
Reigniting the flame of inspiration sometimes requires changing the instruments that surround you. Every few months I like to swap out a tom for one of a different size, use a washier ride, switch to a dramatically different snare size, or convert two splashes into auxiliary hi-hats. Changing gear doesn’t necessarily involve purchasing an expensive new cymbal or drum…you can also try substituting a maraca or tambourine for a drumstick, or adding percussion odds and ends like woodblocks or cowbells. Another trick is to take away a drum you are used to playing with—your fills and rhythm patterns may feel a little awkward at first, but this is often forces you to be more creative in your playing. Personally, I find that scaling back to one rack tom forces me to consider other alternate playing surfaces like rims, drum shells, or drum hardware.
Change Your Settings
Last but not least, don’t discount the perspective-changing effects of lighting, room location, and body position. Moving your drumset to the other side of the room, or incorporating colored lights or candles in a dimmer-than-usual rehearsal setting can often have a beneficial effect on the collective creative mood. Also, raising or lowering one’s seat height or using the butt end of the stick can completely change your body’s relationship to the drums, which may surprise you in the way it makes some drum techniques easier and certain rhythms sound more solid.
I play a five-piece DW Collectors Series in Black Swirl, usually with 12″, 14″, and 16″ toms and a sweet custom drumhead created by my singer, Kelly. I occasionally swap the 12″ tom for a 10″ to spice things up. I added legs to my 16″ tom and drilled a Pearl double tom mount into my bass drum to reduce rack tom wiggle, but nowadays I mount them on snare stands. I prefer Ambassador coated heads, but switched to Pinstripes for low tuning and durability, since I often share my kit. I record with a Slingerland brass 8×14 snare, and in live situations I like to use my warm Pearl Vinnie Paul maple 8×14. Occasionally I use a Tama Artstar 5 1/2×14 maple snare in smaller venues so that the audience’s ears won’t bleed. For cymbals I prefer dark, low tones and use a 20″ Zildjian K Heavy ride, a 17″ Zildjian K Custom Fast crash, a Paiste Giant Beat 20″ crash ride, and 14″ Zildjian Avedis hi-hats. I also sometimes add extra cymbals, like an old 16″ Zildjian Avedis Rivet China, a 10″ Zil-Bel, or a 10″ Sabian AAX splash. I use Vic Firth Metal sticks for a big tom sound in the studio and Vic Firth 8D sticks live to keep my volume under control. I am currently not sponsored by any drum company.
Thanks for reading! Our debut album, Traveling Show, came out on April 27, and we look forward to seeing you on the road. Keep up the good drumming!
For more visit www.myspace.com/theartofshooting.