Ross Garfield of Drum Doctors

Ross Garfield of Drum DoctorsHi everyone! With all the attention that Sound City Studios is getting these days, I was reminded of all the good times and long nights I spent there. Sound City was nestled in a little corner of the San Fernando Valley, between the 405 Freeway and Sepulveda Blvd. This is not what you would call a nice part of town and not the place to go for a walk after dark. It’s more like a parking lot between a freeway and an off ramp, with a group of industrial buildings on it.

Even so, it was a good workspace. And a lot of great records were done there. We were constantly moving drums in and out of that studio between the years 1985 and 2005. We brought in drums for literally hundreds of projects. Bands like Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers worked there. They recorded Southern Accents and Wildflowers there, which won Grammy awards. The Red Hot Chili Peppers worked there on One Hot Minute (that session alone deserves it’s own blog). They were also the rhythm section behind Johnny Cash with Rick Rubin producing. We worked on the first Wolfmother record there, as well as the second Jet album with Dave Sardy in that room. The Black Crows Amorica was done there, too. Man, can those guys throw a party!

I brought drums to Lenny Kravitz, Ry Cooder, Slipknot, and George Harrison there, and those are just the names that come to mind without checking my notes. But one of the most memorable projects was Nirvana’s Nevermind album. When Nirvana started these recordings, I had been in and out of the studio regularly for something like ten years—it was like it was part of my route. It seemed like we always had something going on there. If I remember correctly, Nirvana started with a modest budget, like most, but they allocated part of that for Drum Doctors because the drum sound had to be special. It had to be tough, so it would poke through the guitars and bass. It had to be big, but not too pretty. The drums were important on this record. Dave Grohl was an important piece of the puzzle. He powered the band. The first time I saw him play, I thought, This guy puts everything he’s got into every stroke. He was explosive. It amazed me that he didn’t break more gear. It also amazed me that he could slam the drums so hard and keep playing in time, with no slowing or speeding up. He kept up the intensity through his fills. I thought working with these guys was going to be cool. I had no idea that Nirvana would blow up the way they did. Advertisement

Sound City was low-key. It was the kind of place that you didn’t have to worry about scratching the floor, as it was linoleum. Its old Neve console made the drums sound fat and warm, and the live room had just the right amount of ambience. What else could I ask for? It just sounded good in there—always!


For more on the Drum Doctors, visit