On The Beat with UK Drummer Mark Heaney: Talks Solo Record Fortunes
Hello MD! Fortunes is an album I’d been wanting to make for a long time. My last solo drum album, Origins, was released back in 2014, so it’s been a while.
Ever since I started creating solo music the process has constantly been changing and developing, not only in the way I record and create the tracks, but also the way I approach the drums. I wanted to steer away from eight-minute-long drum explorations and make something cooler. The main aim with Fortunes was to try to get away from the usual 2 and 4 and create repetitive Can-esque type patterns.
I always approach new music with the drums first. I start with a basic recording setup, play whatever I feel for an hour or two, and then go through and pick out things of interest. I then learn to play the beats I developed and when they are happening I record them again. I now have a solid base on which to create the music. Creating the backing tracks is a process that takes longer as inspiration comes and goes, and you can’t force it. At some point I will have a number of tracks that I feel are there. With the tracks done, I’ll go back to the studio and record a live full-drum take. It’s very much about the room sound.
My music always comes from the heart and is inspired by what I see and read—I try to create soundscapes that reflect those emotions. I never really had an interest in making a drum record with loads of fancy odd times and licks. That sort of stuff doesn’t actually mean anything to me. Music should always try to be a reflection of life.
Having recorded my drums so much, I know which setups work for me and the way I want my drums to sound. I tune my drums quite high; I suppose you would call it a jazz tuning. I need to have resonance and response from the drums to get all the tones and dynamics out of them. I don’t use any damping at all. I use Turkish and very dry subtle cymbals that really suit what I do and I also love rivet cymbals.
Once the takes are finished I put them into Logic. Computers can make life much easier and processes that used to take a long time can now been done instantaneously, although they will never be a substitute for the human element. I have worked with producers who want you to play everything separately and hit the quantize button as soon as you put your sticks down. That works for some things, but when you listen back you lose that movement and excitement. It can take the soul out of a take and it’s easy to become obsessed with what’s on the screen as opposed to what you are hearing.
When I have a take I am happy with, that’s it. I mix and master it and put it out. Finishing a recording used to be extremely difficult. I was never fully satisfied with what I was doing and would spend a long time listening to it over and over and changing this and that. But experience has taught me that if I listen and respond in the correct emotional way and it feels good and is exciting, then that is it—done. This takes precedence over the technicalities of the drums or track. You can have something that is technically amazing and clean but it won’t move you on an emotional level.
When I made Fortunes, I also kept in mind that I wanted to perform it live. I found that using Ableton and an LPD8 pad controller made that possible and I’m able to manipulate the audio and add other elements to keep my performance fresh and different each time.
I am very proud of Fortunes, and the feedback and support I’ve had around the album has been wonderful. I have honed my process and found the formula for creating my sound and expressing myself. I am currently working on my next release for early 2018.
For me it’s about continuing to move forward, pushing myself as a drummer and musical creator, staying true to myself, and seeing where it takes me.
You can check out my video of “Tilphousia” from my solo album Fortunes live at Rubix Drum Studios in London here:
For more on Mark, visit https://markheaney.bandcamp.com/album/fortunes and https://www.facebook.com/MarkHeaneyDrummer/.