As previously reported on moderndrummer.com, Simon Collins is releasing his new album, Becoming Human (Frontiers Music s.r.l.), on September 4. The drummer/leader took time to answer some questions about it.
MD: What was the writing and preparation process like prior to the recording of Becoming Human?
Simon: I spent quite a bit of time working through material I had saved for the new album and also working on fresh material mostly on piano and some on guitar. I also collaborated on some songs with my producer, Robbie Bronnimann, and also wrote with Dave Kerzner and Kelly Nordstrom of Sound of Contact. I decided to set up a recording studio in my new home in Devon at the time, and Robbie and I just built it together based on what we would need to do the album production.
MD: Where and when was it recorded?
Simon: We recorded in four different locations throughout the U.K. over the time period of the last two years. I took my time on and off in the studio. Time off was spent working on new material for the next block of time in the studio.
MD: Were there any other players and technical people involved?
Simon: I usually have different people doing those jobs on my albums, but on this album everything was done in house with Robbie: production, engineering, mixing, and mastering. He knew what kind of work was required going into each job, having been involved with the album through all the various stages. There’s something appealing about that kind of consistency, instead of someone new coming in who might not be on the same page.
MD: What were you hoping to achieve in relation to your previous recordings?
Simon: I wanted to feature and cross pollinate two distinct styles of music, electronic and progressive rock. I also wanted to take an honest look at what it means to be human through through a spiritual perspective. It has a very spiritual theme. So, I think I achieved that. It’s a progressive, futuristic-sounding album.
MD: What drum gear did you use?
Simon: I used my Roland V-Drum kit to perform the drums. We used a variety of different sound libraries to fit to each song. I will play live drums on my next album for sure, but this album was calling for something else.
MD: Were there any pieces of non-drumming gear that were particularly new or important during recording?
Simon: We used mostly software synths and plug-ins as opposed to hardware. Really dig the Omnisphere soft synth; we used that quite a bit.
MD: Were there any tracks that were especially challenging to play or record?
Simon: “The Universe Inside of Me” has a very progressive song structure, and it called for a variety of different styles of production. The song is a sonic journey, so it was vital that we created that ever-changing and evolving environment. Lots of sound design, let’s just say that.
MD: Do you enjoy recording more or less than you used to?
Simon: Yes, I really enjoy recording more so with every album I make. I have more experience, and I know my way around that environment more so than before. I think as you mature as an artist, you also have a better idea of what you want to achieve going into the studio, so it’s more of a comfortable experience.
MD: What are your most and least favorite aspects of recording?
Simon: My most favorite aspect of being in the studio would be hearing what you’ve written—sometimes only hours ago—come to life in front of you. It is such a rewarding feeling and a great aspect of recording. I think it’s always the best part of the journey. My least favorite aspect would be doing vocals. It’s emotionally challenging at times, and I am also very picky about my vocals, so it can be draining getting it right the way I want it to sound. Tuning the kit before takes can be tedious also.
MD: What are your post-release plans for the recording?
Simon: Well, lots of promo of course and hopefully a tour, we’ll see. I’m already writing my next album, so back into the studio.
MD: Have you been working on any other projects outside of this release?
Simon: I’ve got a couple of projects that I’m working on right now, one with Sound of Contact guitarist Kelly Nordstrom, and another that is top secret for the moment, sorry. Let’s just say I’m in the studio on a daily basis right now.
Photo by Andy Wright