On September 14 the pop-punk hitmakers Good Charlotte released Generation Rx, the band’s seventh studio album overall and second release after returning from a four-year hiatus in 2015. Since 2005, the studio guru Dean Butterworth has been powering the group with driving grooves, signature bulldozing fills, and a unique dynamic approach that serves the band’s songs first. On Good Charlotte’s latest effort, the drummer’s statements prove as effective as ever.
Although Generation Rx was mostly recorded at the group’s MDDN studios in Burbank, California, Butterworth explains that he cut the drums quickly on his own at nearby NRG studios in North Hollywood, accompanied only by a tech, producer Zakk Cervini, and the demos. “I did it in about six hours—I’m fast!” he chuckles. “But I do a lot of session work, and depending on who it is, like if it’s my band, I can work at the pace that I want to with the producer. These days the band usually doesn’t come in, and I kind of prefer it that way so that I can focus. I have the tunes, and I’ll short-form them, and then we might go over ideas. But a lot of it is talked through on the demos beforehand. I find that with anything I do—especially with this—to keep the energy and excitement, I like to get a song in one to three takes. For me at least, that’s where you get the most impact and energy—if you can get it done.”
Butterworth’s dynamic waves ebb and flow throughout each song on Generation Rx—a reflection of the importance he puts on touch and orchestration in the studio. Check out the album’s first single, “Actual Pain,” for evidence of how Butterworth builds intensity into the choruses, following each verse’s steady ascent. “I’m a firm believer that if you hit any drum too hard, you pinch it,” he says. “There’s a sweet spot on a drum that allows the mic to get that perfect sound. I think sometimes you can hit a drum at a medium velocity and it can sound bigger than if you hit it as hard as you can. It’s the same with cymbals. But generally in terms of dynamics in the studio, I always look at it like it’s a conversation. If you’re playing a crash/ride or open hi-hat and you’re just hammering, it’s like you’re screaming at someone the whole time.”
Butterworth’s signature, no-frills single-stroke fills light transitions ablaze throughout the record. Check out the rapid 32nd notes that he sprays around the kit at the 2:23 mark in “Shadowboxer,” or the massive phrases that erupt throughout “Actual Pain.” To make his fills stand out, Butterworth focuses on an approach that he shares with another rock drumming giant. “I grew up in Laguna Beach with Taylor Hawkins from Foo Fighters, and we’ve been friends since we were little kids,” he explains. “We often talk about dynamics and stamina. He once said, ‘When I play a fill, I like to really attack it, and then I relax more and let the mic do the work on the grooves.’ I just saw him play at [the German music festival] Rock am Ring. I sat by his kit during his set and was watching him do that, and we talked about it afterward. I think all of those details are really important. And that’s why players like Taylor and Stewart Copeland and Dave Grohl—when they play a fill, it’s in your face. There’s no weakness, and you can hear everything. It’s definite.”
Dean Butterworth uses Tama drums and hardware, Paiste cymbals, Promark drumsticks, and Evans drumheads.