MD caught up with Nik Hughes while he was on tour with British indie-pop artist Bishop Briggs to find out how he recreates for the stage the unique mixture of electronics and acoustic drums from Briggs’ recordings. “Our idea is to honor the record but still be able to take it to the level that the audience expects when seeing a big show,” says Hughes. “With each tour, we tweak little things that help our performance. This rig is a representation of what’s on the records, which is programmed soul, trap, and hip-hop beats.
“It’s been easy to get the samples that were used on the recordings, since the producers are also members of the band,” the drummer continues. “We chop up those samples so that I can actively play them, rather than just fire a loop and let it run. I do this with my Roland SPD-SX and external triggers. We use a lot of samples per song, so the extra triggers help to spread those sounds around the kit. The mesh heads give a great feel and allow for ghost notes and dynamics.”
Hughes’ goal is to bring the record to life on stage. “I felt like I needed a live acoustic element to help the impact, especially on the choruses,” he says. “Bishop has a really powerful voice, so I felt I needed to be able to go bigger to match her dynamics. I started to add one or two acoustic pieces to the kit during each run
“The first thing I added was my Mapex Saturn bass drum, which is flipped on its side,” Hughes explains. “I play it with sticks, so we added an Audix D6 microphone to give it more low end. It still sounds like a bass drum but with more top-end attack. That allows me to accentuate the kicks I play with the trigger, and I can play more fills. It also helped me feel a little more comfortable because I felt like I was sitting behind a conventional drumkit. With just the trigger pads, I felt a little exposed.
“Next I added a live tambourine because they used a lot of that on the record,” he says. “Then I added some cymbals. We make very little onstage noise, so when I heard about Zildjian’s Gen16s, I wanted to give them a try. We ended up not using the sound module and just going with the sound of the cymbals themselves through a condenser mic with some EQ. They also help the energy of the louder dynamics because they give me a cymbal to hit rather than a pad. I usually use them in the last chorus for that extra lift.
“I finally added a snare drum,” Nik concludes. “But we’re still using acoustic triggers, so even with this acoustic snare we can blend the recorded sounds with the live element.”
Drums: Roland and Mapex
A. Roland SPD-SX sampling pad (kick sounds sent to the sub output, everything else goes to the master output)
B. 6.5×14 Mapex Sledgehammer brass snare with Roland RT-30HR trigger
C. 18×22 Mapex Saturn IV maple bass drum with three Pearl legs and Roland RT-30K trigger
D. Roland SPD-SX (for acoustic drum triggers only)
E. Roland PD-100 trigger pad
F. Roland PD-85 trigger pad
G. Roland KT-10 foot triggers
Drumheads: Evans G2 Coated snare batter and GMAD bass drum batter
1. 18″ Gen16 crash
2. 20″ Gen16 crash/ride
Percussion: LP mounted tambourine
Sticks: Vater Los Angeles 5A wood tip
Hardware: Mapex Falcon double-braced snare, tom, and cymbal stands, and cymbal stands without the boom arms for Roland SPD-SX pads
Backup Electronics: Roland KT-10 foot trigger, Mapex Falcon BD pedal with Roland KD-7 foot trigger, and PDX-100 trigger pad