Custom Drum Loops & Online Sessions With Michael Vecchione

Mike Vecchione is a New York City based professional drummer who does recording sessions and live gigs with a number of singer songwriters in the tri-state area. He has also recently released a large library of drum grooves and loops on his bandcamp site. We like to call attention to members of the AirGigs community who are doing creative things with their gigs and Mike is definitely one of them. In addition to offering standard multitrack drum sessions, Mike is also offering (made to order) custom drum loops. Of course there are lots of resources for pre-recorded drum grooves and loops, but wouldn’t it be nice to be able to direct the loop session so that you get exactly the vibe, sound and feel you are looking for? We think that custom loops offer producers a unique way to assemble a great sounding track at seriously affordable price. Mike’s got a great sense of feel and is a real pro when it comes to working with clients.

You can find his gigs here:

How did you get into music production?

I got into music production about a year after I had started playing drums. I was probably around 16. Me and a good friend of mine Evan Pontel Schaeffer played in a bunch of bands together throughout high school and college. We would always be recording songs in my parents basement on a four track tape recorder and then a multitrack digital recorder as the years went on. It was very beneficial for me to start getting into the habit of hearing my performances and engineering skills (or lack there of) on playback at a young age. Evan and I were both producing the performances and we were pretty tough on ourselves for being around 18 at the time. The most notable recordings that emerged from these sessions were two Eternity Void metal records titled “Torrents of Devastation” and “To Conjure Black Circles”. We did all the engineering on those records ourselves, including the mixing and mastering. It was all a great learning experience and began my journey into playing, engineering, and producing.

Can you take us into your home studio?

In my home studio there is just one big room with high ceilings and a little closet that can serve as a drum booth. The big live room also serves as my control room. It’s a space setup more for tracking rather than mixing. The room really isn’t treated for mixing accurately. For gear I am using a Motu 896 MK3 audio interface. I have 3 Golden Age Project pre amplifiers that I use primarily on my overheads and kick drum. I use 2 AKG 451’s for overheads and a D112 mic for the kick. Sennheiser 421’s on the toms and an SM57 on the snare. My micing technique varies depending on the sound I am going, for as well as what room I am recording in. Sometimes I will have the overheads behind my head in an XY configuration. Other times ill do more of a Glyn Johns type of thing with one mic to the right of the drummer and one mic pointing straight down to the snare. I’ll also have a blueberry room mic in front of the drums at times.

How did you come up with the idea for custom (made to order) drum loops? There’s obviously tons of loop and sample libraries out there for pre recorded loops, but “made to order” custom loops is a really creative idea.

Thanks! Well the idea sort of came as an extension to my drum groove and loop library at my Bandcamp site. That library is made up of loops and grooves that I have recorded over the past year specifically for that site. As far as the custom drum loop gig on Airgigs goes, I thought it would be a cool idea to offer people a cheaper alternative to the full song recording price. Also, people may just want a couple of loops of a certain vibe or style to write over. On the other hand, a client may want me to record a loop that fits nicely over a pre programmed drum part to give the final track some life. I have also had some custom drum loop orders on Airgigs to replicate a specific drum groove for a living room cover band. So the work can vary a bit, but all of the transactions have gone smoothly.

If a client is looking for specific type of drum sound….for instance like a lo-fi thing, or a big fat Bonham-esque sound, do you work that way? Or do you do more of your own signature sound and style?

The client is basically acting as the producer. He is the one that should have a vision of what will work for the song, especially if there are going to be overdubs after my performance. My job is to be able to capture the vibe, feel, and style he wants. In order to do that, I have to be versatile in my playing approach and engineering approach. If he sends me a complete song that’s finished except for the drums, i’ll probably have a good idea what room will work and what sounds will work. If i’m just tracking to a click with the tune in my head or charted out, it’s his call whether to record in a big high ceiling room or a tight dead room. Nowadays with plugins you can get a Bonham type sound on a drum kit recorded in a tight dry space. You could also get a big rock sound by recording in a room with high ceilings and wood floors. The lo fi thing can also be easily created in the mixing stage with plug ins. There’s a lot of options, but ultimately you have to go with what the client/producer wants.

Earning a living as a gigging musician is no easy thing these days. Can you share any insights or thoughts on what it takes, or what’s been working for you?

Yes, its extremely hard for a number of reasons. My advice to myself and other up and coming musicians is to try and have as many things in the fire as you can. Go to jam sessions and hang out with other musicians who are in the same boat as you. Do the singer songwriter gigs where you are making 50$ a night. Go on auditions for working cover and wedding bands. Put your own bands together with friends you have made through past gigs and jams. Try and get some sort of home recording set up happening. Bigger studios are closing and anybody serious about becoming a pro musician in 2014 should have a recording setup. If you’re a serious musician you have to learn how to play to microphones in a recording studio. A lot of the time its not like playing a live show where you can be more energetic and aggressive. The performance needs to feel great and really fit what the song calls for.

How do you find the process of working remotely on sessions?

It can be fun and challenging depending on the session. If the client has done a good job with a performance I am overdubbing drums to, my job can be very fun and rewarding. If I am recording over a poorly performed demo, I can only do so much to try and make the track happen. If the performance of a demo is poor, I would recommend letting me just track the song with a click or programmed drum pattern (Or with just the tune in my head and no click). In this case, the client would overdub his parts afterwards.

Your 3 favorite drummers of all time?

That is a tough question but I’ll name the 3 that come to mind now. Steve Gadd would be one for sure. He’s a studio legend that has played on tons of great records. One of my favorites is Stuff Live at Montreux 76. The whole band sounds so great. Steve Jordan would be another. Great drummer, producer, writer, and engineer. I love his philosophy in the recording studio which is basically that if you don’t have a performance, you don’t have anything. James Gadson is another great drummer and singer. He played on the Bill Withers tune “use me” and a bunch of Motown and Jackson 5 songs.

Your 3 favorite albums from a production standpoint?

I’d say Toto IV would have to be one. Those guys are all phenomenal musicians and they don’t get enough credit for their amazing body of work inside and outside of Toto. I mean they played on basically half of Thriller. Sgt. Pepper by The Beatles is another classic album. The Stranger by Billy Joel is a favorite of mine. Phil Ramone did a wonderful job on all those records.

Any current projects you want to shout out?

I have been playing with the band Them Travelers for the past couple of years. Its just a bunch of friends I’ve known since college having a good time playing rock and roll. We have a lot of friends/fans that continue to come out and support us at shows so promoters like to keep booking us. Shout out to the TT fans! I’m also playing with a talented singer songwriter guitarist by the name of Mike Gannon. We met through a mutual keyboard player friend named Kurt Thum at Big Ed’s Monday night blues jam at the Red Lion NYC. We’ll be playing some shows in the coming weeks.

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