Skill Centre: Mark Brzezicki
Mark Brzezicki Drums On Nik Kershaw's 'LABATYD' | Nik Kershaw, Mark Brzezicki
Mr B shows how to play the drums on Nik Kershaw's 'Life's A Bitch And Then You Die'.
BUSY MAN, this Mark Brzezicki. In a break from pre-production work with his regular band, Big Country, he managed with consummate patience to explain the playing of this Nik Kershaw track. A glance at the charts would also reveal his drumming on the new Ultravox LP ("a very tall Phil Collins" is how Midge Ure described Mr B in issue seven).
Mark had gone into Swanyard studio, north London, for a day at Nik's request — initially with the idea of putting down drums for one track ('James Cagney'). "As I was working fast, I ended up putting down three more," remembers Mark, "and 'Life's A Bitch And Then You Die' was the second I did. It's also the first track where my brother Steve has played bass with me on an album. Nik said to me he wanted it to swing, definitely not a drum machine-like, straight-fours feel." Mark also praises engineer Stuart Bruce's efforts with the drum sounds.
He used most of his Pearl DLX birch wood kit, itemised in the layout drawing nearby. There are a few unusual touches: a mounted bass drum (Pearl 20in maple with the bottom head dropped off and a thin Pearl head on the front), two snares (a Ludwig Anniversary brass shell as the main snare, and a Pearl free-floating brass shell for a timbale-with-snares-on sound, both 6% in deep), and two sets of hi-hats (13in Quickbeats on the left; Min Zs on the right). "My kit's bigger than that now," grins Mark, and proceeds with the explanations.
"I'm playing a swing closed hi-hat feel — you'll have to listen to that to hear what I'm doing — and at the end of each bar I'm opening the hi-hat, on beats 7 and 8. Count the bars one-and-two-and-three-and-four-and-five-and-six-and-seven-and-eight; the bass drum comes in on beats one, the 'and' before three, three, and five (on the first three bars), and then an extra beat on seven on the last bar, just to introduce the vocal. The snare comes in on beats two, four, and six (Ludwig) and beat eight (Pearl)."
"Exactly the same pattern as the intro, with the extra bass drum push on bar four, beat seven to take you into the bridge." See the chorus section for an explanation of the 'hanging' hi-hat leading into verse 2.
"There's a fill I do on verse two, bar two. I play a fill on the toms — six beats on each of the toms, a 'five-stroke' on the seventh beat, and a snare and splash on the final eighth beat (on the Ludwig snare and 8in splash). A five-stroke is a trick where you hit five beats very, very quickly. In this instance the order of drums I play is two bass drum beats, left hand on the 12in tom, right hand on the hanging bass, and left hand on the snare. It's very fast. Listen again! Actually, I never really knew what this five-stroke thing was — I really made it up, then discovered that a few drummers play a similar thing. Simon Philips does it, for example, but no-one ever writes about it. It's something you throw in and people go, 'What did he do there?'.
"The feel changes here — to explain what I play you now have to count it one-and-a-two-and-a-three... The bass drum comes in on beats one, a-three, a-five, and a-seven. The snare, the Ludwig only now, I hit on beats two, four, six and eight.
"The key to this bit is the hi-hat pattern. First have a good listen to the record to get an idea of what I'm doing: I'm playing the two hi-hats, and you can hear them separately in the stereo spread.
"The best way I can explain the hi-hat pattern is as a 6/8 feel done in a sixteenth form — six beats to each count across the snare beats, and played between the left and right hands (two snares). The right hand plays beats one, three and five of the 6/8 feel, and the left hand beats two, four and six. My right hand is still hitting the snare. That makes it sound much more complicated than it is: it's actually quite easy once you get it going."
"This has the same feel as the intro, except you'll need to count it like the bridge, one-and-a-two-and-a-three... I'm playing the same hi-hat feel as the intro, only on the mounted hi-hats on the right of my kit, with my right hand.
INTRO (four bars of eight beats); VERSE 1 "Permanent wave..." (four bars of eight); BRIDGE 1 "Never see the end..." (two bars of eight); CHORUS 1 "Even when my head..." (four bars of eight); VERSE 2 "All our bodies..." (eight bars of eight); BRIDGE 2 "Don't it make you sigh..." (two bars of eight); CHORUS 2 "Even when..." (four bars of eight); INSTRUMENTAL with soprano break (six bars of eight); CHORUS 3/OUTRO "Even when..." (eight bars of eight — drums end on fifth beat of eighth bar).
"Snare is on beats two, four, six and eight throughout, all Ludwig. The bass drum is different — I hit it on beats one, 'a' before two, three, 'a' before four, five, 'a' before six, seven, and 'a' before eight."
"There's an interesting 'hanging' hi-hat break on bar four of the first chorus, just as you lead into verse two. I open the hi-hat on the counted 'and' before beat one of the verse, and leave it hanging. Then I hit the bass drum and at the same time hit the hi-hat and close it quickly — sort of a hi-hat 'snatch' — and then hit the snare. Listen to the record, again. The same thing happens once more at the start of the seventh bar, just after the brass comes in.
"On the third chorus, the outro really, I shift things at the beginning of bar five. If you listen you'll hear that I create a hole, and then come hack with a turned-around hi-hat beat. It's a nice way of shifting the accents."
"The same general feel, I just ad lib extra bass drums hits."
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