NEWS FROM THE WOODS
By Bob Ketchum
Originally Published June, 1993
"Doug Huffman Visits The Woods"
I had been hearing the rumors for months
"The drummer for Boston is living in Eureka Springs!" Yeah, right
And Elvis has been sighted again in a Hope convenience store, trying to accidentally bump into the Prez in the Twinkie section. Nevertheless, I kept hearing about this guy from my Northwestern Arkansas friends.
As it happened, I finally met up with Doug Huffman through Rich "Eureka" Jones in November when Rich asked Doug to play drums on a couple of cuts for his latest CD (Strike It Rich, Ozark Blues Records - 002OBR). Just before the session Doug asked me what kind of drums I had here at the studio. I apologetically informed him "Nothing fancy no big, modern kit just a set of 1964 Ludwig Super Classics identical to Ringo's first kit." Silence on the other end for a moment, followed by, "Uh, Bob? Would you mind if I just played your kit for the session?" I told him I would be honored (and I was). Rich's session went flawlessly and I understand the CD is getting very good reviews. During the session, Doug and I got more involved in drums miking them, new designs and materials, etc. He seemed very pleased with my drum recording techniques, and in a nutshell, a good time was had by all.
The next time I "ran into" Doug he was sitting with Greg Hanson's American Reggae Band at George's in Fayetteville. Also playing with Greg was Rain Equine, so I had another reason for attending the gig. I showed up a couple of hours before the gig hoping to catch everyone at the sound check. Besides, Doug had informed me earlier that he was trying out a new set of drums that the Stingray Drum Company of Florida wanted him to endorse, and I wanted to check them out. As it happened, the drums had just arrived that very day and Doug had rushed them over to George's to set them up. I did arrive in time for the sound check but Doug had left earlier to clean up at the hotel. To make a long story short, since the Barking Dog sound guys needed level checks, guess who Rain recruited as the sound check drummer? As I sat at the kit and looked down at the drum heads, it suddenly occurred to me that Doug had not even played around on his new kit. When he showed up before the show and saw the stick strike-marks on his new heads he realized he'd missed the sound check. When I explained how things went down he laughed and said "at least you were the one to get to play these for the first time." I never missed an opportunity to rub it in for the rest of the evening. After the gig we laid plans for him to bring this kit into the studio to evaluate how they would sound on tape. I recommended that we set up a jam session rather than a work session so we could be more open to experimentation and not get locked in on a specific music genre. He agreed and we set about the task of making it so.
A couple of weeks later I got a call from bassist Cris Dunnam inquiring into some tentative dates to try and schedule the session. Cris was instrumental in coordinating everyone's schedules and lining up guitarist Perry Auxier from Fayetteville.
Steve Koenemann, a guitarist friend of mine who has recently moved to our area from St. Louis, was also asked to join in on our jam. Steve and I have been working together writing for the past 4 months and I knew he would be a welcome addition for his knowledge of chord structure and playing experience.
This particular get-together was unique for several reasons. First, none of us had ever played together, which would be unusual. Also, no amps of any kind were used. Both Perry and Steve had their own guitar multi-effects processors, so I ran them direct in stereo to the board. Since we were evaluating the drum kit's studio qualities, this arrangement would be perfect NO bleed-over into the drum mics. I didn't want to process or color the drum sound in any way, so I ran all drum mics straight to tape. I laid the toms to two tracks in a stereo spread and "multied" the cymbals to a single track.
I wore two hats for the session. Since I needed to be in the control room during tracking I set my midi/guitar rig up in the control room. For guitar I ran direct out of my Marshall preamp to the board. I was midi'd up to the Roland JX8P and Ensonic Mirage for sampled stuff. We cranked up and checked everybody's headphones. They couldn't see me in the control room, but I had the video monitor running and could see them in the studio. When we were sure everything was up and running we took a dinner break before proceeding to the fun part.
Preferring not to waste 1-inch master tape on the 16-track, I chose instead to record straight to cassette. This way we wouldn't lose any potential good ideas. I was running the set-up to the multitrack so if we DID get something going there would be no lost time reconfiguring the signal flow.
The only rule I imposed on the jam was that we don't stop. If we played an idea into the ground, it was up to somebody to integrate a new idea that would propel us into another direction. Once we got started, we played straight through for almost exactly an hour. We played funk, rock, blues, jazz, and several unlabelable styles all in the same hour-long jam. When we took a break to cool down and listen to the cassette we were amazed. Some of the stuff sounded like a band playing an arrangement. There were enough good sections on the cassette to write a handful of songs. We were so up from the experience that we decided to try and pull something useful from it.
We had a good A and B section for a song idea and decided to work it into a verse/chorus. All we needed was a bridge section and solo section, so we all went back to the gear to "chop wood" This time though, I went into the studio with the guys, hooked up a vocal mic and proceeded to write and sing some lyrics to aid in the arrangement. It turned into a kind of Bad Company thing called "Still Not Satisfied." Within another hour we had the basic structure of the song and proceeded to lay it to multitrack.
Not only did we give Doug the opportunity to check out the recorded sound of the Stingray drums, but we wound up with a perfectly good rock 'n' roll song and about 10 other good ideas (not to mention a great time )
I must admit, it's been a long time since I've had so much FUN in the studio. It does sound good to blow out the cobs once in a while, and I eagerly look forward to the next late night jam session with Doug, Cris, Steve, and Perry
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