Being a regular reader of Modern Drummer from 1994 until 2000, I often heard about drummers playing along to the dreaded click track. Essentially a glorified metronome, it was sometimes the reason why a drummer was replaced in the studio with an ace drummer-for-hire. As in, it didn't matter if all of the band members sucked at playing their instruments; if the drummer couldn't pull things off according to the producer, he or she's out of there, or worse, out of the band.
On top of this, the click track was to blame for why a song sounded so non-energetic in the studio compared to how the band played it live. Usually the tempo was slowed down so that everything sounded "right." I've thought otherwise.
Given how long I've played drums in bands, the amount of time I've spent recording songs is far, far less. I've recorded a few four-track stuff where I played all of the instruments myself. When it came to band stuff, it was usually recording everything live in the room. The amount of time I've spent with digital recording has been few and far between, and sometimes fun and sometimes aggravating. Nothing's more frustrating while recording when you think you've got a keeper and realize the software froze up.
So this past Saturday, following my appearance on the Good Show, I recorded drum tracks for my friend (and former bandmate) David. He's been working on a record for a while at his house, playing all of the instruments himself. He asked me to play on four songs that he had laid some temporary tracks down. The recording went really, really well; we got through all four songs in about three hours. And I had to play to a click track the entire time.
But I found the click to be a real life-saver. It's easy for me rush whenever I do fills, so the pulsating beat in my headphones kept me on track. And there was no pressure; it was just a fun afternoon spent hanging out.
I think it's very safe to say that my life as a drummer is perfectly happy with this kind of schedule and vibe. Ashburne Glen is still active, but I'm not lugging my equipment around everywhere for practice. There are no late nights when I'm playing a show and then getting a few hours of sleep before the 4am wake-up. Frankly, I find playing drums as a pure fun, but still serious, hobby way more freeing than playing in a situation where there's a desire to become a big band in town.