Six of the Best: Drummers pick their defining records
From Black Sabbath to Alice Cooper and KISS, Eric Singer tells Phil Ascott how he's landed gigs with rock and metal royalty over the past 25 years through determination, talent and good fortune. Perhaps God really can give rock n' roll to you...
KISS - Sonic Boom (2009)
Harking back to their classic Destroyer album, Paul Stanley instigated new rules for the writing and recording process of the band's first album in 11 years, ensuring jam sessions rocked and rolled all nite...
"I was pleasantly surprised when Paul called up to say, 'I'm thinking about doing a new record but I want to do it as a band and play live. No outside songwriters.' That was basically saying make sure it's your idea, don't bring a song that you had going with someone else. Paul used to write his songs and Gene used to write his, then they'd bring the material to the band and each would get a certain amount of material on the record. That was thrown out the window. It was like, 'We're gonna jam ideas and arrange them so that we're comfortable enough to go into a studio. Then in the studio we'll put them under the microscope.' Brilliant. That's how I first started making records. I used an old Rogers kit - I wanted to use vintage - and a Pearl free-floating plexiglas snare that was perfect with it."
Alice Cooper - The Eyes of Alice Cooper (2003)
Eric's second album with glam shock icon Vincent Furnier was unfairly maligned, according to Singer...
"I played on Brutal Planet (2000,) The Eyes of Alice Cooper and Along Came a Spider (2008.) But out of all those Alice albums, Eyes... was the most fun and the coolest because it was done garage-style, live as a band. We literally went to a room, with all the amps and the drums in the same room, not even really using partitions, and we just blasted the songs out. I got frustrated sometimes because you have so much volume, with the bass guitar and the guitars bleeding into the mics, but we did most songs without a click track, just live as a band. It was truly old school. Probably because of a bad record label and no support, that record went by unnoticed, but if anyone gets the chance then go check that record out because it's a really cool, straight rock n' roll record."
KISS - Revenge (1992)
Another chance meeting whilst recording with Badlands landed Eric his most prestigious gig to date, although it would be a while before he entered the studio with the glam rock titans.
"I was in New York recording the Badlands album in 1989 and someone said [KISS guitarist/singer] Paul Stanley was looking for a drummer for his solo tour. Ironically I was staying at a hotel right around the corner from his offices so I went over and met with him, chatted a bit, and the next thing I know he's hired me. I played on 'God Gave Rock N' Roll To You' for the Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey soundtrack, as Eric Carr was ill. Then when he was too ill to do Revenge I got called in to play as a studio musician. Producer Bob Ezrin was a crazy guy but a genius. I remember we were recording a track playing along to a drum machine so he could monitor the time, and he would speed the drum machine up and slow it down in different sections to have the song move around and feel more natural."
Badlands - Badlands (1989)
Ray Gillen, the young singer who replaced Glenn Hughes in Black Sabbath for the initial Eternal Idol sessions only to quit the band along with Eric, formed this 'supergroup' with ex-Ozzy Osbourne guitarist Jake E. Lee.
"I get a lot of drummers to this day that ask me about that band. The guys were great players and for me it was the chance to do our own music, write my own drum parts that didn't have a predetermined drum sound or direction. KISS have a sound and style. I have to make my drumming fit in to the sound. Same with Black Sabbath and Alice Cooper. But when you create your own music you're like a painter and you have a wide open canvas to create what you want, your own sound. I enjoyed that experience but it didn't work out on a business level. I used two Pearl MLX kits and the GLX to record and we recorded live, not to click tracks. We were inspired by Zeppelin, Sabbath, Deep Purple, Grand Funk Railroad, Humble Pie - it was about being organic, like a classic 70s rock band."
Black Sabbath - The Eternal Idol (1987)
From heaven to hell. What started in the Caribbean paradise of George Martin's AIR Studios descended into squabbling and ended three producers, two singers, two bassists and a mess of an album later.
"A completely different record, not the same vibe at all. Things were very disjointed and you could see things unravelling. The recording was initially a lot of fun because we were in the Caribbean for six weeks, swimming in the ocean and we had a gourmet chef in the studio. I used an old Pearl GLX to record. It had Super Gripper lugs - you didn't have to unscrew the tension rods all the way to take the drum heads off. It was supposed to make it quicker, but a lot of people thought they were a pain in the ass. I thought they were some of the better drums Pearl made, really loud with a big, bombastic sound. I still have that kit. We got a really cool drum sound originally, but they ended up switching producers twice and I was long gone out of the project by the time it was mixed."
Black Sabbath - Seventh Star (1986)
As they say, "Right place, right time." Just a year into his first professional job touring with '80s metal princess Lita Ford, Singer was drafted in for sessions with her boyfriend at the time, one Tony Iommi.
It was the first actual record I did for anybody! It was going to be a Tony Iommi solo album with lots of different singers but ended up becoming Black Sabbath featuring Tony Iommi and had Glenn Hughes singing on the whole record. Most of those songs started with just us jamming riffs; there were no melodies or arrangements, per se, with a vocalist in mind. It does help when you know what the vocal phrasing is going to be because as a drummer you can accentuate and be more melodic and enhance the arrangements. We didn't have that luxury. For my first record it was a great experience working with Tony. I recorded with a Sonor Phonic red mahogany veneer kit in standard sizes, two 24" bass drums, and 13", 14" 16" and 18" toms. I bought that kit in 1979 and still have it to this day."