From The Frontline - Myke Heath Blog - July 2015
Hello drummers and friends of www.mikedolbear.com. Enjoying the summer? Wimbledon? Sketchy Budgets? Apple Music? Celebrating Ringo’s recent birthday? Yep I thought so!
Well where do I begin? The Wounded Kings played one of the biggest gigs we’ve ever played as a band and I can easily say it was the largest crowd I’ve seen from behind my drum kit!
From the moment we arrived at the festival EVERYTHING felt different to what we are normally used to. It’s a very metal festival by the name of Hellfest and it’s held yearly in France. It took 13 hours of driving but it was totally worth it - artist VIP areas, our own dressing room and the kind of backstage catering that would put a Tudor banquet to shame! In the backstage parking area we were immediately greeted with a row of gigantic night liner tour buses. After having a bit of a nose around and seeing the name tags in the windows of the buses listing people like ZZ Top, Faith No More, Marilyn Manson and The Scorpions it was very clear that we are very small fish in a big pond and a strong feeling that it was going to be a bit of a special day. So after checking in and having a nose around the VIP and Artist areas and getting completely lost trying to find the merch tent we then made the short journey along a dirt track to the stage we were playing on. When we arrived we were immediately greeted by a happy and friendly stage team who wasted no time getting the gear up on stage ready for us to set up and play.
The stage felt like it was the size of a football pitch and the tent looked as big as Wembley Stadium (it wasn''t by the way, it held about 7,000 people). It took me a minute to take it all in and then I suddenly felt myself getting extremely excitable and more than a little buzzed that in a few hours we’d be on that stage and for once I won’t get complaints about my cymbals being too loud!
Now I have to make a confession right now. Myself and the other guys in TWK are not used to playing stages like this and during sound check none of us could get tuned into the stage sound. My drums are big and loud but as of then it didn''t mean a thing. The sound disappeared in an instant but I was thankfully backed up with a dual monitor system roughly the same height and size of two American style fridges, so once we got going and the sound started to move, it didn''t take long for us to find our feet.
I made the school boy error of leaving my earplugs at home and my ears could not stand up to that kind of volume and I’m not sure if anyone else’s could either but thankfully Steve the guitarist had a spare pair I could borrow. It was the first time I have ever forgotten them and typical that it would be at a show like this!!
The gig went of without a hitch. My drums sounded great, I felt great and the band was sounding awesome and the tent filled up with more and more continental metal heads by the minute. The stage lighting was unbelievable as were all the stage and sound crew. 40 minutes flew by and sadly it was all over far too quickly (please feel free to insert unsuitable/suitable joke here).
We got the gear off and packed in record time thanks to the efforts of the stage crew and then that was it! Job done! Back home the next day for work on Monday with another 13 hour drive to look forward to. We did however enjoy the luxurious catering and got to soak up some music and some beautiful French sun for the remainder of the day but it was a strange thing to process and I don’t know if I’ll be the same again!
I did do some kit spotting and in my humble opinion the two best to my ears were a Gretsch USA Custom and a Natal Birch closely followed by my Gretsch Catalina Club of course! We got to chat to a few interesting people and we were also pleasantly and unexpectedly surprised to be greeted backstage by our label manager. All in all it was just totally mind blowing.
As your reading this I’ll be holed up in a recording studio in the South of Wales so that’s meant I’ve been prepping ready for action. Putting stick wrap on new sticks and salivating at a set of fresh new heads ready to be put on when we enter the studio. I’ve been checking out some mic techniques and I’ve been keen to try and find ways of getting more of the room sound onto the recording. One of my favourite drummers uses a 28” bass drum with 4 mics positioned on and around it but I couldn’t play that size drum and I don’t think four mics on the bass drum is going to fly with the engineer either! It does sound pretty spectacular though. Another time I suppose. I’m planning on paying more attention to tuning and I’m also indulging in a few additional snare drum options too. All the usual stuff drummers do in the studio really but I don’t normally have enough time to fiddle about, but thankfully this time I do. I love big drums but they are definitely not easy to record with, but as history has shown it can be done!
After that it’s all going to go a bit quiet again really. There are a few festivals booked but after that it’s all generally in the hands other people. I’m just waiting to be told what to do. Shows like Hellfest help to put in to perspective how lucky I am. I can go and play shows like that but it’s also a bit of a kiss of death because now I want to do it all the time! I came dangerously close to feeling like a legit drummer and a rockstar for a few hours and it’s a feeling that’s hard to let go of!
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