This past week I drove myself nuts by trying to emulate one of the most distinctive snare sounds from the 1980’s. I am speaking of Alan Jackman’s snare. Alan is the drummer for The Outfield. Their break-thru song “Your Love” from the album “Play Deep” was a top ten hit and the sound of the snare is, in my opinion, extraordinary. In fact, it’s one of the most original sounding snares that I am aware of. Now I will be the first to admit that the snare sound on the album divides people. Some love it. Some hate it. If you’re unfamiliar with the sound or the song you can check it out here:
In my quest for defining this sound I first contacted my friend Mike Dawson, the managing editor for Modern Drummer magazine. Mike has a lot of experience recording different kinds of drums. His take on it was that the snare sounds like its tuned pretty high (just below the choking point), muffled with a zero ring, and the wires are pretty tight. The rest of the sound Mike believes is a gated reverb or gated room mic that’s been overdriven a little bit. I think he’s on to something.
I also wondered if there was any manipulation on the production of the sound. After some searching I came upon a post written by William Wittman. He produced and engineered The Outfield’s first two albums, “Play Deep” and “Bangin.’” Wittman, also engineered Cyndi Lauper’s hit record “She’s So Unusual.” He posted:
- The drums were a fairly standard set-up (Pearl kit).
- We set up a large riser right in the middle of AIR’s large (60×80) Studio 1.
- RE20 in the bass drum with a blanket over it.
- Km-84 on the snare.
- 87’s on the toms.
- 4038’s over head and 2 more back as rooms.
- I may have used a KM-86 on the HH, don’t remember for certain if I needed a HH mic. I may have.
- The room mics went through the Fairchild 670.
- No other drums were compressed.
That is great information but it doesn’t speak specifically to the snare drum. I want to know What kind of snare? What were the heads? How was it tuned? What makes it sound so original? At this point in my investigation I decided to go to the primary source. After doing a little research I found The Outfield’s official Facebook page which has a press contact email. I sent a message to Alan asking if he would be interested in doing an interview. Hopefully he will reply and I can ask him directly. Until then…the mystery continues.