Professional percussionist and drum teacher, Gareth Grover described the addition of Audient’s 8-channel mic preamp, ASP880 to his setup as “honestly like night and day – way more impressive than the simple expansion of channels I was originally focussed on.”
Making a home studio
Whilst his role as drummer for Frank Carter and The Rattlesnakes takes up much of his time, the pandemic forced him to get his tiny converted garage studio up and running sooner than he was anticipating. “The focus of the space was originally for personal instrumental practice and for teaching one to one lessons when I’m not away touring,” he explains. “We then hit the first lockdown and I was thrown into the potential situation of no work at all unless I started teaching remotely. It was all a bit of a scramble with a few technical headaches along the way, but it became a life-saver mentally and financially throughout those long lockdowns.”
“What I wasn’t expecting was the massive difference in clarity and warmth”
With the basic setup for teaching organised, he started exploring recording for other purposes; making content for his social media and starting some creative work for himself. No stranger to working in the studio, he has enjoyed using the knowledge he has picked up over the course of his career and honing it in his own space.
How his setup evolved
“Tech-wise, the set up began as iMac and interface with only eight channels available – enough to get a very basic kit working for the remote teaching set up, but was restricted to only in-box processing which is a challenge when you have so many mics to work with and phase issues to get right.
“I’m now running the same 8-channel interface with the Audient ASP880 8 channel mic-pres tied in by ADAT and doing most of the heavy lifting with its amazing preamps, leaving the onboard interface preamps to take up a few of the less important channels.”
ASP880: “doing most of the heavy lifting with its amazing preamps”
He explains how it worked before: “Prior to the ASP880, monitoring was a bit of a headache – not particularly transparent or true, and meant lots of back-and-forth slow progress between recording, assessing, changing things, recording again etc, etc. Thanks to the ASP880’s functions I now know I’m monitoring the most accurate representation I can of the raw sounds in the room and my headphone mix is all in phase on the way in, meaning I can make adjustments on the spot and instantly experience the effects rather than having to record, listen back, adjust and go again.
“What I wasn’t expecting was the massive difference in clarity and warmth in just the basic signals, as well as the interesting tonal changes you can achieve with the impedance switching feature. The unit instantly made a massive difference.”
ASP880 – eight channels of feature favourites
It’s the more simple features that he appreciates. “Having phase-flip buttons and the high-pass filters on each channel opened up a new world for me in terms of monitoring. I could achieve instantly what was previously taking a good chunk of time to replicate in my DAW after tracking (flipping-phase to get the signals working nicely with each other, and basic EQ tweaks to focus the low end information). Once those elements were cleaned up on the spot in terms of live monitoring, I could really hear the interesting tonal changes possible when using the impedance switch.”
ASP800: “opened up a new world for me in terms of monitoring”
The diagram and explanation of this feature on Audient’s website was particularly helpful in guiding his ear on what to expect. “That feature has been really useful in changing the timbral feel of a few particular channels (kick, snare, ambient-rooms and overheads mostly) and how they help shape the feel and impact of the overall mix depending on whether I’m tracking a hard and heavy drum part or a soft intimate one.
Remote teaching using ASP880
Using the ASP880 has been invaluable in his teaching setup too. “Due to the processing pressure it puts on the computer, it’s quite a volatile system. I can only use the bare minimum of channels for the lessons – just the core of the kit (kick, snare, overheads plus a vocal mic) – and have to minimise any plugins I use to avoid too much live latency. The phase-flipping and HPF features mean those core signals are as clean, tidy and together as possible and minimises the need for plugins.
“core signals are as clean, tidy and together as possible”
“The remote setup also relies on two interface channels being taken up for a L/R mix live output/input loop, so the added channel count, analogue outputs and switchable A/D conversion on each ASP880 channel make things really flexible.”
Writing and production of Frank Carter and The Rattlesnakes
The fourth Rattlesnakes record, Sticky was written during lockdown, and sees the band return to self-production. “The writing process saw a natural progression towards grimey electronic sounds as a general soundscape,” says Gareth. Demos consisted of midi programmed parts “using weird samples and processed loops” with the essence of them as a rock band still very much apparent.
“I was able to go deeply into tuning and treating the acoustic drums […] individually for each track”
“That’s where my home studio setup became invaluable. Recording full multitrack drum parts even at this mid-stage of pre-production, made the results a more realistic representation of where the finished tracks would land. It also meant we were on our own free time to experiment without the nasty studio-time bill attached.
“I was able to go deeply into tuning and treating the acoustic drums differently and individually for each track – experimenting with ambient and close mic blends, and generally making audio chaos to shake up the percussive timbre of the record as a whole. We honed that whole approach in pre-production and it helped make the final tracking sessions a lot more focused.”
Sticky is out on 15th Oct 2021. Gareth describes it as a nod to celebrating the return of everything that was taken away during the strictest lockdown periods. “Sticky is literally a reference to that feeling you get deep in a crowd at a show: the sweaty, sticky dance floor under your feet, the pints thrown in the air and sticking in your hair,” he explains.
Sticky: “a reference to that feeling you get deep in a crowd at a show”
The first three singles from the record, My Town, Sticky and Go Get A Tattoo are out now on all good streaming platforms. The album is up for pre-order now, and “available in all manner of interesting physical formats.”
Celebrating the return of everything wouldn’t be right without being able to hear the new music live, and it is with great joy that Gareth announces his tour dates.
The UK tour kicks off at Dublin Academy on 10th November, culminating at the London Brixton Academy on 21st & 22nd January, after which they’re off to Europe.
Gareth Grover without the Rattlesnakes
To keep an eye on what Gareth is up to, find him @garethgrover on Instagram, where he has been posting some of the experimental things he’s been working on for himself.
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He adds, “There are a couple of outside projects yet to surface that are still in the production stages. I’ll be sharing some of that recording session content on my socials soon showcasing the progress that the ASP880 has helped me make.”