RIGGED: DREAM THEATER’S MIKE MANGINI TAKES YOU THROUGH EVERY PIECE OF HIS MEGA-DRUMKIT [PART 3]
On September 15th we published Part 1 of an epic Rigged piece in which new Dream Theater drummer Mike Mangini embarked on a quest to take MetalSucks readers through every single piece of his massive drumkit. On September 29th we posted Part 2. It wasn’t our intention to have to split this Rigged feature up, it’s just that the dude’s got so. much. gear. and is so passionate and detailed about explaining how it all works that we simply didn’t have a choice but to split this feature up into three! We could publish a friggin’ book with this thing. So, FINALLY, here is the third and final part:
I want to end with the electronics. I’m using what’s called Tru-Trac pads that Pearl developed to use with their e-Pro drums. Pearl’s electronic drums are not trying to rival Yamaha or Roland’s fabulous electronic drums; those are awesome and those guys make absolutely great stuff, but Pearl is not trying to copy or rival them. Pearl decided that they wanted to have a drum set that could be smacked and it would feel like an actual drum set. It’s not that the other electronic kits don’t work and can’t be learned and adjusted to; it’s just not the same as hitting the acoustic drum. They know it. Everybody knows it. Pearl said “we’re going to make something different.” Because I’m an acoustic kit player and I play a lot harder than it looks like I’m playing (but you can tell if you look at the dB meter), what’s happening is when I hit these pads, I have a connection to them with the feel. That’s the reason I’m using the Tru-Trac pads. As far as the sizes are concerned and the amount, I have one with each foot and they’re all 10″ diameter pads. Why 10″? The bigger ones are heavy. I don’t want to be putting a large electronic drum way up high on a rack. Somebody has to lift that and god help me if it falls.
Pearl, especially now this guy Mike Farriss (the head of A&R at Pearl), also happens to be a very skilled worker with his hands. He works with wood and metal and things like that. He makes stuff. These are things I don’t do. He asked me once to drill holes in my gong bass drum, and it took me less than 2 minutes to all of a sudden have blood all over my finger. That’s me. I rush. But this guy is really great. What he did was he asked me questions about my intentions, and he took this very short depth shell that Pearl makes for practice kits called Rhythm Traveler. He put these 10″ two track pads on a 10″ Rhythm Traveler shell such that it would be small. Because he did this, I can place these things where I can hit them. When you look at the pictures above, you will see two pads to the very far right and the very far left up high. The way that I have those arranged for a total of six pads would be two with my left hand and two with my right hand, one with my right foot and one with my left foot. I arranged them, as far as what they trigger note-wise, kind of similar to how the drum set is arranged. On the new album there’s a song where I’m using six cowbells; I assigned a note to each pad to match each riff. I’m playing a guitar line with both hands and both feet on six pads. That’s the new stuff. With the older catalogue, I’m using these six pads to replace all of Mike’s percussion except the wind chimes. For example, when we do a song and he uses temple blocks, I’m assigning temple blocks to these things. When he uses cowbells, I’m assigning cowbells to them. The new record has a tune opening up with timpani, and I use it for that. They are controlled with the red box on the left. The other great thing about these e-Pro pads being used to replace all the percussions is the sound. I’m going to be able to send four exactly leveled, perfectly setup cowbells or temple blocks out to the front of house via these pads without any worries about mic’ing.
The only thing I really haven’t talked about yet specifically are a couple of splashes. The last thing that I can say about them is that the splashes were added to my kit to reflect Mike’s setup. Before I recorded the new album, I spent time playing along with Mike’s DVDs so that I would get used to it without really learning the catalogue… which you can’t do. Nobody can, otherwise there would have been 200 drummers equally capable of auditioning and equally capable of playing the songs note for note. Clearly that didn’t happen. It’s harder to learn his parts than it seems. Way harder than it seems. You’ve got to hit rewind 37 times and be patient and go back and do it again and again. What I did by just playing along with Mike’s DVDs is a different issue. By throwing in a DVD like Scenes from A Memory Live or Train of Thought Sessions and just playing along with those, what I was able to do was modify my setup such that I didn’t go into the new album and then all of a sudden realize “oh my gosh, I’m going to be spending more time with Mike Portnoy’s drum paths than my own. I’m going to have one record and he’s got ten”.
So if I don’t setup the drum set to play that catalogue, I’m going to be up a creek. That’s why I just played along and just went through the catalogue in a one-take thing making a million mistakes. Just playing along and saying “I’m not going to be able to use the splashes the way I normally would. I’m going to have to put them the way Mike has them” or “I’m going to have to add stacks” or “I’m going to have to put this crash that I’d normally not hit here and put it there”.
The last thing are the four octobans center-mounted up on the rack. Pearl calls them Cannon Toms but everyone refers to them as octobans and that’s what they are. They’re way up high for three reasons: Firstly they’re in the middle for the same reason as my signature snares because I need to access them with either hand. I can’t have them stuck way to the left because sometimes my other hand is tied up. I just need them in the center for access. Another reason, which would make the most sense and be the most simple for anybody to understand even if they’re not a drummer, is there’s no other place to put them. Finally, they look like exhaust pipes up there. It’s just a good, fun look. I think that’s a great way to conclude the whole basis of my setup beyond the musical purpose of it. Me being who and what I’m making myself to be, and being happy to play, and all that. It’s fun. Drums are fun. Setting them up is fun. Hitting stuff is fun. I don’t know a better way for it to hit home than to say “putting those octobans way up high in the middle was a lot of fun”. I think that’s a good explanation.
– Mike Mangini / Dream Theater