Behind The Beats - Live Hip-Hop Drums

With the release of our Live Hip-Hop Drums collection we decided to give the maker, Mr Brad Boal a call and find out a little more about the collection.  Here's the discussion: 

Hi Brad, how's it going?  Tell us a bit about yourself?

Life is good! I’ve been playing drums as long as I can remember. Grew up in a musical family with my Dad, a band director/trumpet player and my Mom, a baritone player in wind symphony. My Dad loves funk music and other great stuff for that matter, but I think hearing a ton of hip funk/jazz records as a kid definitely influenced my style. Played drums all the way through high school then received one of two drum scholarships awarded annually at the prestigious, University of North Texas. Known for their exceptional music program and stand out percussion department. I grew so much musically while at UNT and was exposed to all kinds of new styles and playing situations. One being an all live Hip-Hop Band with Austin TX phenom, Dr. Dan leading as MC and some of UNT’s top players filling out the rest of the band. Great band, huge following pre social media and all so no presence now unfortunately. After College I came back to my hometown of Seattle WA. for what I thought may just be a bit until the next thing but ended up breaking into the scene, liking it and seeing no reason to leave. Been in Seattle since 2004 and am excited to bring the sound Seattle has been hearing to a wider audience with Touchloops!

 Just a few of the many percussion pieces used in the creation of this pack.

Just a few of the many percussion pieces used in the creation of this pack.

The pack sounds stunning and the performance is incredible, what was the thinking behind the pack?  Any big influences?

Thank you! We wanted to put together a collection of unique drum grooves and one-shots heavily influenced by Hip-Hop but not limited to any one style in its end use. Recording quality was of upmost importance as well as maintaining a cohesive sound and feel throughout. So many packs lack a ‘realness’ or what could be described as a ‘Live’ sound or vibe. We tried to capture that ‘Live’ vibe by using 100% real acoustic drums played by a 100% real human being with all of the subtlety and depth of groove that combination brings. So many of the greatest Hip-Hop tracks use drum samples from funk/jazz that were captured in the same way I just described. I have amassed a huge collection of vintage and modern drums, cymbals and percussion instruments over the years and hand selected the best sounding and fitting combinations I own for this pack. It was fun to try out different combinations find unique sounds! A big influence for me is Dilla since he tracked a lot of his drums this same way and took ‘Live’ drum grooves to a whole new place. There aren’t many guys who have their name associated with a specific type of groove. i.e. “Dilla Groove”, “Purdie Shuffle”, “Funky Drummer” etc. but Dilla is one of them and deserves heavy respect for that.

 part of the extensive cymbal collection owned by Brad.

part of the extensive cymbal collection owned by Brad.

So this the first sample pack that you've created?

Yes but definitely not the first loops I’ve produced. My company, Topline Beats (@toplinebeats) creates custom, client requested tracks in about any style you would want. Drum Loops are one product offered. Another feature of the company is that I record all my drums in the same way I did for this pack but add the bonus of a whole track performance. So there is no chopping drums up to create a verse groove and a chorus groove etc. Its one take drum performance specific to the song which is now considered old school by some but brings a musicality to tracks that is sorely missed in a lot of todays music.

We wanted to put together a collection of unique drum grooves and one-shots heavily influenced by Hip-Hop.

Tell us a bit about the gear you used, clearly there's a lot of drum swapping and processing of hits with tape etc

Oh man I could go on and on about specific drum nerd stuff. Haha! I kind of cherry picked the best drums I have for this one. One stand out drum is my 1930’s era Slingerland Radio King bass drum with original calfskin heads. It’s just so warm, phat and buttery that it works well for this pack and blend well in mixes. Another cool drum I used a lot in the pack is a 1990’s era Sterling Percussion maple shell piccolo snare drum. Its got a great pop to it and when dampened has ‘that sound’ used on so many great recordings that have been heavily sampled over the years. I also used this tiny little snare from Natal which when cranked up and heavily dampened sounds like a ‘Dilla Snare’. I used top of the line mics from Earthworks HD Audio, Telefunken and Vintage Sennheiser 421 U5’s (toms) through Focusrite ISA pre’s to capture the sounds of these cool drums. I then used some really great plugins from Soundtoys and Overloud to add some vintage vibe and tape sound.

What was the recording process like?  Did you particularly go for a 'sound’?

I had a great time tracking this one. The addition of my Earthworks mics really added a ‘real’ sound to the kit. Sounds almost like sitting at the drums. Very true to the sound of the source material so mic placement, tuning and proper dampening was important. I went for a slightly gritty, overdriven sound throughout. Not too much but enough to give it the sound of sampled drums that came from a live performance studio recording from the 60’s or 70’s. It was fun to try and match sounds of some of my favorite recordings. I spent some good time A-B-ing my recordings against drum sounds I love and got pretty close on a lot of these.

Looks like there's some super interesting percussion work in there too - how did that work performance wise?

I tried to make some different sounds from the tried and true sounds people tend to use and adding percussion really did just that. Playing alongside Latin percussionists for years in ensembles, I’ve picked up some great gear ideas and drum set add-on equipment. Dilla used a lot of perc on his tracks and it felt like a natural nod to the master to add some to this pack. Experimenting these sounds was really fun and I discovered some tricks I plan to create physical product from in the future.

Any plans for any other collections with Touch Loops?

Definitely! We're already working on sounds for a cross genre pack that would focus on hi-hat and snare work.  We are thinking of adding some Dubstep/DnB elements in as well. The end goal being that producers could create grooves in many different styles with this single pack.

Lastly if you had to chose one, tell us the best hip-hop groove of all time?

I always have trouble with bests but I’d have to say that “The Funky Drummer” is way up if not at the top of my list. It’s obviously found its place in Hip-Hop history as one of the most sampled grooves of all time but it’s also just a damn fine feel that's nearly impossible to match. Clyde Stubblefield was a feel master.

One for the books, best hip-hop track of all time?

So hard to narrow down! I like so many. The one I always go back to or throw on when I’m wanting to chill is, “It Was A Good Day” by Ice Cube. He sampled an Isley Brothers song, “Footseps In The Dark” which has such a deep soulful pocket. DJ Pooh added some bass and vocals to fill the track but its mostly the feel of the original which I love.

Like what you read? 

The Touch Loops team. 


Touch Loops