The Origin Of The Classic Phil Collins Drum Sound
Phil Collins certainly didn't mean to intrude. He just wanted to lend a hand..or two. Everything else after that was just one big happy accident.
The year was 1979 and Phil Collins was about to take advantage of a much needed Genesis hiatus. He was going through a divorce and was ready to eventually record his first solo album which would become 'Face Value'. With some spare time on his hands he decided to put those hands to good use and offer up his drumming talents to his friends in the business. His former Genesis band-mate Peter Gabriel was the first person he reached out to.
"Peter really didn't have a band because he couldn't really afford an American band full time [at the time] and I said, 'If you need a drummer I'm around. I'm free'," Collins told Rolling Stone's Andy Greene in a recent interview. "He took me up on the offer and I went down to his house in Bath."
Gabriel was about to record his third solo album when he invited Collins to his home in Bath, England to hang out and flesh out some of the songs Gabriel was working on.
"The first thing happened when I got there was that Peter said, 'Take away the cymbals, I don't want any metal on the record' which I thought was a little stubborn on his part but, ya know, it's his album," said Collins. "We started putting tom-toms up where there would be cymbals and I started to just play around on the drums getting comfortable and [engineer] Hugh Padgham started to get a sound. I'd asked Hugh as I usually did when I was working with an engineer to let me hear what they were doing. I heard this sound being achieved and I started playing with the sound that I was hearing. I started playing a kind of John Bonham type thing. Peter said, 'What is that you're playing?' and I said, 'I'm just playing with the sound ya know?' and he said, 'I like that. Give me that for ten minutes'. So I did and at the end of it I said, 'What are you gonna do with it?' He said, 'I don't know'."
Gabriel didn't know yet but he would eventually use it on the track "Intruder". Although the song itself wasn't a hit the extraordinary drum track certainly got the attention of other musicians and producers in the music industry. Rolling Stone's Brian Hiatt broke down the origin of the now iconic Collins drum sound which emerged that day in the studio with Gabriel during a recent episode of the Rolling Stone Music Now Podcast.
"[Collins] was playing a simple beat. Via sort of an accident the engineer Hugh Padgham heard the drums through this sort of studio talk-back microphone and a couple of things happened," said Hiatt. "He heard a combination of compression and a giant reverb that cut off basically with what they call a gate. So you hear a snare drum within this giant bath of reverb but not the reverb that comes after the sound finishes so it creates this BOOM! When that sound happened that actually established the sound of the snare drum in the 80s."
Now let's hear that Peter Gabriel track "Intruder":