Interview with Scott Davis about his playing on Kim Walker’s new album ‘Wild Heart’.
Ruud: Scott, this album ‘Wild Heart’, I think it’s amazing! The lyrics are deep and meaningful and there’s so much happening musically and rhythmically! So first of all, let’s dive into the drum parts and arrangements. When we listen to the album, we hear the final versions of the songs, but can you tell me a little bit about the writing and the creative side of the drum and percussion parts? Did Kim write all the parts? Do you work with a musical director or did you guys write parts yourself as well?
Scott: Jeremy Edwardson produced the record, he’s produced a lot of Jesus Culture albums and also all of Kim’s solo albums. He does a lot of pre-production beforehand so for the percussion and drums parts, he’ll generally do a lot in Reason when he’s writing out percussion parts and coming up with ideas, SPD-parts and loops and things like that. So he’ll write a lot of that out, it’ll be charted out in a document or he’ll send over some audio and generally he’ll split of the audio for your parts and give you those. That was essentially how we did ‘Wild Heart’ and actually a lot of the other albums that we’ve done with Jesus Culture as well. For Kim’s record, we were in the studio for about a week and we would rehearse parts and there were times where we had feedback as far as ‘hey, it would be cool if we did this, or change this part, or remove this’, so there’s some input from a percussion standpoint on what we wanted to do, just like all the other instruments. Jeremy comes with an idea and then we get to work with it with him. If we think of something that might sound cool or add to a song, then we change it. So Jeremy wrote all the parts and Andrew (the other percussionist) and I split parts in the studio and we worked out who was playing what. Andrew would do a lot of the loop stuff, that was essentially his role and he also had a kick drum to do hits and a snare drum, tambourine and shakers, so we split duties depending on what was going on in the song, because this record was pretty percussion-heavy.
Ruud: Yeah totally! I mean, 1 drummer plus 2 percussionists, that’s pretty cool! So would you learn all the parts for every song by heart or do you have some notes on stage?
Scott: When it comes to drums, I just know the parts generally in my head. I learn them and I try to go over them over and over. With percussion, I kind of split, I learn them in my head but I also chart it out. So for this record, I had an iPad hidden, out of the view of cameras where I had notes to reference, because your taking notes all week in pre-production as we’re working through parts. I chart everything out so I know where I am in a song, what instrument I need to be using and playing, even if it’s eight notes or quarter notes or a triplet pattern, I chart all of that out.
Ruud: That’s brilliant. I think especially with a live recording, you can’t be too prepared, right? So is the way you prepare for a live recording different to the way you would usually prepare for a Sunday service?
Scott: With this record ‘Wild Heart’, I probably felt the most prepared I felt for any recording I’ve done in the last 10 years, just because we were in pre-production every day and you start to gel together as a band. But for instance with Jesus Culture church, and even when I was at Bethel, we had stream services so I would practice just the way I would practice as if it was a live set without the recording going on, and make sure I nail my parts and know my parts going into the set. Off course, when you hit spontaneous moments, it’s a lot about the feel and following the leaders and seeing what’s going on in the crowd and making sure you’re being tasteful in your dynamics. I think the biggest thing with a recording is trying to stay relaxed, not thinking too much about the fact that you’re being tracked. Especially for a stream service where they don’t really edit anything, there’s no post-fixing or at least very minimal. But for this record, there definitely was post-fixing. I think any worship record or any live record for that matter, they’re gonna be fixing things in post. People are human beings, you make errors, so they will fix that in post.
So did you have to come into the studio and re-record parts?
Scott: Yeah I did. I re-tracked everything in fact. With a live recording, you only have so many channels, so there were certain things that were mic’d and certain things that weren’t. I hope I’m not giving away too much here, but with a live record, you’re recording your parts and you’re playing what’s being played on the record, but with percussion, which is more of a secondary instrument compared to drums, not everything is going to be tracked. Especially something like a tambourine can just bleed into crowd-mics and it’s really loud so you’re gonna end up taping the tambourine up a bunch, so you would have gaffa tape all over your tambourine. So for this album, I came to Redding and did a one-day session and re-tracked all my percussion parts and Andrew did as well. So everything I played in the studio was what I played live. I actually brought the same notes and went through all the parts, so that’s fun!
Ruud: Great! Can you walk me through your set-up that you used in this recording?
Scott: I had a mounted kick drum for some big kick hits and syncopated hits that would hit with the drums and a mounted snare raised way up because I was standing. I had my big 24’ Istanbul Dark crash for swells so I would use mallets on that. I had a mounted tambourine for tambourine-hits, so on certain parts there’s hits on the 2 and the 4, things like that. I used a couple different kind of shakers so for different sounds. That’s pretty much it. On the rim, I would do some rim stuff, so I did some flam-type grooves on the rims, for example on ‘Already Have (Bear’s Song)’. So it was pretty straightforward.
Ruud: You talked a little bit about the spontaneous parts on the record. How does that work with preparation and recording? Can you actually ‘rehearse’ spontaneous parts in the studio or are all the moments we hear in the record pure spontaneous?
Scott: Everything you hear on the record is live, that’s really spontaneous! Generally we follow Kim and wherever she feels like she needs to go in a song. In pre-production you’re just going through the song, the spontaneous stuff is really following Kim and where she’s going, so everything you hear is live and not rehearsed. Maybe at rehearsals at the Cascade Theater where we recorded, we would as a band go into spontaneous parts or Kim would go into something here and there, just feeling the moment, but it’s not like ‘Hey, here’s plan spontaneous’, otherwise it almost wouldn’t be spontaneous, you know, haha.
Ruud: That’s totally awesome, I love that it’s truly spontaneous! You’ve been playing with Kim for years and spontaneous worship is part of what you guys do at Jesus Culture. So how do you know what to play in those spontaneous moments? How do you support Kim musically?
Scott: It depends. On percussion, it’s not so much of a stressor, because it’s more of a secondary instrument. So when I’m playing percussion, I will usually follow Josh (Fisher) or Jacob (Arnold), see where they’re going. When I see they’re going into a open groove, I would bring something like a tambourine or a shaker, depending on where it’s going. But when I’m on drums when I’m playing with Kim, I definitely follow her lead but I also try to feel things out on my own, where I feel like it’s going. Kim’s pretty good in using her voice to communicate where she wants to go. Obviously, you can hear it when she sings, she can get really intense. I’ve had moments where I wasn’t even looking at her, where most of the time it’s worked out great, sometimes I failed miserably because I wasn’t paying attention to signals, haha, but it was more like listening to her voice and feeling where she’s going. In those moments I’m able to follow her lead and make sure I’m supporting her where she’s going in a song, just doing my best to be complementary to what she’s doing!
Ruud: Which song on the album spoke to you most personally? Maybe a specific lyric or theme?
Scott: Wow, a lot of them did. I really felt the Holy Spirit on a lot of these songs. ‘Come Through’ is a song that speaks to me personally with my son. ‘You’ll always be’ is an interesting one, because when we recorded this album, it was the second week of February and it was because they shut everything down due to Covid. Thinking back now, these lyrics and the theme of this record is really good for what’s going on during these times. There’s a lot of fear and anxiety in our society right now, people are afraid of this virus, they’re afraid if they’re gonna loose their job or not, what’s gonna happen to them, all these things, and I think some of the lyrics of this record really speak to that and how God is good and He’s gonna take of you and that we can trust Him. So from that standpoint, maybe this record has more of an impact now than when we actually played these songs live. Especially for people who listen to this record now, I read some of the comments on YouTube and Instagram, people seem really touched by the record, so that’s really great to see!
Ruud: Yeah definitely. Times can be pretty rough right now with Covid going around, so ‘Wild Heart’ is a voice of faith and hope right now. That’s awesome! Was there also a particular song that you really enjoyed playing musically?
Scott: I really liked ‘Already have’. It’s a song where I’m doing marching-type parts, where I was breaking away from shakers and tambourines and stuff, so ‘Already Have’ is a song where I had a rim-click part, you can see it on YouTube, it’s really great. Also ‘Come Through’, that’s a really cool one where I was using my snare drum and mounted kick drum a playing the beat of the drums but marching it, kind of a 6/8 swing time feel, and playing what you would normally play with your feet and your hands, but I’m playing it with two hand. That was really fun. ‘You’ll always be’, at the end of that song it goes into this big crashing part with huge hits. Live it was just so intense and really epic, it was such a cool part, it reminded me of something Sigur Ros would play, so that song was really cool too.