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Tracking Drums For Alanis Morissette's "Jagged Little Pill" - Part 1 of 3

So....it was near the end of 1994 when I was in my mid 20's playing in cover bands in Manhattan Beach, CA 4 nights a week. At that point I had only played on 1 record, "Arrive All Over You" by Danielle Brisebois. At that time I was doing a lot of jingle sessions and the occasional songwriter demo.

My close friend Lance Morrison was the bass player on those Manhattan Beach club gigs where we shared a steady liquid diet of Sambuca and beer to help get us through the night. (It’s what you do in your 20s.) Those days were some of the best times of my life. Maybe I’ll post some of those memories on here sometime. Like the time actress Heather Locklear stuck her tongue down my throat in front of everybody in the club while the band was on a break. Aaaah the good ole days.........Wait! What was I talking about? Right!

Lance and I developed a reputation as the bass player/drummer team to hire if you needed any recording done. We met in 1990 when we both auditioned and got the gig for a world tour working for teen idol Tommy Page. We have remained close friends ever since.

Lance was working with record producer Glen Ballard and drummer Rob Ladd on some demos with a new artist from Canada named Alanis Morissette. I remember Lance playing me a cassette (yes, a cassette) in his car of the songs they were working on while we were on a break at one of our club gigs. I was really impressed with the lyrics and the sound of a drummer playing along with a drum loop. You have to remember that this was 1994 and nobody that I knew of was doing this kind of thing so it sounded new and exciting. Lance told me that Rob was moving to New York City and that Glen had asked him if he knew of a drummer that was good at playing along with drum loops. Luckily for me I had been practicing to drum machines for awhile. My Yamaha RX5 drum machine (which I still own) has a bass guitar sample so I would program bass lines that were 4 to 8 bars long with some percussion to play along with. I play guitar too so it was easy for me to learn bass lines on my guitar and program the drum machine. I also had a Tascam 4 track with 1 or 2 crappy mics on my drums so that I could record myself playing along with my ‘loops’ like: Earth Wind & Fire’s version of The Beatles “Got To Get You Into My Life”, “Africa” by Toto, “Bring It On” by Seal and “No Alibis” by Eric Clapton. That drum machine is in my garage with all of those songs still in it! I haven’t busted that thing out in 15 years or more.

Anyway. So I was training for the moment not knowing how cool of a moment it would turn out to be.

Lance gave Glen my number and soon after I received a phone call from him. Glen explained that they were ready to start recording the record and that they wanted me for 1 day to see if it was going to work out. If all goes well, he would have me back to finish tracking all the songs that needed drums.

Glen had a cassette tape (yes, a cassette tape) messengered to me (yes, messengered - WAY before mp3s) and I started listening to the songs. (I still have that cassette somewhere in my house.) I think there were 10 or 12 songs on it but he told me to learn the first three which included a version of the song “You Oughta Know” that never made the record. The demo version had a totally different attitude. I was told that sometime later Flea and Dave Navarro from The Red Hot Chili Peppers heard the song and asked if they could re-cut the bass and guitars. Luckily they didn’t re-cut the drums.....(WHEW!!!) but I’m getting ahead of myself.

I remember sitting at my dinning room table with headphones on charting out “You Oughta Know”. The bridge of the song dynamically starts quiet and steadily builds into the last pre chorus. When that happened I heard the drum fill that I played on the record in my head and thought "that would be a cool fill to play" so I wrote it in my chart so I wouldn’t forget it. (More on that drum fill later.) So I finished charting out the songs and was ready for my ‘audition’.

We tracked the record in the basement studio of the MCA Records building on Lankershim Blvd in Studio City, CA. I don’t know if MCA is still there but I do remember the year. It was right before Lance and I left for Japan to do some gigs with Donna Summer in December. So the session was sometime late November or early December, 1994.

So I show up at the studio and there is The Drum Doctor, Ross Garfiled setting up my drums. Ok....I gotta tell you.....this was HUGE for me! I was lucky enough to have friends that would work on sessions that legendary drummer Jeff Porcaro was on. My friends would call me and say 'Hey, Jeff is coming in today. Do you wanna come down and check it out?' Pfffft!!!! FUCK YEAH!!! Ross was Jeff’s studio tech on those sessions so I got to talk with Ross a little bit before Jeff would show up. Watching Jeff play in the studio was such an amazing experience for me. I’ll never forget it. Huge influence on me. So! To have The Drum Doctor teching for ME on one of my 1st big record dates just added to the nervousness.

Ok! The drums are set up, mics are in place, we got drum sounds, bassist Lance Morrison is sitting just off to my left, producer Glen Ballard and engineer Chris Fogel are in the control room and we're ready to record!

Alanis wasn’t there for the 1st day. I’m assuming it was because Glen wanted to see if I was going to work out before inviting her to the session. I'm not 100% sure which song we started with but I do remember that before the day was over we had tracked the song “You Oughta Know”.

(to be continued...)

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Thanks for reading!!!

Matt

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