Joey Shuffield from Fastball

Powerful pop trio Fastball - bassist/singer Tony Scalzo, guitarist/singer Miles Zuniga and drummer Joey Shuffield have recorded their version of The Who's famous song with great inspiration for a new dedication to this group - Substitute, The Songs Of The Who. "This record wasn't too hard for us," Joey explains, "because we're all terrible Who fans. Keith Moon embodied the spirit of rock like no other. He lived it, breathed it, played it. It was his life."

"Keith was a unique drummer," adds Shaffield. "There is no one who can play like him. And I didn't even try. I just tried to get closer to that spirit during the recording."

As with most Fastball recordings, The Real Me's drums were recorded live in an open room. "We recorded this song very quickly in a small studio in Atlanta," Joey explains. "The whole song is basically a three-minute bass solo and drums. Right before recording, Tony and I were rehearsing to make sure we knew the material. And that was a big mistake. I then thought it would be nice if the microphones were on during those two plays before recording.

"I found that during the recording of the best take, there is a feeling that now, you are about to ruin everything. And that was what we wanted to achieve on this record. Kind of teetering on the brink of complete collapse. We eventually got something like that. Then we overdubbed Miles' guitar and pipes."

Using a chance to chat with Joey, we asked him about Fastball's latest album The Harsh Light Of Day as well.

Joey: What makes this album different from the previous one is that I had to work a lot more on the demo. It was like training for a marathon - picking up a couple of songs, playing them, trying to remember, then listening again, meditating, trying to imagine what I would play in them. And then, during pre-production, when we recorded for two weeks in a row, I took the tapes home and at night I tried to find the right beats.

MD: When Miles and Tony give you the demo, are there already acoustic or electronic drums?

Joey: Different. Sometimes Tony will record the main beat and let me play what I want. Miles usually has a little more ideas. And we are working together on his songs. We're renting a rehearsal room and he just bought a sampler, so we're working with him as well. For some it's old (laughs), but for us it's new.

MD: Do you find the sampler inspiring?

Joey: I like it because it helps you look at the structure of a song to see how you can rearrange things within it. I see it as just another tool. It's almost like playing with another member of the band. The tracks Goodbye and This Is Not My Life were definitely sample-oriented, at least on a pre-production level.

MD: So, did you use a loop sampler?

Joey: Yes, we got to the final result through playing around with the sampler. On the song Goodbye, I played the rhythm, we recorded it, we looped it and checked if it was suitable for the song. If not, I suggested another groove. So we got the final "feel" of the song. There were many changes in the song Funny How It Fades Away. There were many different options. And on the day of recording, I had a very powerful idea for this song. I am especially proud of my part in it, as I recorded it from the first take.

Vampires are gone too. It was late at night, we were tired. We turned off the lights to create the right atmosphere. We played the first take to test the sound of the drums. Miles started the intro and "it" happened! We recorded everything - vocals, everything live! It's great that all this was captured on film. You know how it happens - either the film does not spin, or something else. All hit right in the top ten. Only the strings were added later.

MD: How about Morning Star?

Joey: This is the most rock song of all. I feel very comfortable in these songs. This is my style.

MD: How do you record drum tracks?

Joey: I like the open sound of the drums. The larger the room, the better the sound of the drums. On this record I had two sets of drums: one was rock, the other was more down tuned. I don't like muting drums. I love that they ring. When we record, I like Miles and Tony to play with me. I like it when they are around so we can interact. I have a click in my headphones, but I prefer the guys not to hear it so that I can "play" with it - a little in front, a little behind, without embarrassing my partners. It gives me the right feeling. I need to hear the bass, and it's good if they also sing. It is very important. Usually I don't do more than two or three takes.

MD: What instruments do you play?

Joey: I play Pork Pie drums and Zildjian cymbals - 14" hats, 20" ride, 18" K and A crashes. I use Remo Ambassador coated heads on all drums and Clear PowerStroke 3 on the kick. I play with Zildjian sticks Super 5B.

MD: Let's talk about drum tuning.

Joey: I don't pull the snare head very hard. There is a certain pitch that I strive for. I hear it when I check the setting by tapping the head with my finger. I don't tune the head to any particular note. I tune the drum myself. There is a certain frequency where the drum responds best, and I can hear that moment. Then I already fine-tune the screws. This is in general terms. A lot of this has to do with my drums - they tune themselves!
Based on materials from Modern Drummer magazine.
Translation - Yevgeny Ryaboy.