My teacher, mentor, mastering engineer and friend…
- I became aware (and now a fan) of Mike Keneally and his work because of Ronan
- I got into King Crimson because of Ronan, and eventually got me into Stick Men and Adrian Belew
- Ronan introduced me to Voivod’s music
- Ronan introduced me to Bozzio Levin Stevens’ music
- I became aware of Benny Greb because of Ronan
- Ronan taught me the all fundamentals I need to know in the world of recording from his recording classes and production seminars
- Ronan mastered all my records, even on earlier songs where I was still trying to find myself as a writer
- Ronan inspired me to become a better arranger and performer
- Ronan was always there to help answer questions whenever I got stuck in my work and even offered me a place to stay during my move, in case I ran into trouble with logistics.
- For the first several years that I had known Ronan, I would learn something new from him every time I met him in person. I might have been casual conversations, but there would always be something to pick up on.
…like a big brother showing me, helping me and teaching me all these things.
When Pat initially agreed to play drums on my record, it was a really emotional moment for me, but things also felt right, once the excitement started to become relatively more…. stable. Pat had known Ronan for years, as they worked together on so many King Crimson ProjeKCt records (i.e., Crimson under a different name, as he calls it). Pat also worked with Ronan on sessions for other artists, and he played drums on Ronan’s solo record too (, which he had been working on for quite some time now). But when I reached out to Pat, it wasn’t based on Ronan’s suggestion (- it was after listening to a Progtopia podcast where Pat said that he’s available for sessions for unknown artists) and I didn’t mention to Pat about “my affiliation” with Ronan initially, since I didn’t want Pat to feel like he was doing it as a favor. I was a bit shy of mentioning it too. But from the moment he agreed, to even now, things still feel right. There’s some sort of comfort – like a family, in a way, because of how everybody was somewhat connected.
Sure, looking back, there are certain things I wish I could have done better on the record, such as the way I mixed the drums sonically and perhaps giving a bit more room for the drum parts to shine. But I had no idea anyone would even be willing to play drums on my tunes, so it wasn’t something I accounted for when I originally wrote the pieces. What I did learn was that it didn’t really matter, because Pat’s background has been in different genres, and progressive rock is one piece (although a large piece) of who he is as a musician. He could make anything sound interesting while serving the song, while being able to experiment with his “traps-and-buttons” (electronic trigger samples and sound effects). Plus, he just genuinely loves music and loves to play – pretty much anything. One occasion I remembered him pointing out, “you’re rushing” – which I did tend to do. It’s something I have learned from, worked on and have gotten a little better at ever since.
I met him twice when I was in Austin for work, just several months after the project. It was around Christmas time and he was gracious enough to take time out of his day to meet me. First meeting was at a local Italian coffee/espresso place. We exchanged hugs and agreed that we had finally met. First comment he made was playing with Crimson in the past at the local church venue across the street, like the Good vs Evil – very amusing. Second thing he said, “So how did you know Ronan Chris Murphy?” (I had told him that Ronan was mastering the record via email several months ago).
The second meeting was at his house, where he was working on several records. He played me parts of the ToPaRaMa record, pointing out parts he and Tobias were playing. There were sections where they were each playing in different time signatures on top of each other… stuff that’s WAY over my head. He then played parts of the Face record, which he had been working with Markus on for several years. (I’ve just learned recently from the MakeWeirdMusic interview that the record’s has been placed on hold and not to be released for now, which is unfortunate…). But most of the time he was comping drums on his Protools setup in his studio for the record he was working on for the solo artist. He’s quite a ninja on it with his speed. “This works” or “This doesn’t work” was what he was explaining. I know it might be obvious to you reading this, but my thoughts were, “He does the same things that mere mortals like me do – experimenting and just trying out different things to see what works!”. He was listening back to the rough demoed programmed drums part sent to him, analyzing what was being played. It was just really fun and very inspiring watching him work.
Of course we geeked out on his monitors, microphones, preamps, and all the recording-related stuff too.
Later on, he showed me his artwork, how he needed to jump through hoops to get things just right. What really got me to realize is that this man really, really cared about his art. It wasn’t just the music. It was the presentation, the mixes. It was about just getting things done the way he wanted it to be done. So much love and details that go into everything – from the smallest unknowns in the world like myself to drumming legends like himself, when it came to art, it was about dedication, loving it and just getting it done.
Pat introduced me to his wonderful beautiful family as well. His sister was talking to him about things she was doing earlier in the day and his daughter was discussing with him about her plans on an event she had going on with her friends, on whether they were going to rent a limo. She saw my vehicle parked outside their home. “Nice ride,” she said. I said thanks, noting that it wasn’t my vehicle, but a rental my employer provided during my stay in Austin. Not long after, Pat needed to head out to pick up his wife and I was actually running late towards my flight too. He suggested me following his car towards a specific intersection so I wouldn’t get lost on my way, and called me when we got there, making sure I knew where to go.
Only a month later, Pat was in Whittier, CA on a double bill with The Aristocrats at the Calprog show. Of course I drove up from San Diego to catch it! The Aristocrats were playing first and he was sitting on the side of the stage, enjoying the show. Yes, like the rest of us. (Pat’s also a friend of Marco Minnemann, and I remember seeing a copy of the Levin Minnemann Rudess debut record at his home studio). When Stick Men came on, watching him groove and “dance” (move) to his playing was such a treat. His joy and smiles while playing were contagious too, because I couldn’t stop smiling myself either. After the show, Pat, along with members of Stick Men, met and greeted the fans in the foyer. Pat saw me and actually recognized me. I couldn’t believe it. Just before that time, my first ever review (on SomethingElse! Reviews) had been released out, which I was ecstatic about. Pat knew of it because I emailed him, super excited, thanking him for helping me out. After the Calprog show, Pat introduced me to his friends and fans that he was talking to, bringing up the record he did with me, mentioning the review. I was moved (and felt a shy about it). Pat didn’t have to do that, but he was so gracious to mention that. As someone who’s never really been comfortable talking about one’s own work in front of other people, this really meant a lot to me.
While primarily working alone (playing all instruments, writing, mixing), outside of drums and mastering, I would imagine it being quite a different experience than working with band members of your own band. I think these are the reasons that all the types of little moments I described above become even more extra special memories, as they really attach to the records I make.