Name: Jon Dale
Location: Mapleton, IL
You’re a drummer, engineer, producer and mixer. What would you say is your main focus…and what do you actually enjoy the most?
It’s really pretty hard to pinpoint what ‘the main’ focus of my attention is as it’s primarily dependent on what a particular project needs. Since I’m able to do all four things, I’ll usually offer to do what’s needed most at the time. If we need an engineer, and some drum parts tracked, I can handle both. If we just need a solid mix, or perhaps some edits from someone else’s programmed drums, I can handle that as well. My focus is always on the task at hand, and generally shifts from session to session.
As for what I enjoy the most, I’d have to say I love music in general, so being part of the creative process (in any aspect) brings enjoyment to me. While they are all very different tasks, they do possess one common value…and that’s doing what’s right for the part or song. But, if I could only pick one to do for the rest of my life, I’d have to go with drumming.
You’ve started making a name for yourself in the business and have worked with some pretty known artists. Tell us a bit about your journey up until now.
I initially started out as a drummer, solely playing in a variety of local bands throughout the late ’90s. We had the dream of signing the almighty record deal and making it big time, and I’m pretty sure we’ve all shared that same vision at one point. But, over the years, I grew weary of developing these projects from the ground up (all while carrying a large portion of the workload) only to have them fizzle out in the end. The whole reason I decided to start recording in the first place was the fact I felt I couldn’t rely on others the same way I could myself. So, in 2009, I shifted my focus from drumming to recording. I started by saving up $600 to buy Protools M-powered 7, a Delta 1010LT interface, and the original boxed version of EZdrummer. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, but it didn’t really matter as I was bound and determined to make music on my own.
Over time, I naturally got better at what I was doing, and it ultimately exposed me to many more like-minded individuals in my area. It also attracted a pretty significant amount of local musicians searching for a new place to record their demos. It was never my intention to record anyone other than myself, but with the encouragement of my peers, I reluctantly agreed to record my very first clients in 2010. Who knew I’d find myself in a band with two of the members from my first recording gig seven years ago, or that the drummer from the second project I ever worked on was Brandon Park who would later go on to play in Allegeaon?
It’s virtually impossible to predict what the future may bring, but the ability to adapt to nearly any situation placed before me has been the key to my greatest successes. In 2013, I decided to collaborate with a couple of friends in the area after my temporary break from drumming. Nothing really significant came of it except for this one song, and an accompanying drum play-through I later released on YouTube. Ironically enough, that single rehearsal video (with only a thousand views today) has landed me two career-changing gigs. The first of which was a session recording for the Canadian death/thrash outfit, Just Cause. For those who have not heard of these guys, I highly recommend you check them out. The first album “Finger It Out” was produced by Devin Townsend, and the drums were handled by none other than the ‘Atomic Clock’ himself, Gene Hoglan. Getting offered to record the follow up ep for a band like that helped me realize maybe there was more I could be doing in this industry than I originally anticipated. Not only did I find myself playing some of the craziest and most challenging material to date, I was also slated to mix the session as well. It wasn’t long after that until my next gig came in from the Florida based brutal/death metal band, Cystic Dysentery. Mixing their second full length album ‘Homicidal Suicide’ was an excellent learning experience for me as it was the first time I would be mixing something I didn’t actually engineer myself. This would eventually lead me to handling the mix duties for the infamous Bandwhore project, led by guitarist/composer/mastermind, Jim Ross. I won’t elaborate too much more about the band, but I can tell you I opened my Google Drive account the other day and I had drum and bass stems from Derek Roddy, Romain Goulon, Matt Francis, Mike Poggione, and Dominic Forest Lapointe. Needless to say, every session I do gets a little more involved as more time goes on. When I really look back at it, I see how all of the dots from my past sessions seem to connect with everything I’m doing today. Every session taught me how to anticipate the next, and I’ve found that I’m constantly refining, adapting, and learning as I go.
What are your tips to others who want to pursue a career in the professional field of the audio/music industry?
There’s really no big secret, or magic formula to breaking into this ever-evolving industry. There’s no substitute for good old fashioned hard work. My only real advice is this: whatever it is you want to do, in any line of work, do it to the best of your ability. Do it to your fullest potential. Everything you do from this day forward is a stepping stone to the next project, and you never know who may be watching or where it may lead you. You may even go backwards a few times, but I promise, if you stick with it, and maintain a positive attitude throughout, you could be the next person typing out your answers for this interview.
Growing up, when did you realize you had a passion for music and who were some of the bands that steered you on the path you are heading down now?
I was born and raised in a small, mid-western town in rural Illinois. I quickly discovered my affinity for music when I received my first vinyl record (KISS Alive II) at the age of 5. The more time passed, the stronger my infatuation grew, and ultimately, fueled an uncontrollable desire to play the drums. By age 11, I was taking private lessons, studying primarily under a few of the best students enrolled in the elite percussion department at Eastern Illinois University. Equipped with nothing more than a pair of 2b sticks and a practice pad, I was dedicated to the idea of learning the basic fundamentals that would eventually lead me to where I am today.
As far as my earlier influences, it’s almost embarrassing to answer honestly, but I don’t care because we were all young and impressionable at one point in our lives. With that said, hair metal was HUGE when I was growing up, so naturally, it was my jam. Motley Crue, Poison, Def Leppard…ALL of the cheesy stuff! But, as time went on, I quickly discovered an entirely new sound and influence in the early ’90s Bay area thrash scene. From there, it just progressively got heavier and heavier, and eventually, I was introduced to death metal. Nothing is too aggressive for me now, so the heavier it is, the more likely going to listen to it.
What would be your dream project to work on?
Honestly, after seeing a glimpse of what really went into making Superior Drummer 3 (and the various other products over the years), I would love nothing more than to be part of the process (in any capacity) in creating and developing the newest and latest Toontrack softwares. Don’t get me wrong, I still very much love working hands on with up and coming bands, but the thought of working on something on a scale of that magnitude, I find really intriguing. These products are literally assisting thousands of bands and individuals achieve their goals at every level of the industry, and that alone interests me more than anything else right now. The possibilities are endless, and this company has single-handedly revolutionized the way regular people (just like you and I) can get high dollar sounds on a very limited budget.
The song featured is from a new project/band of yours. How did this come about?
A Killer’s Confession was formed in the fall of 2016 by front man Waylon Reavis (ex-Mushroomhead), and one of my close friends, Matthew Trumpy (Dark Lit Sky). Matt and Waylon had met through social media, and originally conceived the idea prior to my involvement. They signed a one album deal with EMP Label Group, and then started piecing together what would ultimately be the band it is today. It was at this time my old rehearsal video from 2013 came back into play…Matt sent it in for review and 2 weeks later I was chosen to be a part of this newly formed band. In October, we rapidly gained exposure by releasing its first single ‘A Killer’s Confession’, which featured a guest appearance from Brian ‘Head’ Welch of Korn. Since then, we’ve released our first full-length album ‘UNBROKEN’, and things have really started picking up for us.
During the short period of time we’ve been together, I’ve been afforded many wonderful and unique opportunities to do things I’ve never done, and also managed to secure sponsorships with Spaun Drum Company, Scymtek Cymbals, Trick Drums USA, Xcel Drumsticks, and Westone Labortories.
You actually didn’t meet Waylon until the album was written and completely recorded. Working out an album like this is obviously something that wouldn’t have worked back in the day. How do you think new technology has changed the way we write and collaborate?
That’s correct, we did not actually meet in person until December 2016. Once the deal was signed, and I was officially hired, Matt and I immediately began working on writing the material that would end up being on the album. We were only given three weeks to complete the task of writing and recording the music for the upcoming release. As we were composing the songs, I was also engineering the pre-pro ideas, and to my surprise, many of them ended up on the album. Once we were happy with what we had written, we would then email the ideas over to Third Sky Studios producer, Richard Easterling, who was handling all of the vocal engineering. He and Waylon would track to what we sent until we had all ten songs completed. Things were really underway at that point, even though we had never all actually met in person. Our first show was booked for December 15th, so a few days before we planned to meet for the first time in Kentucky at Third Sky. We rehearsed instrumentally in the live room for a few hours while Waylon and Richard observed and critiqued us on video in the control room. A couple days of that and we were off to play the entire album at our first show. No pressure, right?
Technlogy today has absolutely changed the way we write, and collaborate with musicians all over the world. For instance, I tracked eight songs on drums from home earlier this year for an old school death metal band, Perversus (Germany) in between tours with A Killer’s Confession. Technology allowed this to happen, and for many of us, right from our very own homes. 20 years ago, this wasn’t always possible, but the introduction of social media and accessibility of reliable recording software has completely changed the game. Idols who were once unreachable are now just a messenger click away. It’s crazy to think this is how the industry is now, but if you don’t stay current and adapt with the times you’ll be left standing in the dust.
What Toontrack products do you use and how do they help you in your creative process?
I use everything from Superior Drummer 3 to EZmix 2. Bottom line, if it’s right for the session, I’m using it. It’s how we (and a majority of other bands) write while on the road and/or at home. The products don’t just help the creative process along, they are the foundation of the process. The entire session depends on them, and I know I can always rely on them for any level of recording I’m working on.
QUICK Q SHOOTOUT.
Double bass drums or double-pedal?
Best ever metal album?
Best ever non-metal album?
Nickel Creek “Why Should the Fire Die”?
Dream team band (with you on the drums!)?
Oh wow, that’s a tough one! I don’t even know how that can be answered accurately, but I’ll go ahead and rattle off the first players that come to mind. Joe Duplainter, Steve DiGiorgio, Mike Patton, Frederik Thordendal…and why not have Jason Suecof there to tell jokes and oversee the entire session as well?
QUICK GEAR RUNDOWN.
DAW: Protools 12
Studio computer: Dell Studio XPS (Upgraded) w/Universal Audio Apollo Duo
Drums: Roland TD-20sv (Recording ONLY)
Spaun Drum Company (Maple shells)
8×12 Rack Tom
14×16 Floor Tom
17″ Crash (Modern Series)
13″ Hats (Modern Series)
18″ Crash (Modern Series)
12″ Hats (Modern Series)
18″ China (Modern Series)
21″ Ride (X-treme Series)
Trick Drums USA – Pro-1v Double Kick Pedals and the SB1 Laser Triggers
Xcel Drumsticks – Jon Dale AKC Signature Series
Westone Laboratories – Custom EAS30 In Ear Monitors