An Interview with Mercedes Lander of Kittie

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For its fourth full-length album, Funeral For Yesterday, Canadian metal quartet Kittie captured an amazing studio warmth to go with their noticeably evolved, more melodic sound, courtesy of producer legend Jack Ponti (Bon Jovi, Skid Row, Alice Cooper). Although Ponti now works mainly in artist management, according to drummer Mercedes Lander, he “came out of fifteen years retirement to work with us. Jack was a big ‘80s Metal guy,” she continues. “He’s very Old School in his recording methods – which I enjoy. I’m not a big fan of ProTools, which just sucks the life out of everything. Except for the vocals, everything on Funeral For Yesterday was recorded on two-inch analog tape.”

“We’ve always made a point to record on an analog medium for, at least, selected parts of our recordings,” the drummer explains. “We feel like analog is that much richer in sound and tone. ProTools is easy to work with when you are doing vocals, and on this recording we did a lot of vocal harmonies. But in the long run we’ll always be a mostly analog band.” Together now for over ten years, Mercedes’ band mates in Kittie include her sister Morgan (vocals), Tara McLeod (guitar) and Trish Doan (bass).

Metal Edge: Your drumming on Funeral For Yesterday is excellent. How were the drum tracks recorded?

Mercedes Lander: This was the easiest recording I’ve ever done. The drums for each song were completed in three takes at most, so my job in the studio was really easy. On previous albums it’s usually been [that I get stuff done quickly] because of time restraints. I’d do six drum tracks a day, but it would usually take me about three days to do the whole album. This time around we recorded song-by-song, so that each song was given individual attention and I was able to take my time, which was nice. Personally, I like doing it this way much better.

Metal Edge: Did you record in any special rooms or spaces to get your drum sounds?

Mercedes Lander: Honestly, we did a lot of really crazy, different mic placements. Many of those sounds are [from using] room mics, believe it or not. I had four mics set up in the room where I was recording: one mic behind me, two mics in front of me and a mic towards my right. Plus I had mics on all my toms, two mics on my kick and a giant tent (laughs) – that I probably could have crawled into – around my kick drum, which also had different mics in it. Using all those different mic placements and a lot of room mics gave the drums that extra little kick in the ass.

Metal Edge: Since the last Kittie album, what has changed most for you as a player?

Mercedes Lander: First and foremost, before being a drummer, I’m a songwriter. As Morgan and I become better songwriters, obviously I’m going to try and play drums that lend themselves to the way that we’re writing the songs. I think that’s something many drummers lack nowadays, especially in our genre of music. [In heavy metal] everybody just wants to play stupid fast and try out this roll or this double kick, but they’re not necessarily complementing the music. They’re not listening to the guitar parts and asking what [drum] part would sound good with that. The way I think about music has evolved into me being more of a songwriter than anything else. The drumming is just the icing on the cake and I try to mix things up as much as possible. I may not be the fastest or most technical drummer, but I do know how to write drums parts that lend to the musical aspect of things. I think that I drum melodically, more than anything else.

Metal Edge: Do you do any exercise to improve or build your speed as far as your double pedal work is concerned?

Mercedes Lander: I think that the only exercise I really have done is just playing a lot. I also do paradiddles with my feet on my kick. Honestly, I don’t have much of a system: what helps me the most is doing lots of touring and playing every night. For a while I was playing with weights on my ankles and that really sucked. I hear it works well for some people, but I didn’t like it very much.

Metal Edge: You’ve said that you prefer to play a song live for a while before recording it. Why is that?

Mercedes Lander: By playing these songs live and trying different things every night, the song changes and grows. Taking new songs out on the road and seeing people’s reactions, in my opinion, in the best way to perfect the song. The song flows better and by the time you go in to record it’s like second nature: you could play those songs perfectly after drinking a bottle of Jack Daniels. I’m also a big fan of ‘happy accidents.’ (Laughs) Let me use “Summer Dies” as an example. During the last chorus there’s a part where it slows down to half time. I did that completely one time during band practice by accident, and I thought ‘Oh, that sounds really cool.’ So, we incorporated that into the song. Sometimes if I make a mistake, I take note of whether or not it sounds cool, because if it sounds good I’m going to continue to do it. Happy accidents are a good way of writing music!

Mercedes Gear:
Drums: Yamaha
Sizes: 22”x18” Kick Drum, 12” and 13” Rack Toms, 14” and 16” Floor Toms, 14” Snare
Cymbals: Zildjian
Heads: Evans
Sticks: Ahead

Official Website: https://www.facebook.com/kittiepage/

Mercedes Lander

This article was originally written for Metal Edge Magazine as part of a monthly column by Gail Worley (under the pen name Jayne Rollins). With the magazines’ dissolution, the article has been added to the content base of The Worley Gig for our readers’ enjoyment.

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