On a sun-drenched Friday morning in February of 2023, I found myself traversing the asphalt arteries of I-75, headed towards the heart of Cleveland's blue-collar Avon neighborhood. As I approached my destination, the unassuming industrial facade of Mercinary Studios came into view.
The studio, renowned for its ability to capture the raw and authentic essence of musicians, promised to be a fitting venue for the Super Bowl weekend's proceedings.
As I stepped out of my car, I was warmly welcomed by the studio's co-owners, Vanik and Noah Buchanan, who radiated a palpable sense of passion for their craft. In no time at all, we fell into conversation, bonding over shared experiences and a love of music.
As the clock ticked closer to the start of the day's recording session, a sense of electric anticipation began to build. The project, aptly titled Faster & Louder Drums, promised to be a visceral and unforgettable experience. With the spirit of creativity and collaboration pulsing through the air, I couldn't wait to see what the day would hold.
I: It's Raw & Real at Mercinary Studios
As I entered the studio's live room, my attention was immediately drawn to the impressive array of drum kits arranged before me. The room hummed with a sense of history and reverence, and I couldn't help but wonder about the tales that these drums could tell.
Turning to Vanik, I posed a series of questions, eager to learn more about the instruments and the studio's approach to drum recording. What was the history behind these storied kits? Where had they been featured on? And perhaps most importantly, what was the philosophy that guided the studio's meticulous approach to capturing that Mercinary drum sound?
"During recording sessions, we often swap out drum kits during sound checks to achieve the desired sound. If a band brings in their own kit and the sound isn't working, we don't immediately adjust the EQ, preamps, or microphones. Instead, we begin by assessing the drum kit. It could be that the snare isn't cutting through or the toms have too much ringing. Our green Pearl kit has proven to be reliable in these situations, as it consistently delivers a great sound when miked up with new heads. We can confirm that the kit has been used on several VANIK and Nunslaughter releases, as well the Slingerland kit has been on nearly every Midnight record.
II: Real Recognizes Real
Once the soundcheck and initial tuning were completed, my curiosity got the better of me, and I felt compelled to ask Vanik a question that had been on my mind: what was the driving force that led Mercinary Studios to collaborate with Ugritone?
"During an evening spent in the company of Haldor Grunberg and Zbigniew "Inferno" Prominski of Behemoth in Poland, the conversation turned to the topic of recording. It was during this exchange that Haldor introduced me to Ugritone Drums - a revelation that would have a profound impact on my music production process. Upon returning home from tour, I eagerly put the drums to the test, incorporating them into my music, and the results were staggering. As I played along with the samples on my electronic kit, I was struck by their remarkable responsiveness and astonishingly realistic sound. It was a breakthrough moment, and I knew that I had stumbled upon a game-changing tool that would elevate my music to new heights."
Although half of the initial mystery had been answered to me, the other half remained elusive: if Mercinary Studios primarily works with live drummers, what could possibly be the motivation behind creating a Drum Sample library?
"As a dedicated musician, I make it a point to write music on a daily basis. However, I often find myself without access to an acoustic drum kit, which can pose a challenge when trying to create new music. To overcome this obstacle, I rely on drum sampling programs to help me bring my vision to life. At home, I record my own MIDI beats on my electronic drum set, which allows me to have a bank of personalized beats that I can use in my writing sessions while on the road.
I've found this approach to be a tremendously useful tool in my creative process, allowing me to work more efficiently and with greater flexibility. Although I have access to acoustic live drums as well, the addition of the Faster & Louder Drums to my setup means that I now have my own drum sound available at all times, allowing me to write and create with greater ease and precision. It's a game-changing addition to my workflow"
III: The Rock Never Stops
As the session progressed, my attention was drawn to an impressive collection of gig posters and flyers that adorned an entire wall of the studio. It was a testament to the countless hours of hard work and dedication that had been poured into the music produced within these walls. It left me wondering, how does one stay productive with a busy studio and an active touring schedule with Midnight?
"The trappings of rock stardom have never been of much interest to me. For me, music is more than a lifestyle or a form of entertainment - it's my job, a career that I am deeply passionate about. To remain successful and relevant in this industry, I am constantly learning and experimenting, always striving to improve my craft and find new ways to challenge myself. Touring has taught me invaluable lessons about what is required in the studio, just as working in the studio has helped me to better understand what is necessary on the road.
These two aspects of my career work hand in hand, helping me to strike a balance between the demands of each. Having my own studio also makes it easier to stay on top of things, and I often use my time on the road to prepare for upcoming projects so that I can hit the ground running upon my return. I am a self-proclaimed workaholic, driven by an insatiable desire to create and innovate. For me, success is not a matter of luck, but rather something that I actively cultivate through hard work and dedication. I am constantly taking on new projects and pushing myself to the limits in order to keep the momentum going. At the end of the day, it all comes down to a simple truth: when you love what you do, you will always find a way to make it happen."
Amidst the dual demands of life on the road and in the studio, it begs the question - what is the underlying motivation that drives the team at Mercinary Studio?
"It's interesting to note that many studios in the industry market themselves as all-purpose "recording studios", boasting top-notch gear and offering their services to any and all bands. While there's certainly nothing wrong with that approach, we've found that our own niche lies in a more focused area. At Mercinary Studio, we're primarily focused on recording Rock and Heavy Metal music - it's what we do best, and what we're most passionate about. We prioritize working with bands who can play well and bring their own unique twist to the genre. While we certainly don't mean to offend any other bands or musicians who may be interested in recording with us, we're very selective in our approach and only work with those who fit within our particular niche. We don't believe in fixing mistakes after the fact through excessive editing - we expect bands to come to us already tight and well-practiced. In doing so, we're able to deliver high-quality recordings with efficiency and speed. It's a mindset that's served us well over the years, and we're proud of the reputation we've built for ourselves within the industry."
IV: Mercinary Studio is Faster & Louder
As Saturday slowly transitioned into Saturday night, a surprise guest arrived at the studio bearing a gift - Athenar from Midnight had brought his beloved Slingerland kit, which had been a staple of countless Midnight albums. It was a special occasion, and myself and the studio crew were treated to an intimate performance by Midnight: You Can't Stop Steel at 110dB, beer & pizza. Life is good.
Following the bombastic set and some initial beta tests of the Faster & Louder Drums, I couldn't help but ask Vanik a burning question - what did his gut tell him about the capabilities of this drum library? Specifically, what was the one thing that Faster & Louder Drums could do that no other drum library was capable of achieving?
"I've had my fair share of struggles with previous drum sample libraries - many of them featured over-processed sounds that were difficult to mix and often required extensive tweaking to achieve a natural, lively feel. With the Faster & Louder Drums, however, we set out to capture a more authentic and organic sound, one that would showcase the true character of the drum room. Throughout the recording process, we were extremely mindful of mic placement and preamp selection, with a focus on achieving a natural, unprocessed sound. The result is a drum library that truly captures the essence of our studio, with a level of room ambience that is unparalleled in the industry.
While it's true that there are plenty of drum libraries out there that are geared towards extreme metal, I believe that the Faster & Louder Drums truly stand out when it comes to more organic and dynamic styles of music. These samples have been processed in a way that allows them to breathe and feel alive, offering a level of realism and depth that is truly unmatched."
As the Faster & Louder sessions came to a close, we gathered at Noah's house to watch the Super Bowl and reflect on the incredible experience we'd just had. Two and a half months later, the Faster & Louder Drums project was nearing completion and I found myself making one final phone call to Vanik, eager to hear his thoughts on why people should grab this groundbreaking new drum library.
So, Vanik, I have to ask - what sets Faster & Louder Drums apart from other drum libraries on the market? Why should people be clamoring to get their hands on this particular collection of samples?
"For those who are tired of hearing the same old drum samples on record after record, Faster & Louder Drums offers a refreshing and unique alternative. From my perspective, this library represents the culmination of my work ethic and dedication to producing high-quality, authentic drum sounds. One of the key benefits of Faster & Louder Drums is that it allows for incredibly efficient and streamlined workflow. Mixing these samples on the go is a breeze, and the results speak for themselves - I'm confident that anyone who loves 70s/80s rock and heavy metal music will be blown away by the level of depth and realism on display in this library."
Midnight Tour Dates for Summer of 2023
MAY 2023 - 20 Years of Hell, Speed & Sleaze! U.S.A. 2023 - (Spirit Adrift, Spiter)
- May 1st Grand Rapids, MI @ The Pyramid Scheme
- May 2nd Louisville, KY @ Mag Bar
- May 3rd Greenville, SC @ The Radio Room
- May 5th Jacksonville, FL @ Underbelly
- May 6th Tampa, FL @ The Orpheum
- May 7th Miami, FL @ Gramps
- May 9th Baton Rouge, LA @ Chelsea's Live
- May 13th San Antonio, TX @ Vibes Event Center
- May 14th Oklahoma City, OK @ 89th Street
- May 15th Tulsa, OK @ The Vanguard
- May 16th St Louis, MO @ Red Flag
- May 18th Chicago, IL @ Reggies
- May 19th Indianapolis, IN @ Hoosier Dome
- May 20th New Kensington, PA @ Preserving Underground
- May 25th Milwaukee, WI @ Milwaukee Metal Fest
JUNE 2023 - 20 Years of Hell, Speed & Sleaze! U.S.A. 2023 - (Early Moods, Necrofier)
- June 1st Denver, CO @ HQ
- June 4th Vancouver, BC @ Red Room
- June 5th Portland, OR @ Dante's
- June 6th Seattle, WA @ EI Corazon
- June 7th Boise, ID @ The Shredder
- June 9th Reno, NV @ Cyprus
- June 10th Sacramento, CA @ Cafe Colonial
- June 11th Oakland, CA @ Eli's Mile High Club
- June 13th Santa Cruz, CA @ The Catalyst Atrium
- June 14th Bakersfield, CA @ Temblore Brewing Company
- June 15th San Diego, CA @ Soda Bar
- June 16th Tucson, AZ @ The Rock
JUNE 2023 - 20 Years of Hell, Speed & Sleaze! Europe 2023
- 06/30/23 FR LT Ukmerge Kilkim Zaibu
JULY 2023 - 20 Years of Hell, Speed & Sleaze! Europe 2023 - (Hellripper *, Devestator **)
- 07/01/23 SA NL Erica Pitfest
- 07/02/23 SU NL Uden Pul *
- 07/04/23 TU DE Weiher Live Music Hall
- 07/05/23 WE DE Hamburg Bambi Galore
- 07/06/23 TH DK Fredericia Metal Magic Festival
- 07/07/23 FR RS Novi Sad Exit festival
- 07/08/23 SA DE Dortmund Tombstoned Festival
- 07/09/23 SU UK Bristol The Exchange **
- 07/10/23 MO UK London New Cross Inn **
- 07/12/23 WE DE Osnabrück Bastard Club *
- 07/13/23 TH DK Copenhagen Pumpehuset *
- 07/14/23 FR SE Gävle Gefle Metal Festival
- 07/15/23 SA DE Balingen Bang Your Head
AUGUST 2023 - 20 Years of Hell, Speed & Sleaze! Europe 2023 - (Hellripper *)
- 08/02/23 WE NO Bergen Beyond The Gates
- 08/04/23 FR RO Brasov Rockstadt Extreme Fest
- 08/05/23 SA PT Quinta do Ega Vagos Metal Fest
- 08/07/23 MO HU Budapest Instant *
- 08/08/23 TU SI Ilirska Bistrica MKNZ *
- 08/09/23 WE AT Salzburg Rockhouse *
- 08/10/23 TH CZ Jaromer Brutal Assault
- 08/11/23 FR DE Weimar Party San Open Air
- 08/12/23 SA BE Kortrijk Alcatraz Open Air