Mix Magazine’s Classic Tracks looks at Phil Collins, and the recording of Face Value:

The famous drum fill, Collins contends, could have been anything. What is on the record is what came out at the moment. “When people talk about the ‘Phil Collins drum sound,’ that is actually a huge variety of drum sounds,” Collins says. “We never left the setup; we always broke it down and started again so we could end up somewhere different. The Townhouse Studio actually wasn’t that live. It was quite tall, but not really a big room — probably smaller than most people’s bedroom. The Genesis studio we designed had a much livelier, bigger room, glass and reflective surface. So when you listen to “In the Air Tonight,” it is not really that live, it’s big. The snare drum and tom toms kind of bark, but it is made from a lot of compression with ambient mics as far away from the drums as possible, and those are noise-gated.”

Collins and engineer Hugh Padgham are generally credited with pioneering the use of SSL’s talkback mic compressor as a drum channel compressor, and it’s a huge component of Collins’ drum sound on Face Value. (SSL now offers the talkback compressor as a free plugin.)

But distinctive as his drums (and famous drum roll) are, with In The Air Tonight Collins actually relied on drum machines, at least up to the point where “all hell lets loose”

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