Video: Radiohead's Cinematic "Exit Music" Drums | What's That Sound?

Wake from your sleep: this week's episode of our recurring What's That Sound series sees Noam and Jessica recreate the drums of a Radiohead classic, "Exit Music (For A Film)". As the song title indicates, this bombastic slow-burner was initially written for the end credits of Baz Luhrmann's 1996 cult classic Shakespeare adaptation Romeo + Juliet before it landed on the band's magnum opus OK Computer the following year.

Drums in the Style of Radiohead's Exit Music
Drums in the Style of Radiohead's Exit Music
By Reverb
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Produced by longtime "sixth member" Nigel Godrich at St. Catherine's Court—an English countryside estate owned by the actress Jane Seymour—Philip Selway's kit was supposedly set up in a children's playroom chosen for its "dead" acoustics. Though the drums don't appear until well over halfway into the track's runtime, they make quite a guns-blazing entrance that helped earn the track its reputation as a fan favorite.

This time around, we used a vintage Gretsch kit with a Ludwig Supralite snare prepared with a Big Fat Snare Drum head for dampening. For the cymbals, we used Zildjian K-Darks for the hats (14") and crash (19"), and a 21" K-Sweet ride. The kick received a Bock iFET—one of our favorite 47 clones—while we deferred to a Neumann KM84 for our single overhead. Finally, we place a Shure SM57 at the top of the snare, while the snare bottom and both toms all received their own respective AKG 414.

To create the drum track's signature thick texture, we recorded the kit in mono—this not only keeps the drums from becoming unwieldy, but also leaves ample room on the sides of the mix for plenty of guitars and keyboards (this is a Radiohead track, after all). We also relied heavily on compression, which was applied to the entire mix, fully wet, as opposed to being done in parallel. Listen closely to the pulsation each time the snare is hit—this is the product of setting the attack and release on our Urei silverface 1176 meticulously to create a rhythmic relationship with the rest of the kit.

Drum Bus Kick OH Snare Toms

Did our recreation turn out as cinematic as the original? Watch the video above and hear for yourself.

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