by Stephen Dafoe
The next time you hear drums in a commercial, film or Spotify single, it may have come from Abbigail Road Drum Studio in Morinville.
Abbigail Road, a play on the Beatles’ Abbey Road, is owned by Morinville resident and Canadian Country Music Association Hall of Honour drummer Chad Melchert.
Perhaps best known as the drummer for Gord Bamford, Melchert spent much of 2019 and early 2020 travelling with the Queen tribute show We Will Rock You as the show’s drummer. That show played throughout the United States and Canada.
But when COVID-19 hit, the show, like so many others, came to an end, and that is when Abbigail Road Drum Studio began.
“During the pandemic, it was a little bit of a necessity for me,” Melchert explained. “I’ve been doing recording at home for some time, but I wanted to make a proper room. The pandemic created a time where I could get trades to do the work, and I could do it the right way.”
Melchert said the process was complex, creating a room within a room in framing and then attaching isolation clips to the studs that reduce sound coming from the infrastructure. From there, it was a lot of insulation with a particular product called Safe and Sound.
“It’s a lengthy process, but it’s not only important for the sound deadening, but for the sound of the room and how the drums sound in the room,” Melchert said, adding some good friends in the industry helped him along the way. “You want the air – the sound around the drums as well. So you are recording above the drum set and also room mics, which are several feet away. When you hear a John Bonham [Led Zeppelin] sound, you are hearing the room mics more than the mics right on the drums.”
Melchert said it took about four or five months to build the 200 square foot room in stages. When Melchert built his home, they went with nine-foot ceilings, which helped set up the studio as ceiling height is a priority in any recording studio, especially in drum rooms.
Melchert said his wife came up with the studio’s name, Abbigail being the name of the family’s Weiner dog, and Abbigail Road, a play on the Beatles famed recording studio Abbey Road album of the same name.
Some NAIT students designed the studio website and studio’s logo, a Weiner dog with drum sticks in its mouth, which Melchert has available on t-shirts through his website abbigailroad.com.
“A dog with drum sticks in its mouth is cute, and the response has been amazing,” Melchert said. “People love it, so it’s been really exciting.”
But not only are the shirts doing well, so too are the recording sessions.
Although known as a touring musician with Gord Bamford, Melchert’s first love is as a session player, something he has done for years at many big-name studios.
“It’s been pretty good. A lot of the clients I had built up before I had this studio,” Melchert said. “But I’m doing stuff for the Warehouse in Vancouver and some big rooms. And the stuff is standing up.”
The multi-award-winning drummer believes the internet makes for a small world and finds it quite incredible what he can do from Morinville.
“You hear your stuff on the radio, or a film, or a commercial. It’s pretty cool that it comes from here,” he said.
Melchert said it is easy for musicians to get pigeonholed into the genres they are most know for, country music in his case.
“You’ll get stuff from TSN or all these types of things. It’s really about the producer you know and the connections,” Melchert said. “Some of the coolest stuff I’ve done lately is some rock and some pretty heavy music, actually, from people who knew me from my past or heard an album I played on a while ago.”
For Melchert, it can be film, TV, commercials or music. If it has drums on it, he’s interested in recording it at Abbigail Road Drum Studio.
“I’m trying to grow a global brand for myself,” Melchert said, noting he would be doing more to create a presence on YouTube soon. “It’s building my career because the conventional career of playing every weekend is gone now, and I honestly think a lot of that model is gone. People don’t go to the bars the way they used to. You have to look for different ways to play your music.”
Melchert notes the popularity of YouTube stars, something he could not have fathomed a decade ago. Today, he says, there are successful young drummers with the same endorsements he has who have barely played a live show.
“It’s all about perception. You have to have the goods to deliver, but it’s about people seeing you and what you are doing in the industry,” Melchert said. “This generation has it nailed. They understand that part of the business [branding] really well.”
But while Melchert thinks virtual performing is here to stay, he is looking forward to playing live again. Last summer, he took part in several parking lot concerts. He anticipates more this summer but a real resurgence in live shows when the pandemic ends.
“I think music is going to explode again. I didn’t think that at first. I was pretty cynical,” he said. “Music has really been kind of falling behind, in my opinion.”
Melchert said he saw the pre-COVID-19 music decline as a combination of people getting too used to too many concerts and too much draw to social media.
But now he sees that changing.
“What I hear time and time again is people can’t wait to go back to a concert,” he said. “You’ve got to kind of lose something for a while to really appreciate it.”