Embracing Code: An Interview with Mike Heaton
Updated: Jul 21, 2019
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Mike Heaton, drummer with Embrace and director of Code Drum Heads. In an earlier blog, Mike told us about his role in Code, the UK-based drum head and accessory company.
He was also kind enough to answer some questions about his drumming.
I asked Mike previously which Code heads he uses to achieve his desired sound, and here's what he said... "My live kit at present has clear Generators on the tom batters with DNA clear as the reso heads. Clear Blast on the kick batter with an Enigma on the reso. On my snare I alternate between our TRS, Sterling and Zero, depending on the type of show, with 3mil Genetic for the snareside.
"In the studio I usually use RR’s on the bottom of my toms, as our producer loves the much more controlled sound they produce with very few overtones. I use the TRS when I want a nice bright and cutting sound with plenty of depth and a Zero when I need a lighter touch with more response.
"The clear Blast gives me that lovely big fat sound that is ideal for Embrace and it’s very versatile depending on how much dampening you add or take away. Even with nothing in, it has a controlled wide open sound. "
His gorgeous BDC kit is shown in the photo above, with its hefty bass drum and one-up-one-down arrangement on the toms. Mike has a choice of 2 BDC snares - a 14" x 6" Bluebird and a 14" x 6.5" Merlin - so which is his favourite?
"They are both superb for different purposes. I would say on balance that the Bluebird suits my sound better as I’ve been a Black Beauty/402 man for 20+ years."
There have been a few (ahem) "discussions" I've seen on social media lately about the acoustic/electric drums debate, so I ask Mike for his views. "I would always go acoustic given the choice, but electronic drums have a definite role to play, it’s just not my thing. Having said that I’ve got the new Yamaha EAD10 and absolutely love it! It’s a real help for teaching, and you can get a great sound using less channels."
As well as Code, Embrace and a new band project, Mike also finds time for some teaching. He tells me: "I do still teach and love passing on knowledge, but I keep my students down to a minimum as my commitments with Embrace, Code, recording and our newest band venture, Land Sharks, takes up a great deal of time."
Mike has been the drummer with Embrace since the early 1990s, so what has his professional highlight been? "That’s always a tricky question as I’m lucky enough to have had many. The two nights we sold out at The Millennium Square in Leeds would be up there as it was a hometown show, plus supporting Coldplay last year at the Cardiff Principality Stadium was pretty special."
His advice for handing criticism? "Don’t get upset, take it on board, act on it and let it make you better at what you do."
And his most embarassing moment as a drummer? "I couldn't possibly tell you that!" Aww...shucks!
What's coming up for Embrace? "We've just announced a big spring tour next year to celebrate the 21st anniversary of the first album coming out, and then festivals for the rest of the year. Plus we are working on a new album."