Morale is key. Rick Gratton, the producer, is a chatterbox of compliments and ideas. Gratton’s own video, which came out in the ’90s, was popular with shredders of the day, and is a great method for learning odd groupings. Gratton has personally taught many big name drummers, and some equally famous drummers with short names, too. Today he is bounding around the studio, a sheaf of notes in his hand, pumping his arms in the air while Minnemann warms up and saying things like, “Oh, he’s hot today! Oh, he’s killing it! Killing it!” Gratton is from Canada but today he’s very Hollywood. You’re beautiful, baby!
The notes he has show the breakdown of the video. There are two days of filming to be done. Today will be drum solos, interviews with Minnemann, and Minnemann putting live drums on prerecorded tracks of his own tunes. Tomorrow, if everything goes right, there will be two more musicians joining Minnemann.
Today, most of the big things go right but plenty of little things go wrong. Murphy is in attendance – starting with the very first take and the overburdened circuit that blew two times in a row. The crew waited while a studio engineer ran some alternate power cords. There were too many lights and cameras running off of one circuit in the recording studio, because this isn’t a video facility, it’s an audio facility. The shoot was originally scheduled for a video facility, but some hoser band of Canadian wannabes – named Rush – needed to work overtime on their own project. Minnemann and company got bumped.
So now, in the main room of this, the alternate recording studio, there are lights, cameras, and action. Four cameras today. Two more will come tomorrow for the extra musicians. There’s a main camera, which sits on a tripod about 20 feet in front of the drum set. It captures the static “Master Shot.” There are two mobile, hand-held cameras that can be contorted between the cracks of the drum set for those up-close shots of Minnemann’s hands on the hi-hat and snare. You better believe these guys are wearing earplugs! And there’s another camera man operating a very large, industrial, crane-mounted camera called a jib camera.
It’s break time between takes as Minnemann, Rick Gratton, and a couple stage hands discuss camera angles and other fine points.
Most of the cameramen are drummers. In fact, on this shoot, there were more drummers than non-drummers present. And drummers know what other drummers want to see.
Director/camera man Jonathann Launer, for example, plays drums. “I’m a director who also shoots and edits,” Launer told us. He has been involved, to date most notably as editor, in many drum videos, including Terry Bozzio Live in Concert and promotional films for Sabian and Zildjian, among many others. “I do feature films, network television, MTV. Sometimes I hold a camera, sometimes I’m just directing. I have my own edit bay and I edit everything myself.” Launer is enthusiastic about his film work but when we got on the subject of drum sets he spoke enthusiastically about his kit and his collection of cymbals. He’s definitely got a terminal case of the drum bug.
His brother, Jerrold Launer, is the audio engineer. In the booth he’s recording the music from the many mikes on the kit. Audio is being recorded onto Tascam DA88 digital decks, the industry standard for syncing audio and video. All the cameras record “time code” as well as video footage. The master recording is based on the time code from the main camera. The engineer must keep the video from all the cameras in sync with the audio of the main camera’s time code‚ or the edited results will look and sound off kilter, like an old Japanese monster movie.
Ray Brych, the Warner Bros. A&R/Project Manager guy, is another drummer. In fact, he told us he landed this day job through the networking grapevine of his old college professor in Potsdam. Brych is a friendly guy, the sort of even-tempered, funny dude you hope to have with you for support if you were on a really bad gig. He was eager to answer our questions. Our first question was, “We can get Lord of the Rings for ten bucks, so how come a double-disc drum piece costs $60?”
“Oh, those doubles have been top sellers.” Brych said, “But as far as the price, you’ve got to remember we’re competing with Blockbuster, and they move a lot more stuff than we do. Our sales aren’t like Lord of the Rings. It’s a smaller market. We reach our audience through the big retail chains like Guitar Center, the mom and pop stores, and through the online stuff like Amazon. We also have international distribution. Still, the States outsell international stuff, and the numbers are not like the movies. But we always think that if we give you a good product and it’s timeless, and you’re getting a lot of information and performance, then the content will sell forever.”