In The Studio With Keith Carlock
On Friday, April 10 and Saturday, April 11, 2009, Hudson Music and our crew invaded Bennett Studios in Englewood, NJ, to create a new Hudson DVD release with master drummer Keith Carlock. On some of our latest productions, we have been including a small studio audience in the production, which can be seen on screen asking questions and listening to the artist as they perform. A consistent comment that all of these audience members have made is how cool it is to be behind the scenes for the shooting of a major drum DVD. So it's only fair that everyone else gets to know what goes on behind the cameras!
Hudson Music founders Paul Siegel and Rob Wallis began meeting with Keith approximately one year ago to begin discussing topics and content for the DVD, as well as all the organizational particulars that go into such a complicated production. Before too long, I was brought into the loop along with co-producer Greg McKean. We met with Keith a handful of times in New York City for lunch (in between his insane schedule of recording and touring), discussing various topics Keith would like to include on the DVD, and working on a detailed outline of different things that would be demonstrated by Keith, performed by his band, and discussed. Many of the questions that are asked by the audience members are even planned out at this stage. As the outline developed, Greg took that information to develop a budget and shooting schedule, attending to details such as scheduling the studio, contacting the film crew, and arranging for equipment deliveries (among many other details). E-mails concerning the details flew around daily between Keith and all of the Hudson people involved.
After months of planning, the excitement began to build as the first day of the shoot approached. On Thursday, April 9, the crew arrived and began to prepare the studio. The drums were loaded in and set up, and Keith himself arrived to fine-tune his equipment, supervised by Greg, Rob, and Paul. Two days is not really a very long time for shooting a long drum DVD, so the preparation is key.
The day of a Hudson shoot is a lot of hard work, but it is also inspiring to be working with such a great team, and it's a lot of fun. As we converged on the studio for the first day of shooting, everyone on the Hudson team was excited to be working with Keith. One thing that many drummers may not understand is the pressure that mounts on the artist once the cameras start to roll. Speaking into a camera and having to create top-notch performances in a short amount of time can be a very high-pressure situation, in some ways even more stressful than a major recording session with a famous artist. Most drummers have never practiced the skills required to come across on camera. Hudson's founders, Paul and Rob, have an amazingly long track record at making artists comfortable for video productions, and here, coupled with Keith's preparation and hard-working manner, things were to work out magnificently.
On the first day, Keith arrived at approximately 10:30 AM, preceded by our longtime engineer, Sean McClintock, who had already begun the audio setup. Keith and Sean spent the remainder of the morning getting drum sounds, as the crew set up various camera shots in the room. Along with Rob and Paul, Mike Hoff (Hudson's Web Director), Mike Sorrentino (Hudson TIP Coordinator), and I chatted about the upcoming day. We hand-picked a small studio audience, culled from students at Drummers Collective in New York City and some of my own top students and professional drummers from the area. They arrived, excited, early in the afternoon, and were led into the studio to take their places.
At approximately 3 PM, Keith launched into an energetic performance of the Oz Noy song "Schizophrenic", which was performed along with a track minus drums. Keith's DVD will feature a mix of Keith playing along with tracks, performing live with a band, soloing, explaining and demonstrating topics, and answering questions. Some of the questions asked by the audience members were pre-planned, and others were asked as we opened the floor for further questions. The first day of filming was devoted to capturing Keith in all of the segments with the exception of the sections where he would perform with his bandmates Wayne Krantz and Tim Lefebrve. Keith rose to the occasion, playing amazingly well, and occasionally asking to re-shoot a certain scene if he felt he didn't explain things as he intended. All the while the Hudson crew followed along with the outline from our various perches throughout the studio.
Paul Siegel, Carlock, Joe Bergamini, Rob Wallis, working on the script.
The crew and producers for a DVD shoot such as this are dispersed into different places in the studio, in order to observe the different sections for which they are responsible. The cameramen and other various crew members are obviously out in the studio with the artist and the audience. In the studio control room, producer Paul Siegel and co-producers Greg McKean and myself set up shop on one side of the room while engineer Sean McClintock and his assistants sit at the mixing console. The director, in this case Rob Wallis (Rob and Paul both direct on various projects), is positioned usually in a video engineering room that is set up in a separate area along with all the tape machines, hard drives, and monitors required to capture the footage. The entire crew is wired together to talk in real time on headsets, and communicate with the artist and cameramen out in the studio. If a technical glitch occurs, or if the producers and director don't like something they are seeing on camera, the action can be stopped immediately.
After a long first day, the second day was devoted to filming Keith performing with Wayne Krantz and Tim Lefebvre, in the amazing trio that has been astounding audiences in New York City for over 10 years. After a brief soundcheck in the morning, they launched into an intense set on Saturday, April 10, stopping between songs to answer questions from the audience and explain their approach to the complex music that they play. The audience was able to ask questions not only of Keith, but also of Wayne and Tim. Being an audience member at a Hudson shoot is like attending an all-day drum clinic, with the added bonus of seeing yourself immortalized on film! Being involved in the shoot as an artist is also an interesting experience, according to Tim Lefebvre: "We rehearsed a bit so that we would sound tight and have the WK3 vibe we have when we play together. It was interesting to set up basically how we do in a club and record it professionally through a Neve board. It actually sounded really good. I was amazed at the level of professionalism from top to bottom. (The Hudson team) did a great job."
Keith Carlock: Reflections on the DVD
"First, I would like to say how cool it is to be involved with the best company out there doing this, Hudson Music. I have never been completely comfortable in front of cameras, but this shoot was more comfortable than I expected because everything was shot in front of a small audience who helped me tremendously by having great energy and great questions, as well as just rooting me on and helping my comfort level whether they were aware of that or not. Also, I never had to look right into a camera to speak. I spoke to the audience while the camera filmed that interaction. It took a good portion of the first day to get a flow happening and to get used to having so many people around in the room and with the little voices in my head saying "C'mon Keith, get into your zone, man! You're making a recording that will possibly be around for a very long time. Get it together.' But eventually, after playing, warming up, and getting more and more comfortable with the sound, lighting, and process, things got much more natural and fun. I am pleased with what we eventually got. I think thereís a lot of material that will be appealing to all players, not just drummers, and will be interesting and instructional to players on all levels, and for many different reasons. That was my personal goal going into this, and I think we nailed it!"
Guitarist Wayne Krantz": Reflections on the DVD
"I'm sort of not into instructional videos. I always imagine: what if, after some ultimate war that takes place far in the future, all that is left to show for humanity is some gaily colored bit of plastic sitting atop of a pile of rubble, containing suggestions about how to play a shuffle? But come to think of it, that probably wouldn't speak badly of us at all, considering. In the case of Keith's video, we had an inspiring time making it and I felt proud to be able to take part with such fantastic musicians, production, and crew. It felt really good as it went down and hopefully that will translate to anyone who cares to see it, as will the fact that Keith Carlock is one of a kind, and that we're fortunate to have such a sincere, soulful mega-musician around who is willing to share his process with us so openly."
The final product, now titled Keith Carlock: The Big Picture was released in October by Hudson Music. The two-disc set features demonstrations, discussions and detailed dissections of the drummer’s spectacular timekeeping with a host of world-class musicians from mainstream pop icons Steely Dan, James Taylor and Sting to progressive fusion masters Oz Noy, Rudder and the Wayne Krantz Trio. During the course of the four-hour program, Keith displays the chops that have allowed him to take on these high-profile yet diverse playing situations—and top the Pop, Fusion, All-Around and Studio categories of the major drum magazines’ Readers Polls—while sharing the knowledge that will allow viewers to become better drummers and more complete musicians themselves.
The author is the Senior Drum Editor for Hudson Music, and an active pro drummer in the New York City area.