Tell us about a project you worked on you are especially proud of and why. What was your role?
"Smoke'n Mirrors" was a video education / documentary project. Created by a Doctor who specializes in heart pulmonary disease due to smoking. The role that I played with my music was very very different then what I would do normally and in many cases due to the nature of the subject matter was very hard. By using conventional drums ie: Snare Drums, Bass Drums, Congas, Timbales, Surdo, Djun Djun and unconventional objects ie Lawn Mower Blades, Pipes, Circular Saw Blades I was to create rhythm music that was dark, intense, uncomfortable, sharp, and angular. At times the objective was to start out with an intense fast tempo but then literally speed it up to the point where it literally was out of control and where I was on the verge of losing it. The objective was never to put a smile on your face or to get you to bounce your head or tap your feet. Why this project is one that I am very proud of is to many people lose their lives to smoking. Either first hand smoke or even worse, second hand smoke because they have no control over being effective. If my involvement in creating very intense uncomfortable out of control rhythm music had any effect on someone viewing and listening to either stop or help someone stop smoking then I feel like I have made a difference. This project was placed in many libraries and health service organizations around North America.
What are you working on at the moment?
Am currently involved in several recording projects.
~ The NEW McKrells, Americana / Bluegrass / Folk
~ Heard, New World Jazz
~ Sam Reed, Alt. Americana / Pop
~ Seth and The Moody Melix, Children & Family
~ Golfstrom, European Pop 30's - 60's
Is there anyone on SoundBetter you know and would recommend to your clients?
Bobby Kendall. One of the most incredibly talented artists I know. Has huge ears. Understands arranging, melody, harmony and rhythm. Writes his own music as well as produces others. Plays Electric Bass, Upright Bass, and Guitar. Understands plug ins, effects and looping devices.
Analog or digital and why?
Both are wonderful in their own way. My career started recording in studios to tape. There is most certainly a warmth to tape. The amazing thing that digital has done is make incredibly easy to record tracks and simply upload them to a file sharing service. Technology continues to create ways to warm the digital signal so that the end result is pretty close to the old school way of recording.
What's your 'promise' to your clients?
I will try to do my very best, and to give them as many options as they would like. My goal would be to turn around my work so that it will not hinder their pace or time preventing them to complete their project within the time frame they have chosen.
What do you like most about your job?
I love creating a base to support an artists story. To offer sounds and textures to bring the listener into the music deeper. If it is a song that wants to grab the listener I love creating the energy that entices the listener to move. At the same time if it is a airy lighter meditative piece I want the listener to feel the air around each note.
What questions do customers most commonly ask you? What's your answer?
What do I need - I ask for a rough mix with click if possible. If possible I prefer an 8th note or 16th note click. If there is lyrics, I ask for a lyric sheet. If there is a chart - I ask for a chart. I typically ask what the song is about as well as what they were thinking when creating it. Helps to get into the artist head and feel deeper about my part in supporting the music
What's the biggest misconception about what you do?
More is not better.
What questions do you ask prospective clients?
What is the song about? What was the inspiration? Do you have charts? Are you interested in specific traditional rhythms? Are you featuring vocals? If so, Do you have a lyric sheet? Does your Rough mix have a click? What is the feel you are going for? Do you have specific sounds, colors, and textures in mind?
What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?
Please have an idea of what style, feel, sounds, rhythms you would like. Also even the roughest of mixes really helps to establish a layout of arrangement. If you are featuring a lyric please offer a lyric sheet so that notes can be made on the sheet in situations where the lyric triggers a feel change or a specific sound to support the image that the lyric is creating
If you were on a desert island and could take just 5 pieces of gear, what would they be?
Udu, Cajon, Conga, Pandeiro, Cymbal
What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?
First a Drum Set player. My career started at 13 working in bands that performed at weddings, private parties and resorts. As I got older I started working with more and more artists that were creating their own sound and own music. At the age of 17 I became incredibly intrigued by hand percussion and how the percussionist was able to change the sounds and textures by the way they struck their drum. Because I came from an area that did not yeild hand drummers nor have the room for groups with many drummers I started to quickly blend the conventional drum kit with a big variety of percussion instruments, this was the beginning of what I have been focused on for the last 35 plus years. My work typically includes working with Modern and Ballroom Dancers, Flamenco, Celtic, Jazz, R&B, Americana, Bluegrass, Folk, Country, Swing, Latin, African, Brazilian, Pop and Rock music environments
How would you describe your style?
Hybrid. I started out my professional career as a Drum Set player when I was 13 years old playing for social and ball room dancers. At 17 I became incredibly intrigued with hand drumming and how the drummer could release different sounds and textures by the way the struck their drum. I am now 40 years in and most of those years have been focused on bringing elements of the drum set and the world of percussion to every musical environment that I am professionally involved with.
Which artist would you like to work with and why?
Carlos Santana. Because I am captivated by his energy and intensity. He utilizes the air around every note that is played. He is always present when he performs and is always inspired to push the boundaries and create something new.
Can you share one music production tip?
Since my focus is always about capturing the best sonic image I typically listen to the sound source and then capture a signal both close as well as far away. In some cases only a few feet but sometimes it may be best to capture an ambient room effect. I always try and point the close mic to the center of the source.
What type of music do you usually work on?
I have been very blessed in having a career that really encompasses many different styles of music. Most often it will have elements of World Music, R&B, Roots, Americana, Folk, Rock, Jazz, Latin, and Reggae
What's your strongest skill?
Listening and then reacting with an idea, sound, or texture that creates balance while supporting the main melody or rhythm
What do you bring to a song?
What I bring to any project is the sensitivity to listen and feel first without just jumping in how the melody (instrumental / vocal) the rhythm / pulse and the words if it has a lyric is being established. This I find directs my performance energy, what instruments to choose and what to play. I find that it usually is the delicate little things that really direct me in what to create to support the whole.
What's your typical work process?
I listen to the song - paying close attention to listening first to the melody or vocal lead - feeling the underlying pulse - as I start to get the feel of the piece - I then fall deeper into listening to how the rhythm elements as an example, the guitar and / or bass / left hand of the piano are both supporting as well as driving the pulse. I pay close attention to the weight / texture of the sounds as well as the air around the sounds - This really gives me the idea of how to approach the music to service it the best that I can. It always shows me how to choose sounds and counter rhythms and pulse to balance what has been established.
Tell us about your studio setup.
I have a modest set up but it functions very well. The room is roughly 8 x 10 with a Cathedral ceiling. Works perfect to have several different mic configurations available to me from internal, to close and to ambient mic placement. I have a collection of drum sets that includes a Vintage Leedy 4 piece drum set, Slingerland 8 piece Power Tom Drum Kit, a Custom Keller 5 piece Micro Drum Set, a Custom Keller 6 piece Retro Single Headed Drum Kit, and The First Ever 4 piece Lego Drum Kit see it online via youtube.com. Literally thousands of different percussion instruments from all over the world; Africa, South America, Central America, Asian, Middle East, Caribbean, North American Tribes People etc. From organic to metal, plastic to clay and everything in between. An example is as follows: Udu drums, Congas, Bongos, Timbales, Ashiko, Djembes, Djun Djun, Cajons, Dumbek = Clay / Metal / Wood, Klong Yaw, Tan Tam, Surdo, Pandeiro, Bendir, Muzhar, Riq, Kanjira, Xing Xang, Shimi Diako, Slit Drums, Trinshe, Boombakini, Paper Drums, Gitas, Cowbells, Wood Blocks, Agogo, Gankogui, Shekere', Gonza, Caxixi, Maraca, Claves, Guira, Guiro, Reko Reko, Kokiriko, Oji, Angklung, Nut Rattles, Coin Belts, Bell Tree, Chimes, Saw Blades, Sump Pump Hose, Wind Wand, Ocean Drum etc. etc.
What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?
Honestly everyone creative. I have been very inspired by; Steve Gadd, James Bradley, Jr., Gene Krupa, Dennis Chambers, Airto Moreira, Trilok Gurtu, Alex Acuna, Babatunde Olatunji, Armando Peraza etc.
Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.
Creating percussion tracks utilizing traditional instruments as well as found objects. Many more times then not I am equally creating textural sound tracks as well as time to embellish the story / feel, whether it is instrumental or singer songwriter.