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KEITH CARLOCK at Groove Allstars (LA Special)

KEITH CARLOCK at Groove Allstars (LA Special)
March 15, 2008 | Author: Greg Phillips

Yamaha Groove Night - 2008I had had previously interviewed drum sensation Keith Carlock late last year when he toured Australia with Steely Dan. However due to the particular nature of our famous all-female edition we couldn’t run the story in December. Fortunately Keith was also at NAMM and more specifically the Yamaha Groove All Stars drum spectacular, so we were able to catch up again for an update. Greg Phillips reports.

It was apparent to all who saw Steely Dan on their first ever tour of Australia, that Mississippi born drummer Keith Carlock is in a class of his own. Steely Dan’s Walter Becker and Donald Fagan detected a buzz about Carlock’s drumming finesse way back in 2000. In fact they were so intrigued that they trekked down to New York’s 55 Bar to check him out. They liked what they saw and employed Keith’s services for their Grammy Award winning comeback album “Two Against Nature’. He’s been with the band ever since. Sting had also heard about Keith on the grapevine and invited him to join his band for a 2004-2005 tour. These days Carlock is being mentioned in the same breath as legendary drummers such as Vinnie Colaiuta, Steve Gadd and Buddy Rich. In fact such is the respect for Keith, that tonight at California’s Cerritos Performing Arts Centre he is the headline drummer in a cast that includes 19 more of the world’s finest stick men. They include Tommy Aldridge, Teddy Campbell, Ndugu Chancler, Russ Kunkel, Dave Weckl, Jerry Marotta, Akiro Jimbo, and the gig’s MC Rick Marotta. to name less than half of them.

I asked Keith what the vibe backstage was like at Groove All Stars.

That’s one of the best parts of the show … the hang! You only get one tune to play and the rest is just hanging out with everyone … all the great drummers who are on the show, and it seems the entire drum industry is there as well. It was a lot of fun.

You got to play The Who’s  ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’. Was it an instant choice for you?

No it wasn’t an instant choice at all. I was trying to think of something that would be a little different for the show and different for me. It’s just such a rock anthem and I knew everyone in the audience might be surprised a little but have a great response.

How much rehearsal time did you get with the band?

We rehearsed it a couple of times the day before … everyone generally gets at least a half hour to rehearse. “Won’t Get Fooled Again” is a really long song on the original recording. I think it’s something like 8 minutes because it’s really just a jam, so we had to cut out a lot of it. That took a little more time to figure out, but wanted to keep the important parts in there that the crowd would expect … like the drum fills in the breakdown!

Incidentally, the Groove Allstars band featured some music industry heavyweights too, such as Ralph MacDonald (percussion) , Will Lee (bass), Dave Spinozza (guitar), Neil Stubenhaus (bass) and members the Tower of Power horn section.

You got to play Yamaha’s new Phoenix drum kit on the night.  How did you find it?

They sound absolutely amazing. I think Yamaha has really come up with something special here. I can’t wait to get my hands on a kit to really experiment with.

What do you get personally out of playing on the bill with so many other talented drummers?

I always learn something by hearing and watching all these great players. Yamaha has an amazing roster, and it is really cool to be a part of the family there.
Does your kit change much from playing with Steely Dan to Sting to whoever?
It’s pretty much the same. When I was working with Sting there was a percussionist in the band, so I wanted to be as different from that as I could. I played with the biggest cymbals I could get because the percussionist was doing all of the little splashes and stuff that are so typical in Sting’s music. I thought I would just get away from that. There was so much going on in the band that there wasn’t a lot of room. This was a pretty big band. So my approach there was just to simplify everything.

How long have you played your current configuration of drums?

My usual kit has been out since the first Steely Dan tour in 2003, and its a Yamaha Oak Custom and I’ve always basically used a five piece kit, as simple and basic as possible. Although I have an extra floor tom now. So it’s 2 floors, two toms, a kick, snare. Except when I was a kid and had every drum you could have, I’ve simplified as I got older. It works for everything.

And you use Zildjian cymbals …

They are so versatile. I do a lot of different types of gigs with different vibes or genres. I can keep the same set up and it works out fine. I don’t do a lot of changing up. I like the darker sound, the bigger cymbals because I tune my drums usually a little more open than some … organic, lots of overtones so that works well with bigger cymbals in my opinion. I like the darker K’s and the A Custom Crashes seem to go well with those. Actually I use the K Constantinople rides with that really old K sound, so that’s the vibe I am going for … trashy but clean.

You get into some pretty intricate stick work with Steely Dan. I see that you are an AC/DC fan. Do you also like to have an old fashioned bash on the drums too?

Of course. I grew up listening to a lot of rock music . What I’ve always liked about AC/DC though, and I’ve said it millions times, is that they are one of the only rock bands that have a groove in my opinion. They have a feel to their music. So whatever it is, you know … it’s got to be funky! (laughs) I can’t listen to a lot of rock music anymore but that’s one band I can because it has a feeling to it and that’s really important.

For an aspiring young drummer, what are the major factors that will ultimately lead them to a position like you have?

The most important thing is to find your own unique sound on whatever instrument it is that you play. There’s a lot of information out there on the Internet and there are DVDs and its easy to get the information and just copy your favourite players. It’s good in one way that you have to learn your stuff from somewhere and you need influences, but I would say learn the reason why that sounds so good, and take the attitude and emotion and passion from it. The best players will have that. What separates the great players from mediocrity is someone who plays with emotion and passion and it’s spewing out of them so to speak. It’s not cerebral. It’s like a soul thing and you can feel it and the band feels it so the band plays better. It changes everything. I think just getting rid of your inhibitions and thinking all the time, finding who you are as a player, finding your own sound. Just being open to different styles of music that you may not find is your thing at the moment. Not just listening to drum players. Listen to horn players or singers. Learn to play other instruments. I could go on and on.

You’re also doing some gigs with your own band, Rudder. You played at the Baked Potato club here in LA this week …

Rudder is a fairly new project, so I don’t think many people really know the name of the band … we are all known as sidemen, but not as Rudder, so it was nice to see that the word got around, and people came out to hear it. It was a great vibe. The Potato is more like a club you would find in NYC, a place where you can do whatever you want and people come out to support it.

What do you have lined up for the rest of 2008?

I am touring now with Chris Minh Doky in Europe. I haven’t done a jazz tour in a really long time, so I’m enjoying it. I plan to do more of this when I can because it really feels like it’s home in a way. I have plans for the summer that unfortunately I can’t announce yet. I’ve also been doing sessions in NYC and Nashville. I have plans to come down to Australia in October with Wayne Krantz and Tal Wilkenfeld so look out for that.

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