In Modern Drummer’s cover story on Keith, Ken Micallef writes, Since his arrival in New York City from Clinton via North Texas State University, Keith Carlock has scurried up the drumming food chain with an inventive style that is equal parts Zigaboo Modeliste fire, Jon Christensen finesse, and Bernard Purdie funk…. Keith Carlock’s achievements prove that talent, skill, and determination is no respecter of locales.
Clinton, Mississippi is is where Keith Carlock was born and raised and where he started playing the drums at age 5. In High School, he joined the jazz band, show choir and drum corps. During that period he would also listen to a lot of rock, R&B and soul music – artists including Stevie Wonder, Earth Wind & Fire, and Tower of Power. (www.keithcarlock.com- Bio)
It was in New York that Keith met Wayne Krantz which started off the famed gigs at the 55 Bar with Tim Lefebvre. It was there that Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen and Walter Becker came by to see the band play and offered Keith a shot at playing on the title track of their [then] new record, “Two Against Nature”. Since then Keith has toured the world with Sting and have played with Diana Ross, Leni Stern and Faith Hill and many great musicians.
Abstract Logix: You seem to be having a great year , new album with Rudder, Wayne Krantz and Tim Lefebvre and now your first Instructional DVD , not to mention the tour with Steely Dan and James Taylor, how have you been managing it all ?
Keith Carlock: It has been a great year, but I never complain if things are busy. I’m happy to be working and playing in such diverse situations. It keep things fresh and I feel like I’m always moving forward and hopefully growing as a musician. Making the DVD with Hudson Music (Rob Wallis and Paul Siegel) was a very rewarding experience. I had never done something like that before and we are pleased with how it turned out.
AL: Tell me a bit about this DVD. I know there is a quite a bit of instructional Stuff out there, how does your stand out ?
KC: It’s entitled “The Big Picture”and I tried to make the focus on what I think is important without getting too technical or brainy about it. I put the music first, not patterns or technique. There’s a lot of performances, demonstrations, and technical stuff as well. It was filmed in front of a studio audience who were also involved by asking questions. The DVD features music of Oz Noy with Will Lee on bass, Rudder, AND a live in studio performance and master class with Wayne Krantz and Tim Lefebvre, my approach to Steely Dan’s music, and much more. I think this DVD will appeal to drummers of all ages and levels and also to guitar and bass players alike.
AL: I know there is a live performance with Wayne Krantz and Tim Lefebvre on it , tell us about it.
KC: Yes, we played several tunes and discussed our approach to the music in detail. We also had a question / answer session with the studio audience. I think this part of the video came out great and will be very interesting for musicians to experience.
AL: You are a graduate from North Texas State and originally from Mississippi. How did your origin and your college education contribute to who you are ?
KC: As a player, it gave me so much to draw from. Growing up in MS, I was around R&B, Memphis soul, New Orleans music, Rock, and later got into jazz and more experimental music. Growing up I was also always in drumlines and marching band as well as orchestral bands in school. I put all these influences together in a way that works together, but hopefully sounds like me. It’s so important to find your own voice and not copy your favorite players.
AL: How did you meet Wayne and Tim and could you let us known a bit into the trio and how you guys evolved over the years ?
KC: I met Wayne and Tim shortly after I moved to New York in 1997. I was already a fan of Wayne’s and basically politely bugged him into getting together and playing. We played duo one day and hit it off, and Wayne later asked me to do a gig at the 55. It eventually turned into a steady Thursday night gig for us and we would rehearse at least once a week to learn music and work out ideas and conceptual stuff. Over the years, we really grew as a band, and as improvisers, and I really feel we found something very unique and special.
AL: How is playing with this Trio musically compare to Rudder ?
KC: Rudder is a bit more structured, maybe not as improvisational, and more groove based generally speaking. It started as a side project recording tunes every now and then for fun, but we later decided it was pretty good, so we should put some stuff out and start playing around a little. It is a fun band, not too serious ya know? And I think we found a very cool approach that is a lot different than other instrumental jam bands out there. On the DVD, I play to several Rudder tracks and explain my approach to them. Rudder is myself with Henry Hey on keyboards, Tim Lefebvre on bass, and Chris Cheek on saxes.
AL: Tell us about the gigs with Sting, Steely Dan, and James Taylor and how they have helped you as a musician / drummer.
KC: All the artists I’ve been fortunate to work with have helped me grow as a player. I’m a fan and love the music and I really try to get inside of it as deep as possible. Playing shows consistently has helped my fluidity, finesse, and flow. I think my time has gotten much stronger and dynamic control is more wide. I have been lucky to play with some of the best musicians in the world, and that just makes me step up to the plate and I’m always trying to get better. The groove is really the most important thing.
AL: What’s up for Keith in 2010 ?
KC: I’m hoping to have more time to tour with Wayne and with Rudder. There are some plans in the works. Also, I hope to finally do a solo project. But, we shall wait and see.