Dave Carlock: Music video for Newtown part two

Published 9:10 am Saturday, January 5, 2013

Last week’s column was Part One in the making of my holiday music video for Newtown, Conn. When we left off, I had just picked up ‘Funkin’ Rock Orchestra’ bassist Buddy Pearson from streetside in downtown St. Joseph during his break with another one of his other regular bands, The UNiT. This was the only apparent chance to get him to play on the track, and we had to move fast. Luckily, Mapquest said the studio was only a mile and a half from the club, and Buddy was fast, a true master musician.
Back at the studio, the car lurched to a stop at the curb, and our feet barely touched the stairs. Buddy plugged into the tuner, and I readied the track. He knew “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” inside-out so we put down the first take and then a second. During the second pass, I shot some iPhone footage of his playing, which I’d use in the video.
POWWWWWW! That was it!
Off we went — back down the stairs, leaping over the gutter. With Buddy in the passenger seat lighting up another cigarette and Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” playing somewhere, surely, a G-forced U-turn turned into a straight-shot, westbound, four-cylinder cannonshot down Main Street.
It was tempting to hang out for a while at the party after dropping Buddy off at the club, but I had to get back to it. After some editing to comp his two takes, the track had a master take of a master player in the can, replete with a subtle octave down walk on the last verse’s “let’s hope it’s a good one.” Love it every time I hear it.
I made a quick trip to a local high school with a high-tech guerilla recording setup in tow: Sony DAT recorder, Pacifica mic pre and Earthworks QTC 40 Omni microphone. The high school band room had great high ceilings and most importantly, the star of the show — a set of orchestral bells and hammers ready for me to swing. When you hear the intro to the song, you’ll know why I went to the trouble: The bells sound amazing.
The last special guest instrumentalist was Addy Wood, one of the percussionists for Dave Carlock’s  Funkin’ Rock Orchestra. He’s 14 years old and has been playing Glockenspiel with the group for two years now, since he was 12. It kinda freaks me out cuz he’s tall and quiet so he doesn’t give his age away at all. Once I launched into a story about Marilyn Manson sessions at rehearsal and I had to catch myself … Addy has the makings of a great musician and plays guitar and piano. His sight reading is really solid and now his talents just need the aging process and all the repetition necessary to make him throw down like an oak in a few years.
The guitar parts were a lot of fun. At first, I thought the intro of the track featured mandolin because of the tremolo picking styles, but, after realizing that the range of the mandolin didn’t extend low enough and after doing further research, I knew the track featured all guitars. To recreate the full “Wall of Sound” effect, I triple-tracked tremolo-articulated three-part harmonies for a total of nine tremolo tracks and 11 guitar parts.
Next were the strings. As responses to the string session-call came back, it looked like a Dec. 23 session date was going to yield the best attendance, and we ended up with a small group who could also double on viola as opposed to a large group playing simultaneously. I knew I could make the results shine, but they would fall short of the sound of eight to 10 people per section, which would be a bit truer to the original record.
This time around, a few of my regular players changed their mind after we discussed my inclusion of a political statement. Surprisingly though, certain players became available that I hadn’t seen in a while, which also seemed tied to their strong feelings about the message. One of the players choked up a bit when I mentioned Newtown after the recording and they told me how helpless they felt and knew that this was something concrete that they could do to contribute a positive energy toward the tragedy. I don’t think anyone could have expressed it any better than that.
Since we’d be filming a few shots and there were only five players, I opted to set up the strings in my old “L.A. living room” setup — on and around the studio’s eight-person couch in a comfortable, informal making of music. I wrote the string charts to recreate the original track as closely as possible. Tremolo playing built on the theme set by the guitars and kept the drama and excitement high.
One player forgot they were doubling and left an instrument at home and took 10 minutes to grab it. That would’ve been really stressful in a normal string date since everyone’s on the clock and highly focused on the clock. It was a relief to feel everyone was OK with it — we all knew we why we were there and it wasn’t about being uptight.
I much prefer those type of sessions and players. It’s great to be building cool teams to give work to on other projects beyond this one.

The last missing piece was the kid’s choir.


Dave Carlock is a 25-year veteran of the entertainment business whose work as a recording engineer and producer, touring musician, and songwriter made him Googleable. His continuing work as an Independent Content Creator of Sound and Image has earned him a Grammy Award certificate, two Platinum Record Awards, and a Paragon Award in advertising. Currently, he brings national and international artists to make records and music videos at his production studio in the Benton Harbor Arts District.