Music

Dr. Kelleher’s earliest musical memories are a medley of cherished times listening to music with his parents, having fun in music classes at elementary school, and attending live concerts with family and friends. After playing a variety of musical instruments for short spans of time in grade school, Kevin discovered a love for drums & percussion in middle school that persists to this day. He developed enough drumming skills to start performing professionally in high school, and regional touring ensued while in college with gigs on the East Coast. Before long, Kelleher moved to Nashville, TN where he joined an internationally known band that provided even greater exposure in the United States and the opportunity to perform his first shows abroad. Kelleher was now playing drums with a band for large crowds at coliseums and festivals, in addition to recording an album with the group that earned him Billboard-charting success with credits as a drummer, percussionist, programmer, and songwriter.

Along the journey, Kevin’s passion for playing other instruments continued to deepen, and, applying insights from his multi-instrumental background, he shifted his primary focus from touring and performing to writing and recording his own songs. The years Kelleher spent recording for others led to a fascination with the recording studio that compelled him to complete his own album and to eventually earn several professional and instructor certifications on industry standard recording equipment. The combination of an impressive educational background, which includes four academic degrees in music, an all-around versatility in the recording studio, an ability to compose in the Classical tradition and write Pop songs, as well as an adroit dexterity for playing multiple musical instruments matured Kelleher into a seasoned music producer. Albums with Kelleher in this role reflect his multifaceted approach to collaborating with artists in the recording studio to achieve a uniquely identifiable commercial sound.

Listen Button

The Listen button on the bottom of the page leads to a sampling of Kevin’s work that summarizes his musical pilgrimage with audio tracks from various albums and events. Background information is provided in the “Audio Track Descriptions” section below to detail some noteworthy aspects of the music. Before listening to those audio tracks, though, take a few moments to catch the video of one of Kelleher’s exciting drum solos.

Drum Solo Video

The move to Nashville, TN paid off. Kelleher passed the audition for one of his favorite bands: Christafari. As a fan of Reggae music, Kevin listened to the group as a teenager and admired them for years before moving to Music City. Prior to getting the gig, Kevin frequently played their albums on road trips from Nashville, TN back to his hometown of Virginia Beach, VA, drumming the songs on the steering wheel to help pass the time of the 700-mile journey.

When rehearsals for a tour began, the parts Kevin had been drumming in the vehicle flowed naturally as he played them on the drum set his parents bought for Christmas years ago. The first date on the tour was in Independence, MO for a large audience. The excitement of the crowd and the energy of the music inspired Kevin throughout the show. When it was his turn to be introduced, Kelleher delivered an exhilarating solo that entertained the audience. Enjoy this special memory of a dream come true for Kevin on his first gig with the band!

Audio Track Descriptions

Drum Solo

Tracked in Nacogdoches, TX at Encore Recording Studio, Kevin is playing his Gretsch Catalina Club Series drum set as part of his lecture for a freshman group of university students in his sound recording technology program. For many of the students in the class, it is their first time in a professional recording studio. They are learning how to select appropriate microphones and how to place them around the drums to create a quality recording. After examining this process, the students proceed to the control room where they observe and ask questions as the engineer checks the sound of the drums and adjusts the level for each microphone at the console.

 

The students then shift their attention back and forth between viewing the levels on the meters of the recording studio equipment and watching Kevin play this drum solo that varies widely in dynamics to simulate the way a drummer might play on a song they will record in the future. There is the softness of the hi-hat toward the beginning of the solo, the thundering of the tom toms in the middle, and the booming of the bass drum punctuated by cymbal crashes at the end. The students also discover how effects are added to certain parts of the drum kit, such as reverb and equalization (EQ), to demonstrate how drum sounds can be altered in order to serve a variety of purposes, such as simulating the snare drum in a larger room or boosting certain frequencies to emphasize the articulation of the beater striking the bass drum.

"Cancer"

The lyrical content of this song juxtaposes the highly serious condition of cancer with the sometimes toxic emotional experience of a bad relationship. Drawing inspiration from the will power necessary to fight such a life-changing physical sickness, the protagonist is recalling the determination needed to overcome and survive a virulent connection that is corroding the soul.

 

Ace describes the impetus for the song by recounting the experience of running into a former romantic companion after a significant amount of time has passed. In the article provided here as a PDF file, Ace remarks that “… [Y]ou break up and then say, 20 years later, you run into this person and you wonder why you split up. Then after the first few words, it all comes back and you know why.”

 

Using the tools of the recording studio to emphasize certain portions of the lyrics, Kevin applies a unique “reverse reverb” effect to Ace’s voice to attain a somewhat “other worldly” sound that cannot be produced solely with the human voice. One noteworthy application attempts to aurally simulate Einstein’s idea of a “fourth dimension” that would allow the singer to travel back in time. Listen to how the word “Albert” is manipulated in the second verse to begin the line that continues “… if you would open this portal if you could.” The effect can also be heard on certain instances of the word “survive” in order to vary the recurring lyric, for example at the end of the first and second choruses.

Live Concert Drum Solo

Instead of an “open" solo like the studio recording two audio tracks above, this performance from a Christafari show (audio only version of the video above) is preceded and followed by material from the song. As the band drops out, Kelleher continues playing the beat of the music but varies it slightly now that the spotlight is on him. A run around the toms breaks the rhythm of the song and sets up the march-like snare and bass drum wanderings that follow.

 

Broken on occasion with timbale hits, Kelleher is building to a bass drum ostinato of alternating single strokes in his feet. This musical device sets the backdrop for the motives traded back and forth between the two snare drums that form part of Kelleher’s unorthodox kit configuration. The solo ends with dynamic crash cymbal hits punctuated by the bass drum, as Kevin slightly pulls the tempo back before playing the snare drum fill that signals the band to join back in with the song.

"Keep It Alive"

Co-written by Kelleher, the lyrics in this song depict the hopeful determination to save a relationship from disintegrating. Instead of succumbing to failure, the singer is convinced that the power of love can mend the failing partnership. In the bridge of the song, the protagonist does what is too often avoided in withering unions: he shares how much the other person means to him and vows not to let his pride get in the way of having a healthy relationship.

 

In addition to contributing to the lyrics, Kelleher wrote and arranged the horn parts for this track, which is one of only two songs to feature a horn section of trumpet and saxophone on Ace’s 3127 album. The horn lines are designed to enhance the message of the lyrics, with short motives to help fuel the singer’s desire to continue the struggle, and, in the bridge, with sustained lines to form a musical pad of longer notes to emphasize the singer’s passionate plea.

Dub Track 1

Dub music is a quasi-instrumental form of Reggae that features sparse vocals and abundant effects. Reverb and delay are the primary tools of choice, which add an expansive sense of space and openness as well as create an engaging rhythmic environment with fascinating polyrhythmic patterns. These effects are copiously applied to vocal fragments which are typically selected spontaneously and to conventional parts of the drum kit that are primarily responsible for providing the backbeat and the subdivisions of the groove, most commonly the snare drum and hi-hat.

 

Listen to the typical dub style effects implemented in “Dub Inna De Night” from Dub, Sound, & Power by Christafari. Take notice of the delay effect at the end of the vocal line “He did come to steal away” approximately 1:00 into the song, right before the echo plex sound that is delayed and panned around the stereo field. The drums are next to be colored by the style’s signature approach as evidenced in the snare drum. This rhythmic excursion is followed shortly thereafter by the manipulation of the keyboard part on the signature up-beats of Reggae music. The lyric “tribulation” provides another excellent example of a vocal fragment being manipulated, as does “if” around the two-minute-fifty-second mark. One final noteworthy instance is found in the bongo part, which not only gets delayed but is also isolated completely with the press of a solo button which automatically mutes the other instruments, another trademark feature of the style.

 

Dub songs can be quite engaging and often make for great driving music on long road trips. The listener’s ear is treated to creative and unique effects as well as enchanting and fluid rhythms. To intensify the listening experience further, it is helpful to be familiar with the original version of the song before it undergoes sonic surgery. In the spirit of this sentiment, check out how this track differs from “Thief Inna De Night” on the Word, Sound, & Power album.

Christafari with World Heavyweight Boxing Champion Evander Holyfield

"Maria"

A favorite among many listeners, “Maria” is different from all the other tracks on 3127 in several aspects, one of which is the metric setting of the song in compound meter. Instead of the beat being divided into two equal parts like most Pop songs, here it is divided into three. A typical way to hear the compound division of the beat is by listening to the hi-hat of the drum set.

 

The inclusion of a string quartet is another reason why “Maria” is an esteemed track on the album. Augmenting the stripped-down band of acoustic guitar, bass, and drums with this ensemble helps create an intimate ambiance for the vocalist to express emotions of intense pain and desperate despair over the deception and departure of a treasured lover.

 

In the first PDF file on this page, Arvid Smith in his review of the album describes “Maria” as a “stand-out track” and “gorgeous.” The interplay of the vocal and string quartet, Smith continues, is “… startling and unlike anything heard in recent memory.”

Dub Track 2

The raw material for this track opens the album Reggae Worship: The First Fruits of Christafari. Like the original, the dub version is propelled by a hard-driving, kick drum dominated beat known as the “steppers rhythm.” The steady four-on-the-floor pulsation of this beat contributes an incessant intensity to the music.

 

As expected, captivating dub-style effects permeate the track with vocals receiving the initial treatment followed by parts of the drum kit. The short musical motives in the horns are ripe fodder, too, and the sax solo is soaked in reverb. The bridge, approximately 3:10 into the song, contains a subtle and effective sixteenth-note delay on the snare drum that matches the rhythm played in the hi-hat.

One additional dub technique in this track is the “tucking away” of certain instruments that are typically upfront and present in the mix. Normally the product of reverb, sounds are heard in their “wet” processed state without the combination of the “dry” original signal. The horn parts after the bridge, for instance, are barely audible as a result of this treatment. A careful listening to the song reveals the delectable device and the uniqueness it affords (try to detect the presence of the horns between 3:40-3:55).

© 2017 by Dr. Kevin Kelleher

Last Updated on November 23, 2018