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 studying a variety of musical instruments for short spans in grade school, Kevin discovered a love for drums and percussion in middle school that persists to this day. By high school, he developed enough drumming skills to start performing professionally at local venues, and while in college, regional touring on the East Coast afforded him the privilege of playing for wider audiences.
Before long, Kelleher moved to Nashville where he joined Christafari, an internationally known band that provided him greater exposure in the U.S.A. and the opportunity to perform his first shows abroad. Kevin was now entertaining large crowds at coliseums and festivals with his unique drumming style. Translating his craft from the stage to the studio contributed to the group's Billboard-charting recording Word, Sound, & Power, with Kelleher credited thereon as 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. The years Kelleher spent recording for others led to a fascination with the studio that compelled him to complete his own album and to eventually earn several professional and instructor certifications on industry-standard audio 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 write in both the Classical and Pop traditions, as well as an adroit dexterity for playing multiple musical instruments matured Kevin into a seasoned music producer. Albums with Kelleher in this role reflect his multifaceted approach to collaborating with artists to achieve a distinct and identifiable commercial sound.
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 Tennessee enabled Kelleher to audition for one of his favorite bands. As a fan of Reggae music, he listened to Christafari as a teenager and admired them for years before living in Music City. Prior to getting the gig, Kevin frequently played their albums on road trips from Nashville back to his hometown of Virginia Beach, drumming the songs on the steering wheel to help pass the time of a 700-mile journey.
When rehearsals for a tour began, the parts Kevin had been drumming in the vehicle were now being played on his first drum set that his parents purchased years ago. The opening date on the calendar was a performance in Independence, MO. 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 inaugural gig with the band!
Audio Track Descriptions
This open drum solo was 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 in the class, it is their first time in a professional studio. They are learning the fundamentals of how to select appropriate microphones for the drums and how to place them around the kit to create a quality recording. After asking questions about the decisions being made in the live room, the students continue with the same curiosity in the control room where they observe the engineer at the console checking the sound of each component of the kit and adjusting the level for every microphone.
As the engineer starts the take, students shift their attention back and forth between viewing the levels on the meters of the equipment and watching Kevin play this drum solo that varies widely in dynamics in order 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 are also shown how effects like reverb and equalization are added to certain parts of the drum kit to demonstrate how drum sounds can be altered 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.
The lyrical content of this song explores how the toxic emotional experience of a terrible relationship can, in some ways, be likened to the highly serious condition of cancer. Drawing inspiration from the will power necessary to fight such a life-changing physical sickness, the beleaguered protagonist musters 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 “You 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 vocal to attain a somewhat “other worldly” sound that cannot be produced solely with the human voice. One noteworthy application, for instance, 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 as a way to musically portray the opening of the portal. The effect can also be heard on certain occurrences of the word “survive” in order to vary the recurring lyric. This treatment on the exhortation to survive may be heard at the end of the first and second choruses.
Live Concert Drum Solo (audio-only version from the video on this page)
Instead of an open drum solo like the studio recording described earlier, this solo from Kevin's first Christafari show 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.
Punctuated on occasion with timbale hits, Kevin builds 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 drum solo comes to a close with dynamic cymbal crashes reinforced by the bass drum. After the tempo is slightly pulled back, Kevin plays 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 determination needed to save a relationship from disintegrating. Instead of succumbing to failure, the singer is convinced that the power of love can mend the fractured 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 to stop his pride from getting in the way of maintaining a healthy bond.
In addition to contributing to the lyrics, Kelleher wrote and arranged the horn parts for this track, which is one of only two songs on 3127 that feature a horn section of trumpet and saxophone. The horn lines are designed to enhance the narrative of the story by fueling the singer’s desire to continue the struggle with punchy accentuations and by spotlighting his passionate plea with sustained lines that form a musical pad.
Dub Track 1 (“Dub Inna De Night” appears on Christafari's album Dub, Sound, & Power)
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 create an engaging rhythmic environment replete with fascinating polyrhythmic patterns. Typically applieded spontaneously, these effects are copiously used on vocal fragments as well as on 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.
“Dub Inna De Night” is a great example of this style of music. Take notice of the delay effect at the end of the vocal line “he did come fe steal away” approximately 1:05 into the song. The drum set gets the dub treatment beginning around 1:23 with tasteful modifications of the snare drum. That rhythmic excursion is followed shortly thereafter, circa 1:37, by the coloring of the keyboard part sounding the signature up-beats of Reggae music.
The lyric “tribulation” at 1:45 is another great example of a vocal fragment being processed, as is also the case of the word “if” around the 2:48 mark. One final noteworthy trademark feature of the style is emphasizing percussion instruments, as for instance the bongos and cuica starting at 2:17.
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 further intensify the listening experience, it is helpful to be familiar with the original song before it undergoes sonic surgery. In the spirit of this sentiment, check out how the dub track differs from “Thief Inna De Night” on the Word, Sound, & Power album.
Christafari with World Heavyweight Boxing Champion Evander Holyfield
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 ("Preach The Gospel Instrumental" appears on Christafari's album Reggae Worship: The First Fruits of Christafari)
Like the original, this 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 groove gives the music an incessant intensity.
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 of the hi-hat.
A favorite dub technique of “tucking away” certain instruments that are typically upfront and present in the mix is part of the allure of this track. 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 this delectable device and the uniqueness it affords (try to detect the presence of the horns between 3:40-3:55).