This is a bit of a different post for this blog as it does not contain any field recording info at all. It's just a fun story I was recently reminded of when I was sent a link to a YouTube clip from a project I was involved with many years ago.
A little over a decade ago I got a late-night phone call from a friend and found myself in a rock video the next morning.
I had a job at a studio and I had brought in my drum kit in so I could practice there in the evenings and weekends, since I couldn't have played them in the little apartment I was living in at the time. The studio shared the building with a production company and the in-house editor there was an aspiring music video director named Jay Bond. This was who was on the other end of the slightly panicked phone call I received that night. Jay was set to shoot a video the next day with an established Canadian band called the Skydiggers, but their drummer had to back out of the shoot at the last minute. Jay had seen my kit kicking around the studio and hoped that I would agree to sit in with the band and be the drummer in the video. Luckily I was not busy the next day and I said yes right away.
This was a cool situation because I was actually a fan of the band. The Skydiggers had been around for years already at that point and in the early to mid 90’s they were a top touring band in this country. They played an interesting mix of folk and indie rock, rightfully belonging in the pack of bands that were spawned under the influence of the first few R.E.M. records. Although they never broke big, they were a staple on MuchMusic (Canada’s MTV) and rock radio throughout the country. So I was excited to meet them and pretend to be a part of their band on camera.
I got up bright and early the next day and arrived at the warehouse where we were shooting the video. The first step was to get my makeup applied and my outfit approved. Everything was going great except for one fairly massive problem. This video was for the first single on the band's forthcoming album, so the song was still unreleased and under wraps. I was about be filmed playing the drums to a song I had never actually heard before. This was before mp3s were being emailed around without a thought, so after I was all done with the makeup people I was given a discman (remember those?) and headphones and told to listen to the song over and over. While I was hearing the song for the first time grips were doing the final touches on the lighting and soon it was time to roll camera.
The video’s concept was easily adapted so that I was never really the focus of the action. They kept me in the background and tried to keep me out of focus for the most part. I even wore a hat so it was less obvious that I had a different haircut than their real drummer.
Another problem was that the playback system the crew had was not very loud so if I actually played the drums properly, the sound of the drums would drown out the the playback we were lipsyncing to. Playing along to a song you barely know is challenging enough, but trying not to actually make any noise while you're doing it is an extra challenge I hadn't considered. Luckily the band was super cool and had my back when I screwed up early on. Andy, that band's singer, was particularly kind to me, explaining to the crew why what I was doing was tricky. After a few takes I was up and running and we were on our way.
Luckily most of the song is a simple straight up rock beat. You can see me really screwing up some of the fills in the changes. Ooops! All in all it turned out OK for the most part. Take a look (video starts around 40 seconds in):
This is not the band's best song, though upon repeated listens it does stick in your head. They were about 5-7 years past their prime commercial success when this video was made. It was a really fun way to spend a weekend though, playing the “out of focus drummer in the background” with a band I really liked.
The Skydiggers still tour every couple years and this year are doing a big celebration tour for their 25th anniversary.
Jay Bond, the video’s director, has gone on to become of heavy hitter in the world of opening titles for films and TV shows. He recently wrapped up a talk at SXSW on the topic and is a past winner of The Art of the Title’s award for best Opening Title sequence. Here are the the latest opening titles he has worked on: