Keep up with Charlie here:
Jordan Rudess www.jordanrudess.com
Jordan Rudess Online Conservatory www.jroc.us
Blotted Science www.ronjarzombek.com/blottedscienceonline ; www.myspace.com/blottedscience
Behold the Arctopus: www.myspace.com/beholdthearctopus
Great Kat: www.greatkat.com ; www.myspace.com/greatkatguitarshredder
Kayodot: www.kayodot.net ; www.myspace.com/kayodot
Ken Rubenstein: www.zebox.com/kenrubenstein ; www.myspace.com/kenrubenstein
Charlie Zeleny is a professional NYC Session Drummer who is also a Music Director, Bandleader and Producer. He specializes in all styles of music especially Pop, Rock, Jazz, Fusion, Progressive Metal, Hiphop, Funk and R&B. Charlie Z has completed a Japan Tour with Jordan Rudess, keyboardist of Dream Theater, records with classical shred guitarist The Great Kat, and is the drummer on the release of the new Kayodot album on Hydrahead Records.
Charlie Z has played sold out shows at Lincoln Center‘s Avery Fisher Hall, opening for Bon Jovi at El Coliseo de Puerto Rico and at The International Photography Awards at American Airlines Theater in NYC. Charlie has also played in 35+ US states, on 15+ full length albums and can also be seen and heard on MTV, VH1, XM & Sirius Satellite Radio, Joan of Arcadia, Oxygen TV, CBS Morning Show and on Tone Maker DJ Ringtone Creator featuring Method Man and Ceelo from Gnarls Barkley. He has opened national artists Akon, Bowling for Soup, The Blue Oyster Cult, Between the Buried and Me and Bon Jovi.
In addition to being a session drummer, Charlie is a member of the internationally acclaimed band Behold the Arctopus signed to Black Market Activities/Metal Blade Records and Blotted Science with Ron Jarzombek of Spastic Ink and Alex Webster of Cannibal Corpse.
Charlie Zeleny currently endorses Vic Firth Drumsticks, Evans Drumheads, Paiste Cymbals, Protection Racket Bags, Rhythm Tech Percussion, SKB Cases & Roc-N-Soc Stools.
Charlie Zeleny Interview:
SD.com: How old were you when you started playing?
Charlie: I was 8 years old when I started playing on the drum pad and in concert band in grammar school. I started the drumset when I was 12 in jazz band while in middle school and got my first real drumset to play at home at around 13 years old.
SD.com: Did you play in a school band or any drum corps?
Charlie: I played in concert band in grammar school but it wasn’t until playing in jazz band in middle school that I really got into how amazing drumming could be. I continued concert band and jazz band all through high school but never did any formal drum corp work, just started getting into rudiments on my own before checking out a couple teachers for private lessons. College is when I seriously dug in and got some discipline to make an actual career out of drumming.
SD.com: Who are your top 5 influences?
Charlie: Wow, thats a tricky question since I listen to so many different drummers and styles of music since I wear many hats as a pop/session drummer, prog/metal drummer and also do a lot of jazz and fusion. I’ll answer by genre. Top five would have to be Shawn Pelton for Pop/Session Drumming, Bobby Jarzombek for Prog/Metal, Keith Carlock for Fusion, Ari Hoenig for Jazz and Aaron Spears for Gospel Chops. I’m all about actually playing all styles of music and have been seriously listening to everything possible in music for years. It keeps me working as a drummer!
SD.com: Assuming that influences doesn’t mean favorites, who are your favorites?
Charlie: Those guys are definitely some of my favorites but still have to add Buddy Rich, Dave Weckl, Tomas Haake, Chris Pennie, Derek Roddy, Zach Hill, Vinnie Colaiuta, Mike Portnoy, Max Roach, Elvin Jones, John Bonham, Jeff Eber, Ted Poor, Tre Cool, Dave Abbruzesse, Lewis Nash, Brian Blade, Jeff Tain Watts, Dennis Chambers, Rod Morgenstein, Steve Gadd, Steve Smith, Jeff Pocaro, Terry Bozzio, Bernard Purdie, Matt Chamberlain, all the new Gospel Chops dudes and JoJo Mayer. Theres so many more but thats more than enough to check out!
SD.com: Let us know 5 CD’s that are in your current rotation
Oz Noy “Ha!”
Dillinger Escape Plan “Ire Works”
Between the Buried and Me “Colors”
Tal Wickenfeld “Transformation”
Pink “I’m Not Dead”
SD.com: What do you do to warm up before a show?
Charlie: Depends on if I’m doing a session or something metal. With metal, I’ll mostly bang on my knee or use my Roc-n-Soc Stool as a drum pad while sitting in another chair. I’ll run singles and doubles with my fingers and wrists while doing double bass 16th notes, triplets and sextuplets. I’ll also play all sorts of blast beats and split up singles with syncopated double bass to practice some fills. With a normal session I’ll work basic rock beats or basic jazz coordination at different dynamics and then just relax before hitting the stage.
SD.com: Can you remember a night you think was your best playing ever? If yes, when and where?
Charlie: Playing with Jordan Rudess in Japan definitely sticks out in my memory in recent years. That was a little over a year ago now and there are YouTube videos of it. That was definitely a trip both literally and figuratively playing with someone you grew up listening to and hanging with him the entire tour all the way over in Japan.
But I do remember having an amazing experience that was pretty life changing in high school while doing a drum solo. Every year I was asked to do a drum solo in the talent show in front of 1500 kids, which was pretty nerve racking but also pretty amazing.
My senior year I decided to go out with a bang and do as many crazy things as possible in a composed drum solo. I quoted all sorts of known drum riffs from songs and came in from the audience playing a cowbell and the whole place clapping along.
I did a bunch of planned stick tricks and even had a bunch of the senior girl cheerleaders come out and dance during a part of the solo. But the best part was when I hit my stick underneath a rototom (yes, I had a set of rototoms) as I was doing a roundhouse fill and thought it fell on the ground. Little did I know that the stick actually flew about 10 feet straight up in the air and flipped around about 7 times. I noticed the stick in the air out of the corner of my eye as I was playing with my right hand and double bass. Somehow, my left hand gravitated under my right hand as the stick was coming down in the right spot for me to catch it as I was playing for me to continue on after the crowd went wild. Many cheers and a standing ovation later I had to thank God for helping me catch that stick because you can still that I didn’t even glance at the stick in the air on the video. The stick just fell into my hand!
That was a defining moment where I played the best I possibly could 110% at the time and solidified that I wanted to be pro drummer for a living.
SD.com: Do you have a favorite brand of drums or cymbals?
Charlie: I still use the same pair of Paiste hihats I bought 15 years ago for all my extreme metal gigs. They were 14″ Signature Series Sound Edge hats and still sound amazing. All their cymbals are the tops by far in my opinion. I just got a set of Dark Energy series that sound unbelievable besides the normal Signature series and the Rude lines and they all are phenomenal. I also grew up playing Vic Firth 5A drumsticks which I still use today for everything except super light jazz. Thats when I go for the Peter Erskine Round Tip model. You can’t go wrong with Vic Firth sticks for their feel and sound.
I have been playing Evans heads ever since I discovered them about 10 years ago. Their new Jazz line is amazing along with their EC series besides the old standbys of G1s and G2s coated and clear. I feel very fortunate to be endorsed by all these companies especially since I grew up using their products.
Other gear I love is Rhythm Tech percussion, Protection Racket Bags, SKB Cases and Roc-n-Soc Stools.
With drums I have a bunch of different top of the line kits that I’ll rotate for different gigs, tours and recordings sessions and have many different snares to choose from. I’ve been checking out Sonor recently and really dig what they are doing. But DW and Yamaha make some nice drums too. For pedals and hardware, I use a DW 5000 AD3 double pedal and DW 9000 series hardware. Those pedals and hardware are always there for me and have gotten me through many gigs and tours for years.
SD.com: If you could give one piece of advice to young drummers, it would be…
Charlie:: Be patient with yourself, don’t get down on yourself and keep pushing forward to become a better player. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither was any of the drummers I listed as influences or favorites. Each of those guys started out completely unknown and had to practice their ass off to not only get great at drumming but get their name and playing out there so people can check them out. Get as much knowledge about music in addition to drumming as possible too so then you can always stay working in the field.
SD.com: Who gave the best live performance you’ve ever seen?
Charlie: Mike Stern with Dennis Chambers and Victor Wooten at the Bottom Line NYC was one of them in addition to the Transiberian Orchestra at the Beacon Theater NYC. Dream Theater is one of the most solid and consistent bands I’ve ever seen and then there are the incredible jazz gigs I’ll see in dive bars in Manhattan that blow my mind along with the minds of the other 20 people in the bar at the time.
SD.com: If you had to stop drumming, what would you want to do with your life?
Charlie: I would be a full time Producer and Songwriter and probably do some A&R for labels. I do that kind of stuff in between being a session drummer and playing in Arctopus. I wrote the final song on the last Behold the Arctopus record on the track where Jordan Rudess does a guest solo called “Transient Exuberance.” I am also producing a female pop country artist coming up who is quite amazing. But other than that I am happily a pro drummer paying the bills!
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