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Artist Spotlight: Interview with Drummer Charlie Zeleny

This week's Artist Spotlight is on Drummer Charlie Zeleny. He describes his style as a combination of the aesthetics and energies of Blue Man Group with Cirque Du Soleil and the intensity of the Transiberian Orchestra expect with a drum set soloist in the middle of the production. His latest project is titled, Drumageddon Brooklyn, which consists of an impressive one-take drum solo up an entire Brooklyn building from street to rooftop.
Get to know Charlie Zeleny and his music:
How long have you been performing? Do you play any other instruments?
I have been playing the drums for 23 years now and have been professional for about 15 of those years. I went to college and got a degree in music with a concentration on jazz performance and music theory. Since I also produce, music direct and am a bandleader in NYC, I do have a knowledge of keys, guitar, bass and vocals besides drums/percussion and have a very good knowledge of arranging, composition and theory. All are immensely helpful in navigating both a solo drumset performance artist career and a session drummer career. 

Are there any artists you look up to? Who are some of your influences?
In the drum world, there is no better influence for me than Buddy Rich who melded the entertainment world with amazing talent and an attitude that I always try to bring into my solo drum performances. I am trying to take his energy and passion for the instrument and do a gritty reboot of what he stood for but superimpose it over the darkness of a post-apocalyptic 21st century. Influences outside of drumming would include films like Blade Runner, Terminator 2, all things Sci-Fi, Steampunk, Cyberpunk and anything related to The Future. 
How old were you when you first started drumming?
I started drumming when I was 7-years-old and started on the snare drum in concert band way back in the day. I graduated to the drumset in middle school and never looked back. I learned all about classical percussion, got heavy into jazz and fusion but had a penchant for rock music and anything that pushed the envelope like progressive rock and metal. I am a combination of all those influences today and have worked as a pro-drummer in just about all styles of contemporary music. Now I have been trying to push the envelope of what it means to be a contemporary drum soloist musically, aesthetically and visually. I've been fortunate not only to play and share the stage with my favorite musical influences growing up as a youth, but I have also continued to make a living in this ever-changing music industry. 

How would you describe your sound to someone who has never heard it before?
I am a Virtuoso Drum Solo Artist who loves to meld powerful and musical Drum Solos with modern entertainment elements into exciting multimedia video and stage productions that hopefully resonate not only with the drumming community but also the public at large. If you were to combine the aesthetics and energies of Blue Man Group with Cirque Du Soleil and the intensity of the Transiberian Orchestra but were to instead put a Drumset Soloist in the middle of the production, you'd be able to get an understanding of what I am all about. But there is no limit to drawing from the amazing technology and raw talent that is available in the year 2012 and beyond whether it be software like Protools, Final Cut & electronics to stunning female models, breakdancers, skateboarders or other amazing musicians. Why not expand your horizons as an artist to incorporate all the amazing talent that is available all across the world today in your artistic vision and productions? That's what I always strive to do to continue to be inspired to go beyond what has already been done in drumming, music and entertainment.

Can you describe your first performance?
I was an extremely energetic child growing up and felt like I was always performing whether it was me belting out "Shout" by Tears for Fears in my underwear for my family or playing in the concert band, jazz band or singing in the student choir. My first proper concert, I recall having a very special snare drum solo where a fellow drummer forgot to turn the snare mechanism back on. When I went to play my big solo moment, I noticed the snares were off and struggled to play the difficult part with one hand as I tried to fix the mechanism with the other hand and wound up dropping both of my drumsticks. I was mortified to have the conductor have to cut the entire band off and start the piece over again to fix the mistake. I vowed to always double check my drum gear prior to playing any performance since then! 

Do you have any advice for musicians just starting out?
No matter where you are right this second, you are a more developed musician and artist than tons that have come before and will come after you. So build your confidence in that fact. You also have to realize that there are many more musicians and artists that are more developed than you are, which means you have to build your dedication and commitment to your craft each and every day to become the best you can possibly be. Our goal as artists and musicians is not to spend time comparing ourselves to the masses but to combine our artistry with who we are and how we specifically view the world to influence the human condition and culture at large. Be the best 'you' possible since the most actualized artists in history not only have the deepest commitment to their craft and but also have subsequently reached the greatest amount of people throughout the ages. With this in mind, make sure to never lose the reason for starting to embark on this quest in the first place: fun! 

Are you working on any projects at the moment?
I am very excited to be working on finishing out the Drumageddon New York series of one-take multi-environment drum solos. Thusfar, I have finished Drumageddon Brooklyn which is a one-take drum solo up an entire Brooklyn Building from street to rooftop. I have also just finished Drumageddon Manhattan, which is a one-take drum solo all across Times Square NYC. Next up will be Drumageddon Queens, Staten Island and Bronx which will prove to be quite an undertaking to complete. There are rumors of Drumageddon Chicago, NJ and Minnesota on the horizon additionally. Outside of these combinations of drum solos with entertainment, I'm knee deep in finishing my Drum Solo Concept Album drawing influence from Prog, Fusion, Classical, Rock and Metal and doing a variety of other drum solo videos both serious and lighthearted. We are also putting together a very involved stage production to hit cities domestically and internationally in the next year or so. 

Where can we catch you next? Any upcoming shows?
 I will be touring a bunch throughout the US and will be making appearances at Lollapalooza and many other festivals along with some TV dates with various sessions coming up besides playing all my gigs in New York City. I will also be working on more Drumageddon Productions which will slowly become more and more open to the public as we expand our crew of amazing talent led by myself & Drumageddon Productions, Chris Ott of Evil Dog Films, audio engineers Bryan Kane & Brian Penny of Bone Gunn & 3 Egg Studios & techs Jason Rutherford & Freddy Nightliker of Cablesmith. Keep an eye on all my websites and social networking sites to catch a live appearance, the album release date or a Drumageddon Production near you.

What's the best piece of advice someone ever gave you? 
There was no specific piece of advice I got externally I can recall, except for the overall undying support my parents and teachers gave me early on to solidify me into wanting to become a drummer and musician in the first place. They saw a spark of excitement that stood out early on as some innate talent and, once I got serious into the craft, was able to hone into being able to wield a career that is both varied and expansive in it's scope. 

But, my favorite two quotes that always keep me on track to this very day are:
"I saw the angel in the marble and I carved until I set him free" - Michaelangelo

"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." - Gandhi

Where can people find you online?

Anything else you'd like to add?
Please watch, comment, like and share the Drumageddon Video Productions my team and I worked so very hard on. It makes it easier to continue my path of artistic exploration and keep on attempting to transcend the limitations of drumming and drum solos as a viable modern art form that can reach not only drummers but also the masses. 

Drumageddon Manhattan: Drummer Solos All Times Square NYC in One Take:
Short Link:

Drumageddon Brooklyn: One-Take Drum Solo Up Entire Brooklyn Building:
Short Link:

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