Interview: T.D. Clark

Dan McAvinchey: T.D., let's begin with your new CD "Shreddtime Stories" - how did you begin the project, and what goals did you have for it?

T.D. Clark: "Shreddtime Stories" began as a concept CD where it would be presented in short story form - each tune telling a different tale, as it were. That's why the artwork has the song titles are on the spines of books in a bookcase on the back. We recorded it at my recording studio, Studio T, here in Aurora IL. I was hoping to get the basic drum and bass tracks with a scratch guitar done in a three day session, then knock out the guitar parts in the following two weeks. I had picked out the guys who I wanted on the record, which included Jimmi Ward on bass (whom I have jammed with on and off at NAMM shows for something like 8 years), and Fred Bartolomeo on drums (who was in my live band). Jimmi just pounds on the bass and Fred locks the groove solid so the band came together quickly. Jimmi had to fly in from Alameda, California so I needed to organize the sessions to run smoothly and have as few problems as possible. The thing here is that organization is not exactly my strong suit (laughts).

Dan McAvinchey: Tell us about the recording of the album, did you have any special challenges, or surprising moments?

T.D. Clark: My recording session turned into a TV mini series! Check this out.

The schedule was to go like this: Jimmi flies in on Wednesday, in the evening. Thursday, we rehearse until 5, then play a small gig, then rehearse Friday all day, and begin recording Friday night, finishing up on Sunday. Keep in mind Jimmi and Fred have never jammed together and only played with the demos of the tracks.

So Wednesday night I get Jimmi from the airport and I get an urgent text from Fred that his wife's uncle passed away. He has to fly out to the funeral Friday night. So on Thursday we rehearsed all day, then went to the gig. Returned about midnight and began recording until about 3 AM. We were beat. The next morning at 9 we were back at full tilt until 6. Fred finished the last drum track for "The Introduction", dropped his sticks and walked out the door straight to the airport. The rest of us continued recording bass tracks until 10. Saturday we got all the drums and bass parts edited and mixed and ready for the guitar tracks. On my last CD, "Next Big Adventure", I did dozens of takes and we picked the best from them. However, I felt strongly on this CD to set a maximum of five takes and go with that. I felt it would keep the melodies and solos sounding fresh - and myself as well. I think it ended up working out well. This record sound so tight and the songs fresh. Jimmi and Fred played incredibly under the circumstances.

Dan McAvinchey: What is your working relationship like with co-producer Mike Ault?

T.D. Clark: Mike was a guitar student of mine who went on to graduate from recording school with a Pro Tools 3 rating. That was the highest rating you could achieve and only a few people in the U.S. apparently have it. He had been working in Hollywood at several studios with some big names like Busta Rhymes, Michael Bolton, Jon Legend, etc. He had come back to Chicago for a bit and I asked him to do my CD. He had done my ESPN Sports Center sessions when he was just 16 as he was a genius engineer then, so I knew from what he was doing in L.A. he was the right guy. Plus I know him well, he is really cool guy and he knows me, my style and what I wanted to do. It was a great mix.

Dan McAvinchey: There was some news last year about the Chicago Blackhawks possibly using a track in the United Center during games - did it happen?

T.D. Clark: "When The Lights Dim" from "Shreddtime Stories" went into rotation last year in the United Center during Blackhawks games.

Dan McAvinchey: Given the competitive nature of licensing deals, how do you typically differentiate your work from your contemporaries when proposing its use for commercial purposes?

T.D. Clark: Generally, I think you sell yourself as a reliable, trustworthy proffesional business partner to the client, and this lends them to using you. I make really good tracks, sure, but so do many people. I have found the sealing of the deal comes on the business end, as many Musicians fail to realize this is the music business. People paying money for your work could give a crap about how good you are, or how cool you look. They want product on time, with the correct paperwork and invoices, etc.

Dan McAvinchey: Are you doing anything different this time around in the areas of publicity and promotion for the new album?

T.D. Clark: Well, I am playing out a ton due to my recent signing to Steve Vai's Digital Nation's label. I did a mini-tour of the Bay area in late October and prior to that I did about 19 shows in the Chicago area from September to November. Did a great Christmas show as well. Plus, I did, and am doing, radio, Facebook and Myspace promotions. I also am involved with many online zines like Reign licks, Fret 12, and Chicago's Rock with interviews, CD reviews, and video licks that are out now.

Dan McAvinchey: How can an instrumental rock guitarist get more respect in a world where, as one prominent hip hop artist stated, "You don't need to know how to sing, or how to play an instrument - you don't have to know sh*t. All you need to know is how to rhyme over a beat..."?

T.D. Clark: Well, if you want respect, get out of the music business (laughs)! If you love what you are doing, it will show and you will gain respect. Plus the "no talent" is in the eyes of the beholder. Whether I agree or not, people who buy records like how songs move them no matter the skill level.

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Dan McAvinchey: What's up next for you, what are some of your plans for the future?

T.D. Clark: More playing and tours and video clips. Plus, I have a company shopping me in Japan for distribution and/or a record deal. Hopefully more licensing deals.

Also, I am going with the owner/inventor of EMG pick ups and the head of sales to do a presentation at Sweetwater, the online retailer. I was chosen from the dozens of artists on their roster to demonstrate the pick ups in a half-hour presentation, which is held in a theater in front of 150+ employees at Sweetwater. I got a call about 3 weeks ago to see if I wanted to do it, we agreed on terms, and now preparation begins.

Another development is that I started a company called Guitar Fundamentals that supplies guitar lessons, both group and private, to Park Districts and Schools in an after school capacity. We have almost 70 Park Districts and schools combined, and have 19+ contracted guitar instructors working for us. We are going to start franchising soon, as sales have been through the roof, and we gain more and more outlets every week. We are expanding programs for Fall, so I am busy with that as well. We should do about 750+ kids through the programs this year.

Dan McAvinchey: Finally, if you could do a once-off album project with any guitarist
in the world, who would it be?

T.D. Clark: Hmm... that is a tough one. Probably Adrian Vandenberg or Peter Frampton. Maybe Paco De Lucia - that's more than one though (laughs).

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T.D. Clark is an exciting, Chicago area guitarist who has a number of top-notch CDs to his credit - his 1995 all-instrumental release, followed by "Personalities" (1995), "Next Big Adventure" (2006), and his latest release, the all-instrumental "Shreddtime Stories". If you're lucky enough to get tickets to see the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks play at home, there is a good chance you'll hear Clark's music at full volume during stoppages of play.

Dan McAvinchey recently conducted this e-interview with Clark, to talk about his latest CD release.