Brian Carpenter: In Between The Cracks

DanMichael Reyes By

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AAJ: In the economic state where it's hard to get a good paying gig and the trend are these small quartets or quintets, how do you manage to keep a larger ensemble afloat?

BC: I think it's hard to do. A lot of people I know don't do rehearsals and they structure the music so that they don't have to do rehearsals because rehearsals are expensive too. You're not paying people for rehearsals but there is time involved and not everyone is going to want to come to a rehearsal if they don't feel like the band is an investment in someway. I'm fortunate that I went to engineering school and I don't make a living off of music. It allows me to work on what I want to work on. If I don't want to play weddings, I don't—I don't have to do that if I don't want to. So the music that I'm involved in is exactly what I want to do and no more than that.

AAJ: Are you still currently working as an engineer outside of your music career?

BC: Yes, I do. I made that decision a long time ago and it was one of the best decisions I made. It was one of the best decisions I've ever made. The issue is that I'm not as prolific as a lot of my peers because I have this day job and that's the real issue because I can't devote myself full-time to it. So that's problematic for a lot people and it's not for everyone.

How am I able to keep the band together? Well, I think we don't play that often and when we do, we try to make sure everyone tries to get paid something decent. Every once in a while we get a really good paying gig at a festival, a museum, or something like that makes it worthwhile. And it took a long time to find the right people for the band too. It's a matter of really finding the right people, finding people that believe in you and the music. That's really hard actually, to find that match, but once you have it then it's quite obvious.

I was talking to Steven Bernstein about this and he said, "Miss a beat, lose your seat." If someone is continually missing shows then they have the risk of losing their seat. But the reason they're missing the shows is because they need to make money—they're full-time musicians—and if the show is only going to pay $50, they're not going to take it. But what happens is that the missing seat potentially opens up a seat for somebody else and that's what happened in this band.

So it's a hard thing to run a band. Basically, the musicians are putting their faith in you that you're going to take this band to another level financially. It has to do with booking and it's almost like a family business. You don't want to book too many gigs because you don't want to hurt morale. You just have to be kind of selective about what you do. It's a tricky business for anybody.

Selected Discography
Ghost Train Orchestra, Book Of Rhapsodies (Accurate, 2013)
Ghost Train Orchestra, Hot House Stomp (Accurate, 2011)
Beat Circus, Boy From Black Mountain (Cuneiform, 2009)
Beat Circus, Dreamland (Cuneiform, 2008)
Beat Circus, Ringleader (Ringleader, 2004).

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