Interview With Master Percussionist William Catanzaro

We had the opportunity to sit down with William Catanzaro a seriously talented percussionist, recording engineer, pianist and composer. He has put out several original albums for major labels such as RCA and Polygram and produced and/or recorded innumerable independent recordings. He currently spends his time touring on the dance circuit and with the band The BlackTails as well as doing recording and engineering gigs in personal “Cat” studio. Check out William’s gigs here

How many years have you been working in the NY scene and what is your expertise?

I moved to NY from Buenos Aires in 1989. I started working with several Contemporary Dance Companies as a composer, pianist and percussionist and began writing scores for Off Broadway plays. I had worked in that field in Buenos Aires so the transition was natural. Perhaps the different sounds and ideas that I brought made me break into the NY scene fast. The next step was to make my own studio to be able to work in my own time and with reasonable budgets, pre Pro-Tools era. I had made several albums for RCA records and later for Polygram so I had many hours of experience working in the studio. Sitting with the engineer and asking questions is the fastest learning curve.

Who are your currently playing live with?

The band I love playing with are The BlackTails. I also play regularly in theater and dance performances in the city and abroad. I recently went to Paris and later to Louisiana to do some workshops and in Las Vegas I set a percussion score for The Las Vegas Contemporary Dance Theater.

Do you specialize in a particular style of recording and/or engineering?

I love to find cool and pure sounds for percussion instruments. You can make a drum sound in so many different ways by combining different microphones, positioning them and of course processing later, but in the end it’s what works for the final product you are trying to create. A simple shaker, whistle or cabaça can change the character of a musical piece radically and the way you record it and place it in the mix is crucial. In the old days percussion was a big massive amount of rhythm in the background, today the details can enhance the sound palette of a song and/or score.

Do you find writing and/or recording music for theater different than the CD market oriented recordings?

Yes and no. A theater can have an incredible sound system and you want the recording to use it’s full potential.The sound becomes a theatrical experience and the lows, mids, trebles and panning can transport the audience in ways different than listening to music in an i-pod. On the other hand when you are producing a Cd you want the music to be heard in it’s totality, your sensation comes solely through your ears. In the end in both cases you want the music to be clear and direct.

What is the range of percussion instruments and sounds you offer?

I use everything I can lay my hands on, literally. Everywhere I travel I bring percussion instruments, from Argentinean bombo, Bolivian pezuñas, Peruvian cajon, Brazilian , zurdo (from Brazil alone I have at least 30 different kinds of percussion instruments), Cuban congas, to a whole array of electronic drums from old Roland TR-707 to the new Korg Wavedrum Oriental, the Roland Sampling Pad SPD-S and of course the classic Roland Handsonic. African djembes, kalimbas, udus. At the time of engaging in a producction, choices are made and sometimes the results can be surprising when different sounds are put to contrast.

What’s your home studio setup?

Today I work on a Pro-Tools platform. I have tons of plug-ins and mastering software. Everything goes to my faithful Allen & Heath mixer and is enhanced with Focusrite Pre Amps. For great accuracy I love my Adam-A7 monitors but I also use my Yamaha NS-10 and Tannoys to compare frequencies.

Tell us how you find AirGigs useful to you?

The concept of Airgigs is unique and innovative. Being able to connect with amazing musicians around the globe instantaneously and at reasonable rates was something unheard of years ago. It’s as innovative a concept as it is using Pro-Tools and plug-ins for recording. I can’t think of a better time to be a recording artist trying to get your best ideas out and working with some of the best and most interesting musicians in the planet.

Be sure to check out Williams airGigs @

For more on William be sure to check out his website @

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