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Category Archives: LIFE PHILOSOPHY

The SCORE Magazine Interviews Atma Anur _June_2015

Atma AnurTHE SCORE: Hi Atma, first off, let me say what a pleasure it is to have a chance to get a glimpse into your groovy world. To start, let us know what your formative years were like at New York, San Francisco. When did you start playing, how did you start, and what were some of your first experiences drumming?

Atma Anur: That’s quite a complex question actually.

I began playing drums officially at age 11, while we were living in NYC, but my mother had told me that I would stand in front of the TV watching Ringo Starr with the Beatles, and point to him while dancing and laughing. That was at about age 2, while we were still living in London.

At age 10 we had a “Show and Tell” day at my Grammar School and one kid brought a marching snare drum in to show to us all. Well, I spent the day walking around the school and wildly tapping away at this instrument (one that I had never even seen before). Once I got home that evening I announced to my parents that “I can play the drums!”

My High School years in NYC were quite wonderful in hindsight, any teenager thinks life is not so great while living it, wherever they may be. I first went to a Science and Mathematics School and was in the school Jazz band… but quite briefly. I later transferred to a “School without Walls” High School with a focus on music and art, something that was quite popular in some parts of the States back in the 70s.

I had my first more serious band finally in that first High School at about age 14/15. We played music by Deep Purple, Hendrix, Scorpions, Al Di Meola and quite a few other popular, but musically difficult, bands in those days.

I attended the Manhattan School of Music at age 16 in a pre-enrollment program where I studied Orchestral and Tuned Percussion… That was a great experience and really got me started in reading. From then on I regularly visited the Lincoln Center for The Performing Arts Music Library to read book, scores and listen to music LP-s of all kinds.

I had my first private drum teacher at about age 12/13. That was the legendary William Kessler, a renowned Author and Jazz Musician. I think I was very lucky to have found such a master at such a young age.

Atma AnurTS: How did your formal education in music help your career? What was studying at Berklee like those days? Did it help you become a better educator as well?

AA: I believe that if one is serious about a topic, one will naturally want to study that topic. Study, of course, comes in many possible forms, but I think that formal study in music is an important part of any professional musician’s life. Most of us improvisation-based musicians begin by playing and enjoying that process, where the orchestrally-oriented player usually begins by sitting with a one-on-one teacher. My belief is that both of these modes of learning will serve the individual the most if they occur simultaneously.

That is how things happened for me, and many of the other excellent professionals that I know and have played with. There is no question that actually learning the language of music, both as it relates to my own instrument and as it relates to communicating with other musicians, has helped my professional career immensely.

As a professional side man, it has been my job to help writers and instrumentalists realize the vision that they have for their music. Most of the time this needs to be done in a short and productive time frame, while being able to have fun and stay creative. My personal understanding of the role and tools of my instrument, and my ability to speak in correct musical terms with the other players has been a huge “selling point” to my being hired so much over the past 30 years.

Berklee was one of the most amazing and influential experiences of my life. I carry the tools and concepts that I learned there in the 70s with me to this very day. One of the most intense aspects of being there was the opportunity to see and play with other talented international musicians, and share ideas and mistakes… invaluable! Being around Steve Vai, Stu Hamm, Tain Watts, Smitty Smith and so many others gave me a deep perspective on what being a “good” musician could mean.

I use the ideas, theories, concepts and values that I have internalized from my days of formal study at schools, private study at “home” (which is on-going) and my personal professional experiences to help younger musicians as much as I have the opportunity to do so… and I love seeing what the future of music holds.

Atma AnurTS: You have played and lived across different continents and recorded on over 145 albums. What were some of the defining moments of your journey and who were they with?

AA: More of my time has been spent in the rehearsal room than on stage or in the studio. The experimentation and learning while playing is what defines me to me. As for what defines who I am to others, I would have to guess it is what people see and hear at shows and on records… which is not the bulk of my playing. I think that this is true of any musician who remains in the learning and growing mode.

Playing Jazz on the streets of NYC in the 70s was a huge and pivotal experience for me. It took me from wanting to play consistently to simply playing consistently. Improvising in front of so many people for so many hours per day made me the type of musician that takes chances… simple.

Learning note-for-note music from bands like Return to Forever, The Mahavishnu Orchestra, Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, Bob Marley, John Coltrane and many others, gave me insight into what real chops are on my instrument… not to mention, Groove!

Meeting Mike Varney, President of Shrapnel Records, and having the opportunity to record so many great albums with such amazing musicians has had a deep effect on who I am as a musician. Being in world-class recording studios with great, creative producers like Steve Fontano and Richie Zito (to name just a couple) also helped to give me a better perspective on what and how to play well commercially while still being creative and true to myself.

Getting to play huge stages for audiences of up to 500,000 people has also changed who I am as a player and as a performer. Seeing the effect of what I am playing on such a large scale brings a lot of consistency and power to one’s professional creative process… truly learning what not to play, and why.

Watching how other very well-known, talented musicians interact and create together is also invaluable for any professional musician. The relationship between the people playing can make or break the music. That relationship also makes things move faster or slower… or not at all. Communication feeds creativity in most cases… and feeds the personal joy for what one is doing.

I can mention just a few names that come to mind who really stand out for me as people that inspired me as a player and as a person and were a joy to work with. Richie Kotzen, Jason Becker, Marty Friedman, Tony MacAlpine, Neal Schon, T.M. Stevens, Guthrie Govan, Michael Lee Firkins, Arthur Rhames… and so many more amazing creative and talented people that have helped shape who I am as a musician and as a person to this day.

Atma AnurTS: What kind of music do you dig and play these days? Recent collaborations? 

AA: I really love playing and listening to Fusion and Modern Jazz more than other styles, but I have played more Rock, Reggae, Funk and Blues live over the years. Honestly, I love playing anything that sounds good, music is the whole point for me.

Since relocating to Europe I have played and recorded more Hard Rock, Prog Rock, Neo Classical, Metal and straight Pop than other styles. I, of course, play many other things in my personal time.

There have been many, and a wide variety of, collaborations since leaving the States 8 years ago, but at this moment I am recording CDs with Jani J. Szentkiralyi (Hunagary), If Wen (U.K.), Timo Somers (the Netherlands), The Vivaldi Metal Project (International) and a “secret” Tribute Project for Japanese release. At any given time I usually have 2 or 3 CDs being tracked if I’m not touring… I’m at 145 CDs now… and counting!

Atma Anur - photo credits Izabela DoniecTS: You have taught at SAM earlier during its very first semester. What memories of India do you carry and what are the things you are looking forward to doing this trip, musically and otherwise?

AA: Well that first trip to India was a true high point for me in so many ways. I made many new friends that I stay in contact with to this day, and was personally exposed to the Carnatic music system and Traditional South Indian Classical Music as a whole. Working with people like Ghatam Karthick, Ed DeGenaro, Ranjit Barot, Ashish Manchanda, Amit Trivedi and Nandini Srikar while there, and then meeting other great Indian musicians later on, like Shree Sundarkumar, Sunita Sarathy and others, was such a great experience and I really look forward to more creative expression with each of them… and all the new yet “un-met” musicians there.

I am extra, super excited about getting back to the food (which is one of my very favourite kinds) and the very warm people. The vibe is gloriously positive and inspiring.

Atma AnurTS: We know your energy is infectious! What can students at SAM expect from Atma Anur this Fall?

AA: For sure more of the same! It’s been five years since I was at SAM and I am really looking forward to meeting the new students, the older faculty and friends. I’m also really looking forward to doing some great shows and more recordings as well.

I have been working quite a bit on my book on Poly-Rhythms and sixteenth-note understanding, so I will draw from that in my drum instruction classes for sure as well.

I look forward to sharing this wonderful gift of music and the joy that it brings… my goal is to bless as I have been blessed… and beyond.

http://www.atmaanur.com

HUNGARIAN ROCK MAGAZINE “SHOCK!” INTERVIEWS ATMA ANUR & JANI J. SZENTKIRALYI

1. How did you get to know each other, and how did you come up with the idea of working together? 

Atma & Jani

ATMA: If I remember correctly, Jani contacted me on Facebook about the possibility of working on some of his (new) recordings. I had not yet met him but after listening to the things he sent me I thought it would be a cool collaboration (at this point I try to not play music that I don’t enjoy).

We spent a lot of time chatting, getting to know each other. We found we had many things in common and basically had a good time in conversation (his English is much better than he thinks… lol

Jani J. Szentkiralyi JANI: Well, back in 2010 I sent a demo of five songs to Mike Varney (Shrapnel Records) who replied and suggested to record the drums with Atma Anur. So I contacted Atma and sent him the songs, and from that point we started comunicating and systematically working on the songs and the musical ideas that came to us.

2. From which CDs did you know Atma before and which is your favorite one?

JANI: The first CD I heard on which Atma is drumming was Cacophony’s Speed Metal Symphony, and shortly after that Jason Becker’s Perpetual Burn. Both of these are reference CDs for me till today.

It is very hard to pick one, because Atma’s legacy is so wide after playing with so many artists. There are more than 140 CDs (Cacophony, Jason Becker, Tony MacAlpine, Greg Howe, Richie Kotzen …… to name a few) and all of them are outstanding, but for the sake of giving an answer I will pick the Cacophony and Jason Becker CDs because both of them are close to my musical taste and heart.

3. Atma, it seems that you like Hungarian musicians because you are working with two great Hungarian guitarists at the same time, with the same name. Is this a coincidence or something more?

ATMA: The fact that they have the same name is actually quite funny… to me

I like working with good musicians, it’s really as simple as that. I don’t actually care much where someone is from or whatever may or may not be going on with them… other than what the music sounds like.

Atma Anur

With that said, I will also say that I have found many great musicians (especially guitar players) in the Central and Eastern European area since leaving the States… and that’s quite cool I think. Jani and Janos are both talented cool people… so what’s not to like?

4.  How do you remember your first meeting with Jani, and what were your first impressions when you heard his music?

ATMA: We first met in person at the Marty Friedman show in Budapest back in 2011, lots of good fun. Jani showed me quite a lot of Budapest and we had a chance to hang with Marty as well. I made a few other new friends there on that trip as well. Atma & Jani

As for his music, I thought he sounded great, had a cool feel and an exciting vibe. I like playing good music, I love Progressive Rock and Fusion, and I saw an opportunity to play my style and have a good time doing it… Jani also thought that my style would fit his writing… so it was a good match.

JANI: LOL ……. there is always a smile on my face when I remember the moment I met Atma. Besides the awesome time we spent together at Marty Friedman’s gig in Budapest, and having the opportunity to hang with one of my favourite guitar players, Atma and I also started mixing our first recording,  Canon Rock, and I could tell that Atma is an ENERGY BOMB (literally). He is so disciplined that he shocked me (in a positive way). In those moments I realized that I was dealing with one of the best of the best. He is the guy who used to go to sleep the last, no matter what time it was when we went to sleep…and he woke up first (a funny story I remember is that we went home from Marty’s gig very late, I went to sleep but Atma was still doing  things, then I woke up in the morning to Atma was mixing his drum tracks ……. hahaha). In this short period of time we also became close friends, and this relationship is still the same till today.

5. Which are Jani’s most impressive skills? Is there anyone of your previous musical partners who is playing in a similar way to him?

Jani J. Szentkiralyi ATMA: The best thing about Jani is his personality, he is simply a great person. He is quite serious about music and about life in general… I have a lot of respect for those things.

Jani shares a particular quality with most of the exceptional musicians that I have played with, that is Joy. Expressing the joy that is at the core of music is a special but simple element that I find in the best of the best…

I also find Jani to be quite open minded, besides the fact that he is a talented musician.

6. You are very busy and I’m sure you get invitations all the time to take part in various musical endeavors. How do you find time to do such projects and how do you decide to take part in such sessions?

Atma Anur ATMA: As I said before I am always into playing good music, my decisions are based on the music first and the relationship next. I am, and have been a working professional for many years, there is always time for good music. If I like the sound and the vibe of the music I will most likely want to play…

7.  How do you write the songs, how can we imagine the process?

JANI: We started with the songs which were included on my demo but I also shared with Atma all of my musical ideas, and from that point we shared our thoughts and vision. Actually Atma changed almost everything rhythmically….. lol. He’s thoughts and ideas are so brilliant and inspiring.(as we used to say jokingly: These Berklee guys think musically different ……lol)

So, we dont have a specific way of working, we simply just share ideas, thoughts and so on but, I need to mention here that Atma is taking part in the composition section too. On all of the songs he is a co-writer.

8. How would you sum up the essence of the music?  

ATMA: From the drumming side of things I can say that these songs have the groove and the creativity that anyone that likes my style will recognize and enjoy…

JANI: I’m sure that those who like guitar music and especially the ’shred’ style will love it. I feel that sometimes it’s a bit “progressive” influenced, sometimes neo-classical but we also have slow, melancholic lines and parts.

9.  How did Piero Trevisan come into the picture as a bass player?

ATMA: I met Piero when I first met Steve Saluto (Italian guitarist/composer). I worked with Piero on at least 3 recording sessions and also some live shows.

Jani and I were working with a few bass players on the recordings and I also suggested that Jani check out Piero for some possible gigs… So far everything sounds and feels great. Piero has a talent for finding the most groovy simple parts that fit the vibe very well.

10. What we  need to know about the upcoming EP? Will there be a sequel, any concerts?

JANI: The EP will contain 5 songs and it looks like it will be released by a Hungarian label. Sequel? Definitely. Yes, we want to take those songs to the stage, and continue recording.

ATMA: I hope to record a full CD’s worth of songs and do live shows of this music…

11.  What other projects are you working on?

ATMA: Right now I am working on a bunch of things with some European and South American musicians, I am also trying to finish my first solo CD and am writing for my second one… there is a lot to be done still to get these finished!

I am also putting finishing touches on my Theoretical book on rhythmic understanding… I try to stay busy being creative… I want to leave as much of what God has given me to do as possible after I have had my time in this life.

JANI: Right now I’m not working in other projects. I’m doing some studio work, for example I recorded guitars on two songs for Alina Alens (Romanian pop-rock artist).

12.  Which are the best three albums of all times? Atma Anur

 JANI: Speed Metal Symphony by Cacophony

A Dramatic Turn of Events by Dream Theater

1987 by Whitesnake

ATMA: Impressions by John Coltrane

Inner mounting Flame by the Mahavishnu Orchestra

Are You Experienced by Jimi Hendrix

13. What is the meaning of life?

ATMA: Beauty, Love, Loss… Peace, Anger, Music… Passion and Forgiveness.

To understand time and the basic human condition that we ALL share.

To make something useful of what is presented to you, and to express gratitude and joyfulness in every situation.

Jani J. Szentkiralyi

Life is about relationship… to one another, and to God.

JANI: Atma’s answer is so wide ….. so all I can say is that I identify myself with his answer.

“WELL PLAYED, SIR!” – A Recent Perspective on an Original Influnce: BILLY COBHAM

Atma Anur At WorkUpon recollection of the events that took place in the small Market Square in the beautiful city of Krakow, Poland, quite recently, I came to another quite fascinating realization; that drummer Billy Cobham has grown, yet again, into another kind of musical inspiration for me.

Billy Cobham began inspiring me as a drummer, and as a musician, in 1974 when I first heard him with The Mahavishnu 

Billy Cobham in Poland, 2013

Orchestra on the Inner Mounting Flame LP (this was released in 1971, the year I began playing). I actually heard the Visions of the Emerald Beyond LP first, even though it was the 3rd or 4th LP released by that very legendary group, led by guitarist John MacLaughlin. My early days of contact with the LPs of The Mahavishnu Orchestra consisted of constant listening, and playing along with the songs. My goal was to learn every note I could, and play the drum parts correctly. A specific point would be that Billy Cobham brought to the forefront of drum set drumming the use of the “Paraddidle Beat” as a staple in what we now know as Fusion. And pioneered the use of paraddidles and their variations, as patterns to create odd meter grooves on the drum set (something that I took to heart).

I also choose to learn how to sing the melodies (mostly Violin and Guitar) and bass lines, as close to what I heard being played as was possible. After some years I even began playing along with The Inner Mounting Flame tracks at 45 rpm… as opposed to the normal 33 1/3 rpm… seemingly unbelievable but true.

Billy CobhamI first saw Billy Cobham live at the Beacon Theater in Manhattan in the mid to late 70s, I don’t remember which band it was with, but I do remember a moment when Billy went to ride his high mounted China Cymbal, and a roadie had to come on stage to hold the cymbal stand for him… it was as if the intensity was simply too much for the poor cymbal stand… or at least that’s what it seemed like to me at the time… awesome!

I do believe that my contact with those records changed and shaped me into the musician that I am today, and I must thank Jonh MacLaughlin, Billy Cobham and Narada Michael Walden for all of that inspiration, both technically and musically, and for their commitment to excellence. Atma Anur - photo credits Izabela Doniec

That recent Saturday night was an unreal surprise for me as I found out, just as they were going on stage, that Billy Cobham was playing not only in Poland, where I now live, but my in own city of Krakow… and only a few meters from where I was standing at the time… this seemed completely impossible to me. I of course ran across the Main Square where there was a folk festival in progress (also with very nice music) and made my way to the small Market Square just in time to see and hear some of the first song… and there was Billy Cobham himself on a wonderful spacious stage with a very nice drum riser, playing his 7 tom, double bass drum set up… genius! I stayed to the side of the stage behind the speakers to see him better… I did not hear the amplified sound of the group at this point.

At a momentary break in the action I moved to the other side of the stage where I was ushered into the back stage area at the foot of the drum riser itself (it’s always nice to be recognized), and discovered that each musician, including Billy, had a double sized music stand with long sheets of music on them… for each song. I found out later that the band had only a short rehearsal for the show earlier that same day.

After a couple of songs of my focusing on Billy’s playing (which was awesome), a song in 7/8 came on, not one that I knew, but a very cool piece. I noticed that the bass player was leading the groove to set up the upcoming melody, and that the four piece band sounded a bit stiff at this point as there was really not much groove or communication happening between them.

The bass line seemed to be written, was quite syncopated and in 7/8. The bass players lack of familiarity with the part was obvious… and then I watched how Billy handled this situation. I have been in similar situations many times as a side-man drummer, where a member of the band has trouble keeping the spirit of the music at hand alive due to his or her desire to be „correct” rather than play music for the music’s sake. In this case I saw and heard an example of truly gracious and mature musicianship.

Billy Cobham gently relaxed the groove while playing some snare hits in the places that made the bass line more understandable. He allowed his playing to swing just enough to show the other players where the spirit of the groove should „be” and kept that going until the bass player slowly realized where he should sit in the time. Billy brought his volume down a touch and generally made even more „space” for the other players.

The point for me was HOW Billy did this, both musically and emotionally. His „vibe” was so peaceful and honest that I could tell that the bass player felt supported, not corrected… this was a wonderful moment for me as a listener and a musician to see in action.

I remember thinking to myself „this is how to play as a Gentleman”, to retain the „vibe” of the group while making the music „right”… what a wise and respectful way this is. As I said, Billy was yet again a wonderful inspiration to me, as he always has been, but in a way that I could not have experienced from listening alone. I had to actually see the interaction between him and his fellow musicians. This was indeed the Gentleman’s approach to letting the music, not the musician, speak loudly.

Atma Anur - photo credits Izabela DoniecI was privileged enough to see this from only a few meters away from Billy’s drum riser, on the floor tom side of his set up that evening, the first time I had seen Billy Cobham live in over 30 years. After the show I had a short moment with this master musician, in which I thanked him for so many years of passion and inspiration, he was kind and communicative… and a true Gentleman.

Atma Anur’s Friend & Fellow Musician, Will Calhoun, on Breaking Boundaries & Stereotypes in Rock Music

Atma Anur & Will Calhoun From the very beginning,Living Colour broke boundaries and erased stereotypes. If known only for their breakthrough single, “Cult of Personality,” Living Colour’s place in rock ‘n’ roll history would be secure, but the band’s career is much deeper than that.  From a tour stop in Raleigh, North Carolina, and in anticipation of Saturday night’s show at the Kessler Theater, drummer Will Calhoun talked with DC9 about the band’s 25-year anniversary.

This is the 25th anniversary of the band. How has the music business changed since you first got together?

It has changed a lot. We don’t have CD shops. We used to go out and look at albums, at sleeves. Now, you download songs for 99 cents. You can download songs for free. It can be a nightmare with all this technology. Luckily, with Living Colour, we have a very unique live show. It can be improvised in order to create a unique vibe. Music is very immediate now. You can record a show and then get back to your hotel room and the whole show is edited and up online. The people make comments and they judge you. Technology has made it easier to get information out to people and for an artist that is a beautiful thing.

Why do you think vinyl is making a comeback?

It’s the same reason why people might want to drive a standard car over an automatic. Technology doesn’t change the nation. It’s a new way to do things, but not everybody chooses to cross the street. Some people don’t like cell phones or laptops. There are people who don’t use computers and still have answering machine. I have to say that we physiologically are pretty germane to the sound of vinyl. We both give off very similar vibrations. People react to the sound of vinyl. It’s a whole different sound. It’s a combination of things. My generation really enjoyed vinyl, purchasing it, taking a look at the covers. I am from the Bronx and from the whole generation of scratching. When I see people now scratching on a laptop, I know that is not the same art. I think there is an academic response to the vinyl and how it sounds.

You went to the Berklee College of Music. Is it better to be a trained musician or come at it organically like punk bands do?

My way is to be as skilled as possible. I love classical music. I love jazz. I like to read music. Punk was about feeling. They made a commotion. The music is created out of how you feel. To me, there is nothing wrong with that. It comes down to how you want to express yourself. I feel like you do whatever is best to do your job. I think a punk could be just as good of a musician as someone who is trained. Expression is the important thing.

You have played with an amazing array of artists. What was your impression of B.B. King?

I was honored to be in that session. B.B. is a genius. He was always very respectful. I was trying to make everything fit and B.B. said, “Young man, when I turn around and tell you it’s not happening, then it’s not happening.” It was an amazing session and B.B. took it really easy with me.

What about Herb Albert?

Herb was fantastic. He allowed me to produce and write songs for him. I learned many things from Herb. He has a very interesting background. Herb really surprised me with all the techniques that he could play. There are a million things I learned from him. It was an absolute education to be around him.

What about Public Enemy?

That’s one of my favorite bands in the world. They were friends of ours. I loved their music and their message. The production and sampling were amazing. They did some amazing things with sounds and samples. They are like the John Coltrane of rap to me.

There aren’t a lot of African American rock bands. Do you think the rock industry suffers from an inherent racism?

Yes, it’s because of the musicians and it’s because of the market. Not enough folks are aware of the history of music, unaware of the influence of the blues. It’s a simple yes. There are plenty of black musicians out there who play rock music. We’ve met them over the years. The marketing and signing and presentation of it are still segregated in a lot of ways. A band like the Bad Brains should be larger than they are. There are people still writing about the Bad Brains. It was shocking for me, going on the road in America in 1988 and meeting all these black kids who gave us tapes and CDs of their music. It’s been 20 years and we’ve been to France and Germany and there are still people who can’t accept the fact that black musicians play rock ‘n’ roll. It is a fact. Look it up. There are two sides to that, though. Some African Americans had a hard time identifying with rock ‘n’ roll. I had a conversation with B.B. King about that.

Living Colour’s big break was going on tour with the Rolling Stones and Guns ‘N Roses in 1990. Did you have interactions with Jagger and Axl Rose?

The crowds were amazing and the Stones were complete gentlemen. You’ve probably heard and most folks know about the interactions with Axl. Personally, it was very colorful, but the rest of the band was cool. Axl has come out and apologized about how he was at that time. Charlie Watts still calls me and I’ve played on a couple of tracks with him. I’ve played on Ronnie Wood’s solo album.

It’s been several years since a new Living Colour album came out. Are you working on a new effort?

Right as we speak, we are five or six songs into a new album. The stuff is coming out great. I think something is going to come out next year, hopefully by Christmas time. We have a very busy schedule at the moment. But I think the new album is going to sound awesome.

Vernon Reid was listed as No. 66 on Rolling Stone magazine’s top guitarist of all time. Should he have been higher?

Yes, I think he deserves higher. If you are asking me straight up, I would have to say yes. But 66 is a nice number. People recognize Vernon as a very unique player who came from a harmolodic school of playing. He has remarkable abilities. He does deserve higher, but it’s nice to recognized at any number.

Are there rock drummers you admire?

John Bonham. Buddy Miles was one of my favorites. Charlie Watts certainly. Terry Bozzio is also amazing.

ATMA ANUR INTERVIEW IN SOUNDQUEST MAGAZINE BY GYORGY DANEV

The latest in-depth interview with Atma Anur about his past and most recent projects and his move to Central Europe from California. You can read the English version of the interview here.