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MOTHER HEAD’S FAMILY REUNION 20th Anniversary Retrospective Interview with Richie Kotzen, Atma Anur & Richie Zito

Today, October 11th marks the 20th anniversary of Richie Kotzen’s major label debut as a solo artist. The album, ‘Mother Head’s Family Reunion’ helped break Richie out of the stereotype of being “A Shrapnel Shredder” and put the focus on his songwriting & vocal ability more so than his six-string wizardry. Now, twenty years later, ‘Mother Head’s Family Reunion’ is heralded by a majority of his fans as his best album so far.

Sadly, Geffen Records dropped the ball with its release which you will soon find out as I had the pleasure of speaking with Richie Kotzen, drummer Atma Anur and producer Richie Zito about the making of this album. Thankfully MCA in Japan knew a true talent when they saw it & gave this sonic work of art a new life overseas. The album has been out-of-print in the U.S. since its only pressing in 1994 & fetches big money on eBay and other online music outlets. Hopefully, one day it will be re-issued.

This is a candid, no-holds barred discussion about what lead up to the making of the album, the songwriting & demo process, the search for a label, record label politics, the recording of and many never-before-known aspects about ‘Mother Head’s Family Reunion’. Thank you to Richie Zito, Atma Anur and Richie Kotzen for their time and contributions to this project! This has been a dream of mine for many years to learn more about the making of ‘Mother Head’s Family Reunion’! The album has been my all-time favorite since it came out, twenty years ago today!!!

Mother Head’s Family Reunion – Album Cover (Courtesy of Geffen Records)

 

Interview with Producer Richie Zito

LRI: You produced Poison’s ‘Native Tongue’ album that Richie was very instrumental in as a songwriter and musician. It was known at that time that Richie Kotzen would still release solo material while in Poison. Did you foresee one day producing any of Richie’s solo material while he was in Poison?

RZ: Richie came into ‘Native Tongue’ with ‘Stand’. I knew then that Richie was the whole package. Extraordinary musician, writer and performer.

LRI: What lead to you becoming the producer for what would become Richie’s ‘Mother Head’s Family Reunion’ album?

At that time I made a deal to start ZITO/BMG Records. Richie was the first artist I tried to sign. He went to Geffen. They recommended he work with another Producer. When that didn’t work out, Richie convinced John Kalodner to hire me!

LRI: You recorded at Rumbo Recorders, did you decide on Rumbo due to your familiarity with the studio from recording the Native Tongue album there?

RZ: I always liked Rumbo! That was Studio B, where Guns N’ Roses made ‘Appetite for Destruction.’ It was a good Rock Room.

LRI: Richie Kotzen stated that it was Geffen who had decided not to allow John Moore to play on the ‘Mother Head’s Family Reunion’ sessions, was it your idea to bring John Pierce in?

RZ: Yes!

LRI: Had you worked with John Pierce before?

RZ: I knew and had worked with John before ‘Mother’s Head Family Reunion.’

LRI: John Pierce played bass on every song but ‘Socialite’. How was he to work with?

RZ: John is a talented musician and a fun guy!

LRI: Tommy Funderburk and Timothy B. Schmit provided background vocals on several songs on the album, what was it like to work with them?

RZ: Throughout my career as both a musician and producer, I’ve worked with an array of extraordinary talents! Timothy and Tommy exemplify that. The Eagles’ “I Can’t Tell You Why”!!!

LRI: Now we will go through the album, track-by-track, can you give readers some insight on the recording process, gear used and anything else of interest of each track?

RZ: We recorded ‘Mother’s Head Family Reunion’ at Rumbo Recording, Studio “B” where Guns N’ Roses recorded ‘Appetite For Destruction.’ We used a Trident Console. I don’t remember Model Designation…..TSM /Series 80? It was Brown!

Other than that, I don’t remember, except that the equipment wasn’t the thing. To me, it was about the music and performances! The tools are just the tools, it’s about who uses them.

The thing about ‘Mother Head’s Family Reunion’ was it was never meant to be a collection of 12 songs! It was meant to be a “Full Album”, a “complete thought” and a representation of Richie Kotzen, the artist, performing his music!! I think we were able to capture a “Live Sound” on this record with minimal overdubs. Not a lot of tricks. Nothing that would stand in the way of Richie’s talent!

Some of the Things that stand out to me:

‘Mother’s Head Family Reunion’, the title track captures the spirit of the album.

When I think of ‘Mother’s Head Family Reunion’, ‘A Love Divine’ immediately plays in my head!! Maybe my favorite track! Love the “no rhythm guitar” behind the solo. The solo still kicks my ass!!

‘Soul To Soul”, the ballad of the album. The vocal is believable as hell! His guitar through a Leslie is in such a great place in the song that it works great!

“Reach Out, I’ll Be There”, awesome solo. I’m a big fan of Richie singing along with his playing!

LRI: Do you have any funny in-studio moments from the recording of this album that you care to or can share?

RZ: Nah!!!

LRI: The album is considered amongst Richie Kotzen fans as his ‘Led Zeppelin:IV’ or ‘Kiss:Destroyer’ & now that 20 years has passed, what is your opinion of the album?

RZ: Wow! Led Zeppelin IV and Kiss’ Destroyer, good company! I’ve had the pleasure of working on ‘Mother’s Head Family Reunion’, Poison’s ‘Native Tongue’ & then a variety of other projects along the way…..Mr. Big, etc. Richie’s talent shines on all of them!

I guess ‘Mother’s Head Family Reunion’ sticks out in that it was Richie’s first major label album as musician, writer and singer. He was raring to go at that point in his career! Glad I was there.

LRI: Are you surprised that fans still hold that album in such high regard after 20 years?

RZ: I’m still a fan of Kotzen’s after 20 years! Not surprised at all!

LRI: You’ve written Richie and produced on a few more of his solo albums and did the Wilson Hawk album with him. Can you give readers some insight into the Wilson Hawk project?

RZ: One of the many musical influences Richie & I share is Soul Music! Richie grew up in Pennsylvania and was exposed to “Philly Soul”. The Spinners, The O’Jays, etc.

I grew up in New York and I was signed to Atlantic Records when I was 15. I grew up listening to a lot of R&B Records on Atlantic and Stax/Volt. Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin.

We always talked about making a RNB/Soul Influenced Record. That’s how Wilson Hawk happened!

LRI: Any chance of writing with or producing Richie again?

RZ: If and when it makes sense, I’d love to!

LRI: Let’s fast forward to today, what is Richie Zito up to and where can fans reach you at?

RZ: My background as a musician and producer was always rooted in artists that are excellent musicians, songwriters, singers, performers and capable of making a number of great albums that make up a body of work!

In addition to Richie, I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to work with artists like Elton John, Tina Turner, Heart, Cheap Trick, Roger Daltry/Pete Townsend, Beach Boys, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, etc.

I’m waiting for the next one of those to call me!

– Official Richie Zito Website

http://www.richiezito.com/

Interview with Drummer Atma Anur

LRI: What led up to you becoming involved in what was to become Richie’s ‘Mother Head’s Family Reunion’ album?

AA: Well Richie and I had been playing together for a few years already. Mike Varney introduced us in I think ’89. Over the years since then we have done some Shrapnel albums and records on other labels (Fever Dream, Electric Joy, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Time’s Gonna Tell, Wave of Emotion, Something to Say),some great live shows and lots of playing and jamming on various kinds of music (and 2 CDs with Greg Howe).

At some point after Richie had moved to LA in the early 90s, we spoke and he wanted to show me his new songs that he had been working on while still in Poison. We got together and worked quite a bit on that new material, I think he was planning a move from Poison if I remember correctly.

LRI: John Pierce played bass on every song but ‘Socialite’. How was he to work with?

AA: Oh John was wonderful, a real pro and a very nice guy. He took everything very seriously and has a killer feel. I think he did a great job. I remember that he had the transcription book of Bass lines played by James Jamerson and used that on “I’ll be There”. He also rolled up to the sessions with a huge trap case on wheels with about 15 or 20 amazing basses in it.

I would also have been happy if John Moore had done the tracks, we spent quite a bit of time working on our grooves for those songs. The live shows with Moore were killer, great feel, great voice and the rock star look.

LRI: Tommy Funderburk and Timothy B. Schmit provided background vocals on several songs on the album, what was it like to work with them?

AA: I was not around much when the backing vocals were recorded but it all came together perfectly. I think Richie could also have done the backgrounds himself in any case, but having the other timbres was a very musical touch.

LRI: Now we will go through the album, track-by-track, can you give readers some insight on the recording process, gear used and anything else of interest of each track?

AA: I guess I can speak best about my perspectives as the drummer and what thoughts went into the parts. I don’t remember much about the recording process itself, I think we did very few takes for the drum tracks of these songs. This is because we had rehearsed the songs enough to know what we wanted beforehand.

I used my green DW kit (what would now be called the Collector’s Series) for these recordings with my 13 DW snare on almost everything. I think we used a couple of other snare drums for a few of the songs. The drums were mostly wide open except for the kick which had a pillow and the front head on (that is how I like to record and play my kick drums)as I remember.

A 22 bass drum with a double pedal, 10 and 12 rack toms and 14 and 16 floor toms on legs. Sabian cymbals and a drum set mounted tambourine. I think I used more than one ride cymbal on this CD, and my usual 14, 16, 18 crashes, 10/12 splashes, and 13 and 10 hi-hats (at that time).

For me Richie and I have great chemistry, this is just one of those things that come naturally in life, like meeting a good friend or a life partner. This is why we sound the way we sound together. I remember that we had a connection from the first notes we played together back at Prairie Sun Studios at our very first meeting. Another important factor is that we are the type of musician that takes his parts in any song quite seriously, working things out (to a larger extent) before we finalize the song, while still allowing the moment to influence how we manifest those parts (that is musical honesty for me).

I have a particular aesthetic when it comes to how I like the “time” to feel in a commercially oriented piece of music. For example John Bonham and Charlie Watts play a bit behind the beat… ala The Blues. And Tony Williams and Tony Thompson played a bit ahead of the beat. I used those guys as examples of this aesthetic because I love their playing (even though they each play very differently.

I see this effect as the difference between “Driving” the groove and “Steering” the groove. I am a “steering” kind of drummer.

Socialite-

AA: Here we have my version of a James Brown type of 16th note swinging funky groove on the verse. Then, I play a “re-grouped” 16thnote groove that follows the rhythm of the gtr/vocal line exactly, on the chorus. The chorus groove is possibly a bit unorthodox but fits the section quite nicely… and is very cool.

The chorus really moves, and this was my whole point. The bridge section is a Sly Stone vibe in my mind… worked out well.

Mother Head’s Family Reunion-

AA: This song has a great verse groove that Richie showed me on drums… very retro and still unique. I modified the groove to be played left hand lead on the hi-hat while keeping the tom hits on beat 1 and 3. The rest is just good old fashioned rock and roll. The video was great fun to make and this song always went over very well live.

Richie always had great ideas for drum patterns on his songs but always left huge space for me to create as I felt. Most great writers that I have worked with have an idea about how drums fit to what they write before they bring songs into the band. The key with most guitarists that I have worked with is that they use their “ears” more than their “brain” to make decisions on parts… that’s just good music in my opinion.

Where Did Our Love Go-

AA: This is another very natural 70’s vibe ballad with a straight forward funky drum approach. The bass and kick drum are very locked with the vocal accents. You may also notice that the 8th note hi-hat part is ever so slightly swung… keeps things moving nicely.

Natural Thing-

AA: This has a kind of signature “Atma” drum fill intro… melodic use of chops as I see it. The verse groove is again my swung interpretation of a 16th note groove, using the Jazz ride pattern on the hi-hat along with the right grace notes on the snare. I try to keep the accents within these patterns seeming to lean toward straight 8th notes (even though many more notes are actually being played).

A Love Divine-

AA: This is really a huge, old school R&B rock track. I use the floor tom ride pattern in the way I learned from playing with Journey for that very short time in the 80s.

I am again focusing on the way the snare drum grace notes keep the seemingly 8th note ride pattern moving forward from behind the beat. The chorus is plain old solid rock and roll… ala the 70s.

Soul To Soul-

AA: This one is really a Motown track to me. That cross stick intro tells the tale. You may also notice the slightly open hi-hats on the second verse and so on… that is true Motown R&B drumming right there.

I absolutely love this track… what a feeling it brings!

Reach Out I’ll Be There [cover of The Four Tops classic]-

AA: Here we have a real favorite of mine. I played the mounted tambourine part with the right hand while keeping the rest of the hi-hat and snare parts going with my left. I was going for the vibe the Motown guys got on those funky tracks from that Era. The rhythm arrangement on the chorus was my idea… to keep it in a harder rock vibe.

You may also notice that the hi-hat on the verse is played much harder and more ahead than the other sections of the song. This makes the sections pop out from one another.

John played the exact bass part from the transcription in the Jamerson bass lines book… wonderful.

Check the “breath” in the vibe of the solo section drum part. The second half of the solo section has the lick I borrowed from Steve Gadd. 32nd note triplets played RLL between the hi-hat and the snare as a groove, using the hi-hat as an up-beat accent… very funky and quite cool.

Testify-

AA: I thought of this track as an Arena Rock kind of vibe, with a dance groove for the chorus. The open hi-hat is played harder and more ahead in the chorus, while keeping the kick part quite swung.

This track really features my idea of putting The Funk in the Rock.

Used-

AA: This is a psychedelic song in a kind of Beatles/Hendrix style. I thought about how to be funky and work the 16ths while staying true to what I heard as a 60’s period groove. I wanted the track to feel mysterious but still almost danceable. The verse features my playing the ride as opposed to the hi-hat and using the closed hi-hat to play the grace notes with my left hand (notes that might usually be played on the snare drum).

The end solo section for me was a real return to our Shrapnel days, that is my bass line idea of “re-grouping” the rhythm of the 8th notes into 7/7/2 (played as 1,3,5/1,3,5/1). This end solo features a long improvised groovy section, with an intricate drum and bass groove and cool chops.

Richie played melodically while still showing that he has great facility on his instrument. This reminds me of those killer Jeff Beck instrumental albums of the 70s and 80s.

A Woman and A Man-

AA: The verse is and old school R&B kind of ballad where I focused on the 16th notes in the hi-hat part, and the grace notes in the snare… while keeping the back beat steady and strong. I was thinking Al Green for this song.

Livin’ Easy-

AA: This song has a Bowie-esque verse groove and moves into a 70s style Disco/Rock groove for the chorus.

There is quite an unusual motion between the vocal melody and the chords, I think it’s really wonderful. Once again the chorus really moves.

The solo section has a similar groove while riding the floor tom in a kind of Hendrix-ish fashion… Love me some Mitch Mitchell!

Cover Me-

AA: This one has my David Garibaldi influenced way of following the pre-verse guitar riff, into a Fusion/Rock vocal verse as far as drum parts are concerned. This is once again very moving.

The chorus on this track actually moves a bit less than the verse and retains a more traditional rock groove… this was the point and seemed to support the vocal melody and the emotion of the line best.

Then of course we have our quarter note becomes dotted quarter note (approximately), 6/8 “Blues” guitar solo section. Once again, a tribute to our Shrapnel “Guitar Master” days. This is really what Richie and I sound like just having solo-istic fun.

Wailing Wall [Japanese Bonus Track]-

AA: Straight Funk/Rock… Hendrix, Mother’s Finest, etc… with a touch of Free and Deep Purple thrown in.

LRI: What memories do you have of making the video for the title track?

AA: That was a crazy day, we had a bunch of family members there as well. It was super fun.
They tried to get the music in the room loud enough for me to actually play drums to… that was not so simple. Anyway that went fine since we had played the song so many times, and in those days I had just about every single note I played on the whole record embedded into my memory… lol

Doing the background vocal parts and dancing around was also a great time, we wanted to get a kind of 70s Rock/R&B band vibe back then.

LRI: You toured the US in support of the album. How long did you tour?

AA: I don’t remember how long we supported that record. I know we had a cool tour, a few bands and did many shows. John Moore and I became really good friends on that tour… we hung out just about all the time.

LRI: I know of bills that you shared with Jackyl, Bruce Dickinson and Type O Negative. Were there any other bands you shared the stage with during the touring cycle for the album? Any crazy road stories involving those bands that you’d care to share?

AA: I don’t remember any of the other bands but there could have been more. I was really thinking about our band and how to make the show better and better. I thought Richie was doing an amazing job fronting the band and I wanted John and I to continue to grow as an exciting rhythm section. We both took the whole thing very seriously.

We had fun with Jackyl for sure… lots of hanging after the shows and so on. There are most likely many stories but I don’t remember… hilarious.

Let’s say that life on the road is a trip… for all musicians.

LRI: The album is considered amongst Richie Kotzen fans as his ‘Led Zeppelin:IV’ or ‘Kiss:Destroyer’ & now that 20 years have passed, what is your opinion of the album?

AA: I love that record. I think we did something unusual and fresh… I am not sure that the label understood or expected what we did then.

LRI: Are you surprised that fans still hold that album in such high regard after 20 years?

AA: Not at all… it’s simply good music played very well… what’s not to enjoy about that?

LRI: In all, you have drummed on at least six other Richie Kotzen studio albums, do you have a personal favorite?

AA: I really love all the work I’ve done with Richie Kotzen, I think he is a unique talent and a wonderful musician. I especially like “Mother Head’s” and “Something to Say”. I remember at the time we were preparing to do “Something to Say”, Richie had two possible directions for song writing. One was another funky kind of record (like “Wave of Emotion”) and the other was the “Something to Say” vibe… a kind of retro rock vibe.

I am very glad he chose the retro vibe that we did.

LRI: Are you still in contact with Richie, Richie Zito, John Pierce or John Moore?

AA: I am in touch with Richie Kotzen, I get to see him when he comes to Europe, we have been friends for a really long time. We know each other’s family and so on. I consider him to be a close friend.

I have not seen or heard much about Moore over the years although I would love to be back in touch. We were quite close in those days.

I did see Richie Zito a bit in LA while I lived there, but not after that. Unfortunately John Pierce and I did not stay in touch. I am not in touch with the others… although I’d love to see them.

LRI: Let’s fast forward to today, what is Atma Anur up to and where can fans reach you at?

AA: I am currently living in Poland, in the beautiful city of Krakow. You can look me up on YouTube, Sound Cloud, Instagram and Twitter if you like as well. Apart from these, there is, of course, a Facebook Atma Anur fanpage and my blog (Phosphorous Heads).
I am teaching at schools in many countries and also privately on line. I have a few projects where I am playing some co-written compositions in the fusion vein, and also a couple of projects where I am playing drums and doing the lead vocals as well… something new for me.

I have returned to Pearl Drums after over 20 years, and have a new cooperation deal with a new Turkish Cymbal company, T-Cymbals, as of 2014, after 25 years with another cymbal company. I am recording, teaching and touring with a variety of artists, and have my own drum recording facility. I keep my eyes and ears open for new musical adventures just as I have throughout my whole career, and I continue to support young and talented musicians from around the world.

– Official Atma Anur Website

http://www.atmaanur.com/

Richie Kotzen 1994

(Photo Courtesy of Richie Kotzen)

Interview with Richie Kotzen

LRI: In July 1993, you played your last show with Poison on their ‘Native Tongue’ tour before parting ways with the band. Had you planned on doing a solo while you were in Poison?

RK: I was writing while I was in the band. Some of the songs, I had the back room of the bus, it was my bedroom. I remember having a guitar back there and doing a quite a bit of writing. I don’t know exactly what songs I wrote back there but there are definitely a handful of songs that ended up on the record that were written while I was on tour.

When I joined Poison, the plan was for me to do an album cycle and during the down time I would do a solo album. I was definitely planning on doing a solo record. I was originally planning on re-signing with Interscope Records but they had went in a complete different direction with the rap thing & were focused on that so I went with Geffen for the ‘Mother Head’s Family Reunion’ record.

LRI: After your departure from Poison, what labels were interested in signing you?

RK: It was an interesting time. When I left the band, I had about five or six songs I needed to record. The first thing I did, I didn’t have a place to live at the time so all my stuff was in storage in L.A. so I moved in with my girlfriend [Deanna Eve]. We flew to Philadelphia just to spend time with my family. I worked on some more songs when we were back there. Then, I think that is when I recorded some demos for these songs. I had sent the demos to Atma Anur who was living in San Francisco at the time. Then I flew back to California but I went up to San Francisco. We booked the studio time at a place called “Coast.”

That’s where I recorded the demos that got me my record deal. I didn’t really know who was going to put the record out. I had a phone conversation with a friend of mine in Boston who was a music business attorney. He put me on a conference call with a manager named Larry Mazer. Larry was a Philadelphia based manager. I knew his name from living back there. He was really in to what I did musically. He was planning on coming to L.A. the following week.

I went to a meeting with him and I think it might have been a Monday or Tuesday. By the end of that week we sat down in the Geffen offices with John Kalodner’s and he had listened to the demos. By the following week, we had a deal. It was the craziest thing, ever! We didn’t even go to any other labels, it happened so fast. At that moment, there was a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of excitement.

It was funny, I remember, the day I went to meet with Larry before we even met. There was a homeless guy on the side of the road and I had stopped & the guy was there. He was holding a sign and I don’t remember the exact wording but it was something to the effect of “If you do something good for someone, it’ll come back tenfold!” But, the way it was written just kind of struck me so I looked to see if I had any cash & all I had was a hundred dollar bill. I was like “Alright, I’ve done worse with money than giving it to someone who really needs it.” So, I handed him a hundred dollars and I drove away.

It’s weird because literally a week later after doing that, I had a deal from a major label that was a great deal. It was just interesting, I always think about that moment. Not that I’m superstitious but it was definitely one of those weird kind of things, the way the sign struck me, doing that in that moment not knowing what my future was going to bring. Then, seven days later I had a full career re-set so-to-speak with the solo deal on a major label. That was the initial chain of events that happened before we actually went in and started recording the record.

LRI: Wow! That is interesting how stuff works out like that sometimes!

RK: Yeah, true.

LRI: In 2009, on Eddie Trunk’s radio show you told the story about John Kalodner’s thoughts on the whole situation that went down in Poison, could you tell LRI’s readers the story? I thought it was pretty humorous.

RK: Yeah! This will tie back into more of the whole drama as to why I left the band but you know, I’ll go to a different place with this. The interesting thing was how exciting and amazing it was getting signed with Geffen. There was comments made like “this is a boxed set career”, “this is a twenty year investment” and “Richie’s a real artist.” There was all this kind of talk that you want to hear when you are doing a deal.

Somehow within the course of a year it went from that to being in the studio with my producer and no one from the label came down, not once, to see what we were doing. We could have been doing anything in there. I thought that was weird but then I thought “I kind of like that they are giving me all this creative freedom so I shouldn’t complain!”

The reality was by the time we delivered the record my A&R guy was leaving. He was the guy that was behind Aerosmith and their contract ended. So, when they left Geffen and went to Sony, they took him with him. Suddenly, I had no one at the label that really was focused on me or was aware of me. Unfortunately, they straight up told me “well, you know, we are just going to release this. We are going to print 15,000 copies and that is going to be it & we are going to let you out of your contract!” I was like “Wow!” In one year, we are talking twenty year boxed-set career to getting dropped and not even trying to promote the record.

I remember being in a meeting with my publisher and there was a song on that record called ‘A Woman & A Man.’ After that song came on he stopped the tape & said “This is a hit! This could be a huge song! What is your plan? I hope Geffen doesn’t fuck this up!” (Laughs) Exact words he said! We knew by then that they [Geffen] were in fact fucking it up! We were trying everything we could to save it but it just fell apart.

Now, what happened was when the record was delivered internationally, Japan got it. I think, back then, it was MCA who released the Geffen records. There team in Japan loved the record so they actually worked the record. That is what opened up the whole Japan thing for me that carried me through the 90′s. It was really devastating. There was a moment where RCA was going to pick up the record but I literally ruined that situation. Which is a whole other story. Unfortunately the record came out, appeared in Tower Records and when the initial 15,000 copies sold they never printed anymore & that was the end of it!

LRI: (Laughs) Well, that answers my next question. I was going to ask, John Kalodner:John Kalodner is known to be a taskmaster with his artists. How involved was John Kalodner:John Kalodner in the making on the album?

RK: That’s the thing that is so weird about it. He must have known soon after signing me what was going to happen. Normally, he was very involved but he didn’t come down to the studio once. To show you how involved he was in other projects. When I did the initial demos, I was a big fan of what The Black Crowes were doing & I wanted that kind of gospelly background vocal thing. My wife at the time, Deanna, is a singer so she sang on all the demos with me, all the background vocals. Those were the demos that got me signed. The label signed me based on hearing those recordings.

I had a meeting with a very famous record producer that came to my house. I was thinking about using him. He listened to my demos, he said to me “You know, there is very much an R&B, almost Gospel element to what you are doing. Are you sure you want that?” I’m like “Wow! Are you sure you want to produce me? What kind of question is that? Obviously, that is what I hear, that’s what I do! Yeah, I want that, that is why I recorded it!” He said “I hear a woman’s voice. Who is singing?” I said “That is my wife doing backgrounds.”

So, the next meeting I had with Geffen, John says to me “I didn’t know your wife sang on your demos with you.” I’m like “Yeah, she sang the gang vocals, the background vocals with me because I need other voices on there other than mine!” He said “Just so you know, you are not going to have any women recording on your record!” I was like “What?” He was like “Yeah, you’re not having your wife or any other women record on your record. If you want background singers, we will hire them but they will be men!”

I thought that was the most bizarre thing, it didn’t make any sense to me. I was listening to The Black Crowes thinking “Well, why are they allowed to do it? I don’t understand why you are putting this weird rule on me!” It was so bizarre! So we ending up hiring, actually, Timothy B. Schmit from The Eagles ended up singing a lot of the background vocals on that record. That was the only involvement he had in the making of that record. It was such a bizarre weird statement. I guess, my manager said that he had a couple female artists he worked with and had a lot of problems. So, he was just being a hard-ass about it. It was so counterproductive as it relates to being creative. It just goes to show, in a way, Thank God the music business changed because you had so many people making so many ridiculous choices based on their ego and not based on the art of making a great record. So, I guess everything happens for a reason but that was a very bizarre moment for me.

LRI: Richie Zito, who had produced Poison’s ‘Native Tongue’ album was brought on board to produce this album. Was he your only choice or did you look at other producers?

RK: I can talk more about. The reality was, I was insisting on producing the record myself because that was my thing. I didn’t believe I needed a record producer involved because I knew what I wanted to do musically. Again, the label was insisting I have a producer because no artist should produce themselves. I’m thinking in my head “I can name like 15 artists that are self-produced that have huge records. I’m like, ok, whatever, here we go again!”

So, because the situation went south with the first guy we were talking about using, I immediately said “How about Richie Zito?” At least I knew they had a track record they would endorse plus I had already worked with him on the Poison record. We had become friends and I knew he understood musically what I was about so I wasn’t worried that he was going to pull me off in to some strange direction so that is why I picked Richie Zito.

LRI: Atma Anur played drums on the album and did the tour. You two had previously worked on your ‘Fever Dream’ & ‘Electric Joy’ albums. Was he your first choice or did you audition other drummers?

RK: No, I didn’t audition anyone. When we did the ‘Fever Dream’ record we really hit it off well. I really like Atma and really respect him as a musician & as a person. Because we played so well together back then I never thought about auditioning drummers. I figured all along he was the guy I was going to make the record with. So, I never had an audition process.

LRI: John Moore would join the band and tour as the bassist. How did you meet John?

We did have a hard time finding a Bass player. One day or one night rather, we were out. It was Atma, me and my friend Stevie Salas. I had just two years earlier sang a lead vocal on a cover song [Dorothy Moore’s ‘I Don’t Want To Be With Nobody But You’] that came out on Stevie’s record called ‘The Electric Pow Wow’ which featured a bunch of different musicians. This cool lookin’ guy comes up with long hair and dressed kind of like I dressed so I thought he was cool. He started talking to Stevie because he recognized him. He was like “Man, I love that song that is on your record. Who is that? Is that Terence Trent D’Arby?” Well, I knew Terence wasn’t on the record and I figured I had been ripping off Terence Trent D’Arby the whole time I was singing back then. I figured he must be talking about me. Stevie’s like “No, that’s Richie Kotzen.” I’m standing right there. John said “The guitar player?” Stevie said “Yeah, that is him. He sings like that.”

John started talking to me, telling me more, he was like “Oh my God, I love the way you sing. I am a singer too but actually, I’m really a bass player but I am really focusing more on singing.” I said “That is amazing because we are looking for a bass player for our band.” So, we started playing with John & he became the bass player!

Stevie Salas with Richie Kotzen – I Don’t Want To Be With Nobody But You

LRI: John Pierce played bass on the album but was not in the band featured in the album artwork and subsequent tour. How did he become involved?

RK: The saddest thing, for me, about making that record is the three of us, John, Atma and I had a great hang & played really well together. We were a really good trio. For some reason when we got in the studio, I think this was common back then but producers and labels used to like to sign bands & then not let certain members play on the record. It was such a bizarre thing the way rock records were made back then. So, immediately it was like they were looking for a weak link which he wasn’t a weak link. John was a great player back then and was able to play everything I threw at him back then. Somehow they were able to get in his head to the point where they convinced everyone involved that we needed a different bass player to play on the record.

It was like “This is ridiculous! There is no reason, first of all, if you don’t want John to play on the record, that’s not cool & there is no reason for that! If you are insisting on that then give me the bass because I wrote the fucking bass lines, I’ll play them, I know how they are supposed to be played!” It was the beginning of this weird, like, no worries, blah blah blah. Jesus Christ, there were so many weird little rules back then! That was something that always bothered me because, you know, I wished he would have played on the record. I couldn’t really control that element because they were the one writing the checks back then.

It always kind of bothered me because we had that great live vibe. Even though that record is a cool record, it is not nearly as good as it could have been. As a matter of fact, the demos, when we were trying to do vocals, we actually ended up flying in the lead vocals from MHFR in to the session with a 1/2″ tape machine. That was really tricky to fly in stuff like that back then, now it is easy with Pro-Tools! When you listen to that song, some of the key lines in the verse were the performances done on the demo in San Francisco. Then I went back in L.A. when we recorded the record, I think I replaced some of the lines. It is a hybrid track.

The demos had a certain kind of magic to them. We went up to San Francisco, sat there for three or four days & knocked off like six songs. Once we got to L.A. to make the record suddenly we can’t have women singing on the record, you can’t use your bass player & you have to work with a producer and all these elements, you know, I think were just wrong choices that were put in to play. Even though it is a record that a lot of people like, the record is not as good as it should have been or could have been.

LRI: You recorded at Rumbo Recorders, did you decide on Rumbo due to your familiarity with the studio from recording the Native Tongue album there?

RK: Rumbo was a spot where a lot of rock records were made back then. It was a great studio back then. We would always do drums at A&M, I don’t remember back then if we did the drums at A&M or if we did everything at Rumbo. I just don’t remember. The producer usually deals with what studio we were going to record at. Richie [Zito] wanted to work at Rumbo & I had already worked there before so it wasn’t an issue for me. I would have worked pretty much anywhere he suggested.

LRI: Tommy Funderburk and Timothy B. Schmit provided background vocals on several songs on the album, you already answered this indirectly but whose idea was it to bring them in & what was it like to work with them?

RK: (Laughs) I remember, it was kind of embarrassing but I didn’t realize who was singing. I knew Tommy was a guy who was doing a lot of sessions in L.A. & his voice is on a lot of big records either as a ghost singer or as a background singer. I didn’t realize Timothy was Timothy when he was in the session, you know? (Laughs)

When they were figuring out parts I was just kind of talking to him like he was a normal, not that I have to talk to someone different, this is going to come across wrong but I was kind of like more aggressive than I would have been had I known who he was. You know what I am trying to say?

LRI: Yeah! (Laughs)

RK: Like “No, no, no, stop, stop, stop! That is not the right part! Go back!” All that kind of shit! If I would have realized who he was I would have just let him sing the lines alone! I wouldn’t have given it anymore attention. When the session was over they were like “Do you realize who that was that just sang on your record?” I was like “Oh my God! Why am I so ignorant?” You know, to be honest with you, I was already in a fucked up mindset because of all these rules they put on me that I didn’t agree with so my mood during a lot of the record wasn’t the healthiest.

LRI: How long did it take to record, mix and master the album?

RK: From start to finish?

LRI: Yes!

RK: I think maybe a couple of months from start to finish. What happened was, when I started doing lead vocals, I was so used to working on an independent label, like with Shrapnel Records for example. Back then, you didn’t have much time so you had to do things really quick because we didn’t have a lot of money. We would do, in one day, we’d have four guitar solos done, rhythm guitars done on three songs. It was like lightning speed. So, when we started lead vocals, I had that mentality.

I remember, in one day, I did five lead vocals. On the fifth one, I think it ‘Socialite’, I started losing my voice. Richie [Zito, producer] was like “We got to stop dude! I’m fucking tired! It’s like three in the morning and you are still trying to sing. We’ve got enough done. You have a whole week to do this!”

I lost my voice and it never came back. Well, it came back but when it came back, there was something wrong. Every time I would go to sing, my voice would freak out and do this really weird thing that I wasn’t telling it to do. I couldn’t understand what the hell was going on. I really struggled through the vocal performances from then on. I got through it but it was really a laboring process.

Finally, I’m thinking “Alright, this is going to get better.” We had a tour lined up, I went to the doctor, I think it was after the tour so I’m still struggling on that tour to sing. It was a nightmare! I went to the doctor afterwards and I had a node on my left vocal cord. I did surgery. He fixed it and my voice came back. I recorded another record in 1995 and then, after I recorded that record, I had the same problem. I was like “What the hell?” So, I went back to the doctor, he said “Yup, it’s there again!” He said “You are doing something wrong.” So, I did another surgery. I had two surgeries on my throat for a node that was appearing in the same place.

Then, I figured “This is not cool!” so I went back to Ron Anderson who was my original vocal coach. I told him what happened and he said “Well, let me listen to your recordings.” He told me exactly what I was doing. He said “You are singing with rasp, which is fine but the way you are achieving it is an unnatural way and you are going to ruin your voice.” He deconstructed the entire architecture of how I was singing and put it back together. Knock on wood, that was a long time ago, almost twenty years ago, almost, since I had that surgery. After I went back to Ron Anderson, he fixed everything for me. He taught me how to sing correctly, still get the same sound but do it without hurting myself.

LRI: Now we will go through the album, track-by-track, can you give readers some insight on the songwriting process, recording, gear used and anything else of interest of each track?

Socialite-

RK: Kind of a crazy song. The chorus was reassembled, when we cut the tune, I remember there was some comments from Richie [Zito] about it not being all it could be. So, I changed it and his advice was right. We made it much better than the original demo. I remember there was a sound to the demo that we had a hard time capturing. There was a certain vocal sound. I remember when I recorded the demo, I sang through a 57 with a wind screen & one of those DDX Compressors. It had this really percussive, over-compressed sound that sounded killer. It was really interesting. We had a hard time capturing the sound and we never really did, unfortunately but we improve the song.

We improved the actual composition but I never felt like we achieved the vibe it had of the demo. Sometimes when you do stuff quickly and it is Lo-Fi, you are not thinking. There is a realness that you capture. Then when you are trying to re-produce that in the studio and you’ve got a $10,000 U-47 microphone, amazing pre-amps and that is great. Sometimes to get the other sound, a lot of time engineers are reluctant to do those things. I never got the sound I wanted on the song but we actually made the song better. I think that is the most important thing is getting the composition right.

Lyrically, it is a self-explanatory song. I know when I first came to L.A., especially coming from Pennsylvania. It was a major culture shock. The first thing I noticed and it was never about my personal friends but there was an element of people just trying to put themselves over in a insecure way. It was like “I won’t be friends with you because you can’t help me but I’ll be friends with you because you can further me!” There was a lot of that and I always was just disgusted by that mentality. It lacked realness. So, when I wrote that song that was the….those were the thoughts in my mind. I was just writing about the observations when I first moved from Philadelphia to Los Angeles.

Mother Head’s Family Reunion-

RK: (Laughs) That is kind of an interesting song. The title, I guess it just sounds like nonsense. The reality is, before my Mother met my Dad, she dated a musician and they had a band. The band was called The Mother Head’s Family Reunion. It was this hippie band and I remember her telling me about it. I just loved that name. It reminded me of Sly & The Family Stone. Which I was really into Sly back then. I had that riff and I just thought, well, I’m not going to call my band this but maybe I can write a song around this. That’s what I did and I think it came out well. It’s a cool track and that was the song that got me signed to Geffen. That was the first thing they heard when the listened to my demo. I think, stylistically, it sent a message of who my influences were and what it was that I was trying to do.

Where Did Our Love Go-

RK: That song started from a guitar riff. It is a love song but it is kind of a reversal. I say “I don’t want to ever ask the question, where did our love go?” In another words, I want this feeling to last and continue on. Being that I was very much in love at that time, a lot of these songs on that record are tied to that relationship and this is one of them.

Natural Thing-

RK: Actually, this is one of those songs that I actually forgot I wrote. We’ve had this conversation before or maybe another journalist where they asked “what is it like to have done so many records?” I said “Actually, I have songs I’ve forgot about!” That is one of them but as I talk about it, it is more of an up-tempo song. Again, you know, writing from the perspective of being in love and having a strong relationship. I think that song has a cool breakdown where I play Clavinet. I was allowed to play keyboards on the record but they wouldn’t allow me to play bass, but anyways! (Laughs)

That song was not on the original demo, that was written after I got my deal. As far as the timeline, that song is a newer song. Considering what I initially recorded, there were initially six songs on the demo and that wasn’t one of them.

A Love Divine-

RK: ‘A Love Divine’, I’m pretty sure was on the original demo. I’m pretty sure it was. I don’t play a lot of this material live anymore but this song often creeps its way into the set. I think, stylistically, there is something in that song that still consistent with the way I write, now. It is a fun song for me to play live. It is also a song that when we play it live, we tend to stretch out the solo section. It has evolved, the treatment of the song has changed over the years from playing it live so much. I’m pretty sure that was one of the original demo songs. I may have even written it on the tour bus back in the day.

Soul To Soul-

RK: That is one of my favorite songs actually and one that was off my radar, I actually forgot about it until you just mentioned it. Another riff based song. It was one of those songs that kind of just wrote itself, it was really easy to write. Sometimes when you are writing you have a melody idea or you have a guitar riff or a lyrical concept. Then other times you just pick up the instrument & start playing and the song just happens. That song was written that way.

Reach Out I’ll Be There [cover of The Four Tops classic]-

RK: That was a song that I wanted to cover. I wasn’t necessarily planning on recording it at any time but when we used to jam with Atma, John and I, we used to play that. I was a big fan of The Four Tops and a lot of those R&B acts. I heard a version of that that would have translated in a rock way that I thought would be cool! We ended up playing that live and jamming that out at the rehearsal room. I think we ended up putting it on the record because it had some sensibility that reflected where I was getting my influence from. A lot of people, especially back then, people like to pigeonhole me as to who I sound like or who I listen to but nobody really knows unless they are inside your head. Taking a song like that and reinterpreting it, it is something that is fun for me because that music is in my roots but at the same time it gives the listener some insight as to where is this guy coming from or who did he listen to growing up? I thought it was a good choice for us to include on our record.

LRI: Definitely! My Senior Year in High School, I was at home listening to the album and my Mom was like “Who the hell is that singing?”

RK: (Laughs)

LRI: I said it is Richie Kotzen, he is a singer and guitar player I really digg! Back then I was big into Motley, Poison, Pantera, Megadeth, etc. It took her for a loop. I told her she needed to listen to the whole album because I knew she would digg it! I told her it sounds like something that may have come out during her younger years. She was into old R&B, the Oldies, Creedence and stuff like that. She said “I just can’t believe somebody you like can sing like that!” One day, I got her to listen to it and she dugg it and asked for a copy of it. She became a fan of that record!

RK: Oh cool! So, I’m reaching multiple generations. That is awesome!

Testify-

RK: That song, I remember recording on my little eight track. I recorded that demo in L.A. That was definitely written and recorded around the same time of ‘Socialite.’ I had rented this little house in the valley, actually Doug Aldrich ended up buying the house and I think he still lives there to this day. In the back yard there was a pool back there and there was a little pool house. I had that pool house in a very crude way. (Laughs) Atma & I used to live back there. We were in there all the time, recording, playing and jamming. ‘Testify’ was one of the songs I had written when I moved in to that house. I think that song really ties in well with the whole direction of that record. When you put it up against the title track, ‘Mother Head’s Family Reunion’, it ties in to that whole Sly & The Family Stone thing. I was really obsessed with that kind of music back then. So, that’s another, I think the writing style of that song is clearly from the influence of listening to Sly.

Used-

RK: That is another one I forgot about but I’ve played that in recent times. Not with my present lineup but with the previous lineup. That was also written in that pool house studio that I just mentioned. The arrangement is interesting to that song because it had the verse, chorus, verse, chorus but then it goes in to a whole other thing at the end. It was something I did a lot more in my writing back then than I do now. If you listen to that song or you listen to ‘Soul To Soul’, they have these extra sections that come in the end. Which is kind of cool. ‘Used’ was one that is fun to play live because I like the songs where the verses are more mellow and let me open up as a singer then suddenly there is a big chorus that appears. So, that is a fun song play and a fun writing formula to use.

LRI: Actually this next song is my favorite song on the record and I am aware of what it is about but I have to ask, how tight were your pants when you hit those notes at the beginning?

A Woman & A Man-

RK: (Laughs) I think I hit a G. I can still hit that note. The only thing is I go through phases of smoking and when I’m in my cigarette phase then I lose some of my top range but when I am healthy….actually, there is a new song coming out called ‘Shake It Off’ that is on my new solo record & I think I hit the highest note I have ever recorded in that chorus. I’m trying to think, where is my guitar? (grabs guitar that is nearby and picks a few notes) Yeah, it is still a G, I hit another high G!

That falsetto is something I’ve always really liked the sound of. Probably from listening to R&B singers all these years. It is something that has been easy for me to use and incorporate. One of the things in my style, I like the sound when singers move in-and-out of falsetto, from falsetto to real voice. There is a break point there that if you can learn to sing over that and have it be smooth, it is a cool sound. It is another way of expressing. I combine that a lot, especially now. I didn’t do it as much back then but as years went on I’ve really focused on that. I do that a lot on my recordings where I move from my normal voice in to falsetto. Actually, the lead track for my next solo record, ‘Cannibals’, there is a lot of that going on where it is like, regular voice in to the falsetto and back down.

That song you are talking about. I wrote that in Pennsylvania in my old bedroom that I grew up in. I remember sitting and there is a spot in that room where I’d always sit by the window and play. I wrote that song there. That song wrote itself again, much like a previous song I spoke about. I didn’t know if it was done. I wasn’t sure if it was done because in my mind, the chorus, when I wrote it, I was like “Is this really a chorus?”, I didn’t know but it wrote itself so easy.

When I played it for Richie [Zito]. He loved it & thought it was great! I talked about the story early when I went back to my publisher and played that song then stopped everything after that song played & said “This is a hit! This could be a huge song! What is your plan? I hope Geffen doesn’t fuck this up!” The thing that is very interesting and it happens all the time & I don’t quite understand it. You have these songs, like that song on that album that could cross over in to other genres. Which is kind of what an artist needs to break in to another level. You need those cross over songs. Record companies are always focused on, at least in my experience, they focus on “You are a rock act so we need to lead with a rock track!” It’s like “Yeah, ok, but at some point real soon, you should, since you have limited budget to spend, you should go for the obvious cross over because if you take that gamble and it pops then you’re in a whole other world. Everything you release now the gates are open and the eyes are on you & you have a doorway to go through in to that new format.”

It is frustrating as hell to have a song like that or other songs I’ve put out where there were labels involved they just get ignored. I’m like “This is the song that everyone is going to talk about!” It is just bizarre! It gets really mindboggling frustrating to be writer and have your music in someone’s hands and them picking the song, is like that is kind of a B-Level song as far as they are concerned. Not that it is bad but it is not something I would want to tell the world “Hey, look at me!” and play that song.

There is so many elements that come in to play when trying to break a record. I just kind of give up thinking about it. The reality is, is my focus is making music that I connect with. If I finish a record & I listen back & I like it and I feel it represents my creative vision then it is done and it successful. Anything else that happens after that is just a bonus. To look at the situation any other way as an artist, you will spiral in to complete madness!

Livin’ Easy-

RK: Trying to remember where I was when I wrote that. I don’t know. For some reason, it must have when I was back in Pennsylvania on that break. That is an interesting song on that record because it has this…..there is a funky element to it but there is almost a….not country but there is another style in that song and I don’t know where it came from. It has this bouncy, you know, kind of cascading guitar line. I don’t know what to say about it but I can hear it in my head right now. Somehow, that song adds another kind of depth to the record stylistically, yet it doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb, it is just like another side.

When I think about that record, I think you have songs like ‘Testify’, ‘Mother Head’s Family Reunion’ and even ‘Natural Thing’ that are sort of cut from the same stone then you have songs like ‘Soul To Soul’, ‘A Love Divine’ and ‘Where Did Our Love Go’ that are cut from a similar stone. This song and ‘A Woman & A Man’ both seem like they are coming from yet another stone so to speak, a stone that is equally part of my makeup but definitely another side.

Cover Me-

RK: ‘Cover Me’ is one of the most difficult songs for me to perform just because of the vocal. That chorus, I have to be one hundred percent healthy to pull that chorus off, it is not an easy one. It was another one that was demoed in my pool house studio in California. It is a similar kind of thing like ‘Testify’ and ‘Mother Head’s Family Reunion’, there are similarities there. There is also a certain jamminess to it. It is not sloppy but there is a certain kind of looseness to that song that creates excitement. There is a whole improv section that we did that was always fun to play live. I remember when we were playing that I’d look at the setlist and say “Oh God! Here we go! I don’t know what is going to happen but let’s try and do it!” It was never the guitar parts, it was the vocal parts sometimes where I’d think “I don’t know if I am going to be able to finish it!”

Wailing Wall [Japanese Bonus Track]-

RK: That was a song recorded on the original demo. Matter of fact, that IS the original demo. We never cut that song at Rumbo. That was done in San Francisco. That wasn’t part of the recorded sessions for Geffen, that was before the deal. That was the demo I recorded up in San Francisco at Coast.

Japan always wants a bonus track. Now, it is not as relevant but back when people were actually buying physical cd’s and that was the only way to get music. We had a huge problem with imports. It was a situation back then that a person in Japan could get the US record and it’d be cheaper than buying it straight from Japan. I’m not sure how that works because it was never explained to me. So, they would ask for bonus content for that territory because that was a strong territory for our kind of music.

That is how that got released. It would have never been released if they didn’t need a bonus track. Not that it is a bad song but I never felt like, I felt like it was kind of redundant when you put it up against the other material. There were other songs that I thought were similar but they were better so I left it off but it was done & it is a good recording so we gave it to them as a bonus track.

LRI: What memories do you have of making the video for the title track?

RK: Just jumping around like a crazy person & acting like a fool, pretty much that was the premise! (Laughs) There was never going to be a video because Geffen was squashing the record but the Japanese label asked for a video. They gave us the money to make a video and actually, the director’s name was August so that is how I ended up naming my daughter so I got something good out of it. The video was just us acting like a bunch of clowns. I was way more into the theatrics visually as a performer. I was able to do the full-on James Brown splits with my guitar, play behind my back, behind my head and all that craziness so we tried to incorporate all the elements of our live show into it the video. My ex-wife is in there dancing and singing, acting like a lunatic. It is a cool video so I like it!

Mother Head’s Family Reunion (Promo Video)

LRI: I know of bills that you shared with Jackyl, Bruce Dickinson and Type O Negative. Were there any other bands you shared the stage with during the touring cycle for the album? Any crazy road stories involving those bands that you’d care to share?

RK: That was my first full tour. We went out in a van and traveled around with those guys. For some reason, I remember playing in Detroit, it was a Type O Negative show. Our band come out and oh, they hated us! They were literally booing, we got booed off the stage! I guess they probably didn’t know what the hell they were watching because we were like this noisy power trio with long instrumental jams. There were sections where I’d fucking dance around like James Brown & do my splits and all that nonsense. They were probably looking at us like “What the hell?” You know, it didn’t go over so well that night! Some of the other nights we had some really great shows.

I know at one point I thought I had alcohol poisoning during that tour. A LOT of drinking going on with Richie Kotzen back then! One of our road guys, somehow, there was never any beer at the end of the show. Towards the end of the show, the Tour Manager, at the time, kept beating up this guy verbally the whole time. He was like our Stage Tech. He would drive and we had a Ryder truck with all our gear in it. Him and another guy were in there & my band and the tour manager were in the van. This tour manager was constantly giving this roadie a hard time.

One of the things that was going on was, we would have all this Corona that was supposed to be on our rider. We’d see it but when we got off stage, it’d be all gone! We were like “What the hell is going on?” It turned out this roadie was stealing the beer. I don’t even know if this is true but they said they were trading the beer for drugs. It just doesn’t seem like a realistic trade to me, but that’s what they said he was doing. I mean, trading beer for drugs. (Laughs)

He was definitely out of his mind! I have these “Master Built” Fender guitars and one of them, he broke the truss rod. He didn’t even touch the truss rod but he fucking broke it…..probably because he was all cracked out of his mind & needed something to do! The other guitar had the logo, the “Master Built” logo that defined that it was a special guitar and he sanded it off the neck. He did all this really weird shit!

At the end of the tour, I don’t know what happened but the Tour Manager said the last thing to him that he wanted to hear and he snapped! I remember, he literally pulled the Tour Manager out of the window of the van and proceeded to beat the shit out of him. (Laughs) So, I jumped out & jumped on top of them to try and pull them apart. Somehow my foot got caught up in the chaos. I fell on the ground, they are still fighting & I’m stuck on the ground because I can’t get my foot out of this mess. Suddenly, my bass comes over and he pulls me out. Then they stop.

I got into the back of the Ryder truck & I see all these coolers and there’s all the beer! So I started pulling beer bottles out & I’m screaming at the guy “What the fuck! Why have you been taking all our beer?” He was supposed to drive all of our equipment home, like from Oklahoma City back to L.A. So I started smashing all the beer while I am screaming at him so he didn’t have any beers to drink! It was so childish and insane but that was the craziest story.

rkmhfr-1994

LRI: The album is considered amongst your fans as your ‘Led Zeppelin:IV’ or ‘Kiss:Destroyer’ & now that 20 years has passed, what is your opinion of the album?

RK: I totally appreciate the record. It was a pretty important period of my life, there was a lot going on with me. I think that was reflected well, artistically, on the record. Perhaps people pick up on that, I don’t know. It was really a very cohesive record in the sense of direction. I think that comes down to the way it was produced and I think that Richie [Zito] did a great job producing on it. I will say that when I listen to it, I hear the growth, in other words, as good as the record is, I’m miles better of a singer than I was then. I have way more connection to what I hear in my head and what I’m able to do with my voice. Same thing with the guitar. It is interesting that a lot of artists will make a record and they constantly go backwards from there. Even with that, I understand what makes that record special. It has a lot to do with when it was done and what was happening. I can definitely hear my evolution as an artist if I compare ‘Mother Head’s Family Reunion’ to a record like ‘Peace Sign’ for example or even ‘Go Faster.’ Which is a good thing because I don’t ever want to get stuck in time sort of speak.

LRI: Are you surprised that fans still hold that album in such high regard after 20 years?

RK: I think it is nice that they think of it that way. You have to remember, my awareness of what people think is my best work is not always on my radar. I know a lot of people talk about ‘Into The Black’ as one of the favorites & they say the same thing about the ‘Mother Head’s Family Reunion’ and I know why they say it, I get it, you know. As a record, both those records feel like there is a certain consistency in the production and the sound where a lot of times when I make records I go off that. I might have a Rock song or a R&B song or whatever and this is a collection of songs.

My identity is what I write, how I sing and how I play. So, I don’t really feel like I need to be locked in to making sure the record is done in a way where everything sounds relatively the same as far as instrumentation. As an artist, I find that more interesting but for whatever reason on those two records they really got pushed that way. I think that is a big part of why they talk about them. I think it has to do with the songs. Like ‘You Can’t Save Me’ is my most downloaded song and for whatever reason people connect with that song so therefore it shines a light on the entire album!

Also, what I’ll say about the ‘Mother Head’s Family Reunion’ record is that was a turning point because up until then I had two instrumental records released, one vocal record and a stint in Poison. I wasn’t clearly defined as an artist back then until I released that record. I think that is the record that set the foundation for who I am and who I became. In a way, ‘Mother Head’s Family Reunion’ should have been my first record! If I think about it, if the first three records wouldn’t have existed and ‘Mother Head’s Family Reunion’ was my first record, it would make total sense to me. I’m not saying that I am sorry I put out the first three records but artistically I didn’t really find myself until that stage in my life.

LRI: Have you ever thought of doing a concert or a tour where you’d perform the album in its entirety?

RK: Yeah, you know, people have talked about doing these things. Eddie Trunk said I should do a show where I did ‘Into The Black’ from top to bottom. There all cool ideas! I don’t know why I haven’t done that yet? It is something I almost did. I do these shows at The Baked Potato here in L.A. just because they are so convenient for me & they are fun and intimate. We were talking about that. The three of us, my band, talked about doing two nights, back-to-back, one night do ‘Into The Black’ and the next night do ‘Mother Head’s Family Reunion.’ I just haven’t done it. It’d require a certain level of work for me. The real reason why I don’t do it is the energy involved. I’ll go on tour now and I’ll do two or three songs from ‘Into The Black’ and maybe one song from ‘Mother Head’s Family Reunion’ record, maybe two but I play those songs because they still completely tie in to where I am at today. So, the other tunes I’d have to go back & re-learn and get my head around again but some, I can’t do that. I think there is a laziness for me of having to sit down with the record and having to re-learn my own material that I did twenty years ago. (Laughs) It’d be cool to do it, to re-interpret it & I probably should do it but it is just a matter of putting the time in. I think that is the only reason I haven’t done it is because with everything else going on, I just haven’t had the energy to and when I do have time I am usually pretty exhausted from the previous thing I just did. So that time just needs to be filled with absolutely nothing that relates to music.

LRI: As of October 11, 2014, what is next for Richie Kotzen?

RK: The good news is the ‘Cannibals’ is finished, mastered and ready to be delivered. I haven’t picked a date yet but I’m anticipating a release date sometime in January but of course, Japan will get it first. So, I think it will be on the street there sometime in November. The plan is a lot of touring from now until the end of November.

I did a September run in Europe, I’m on a South American run this month and an United States run in November. I think we are going to look in to Japan as well which I haven’t done a solo gig there since 2006 when I did The Rolling Stones tour! Actually wait, that is not true, I did do one small show there a few years ago. Nevermind, scratch that! (Laughs) That is the plan, touring and the new record!

Richie Kotzen 2014
(Photo Courtesy of UEG, Inc.)

– Official Richie Kotzen Website

Article published on Legendary Rock Interviews.

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SPECIAL APPEARANCE: Atma Anur on stage with Richie Kotzen

Richie Acoustic Tour

Truth in Shredding reports:

Richie Kotzen and Atma Anur

Poland show is a sell out, crowd packed to the rafters!

Where: Lizard King
When: June 28th, 2013

Atma & Richie 1

Atma & Richie 2

Atma & Richie 3

Atma & Richie 4

Atma Anur

The end of a GREAT show!

Lizard King Crowd

ATMA ANUR INTERVIEW FOR THE ROMANIAN DRUMMERS’ PROJECT “TOOFTAFF”[23.06.2013]

ToofTaff Romanian Drummers:

Can you tell us a little about your history, how did you start playing drums?

I first saw Ringo Starr on television when I was about 2 years old. My mother would tell me this story all the time. I would run to the TV screen pointing at him and bouncing up and down… going a bit wild. My dad bought me a little red plastic marching drum for around my neck along with a mini 45 of „the little drummer boy”… history in the making I guess.

I went to a music and arts high school in NYC, then went on to Manhattan School of Music and then Berklee Collge of Music for my later studies.

After college I moved to San Francisco where I began my actual professional career (I would be in as many as 7 bands at one time in those earlier days). I did do quite a bit of playing and recording during my time in NYC and Miami, Florida (1976 to 1980), but I consider the San Francisco days the true beginning.

My first recording in San Francisco was with Bill Summers (of Herbie Hancok’s Head Hunters fame). After that I went on to record many albums begining about 1984, a lot of the well known ones were for Mike Varney’s Shrapnel Records (Cacophony, Jason Becker, Greg Howe, Richie Kotzen, Tony MacAlpine, etc…)… but there were many other lables as well.

TRD: At what age did you get your first kit?

I begged my parents for a drum set at about age 10,

Holly Beckles Group (press photo - 1978)) — with Joel Newman, David Michael Weiss and Atma Anur

 I got a set from a local shop known as Woolworth’s back in those days. It was a paper drum kit… but I did not realize that it was not a real set at the time. About a week later I did come to understand what I was banging away on… So I went back to asking for almost a year more. I finally did get my first 3 piece Stewart kit… Kick, Snare, Rack Tom. It also had 1 cymbal… I was very excited!

TRD: Have you had any hard times with working with people, or situations that made drumming difficult?

The Jason Becker Fest Grand Finale - Nov 2011 Working with people is the same in every profession, compassion, understanding and patience are always needed in order to come together for the greatest good in any situation.

Making music is a creative endeavour, so one’s openness and willingness to give one’s self over to the music in the moment, will determine the final out come. Playing an instrument is difficult if one is not prepared. Having knowledge of the role that your instrument plays in various musical styles, while having the personal chops on one’s instrument, is of ultimate importance.

 TRD: What is your favourite groove or rudiment?

Well, I guess I can say that the Paradiddle is the

Atma Anur in Journey - 1986

most important and all round drum rudiment for me, I’m not sure that I have a favourite one though. The Paradiddle incorporates some of the most widely used hand motions for a drummer, and gives rise to many grooves and fills. It is quite a complex set of motions really, and can be used in just about every possible style to create time feels and interesting poly-rhythmic ideas.

An example would be to take the basic paraddile sticking RLRR LRLL (which is inherently a siteenth noe or an eighth note sticking) and play that pattern as triplets, quintuplets, sexteuplets and the like. Tap your foot marking the down beat of the subdivision you are playing, while playing the paraddidle pattern with your hands… just one simple idea amongst many.

TRD: Tell us about  what is your favourite song you play on drums, band you enjoy listening and drummer you like?

Atma Anur That could be a very long answer. I began playing along with record albums on the early 70’s (this was in fact my first teacher). I would play with The Beatles, Deep Purple, The Mahavishnu Orchestra, Gong and so many more. This continued till about 1989 (but I added actual teachers to my learning experience).

I’m not sure about a favourite, or at least I can’t remember. But those days playing along were great and very important to my development as a musician. Nowadays I do play along with things that I have to learn, but now it is to learn parts for gigs or recordings. I also play along with things that I have recorded in the past… sort of a refresher as to what I may have been thinking at some point in time.

I like listening to any great musician and take inspiration from many people, not only drummers. I get inspired by guitarists, violinists and sax players… a lot!

My favourite drummers would be Tony Williams, Elvin Jones, Terry Bozzio, Steve Gadd, Billy Cobham, Vinnie Colaiuta, Bill Bruford… and quite a few more. Let’s say people with very strong grooves, great chops and lots of personal style.

 TRD: What is your biggest dream ?

Atma Anur, Peter Marrino, Jason Becker, Marty Friedman

Atma Anur, Peter Marrino, Jason Becker, Marty Friedman

In terms of music my dreams have always been the same, and I have been realising these dreams for almost 30 years now. They are to be constantly involved in the process of creativity and making music. To be related to as many other musicians from every style and age group as is possible. And to be who God made me to be with all my focus and energy.  Being a musician, this is an on going way of life.

TDR: Tell us more about your gear. Do you have a particular part fo your kit that  you like the most? Due to a  particular sound or feel?

I have just very recently become a Pearl Drums Atma's Pearl Setupendorser.  I was with Pearl back in 1986 when I was in the rock band Journey. I then went with DW in 1991 and stayed with with them till 2012.

I was with Axis Pedals also from about 1989 to 2002 or so… then I rediscovered the DW 5002 pedal (later I moved on to the 9000 pedal). I think pedals and snare drums are my favourite parts of a drum kit (although I love drums in general). Right now I am having a great time with the new Pearl Demon Drive pedal… wow, what an incredible piece of technology!

I would say that this pedal incorporates the best of the DW 9000 and the Axis Long Board pedals. Atma Anur

My current set up is the Pearl Refference Series kit with 2 22×18 kick drums, 6 toms (4 racks and 2 floors) one of the rack toms is on the left side, just next to my snare drum. I play 13” snares. I have a beautiful 13×5 ½ TamoMaple (exotic wood) snare from the Pearl Masterworks Series, and 13×3 Brass piccolo snare mounted abouve the left side floor tom. There is a 20” Gong Bass Drum mounted over the right side floor toms as well.

I am currently with Sabian (have been for over 20 years now) and use a great many cymbals.

 TRD: Have you had any funny or scary moments on stage?

Not that I can think of. The scariest thing might be being unprepared… but then that’s where faith and the true love of making music comes the most into play. If you are there for the sake of the music… all is well, just let it flow.

TRD: What message would you like to send to our Tooftaff drummers?

I guess I can say that I have found music to be the

Atma Anur

most rewarding part of my life. I have seen how God’s hand has moved to guide me into many seemingly unusual situations through music and the talents he has blessed me with. I can say that trusting God and what one has been given, in general, is the way to live a full life… mostly free from fear and uncertainty.

As a drummer I feel that an open mind, the ability to focus and a respect for tradition will take you far. Confidence is also one of your greatest strengths… and that comes from the knowledge that God gave you whatever you may have and has placed you exactly where you are for a good purpose.

The dreams that one has are also for a reason and need to be respected… this will for sure take sacrifice… but well worth it all.

I will add that I am also offering on line drum lessons via Skype at my web site  www.atmaanur.com

There is also much more information about me and my musical history there… including many videos and songs from over the 30 plus years I have been a professional musician.

ATMA ANUR’S 2012 IGNITION

Merry Christmas, best wishes, waves of joy, peaceful moments, and endless inspiration for 2012 from the Phosphorous Heads Blog! 

Our gift for you on this second day of Christmas is a first read of Atma Anur’s interview for Metal Hammer Hungary and Soundquest magazine by Gyorgy Danev. Enjoy and let us know how you like it!  

1. When did you start playing the drums?

A A: I had a special event in school called “Show and Tell Day” when I was in the 4th grade in NYC. I was 10 and had just moved to the US from London. One of the kids brought in a snare drum, for marching, and I just took it over and played on it all day (bothering everyone… lol). When I got home that evening I announced to my mother that “I can play the drums”.

Funny, but she then told me that I had been playing since I was about 2 years old. Then I kind of remembered what she was telling me, and we realized that once I had seen Ringo Starr and the Beatles on TV in England at about 3 years old… I had been playing the drums on whatever I could hit!

I kept asking for a drumset for the next year or so, finally my parents got me a Stewart set from Levitt and Elrod on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. It had a 20 kick, a 14 snare and a 13 rack tom. I got a 16 floor tom about a year later! It also had a hihat stand and a cymbal stand attached to the bass drum… I had no cymbals though!

2. Who were your major influences?

 A A: Well, after those first Ringo memories came the days of trying to understand what the drums really did in music. That was a deep revelation, as I remember. I mean what sound is what when you listen to a song… like the snare, the bass drum and so on. I think the hihat was the most fascinating.

The very first record I ever bought (my mom bought it) was Curtis Mayfield’s SuperFly… However, the first guys I listened to really were Bill Bruford, Billy Cobham, Carl Palmer and Charlie Watts. Many wonderful drummers came next in those early days, around 14 to 16… like Lenny White, Alphonse Mouzon, Narada Michael Walden and many others. In my teens I really loved listening to Yes, Genesis, Gentle Giant and Gong… mostly all European Prog/Rock.

After I began studying seriously and went to music schools, my deepest and most lasting influences took root I think. They would be Tony Williams, Terry Bozzio, Billy Cobham, and Jack Dejohnette. I guess that when I ”just play” I have those sounds in my head.

After the years of formation as a drummer I went back and studied many great legends like Jon Bonham, Ian Paice, Ginger Baker and Mitch Michell. Also Zigaboo Modelist of the Meters, and the drummers of the James Brown Band. Then I got back into my roots by studying many Reggae artists and their drummers. Reggae, then called ”blue beat” was playing in my house from birth; I gravitated towards rock first but never forgot my ”swingin” roots! 

I also love Vinnie Colauta, Steve Smith, Dennis Chambers and, of course, Steve Jordan and Steve Gadd (who I saw live in NYC many, many times in the 70’s).

3. You are a well-educated drummer, as you were studying both at the Manhattan School of Music and the world famous Berklee College of Music. Did you enjoy those times?

A A: Well, absolutely. Study is still a very big part of who I am. I have to credit my mother for putting the ”studier” in me. She had many degrees in many unrelated subjects (besides working two jobs her whole life). I learned how to concentrate from her. Music is about concentration, and drumming even more so.

Being in a good music school is very important I think. Studying history and technique are just part of being a true and good musician. Of course, music is a language of international and multi/cross-cultural communication… so one must study the language, and how to best use it, to share what one has to share. The ability to communicate “the human condition” with music is the whole point for any musician. This communication is part of our human cultural foundation and history.

Understanding how to study and how to copy or re-create what one hears are huge parts of being a sideman. As a sideman drummer you need to learn and chart other people’s drum parts, and perform them with passion and excitement… This is a wonderful challenge.

4. How was the Berklee from inside?

A A: After being involved with the classes in the first semester of school I realized that what I wanted was to just learn how to play the drums. I then spent insane numbers of hours in the practice rooms and on the pad. I went to class (of course) but that was not my focus.

One wonderful part of being at Berklee in the 70’s was the other students. When I was there, Steve Vai, Tain Watts, Smitty Smith, Stu Hamm, Lorn Leber, Tim Landers and so many others were there as well. Tommy Campbell and Rodney Smith were two of my biggest influences and inspirations while I was in school… both amazing drummers and musicians.

The teaching style at Berklee is a very specific and practically oriented method. It is geared toward being able to play in almost any musical situation, and actually intellectually understand what you are playing, not only “feeling it”. Song form and style, reading, counting and traditional chord changes are a big focus. For drummers it’s things like rudiments and four-way coordination. Let’s say that these are all basic music language tools that all musicians use whether they realise it or not.

5. Although you’re a native Englishman, you started your career as a jazz drummer in the NYC area. How did you get there?

A A: Well, my family moved from London to NYC when I was 9; they are from Barbados, but we (the kids) were born in England, and I did all kinds of playing while I lived there. In the earliest days it was progressive rock and fusion. I moved back to NYC after I left Berklee and that is when the jazz on the streets and at the jazz lofts began. This is around 19 and 20 years old. At that time I was very very into Tony Williams and Jack Dejohnette, and wanted to play “free” as much as possible.

At that time (’79/ ’80), I was not at all interested in playing rock or even anything that concerned grooves with a back beat (without improvisation). And of course the idea of 4/4 made no sense to me at all… lol I had discovered that any number could be a time signature and was obsessed. I spent a great deal of time trying to sound like Elvin Jones as well, I had a trio that would play John Coltrane tunes on the streets of NYC for at least 6 hours per day… every day! We made money, and learned how to bop! Quite cool!

During this time I developed the material for my book along with Steven Schwab, the Theory of Poly Rhythmic Harmony. This study of time, rate and grouping has remained with me to this day. The book has not been published.

6. Most people know your name because of your session works for Shrapnel records. How did you get in touch with Mike Varney?

A A: I was doing a lot of playing in Marin County, that is just over the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. I was in around 7 bands at one time in those days, and many of those bands would play the Marin Club scene.

The first person I met that was connected to Mike Varney was Josh Ramos. To make it short, he told Mike about me, and Mike came to see me in some band at Uncle Charlie’s in like 1984? Not sure. Anyway, we talked about me joining his Metal band called Lemans. They were on Columbia Records and he was managing the band. The lead singer and songwriter was Peter Marrino, and the late Derrick Friggo was the guitarist… What an amazing talent!!

Soon after all that, Mike asked me if I might be interested in recording with a new artist named Tony Macalpine… I had not heard of him, but I was very excited. The rest of the story is history… lol.

Mike and I had a great relationship over the years, and made some great records together. I feel very honoured to know him.

7. Almost all of those ’80s neoclassical metal records were made at the Prairie Sun Recording Studio in Cotati, CA. In my opinion Steve Fontano and Mark “Mooka” Rennick have mixed great drum sounds there. What do you think?

A A: Oh yes, both Mooka and Steve are awesome people and excellent at what they do. I feel that I learned so much from Steve Fontano, especially.

Those were great days of hard work and creativity, and Prairie Sun is a wonderful place with a great vibe. Super for focusing on making music! I spent many many weeks of my life there, working on music. It’s a matter of fact that my then wife went into labour with our first child while I was getting ready to track the Bernd Steidl CD! Of course we had to race back to San Francisco for the birth (she was with me at Prairie Sun), but within a week I was back there and the CD got tracked.

I think Steve Fontano is a tone master, and we had very intense times working together. The whole crew at Prairie Sun is simply awesome!

8. In the mid ’80s Cacophony was born. What did you think when you first heard Jason Becker and Marty Friedman playing together?

A A: I liked what I heard a lot, and had a great time working out those songs and the parts.

Atma Anur, Peter Marrino, Jason Becker, Marty Friedman

 Both of those guys are excellent musicians and very open and creative people. The big thing was how much fun I had working with those guys. I had already worked with Pete Marrino, so that was also cool. I got Swain Noro to play bass live. We were in a killer funk/ trash band called Trick Whitey, a bit of a Bay Area legend.

I was so impressed with how easy it was to be creative with Marty and Jason, both just heard music and played it, especially Jason, this is what I love! For sure Jason is a deeply gifted and unique musician.

9. After 2 records Cacophony broke up. Why was this band so short-lived?

A A: Oh, I have no idea. For me it was just one of the zillions of things I was doing at the time. I think I’ve rarely ever actually been “in a band”, so to speak. I may have learned this from growing up in NYC in the 70’s. We all just played. With whoever, whenever and whatever. I love it, and I am still very much that kind of musician. It’s the music that I am interested in most. Cacophony was a great band with awesome music, and we had a very nice time together. I would do it again anytime!

Maybe it had something to do with Jason getting the Roth gig and Marty going to Megadeath… I don’t know. They were touring with Kenny Stravopolis on drums in Japan for a bit, I think, and they did some recording with Deen Castronovo as well.

I’m pretty sure that by that time I was busy with Richie Kotzen, and had moved to LA.

10. How do you remember the recording of Jason’s “Perpetual Burn” album?

 A A: Wow, I don’t have such very clear memories of most of my sessions. I think it’s because at the moment of creative work, I am just really focused on being in the moment.

I can say that the whole process for me was only a few days. Maybe a week long. It was just me, Jason and Mike Varney. Super creative and a lot of fun. Fontano was engineering and Jason and I had a good work relationship going from our earlier rehearsals.

I was just telling a friend that I actually have a cassette with those original drum tracks as a rough mix… Coolness!

11. Which of your recordings are you the most proud of?

 A A: I am happy and feel blessed to work with so many great and creative artists. They are all special to me for one reason or another.

I have probably recorded hundreds of CDs, only 128 of them have been released, for various reasons. Many of those cds are on independent lables.

12. Most challenging session ever?

A A: Well I have had some very crazy and difficult sessions over the years. I can remember two in particular that were very difficult for me.

The first was a session for singer Linda Rondstad. She had a movie sound track to do and there was a wonderful classic Spanish score performed by a band and an orchestra.

I had the opportunity to play some tracks for that sound track album. The difficult part was that in those days the whole editing was done by hand, so things really needed to be more or less perfect at the time you record them. I had to follow a conductor and play to a chart with no music playing along with me for some of those tracks. They asked me to do a few styles of playing, like a ”jazz” groove and a light ”latin” groove and so on. The thing that made that very hard was following a conductor while being dynamic and creative… with tape rolling! I was quite nervous.

The second one I remember was the Electric Joy album by Richie Kotzen. That is such a beautiful record, with wonderful songs and killer guitar playing.

The story is that I got a call from Mike Varney to come to Prairie Sun for some recording with Richie Kotzen. We had already done the Fever Dream CD and done a bunch of live shows and so on.

To make a long story short, when I got to the studio I was told that the whole CD was ”finished” and they ”just needed the drums to make it right”. Well the CD was in fact finished mixed and so on… with all the over dubs and everything. The only thing was that it was not done to a click and had a lot of time and mood changes. I had to figure out how to follow what had been played, but sound like the drums are the foundation of the songs (no digital editing then also). And as it was with all of Mike’s recordings… we had almost no time to do it! That session may have been just a few days… And that’s from first hearing the songs to being done and packing up my drums!!

I have to say that the CD came out killer (Electric Joy), and we had a wonderful time doing some pretty difficult but creative work. Mooka Rennick and Dino Alden worked on the engineering for that one, I think.

13. Did you have any session you would forget?

A A: Well I have a bad memory about many things. I guess I have forgotten lots of stuff over the years. If you mean do I want to forget a session… no.

I am very grateful to God for all the work and opportunities to be creative and challenged in life and in music. What God has for me will always be the right thing at the right time. I just want what God wants for me.

14. I’m sure you have your own drumming method. Could you share the core of this with us?

A A: To play well, with passion and to serve the music that I am playing at the time… whatever it may be.  I am also very dedicated to learning about the various traditions in modern drumming, and to draw from them to be creative in my playing. I am a student of music.

I spent a lot of time working on the Gary Chaffe linear drumming method, also working with the 40 international drum rudiments. I am a student of the Billy Gladstone method and the Sanford Moeller method.

I try to combine the emotional feel of Reggae with the intensity and power of Metal and the improvisational spirit of Jazz in everything I play… that is my most basic concept.

I also believe in copying the masters, and still do. Lastly, let’s say that I also love to practise.

15. What do you think, has the drum education evolved during the last couple of decades?

A A: Oh, for sure not. Education is education and the information has been around long enough. The Internet has made more easy access to information, but it has not changed human nature at all. Let’s say that entropy and not evolution is what I personally believe humanity is dealing with.

For the musician things remain the same as they have always been… practice practice practice!

Let’s say that the idea of apprenticeship is dying, and that is a basic component of being educated and able to potentially bring something new to the “creative table”. Too many musicians seem to think that they have something valid to say without any study of history and what came before them. There is way too much attention on ”being an individual” and too much fear of copying (while on the other hand there are also many musicians that can ONLY copy!).

Copying is the most effective and realistic way of learning, and not re-inventing the wheel (and then taking credit for it… lol). Traditional learning is about listening and copying – how to speak, etc… and after this we make attempts to speak for ourselves!

16. As far as gear stuff, which type of kits do you prefer?

A A: The good ones. All the companies make good kits at the top of their line. I deeply like DW drums for many many reasons. I’ve played them for about 25 years.

17. Which do you like more, brass or maple snares?

A A: Well, in general I like wood drums all round. These days I have been playing 2 DW Collector’s series edge snares, both 13, not 14. I have played mostly all wood snares for most of the almost 40 years that I’ve been playing. I did play a copper shell snare for a couple of years in the 80s. I have never liked steel or all brass myself. I have also played snares made of other kinds of wood than maple that I have loved. 

18. Could you please introduce your current kit setup for us (with all the dimensions)?

A A: Well the current setup is quite different than the setup I used just 3 weeks ago! Right now I’m on the road playing a kind of commercial, Hendrix type of vibe with Florian Hofer.

I am using a DW Collector’s series 5-piece kit. It has a 22 kick, 10, 12 racks and a 14 floor on legs. Many times I use 2 floors (14 and 16). I also add an 8-rack tom for more prog/rock recordings. Let’s say that a 6-piece kit is the most normal for me.

 For the past 5 years I have been using the 13 edge snares exclusively. I just really like the feel and the sound of those drums. Just before that I was in love with my 13 Craviatto snares. It’s been quite a long time since I have used 14 snares on a regular basis, but I did do quite a few songs on 14s during some recording sessions. 

For cymbals, I have been with Sabian for almost 25 years, and I always use lots of cymbals.  Let’s say that cymbal colours are a real part of the sound I have in my head.

I have a few ride cymbals that are 20 or 21, and they range from loud and bright, to bark and funky sounding. So it depends on what I am playing. For example, on this tour I am using a 21-vault ride; it has a vintage and jazzy sound. But at the Jason Becker Festival a few weeks ago, I used a very loud 20 Evolution ride, with a large bell. A very different ride cymbal.

As for crashes I always have 1 ozone 16 in my setup. Then the rest depend on the gig. For sure there will be a splash or 2. I have a 10 octagon splash that I use also.

Then come to hihats… Always 13s and usually 2 of them. 1 as a fixed open hat, for the double bass pattern playing. Almost all of the crashes are HHX Evolution series cymbals. I like that they are darker and shorter than some other series of cymbals.

So the most basic cymbal setup for me is ride, 2 crashes, 1 splash, 2 hihats and 1 china cymbal. But I am usually using 3 crashes and 2 chinas… (I like smaller chinas; I also use the Sabian Max-stax china. I also place splash cymbals inside my china cymbals to get a dryer, funkier sound.)

19. How was the Jason Becker Not Dead Yet festival a few days ago?

A A: For me it was a deeply spiritual time. The group of musicians were exceptionally talented and wonderful people. All of us joining together in support of Jason was a beautiful thing.

I think that we were really trying to give back just a little of what Jason gave to all of us, and to the world. 

There were 2 keyboard players, 14 guitarists and 3 bass players… and then me. We had 2 days to put together 45 songs, and a few of those songs were finally cut due to time. I had received the songs quite a while before the show and had time to make charts and try to learn the recorded drum parts. Of course playing along with a recording is much different than playing a song live!

The Players at the Jason Becker “Not Dead Yet” European Festival, November 13th, 2011

Timo Somers – Guitar

Barend Courbois – Bass

Atma Anur – Drums

Marcel Coenen – Guitar

Joop Walters – Guitar

Erik Van Ittersum- Keys

Andy James – Guitar

Daniele Gottardo – Guitar

Martin Miller – Guitar

 Franck Hermanny – Bass

Federico Solazo – Keys

Stephan Forte – Guitar

Marco Sfogli – Guitar

Mattias IA Eklund – Guitar

Michael Lee Firkins – Guitar

Stu Hamm – Bass

Kiko Loureiro – Guitar

Hedras Ramos – Guitar

Guthrie Govan – Guitar

Organizers – Kris Claerhout, Laurie Monk, Ron Coolen

Day 1 was a wonderful day of meeting, playing and serious work… It was 14 hours long. Day 2 was a 9-hour day of just music, at the end of this day I was completely exhausted! Day 3 was the day of the show and we had to finish a few songs of rehearsal at the venue in the earlier part of the day. Then, of course, we played the 6-hour show, that day was at least 14 hours long as well.

Amazingly enough, the amount of playing was not physically too much for me (amazing at 51 years old!), it was the mental aspect of it all that was the real challenge. I have to add that the volume of the various guitarists was a factor adding to mental fatigue for me.  But I must say that the love, creativity and positive vibes of everyone involved also gave me the extra energy that I needed to stay in an inspired emotioinal place, and put out what was needed for each artist (each of whom are very different). These are such creative and talented people, it was amazing to play with each of them. Learning all the styles and vibes is truly what i love about playing drums… this was the perfect show for me, “The Guitar Player’s Drummer”.

We had a Skype connection set up with a stereo mic feed to Jason at his house in California, so he could see and hear the whole show live while we played… amazing!


So many amazing things happened it would be really hard to write about them all here. I can say that a DVD is being mixed and put together now, and that future benefit festivals are in the works. I hope to continue my relationship with the organisers, Kris Clarehout, Ron Coolen, Laurie Monk, Guglielmo Malussardi, and keep adding to the love!

20. After hundreds of sessions who else do you want to work with in the future?

A A: Everyone that wants to make really good music!!

ATMA’S ASYLUM IN PLAYLAND… THE INTERNET

 Atma Anur writes about his staggering recording experience starting in his teens until now. Read on to find out the story of his collaboration with Bert Elliot for the newly released “Asylum in Playland” CD (2011). Below you can listen to an “Atma Anur” signature re-make of the Billy Cobham classic, “Stratus, from the same album.  

 

Things have changed so much in the past 10 years. In general, and for me personally, in the way I interface with the music industry. I feel like those 10 years have progressed in a far more different and varied way than the 10 years that passed before them.

Most people, maybe musicians, might know me best as the Shrapnel Records’ ‘house drummer’ of the 80s and 90s, having recorded with many of Mike Varney’s most influential musicians (Tony MacAlpine, Jason Becker, and Greg Howe, to name a few). Some may know me as that guy that won the biggest drum audition of the mid 80s… then seemed to disappear from mass media as quickly as he appeared in it. Fewer people, other than the so-called ‘shredders’, know that Atma Anur has been playing drums, with virtually no break, for 40 years, 27 of those years as a professional drummer, with 128 released CDs to date, in just about every genre being released.

After attending the Berklee College of Music I ventured to California, where most of the afore mentioned CDs were recorded, along with hundreds more un-released recordings. After living and working in San Francisco and Los Angeles for 25 years, playing thousands of live shows, tours, recordings and teaching engagements… I made my move to Europe, where I am originally from.

I was asked to submit this blog post focusing on one of the 25 CDs I have recorded since leaving the US in the late 2000s, Bert Elliot’s “Asylum in Playland”. As has been the bulk of my recorded work, this is an instrumental fusion CD that includes beautiful original funky, bluesy music and a couple of originally interpreted remakes of two well known classics.

The story of this CD, and the story of my relationship to Bert is an example of what I mentioned at the beginning of this personal account… the vast changes that have introduced themselves to the business of making music in the past 10 years.

I first met Bert Elliot in 1979 in NYC. He is, and has been, a close friend of another wonderful musician and personal friend of mine, bass player Frank Di Ganci. Frank and I were in one of my first commercial metal bands, Alien, at a time when I was still attending Berklee in Boston, and becoming the ‘fusion head’ that I am today. Frank invited his ‘bluesy, Beck-influenced’ guitar playing friend to jam with us one night at Om Studios in mid-town Manhattan. That was a very cool evening… and I never saw or thought of Bert again.

Once I left California and arrived in Europe, my home town of London first, I found myself in the well-known situation of virtually starting over again. After having been in London for 6 months I was asked to do a month-long tour in Poland with another very old ‘euro-transplant’ friend of mine from San Francisco. This tour was my personal discovery moment of the artful city of Krakow, Poland, where I currently live. This move is what really gave rise to my awareness of the Internet in general, and the social network revolution to be specific.

As most modern creative people have done, I became involved in social networking with Myspace, Facebook, and the personal web site frenzy that is basic to daily life in the mid to late 2000s. In doing this, I also discovered the great many fans and ‘Atma appreciaters’ that have exsisted for many years, that I never had the pleasure of meeting personally. At the same time I also discovered what was for me a very new idea… home recording. Well, in my case it actually became ‘home mixing’.

After working with some of the best producers in the business in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles (while recording for various major record labels), I also entered the production game just after 2000, upon my return to San Francisco from Los Angeles, where I lived while working with Richie Kotzen who was on Geffen Records, and DH Peligro on Alternative Tentacles Records (to name a few of those I worked with while living in LA).

Some of my first production experience came working at Hyde Street Studios with some very talented Bay area vocal artists, me working with loads of vintage outboard equpment and mixing on Neve boards with flying faders. With the move to Europe, and the inevitable ‘progress’ in technology, I found myself working at smaller studios with DAW? /Daw based recording equipment. This was truly a revelation to me… I am a drummer after all, and I found a new and exciting possible interface for my creativity… the Internet!

The combination of computer-based recording in a high quality format, and the new social media awareness of the general public made what was in my day an exclusive ‘club’ with very specific rules of entry, into a wide open field of musical and creative possibilities. The Internet also openned up the ‘meeting’ waves to include a ‘San Francisco drummer’ to play music with a guitar player currently living in Indonesia! and so on… It is through my new-found ‘social network refferal service’ that I met, for the first time I thought, Bert Elliot.

Over the past few years I have become yet again a member of the next generation of sidemen… the ‘Internet side man’, to be exact. I am connecting with musicians from all over the world and collaborating with them to realize their musical dreams in much the same way I did for decades while living in California, only these days we almost never actually meet! Bert was a musician that contacted me on line through a social network site. We spoke, hit it off through the written word, and shared some music with each other. Soon the plan for his next CD came into the picture and we were off on the adventure that became “Asylum in Playland”.

Recording instrumental music has become quite natural for me, at least as a drummer. After working with Mike Varney for many years and being produced by Steve Fontano,  I learned how to get creative and exciting performances from myself… quickly and to the point. Working, playing, and recording with people like Greg Allman, Bill Sommers, Richie Kotzen, Carlos Guitarlos and so many other vocally oriented artists, really focused me as a musician on playing correctly in a ‘song’ context as opposed to a ‘compositional’ context (a distinction that I think is important to understand). Bert’s music really bridges the gap between the instrumental and the vocal orientation, and this is what attracted me to his writing first.

Bert Elliot is a soulful musican and has also turned into a good friend. His demos (which included awesome self-programmed drums) convinced me that this could be a great ‘old school’ style musical adventure. When he suggested doing a re-make of the Billy Cobham classic, “Stratus”… I was fully hooked.

Many people that know me, know that the Mahavishnu Orchestra is one of my very most favourite bands, and drummer/composer Billy Cobham has been a great influence on my playing since I first heard him in 1973. I feel honoured and have what I see as a great responsibility to respect Billy’s great contribution to modern drumming. I have been working on swinging and re-grouping 32nd notes and using that as a basis for cut time grooves for many years now, and this is the direction I went in for the solo section in our version of that awesome classic.

Pairing up with my old school mate and virtuoso musician Stu Hamm was another wonderful aspect of being a part of this new CD project. Stu and I have done some other recordings together, mostly durring his time living in the Bay area. This was the first situation where Stu and I just grooved together in support of melodies, rather than playing more complex parts as an instrumental ensemble… what we mostly did in the past. Stu and I will also be the rhythm section for the upcoming Jason Becker’s Not Dead Yet Festival in Amsterdam on November 13, 2011… an evening including many great guitar players from all around the world (Guthrie Govan, Mattias Eklundh, Kiko Loureiro and more).

18 of the 25 CDs that I have recorded so far while living in Europe have been initiated due to social networking, and file sharing. It entails me renting studio time, recording my drum tracks and preparing them in my home studio. Then sending the wav files off around the world to be included in CDs released around the world, by artists that I may never meet. I hope you get a chance to check out Bert Elliot’s “Asylum in Playland”, and I look forward to where our new technology takes music in the future.