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.