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Tag Archives: The Mahavishnu Orchestra

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.

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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.