Drummer Anton Fig talks about re-release of solo album “Figments”

 

Drummer Anton Fig has been performing both live and in the studio since the mid 1970’s.  He has worked with artists such as Bob Dylan, Madonna and most notably as the drummer for David Letterman’s house band the CBS Orchestra. Anton released his first solo album “Figments” in 2002 and recently re-released it in 2015. Media Mikes had the chance to talk with Anton recently about the albums re-release and its creation and also about his impressive session work.

Adam Lawton: “Figments” was originally released in 2002. Can you tell us about the decision to re-release the album?
Anton Fig: When the album was initially released there were a few people who heard it however at that time the transition from retail to online sales was just starting to take place. Stores were closing up and the stuff on the web was still just starting to happen. Things weren’t the way they are now with social media and everything so it was hard for people to access the album. I felt the album still sounded fresh and vibrant and with there being a number of ways to get the word out about it re-releasing the album seemed like a good thing to do.

AL: Thinking back to when you first started working on the album what do you feel was the driving element in releasing your first solo album after being in the music business for quite some time prior?
AF: I always had said to myself that once it became easier to record and digital recording was more available that I would put out a record. Going into a traditional studio is quite expensive so being able to record from your home and not have to travel and all that made things much easier. I did travel a little bit to work with some of the people on the album and I did my drums in a studio but all the mixing and overdubs I did at home which was relatively inexpensive. In 2002 home recording was still new. Nowadays everyone has the ability to record digitally from just about where ever. By doing things the way I did back in 2002 it was more affordable at the time. All the songs that make up the album were ones that I had sort of saved up over time. From there I went about putting the right people to each of the songs.

AL: How far back in your career did you actually start writing some of this material?
AF: I was in a band in the 80’s called Spider. We were managed by Bill Aucoin who had managed Kiss and we were always encouraged to write in that group. After that group ended I just kept writing. Over the years I had built up a group of songs that I wanted to get out there. I picked the songs I liked the best and just went from there with finding the right combination of players for each one.

AL: Do you find it hard for people to really take notice of an album like this being you are mostly know for your drum work?
AF: I think what surprised people most was the fact that “Figments” isn’t really a drum record. This is a song record along the lines of a Phil Collins album or something like that. There aren’t drum pyrotechnics or anything like that as it more about song production. That’s the record I wanted to make. I feel it adds something because it has a bit of a surprise element to it based just on that score.

AL: Did you creative process differ any on this album as opposed to some of the others you have appeared on?
AF: When I am working on someone else’s project generally my main concern is the drums. They are the ones in charge of the overview of things and how they want the song to sound. I am there to try and help them realize that vision as quickly as possible. When you are doing your own record you have to have that overview. Once I had the drum sounds down I sort of forgot about them and had the big picture more on my mind. It actually helped my drumming a lot as I was forced to look at the big picture as opposed to only the drumming.

AL: When you are approached with session work opportunities what is it that you look for in a project prior to agreeing to work on it?
AF: I think mostly it’s if I am the right person for the session. I look at if it’s something that I can be mostly myself in. If they are asking me to do something that I am not really suited to do you almost want to tell them to get so and so to do it but, I generally try to do all of the projects I am asked to do. Nowadays I have a set up where I can do drums remotely as I have my own studio. In a situation like that you are not in a room with a producer or artist so you have to decide what the best way to approach things are and how much of yourself you can put into that session. It can be a bit harder working that way at times.

AL: One of the groups you have been involved with over the years was with Kiss and later on Ace Frehley. How did that relationship come about?
AF: At the time I think Peter Criss had broken his arm or something like that and wasn’t going to be able to drum on the upcoming album “Dynasty”. I worked on that album and from there I got asked to do another album with them titled “Unmasked”. With Ace I was playing in my band Spider at the time and we were auditioning bass players. One of the guys who came in was friends with Ace and mentioned he was looking for a drummer for his solo project. He got me an audition with Ace and from there I ended up doing the record and becoming friends with Ace. Right after that is when I got the gig with the Late Night Show so that’s where things ended with the band. I have played on a good majority of Ace’s stuff most recently “Anomaly”.

AL: Up until recently your work with Kiss was done as a ghost writer. Is it hard going into projects like that where you know you will not to be credited?
AF: With Kiss I knew upfront that I wasn’t going to be credited. They told me I would be paid well however I could not talk about it. That was always my understanding with them so I never talked about it. Gene Simmons mentioned it in a book of his recently and my name was also added to the liner notes of the re-issued “Dynasty” album. Once they started talking about I also started talking about it. It was over 20 years or something like that where I didn’t say anything about my involvement. I knew we had an agreement and I stuck to it. Today it’s hard to do something like that as there are no secrets.

 

AL: Are there plans to tour behind “Figments”?

AF: I would like to but with every song having a different line it would be quite difficult. The album is almost like a playlist that you would put together. It would be hard to fully recreate the albums line up. I suppose I could put together a band and do some of the songs. I think if a song off the record gets a lot of attention and people are asking for it then I will think more about taking it out on the road. For now though I am out with Joe Bonamassa and have be selling the album at the shows so I am out there with it.

 

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Former Guns N’ Roses/Velvet Revolver drummer releases new video for his song “Ode to Nick”

Drummer/Frontman Matt Sorum has just released a new video for his song “Ode to Nick”. The somber track is the latest in a series of video releases from Sorums new solo project “Matt Sorum’s Fierce Joy” and come in the wake of the group’s debut album “Stratosphere” which was released in March of this year.

Sorum recently had this to say about the new video: “Ode to Nick was written as a love song to my wife Ace. I have always loved Nick Drake from the first time I heard the Song “Riverman” from the “Five Leaves Left” album. His poetry was beautiful, deep and honest – the way love should be. I used Nick Drake as a metaphor for love, and the romantic sentiment of his song titles are used throughout. I thought of the most peaceful place that I spent my childhood, at my grandmother’s lake house on Green Lake, Minnesota and the sound I would hear in the distance … a loon. Hence the chorus, “Love is a boat on a lake, Just you and me and Nick Drake”.

“I’d like to dedicate this video to the actor that played the Riverman on the bus stop bench Vince Guarino who passed away August 5, 2014. “There are things behind the sun.”

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Guns N’ Roses drummer Steven Adler talks about new solo album “Back from the Dead”

Steven Adler is probably best known for his work as the original drummer for the multi-platinum selling band Guns N’ Roses. After being fired from the group in 1990 Steven went on to work with a number of other acts and also appeared on the VH1 reality show “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew”. More recently Steven and his new band simply titled Adler released their debut album “Back From the Dead” and Media Mikes had a chance to ask Steven a few brief questions about the album and the bands touring plans.

Adam Lawton: What type of writing process did the band take when putting songs together for the new album?
Steven Adler: Jacob Bunton and Lonny Paul would bring me songs and then Jeff Pilson and I would add our thing to them. Jeff also produced the record as well as played bass. Everyone in the group was real open to changes and ideas. That made the whole writing/recording process very fun and creative.

AL: How was it like working with Slash again?
SA: Slash and I have been friends since we were kids. I have always loved the way he plays and was honored that he took the time to play on our record.  Back in the GNR days, we took each other’s talents for granted.  At this stage in my life, I’ve learned to appreciate these moments.

AL: Are there plans to shoot any more videos for songs off the album?
SA: In a perfect world we would shoot a video for every song on the record.  But I can tell you from firsthand experience, we don’t live in a “perfect world”, so we’ll have to wait and see what happens.

AL: How did the band get involved with playing on this year’s Kiss Kruise?
SA: Our singer Jacob told us about it and passed the information onto our managers. From there they called Doc McGhee who is KISS’s manager and they made everything happen.

AL: Does the band have any tour plans in the works you can tell us about?
SA: Yes! We are playing some shows with Duff McKagan’s band “Loaded” in Japan starting in early March. Our manager and agents are working on some other things as well but for right now it’s nothing we can officially say. The band does plan on touring everywhere.

Blu-ray Review “Phil Collins: Live at Montreux 2004”

Starring: Phil Collins
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Distributed by: Eagle Rock Entertainment
Blu-ray (1 disc) & DVD (2-disc set)
Total Running Time: 231 minutes

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

In the beginning…there was Genesis. And they had a drummer. And he was a good drummer.

Yes…it’s easy to forget that the drummer for Genesis – throughout their Peter Gabriel-fronted early progressive rock era and the subsequent trio-based years – was Phil Collins. In fact, it’s easy to completely forget that he’s a drummer at all, given the incredible number of pop hits he managed to dish out over the course of his decades-long solo career in which he was primarily known for his singing voice and the slew of MTV-era music videos that rarely showed him behind a kit.

“Phil Collins: Live at Montreux 2004” immediately seizes the opportunity to remind us that the guy is a powerhouse percussionist. Instead of starting the show by jumping into the role of the chart-topping solo vocalist, he takes a seat on the drummer’s throne and bashes away at a solo that’s impressive in its own right. But wait…there’s more! Another drummer joins in to make things more rhythmically complex.  And by the time a third drummer joins in, the whole affair has become a joyous bombastic escapade that leaves Phil covered with sweat and a beaming smile.  And he hasn’t even sung a single note yet.

As soon as the drumming circle concludes, Collins takes center stage and the journey through his greatest hits begins. Even though his solo career often produced some corny clunkers (you know the wer-HERRRRD: sus-sus-sudio!) and sappy ballads, it’s undeniable that so many of his hits are damn good songs. (Go ahead. Just try to not get into the groove of “I Missed Again” and “Easy Lover”. I dare you.)

Of course, the delivery of the 24-song live set has a lot to do with a 16-member backing band that is comprised of some truly amazing musicians – some of whom have been with Collins for quite some time. They’re quite a versatile lot that knows how to propel energetic songs and recede during quieter ballads such as “A Groovy Kind of Love” and “Against All Odds”. Collins has a little trouble hitting the highest of highs that were present on the original studio tracks, but he and his musical crew have such a command of solidly delivering the material that it doesn’t matter. Phil’s dynamic energy is invigorating and his ability to jump from being a smooth crooner to a jump and jiver is so effortless that it’s hard not to get engrossed in his performance. But, above all else, it seems like he’s still having a grand time singing songs that he’s performed countless times over the decades.

Even though the 2-hour plus 2004 show easily provides more than enough material to satisfy, a 13-song 1996 show that was also recorded at Montreux is also included. Looking at the track list, it seems that the vast majority of the tracks from this gig are redundant with the ones that are included in the 2004 concert.  This immediately begs the question “Why even bother including it at all?” But, from note one, it becomes quite clear why it has been added: all of the songs are big band-style reinterpretations of Phil’s solo songs along with some Genesis and classic jazz covers thrown in for good measure. As a result, many songs are performed sans vocals and, because it’s a Montreux Jazz Festival show, special guest appearances by legendary performers happen throughout. David Sanborn lends his supreme saxophone skills to handle the vocal line of “In the Air Tonight”, Quincy Jones conducts a group of orchestral musicians and the one-and-only Tony Bennett adds his unmistakable swagger to the jazz standard “There’ll Be Some Changes Made”. Sure, some of the instrumental versions of the slower ballads might better suited for the confines of an elevator, but everybody onstage – including drummer Phil – seems to be having such a blast transforming Collins’ songs, that the program manages to be a lot of fun even during its sleepiest moments.  The audio quality of the entire 1996 show, however, has some MAJOR problems.  But we’ll cover that soon enough…

“Phil Collins: Live at Montreux” is available as a one-disc Blu-ray and a two-disc DVD set. The 2004 show was filmed in high-definition (1080i), so the Blu’s image quality is far superior to the DVD’s. The 1996 show was recorded in standard definition and, as such, there’s not much of an appreciable visual difference between the two editions for this segment of the program. Unfortunately, even though the big band show should be presented in 4:3, it defaults to 16:9 during playback which makes Phil and his cohorts appear short and wide. Be sure to pop your TV/monitor into 4:3 to correct this technical error: those “annoying black bars” on the left and right of the screen help to make the show look more like a concert and less like an Oompa Loompa outtake from “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”.

The audio options for the Blu-ray and the DVD are pretty much what we’ve come to expect from live concert discs: Dolby Digital 5.1 for both, DTS-HD for the Blu and standard DTS for the DVD. All are sufficient for the 2004 show, although the drum track (especially the low-end of the kick drum) seems a little less defined and present in the mix than one would hope for and expect and the bass track is rather heavy and is frequently somewhat muddy. On the whole, it’s quite listenable and will probably only bug audiophile listeners. The audio for the 1996 show,  for any set of ears, leaves a lot to be desired as it gets jarringly compressed and distorted – even on the Blu-ray – when the band’s dynamics reach a loud fever pitch.  Just because Phil himself states at the beginning of the 1996 show that “We’re going to play my shit…but differently” doesn’t mean that it should sound like shit. How a glitch this major made it past Eagle Rock Entertainment’s mastering engineers and quality control department is beyond comprehension.

Despite these technical shortcomings, the 2004 part of “Phil Collins: Live at Montreaux 2004” is easily the best Phil Collins greatest hits collection on the market and should please long-time fans as well as those two or three living beings in the animal kingdom who aren’t familiar with his music. Given that Collins retired from performing soon after this show, it’s great to have a most-filling (although not always aurally satisfying) retrospective that showcases a truly talented singer and – lest we forget – one hell of a drummer.

 

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