Interview with Atma Anur in August 2008 - Fusing The Extremes

Having recorded more than 100 CDs in almost every musical style Atma Anur still is a nearly unknown drumming hero. In the eighties he became one of the house drummers for Mike Varney´s Shrapnel label and worked with guitar heros such as Tony Macalpine, Greg Howe, Richie Kotzen and Jason Becker or yet to be discovered musical gems like Bernd Steidl and Lindsey Boullt. But he also played for the heavy metal bands Cacophony and Vicious Rumors. His drumming is sophistcated changing between the poles "Air" and "Earth" with brilliant cymbal work. Since there is many news to tell let the master himself do the talking.

ragazzi: "Like your drumming your name is very special; what´s its meaning and where do you come from originally?"

Atma: "Well let me say first that guitar hero drumming and heavy metal playing is a very small part of what I do. I have been playing and studying for over thirty years and have played with a great many commercial bands and artists. I have also recorded many dance, ethnic and funk records. My first recordings in NYC were of course jazz and I studied at Boston's Berklee College of Music. I got known in the eighties first with Tony Macalpine and then for getting the journey gig after Steve Smith. I also had a very long and cool career playing blues in San Francisco and LA - I of course still play a lot of blues in Europe. I have written a book and have my own experimental group in Krakow, I do specialize in odd time grooving and soloing. In San Francisco I led a commercial pop band that only played in odd time signatures ... it was very dance oriented! I am originally from London, England. My parents are from Barbados, West Indies. My name means soul to light."

ragazzi: "You live in Poland at the moment - is it just an episode or do you plan to stay there for a longer time?"

Atma: "Well, I don`t know what will happen but I am happy here. I also just love Europe in general, I am English you know?"

ragazzi: "Which bands and projects do you have in Poland?"

Atma: "I am playing with many great artists here at the moment. I am with polish legends like Wawele, Jarek Smitana, Kris Scieranski, Kulturka, Wu Wu and really many others. I am also producing a new young commercial rock band called Super Nova ... great songs! We are recording at Orange Studios right now with Kris Filus."

ragazzi: "Do you plan to record (and release) with some of your Polish bands?"

Atma: "Yes im also doing some solo oriented material with Tomasz Bura as a duet, piano and drums. It is in a Chick Corea vibe. I also plan to record the next Atma Anur Group CD with Dominik Bienczycki and Norbi Pajek. Amazing musicians!"

ragazzi: "Are there any other projects you are working on at the moment?"

Atma: "Yes I am doing a great commercial metal project in Warsaw called Money Metal with members of Ira and Doda. Also fantastic song writers and players. In Italy I am in the new international super group..Lafamiglia Superstar. Led by Steve Saluto, we have just finished most of the 12 tracks for the upcoming CD and have some cool shows in Europe this October. I am also playing and singing in a great old school blues/funk band called Soulfinger. This band plays mostly in Krakow. I am also recording with californian singer/songwritter Lex Karlin. He lives in Krakow too. It is like Motorhead meets the Stones."

ragazzi: "Do you plan to tour as a side man or as a clinician in the near future?"

Atma: "I am on the road constantly in Poland with Wawele and will play in Italy and Austria with Lafamiglia this year. I am still clinicing for PDP all over. The last one was in the Czech Republic."

ragazzi: "You also work as a producer for instrumental and for vocal bands and artists; what made you change the sides?"

Atma: "All good drummers are producers, it is very logical. I am just doing what is natural!"

ragazzi: "Which of the artists you produced are commercially successful?"

Atma: "Right now Doug Doppler, Vanessa van Spall and Polish pop band Kulturka are doing well."

ragazzi: "Can success be planned in the music business?"

Atma: "The only thing one can plan is to do the best one can ..."

ragazzi: "Your drumming has so much to offer. How about releasing a drumming DVD - instructional or showcase?"

Atma: "Sure, hook me up!"

ragazzi: "By the way did you ever work as a drum-teacher?"

Atma: "I have been teaching for thirty years now - I teach the basics of funk and blues. This is the most essential topic for the modern commercial drummer to understand. I am teaching at many schools and academies including PIT in LA and the famous Cazadero Music Camp. The most recent is Krakow Jazz School."

ragazzi: "Although being a studied drummer your playing is very emotional and makes even instrumental "brain music" groove; what´s the secret of your groove?"

Atma: "Listening and playing time! Maybe being West Indian helps!"

ragazzi: "Do you play mallet percussion or any other percussion instruments?"

Atma: "Yes I play many hand drums and the like and have recorded many percussion jobs. There is a very cool CD from Italian guitarist Steve Saluto featuring Richie Kotzen singing with a choir and me playing only percussion. Steve wrote the song and there is no guitar on it at all!"

ragazzi: "When did you meet Mike Varney for the first time and how did you become a drummer for Shrapnel?"

Atma: "I met Mike in 1985 in Marin County. I had just joined LeMans on Columbia. He was a manager there. His label was new and we hit it off. He is a great person and totally into music. We have had a great relationship."

ragazzi: "Neal Schon called you "a guitar players drummer"; what makes your playing so attractive for guitar players in your opinion?"

Atma: "I am the Jimi Hendrix of drums!"

ragazzi: "In the eighties you had - as mentioned above - a short-time liaison with Journey; please tell us about this experience."

Atma: "I auditioned and got the gig. Actually Josh Ramos told Neal about me. This gig taught me a lot about music and about myelf. It was very short but I met a lot of people. I just love Journey!!!"

ragazzi: "You also recorded with David Bowie - what´s the story behind this recording?"

Atma: "It was a session for Black Tie White Noise in California ... very cool experience again. One day I was crossing the street in San Francisco and heard my track on the radio with David ... wow!"

ragazzi: "Which of the CDs you played on do you like best and why?"

Atma: "My favorite is the Vanessa van Spall CD "Cotton-Poly Blend", then "Perpetual Burn" by Jason Becker and then Keno Mapp's "Heart Touch" - incredible funk and poetry dance music. I produced two of them and Jason´s CD is special because of our connection. He is just a wonderful person and an amazing talent."

ragazzi: "You like playing with lots of cymbals so do you have a cymbal endorsement deal?"

Atma: "I have been a Sabian endorsee for twenty-five years!"

ragazzi: "Please describe your set-up; which components change and which are basic for you?"

Atma: "Now I am a PDP artist. The basics are a kick, a snare, a tom and two cymbals ... crash and hihat. I always use my 9000 double pedal. That is all I need, but I love too many drums ... hehehe."

ragazzi: "Do you have a favored playing style?"

Atma: "Good playing is my favorite style, but my personal passion is polyrythmic fusion!"

ragazzi: "What activities are planned for the next months?"

Atma: "Lots of more playing and I want to get remarried ... ladies?"

Frank Bender