THANKS IN ADVANCE (2008)

 


Five years after his acclaimed debut album View, renowned bassist Bryan Beller (Steve Vai, Mike Keneally, Dethklok) creates an emotionally charged, personally definitive jazz/rock compositional statement about breaking through anger and finding gratitude. Drawing on disparate influences from jazzer John Scofield to Pink Floyd, Steely Dan, and even Rage Against The Machine, Beller cranks up the instrumental intensity with fellow heavyweights Mike Keneally (solo artist, Frank Zappa); drummers Marco Minnemann (world-famous clinician), Toss Panos (Larry Carlton, Robben Ford), Joe Travers (Zappa Plays Zappa), and Nick D’Virgilio (Spock’s Beard, Tears For Fears); and special guests violinist Ann Marie Calhoun (Jethro Tull; 2008 YouTube “My Grammy Moment” winner) and saxophonist Scheila Gonzalez (Zappa Plays Zappa).

“Beller engaged in some sonic soul-searching for his sophomore effort ‘Thanks In Advance’, and the welcome result is a bona fide entry for bass album of the year.” – Chris Jisi, Bass Player Magazine 

“I love Bryan’s playing! He’s solid, supportive and creative with tone for days. ‘Thanks in Advance’ is full of cool ideas, inspired performances and deep grooves. I definitely recommend it.” – Michael Manring

“Every tune sounds unique and compelling.” – Walter Kolosky, Jazz.com 

“As well-written as it is well-played.” – Nick Zaino, Skope 

********

The Story Behind Thanks In Advance

Bassist Bryan Beller seemed to have it all: a storied sideman career (Mike Keneally, Steve Vai), regularly published articles in Bass Player Magazine, an acclaimed debut solo album (“View”, 2003 Onion Boy), and an executive corporate position running SWR bass amplification for Fender Musical Instruments Corporation. But the untimely death of a close friend in early 2005 exposed deep fissures in his own identity, and instigated a period of intense and sometimes painful self-examination. One year later, Beller had quit his day job, returned to life as a freelance musician, moved from L.A. to Nashville, found love, and experienced an epiphany that forever shifted his view of life, and his role in it.

Thanks In Advance is the musical manifestation of that journey. Set to Beller’s highly detailed, rock-infused, jazz/fusion compositional voice, it’s an intense trip through the heart of personal darkness – from the lushly dissonant orchestral arrangement of “Casual Lie Day,” to the searing, grinding dirge of “Cave Dweller,” and culminating with the frenzied “Love Terror Adrenaline/Break Through” featuring renowned virtuoso guitarist/composer Mike Keneally (solo artist/Frank Zappa) and recent Modern Drummer cover subject Marco Minnemann – before finally reaching a state of personal and musical peace in the title track and the album’s unexpected close.

“I was constantly unhappy, even angry, about my everyday life, wondering why this or that was all ‘happening to me,'” says Beller. “Only after a shock to my system did I get that, ultimately, I was the source of it all. Where I am now is infinitely more satisfying. So Thanks In Advance really completes View, which I now realize was a well-crafted complaint about things, and tries to convey how I got to being grateful for life’s everyday content, whatever it brings, as opposed to being angry with it. It sure wasn’t a painless process, but it’s been deeply, profoundly rewarding, and it’s a message I’d like to share with others. That’s what I’m up to with this record.”

More comfortable than ever in his own playing skin, Beller worked fretless, fretted, acoustic/electric, boutique and vintage basses into the mix, and contributed piano and guitar tracks as well. But he left plenty of spotlight for a stylistically diverse all-star cast: the aforementioned Keneally and Minnemann; drummer Joe Travers and saxophonist Scheila Gonzalez (Zappa Plays Zappa); violinist Ann Marie Calhoun (Steve Vai); View veteran guitarists Rick Musallam (Mike Keneally, Ben Taylor) and Griff Peters; keyboardist Jeff Babko (James Taylor, Robben Ford); and drummers Nick D’Virgilio (Spock’s Beard, Tears For Fears) and Toss Panos (Michael Landau, Larry Carlton). And that’s just the L.A. contingent; Beller tracked a whole separate group of Nashville musicians, including some veteran R&B grease in guitarist Bruce Dees (James Brown, Ronnie Milsap) and keyboardist Clayton Ivey (Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin) to complement the virtuosic firepower. There was also a personal touch, as Dees and Ivey previously recorded with the woman Beller moved to Nashville for: R&B singer/songwriter/keyboardist Kira Small, who also played Rhodes on the album’s title track.

While recording occurred in eleven different studios (primarily in Nashville, Los Angeles and San Diego), Beller bucked the remote-album file-swapping trend and personally attended nearly every session, bringing cohesion to the production and personally preserving the album’s narrative. “After a year of seclusion writing the material, I was more than ready to get out of the house and interact with the people I trusted to bring this music to life. Driving back and forth from Nashville to SoCal, with a van full of gear and basses and hard drives, going from studio to studio…it was really exhilarating to feel it all come together. That’s an easy one to be grateful for.”

*********

Thanks In Advance features performances by:

Guitarists

Mike Keneally (solo artist, Frank Zappa)
Rick Musallam (Mike Keneally Band, Ben Taylor)
Griff Peters (featured guitarist on Beller’s first album “View”)
Chris Cottros (Nashville session cat)
Bruce Dees (James Brown, Ronnie Milsap)

Keyboardists

Jeff Babko (James Taylor, Robben Ford, Jimmy Kimmel Live)
Jody Nardone (Crimson Jazz Trio)
Kira Small (solo artist, Martina McBride, Wynonna Judd)
Clayton Ivey (Wilson Pickett, Diana Ross, Aretha Franklin)

Drummers

Joe Travers (Zappa Plays Zappa, Lisa Loeb)
Toss Panos (Michael Landau, Larry Carlton)
Marco Minnemann (solo artist/clinician)
Nick D\’Virgilio (Tears For Fears, Spock\’s Beard)
Marcus Finnie (Diana Ross)

Special Guests

Saxphonist Scheila Gonzalez (Zappa Plays Zappa)
Violinist Ann Marie Calhoun (Steve Vai)

released September 30, 2008 

Produced by Bryan Beller

Mixed by Mark Niemiec at Muggytone Studio, Nashville, TN
Key editing by Mark Niemiec on all tracks except “Cave Dweller” key editing by Erich Gobel
Mastered by John and J.J. Golden at John Golden Mastering, Ventura, CA

All songs written by Bryan Beller © 2008 Panorama Ataraxia Music BMI
*except “Thanks In Advance” by Bryan Beller © 2008 Panorama Ataraxia Music BMI/Mike Keneally © 2008 Spen Music BMI/Griff Peters © 2008 Pointy Peak Music BMI/Joe Travers © 2008 Travers Tunes ASCAP.

CD booklet design and layout by Mike Mesker

Photography by Griff Peters (all except noted), Wes Wehmiller (tray card) and Leigh Ann Villanueva (booklet back page)

Infinite and profound thanks to Wes Wehmiller, to whom this record is dedicated.

(c) 2008 Onion Boy Records, All Rights Reserved.

all rights reserved

Join The Mailing List

Mylinks join mailing list

1 hour ago

Bryan Beller

BEHIND THE SCENES FROM THE FLOOD - SWEET WATER: For those of you who noticed that “Sweet Water” sounded like something from an earlier album of mine, you were right! There’s a certain archetype of song that served as the title track to my two previous records. “View” and “Thanks In Advance” are both slow, sensitive guitar ballads, and the closing chapters to the stories of those albums. So I thought that, considering “Sweet Water” is about being on a long plane ride at the end of an even longer journey, and daydreaming about a) a wistful vision of finally going home again, and what a relief and how awesome it will be; b) a deeply reflective look back on the events that brought it all to this point, and perhaps even further back than that… I thought it would be interesting to evoke the sound of those earlier songs, now over ten or even fifteen years old. That’s why the artwork is literally a postcard of that vision, the peaceful return to home after an epic voyage. But can you really go home again after something like that?

This will be a bit a long, but we’re at the moment of truth here, so I hope you’ll indulge me.

I’ve talked a lot in previous posts about Guthrie Govan (Official)’s incredible performance on this song, and how hard we worked to get it (ICYMI: it took months!). The only thing I’d add in terms of why it had to be him: Who else could rise to the challenge of being the sole melodic instrument to follow the massiveness of “World Class”? Or using a sports analogy, it’s the NBA Finals and you’ve got one shot to win it all. And you’ve got Michael Jordan. Do you give him the ball or not? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

But let’s not forget about Joe Travers’ incredible groove and emotionally charged fills on this song, especially in the ending (we’ll get to that in a bit), and Mike Keneally’s double-tracked acoustic guitars. I wrote those parts on keyboard (we actually kept them as a second layer in the background), and sometimes it takes a virtuoso to track something that sounds simple, but actually isn’t.

And yes, that’s me on the lead guitar in the ending. At first I was embarrassed to follow up Guthrie with climactic lead guitar bits, but it turned out that the shift in the song’s final minute actually wanted a different lead voice to help change the scene, so to speak. And it worked emotionally as well (more on that crucial bit below). So I got used to it and ended up keeping it. Thanks again to Forrester Savell for skillfully re-amping those tracks - they needed every ounce of love, I can assure you!

Now, let’s talk about this song’s ending, because it’s where the whole album has been leading to from the very first minute. As I said to Forrester more than once about this part: These 30 seconds are the whole ballgame.

I knew from early on that, eventually, the end of the album would reprise the melody of the very first track, “The Scouring Of Three & Seventeen”. And I had the song “Sweet Water” in my back pocket from early on as well. I even had most of “Let Go Of Everything” (the last track) in advance. What I didn’t know was exactly how it would find its way from where the “Scouring” reprise comes in (at 6:41) to the start of “Let Go”. The total duration of this key bit is 30 seconds. I purposefully saved it for the final move of the writing process, and it was the very last thing I composed for the album in any harmonic detail. I even almost made those 30 seconds a separate track, but I thought that would be giving the game away, so I thought better of it.

I know I’ve been talking a lot about Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”, but at this crucial point, in terms of album structure, I was thinking deeply about Yes’ “Tales From Topographic Oceans”. For those who missed it, I’m a big fan of that album’s massive scale - four songs, 20 minutes each - but felt very deeply that Yes did not compositionally stick the landing in the album’s final minute. I get what they were going for at the end of the final song, “Ritual”. It’s a twisting series of chords that builds to a massive climax, one that doesn’t go where you think it will, and instead ends on a minor chord, and leaves you feeling disquieted. But the chords in the buildup, to me, were a strange random harmonic jumble, and the come-down just dissolves into an anti-climactic nothing. With a bit more cohesion and care, it could have worked, but somehow it just didn’t. And quite arrogantly, I always thought to myself: I wish I could have heard the “right” version. As crazy as it sounds, that was my goal as I sat down to write the climax of my entire double concept album - to make mine work by honoring the spirit of what I thought the end of TFTO should have been!

So I reached back to the very beginning of my musical training - classical piano - and imagined what it would feel like to have a feeling of “ascension while twisting”, as if you were being lifted up into the heavens by a whirlwind, experiencing euphoria, but also while blinded and disoriented. This would symbolize the protagonist’s internal feeling of almost reaching home, at long last, where everything is Right Once Again.

I sat at the keyboard with a C3 organ patch dialed up, started where the “Scouring” melody ended, plunked my left hand down onto a low octave, and began constructing voicing after voicing, one by one, with the bass note ascending and the upper chord changing and twisting each time, knowing that I somehow needed to get to B minor in the end, and that the final twist should feel like a traumatic shock, not a letdown.

It took four days of hours-long sessions, walking away, coming back, waling away, coming back...and finally, I felt I had it. Then I arranged everything else around the organ part - the acoustic guitar arpeggios, the high choral chords, the lead guitar breaks (kept from this original demo writing session), the higher melody guitars pinging the octaves, and then the drum part, which I programmed in exacting detail (god bless Joe Travers for playing it hit for bloody hit).

And finally, in one last nod to “The Wall”, I threw an explosion effect on the song’s final massive downbeat, the connection between the end of “Sweet Water” and the start of “Let Go Of Everything”. Because why the hell not.

What does this massive crestfalling mean for the story of the album? And for the more meta-meaning of the listener’s experience of hearing a progressive double concept album make this hard screeching turn in the 85th minute? I’ll address that in the explainer for the final song.
... See MoreSee Less

View on Facebook

21 hours ago

Bryan Beller

Super fun hang with Scott Devine of ScottsBassLessons.com this morning in Manchester! At some point we’ll share our fun with the interwebz. 👍🤘 ... See MoreSee Less

View on Facebook

1 day ago

Bryan Beller

Well, will you look at this... 😉

(I didn't get a chance to scribble "this is magenta now --->" on my goatee for this graphic, but you get the idea.)Hi ASIA! We’re coming back to you this June-July 2020! Stay tuned for more news / dates in a couple of weeks.
... See MoreSee Less

View on Facebook

2 days ago

Bryan Beller

EDIN-BRAH: Thanks for a great show last night in your fine city. You are very loud. I think my ears are still ringing just from the crowd response! We're currently driving in the Aristo-van (yes, a van) from Edinburgh to Manchester, and we're all fans of the beautiful green rolling Scottish hillsides on the road out of town. The sheep seem to like it as well. There are many of them.

So it's on to Manchester, then. Is it appropriate to say that we're mad for it? (Guthrie says yes. Who am I to disagree?) Hope to see you there.

Cheers,
BB

(crossposted from The Aristocrats page)
... See MoreSee Less

View on Facebook

4 days ago

Bryan Beller

I've woken to the terrible news that Lloyd Schwartz of Tech 21 NYC passed away, apparently unexpectedly and suddenly just after the NAMM Show concluded. Lloyd and Dale Krevens were two of the very first people I ever worked with in the industry regarding artist arrangements for gear, and they helped me get an original rackmount SansAmp PSA-1 in 1994, which I *still* have and use! One of my favorite moments of every NAMM Show would be coming over to Tech 21's booth, seeing Lloyd's smile through that huge beard of his, and checking out the latest fun stuff. Recently it was the dUg Pinnick signature amp, and I played the intro to "Out Of The Silent Planet" like a giddy fool while Lloyd watched and grinned.

I know many folks literally *just* saw and hung with him at NAMM. For all of the reasons I'm sad to have missed NAMM this year, this is the biggest. RIP, Lloyd.With heavy hearts, we regret to inform you our beloved colleague, friend and music industry legend, Lloyd Schwartz, passed away last night. At this time, we do not have information regarding funeral or memorial arrangements. Kindly understand we will be unable to answer any questions. Lloyd was an integral part of our family for 27 years and we are devastated.
... See MoreSee Less

View on Facebook

BEHIND THE SCENES FROM THE FLOOD - "SWEET WATER": The record's penultimate track & final complete "song" ties the 85th min. of this progressive double concept album back to its 1st, & then takes a hard screeching turn at the last moment. Words: (top post) https://t.co/W0IOfDDsyy

Super fun hang with Scott Devine of https://t.co/s0YaVE84tz this morning in Manchester! At some point we’ll share our fun with the interwebz. 👍🤘

Load More...