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 

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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.”

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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

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11 hours ago

Bryan Beller

BEHIND THE SCENES FROM THE FLOOD - STEINER IN ELLIPSES: Every story needs conflict, and here we introduce a new element in the narrative, one that possesses extremely powerful energy. Benevolent? Malevolent? Both? Yet to be determined. But it’s going to have an impact either way. We’ve all encountered something like that, right?

To represent this sonically, I knew I wanted it to be (ahem) fast and furious. I also always wanted to wrote a true thrash/extreme metal tune. And I knew this was the conclusion of the first of four parts of the album, so it needed a grandeur in its climax. For me, this all pointed towards Devin Townsend/Dethklok world, and that’s when I realized I needed Gene Hoglan slaying everywhere in order to make this track’s brutal sprint to the end of Part 1 come to life.

Making the demo was a blast, except for the guitar solo. There was no way I could approximate the metal shredding it needed, and I believe in Complete Demos. So I called for…the soulful, funky stylings of Rick Musallam?! Somehow I just thought it would be fun to give him a whack at it. Sure enough, he came in and shredded it with a slightly bluesy edge (a bit of Hammett/Mustaine, perhaps), and the demo solo ended up being the album’s most unlikely keeper.

I also wanted the riffing to feel more “dangerous” and slightly loose as opposed to “modern/tight”. More 1986 thrash than 2018 djent. So I called…Mike Keneally? Yes! The riffs were actually quite difficult *mentally*, and the odd-time intro/outro was a bitch and a half, as was the ascending climb riff leading up to the ending (my nod to Strapping Young Lad’s “Shitstorm”). MK ate those tough runs for breakfast, and gave the track a whole different feel than “Awesome Metal Guitarist X” would have been able to provide.

Overall, even though “Steiner In Ellipses” was only 2:23 in duration, it was one of the hardest pieces of the album to bring into a finality that really worked. There are 17 mixes of the demo and 22 mixes of the final studio version. (No joke!) Mixing extreme metal has “rules” in order to avoid low frequency muddle problems generated by super fast kick drums and low-tuned guitars in unison with bass. “…And Justice For All” aside, there *are* real benefits to reducing low end and increasing compression in metal mixes. And yet, this song had to fit on an album where the low end was, in general, fat AF. Balancing the needs of the song with the needs of the album was something that Forrester Savell and I were working on right up until the very, very end. It was the second to last mix to come home - only “World Class” took longer.

Finally, the song - and Part 1 - ends with a nod to the coming Storm. A few people caught that. Did you?
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1 day ago

Bryan Beller

JANET FEDER SPEAKS: I’ve said plenty about her - now it’s time to hear from her in her own words. Let’s Rock catches up to guitarist/composer Janet Feder (author of “Angles & Exits”) in her first interview since the release of “Scenes From The Flood”. How did a classically trained (and degree'd) acoustic guitarist end up using roach clips, split rings and plastic “superballs” to create unique sounds on a baritone? Janet explains it all in this 30-minute interview. ... See MoreSee Less

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3 days ago

Bryan Beller

TWO BRAZILIAN GIRLS TALK PROG: I thought that might get your attention. I know I’ve posted a lot of interviews lately but this one is absolutely unique, thanks to the clever editing and the 65-SONG PROG PLAYLIST (in 16 minutes?!) curated by Lorena Coelho and Nina Goulart of Desordem Progressiva. Come for the lo-fi hipster fashion, stay for the Deep Prog Questions. And make sure to watch to the end to see how to debase yourself with a writing utensil after playing “Marry Fuck Kill” with Emerson Lake & Palmer. ... See MoreSee Less

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3 days ago

Bryan Beller

BEHIND THE SCENES FROM THE FLOOD - "A QUICKENING": As I set out to build "Scenes From The Flood", I really studied Pink Floyd's "The Wall" from a sequential standpoint, and how it flowed and why I thought it worked. Some of what kept it interesting for me were the (pardon the pun) numerous sudden scene changes. From the helicopter end of "Another Brick In The Wall Part One" to the thudding opening chord of "The Happiest Days of Our Lives"; the buzzing end fall of "Empty Spaces" into the funk groove of "Young Lust"; that sort of thing.

This is what inspired the thinking behind the two-minute "story time jump" that comprised SFTF's fourth track, "A Quickening". A couple of expositional elements have been established - an optimistic start, a query on reality - and now events happen quickly. More important than what those events are is the idea that they *can* happen quickly, more so than ever (insert value judgment on that here), thanks to...well, we're going to go meta here, but what platform are you reading this on?

Musically, I'd never before tried to do anything remotely "drum and bass"-y, so this was a plunge. The Korg Kronos' onboard drum loops and patterns provided a near limitless palette of chop-sy bit-sy grooves, and I just went for it. I looked for a better bass synth sound than the SWR Mo' Bass but I just couldn't find one, so I went with that...which gave it a bit of a Mike Keneally "Physics" vibe. It's an homage, right? After that, I just piled on the layers, and always knew that the purpose of this song was to jangle the nerves, move the story forward, and get to the blistering climactic song of Part One, "Steiner In Ellipses". The crazed double-time ending is another homage (non MK) - anyone able to ID it?

Speaking of Keneally, I ended up doing everything on this track except these two really high guitar arpeggios which my clubby bass fingers just could not make sound good. So Keneally was kind enough to cut those for me. As always, thank you MK!
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BEHIND THE SCENES FROM THE FLOOD: Here's a deep dive into the climactic song of Part 1, the extreme/thrash metal fireball that is "Steiner In Ellipses", featuring @GeneHoglan, @MikeKeneally & Rick Musallam. 22 mixes until it was final. 22! Read (top post): https://t.co/W0IOfDV3q6

JANET FEDER SPEAKS: I’ve said plenty about her - now it’s time to hear from her in her own words. Let’s Rock catches up to guitarist/composer @JanetFeder (author of “Angles & Exits”) in her first interview since the release of “Scenes From The Flood”. https://t.co/VpY1qqRqlt

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