Bryan Beller - "Thanks In Advance"
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).
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:
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)
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)
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)
Saxphonist Scheila Gonzalez (Zappa Plays Zappa)
Violinist Ann Marie Calhoun (Steve Vai)
Bryan Beller - biography
Bryan Beller has maintained a frenetic, multi-faceted career as a bassist, composer, writer and clinician for nearly twenty years. On his own, Beller released his debut rock/jazz fusion solo album View in late 2003 to widespread acclaim, earning the monthly feature in Bass Player Magazine ("…it's a thrill to witness an artist like Beller find his voice with such a self-assured debut..."). His second album Thanks In Advance (2008), a definitive compositional statement about breaking through anger and finding gratitude, garnered even more critical praise (“…a bonafide entry for bass album of the year” – Chris Jisi, Bass Player Magazine). Beller’s first live album Wednesday Night Live – a raw, powerful, intimate document of his 2010 touring lineup playing the world-famous Baked Potato in Los Angeles – was released in 2011 on both CD and DVD.
As a sideman, he's earned a reputation as a uniquely talented yet supremely tasteful hired gun bassist for adventurous rock guitarists and singer/songwriters alike. He was Steve Vai’s choice on bass for the live CD/DVD Sound Theories – a collaboration with Holland’s renowned Metropol Orchestra – and toured worldwide with Vai throughout 2007, resulting in the 2009 live CD/DVD Where The Wild Things Are. Showing his range, Beller’s also in the live "band" Dethklok, a tongue-in-cheek extreme metal band borne of the hit Cartoon Network "Adult Swim" show Metalocalypse; work with Dethklok includes a track on The Dethalbum II and three nationwide tours (one co-headlining with Mastodon). He’s also been a musical partner of freak/genius guitarist/composer Mike Keneally (Frank Zappa) for fifteen years, eleven albums, countless tours, and millions of notes. Other sideman experience includes tours with Wayne Kramer (MC5) and Dweezil Zappa, as well as more intimate duo performances with Keneally and, more recently, his wife, Nashville-based R&B/soul singer/songwriter Kira Small, with whom he’s played house concerts and listening room venues in 33 states in just 18 months.
Beller's work as a freelance writer includes cover stories on bass luminaries such as Justin Chancellor (Tool), Christian McBride, and Chris Wolstenholme (Muse), as well as a landmark cover feature on the state of heavy metal bass involving ten different interviews. In 2010, Beller interviewed former Governor of Arkansas and 2008 Republican Presidential candidate (and part-time bassist) Mike Huckabee for Bass Player Magazine. He’s also interviewed a veritable who’s who of the modern bass world: Jonas Hellborg, Victor Wooten, John Patitucci, Lee Sklar, Neil Stubenhaus, Jay DeMarcus (Rascal Flatts), Justin Meldal-Johnsen (Beck, Nine Inch Nails), Bill Laswell, Jimmy Haslip, Stefan Lessard (Dave Matthews Band), Matt Garrison, Adam Nitti, Oteil Burbridge, Dave LaRue, Miroslav Vitous, Billy Sheehan, Emmy-award winning television scorer W.G. "Snuffy" Walden (The West Wing), and myriad others.
As a pure player, a masterclass clinician (sponsored by Mike Lull Custom Basses, SWR Amplification and D’addario Strings), a Contributing Editor for Bass Player Magazine, and a former Vice-President of SWR Sound Corporation, Beller brings a global perspective to the world of bass, and sits at the intersection of many of its current pathways. After thirteen years in Los Angeles, he now lives in Nashville with his wife Kira (and their cat Lucian), and continues to travel often.