Fall drummer Jason Bittner is a busy man. It has been years
since he has had a significant break from the record-and-tour,
record-and-tour cycle that is the life of a national metal
act. But he is not complaining. On the eve of his band Shadows
Fall’s first major-label release for Atlantic Records, things
are just starting to get exciting. “It’s still a little
surrealistic to me right now,” said Bittner just before
a sound check on the first stop of his band’s tour with
Stonesour and Lacuna Coil. “I haven’t really had time to
take a look back. Right now we are full-blown into tour
Bittner says the most noticeable thing the band’s record
deal has afforded them so far has been time to craft their
the type of music we play, which is not commercially viable
music, it’s not about making money. It’s about surviving.
That’s why the schedule has been write record, record a
record, go back out on tour. Fortunately, with signing to
Atlantic, we had last year to spend on writing the best
album possible and not ask, ‘Gee, are we going to be able
to pay the bills?’ ”
During the recording process for Threads of Life,
Bittner says, his drumming, which has been incessantly praised
in trade publications, became more focused thanks to producer
Nick Raskulinecz. “We went in a more professional direction.
It’s not all about me and where I sit in the song or whether
or not I get a cool drum fill in there. We concentrated
more collaboratively, to write the best possible songs.”
But that is not to say that he didn’t punish the skins in
classic Bittner fashion. “Believe me, there was a lot of
room for drumming on this album, and there certainly are
a lot of my moments on this album.” Bittner notes that he
has been working on an album with Burning Human as an outlet
for his more self-indulgent drumming.
Regarding his status as a fixture in the metal press and
his alleged status as drum idol, the former New York state
employee says he is not exactly comfortable with it yet.
“To be called an idol . . . I don’t take it seriously at
all. I might be an influence on a kid, and that means the
world to me, but I don’t consider myself a drum idol. I
am lucky with the respect I earned since I was playing Saratoga
Winners in 1987.”
In spite of his busy schedule, there is one place Bittner
says he has to visit when the tour bus rolls through Albany.
“I am going home. It’s only 15 minutes from the venue in
Rexford. I’m going to spend my day at home—do laundry, spend
time with the cat, catch up with mail, spend time with my
wife—and then I might go back home for a short time after
the show.” Don’t worry, all you die-hard metalheads out
there. While thanks to this hometown show Bittner may be
getting a special gift in the form of cuddle time with his
cat, Shadows Fall fans will get a gift of their own: The
show will serve as an album-release party, and fans will
be able to purchase Threads of Life a day early.
Shadows Fall will rock Northern Lights (1208 Route 146,
Clifton Park) this Monday (April 2) at 7:30 PM. Tickets
are $15. Call 371-0012 for more information.
classical music thrives on its warhorses, compositions that
are decades old or even far older. Yet each of them is a
product of its time, reflecting the prevailing philosophies,
politics and, of course, music.
Dogs of Desire, a chamber ensemble drawn from the ranks
of the Albany Symphony Orchestra, have for the past decade
commissioned from and performed works by living composers
who share a sensibility with those composers of the past.
They’re listening to—and often performing and writing—music
with a pop-culture pulse. They’re as familiar with James
Brown as with J.S. Bach.
The result is music doing what any of the arts ought to
do: creatively redefining our environment and opening the
audience to unexpected possibilities.
Seven current composers offer seven world-premiere performances
tomorrow (Friday) at the WMHT Television Studio in the Rensselaer
This unusual location was chosen to accommodate the multimedia
nature of some of the works, in which the composers collaborated
with videographers to add images to the sounds.
Fans of the Dogs will recognize the names of most of the
composers. “These are people we like to work with,” says
conductor David Alan Miller, “because they understand what
the Dogs are about.” As previous concerts have demonstrated,
the Dogs are all about exploring old and new sounds with
a wry, intelligent hipness.
Those old sounds might include parlor songs, which lately
are a fascination of David Mallamud. His piece, titled Parlor
Songs, is, as he describes it, “a collection of songs
written in the style of 19th century American popular music.
Before ragtime, before jazz, before the phonograph made
music more accessible, popular music was performed by middle-class
amateurs in the parlors of their homes, hence the name parlor
Or it might be the concept behind James Joyce’s “Ulysses”,
itself inspired by an earlier saga. Composer Evan Hause
is another Dogs regular, and this time, says Miller, “he’s
giving us another act of his Queens opera.” With Hause himself
cast as the work’s protagonist, “it’s all about his experiences
walking from work to his home in Queens. Evan is a protégé
of William Bolcom, and the piece is packed with pop-music
references. It’s like a pinball game, bouncing around the
New to the Dogs is John B. Hedges, who is the son of a rock
bass player and is himself a member of the Philadelphia-based
funk group Scrapple. “His piece is a James Brown homage,”
Miller explains. “He says he idolized Brown and spent hours
learning how to sing his phrases.”
Thanks to his work at RPI, Neil Rolnick has been a dynamic
area presence for many years. His multimedia piece for this
concert celebrates the George Washington Bridge, which he
can observe from his Washington Heights studio. Notes Rolnick,
“While the bridge is an icon of New York City, it’s also
a close neighbor I’ve gotten to know more intimately than
do tourists and travelers. The walkways across the bridge
are noisy and gritty and full of people and cars, but it’s
urban grit suspended high above the majestic Hudson River,
with fresh air and endless vistas mixing with the exhaust
and city rhythms. And from the parks beneath either end
of the bridge you get a sense of the pastoral beauty of
the setting, smack in the heart of one of the world’s biggest
and noisiest cities.”
Other works on the program are by Dorothy Chang, who is
a composer-in-residence with the ASO, Ken Eberhard, and
Pulitzer Prize winner Paul Moravec.
The Dogs of Desire will perform at 8 PM tomorrow (Friday,
March 30) at the WMHT Television Studio (Rensselaer Technology
Park, 4 Global View, Troy). Tickets are $25. For reservations
and info, call the Palace Theatre box office at 465-4633.