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Interview with Chris Baker (Atheist, Gnostic)

Interview with Chris Baker (Atheist, Gnostic)
BANDS : Atheist

What you think when you hear the word "Jupiter"? Okay, the second planet ... but instead what do you think? Exactly! The Atheist album, the first after a break of 17 years. Atheist, for those unfamiliar with the band, were the ones that have introduced elements of jazz and progressive rock to death metal, which led to change the sound of Chuck Schuldiner Death album since 1991, when they were already on the verge Atheist to separate for the first time. Because the schedule was not very permissive Americans since before the release (and all members with jobs), only a few days ago I received replies from Chris Baker, guitarist and Gnostic Atheist troops (the band that plays at Steve Flynn Kelly Shaefer and drums as a manager). Not wanting to ask the same questions as all other sites on the net, I tried to give a set of questions of a diverse nature ... It was a pleasure talking to Chris, and what follows is the result.

Steve Flynn, Chris Baker, Jonathan Thompson, Kelly Shaefer

Metalfan: Good Evening Chris! How did you join Gnostic and then Atheist? 

Chris Baker: I Met Kevin Freeman with Gnostic, at Gnostic’s first show – I happened to be there, to see another band. Over the next few days, I talked to the band, turns out they wanted to replace their guitarist and so – I was the guy.  Then like 3 weeks later, Shaefer determined that Rand Burkey wouldn’t be able to do the Atheist tour…and so when I got that email, I started working on the tour set.

Metalfan: You played in a band called Ghost Story in the early 90’s. You have played with such bands as Danzig, Hallow’s Eve and Dark Angel. What can you tell us about those bands and those days in general, with grunge being all big? 
Chris Baker: We also played with Dark Angel, Morbid Angel, Vio-lence and Prong. Grunge hadn’t really happened yet – Ghost Story was actually 1988-1991 – grunge was getting started right about the time when Ghost Story was ending.  It was a very exciting time, “speed-metal” “death metal” etc etc was all very new. There were VERY few metal bands around Atlanta during that time…Hallows Eve had broken up right after the Monument album, and so Ghost Story, Kinetic Dissent, Nihilist were the mainstays during that time period.  Atlanta is a R&B town… not Rock N Roll… so there is a shortage of venues, and the scene is not very well organized or unified… despite that, Ghost Story built a great local following, and the 2 demos were featured in Metal Maniacs, Kerrang, etc – and were sold throughout 24 countries. That’s pretty cool for local Atlanta metal band circa 1989. Today we have Mastodon, Gnostic, Daath, etc etc and Atlanta has some respect as a music city as well!

Metalfan: Is there anywhere people can listen to Ghost Story? 
Chris Baker: Myspace and YouTube! There might be some torrents out there also.

Metalfan: Very briefly describe each song on Jupiter as a whole (what you were trying to get across lyrically and instrumentally, etc.). 

Chris Baker: I can’t really do it song by song… over all as an album we wanted variety, good musicianship, good catchy melodies and harmonies.

Metalfan: Do you agree with Kelly’s lyrical themes and beliefs? I mean, are you ok to be associated with them as a member of Atheist? 
Chris Baker: In the first place, I don’t have any problem with ANY lyrics or associations. Bring it on!  Most of Shaefer’s content is well expressed and thought-provoking.  It’s better than 99% of whats out there, and makes quite an impression in most that take the time to read it. And yes, I’m OK to be aligned with these chaps. My friends and family are not the slightest bit surprised about any of it!

Metalfan: How much input did Jason Seucof have in the recording of “The Jupe”? Do you think you will be using his services in the future as well?
Chris Baker: He didn’t work with us on the actual recording… however he did add some cameo spots on guitar. His mixing, however, had a lot to do with it!  He re-amped the guitars, cleaned up some of the other tracks, and cleared up the mix overall. In the future, who knows!?  Quite possibly!

Metalfan: What bands (from nowadays or from back in the day) would you like to ever open for and what band would you like ever opening for you?

Chris Baker: From back in the day??? Of course, Metallica… and Metallica!!! 

Metalfan: Everytime I saw you play, you seemed very enthusiastic about playing. Your guitar playing is influenced a lot by feeling. After so many changes with Gnostic and mainly Atheist, has that that enthusiasm faded a bit and turned into “let’s get this show over with and on to the next one”? Or is that passion still as ardent as it was in the beginning?
Chris Baker: Hell no brother… I’m just as excited every time I’m on stage… I’m extremely stoked about this year’s concerts!  I never want the show to be over with… usually we close with Piece of Time… and right before the song starts, I always realize that it’s the last of the set… theres a slight sadness that comes with that… I always wish we could keep playing, no matter how tired we are by that point! 

Metalfan: What reactions are you expecting from this upcoming tour, with Tony Choy out of the band, new bassist, etc.?

Chris Baker: I expect a lot of comments about how tight we sound… how badass the new bass player is… and how the new songs sound… I don’t think there will be a lot of focus on Tony, since he’s not there now.

Metalfan: You guys had a tour or two in which you, Steve and JT pulled double duty: playing with Gnostic AND Atheist. How did that work, what was the reception and would you do it again?
Chris Baker: It was amazingly TIRING! It was lots of fun, and we got to play two shows per night… what’s not to love???  We won’t be doing that again.

Metalfan: Top 5 albums that you would like to get others hooked on?
Chris Baker: Atheist - Jupiter, Atheist - Unquestionable Presence, Watchtower - Control and Resistance, Mekong Delta - The Principle of Doubt, Slash – Slash & Friends.

Metalfan: How does it feel to have the BEST DRUMMER IN THE WHOLE UNIVERSE in your band and as a friend?
Chris Baker: Wait… before I answer, is he going to see this interview??? Hahaha!

Metalfan: What is the order of creating instrumentation/music in Atheist? It seems that every instrument has a voice of its own especially Steve, sometimes it seems like the drums were written first…was it always the same formula?
Chris Baker: Yeah it’s the same, there are so many riffs and we start with a couple and build around it… after a multitude of changing parts, timings, and arrangements, we arrive at our final product… and THEN we begin the details and transitions etc. The drums are never written first… but they have a “mind of their own” you could say. Steve’s favorite things are contrapuntal rhythms and off-beats. He loves to be right in front of the beat.

Metalfan: Something not many know is that Steve Flynn also plays guitar. How much did he contribute with guitar licks in Atheist/Gnostic throughout time?
Chris Baker: He has a riff near the beginning of Fictitious Glide. He has a YouTube video of it up, as well. I think I had 10 riffs, JT had a dozen or so, and Shaefer had three hundred riffs!!  But he contributes a ton of the arrangement ideas, and he is a central part of working out the songs.

Metalfan: Have you considered recording some tracks off Elements with Steve on drums? Or make a poll of which song people would most like to hear Flynn drum on when it comes to Elements?
Chris Baker: Nope. That album had its own time and style, it wasn’t arranged anything like Flynn would have done it… so the same passion, would not be possible. Ahh, I don’t care to see a poll on it… haha, let’s move forward!!

Metalfan: Let me focus a bit on JT since he doesn’t get enough credit in the reviews so far; he has come up with the bass lines and some guitar lines for this album…I think he has nailed them both. Given this case…I was wondering what exactly you’ll be looking for, a new bassist or a new guitarist, because it seems like he can do both just the same and that might make your search a bit easier. What are your thoughts on JT’s work and how does he click with the “elders”…given he basically derives from a newer generation that wasn’t around when Atheist were making history?
Chris Baker: He’s very dynamic in that he can adapt to nearly any playing style. He can come up with a riff or lick for any part, whether bass or guitar.  I think he prefers guitar, if he had to choose.

Metalfan: I know Kelly is still keeping in touch with Rand. Was there a possibility of him rejoining before the new formula was complete? How about other ex-members like the Elements alumni, or tour session musicians (Darren McFarlane, Sonny, etc.)? Or is the line-up final and definitive?

Chris Baker: There wasn’t any time to work stuff like that in… although, it would have been fun to work with Rand, Sonny, or Frank Emmy. Rand hasn’t been in Atheist for a very long time now, and there was never a real possibility of him joining the new band. Logistics, timing, legal issues, etc just weren’t favorable. He does have a very unique sound, and it’s too bad he’s not out there with new music right now!

Matei T, Chris Baker

Metalfan: Why did Sonny quit Atheist?
Chris Baker: Well he didn’t really “quit”… He had a lot going on personally, and it was just best for him to focus on Gnostic for the time being. It was a decision he made, that we also supported. He’s a great guy, killer guitar player, and it’s fun to jam with him. We’ll be doing some more Gnostic stuff soon!

Metalfan: As a band and as an individual, are you more of the touring type or recording-in-the-studio type? And has writing ever happened while you guys were on the proverbial road?

Chris Baker: We never wrote on the road… although we did absorb some inspiration from all the amazing bands we’ve seen and played with on the road. As a band, it seems the recordings have historically been what Atheist is known for. Personally, I love recording – especially when I have the time do address all the details, add all the bells and whistles, and make everything sound exactly right. But we have had some amazing shows, been to some beautiful places, and (most importantly) met the most incredible fans and friends in the world – and all over the world – that means more to me than anything, and I will always love that part of it more than anything! It’s the music and it’s the people. Love ‘em all!

Metalfan: So far did you have any shows that went bad, either due to promoters, technicians or audience?
Chris Baker: There were shows that had issues… in Italy at Evolution Fest 2006 Tony fell through the stage, and then right after that show I busted my skull open on Sxaon's iron eagle backdrop… that was quite an event… but a great show nonetheless!  And we have had an abnormal amount of ‘bad luck’ with transportation in particular.. lots of bad stories there… and there have been maybe two or three venues that weren’t “appropriate”… this happens sometimes, no sweat we just love playing.

Metalfan: You have a new bassist. Can you tell us the story of how he was taken under the Atheist boozum?
Chris Baker: I met Travis through a mutual friend Doug about 4 years ago when Gnostic was having bass player issues… we stayed in touch ever since, and when Choy bailed out on us, I called Travis immediately. That’s it! He’s a great replacement!

Metalfan: Alright Señor Chris, would you close us off with the Top 5 Atheist moments since you’ve been in the band?  
Chris Baker: WACKEN 2006, HELLFEST 2007, Matei’s house in Romania 2007, NYC 2009, JUPITER 2011…. And there are so many more… I could write a novel about each tour.
Autor: Matei T.
Vezi galeriile trupelor: Atheist

   February 22, 2011  | 0 Comments  | 8102 Views « BACK

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