The rich, lively, multi-cultural vibe that Amon brings to his work as the leader and composer of the collective known as the Analog Players Society is the result of a lifetime of studying the groove. “I got interested in Turkish, West African and Middle Eastern music in college,” Amon recalls. “I eventually studied with Famadou Konate, Mamady Keita and M’Bemba Bangora.” Spending time in Guinea, learning from the masters, led to high profile gigs as a djembe player. He jammed with Tool drummer Danny Carey in front of 30,000 fans, backed up Lee Scratch Perry and is one of the players who helped refine the combination of live percussion and recorded tracks with DJs including Nickodemus (Turntables on the Hudson<) and Chris Annibell (Afrokinetic). To capture the sounds he’d been hearing in his head, Amon put together the Analog Players Society to bring his musical visions to life.
As a partner in Brooklyn’s Hook Studios and a well-known session player, Amon forged relationships with some of New York’s finest musicians. They readily joined him in the studio for the APS sessions that produced the band’s first singles. A smoked-out reggae cover of Shannon’s “Let The Music Play,” featured Amon’s playful glockenspiel and Ethan White’s sparkling piano. Wang Chung’s “Dance Hall Days” was reinvented as a Jamaican dancehall skank and the Nu Shooz hit “I Can’t Wait” was played as a 12/8 shuffle, with a bluebeat meets lover’s rock feel, complimented by a smoldering vocal by Cecilia Stalin (Koop).
The tracks were very well received by notable media outlets including Okayplayer and KCRW and work on the APS debut album was almost complete when an out of control taxi rear-ended Amon’s pick up. “It left me with a serious back injury and I’ve had to budget my time so I can practice and keep my chops up.” To produce the rest of the album, Amon brought a massage table into the studio and mixed sessions lying on his stomach. “I’m a perfectionist and it took me a long time to find my sound.”
The care Amon puts into the mix are evident throughout. “The Hippie don Know” is another rhythmically complex shuffle blending the beats of ska, Afrobeat and hip hop with the sounds of White’s sideshow flavored Vox organ and the flowing horn lines of John Natchez on sax and Jonathan Powell on trumpet and valve trombone. The title track borrows a hook from Ann Peebles’ “I Can’t Stand the Rain” and weaves it into a groove generated by Amon’s stomping and hand clapping, Stalin’s inventive scat melodies and a sinuous synth-bass line from White. Stalin’s vocal flits through the mix like dry leaves dancing in a windy, springtime downpour. “Free,” a showcase for Powell’s muted trumpet inventions, rides a jazzy hip-hop beat accented by the horn stabs of Will Jones on sax and a spotlight solo by Dave Smith (TV on the Radio).
Amon was born in Dayton, Ohio in 1977, the year they launched the Voyager space probe, which may have provided an unconscious desire to explore the limits of space and time. He saw Pink Floyd’s movie version of The Wall when he was nine; the sound of the bass drums added another vibration to the sounds already reverberating in his soul. “I never stopped playing pots and pans. By fourth grade my folks had bought me the trinity – snare, high hat and kick. I saved up for a floor tom and cymbal and built from there.”
Amon dropped out of the environmental education program at Hocking College to go on tour with Sxip Shirey, a multi-instrumentalist, and circus musician. “I eventually moved to Chicago and studied African percussion intensely for four years and traveled to Guinea, West Africa to study. “At the peak of my training, I played a show with Tool at the invitation of Danny Carey.
He’d scout out a percussionist in every town Tool played to join him on stage for a drum jam. I was lucky enough to me one of those guys.”
The Tool gig led to session work and a move to New York, where he hooked up with Chris Annibell (Afrokinetic) and Nickodemus (Turntables on the Hudson), DJs pioneering the use of live percussion with recorded tracks. His success on the DJ scene led to further work as a session musician, but Amon felt the need to make his own music. “I wanted the feel of a dance party with a live band, but to make that happen I needed a studio/rehearsal space. I started recording at Hook Studio in Brooklyn and bonded with the owners, Pete Fand and Tony Schloss, and they made me a partner.”
Although he loves technology, Amon’s passion is real people making real music in real time, hence the Analog Players Society moniker. “My session work connected me with the best players in New York. Since I engineer and mix everything, I can continually polish my sound. I like capturing the feel of live music in the studio, but playing live with these guys is the best. We all can learn a set in the afternoon and play it that night. I know I can throw anything at them and when we get on the bandstand, it’ll be amazing.” In an era of social media and digital attention spans, it only seems apt that music from the Analog Players Society will truly resonate with fans of timeless music.
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