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Anton Fig: Behind the Band Stand, Part 1

Ben Scholz By

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AAJ: Yeah, pretty intense. Keith graduated a few years before me at North Texas and he came back a couple of times. Great player

AF: Oh yeah, he's something else. You went to North Texas?

AAJ: Yeah, I graduated in 2005. So, when Paul's been absent, you've been called upon to lead the band. Can you lend some insight into that process? Some of the challenges you face?

AF: Well, you know there's a whole lot of show going on. We have in-ears and there's a whole culture going on in the control room. They're bringing you in and out of commercial and counting you down, etc. So, while I'm playing I have to listen to that as well. Paul listens to that chatter. The rest of the band doesn't have it in their ears, unless they're leading the band. We want to time the song so that we end it right when we come out of commercial. Hopefully at a dynamically intense spot.

So, they'll go, "Okay—15 seconds," and start counting it down. Then they'll go, "No, no, no, keep it going for another few minutes," so I to scream in a cue. It's a little harder from the drum set because I'm behind everyone. Scream in the cue and like, "go to the chorus" or "back to the top of the song," whatever. We've got to maneuver out of it.

One week they put me right in front of the band, and there was communication between me and Dave. Other times, they had Warren Zevon interact with him. He would talk to Dave and I would just lead the band. In these instances, I would get together with Warren before hand, and select the songs. I would rehearse the band, and basically conduct them during the show.

AAJ: Does Dave have any kind of musical chops? Like say, "come in at bar 8" or whatever?"

AF: He doesn't do that, but he often requests songs. And he really appreciates the band. You feel like you're playing for someone who's listening to you. He's always complimenting us, and sending requests. You know, the show's very off the cuff. Dave might go in a whole different direction and that might change what we're playing to suit the show. It's not like, "Well this is the show and this is what we're playing." It all just kind of comes together. We have a short band rehearsal before each taping. Did you hear any of the rehearsal?

AAJ: I heard you playing when we were outside.

AF: We just rehearse some bits and pieces, and none of the break songs. We just do it as we go. To keeps it fresh.

AAJ: The times that I've seen you perform live in clubs, you've used a standard 4 piece kit. However your day gig requires a pretty elaborate set up. Triggers, pads, multi percussion etc. Does this back and forth pose a challenge? What setup do you use for your daily practice routine?

AF: Well I don't have any daily practice routine. I play all the time. Funny you mention that though. We just had a couple of weeks off, so I decided to practice on the pad today before the show. I've been practicing the last few days just to get my hands feeling good, but usually I'm playing quite a bit so I feel somewhat in shape. I have a little practice set, up in the dressing room. So I'll warm up just before the show. That setup is pretty dead, the pads have no bounce at all, so I have to work really hard. Same with my feet. I work really hard to get something going, just to get a bounce with my feet or my hands.

You know I used to mash in with the pedal, now I'm trying to get it off the head a little. I also would try to get the sticks off the head a little bit. I think that using different set ups makes you play differently. I think it's a good thing to change your set up. Peter Gabriel did that whole "Shock The Monkey" period with Gerry Marotta he wouldn't let Rick use cymbals. That made him play drums differently (laughs). I did a gig with Joe Bonamassa at Red Rocks, and I used 2 toms, 3 cymbals, and a bass drum. That was plenty of drums for the gig.

For The Late Show, I have more drums because I never know what I'm going to play. For example, I might have a timbale set up and a sample ready to go even though they may cut the song at the last minute. A little snare, a primary snare, I've got to have it all covered. If I did some other gig on a permanent basis, I could tailor the set to the gig, rather than have the same set and make it work with whatever gig it was.

AAJ: So obviously this set is tailored to this (The Late Show) gig.

AF: Yeah, so when I started the show at NBC, I had a 3 tom kit. Then it evolved. I got an extra tom or an extra this or extra that, and it slowly grew. I went to the Tonight Show and saw Ed Shaughnessy's kit and it looked like it had been nailed to the floor. With an ashtray. I mean this was the 80's and it looked like this kit had just been grown out of the set (laughs).

AAJ: Smoking in a TV studio! That's great. So, any more recordings, performances, etc.?

AF: Yeah, I'm going to be doing a few records in the near future. And I'm going to be playing on a little tour with Eric Johnson and Mike Stern to promote the Eclectic record. I'm going out to Texas this weekend to rehearse for a few days. Then the following week the show's off for a week and then I'm going to miss a week of shows, and do a little 2 week tour with them.

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