DK: Good day Chris, how are you doing today?
CA: Doing good Dennis, thanks for having me.
DK: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me today! So, biography aside, how would you sum up yourself and your music career?
CA: It’s been a long journey that is ever evolving. Maybe it will end where it all began for me; my face painted like Peter Criss of Kiss playing air drums for the family. I have had so much good fortune in being able to create and perform with so many talented people. That being said, I am most comfortable working alone. My planet is a wacky one. In the studio, I enjoy playing all of the instruments myself with a little help from friends every now and then.
DK: You started learning guitar and drums at age 10, what brand of instruments were they? Do you still have them?
CA: I think my first drum kit was a black Ludwig set that mom bought for me. My first guitar was a POS nylon string that I walked off with from the music room at Madison elementary school in Santa Monica. I do not have them anymore.
DK: How supportive was your family with your musical interests?
CA: I am an only child, raised by my mother. She was very supportive and provided me with anything I needed to further my musical endeavors. We lived in an apartment complex and I would practice drums everyday right after school. Needless to say, we were not very popular with the other tenants in the building. Aside from surfing, there wasn’t anything that came close to my passion for music.
DK: When did you start studying at Annex Studios and how long did that go for?
CA: Murray Spivack taught percussion at Annex Studios in Hollywood. I would ride the bus from Santa Monica to Hollywood for lessons once a week. I studied with Murray for 4 years, starting around the age of 13.
DK: What was it like studying with Murray Spivack and what would you say was the biggest takeaway you learned from him?
CA: Murray was a legend. He taught many famous drummers including Louie Bellson and Dave Garibaldi. He did the sound for the original King Kong and Spartacus. I mean the guy won an Academy Award for sound. It was a big deal for me to study with him. Murray taught stick control, keep the wrists loose and don’t drum with your arms. It’s all in the hands, wrists and fingers. And most importantly, relax. I learned to relax when playing with and for others. To this day it is pretty hard to rattle me on stage. I am in my own little world up there. I learned that from Murray, chill.
DK: In your 35 year career, what have been some observations you’ve had about the music industry (in general) and how have you adapted to meet those changes that have taken place?
CA: I haven’t adapted at all which is probably why I never got signed, haha. Art and business mix like oil and water. I don’t think I have ever thought about money or fame when sitting down to write a song. My father was a stuntman so I was introduced to the entertainment industry at an early age and was never very impressed by it. Now Syd Barrett and Salvador Dali, they impressed me! They were visionary innovators who paved their own roads. Business in general is very one dimensional because the focus of money is always present. It dilutes the art form dramatically and the artist suffers, not the business. Nowadays artists connect and network through social media. You don’t really need the big labels anymore. Everything is at your finger tips. It is up to you how hard you want to work at it.
DK: How would you best define your music (objectively)?
CA: Artists reflect their many influences into one whole, making it their original own. I am no different. Depending on which one of my songs you listen to you may hear: the Beach Boys, Syd Barrett, REM, Nick Drake, Radiohead, KISS, Julian Cope and dozens of others. As far as a category or label, Rock with a healthy dose of Surrealism.
DK: You’ve been in a wide range of bands from Jazz to Heavy Metal… which has been the most fun for you and the most challenging to play in?
CA: All genres are challenging in their own ways. My solo stuff is the most difficult because I am looking inward and there is nobody there to guide or buffer me but myself. In my jazz/funk band, Map of Mercury (www.facebook.com/MapofMercury) there is constant communication within the music. You don’t exist without the other players. The Rusticators (www.reverbnation.com/therusticators) was a folk duo I was in with my wife, Abbey. That was a very rewarding experience. To be able to write, record and tour with someone that close to you is a beautiful thing.
DK: What is your favorite part of you music career? (performing live, writing new music, etc)
CA: Performing in front of anyone is the best. I don’t care if it is for 5 or 500 people, there is nothing more rewarding than playing music live.
DK: How many songs do you have under your belt after all these years, what is a song that you wrote that you’re the most proud about and why?
CA: I’ve written many songs. There are about 30 that have survived over the years and still make it on to my set lists. I don’t write as much as I used to, but still get the buzz when I compose a piece that comes quickly. That’s the rush of songwriting, when it spills out within minutes. ‘Fine Mess of My Mind’ came out like that. I wrote it in like 20 minutes. Lyrically ‘Angels and Devils’ is one I am proud of. I wrote it so long ago but it still moves me when I play it live.
DK: Tell me about your band…
CA: I am really enjoying performing solo these days. Using delay, echorec and rhythm pedals, I have created a full sonic soundscape that is much more than just guitar and voice. I do have players that I’ll call on occasionally but at this point, I’d rather be on stage multi-tasking instead of herding the cats.
DK: What brought you from Santa Monica to Nashville?
CA: I’ve lived all over. From Santa Monica I moved to San Francisco. I lived in the Bay Area for 15 years. I met Abbey there and we got married and moved back to Los Angeles for a year. Then we moved to Staunton, VA in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley were we recorded and toured as a folk duo. After almost a decade in Virginia, we moved to Ormond Beach FL, for a couple years, then to Nashville where we have family. We’ve been in Nashville now for a few years.
DK: What has been some of the toughest challenges in your career and how have you overcome them?
CA: Once you decide to just be yourself musically, it is all pretty easy. We all have life challenges. It is part of this crazy cartoon we are in, but for me, music should never have to be a struggle. Music should flow naturally. Never force it, just step away and return with a different mindset. Remember, music has no rules.
DK: You’ve got some shows coming up this month in Nashville, what else do you have going on that you’d like to share with our readers?
CA: I have a long standing gig twice a month at Tennessee Brew Works in Nashville. It isn’t easy to find a venue here in town that lets you play exactly what you want. I mean, let’s face it, I ain’t the “Nashville Sound”. I always post videos of my live shows on my Facebook and Reverbnation pages. Because of social media, I believe that video is a far more popular medium these days than just audio. People want to see you, not just hear you. Many artists are spending their money on pricey recording studios and I am not sure why. The majority of fans are listening to music on smartphones. Fidelity is becoming extinct. Bring back the big speakers!
DK: What are some of your long term goals?
CA: Further developing my tone and live presentation as a solo performer and always trying my best to follow in the footsteps of so many who have influenced me in my life, from Miles to the Monkees. And of course, relax.
DK: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat once again! I wish you all the best on your career Chris!
Thank you Dennis, it has been a pleasure.
Biography: Chris Amsler mixes his lyrically lavish original music into a melodic melting pot of surrealistic story.
Born and raised in Santa Monica, California, Chris Amsler has been a professional musician/singer-songwriter for over 35 years. His musical influences range from Miles Davis to the Monkees.
Chris began playing guitar and drums at age 10. He studied at Annex Studios in Hollywood with percussion legend, Murray Spivack. Spivack taught Dave Garibaldi, Louie Bellson and countless other influential drummers.
Since that time, Chris has performed in bands ranging from traditional jazz to heavy metal on stages such as the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, CBGB’s and San Francisco’s Victoria Theater. He has had the honor of sharing the bill with some great musicians, including Tom Waits, The Tubes and Dick Dale. Chris also performed in San Francisco’s stage production of “Hedwig & The Angry Inch”. He regularly tours regionally, nationally and internationally with various musical projects. When at home in Nashville, TN he continues work on his solo album….Long past due.