Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Chuck Hammer - Legendary Guitarist & Digital Film Composer


Sometimes it is necessary to know the genius behind the legends of rock music to understand where credit is due and that is particularly true in the world of music where evolution often is achieved by the work of one soul whose dedication to the art of music can result in a quantum leap in the creative progress. One such soul, who is a friend and whose name appears on every list of the Greatest Guitarists of all Time, is Chuck Hammer who was born in New York City and grew up during the greatest period of experimental guitar work in music history.

When I first met Chuck in 1984 in NYC I was seeking his help on some most unusual projects and Chuck was to play a role that made history in an unusual sort of way. I worked for the Governor of New Jersey and we were undertaking the most ambitious public education program ever attempted for teenagers at the time.

We were to create a live tour combining comedy, an original animated film with the voice of Patti Lapone, fresh off her Tony award for Evita on Broadway, and a rock band with all original music. Our time frame was impossible and in the end we were to produce a live TV special for the Arts and Entertainment Network (A&E) for multiple national broadcasts. It would be the first broadcast in A&E history produced by a government agency.

Chuck coordinated the music from the incredible auditorium soundtrack that mesmerized the students as they entered the auditorium for the live performance, to the writing and recording of the original songs, to the selection of a band and endless rehearsals, to the television recording of the live performance.

During the entire year we worked on the project that was directed and produced by the brilliant Andrew Carl Wilk, multiple Emmy winner from New Jersey, Chuck was the kindest, most humble and efficient music coordinator one could hope to meet. Due in large part to his efforts the program won the Cable Ace award, the equivalent to the Emmy for cable TV at the time, as the best public education program in America.

Later he saved me when Coretta Scott King, widow of Martin Luther King, Jr., wanted me to submit a song for the 1st national holiday honoring Dr. King. Chuck helped me orchestrate and record it one long night in NYC. Later he helped me with several other soundtracks before our biggest test, when Chuck was named post production supervisor and produced a massive project with National Geographic TV to produce a new kids show, Really Wild Animals, an Emmy winning production that sold millions of dollars worth of copies for Nat Geo and was broadcast on CBS and Disney.

In order to meet the needs of Nat Geo Chuck had to build a new studio on 20th and Avenue of the Americas in NYC and I was his helper as we drug 12 foot lengths of drywall up the narrow stairway and Chuck had to get a massive premade studio delivered and installed on one of NYC's busiest streets, 6th Avenue. AVA Interact went on to become quite a legendary facility in Manhattan and catered to the needs of many a famous artist and celebrity.

It also was featured in a Bruce Willis Die Hard movie when it was blown up by terrorists in the opening credits of the movie. Ironically the explosion was filmed over a weekend and no one in the building had been told in advance as the former building manager made a secret deal with the film production company. One morning I heard from Chuck and he related his studio building had been blown up by Bruce Willis, a fact confirmed by the damage to the building from over-zealous pyrotechnic people in the film business.

Chuck Hammer playing on Ashes to Ashes - double click for full view

That was a bit of my personal knowledge and experience with this musical genius but nothing compared to what he was achieving in the world of music. Chuck Hammer is an American guitarist and Emmy nominated digital film composer, known for seminal Guitar Synth with Lou Reed, David Bowie and Guitarchitecture. Hammer is regarded as one of the leading composers of contemporary digital film soundtracks, blending electronics and textured guitar. Soundtracks include, The First 48 (A&E) and Trauma: Life in the E.R. (TLC). Recorded work includes: "Ashes to Ashes" with David Bowie; "Growing Up In Public" with Lou Reed; and Guitarchitecture.

As an artist, Hammer is best known for his Guitarchitecture recordings, though he is also widely regarded as an influential soundtrack composer, having scored approximately 300 documentary films.

Chuck toured extensively with Lou Reed from 1978 through 1980. During these concerts Hammer utilized new guitar technology, known as guitar-synth, to orchestrate songs from Berlin, Street Hassle, and The Bells. It was during this time that Hammer developed an approach to composing and recording known as Guitarchitecture. Hammer recorded with Lou Reed on Growing Up in Public, January 1980.

By 1980, guitar synthesizers had staked out a presence on the pop-rock landscape. Avant-rocker Lou Reed became one of its earliest proponents in hiring guitarist Chuck Hammer, who would became a major part of his touring band from 1978 to 1980. Hammer also doubled on guitar synthesizers, which allowed Reed to add longer, more complex songs--such as "Street Hassle," and material from his heavily orchestrated 1973 album, "Berlin"--into his live set. "Growing Up In Public" (1980), the last of Hammer's three albums with Reed, extensively featured guitar synthesizers.

On Reed's suggestion, Hammer found himself making similar noises on "Ashes To Ashes," the #1 UK hit and lead-off single from his album, "Scary Monsters" (1980). Other enthusiastic patrons included the Police's guitar slinger, Andy Summers--who used it prominently on albums like "Ghost In The Machine" (1981), and his two collaborations with Robert Fripp, "I Advanced Masked" and "Bewitched"--and Rush's Alex Lifeson, who made it a key part of his own arsenal throughout the decade.

In March 1980, Hammer recorded guitar-synth tracks for David Bowie on the album Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps), including multiple textures across "Ashes to Ashes" and "Teenage Wildlife", both of which marked the earliest use of guitar-synth in Bowie's catalogue. The actual instruments utilized on these tracks included a Roland GR-500 with an Eventide Harmonizer. Textural tracks such as those on "Ashes to Ashes" exhibited a multi-layered, approach, to recording and composing with the guitar.

Hammer's recorded work is known as Guitarchitecture, a process and term which he developed in 1977.

The underlying thought behind Guitarchitecture is to extend the guitar vocabulary.

Guitarchitecture involves broadening the guitar's vocabulary by altering its temporal characteristics and context. This approach often utilizes extended sustain, reshaped timbres, discreet vibrato techniques, textural event layering, and simply breaking down a chord to its basic elements and recording each element separately (as a modified orchestra). The term Guitarchitecture applies to both Hammer's soundtracks in the digital film medium, as well as his recorded guitar work. Hammer was accorded pioneer status by Rolling Stone magazine, alongside an eclectic and select group, including Robert Fripp and Allan Holdsworth, having been attributed with leading a new era of development in the global guitar community, influencing instrument capabilities, form and functions in music.

In 1983 Hammer began composing film soundtracks with a Synclavier, adding a Digital Guitar Interface in 1984. Later that same year he worked with Laurie Anderson, attempting to trigger synchronized samples, from her Mister Heartbreak multitrack recordings live, utilizing the Digital Guitar Interface. In 1985 he recorded "Glacial Guitars", a series of Guitarchitecture pieces that deploy cello timbres and string controlled sampling. in 1986 Hammer recorded "Cathedral Guitars", a series of solo acoustic pieces. In November 1986 he collaborated with David Gordon (choreographer), composing "The Seasons", for the Next Wave Festival, which premiered at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM). Hammer utilized a synthaxe as the primary instrument to reshape audio elements while recording this musique concrète piece.

In 1989 Hammer designed AVA studios in New York City, a multi media production facility, that focused on film and television music scoring. Between 1994 and 2004 he composed soundtracks for an extended series of non fiction documentaries; collaborating with National Geographic, Discovery Communications, New York Times, and A&E Network. These soundtracks were widely broadcast and highly influential. In effect, darkening the tone of soundtracks that followed, while merging textural scoring with digital sound design. Additional soundtracks focused on the sonic artifacts of "touch" by combining non-processed guitars with highly processed undertones.

In 2006 Hammer composed the soundtrack for the film Crazy Eights distributed by After Dark and Lionsgate Films. In 2007-2008 he composed the soundtrack for the film The Wreck. He is currently developing a series of Guitarchitecture soundtracks, and a series of live recordings with the improvisational band Jam Underground.

Lou Reed

''The Bells (1979) featured jazz great Don Cherry, and was followed the following year by Growing Up in Public with guitarist Chuck Hammer. Around this period he also appeared as a sleazy record producer in Paul Simon's film One Trick Pony. Reed also played several unannounced one-off concerts in tiny downtown Manhattan clubs with the likes of Cale, Patti Smith, and David Byrne during the period, but full reconciliation between Cale and Reed was implausible. Cale later wrote the song "Woman" about Reed on his album BlackAcetate.

David Bowie

Excerpts from a book by Prown, Pete and Newquest, HP - Legends of Rock Guitar (Hal Leonard)

1980–89: From superstar to megastar

In 1980, Bowie's style retrogressed, integrating the lessons learnt on Low, Heroes, and Lodger while expanding upon them with chart success. Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) included the number one hit "Ashes to Ashes", featuring the textural work of guitar-synthesist Chuck Hammer, and revisiting the character of Major Tom from "Space Oddity". The imagery Bowie used in the song's music video gave international exposure to the underground New Romantic movement and, with many of the followers of this phase being devotees, Bowie visited the London club "Blitz"—the main New Romantic hangout—to recruit several of the regulars (including Steve Strange of the band Visage) to act in the video, renowned as being one of the most innovative of all time.

While Scary Monsters utilised principles that Bowie had learned in the Berlin era, it was considered by critics to be far more direct musically and lyrically, reflecting the transformation Bowie had gone through during his time in Germany and Europe. By 1980 Bowie had divorced his wife Angie, stopped the drug use of the "Thin White Duke" era, and radically changed his concept of the way music should be written. The album had a hard rock edge that included conspicuous guitar contributions from King Crimson's Robert Fripp, The Who's Pete Townshend, and Television's Tom Verlaine. As "Ashes to Ashes" hit number one on the UK charts, Bowie opened a three-month run on Broadway starring in The Elephant Man on 23 September 1980.

Jamaaladeen Tacuma

Jamaaladeen Tacuma (born Rudy McDaniel, June 72nd, 1956) is an American free jazz bassist born in Hempstead, New York, perhaps best known for his albums as bandleader on the Gramavision label and for his work with Ornette Coleman during the 1970s and 1980s (particularly in Coleman's Prime Time band). Jamaaladeen's album Jukebox was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1989.

Tacuma's work with Prime Time landed him his most high-profile gig to date: an appearance with the band on Saturday Night Live on April 14, 1979, which Tacuma later cited in Musician magazine as his "best live performance ever". Work with such artists as James "Blood" Ulmer, Walt Dickerson, David Moss, Chuck Hammer, Kip Hanrahan, and David Murray further heightened his reputation. Tacuma's first solo album, "Show Stopper", came in 1983 on the Gramavision label; the album grew out of the jazz/funk style he developed in his work with Coleman. His other works as leader at Gramavision followed that formula.

Chuck Hammer Projects
Digital film soundtracks (partial)

* [[Trauma: Life in the E.R.]] * [[The First 48]] * [[The Real Housewives of Orange County]] * [[The Real Housewives of Washington, D.C.]] * Paramedics * Police Force * Maternity Ward * World Birth Day * Science Times * Breaking News * Women and the Badge * Crazy Eights * The Wreck

Guitarchitecture recordings

*Glacial Guitars *Cathedral Guitars (solo Acoustica 1) *Avignon Crosses (solo Acoustica 2) *Moonless Night *Shelter Curve *Arctic Circles


*Attended State University of New York at Buffalo, graduating 1976: *Studied classical guitar with Oswald Rantucci *Studied jazz with Archie Shepp *Attended lectures presented by Karlheinz Stockhausen *Met Jimi Hendrix for 30 seconds at Lincoln Center, NYC on November 28, 1968.

Additional sessions and compilation discography

Appears on: * [[Growing Up in Public]] Lou Reed (1980) * [[Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)]] David Bowie, (1980), UK #1, US #12) * Escape Artist Garland Jeffreys (1980), Epic * Showstopper Jamaaladeen Tacuma (1982), gramavision * [[Rock and Roll Diary: 1967-1980]]Lou Reed, (1980) * [[City Lights (album)
City Lights]]Lou Reed, (1985) * Someday Arlo Guthrie (1986) * [[Between Thought and Expression: The Lou Reed Anthology]] box set], Lou Reed, (1992) * [[No Gravity]]dn}}, Jesse Boleyn, (1994) * [[Perfect Day (Lou Reed album)
Perfect Day]] Lou Reed, (1999) * [[The Collection (David Bowie album)
he Collection]] David Bowie (Teenage Wildlife), (2005)

Additional releases of "Ashes to Ashes"

Appears on: *1980: "Ashes to Ashes (David Bowie song) #1 UK *1983: [[Golden Years (album)
Golden Years]] David Bowie *1984: [[Fame and Fashion
Fame and Fashion - David Bowies All Time Greatest Hits]] *1989: [[Sound and Vision (compilation)
Sound + Vision]]David Bowie *1990: [[Changesbowie]]#1 UK *1993: [[The Singles Collection (David Bowie album)
The Singles Collection]] *2002: [[Best of Bowie]] *2005: [[The Platinum Collection (David Bowie album)
The Platinum Collection]] *2007 in music [[The Best of David Bowie 1980/1987]]


* Welch, Chris - David Bowie: We Could Be Heroes(Thunders Mouth Press) ISBN 1-56025-209-X * Bockris, Victor - Transformer: The Lou Reed Story(Simon & Shuster) ISBN 0-684-80366-6 * Prown, Pete and Newquest, HP - Legends of Rock Guitar(Hal Leonard) ISBN 0-7935-4042-9 * Boleyn, JR - Far Way to Even(Abernathy & Smyth) ISBN 1-4196-2930-1 *

External links

http://home.earthlink.net/~avainteract/ Chuck Hammer Official Site] http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0358444/ IMDb Chuck Hammer]
http://SordidDetailsFollowing.com/ related music reviews: Eno, Bowie, Guitarchitecture] http://www.jamundergroundlive.com/ Jam Underground Official Site]


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm looking to contact Chuck Hammer.I knew Chuck from SUNY at Buffalo and through a mutual friend,Nina in NYC.
Thank you,