|Anton Fier. Photo by Peter Gannushkin
Anton Fier is an almost imperceptible but enormously important part of the soundtrack of my life. He was the rhythm machine in my free jazz epiphany: Peter Brötzmann’s März Combo Tentet, a band that brought rock and free jazz together on Brötzmann’s 50th birthday in Wuppertal. He also is the drummer on one of my all-time-favorite-top-ten albums, Crazy Rhythms by the Feelies. Unlike others who just try to keep the rhythm going, Fier often pulled strings from behind the scenes with his relentless driving groove.
In recent weeks, as the jazz scene has suffered some tragic losses, news of his death has almost gone under the radar. As announced on 9/21/22, Fier died back in August at the age of 66, cause of death is still unknown.
Born on June 20, 1956 in Cleveland, Ohio, Anton Fier moved to New York in the late 1970s, where he quickly made a name for himself in the downtown scene and was involved in many projects at the same time. He was a founding member of John Lurie’s experimental “fake jazz“ combo The Lounge Lizards, who released their debut in 1981. Even a year earlier, The Feelies released the aforementioned Crazy Rhythms, which was outstanding if only because, in an era of No Wave and punk, it relied on sprawling guitar chops, with Fier on drums as the actual driving force. On both album covers he looks like a high school student. A little later he formed the experimental band The Golden Palominos, a supergroup featuring John Zorn, Bill Laswell, Michael Beinhorn, Nicky Skopelitis, Fred Frith, David Moss, Arto Lindsay, Jamaladeen Tacuma and others. The band was active with breaks until the end in different line-ups each time.
In addition, Fier played with Pere Ubu and Bob Mould’s first band (a spectacular gig at Frankfurt’s Batschkapp club is another great memory) and drummed for acts and greats such as Mick Jagger, Gil Scott-Heron, Herbie Hancock, Yoko Ono, Laurie Anderson, Material, John Zorn or the Swans ... and that's just a sample of his output!
His eagerness to experiment and his playing, which therefore demanded constant innovation, made him an exceptional figure on the drums. In addition, he was a sought-after producer who produced Drivin’ N’ Cryin’, the Grapes of Wrath and Joey Henry as well as albums by his own bands.
John Lurie wrote on Twitter. “The Lounge Lizards would never have gotten off the ground without him. He showed us how to work on music. Demanded it.”
In the famous superband in heaven I imagine him playing with Hendrix, that might be spectacular. I will miss him a lot.
Watch Fier with The Feelies playing “Crazy Rhythms“: