Anders Griffen (pronounced "Ahn-derz"), born in Brooklyn, New York, is the ubiquitous drummer on the Antifolk scene. Anders showed up around 1999 when he joined forces with Ish Marquez. Besides their band Lonesome Crew, Anders has also drummed with Quankmeyer Faergoalzia & Dufus, Paleface & Monkeybone, Jeff Lightning Lewis, Kimya Dawson, Regina Spektor, Cockroach & the Larval Organs, Knot Pinebox, Turner Cody, Major Matt Mason USA, Joe Driscoll, Timothy Dark, Brer Brian, American Anymen, and Randi Russo... are we missing anyone?
From a musical family, Anders has always been immersed in music. His father a French horn player, started him on trumpet at an
early age. By the age of 16, Anders was
already playing bars in the area with local blues bands. Having always been fascinated with the drums, a shabby set uncovered at a local church sale became his newfound hobby at age 18.
While attending the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati as a Music Theory and Electronic Media student, Anders became immersed in jazz records. "I used to get up early and get ready for class but I would often just sit in my room listening to John Coltrane and Eric Dolphy for hours on end." As a self-taught drummer, he started an improvised music group with revolving personnel, called the Prophets of Suspicion. One of their home recordings made it on to Oscar Treadwell's radio show. (In veneration of this announcer, jazz luminaries Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk, among others, wrote tributes "An Oscar for Treadwell" and "Oska T." respectively).
Anders then moved to Memphis where pianist Chris Parker showed
him where the music was taking place. Clort McClinton let him
sit-in five nights a week, playing jazz standards at the Adam's
Mark hotel lounge. "Playing with good people must be the best way
to grow musically, and at the time, I thought that jazz was the
only music. These guys were really amazing - besides a feeling of
swing, I think I learned a lot about community."
Having had a hard time making ends meet, Anders moved back to
New York and briefly attended City College to study with legendary
bassist Ron Carter. He kept a routine of sitting-in at nightly jazz sessions at places like St. Nick's Pub and the Lenox Lounge where the neighborhood music is still alive.
In the fall of 1996, Anders went on his first European tour
playing for tenor saxophonist Frank Lowe of Sun Ra, Alice Coltrane,
and Don Cherry fame. Chris Parker and bassist Bernard Santacruz
filled out that quartet. On the 14th of February 1997, the great Charles Moffett, musical visionary and long-time drummer with Ornette Coleman, passed away. He had been scheduled to record with Frank Lowe and bassist, Steve Neil, on the 20th. It was under these circumstances that Anders played on his first recording, filling in at the last minute to honor one of his heroes. The resulting Frank Lowe Trio album titled, "Vision Blue" (CIMP 138), is dedicated to the memory of Charles Moffett. Later, in the spring of 1998, that strange fate struck again
with the passing of master drummer Denis Charles. Anders filled
the drum chair to pay homage to another one of his heroes, this time on a European tour in trio with Frank Lowe and Bernard Santacruz.
Around this time bassist Scott Fragala became a frequent partner of Anders' and they solidified a musical rapport providing support for a number of artists including Lonesome Crew and Larval Organs.
It was also during this time that Anders began working in various modern dance projects both as a percussionist and as a composer. Joining the improvising dance duo of Sue Hogan and John Morris, this trio made a number of performances downtown including a piece in the 1997-98 season at the Construction Company, the second program of the Music & Dance Collaborations, March 1998. In the years to follow Anders composed and performed original music for dancer/chorographer Kathleen Cruz, and performed an improvisation with dancer/choreographer Kayvon Pourazar, in programs at the Merce Cunningham studio. In addition, Anders has been active as a composer/performer for students of the Conservatory of Dance at SUNY-Purchase since 1999; where, in the spring of 1999, he earned his Bachelor's of Fine Arts in Music Composition from the Conservatory of Music.
Since the beginning of 2002, the bulk of Anders' music has been centered around the antifolk community. "Whatever antifolk is, to me it's more about the spirit of the people than any one particular sound. The people just like to make music and they're really supportive of one another and that really resonates with me. Whereas I used to feel that jazz was the only music, I've stopped believing in styles in favor of behavior. Frank Lowe always would say to "put your ego in your back pocket" so that you could really listen and go into the music and balance appropriately with the others in your group. That's become an ongoing study not only in music, but a lesson in life."
In 2002 Anders toured overseas three times with Rough Trade recording artist, Jeffrey Lewis. The last of these tours, in November and December, featured a bunch of Antifolk acts including Kimya Dawson, Toby Goodshank, Major Matt Mason USA, Dufus, and Prewar Yardsale, and Anders ended-up accompanying just about all of them. "It was really a very special thing to travel with a bunch of good friends from the same community of musicians. I'm happy that I can say that I only got more and more into each of the performers rather than dreading yet another night of so-and-so." Hopefully there will be another tour in the spring of 2003 to coincide with the release of a new Jeff Lewis album featuring his brother Jack on bass and Anders on drums.
Anders' CD "All Over the Place" is a studio experiment as well as a sort of compilation showcasing his flexibility and range of expression and features the talents of nearly 20 other musicians including both of his parents. He hopes to follow it up with the release of the CD release party for that disc, from the Winter 2003 Antifolk Festival at the Sidewalk Café, featuring Regina Spektor, Rick Snell, and Scott Fragala. Both are compositionally based but the live set is more of a pointed effort with a focus on a group sound as opposed to the constant change on the recording that it celebrates. In addition, he has a recording of his "neighborhood" jazz group, Zoom!, featuring Loren Stillman, Zack Hexum, David White, and Scott Fragala, pending mix-down and mastering.