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The Music, Music and music of Anthony Saturno

Anthony Saturno is a singer/songwriter/guitarist that started solely as a guitar player for bands such as The Jess Novak Band, Wagner 3000, All Poets and Heroes, Sampere; and many guest appearances on a wide range of bills. By now he’s out in front of the groovin’ power trio, Atkins Riot. This is a group I like very much. I’ve always been attracted to groups that have one foot in the now so-to-speak, and one foot in the future. And this group does that in a fresh way. Their music is intelligent and still dangerous and edgy. In the few occasions where I’ve met Anthony I recall him looking a little edgy while offering himself as intelligent and enthusiastic. As a performer he gives 100-percent as an authentic and natural player.

Saturno expands his horizons by forging a diverse cover/original set list with covers from classic Hendrix and Tom Petty to The Black Keys and Jack White while adding his original tunes like Understand, Dirty Doves and plenty others into the mix.

He doesn’t stop with just singer/songwriter type songs. Anthony also writes, explores and dabbles in a variety of music ways such as ambient and melodic loop-oriented projects. With a variety of influences, Anthony Saturno brings a cool vibe to his live set and seeks to keep his audience intrigued.

Ladies and gentlemen: Anthony Saturno.

Chuck Schiele: Hello Anthony. Thanks for talking some time to chat with us here at Sounds of Syracuse.

Anthony Saturno: Thanks, Chuck! Happy to be here.

CS: Ok, Let’s roll. How did you get started in music?

AS: Ever since I can remember, there was always music being played in the house by my parents and sister. My Mom was always a huge fan and would quiz me on who was playing on the radio. They all had very different tastes in music, so as the youngest, I got to experience them all and mold into liking and understanding a very wide variety of music at a very young age.

It wasn’t until I was about 9 when I realized that music was what I wanted to pursue. I started taking it a little more seriously at home instead of goofing off in elementary band class (which continued into high school). My dad bought a drum set for Christmas. I absolutely loved it. And, I annoyed the hell out of the household by playing all the time. When I was 11, I got a guitar that I had asked for my birthday because I wanted to get more into song writing and melody. I’ve been loving it ever since and having the rhythm and melodic side of music ingrained into my DNA at a young age really helped me in the long run.

CS: How would you characterize the essence of what you do as a musician?

AS: I play how I feel and what the music makes me feel. When writing, it’s a little easier to transcribe because I know what I’m feeling about the song. As for playing other people’s music, I try to play for the good of the song and imagine what they may have felt whilst writing it. As a performing and recording artist, playing with another person or a group of people is much different than performing solo. You can really sense the energy, differently in each scenario and with what players you’re jamming with.

CS: Yeah. That’s the stuff I show up for right there.

You teach guitar at Ish Guitars. How is that going?

AS: Considering all that has been going on, I have only been able to do lessons from my home studio via online lessons. But it has been quite slow and I only have a couple of students on board. Once Ish is back up and running at their new location, I’ll be back at it full force.

CS: I’m very glad to hear this. Good. I enjoy your music, especially your work with the Atkins Riot band! I feel like I hear influences from early Deep Purple vs. Red Hot Chili Peppers all varnished in the attitude of today. And the people in those bands can PLAY. Of course, I could be way off base in my observations. Nonetheless, how did this group come about?

AS: Not at all man. Those are definitely a couple bands that have helped morph my musical world, among plenty of others—but you’re not off at all!

Atkins Riot really began in high school with Jesse Wilson and Tom Badman. We made a few rockin’ tunes, especially about zombies and just weird things. I loved the name “Atkins Riot” and so I held on to it.

In 2018, I brought it back with Billy Harrison and Rob Zaccaria. After a year or so, Sam Roux joined as bass player after Billy took off . It’s just been a blast and true pleasure growing with these dudes as musicians and band mates. We’re starting to write more as a full band rather than bringing in basically full tunes and having everyone learn them, which is a really cool experience and I can’t wait to have some of these new songs out!

CS: As a guitar player, who are the guitar players you listen to?

AS: Just like my music influences, I could write down every guitar player I listen to and how they have influenced me and my style of playing. I’ll give you a couple main ones from the beginning and a couple that I’m listening to now. Metallica was a huge influence (Yes the Mustaine’s and the Hammett’s) but especially James Hetfield’s writing and rhythm. Angus Young (First album I ever bought – ‘Highway To Hell’), Jimmy Page, Hendrix, Slash, Synyster Gates of Avenged Sevenfold, Dimebag Darrell from Pantera; the list will never end.

Lately I’ve been jamming a lot of Marcus King, Jason Becker, all the players in Steely Dan (laughs), Al Di Meola, Joe Perry and Brad Whitford of Aerosmith. And Dan Wagner has always been a huge influence to me in guitar playing and song writing. Again, that list could go on forever.

CS: Please tell us about the different projects you’re working in.

AS: At the moment, as I mentioned earlier, Atkins Riot is working on completing another album that I cannot wait to come out. There’s a lot of new things that we’re diving into and it’s a whole lotta fun! I’ve also been jamming with Dan Wagner of Wagner 3000 which is a whole other monster. Really neat stuff in that group. Jamie Cunningham and myself (J&A for all you facebookers) are getting together when we can to continue our guitar duo project that we took out on tour earlier this year. Other than that, a few of my friends have been sending over their original tracks for me to lay a guitar part down and that’s been a lot of fun.

CS: Good list. You’ve been in some very fortunate situations over the last few years. Things are going well for you—would you agree?

AS: 2019 was a huge year for Atkins Riot. We won a SAMMY for Best Rock Recording. We won the Westcott Battle Of The Bands: opened up for Marc Rebillet at Westcott: opened-up for The Marcus King Band at Papermill Island and played Chevy Court at the fair on a Saturday afternoon, memorial day weekend.

CS: Five bucks says you’ve got stories. Tell me a story.

AS: So this is about as funny as it is terrifying. Probably more terrifying if you’re a musician with plenty of gear. So a couple summers ago, The Jess Novak Band was playing at The Dinosaur BBQ Boneyard stage (I play guitar in JNB too) 5-8ish on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. We got everything set up, started playing a tune and I could’ve sworn I heard thunder. Thought I was going crazy because it was such a nice day all day long. After the song ended, to test my sanity and ears, I ran out on the other side of The Dino and sure enough some very large storm clouds were rolling in.

We played about 15 seconds longer until a crack of lighting got everyone right to their feet. Within a few minutes it was downpouring and I mean like standing under a waterfall downpouring. The staff gathered as many garbage bags as they could while we unplugged everything and tried to get the gear to the least water infiltrated spot under a 10×10 open sided tent. The look of terror in everyone’s face as 3-4 inches of water rushed over our pedal boards, power-strips, cases and drums will never be forgotten (laughs).

After about 10-15 minutes of it not letting up, we just gave up and just started loading up our vehicles as we and all of our stuff were soaked to the bone. Leaving quite disappointed, I went straight home, took out all my stuff and dried it off to the best of my ability, put some hair dryers on my gear and hoped they would all be dry by the next gig. Turns out everyone’s stuff was fine and we didn’t really need to replace anything… Except

Gavin’s drum rug.

CS: Hm. Believe it or not I have the EXACT same story from one of my shows at the Boneyard. I remember the sight of the water flowing through the stage with great clarity. Thankfully, I was traveling light with gear that day.

Anyway, As a teacher, what is your best advice for those learning music?

AS: If you love music and want to better yourself further on your instrument, don’t give up when you get extremely frustrated. That’s when the mind works best to piece everything together to bring you to the next step. Just keep going unless it’s physically painful. Then go see a doctor first, you may just have to adjust your posture.

CS: What’s in your near future, musically?

AS: A new Atkins Riot album/music videos, and a new JNB album dropping sometime very soon. I’d really like to start playing out regularly again but we all know how that’s going. I’m getting a little more associated with the online scene so we’ll see how that plays out. Other than that I’m continuing to write and practice to be ready when things really start to open up.

CS: How can folks stay in touch with your music?

AS: Follow me (Saturno Music), Atkins Riot, the Jess Novak Band and J&A on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitch. Also head over to www.atkinsriot.com for some cool videos and music. You can find my solo album “Crash Test” under the “Saturno” tab. Also, new merch will be available once we get the online store up and running.

CS: Ok, man, it’s been good getting to know you better. I’ll look forward to hearing more from you. And I hope you (and all of us ) can get back into the live music saddle soon.

AS: Thanks, Chuck. It’s been a pleasure.

Chuck Schiele
Chuck Schiele is a lifelong, award-winning musician, art director, producer, editorialist, artist, activist, member Quatrocollective.com and fan of the CNY music scene. To be considered for this column, please write chuck.schiele@gmail.com.