New Groove of the Month
Edited by Dean Budnick
A Fresh Interpretation Of An Ancient Harmony: An Interview with Chad Denney
Our new groove for the month of October is the Georgia quartet Ancient
Harmony. Ancient Harmony has made great strides in the past few years to
establish itself on the nation's music scene. With a clear and crisp rock
and roll sound, Ancient Harmony's music is based on roots in southern rock,
but also draws from influences all over the country. It wouldn't take long
for a music fan at one of their shows to pinpoint the multitude of
musicians and traditions from which the band has forged their own unique
sound. Shell Stamps on lead guitar and vocals, Steve Patton on bass, Mike
Cansler on drums, and Hal Month on keyboard are the current members of the
band. Their live concerts showcase many of their own original
compositions, but also include covers from well-known musicians such as Bob
Dylan, Jerry Garcia, and Phish.
The band originally hails from Albany (say al-BINY) Georgia in the
southeastern portion of the state. As their popularity grew, they found
that relocating their base to Atlanta was a natural move. Patton and Month
both have music degrees from established music institutes, while Cansler
and Stamps share a childhood bond that dovetails perfectly within the
group. One look at their stage setup might give the impression that there
are 6 or 7 different members of the band. Cansler has many percussion
instruments to compliment his basic drum set, while Month has 5 or 6
different keyboards at his disposal. The last time Ancient Harmony played
in Memphis, Month made extensive use of a rotating sphere with a microphone
to add an additional effect to his keyboards, much like the effects Charlie
Hunter sometimes uses on his guitar.
Ancient Harmony is now touring the country, supported by their relationship
with Lauan Records. Lauan is one of a growing number of pioneering labels
that give back to the music community even more than they take. The
effects of their live compilation albums has served to increase the
national visibility of acts such as Jiggle The Handle and Larry, just to
name two. As humble musicians with emerging talent, Ancient Harmony seems
like a natural fit for a jamband label like Lauan. I had the chance to
speak briefly with Chad Denney, the manager of Ancient Harmony about the
band's history, current projects, and future plans. Excerpts from that
CS: I understand you're the road manager of the band.
CD: Yeah, I've been their manager since the beginning. Well, I've been
with them for a long time. I started out just as a fan in the audience. I
know you were probably wanting to interview one of the band members, but
they're men of few words. I've been with them the whole way, so I have a
pretty good grasp of their music and where they're headed.
CS: Well, let's start with a little history behind the band.
CD: OK, Shell and Mike grew up across the street from one another.
They're the core of the band. They've been playing together longer than
anyone else. Were you meaning a history from an evolutionary standpoint or
just a historical basis of how they got started?
CS: Well, a little of both. Shell and Mike are both from Albany in South
CD: Yes. Actually, Shell and Mike are from Albany and Steve moved there
when he was 4 or 5 years old, so you could say they are all from Albany.
Steve and Hal were both had formal training. Steve went to AIM, the
Atlanta Institute of Music, and Hal studied at the Julliard School. The
band's original lineup started about 6 or 7 years ago. In the beginning,
it was just Mike and Shell and Steve playing regional gigs here and there.
You know, they were doing weekend warrior kind of stuff. They started
doing mostly covers, playing songs they knew and enjoyed, then evolved into
a more original band over time. We had a few other musicians here and
there before we ended up with the permanent lineup we have now. We had a
harmonica player for a time. By the time Hal had joined on keyboard,
things were starting to really take off...
CS: But you had an album at by that point already, right?
CD: Well, we did have "Skywater" out by then, yes. From our perspective
now, I know it's hard for the band to consider that a full-fledged album.
Basically, we went into the studio with Paul Hornsby and cut nine tracks in
exactly eight hours. He produced for the Marshall Tucker Band as well as
Charlie Daniels. We wanted something for promo material so that we could
put the building blocks together for something bigger in the future. I
know the band would say today that it isn't something they're particularly
proud of. They recorded 12 tracks in something like eight hours in just
one day. We did what we needed to do there to get us where we're going.
CS: Both Steve and Hal studying in organized musical programs makes an
interesting contrast with Shell and Mike's natural partnership. Do you
think that has helped in the development of the music?
CD: Oh certainly. I can speak more about Steve because I knew him both
before and after his experience at AIM. I can't tell you how many times
people have come up to me and said, "Man, Steve's music has grown so much
in such a short period of time." Since the band works together so much,
it's only natural that some of that would rub off. I'm sure Steve has
taught Shell a trick or two somewhere along the line. But at the same
time, there are things between Shell and Mike that could never be taught in
any music school. There are some things that have grooved in over time
from playing so much together from such a young age.
CS: Tell me how you first became involved with Lauan Records.
CD: We had come to the point when we were ready to make a commitment to
expanding our sound on a nationwide platform, so we took a look around to
see what some other bands were doing. It so happened that some guys we
knew, Day By The River, had recorded on a 3 band sampler for Lauan with
Vinyl and Jiggle The Handle also, I believe. It seemed like they had a
very good experience come out of that so we looked into it. I put together
some promotional materials and a live tape that we had recorded from a
festival in Cochran, Georgia called the Summer Sun Music Festival.
David Landsberger his partner Seth are the two guys running the show at
Lauan. They are from Boulder, CO and Providence, RI, I believe. We got
together with all of them and met them in person. The way they do things
is really neat. We were part of the second compilation CD they released
along with Larry from Austin, TX and Wise Monkey Orchestra from San Diego,
CA. We each got about 24 minutes of space on the CD for our own live
music. The way it works is great for all of us. I know there are some
music fans in the heart of Texas that might not know about Ancient Harmony
if it wasn't for that CD. The same goes for some of our fans and Wise
Monkey. It's a great crossover and gives us the benefit of expanding into
new markets so that we already have a little buzz going when we tour and
travel to play our shows there.
CS: How would you say they do things differently from other record labels?
CD: Well for starters, the three band CD they released only costs $8, and
they donate a portion of the proceeds to charity. I think it's a charity
that helps homeless people up in Boston. When we've met with them in the
past, we all came away with the overwhelming feeling that they were in it
with noble intentions. They didn't seem like the greedy corporate music
types you always hear about.
CS: Do they have any creative or financial control over the album you're
planning right now?
CD: No, not really. What they have is one version of ["Sweet] Memory."
We picked that from our archives of live performances to be one 26 minute
track on the compilation. They can do with that as they please. If the
band picked another version of the song to record, we would retain the
rights to that ourselves.
CS: Moving up to Atlanta seems like a logical move for an up and coming
band like Ancient Harmony. How would you characterize the music scene
there right now?
CD: Man, it's practically exploding. There's just so much going on right
now. From a venue standpoint the Brandyhouse has just been doing great.
They host jambands there all the time. Things started to really pick up
there, of course, when Col. Bruce began to play there on a regular basis.
He brought in John Popper, [Mike] Gordon from Phish, and all kinds of
musicians were down there playing with him on a regular basis. That really
sparked the interest of the music-loving public as a whole. Then of course
there's the Northside Tavern and Variety Playhouse, they have some great
shows throughout the year. With the amount of talent in the Atlanta area
and the enthusiasm that's been growing in the past couple of years, I would
almost compare it with what was going on in the Haight-Ashbury era back in
San Francisco in the 1960's.
CS: How about the Dunhams radio show on Z-93 and the Grateful Dead hour?
Do you think that has done a lot to help promote jambands in the Atlanta
CD: Absolutely. Jeff Dunham has done so much since Jerry died to keep the
sprit alive and continue spreading the music. He has a live radio show
once a week that runs back to back with the Dead hour. That's done so much
to help the jam scene overall, as well as bluegrass and other types of
CS: Tell me a little about the album Ancient Harmony has recently been
CD: Well, we were working on part of an album at Tree Sound Studio in
Atlanta. Dr. Dan came in and helped do some production work and we fined
tuned Atlas. We worked and stopped and worked some more at
Muscadine Records down in Macon, but unfortunately with all the money we've
been putting into our touring, most of the funds for that project have
dried up. In all likelihood, we're going to end up releasing a double-live
album in the coming months. We've been talking with Doug Oade who recorded
some shows we played down in Tallahassee not too long ago. He went over
the material with us beforehand and we picked out which songs would work
best technically, then also some that the band really wanted to do, so
that's what we based those shows around.
CS: Ancient Harmony still throws in quite a few cover songs into the mix
of their live shows. What do you think their song choices say about them
as a band?
CD: In most cases, the songs represent past experiences and influences of
the individual bringing them in. I mean, each band member brings in songs
he wants to play on his own and then the band works with it from there.
Ultimately playing cover songs is a reflection of a musician's desire to
express an existing idea through their own creative outlet. If Shell is
singing a cover song its because that song has a message he feels he needs
You can find out more about Ancient Harmony on their web site,