Part of my process in becoming a proper part of my college radio station was learning the musicians who made stealthier contributions to the records that stirred the most awe for their resolute coolness. My previous music knowledge, shaped by Rolling Stone, MTV, and album rock radio, was skewed in favor of the big rock stars, the people with their names in embossed letters on record sleeves. A more dedicated perusal of the liner notes could reveal hidden truths about the traveling souls who made music better through their craft and presence. During my time as an undergraduate student, happily toiling at the left end of the dial in the late nineteen-eighties and early nineteen-nineties, I considered drummer Anton Fier to be the epitome of that kind of player.
I knew Fier’s name first because my student broadcasting elders instilled in my an appreciation for his ever-transforming collective the Golden Palominos. Then, I saw that name everywhere. At least I saw that name on seemingly every album that had an extra swirl of hipness pressed into its grooves. When Bob Mould’s first two solo albums hit our station rotation, there was Fier. When we got the reissue of Crazy Rhythms, the then elusive and already revered debut album by the Feelies, there was Fier. On records by Laurie Anderson, Los Lobos, Syd Straw, Don Dixon, Swans, and Lloyd Cole, inventive iconoclasts all, he added contributions that were far from show and yet deeply vital.
At a time when I was most eager and open to new, challenging, mind-bending music, Fier represented something special. I quickly came to see his place in the credits as a validation of an artist’s taste. When he was there, I listened more intently, sure there were secrets to be heard. And there were.