Things get weird July 19 at Luigis Fungarden with favorite mind-benders Art Lessing & The Flower Vato, Portland’s ALTO!, and San(S) Kazakgascar Solo. You see Swimming in Bengal on the poster, but the other two guys had to cancel so I’m doing my solo improv. thing instead. The Art Lessing crew hasn’t played out in awhile and should be full of mischief. Maybe they’ll drag a homemade harp made from dinosaur bones up onto the stage? As for San(S) Kazakgascar Solo, I have some mischievous ideas myself to expand upon at this show.
ALTO! is a Portland-based band featuring Derek Monypeny, who has toured though in recent years playing solo oud. He used to play with Oakland-based Oaxacan , DMPH, and Richard Bishop’s Freak of Araby Band. ALTO! is an ambitious swirl of percussion and mutant sounds. It is a band that builds each piece. I asked Derek a few questions about ALTO!.
Steven and Kyle are old friends and collaborators, correct?
It’s Steven and I who are old friends and collaborators; we have known each other since high school in Arizona. We met Kyle shortly after I moved to Portland.
Would you say that all of your previous music projects somehow contribute to what ALTO! is?
To some extent, yes. But ALTO! for me is the most thorough and personal reflection of my musical imagination and influences with regards to electric rock music. I consider myself a very late bloomer. It has taken me a long time to develop an approach I feel is, beyond any value judgement, distinctive and unusual. ALTO! is the purest representation of my sound and approach.
When we’ve talked about guitar playing, you describe your style as percussive. By having two drummers and a percussive guitarist, can we assume “percussive” is what you’re really going after here?
Yeah, very much so. I truly believe that organic-sounding rhythm-based music, assuming the people making it know what they’re doing, is timeless and always sounds alive. Records like “Expensive Shit”, “Ege Bamyasi”, “Live At The Apollo”, “Deceit”, “Like My Decals Off, Baby”, etc. never sound dated, old, or dead to me.
We’ve branched out somewhat, but the original idea for ALTO! in my mind was rhythm-based music that had a fun/party vibe to it, and we are not going to lose that fundamental aspect of our music.
What non-musical things help shape your sound?
Travel, certainly. Humor in its hugely varied forms (Almost as vast an area of research/pursuit/study of music). Loneliness and heartbreak, more in my solo music than in this band. Imprints left by people and experiences. Most recently, bird sounds. I think bird-watching is going to become a new thing for me.
Stream, download, or order the new ALTO! LP.
Stream, download, or order Derek Monypeny’s solo oud albums.
In depth interview with Derek Monypeny in Experimental Portland.