Sunwatchers/Sizdahkhani/ Monypeny/Kazakgascar


Hello.  It’s been awhile since I’ve posted something here.  I’ve been reorganizing and reassessing my music mess somewhat.  I’m trying out the idea of San Kazakgascar being a more fluid group of collaborators, and less of a constant 4-piece band.  I’m proud of the music that the original Brewer/Takushi/Hain/Woo line-up made for several years, but am curious about what else lurks behind the magic curtain.

Other recent mischief includes a duo recording with nuclear drummer Jon Bafus.  Expect a little EP from that in the near future.  Swimming in Bengal recently recorded with an ensemble of guest players and it sounds wonderful.  We are in the early stages of going through the improvisations and picking out the best plunges.

Back to Kazakgascar.  We are playing on a stacked bill on March 22 at Gold Lion Arts at 7:30 pm.  More details at Facebook.  For this show, we have myself, Rachel Freund on clarinet, Joss Lucio on percussion, and the mighty anchor Greg Hain on bass.  I’ve played countless show with guitarist/oud player Derek Monypeny.  He is always challenging himself with new directions and is touring/collaborating with Iranian-American percussionist Sahba Sizdahkhani.  I’m looking forward to hearing their stuff.  Back from Brooklyn are Sunwatchers, who played a great set here last year.  They just released a new album called Illegal Moves on Trouble in Mind Records which combine elements of art punk, prog, avant jazz, psych, and probably other things I can’t necessarily get my head around.  I threw out a few questions to sax player Jeff Tobias to get a better understanding.




1. When Sunwatchers came together was there an agreed upon vision for the band or was it more, “Let’s see what happens?”
When Sunwatchers began to perform live, three of us – myself, Jim, and Jason – had already been playing music together in various incarnations for about ten years, primarily in an Athens, Georgia-based band called Dark Meat. The initial iterations and collaborations that we began to put under the Sunwatchers banner had more in common with the harsh drone music of La Monte Young and Phill Niblock than the energy playing / group sounds that we’ve been doing for the past few years. In other words, it was plenty organic and based not on carefully sussed-out negotiations but rather a long-gestating mutual understanding between friends.
2. What non-musical influences contribute to the band’s sound?
This is a great question, because it acknowledges that music can be a response to every sort of stimuli, not just a laundry list of “influences.” The first thing that leaps to mind is our country’s (and our world’s) ongoing social/political climate. We can’t help but feel bitterly furious as we watch our friends and strangers alike suffer under the yoke of neoliberal capitalism’s uncaring and cruel machinations. While we hope that our music delivers cathartic and celebratory moments for our audience, speaking personally, every time I pick up my instrument to play Sunwatchers music, I feel it’s an opportunity to respond to what I perceive as an ongoing war against humanity. Beyond that – I’d say we’re mostly influenced by regional fast food chains (Cook Out in particular) and the short films of “Weird” Al Yankovic.
3. How did the collaboration album with Eugene Chadbourne come about?
Jim McHugh, our guitarist, made his bones running a DIY storefront venue in Greensboro, North Carolina called the Onion Cellar. Eugene had put down roots there, and their meeting was inevitable. Jim will be the first to admit that Eugene’s been a big influence on his guitar playing, and he booked Doc for some gigs at the Onion Cellar way back in the day. They maintained contact over the years, and a few years ago began a correspondence about this collaboration. Doc Chad’s restless spirit is hugely inspiring, and we’re fortunate to stand in the shadow of his several decades of trailblazing noise-making. Hopefully “3 Characters” is the first of several bonkers slabs that we can create together.
4.  What other living musicians would Sunwatchers love to collaborate with if given the chance? (reach for the sky)
To name a few: Aerosmith, Omar Souleyman, Ann Peebles, Boredoms, Evan Parker, Peter Brotzmann, NoMeansNo, Susie Ibarra, Archie Shepp, Nils Lofgren, John Cale, Arnold Dreyblatt, Yoko Ono, Earth, Dirty Three, Carla Bley, William Parker, This Is Not This Heat, Joshua Abrams’ Natural Information Society, Ken Vandermark, Billy Joel, Biz Markie, Yasunao Tone, Roscoe Mitchell, Tony Malaby, Billy Gibbons, Paul Dresher, Carl Stone, Amps for Christ, Laurie Spiegel, Television, Cooper-Moore… Aerosmith again
YokoOno-550x550        brotzmann
I can be knee-jerk to loathe when a band is “NPR/Pitchfork approved”, but in this case I share these hearty endorsements of their new album: NPR Review; Pitchfork Review
Stream, download, order, etc: Sunwatchers
San Kazakgascar
Derek Monypeny
Sahba Sizdahkhani
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Bengal Back in Oakland


Swimming in Bengal returns to Oakland’s Octopus Literary Salon on Sat., Nov. 10.  We play at 7pm sharp.  We’ll be followed by SF’s Virginia Dare, old friends from the golden age of Bay Area independent music. I’m excited to see them again.  Dress warm, prepare to snuggle, and know that the show will be over before bedtime!  More info. at Facebook.

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Mid September Meltdown


Hey there.  I  have two back to back days with performances before we officially tell summer goodbye.  On Sunday, Sept. 16, San Kazakgascar plays a short afternoon set at Sacramento Audio Waffle #47 at the Red Museum.  We are putting together a one and done loud piece for this performance.  The show runs from about noon to 3pm and I believe we are near the end.  This show is put on by the NorCal Noisefest folks.  More details here.

The following evening on Sept. 17 Swimming in Bengal plays Luna’s with N. Carolina-based experimental guitarist Tashi Dorji.  He is a unique talent and we are excited to share the bill with him.  The show starts at 7:30 sharp.  Bengal released a new recording called Deeper Deeper earlier this summer and you can listen to it and learn more here.


Tashi Dorji



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Swimming in Bengal – Deeper Deeper


Deeper Deeper documents the last two years of Swimming in Bengal improvised explorations.  Going through all the different recordings we have, and deciding which ones to use is always a love/hate thing for me.  I guess it’s mostly love, but the overwhelmed part of my attention span is challenged.  In selecting pieces for this album we went for variety and dynamics. The album opens with the sparse “The Spider Who Loved Me”, but melts immediately into the thicker “Molten Ore.”  And up and down we go, throughout the album.

We plan on recording with some Sacramento-based Indian musicians in the near future and Tony also wants to include strings.  We’re excited about the next chapter.  Until then, join us at the deeper deeper end!  You can order the CD or download at Swimming in Bengal’s Bandcamp site.  Later this summer Lugubrious Audio UK will be releasing a cassette version of Deeper Deeper.


Upcoming Swimming in Bengal dates:

July 14 at Adobe Books in San Francisco w/Invasive Species

July 28 at Tribe Fest in Sacramento

Sept 17 at Luna’s in Sacramento w/Tashi Dorji

There are still copies of the Garden of Idle Hands LP at Baggage Claim, Lather, or Revolver.



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Summer Burners


We keep breaking Earth’s average heat records, so why not riff along with that amazing trend?  As you can see above I’ll be doing a few solo electric/acoustic shows as full-band Kazakgascar dusts itself off from hiatus.  SK is going to take a stab at some recording this summer as well.  I usually craft a unique set for each solo show, some more improvised than others.  It can be challenging, but sometimes I’m rewarded with new song ideas for full band style.  I’m especially excited about playing in Arcata’s Community Forest!

Also, Swimming in Bengal will be playing a few times as we release our new recording, Deeper Deeper.  More on “double D” later.

  • The San (S) Kazakgascar Solo EP I recorded with Andy Morin of Death Grips a few years back: Crotch of the Gorge
  • Swimming in Bengal’s vinyl LP on Baggage Claim can be had digitally over at Lather Bandcamp now: Garden of Idle Hands
  • Facebook Events pages: San(s) Kaz Solo 6/23 Portland, Swimming in Bengal 7/14 San Francisco , more later…


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2 Bengal Shows – w/Dire Wolves + Sunwatchers


Swimming in Bengal is kicking off 2018 with two great shows:

Jan 20 at the Octopus Literary Salon in Oakland w/Dire Wolves.  7pm sharp

Jan 25 at Gold Lion Arts in Sacramento w/Sunwatchers and Invasive Species.  7:30pm

We’re excited to return to Oakland’s Octopus Literary Salon to play with some kindred spirit animals.  We’ll be joined by Bay-based Dire Wolves, who dig the deep heady grooves and I like to curl up in.  It’s an early show and you can join as after the Women’s March.  More details available at ze Facebook.


The following week we are back in Sacramento at Gold Lion Arts to play with the mighty Sunwatchers from NYC.  They combine a swirl of psychjam, drone, free jazz, and ethno art punk. They have a new album coming out on Trouble in Mind Records next month.  We’re also excited to be playing again with our buds Jon Bafus and Kevin Corcoran’s percussion duo, Invasive Species.  They don’t bust this out too often, so it’s always a treat.  More relevant specs at Facebook.

For this show, we have two guest percussionists joining Swimming in Bengal – Kishan Raj Kushal and Jay Nair.  In addition to this pair of shows, we are knee deep in messy editing notes trying to assemble the pieces that will make up the next Bengal album.

Get Swimming in Bengal recordings at: Baggage Claim Records, J&C Tapes, Lugubrious Audio, and Lather Records.





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Arrington de Dionyso will be roaring back into Sacramento on Jan. 15 at Luna’s Cafe with Philadelphia-based percussionist Ben Bennett.  I’ll be opening the show with a San(s) Kazakgascar Solo set.  Dionyso and Bennett plan on doing solo sets and a collaboration set.  Arrington will be joining in on my set.  There will also be a short “This Saxophone Kills Fascists” set at the end with local saxy folks joining in.  Got all that?  More crumbs of show info can be had at Facebook.  The show starts at 7:30.



I’m excited to play a show with Arrington again and I’m sure I’ve told you about the Tired Minds Improvised recording we did together.  You can read about it HERE.  I’m always interested to see which ways he is going to push things.  I’ve never seen Ben Bennett play before, but know that he has some unique approaches to percussion.  He also has some notoriety for logging hundreds of hours of sitting and smiling in four hour increments.



San Kazakgascar has kept a low profile this last year, but I’m looking forward to trying some ideas I’ve been chewing on, solo style.  Most of my focus lately has been on Swimming in Bengal, but this is a chance for me to run through the fields buck naked.


Ben Bennett’s Sitting and Smiling

Arrington de Dionyso & San(S) Kazakgascar Solo – Tired Minds Improvised


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Swimming in Bengal plays an early show this Sun, Nov 5, and Gold Lion Arts in Sacramento.  We start the show at 7pm and will be followed by Indian vocalist Jay Nair, who will be accompanied by guitar master Ross Hammond.  You can find more info on this all ages show at Facebook.

Bengal is currently sifting through the beautiful and broken nugs from various recording sessions to put together the next album.  Most of our previous recordings are available at Lather Records.  You can get the latest LP, Garden of Idle Hands, straight from Baggage Claim Records.  Copies of the Insomnia Village cassette from 2015 are all gone, but you can still get a digital copy at J&C Tapes.



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Swimming in Bengal – Back in Sac


Swimming in Bengal plays its first Sacramento show since May on Mon, Oct 9, at Luna’s with the Orion Guitar Trio.  The show starts at 7:30pm prompt and is all ages.  More info at Facebook.  We’ve played some out of town shows the last few months and are excited to get back on the Sacramento horse.  The Orion Guitar Trio features Mathew Grasso .


Get Bengal’s Garden of Idle Hands LP at Baggage Claim Records.

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San Kazakgascar / Abronia / The Glass Sounds


San Kazakgascar makes a rare appearance on Friday, Aug. 4 at Luna’s Cafe in Sacramento with Portland’s Abronia and newish local The Glass Sounds.  The show starts at 7:30 and is all ages.  More info. at Facebook.  This is a great line-up of heady psych, everyone offering up a different flavor.  Kazakgascar has been fairly quiet in 2017 as were are meditating on new music.  The Glass Sounds offer up a witch’s brew of aromas, and is the brainchild of Aaron Zeff and Lynda Rivera of Buk Buk Bigups, Quartz Thrust, and Vasas.  They will be bringing in the mayor of midtown, Scott Miller, for percussion.

Abronia is a group of Portland music vets, that include former members of Ghost to Falco, Eternal Tapestry, and others.  I like how they build their songs from slow burners to mountains of gold.  I hear elements of Morricone, Krautrock, free jazz, and drone/psych.  I asked Abronia founding member Eric Crespo a few questions about that band.

Dynamics are very important to me when I’m making my own music. From the sound of your album, could I assume that’s the same for you with Abronia?
Yes for sure, but it’s not really something I consciously think about too much.  Utilizing dynamics has always come pretty naturally for me.  It might just be as simple as having come of age in the soft/loud era of grunge.
Is having the one giant bass drum an effort to give the band something different than our peers?
It wasn’t really thought of as something to specifically set us apart.   The idea for a band playing around the one giant bass drum jumped into my head one day as a very clear image.  I think the idea was sort of a culmination of few different things I’ve been thinking about for a number of years–one of which is the constant struggle of trying to get the drummers I played with to play less.  So, giving the drummer just one big drum and a cymbal–the issue of overplaying is pretty much solved.
Another thing: For many years I’ve thought a lot about rhythm and thought a lot about rock music that is composed, but exists outside of the mama heartbeat rhythmic thing (say certain stuff by Captain Beefheart, U.S. Maple, Sun City Girls, etc.).  I’ve struggled a lot with whether I want to play music with a standard meter at all, but it really is satisfying to play in a comfort food sort of way.  I think having the atypical timbre of the big drum pounding out the straight ahead grooves makes the beats more interesting and palatable to me.  It makes me more excited to play music with a beat when it’s not just the standard keeping time on the hi-hat/kick, kick, snare, kick, kick, snare.
What non-musical things help inform the sound of Abronia?
Speaking for myself (I’m just one guy from this six person band), I like when I can hit on something that conjures up a specific image or feeling.  If I’m messing around on guitar  and I suddenly remember a specific section of a dream, or a view I’ve had from a trail, that’s the stuff I tend to want to explore further.  There’s a certain something I’m looking for when writing for Abronia and I think that’s all I can really say about that.  I don’t know how to explain it further.
What does the abronia lizard and the Abronia band have in common?
You know, I didn’t even know about that lizard when we named the band.  I was out backpacking in the Utah desert years ago when I came up with the idea for the band.  It was May and all the wildflowers were blooming.  One of the common flowers out there was called the sand verbena.  When I was researching that flower later I saw that the scientific name was abronia latifolia.  We decided on the band name and later I found out about the abronia arboreal alligator lizard.  Keelin says, the Abronia lizard is an endangered species and they are rather ornery and territorial.  Thinking about it now though…naming your band after an ornery lizard seems a lot more badass than naming it after a dainty little weed of a flower.  Maybe we should just start claiming that lizard as the inspiration (sorry sand verbena).

Abronia channeling ornery lizard.


Check out The Glass Sounds’ sounds

Listen to Abronia’s new full length

Listen to San Kazakgascar’s latest recording.



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