Ter­rell’s Tune-Up

Ar­ring­ton de Dionyso’s This Sax­o­phone Kills Fas­cists tour

Pasatiempo - - NEWS -

Per­haps the most iconic im­ages of folksinger Woody Guthrie are from the early 1940s, show­ing the cel­e­brated Dust Bowl bal­ladeer with a hand-painted mes­sage on his gui­tar: “This ma­chine kills fas­cists.”

Avant-garde mu­si­cian, vis­ual artist, and all-around vi­sion­ary Ar­ring­ton de Dionyso doesn’t sound any­thing like Guthrie. But he’s chan­nel­ing the spirit of the Okie bard for the cur­rent tour he’s dubbed “This Sax­o­phone Kills Fas­cists.” And he’s bring­ing his show to New Mex­ico, in­clud­ing a Mon­day, March 13, per­for­mance at Fresh Santa Fe.

What kind of mu­sic does this Olympia, Wash­ing­ton, mu­si­cian play? In a re­cent phone in­ter­view, de Dionyso told me he’ll be do­ing “protest mu­sic.” But it’s not going to sound like the mu­sic of Joan Baez or Pete Seeger or even Rage Against the Ma­chine. Singing words that tell sto­ries of in­jus­tice and strife in a lin­ear, log­i­cal man­ner, de Dionyso said, is in­ad­e­quate in a new era in which “the whole idea of ob­jec­tive truth can be ma­nip­u­lated.” In­stead, he said the best way to counter this is “when you get into raw emo­tion con­nected to a spir­i­tual place.”

He said his mu­sic on this tour is in­spired by the “free jazz” move­ment — think Al­bert Ayler, Or­nette Cole­man — of the late 1960s. It was a wild style of ex­pres­sive dis­cor­dant jazz that rose with the Black Lib­er­a­tion move­ment, a mu­sic that de Dionyso said be­came more fo­cused on “pol­i­tics and deep spir­i­tual ex­pe­ri­ences. I’m find­ing that this is the most ap­pro­pri­ate form of protest mu­sic,” he said. It’s his way to “con­front the cur­rent fas­cist regime.”

On a per­sonal level, part of what sparked “This Sax­o­phone Kills Fas­cists” was de Dionyso’s own brush with fol­low­ers of what is eu­phemisti­cally known these days as the “alt-right,” which sounds so much more hip than an un­pleas­ant la­bel like “white na­tion­al­ists.” Late last year he was “im­pli­cated” in the so-called Piz­za­gate scan­dal be­cause one of his mu­rals had been on dis­play at Comet Ping Pong in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. — which, ac­cord­ing to the con­spir­acy clowns, is the epi­cen­ter of a child sex ring in­volv­ing some of the most pow­er­ful peo­ple in the na­tion’s cap­i­tal. Even though that mu­ral has long been painted over, the froth­ing con­spir­acy faith­ful claimed that de Dionyso’s col­or­ful prim­i­tive art — in­spired by dreams and mythol­ogy, and burst­ing with sex­ual en­ergy — is full of sym­bols of pe­dophilia and Satanism. Some ac­cused him of mak­ing “de­gen­er­ate art” — a term the artist noted was used by the Nazi Party in Ger­many in its fight against mod­ern art in the 1930s.

“Piz­za­gate was a huge trig­ger for me,” he said. Some of the Piz­za­gate cru­saders not only smeared him as a devil-wor­ship­ping per­vert, but they also posted in­for­ma­tion about his fam­ily and pic­tures of his friends and in gen­eral did their best to make his life mis­er­able.

At the height of that crazi­ness late last year, de Dionyso posted on Face­book: “I know none of this is about me per­son­ally in even the slight­est. Right now there are lines be­ing drawn. There is a war be­ing waged against EV­ERY form of free ex­pres­sion and I think you all know ex­actly what side of that line I will be stand­ing on. Will you stand with me?”

Born in 1975 to par­ents who were both Methodist military chap­lains, de Dionyso said his was a “100 per­cent non-mu­si­cal” fam­ily. But it wasn’t an art-free fam­ily. His mother, he said, loved to paint and had a “folk-art style” that in­spired him. Start­ing at the age of three or four, he be­gan draw­ing pic­tures of di­nosaurs, dragons, and wild an­i­mals his mom painted.

For de Dionyso, mu­sic came later. Be­gin­ning in ju­nior high, when his par­ents moved to Spokane, he be­came in­ter­ested in non-Western mu­sic from Asia, Africa, and the Mid­dle East. “I wanted to hear ev­ery­thing,” he said, which in­cluded tra­di­tional Ja­panese sounds, In­done­sian game­lan mu­sic, and the Mas­ter Mu­si­cians of Jou­jouka from Morocco (who were “dis­cov­ered” decades ear­lier by Brian Jones of The Rolling Stones). Of course, most kids his age didn’t share this mu­si­cal pas­sion. But he found a mu­si­cal com­mu­nity in the hard­core punk rock scene. Mosh pits seemed like an ec­static tribal rit­ual to him.

Af­ter mov­ing to Olympia in the early ’90s to at­tend Ev­er­green State Col­lege, he started a band called Old Time Reli­jun, which be­gan re­leas­ing its mu­sic — fre­quently com­pared with Cap­tain Beef­heart, but less bluesy — on home­made cas­sette tapes. This group later re­leased nine al­bums on the Olympiabased-la­bel K Records, which was a lead­ing light back when “al­ter­na­tive” rock truly was al­ter­na­tive. Old Time Reli­jun lasted well into the 21st cen­tury. But de Dionyso took a dif­fer­ent turn in 2009, re­leas­ing an al­bum called Malaikat dan Singa (later the name of his back­ing band), on which he sang, in the In­done­sian lan­guage, songs in­spired by Wil­liam Blake and the Zo­har.

On his cur­rent tour he’ll be play­ing sax, bass clar­inet, and an in­stru­ment of his own cre­ation, the bromio­phone, a con­tra­bass clar­inet made from PVC pipes. At most of his gigs he’ll be col­lab­o­rat­ing with lo­cal mu­si­cians. “I’ll have a drum­mer and maybe an­other sax­o­phone player in Santa Fe,” he said.

“We have to change our­selves as artists and mu­si­cians. We have no choice. It’s a fas­cist takeover. But there are more of us than there are of them. We need to stop all the in­fight­ing as much as pos­si­ble. All our en­ergy needs to be put to stop­ping this regime,” he said.

See Ar­ring­ton de Dionyso 7:30 p.m. Satur­day, March 11, in Al­bu­querque at CFA Down­town Stu­dio (113 4th St., NW; $5 sug­gested do­na­tion); 4 p.m. Sun­day, March 12, at En­nui Gallery in Taos (134 Bent St.; $5-$10 sug­gested do­na­tion), and 7 p.m. Mon­day, March 13, at Fresh Santa Fe (2855-A Cooks Road; $10).

You can find tons of de Dionyso’s mu­sic at www .ar­ring­ton.band­camp.com. Also, check his vis­ual art at www.ar­ring­tonde­dionyso.big­car­tel.com.

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