Brooklyn-based vocalist/percussionist/composer Mikey IQ Jones’ kitchen-sink collusionist aesthetics center around the real-time manipulation and structuring of raw vocal, idiophonic, membranophonic, and domestic materials into thickets of rhythm and harmony via an assortment of samplers. In English: On Wednesdsay, May 20th at 8:30pm, he’ll be singing, banging on an assortment of drums, percussion, and household junk, sampling (and sometimes looping) the elements live, and in essence performing new pieces which are to be released sometime in late 2009. There will also be costumes and props, because it’s Mixology time, and that’s just the way he rolls.
Mikey IQ Jones performs alone and with Brown Wing Overdrive, whose most recent album “ESP Organism” was released by Tzadik in late 2008.
Roulette: Do you consider yourself more a composer or a performer?
IQ: Most definitely a performer. I don’t compose in any sort of preconceived “proper” notion, or by a common concept of composition. Though I certainly organize the sounds and concepts (especially when in songform), nothing is traditionally scored, per se — though at present I am working on the development of some sort of scoring system so that I can actually notate the means of construction should anyone ever want to attempt to reproduce the pieces & songs without my collaboration.
There is also a heavy performance art aesthetic which runs deep into the music I make, be it in solo or collaborative form. Much of what I do is centered around the manipulation of bodily sounds and rhythms as well as the sounds and rhythms of drums and household objects, and the means in which I produce said sounds and rhythms opens many doors for theatricality and performance. I’d like to believe that it also makes watching me perform much more enjoyable. If I’m going to leave my home and pay money to see someone, I’d like to walk away thinking and feeling that the performer set out to push themselves and/or the audience into a different frame of mind than they were in before they left.
R: Is there an event or experience that led you to start in experimental media?
IQ: UK improviser and pianist Steve Beresford gave me the initial inspiration to improvise, and to accept and appreciate my own personal carnivorous culture diet. Seeing his name all over many records that I owned and loved – in collaboration with people like the Slits, John Zorn, Adrian Sherwood, and Frank Chickens (to name but a small few) – combined with a collusionist aesthetic that embraced eclecticism rather than compartmentalization and a Marxian (think Harpo, not Karl) sense of perversity, gave me the confidence to step forward, takerisks, and embrace improvisation as a tool for developing creative output. Hearing Beresford’s 1980 LP “The Bath of Surprise” as a teenager was a watershed moment that changed me forever — I never
made music the same way ever again. That, combined with a somewhat hermetic childhood which left me at the mercy of my own imagination to keep myself company, provided the foundations which I’m now building upon.
R: What is it that you want people to hear/think about/be tuned into in your work?
IQ: People are free to think and feel whatever they please about my music, but I’d hope to at least provoke a strong enough reaction, be it good OR bad, that will perhaps go on to inspire and/or influence them to take initiative and create or be proactive on some personal level.
R: What do you, as a composer/performer of music, listen for in other people’s work- what moves you? What tickles your brain?
IQ: Many of my favorite artists, performers, and composers create soundworlds which I completely inhabit during the record’s duration — they take me to an entirely new environment or at least drastically alter my surrounding environment as I listen to the work. I’m always hypnotized by rhythms, whether it’s from a record of Brazilian sambas or from the dryers at my local launderette. My brain gets tickled by the thought of combining those samba rhythms with those of the clothes dryer — and that’s essentially what I set out to do in my own work.
R: Tell us as about the work you’ll be doing at Roulette.
IQ: At Roulette, I’ll be performing a set of songs and improvisations based around what will be my next record, “How I Learned to Love the Drum”. During the performance, I’ll be creating rhythms, harmonies, and melodies using the sounds of my body and voice, as well as the sounds and rhythms of a set of percussion and household objects, all of which hold some sort of personal connection to me. The performance is entirely solo, save for a bit of audience participation, and based around my use of live sampling technology and the direct connection I have developed between it and my own body. My solo work has revolved around my desire to confront the adversities I’ve faced on a physical, emotional, and logistical level as a result of my diabetes, and to essentially push myself into a heightened sense of self-awareness. When I perform, it’s 100%, and I push myself in a solo setting to my absolute mental, physical, and emotional limits… sometimes even beyond that. Because the performance is taking place during the Mixology Festival, I’ll be heightening the performance side of things even further with a more elaborate use of costumes, masks, and even some props. I’ve been known to perform in masks in the past, but this will be even more elaborate. It’s also two days after my 27th birthday, so I can’t think of a more enjoyable (and self-indulgent!) way to celebrate!
R: Who are your major influences (musicians, art, literature, culture, etc)?
IQ: Influences are funny in that, from a musical perspective at least, they don’t necessarily show themselves in the final results. There are plenty of people and things which have influenced me in knowing what I DON’T want to achieve. I also find myself being influenced by everything from Yoruba tongue-twisters to the empanadas I ate for dinner two nights ago. I’m also constantly inspired and fascinated by the sounds and contexts resulting in spending most of my life living in New York City. With that being said, there are plenty of influential seeds which have sprouted visible and audible references in what I do — from the early efforts to create song-oriented compositions from musique concrète-inspired production means by the likes of the Art of Noise and Yello, the dense and intense sonic landscapes of Public Enemy and their Bomb Squad production team, straight through to current sampling pioneers like Matthew Herbert, who shared my distaste for preset sound technologies and embraced the natural, flawed sound characteristics of everyday objects placed into rhythmic contexts to create new timbres and pulses… these people have all taken cues, be it intentional or not, from composers like Cage who sought out to recontextualize the sonic palette and strip away definitions of what could be used and construed as music. That, combined with my love of complex songwriters like Serge Gainsbourg (probably my biggest hero on many different levels for many different reasons), who embraced intense wordplay through use of onomatopoeia, alliteration, and brilliant metaphor, an importance on rhythm, as well as the desire for constant recontextualization, played an enormous role in the development of my own personal creative vision.
R: Chocolate or Vanilla?
IQ: Chocolate, no question about it. Vanilla has terrible, terrible underlying connotations. Chocolate’s very much like music in a sense — you’ve got different varieties (milk, dark, semisweet, bitter, even white), and those varieties have differing textures and flavors which, when mixed and integrated with other flavors (fruits, coffees, even vanilla) create new flavors and textures therein. Can you tell I’m a chocoholic? It’s dangerous, considering I’ve been a Type 1 diabetic for 18 years.
R: What was the last music you listened to?
IQ: Today’s soundtrack:
Bod Guibert “Les Pyromanes et Sicot Presentent” (1970′s Afro-French zouk music, lovely & infectious. The rhythms are wonderful here.)
Nite Jewel “Good Evening” (Brilliant LA-based one-woman artpop project centered around synthesizers, drum machines, and tape edits. Great, hazy, dreamy vocals, too. One of my favorite new artists, and my favorite “pop” album of the past year.)
Joyce “Visions of Dawn” (A spellbinding 1976 collaboration between the Brazilian singer Joyce, bassist Mauricio Maestro, and master percussionist Nana Vasconcelos — perhaps the best thing she ever recorded!)
Alain Bashung “Play Blessures” (A 1982 collaboration between two of my songwriting heroes – Bashung and Serge Gainsbourg. This is one of those few records that comes with me to the desert island. Bashung’s passing in March deeply saddened me in a way few performers’ deaths usually do — he was brilliant until the very end; his last album “Bleu Petrole” features guitar and dobro work by downtown fave Marc Ribot and is also highly recommended.)
V/A “Bulawayo Jazz: Southern Rhodesia & Zimbabwe 1950-52″ (Hugh Tracey recordings of criminally underheard jazz & dance bands led by August Musarurwa in the early 1950′s; this collection sits alongside the few available collections of South African kwela & jive music as an important document of jazz’s development outside of the USA. Absolutely amazing!)