A Conversation with… That 1 Guy

4:07 am by

That 1 Guy and the Magic PipeAfter a few heady brews at the Continental Club, I settled in to catch That 1 Guy’s set. I hadn’t heard many of his songs at this point, yet the tune “This will be my last one tonight,” seemed vaguely familiar. As That 1 Guy jammed and sweated on his impressive and weird-ass looking instrument with a fury equal to that of a bassist at a hoedown in space, I realized there would be no encore. Sometimes in order to review a show, you have to actually see it.*

But I digress. The breakfast crew had a chance to catch That 1 Guy, better known to his friends, cohorts, and comped audience members as Mike Silverman.

 

T1G has an impressive background in classical bass, and it shows not only in his musical stylings, both on the record and live shows, but in how he creates the foundation of his in your face, dancy, um cacophonies? Over some beers and a bevy of groupies, the crew got some nuggets of musicality.

Doughnut: So I read that you are classically trained as a bassist.

That 1 Guy: Yeah, schooled in double bass, and I started kind of developing my own style—banging on the body like a drum, kind of similar to the way I played yesterday. It was totally acoustic. That’s when I started this whole thing, this whole, like, one-man thing.

Doughnut: So how did you segue from being a classically trained bassist into…

T1G: You know, it was just–I was searching for more sounds. That’s really it. I developed this whole act on the upright. But it was totally acoustic, and I hit this wall, where I just wanted more sounds, you know. So I started experimenting with different effects, and it just started snowballing. It just kept changing and evolving.

Eggs: So when you started, were you playing the double bass?

T1G: Oh yeah. I started playing the double bass when I was 10 years old. I was really into jazz and classical. I was playing rock, I was playing every genre. I was trying to make it my sound.

Even though I caught only the encore (what, no Magic Pipe Freebird?), the sheer magnitude of the Pipe (music, guys—stay focused) is a conversation piece in itself. Check out Cereal and Eggs’ pics to see what I’m talking about.

Eggs: How about the Pipe? When did that come into play?

T1G: I started building the Pipe in ’98, and I finished it in ’99. I started thinking about it about 3 years before that, but I let the idea sort of develop over a longer period of time.

Coffee: What’s the Pipe actually made of?

T1G: Primarily, it’s stainless steel pipes. It’s got two strings, one on the front, one on the back. The one on the front is a low C, lower than a bass. The one on the back is a high G—it’s over an octave above the low string, so it’s like a cello or a guitar. I’m trying to cover as much range as I can with those two strings. And I’ve got the little trigger pads all over that I hit with my hands. Those are activating sounds that I make.

Coffee: So why just two strings?

T1G: I like the approach. I wanted to make the instrument a one-string instrument primarily, and I like playing a one-string because you can play really rhythmically, and the other strings aren’t in the way. And I’ve always been a very rhythmic sort of player in my approach. I like being able to play the string with that kind of technique, you know—just like wail on it without worrying about it.

Cereal: What inspired the boot?

T1G: That was the last thing I made. I was looking to make some kind of hand drum, some kind of semi-acoustic electric hand drum that I could play finger rhythms on, sort of like a tabla. I didn’t know what I was gonna do it out of. And I actually had those boots, and I really liked them, and they stopped fitting. I got them re-soled. I wore them all the way through the sole, but when I got them re-soled they stopped fitting. But I didn’t want to give them away or sell them, I just wanted to keep them. When I had the idea, I said, “Hmm, I wonder if that boot will work.” Then I built a microphone inside the sole, and it seemed to just be perfect.

Doughnut: Was that a credit card you were using to play the Magic Pipe?

T1G: Yeah. If I have to do some strummy-type rhythm, I use the credit card. ‘Cause, again, it’s a long string so I don’t have to worry about accuracy. And with a huge, giant pick like that, you can just wail. It’s really fun.

Eggs: Besides the two strings and pipes, you’ve got a few buttons, right?

T1G: Those are the triggers…there are 13 total.

Eggs: And you have those all programmed in to different sounds?

T1G: Yeah—each song has a different set of sounds.

Eggs: Do you use pre-looped beats?

T1G: There’s no pre-looped beats. What I have with my samples, is sometimes I’ll make rhythms—I’ll record me doing this [knock knock knock] on a chair. I’ll put that on the kick-drum so every time I hit the kick drum, I get that sound.

Eggs: So you just have a bank of pre-recorded sounds?

T1G: Yeah. That’s it. And then I just juggle them [demonstrates vocally].

Doughnut: How much of your show would you say is improvised?

T1G: It’s all–like I don’t have a setlist, I just play. The songs–I like sometimes to stick to the songs, like if I’ve got lyrics and stuff, I like to stay sort of like a singer-songwriter.

Mike has a very laid-back style off stage, and with his shaggy long hair hidden under a hat with beer in hand and a chillaxed pose at the bar he showed why even one guy can generate a fanbase that stretches internationally. You name it, he’s been there. Check out the audience in this pic from one of his shows in Australia:

That 1 Guy in Australia

No, that ain’t a roadie settin’ up for the maestro, that’s the real deal right there. But T1G knows his roots; he has definitely developed a following on this side of the globe. Asking where T1G gets a good draw, there was no shortage of answers. Being in Houston, the capitol of the National Republic of Texas, gauging the rest of the world (musically, and otherwise) is sometimes difficult…

 

Doughnut: So where do you get a good response? I feel like Texas is an entity unto itself, you know—but at this point, you’ve covered coast-to-coast, right?

T1G: Oh yeah. I’ve played—this tour, I’ve hit every state, and almost every [major] city in every state. I went up to Canada a bunch. It doesn’t seem to have any boundaries, you know, it’s weird.

Doughnut: You have a couple dates in Canada after here, right? Nice and cold, huh?

T1G: Oh yeah, really cold. It’s gonna be cold as hell up there—Winnipeg. It’s gonna be intense.

Doughnut: I think steel contracts at that temperature.

T1G: It totally does. At that temperature it does. Fahrenheit, Celsius, brrr. It’s pretty insane up there. It’s good though. I go up there because I play these festivals over the summer, and it’s a great following I have up there. It doesn’t seem to—geographically, it doesn’t ever seem to affect the turnout.

Doughnut: So Canadian fans are very similar to American fans—you can’t gauge a fanbase based on geographic location?

T1G: You really can’t. Australia is definitely a different culture, but considering it’s on the other side of the world, it’s not that different. It’s like this European-based society—

Eggs: Similar to British culture.

T1G: Yeah. It’s sort of similar to the States. I mean, they’re definitely a little more homogenized, kind of a one-race people in a way—or two, really, they had the Aboriginals. Then the white folks came. It’s kind of just two people. They’re super hard—they don’t let anybody immigrate there, so it’s not as big of a diverse society as we have.

Eggs: What brought you there? Did you have good CD sales down below?

T1G: No, I went out there to start doing some festivals. It just took off.

Eggs: Like Big Day Out?

T1G: Big Day Out, Byron Bay Blues, I’m doing like 4 of them in December and January when I go back.

Eggs: You were in New Orleans last night—where’d you play?

T1G: The House of Blues. It was great, my favorite gig of the tour. It’s really an amazing place.

Doughnut: The New Orleans House of Blues, it has—it’s sort of like a smaller upstairs area.

T1G: It’s got a real intimate feel, but it’s got a killer sound system, and great lights, and the people just treat everybody so well.

Eggs: You know you’re gonna get a good crowd in New Orleans..

T1G: It just feels right.

Doughnut: Usually the House of Blues raises red flags to me in any other city, like Chicago or San Francisco, but in New Orleans they do it right.

T1G: I haven’t had a single complaint. It’s so funny—people get so uppity about Clear Channel and all that shit, but in this House of Blues they treat you better than any other venue in the world.

Eggs: On the topic of venues, what’s your favorite venue that you’ve ever played? Best reception, best taken care of…

T1G: Well, with reception, I’ve had incredible receptions at just the worst dive bars in the world. So it’s hard to say, because sometimes those are the funnest gigs. Sometimes you’ll play an incredible, state-of-the-art venue and nobody’s there and it sucks. It’s hard to say, but on this tour, my favorite gigs have been…I had a great gig in Lawrence, KS. That was like my biggest draw.

Eggs: Wakarusa?

T1G: I played at Wakarusa over the summer. Hopefully I’m gonna get to do it again this year. I love that town.

T1G’s new album, The Moon is Disgusting, is sure to turn eyes and ears with just the title itself. But T1G truly makes his presence known on the live stage. True to many of the artists in this genre (you know, space funk, Dr. Seussian hip-hop bluegrass) and to the chagrin of many fans trying to spread the artist love, the albums just do not measure up to the live performance. Perhaps it’s the ability to improvise and feed off the crowd and environment, or maybe it’s just as simple as having a sub-par engineer or producer. Let’s just say the live performance will make you want to buy the album, but not necessarily the other way around.

Eggs: How much different is your live show than your albums?

T1G: It’s pretty different, yeah. I mean, I played live when I recorded it, but that was then, this is now kinda thing. The songs are always changing, I’m always coming up with new arrangements and parts. There’s a couple of them that I really try to stick to the arrangements just so they’re recognizable off of what it was on the recording, but I also really like to just experiment. I just try to keep myself interested too, so it feels like I’m progressing. And every night I try to play a little better, try to push it a little farther. So that keeps me going, really.

Our interview ended as we collectively finished our beers and took stock of the bar lights going on, oh yeah, and the bevy of groupies awaiting the night’s rock star. I guess when you don’t have multiple band members, you get all the lovin,’ which T1G had no problem with. T1G aka Mike is the kind of guy you would want to hang with on a front porch on a lazy Sunday afternoon listening to Marley jams, or go see a Les Claypool show with. His eclectic musical influences and ability to make them his own by his unique instrumentation creations (did you see that Magic Pipe? I still have no idea how the hell that thing works) and abilities really showcase why he has the following he does. If you get the opportunity, in any capacity, to hear and see the magical, maniacal live show this musician brings to your face, please take full advantage of it.

–Doughnut

*Cereal’s note: Just to clarify–not all of the BOT crew was fashionably late. Eggs and I managed to make it to the show near the beginning of the set.