Joe Lallo, Anthony Pirog and Brendan Canty. Antonia Tricarico photo.
“There’s no line between improvisation and self-indulgence!” It’s all the same thing, so just be forewarned before you come to our shows. It’s rampant self-indulgence, 100% of the time!” laughs Brendan Canty, drummer with Washington DC band The Messthetics.
Canty’s reply to my question is deliberately facetious: The Messthetics explore the jazzier side of rock’n’roll, eschewing the melodic and lyrical hook of a vocalist for an improvisational instrumental sonic aesthetic enabled via guitarist Anthony Pirog’s reedy guitar lines. But the contrast between The Messthetics’ exploratory style and the brutal discipline of Canty’s former band Fugazi is stark.
“We don’t have a vocalist, so I like to think that Anthony’s guitar lines are the vocals,” Canty says. “There are times of course when we do rampant self-indulgence but for the most part we have written music, and we try and diversify what we play and make it interesting for everyone.”
You, devoted I-94 Bar reader, may have noticed a review I did a few weeks back, for the album by New York-raised, now Ireland-domiciled multi-instrumentalist and vocalist, Eric Mingus, called "Fog of Forgiveness". One of Eric's collaborators, Catherine Sikora, sent it to me out of the blue, and when I had a chance to listen, I was rather blown away.
Eric Mingus came to my attention several years ago, when a musical interpretation of "Tommy” (the Who double LP) played in Adelaide for the Festival Fringe, at the magnificent Her Majesty's Theatre (now being rebuilt). I thought that, since I wanted to ask Eric about a ton of stuff, I asked Catherine if I could do an e-mail interview with Eric. He doesn't seem to do that many interviews - possibly because of the nature of interviewers.
His dad Charles was a mighty jazz legend (if you know who I mean, then read on; if not, get Googling); however, if you have your own, distinct musical drive, people will always compare the first with the second. (Recall that Sir Winston Churchill named his son Winston Spencer-Churchill - imagine going to school with that millstone of a name ...) Eric Mingus is a very different kettle of fish to his dad, and what he does is ... well, it is to some extent beyond music to my mind.
Rather than a series of straight Q&As, I had more of an email conversation with Eric, so if the preambles seem a little involved ... well, sod you. I'm writing this for your entertainment. Either be entertained, or don't be. There are a lot of musical springboards (ie, links in here. You're far too conservative in your musical tastes). Get corrupted and follow the links. Lastly, Eric writes in American English, and yes, he has spelled his words correctly.
When drawn to writing about Tactics, their new album and their forthcoming Australian tour, I had a youthful flashback to being a 17-year-old and moving down to Sydney from the bush. Armed with smudgy-ink copies of RAM magazine, I was aware of so many bands that I knew mostly in name only: Midnight Oil, Hitmen, The Saints…and some weird shit (at least in my mind) like The Tactics, Thought Criminals and Dead Travel Fast. I was like a sponge and I wanted to see every one of them.
I had a hunger for a tapestry of sounds and new, sharp sonic edges - stuff that was so far from the bland radio fodder like Cold Chisel and Dragon. I left a live music scene centred on a dilapidated pub by a river that often flooded…a place with peeling paint and populated by old tradies with battered faces, professional alcoholics and underage kids. We watched the odd cover band and the place was home to weekend rock-stars playing poorly -delivered Chuck Berry riffs. The alternative was the local blue light disco that usually ended in a bloodbath by the end of the night.
So, I moved. I headed to Sydney.