One of the best things about the Del Monte Speakeasy being open beneath Townhouse is all the tremendous music that’s been coming through. This week proves no exception, as the impressive, gigantic musical collective that is Killsonic takes the stage. The large (22-piece) band has a unique sound that mixes big band, experimental jazz, and world music. Seeing them live is something else entirely, and they have been known to take their music to the streets on more than one occasion.
I was able to ask the band’s brave (and yes, totally fearless) leader Michael Anthony Ibarra a few questions in anticipation of the group’s Saturday night set.
WELO: Killsonic is not exactly a small band – what inspired you guys to become SUCH a big group of musicians?
MAI: Killsonic began as an experimental jazz septet: drums, upright bass, trombone, woodwinds, trumpet, noise guitar, percussion. It was a great group – demanding, driving, hard swinging and fearless
We thought it would be really liberating to play this kind of music in the streets. We did not want to rely on electricity and we wanted people to be able hear us out in the open, so we figured we would need about 15 to 20 players for the music to come across. We also felt the visual component of seeing a LOT of people playing this music would be very striking. Thus my comrade and co-founder Frank Luis and I called every drummer and horn player we knew.
The drummers would carry different size drums – bass, tom toms, snares etc. – like a New Orleans Brass Band or a Mexican Tamborazo, only with a lot more drummers. The role of the noise guitar would be taken over by multiple accordion players, the subtle differences in tuning between each accordion created this wonderfully complex sound, it is a vital component of what we do. I switched over from upright bass to baritone saxophone. That was about three years ago .
It’s been quite a ride.
WELO: You’ve played shows everywhere from traditional music venues to renegade shows on the platform of LA’s Metro. Which type of performance do you prefer?
MAI: We like all types. We are always pushing ourselves to be better performers, composers and improvisers – each venue, whether on the street or on the stage, offers different challenges and opportunities for us to do so. That being said, there is something joyfully insurrectionary about playing on the streets, to transform a street or any kind public space with sound, that’s the thing.
WELO: What’s the dynamic within the band, is it a collaborative process or do you guys work better with a clear leader?
MAI: We run the gamut from cooperative oligarchy to collaborative dictatorship.
WELO: What are you listening to right now?
MAI: This is the part I have been waiting for. Here is the answer from each member, by section, who responded to my mass text message in time (18 out of 22, not bad…)
Alissa “AK” Kueker: Balkan music, Transylvanian, Turkish, and Indian Violin Music. The Algerian “Proto” Rai collection on the Sublime Frequencies Label, ItchyO from Denver.
Jason Savvy: Zola Jesus, Low, Flying Lotus, Mean Jeans, Stiff Little Fingers, Various Mixtapes
Daniel Corral: Frank Zappa, MF Doom, Luciano Berio’s Sequenzas, The Melvins
Zelda Lin: Bollywood movie soundtracks
Ashley Taylor Stuart: Danger Mouse, Danelle Luppi, Blind Wille McTell, Artie Shaw
Eddika Organista: Pharell Williams, Snoop Dogg, Brazilian Artists; Jorge Ben and Ceu
Frank Luis: John Lennon
Geneva Skeen: Nissenenmondai (Japan), Nigerian Tribal Drumming, Beach House, Benoit Piolard, 90′s hip hop, Maja Ratjke
Andrew Hunter: Abbey Road and Radiohead
Oscar Ulysses Buenrostro: Konono No.1 (Congo)
Paul Perez: Anything I haven’t heard before
Jose Varela: Jelly Roll Morton and James Blake
Brian Diaz: Victor Jara, Trio Los Tres Ases, Don Cherry, Early Gato Barbieri, Atahualpa Yupanqui, Nas, Gang Starr
Luis Chavez: Hard Bop, Revolutionary World Music, Psychedelic Cumbia from Peru (Cumbia Chicha)
Michael Anthony Ibarra: Jorge Ben, Tom Ze, Gal Costa. Contortions, and Charles Mingus… forever
Masha Petrowizky: Tradi-Mods Vs Rockers “Alternative takes on Congotronics” (Remixes of Konono No1 etc )
Christian Rosales: Fela, Velvet Underground, “Anything on Stones Throw Records” Mingus, Sun Ra, CAN, Cumbias, Debussy
Nicolas Sebastiano De Carlo: Turkish Zurna Music “A Zurna is a Double Reed instrument that sounds like an oboe with a distortion pedal, and Anton Bruckner’s Choral Music – particularly his masses
WELO: If you could play as a whole group at any spot, anywhere in the world, where would it be?
WELO: I know most of the band is based on the Eastside, but since you’ll be west this weekend (and likely stuck there if car-mageddon has anything to do with it) what’s your favorite spot to grab a drink in Venice?
MAI: Why…the Del Monte Speakeasy under the famed and storied Townhouse Bar of course! Seriously. The show on Saturday is going to be a HOT and sweaty ritual like nothing you’ve ever seen, felt or heard. We can’t wait to play Venice.
Catch the band live this Saturday July 16th at the Del Monte Speakeasy. 10pm, $5 cover. Trust me, you won’t want to miss this one.