Unearthly Sounds Volume 1: That 1 Guy
Imagine what the other cavepeople thought when one of their own picked up two rocks and started banging them against each other to the rhythm of his heartbeat. It was probably the oddest thing they’d ever seen up ’til then. And that sound? That sound was probably nothing spectacular under normal circumstances, but because that caveperson was so methodical about the way he struck the rocks together, i.e. the timing, volume, movement…etc., it was WEIRD.
In the 21st Century, we are still discovering new and fascinating ways to explore sound and create music. This series aims to introduce you to some of the men and women whose music may not suit every listener, but is undeniably very different from what you’ll hear on television or radio. Mike Silverman is one such person, playing in a one-man band that is quite fitting called: That 1 Guy.
So you’re a musical prodigy, you play and you play and you play and it’s all golden haired, rainbow unicorns coming out of your instrument. Things are great. You love to play music so you go to school like the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and do exceedingly well. You graduate and the path is paved for you to work in elite symphony orchestras making top dollar for doing what you love.
Somewhere along that path, Mike Silverman took a serious detour. Though he was a classically trained upright bassist in school, he started his musical career in the Bay Area jazz scene playing in “The Fabulous Hedgehogs”, a group that incorporated funk and other genres into their music.
Silverman developed a one-man act with his bass, playing rhythms while incorporating percussion into them by using slap-bass techniques and “playing” the body of the instrument like a drum. As he progressed and fine tuned his show, he found that the bass was a limitation. He decided to start from scratch and build his own instrument.
Enter the Magic Pipe. Looking something like a old-style metal vacuum cleaner hose propped up and lurching over, it’s actually two instruments in one. Two pipes with one string each. One pipe for bass sounds, one pipe for melodies, both are played by either strumming, picking, bowing, or slapping/drumming the strings. It’s sort of the do-it-yourself, industrial style Warr Guitar, albeit with far less strings. It was built with the help of machinists, Silverman going out and finding the parts himself to slowly construct the idea he had in his mind.
He’s also constantly reworking it to make it better. The latest iteration is now built from aluminum piping rather than steel, reducing the weight of it to make it easier to play on stage and giving it a slightly different timbre. There are something like 60 wires going through it, all attached to pickups and contact points on the pipe that Silverman can press to trigger samples and loops.
Combined with two other invented instruments known as the Magic Saw and Magic Hat, a couple drum pedals to trigger drum samples, a small snare with it’s own trigger points, and Silverman’s croony voice creates That 1 Guy, a totally unique orchestra of sounds conducted by a single body.
What is the result of this man’s experimentation? It’s part rock, part pop, a little industrial and a lot of funky. Percussion is a large part of his compositions, and some of his songs are nearly devoid of melody save for his voice.
He lyrics have an absurd tint to them. On the title track of his second album, The Moon Is Disgusting, he waxes idiosyncratically on a variety of subjects that seem unrelated, but there’s an overall underlying theme that things are not as they seem to be, and how accepting we are of what we see and hear. Other tracks on the album, like Mustaches and Buttmachine, show off his wordplay abilities and his smart sense of humor.
His style has not gone unnoticed either. He’s collaborated with some big names in the industry, including being invited to play bass on a Tom Waits album, and collaborating and even touring with Buckethead as Frankenstein Brothers. He’s been invited to play many big festivals and he was catapulted into his 15 minutes of fame when the popular show Weeds featured Buttmachine in an episode.
That 1 Guy is on tour damn near constantly. When not working on new music, he’s on the road touring all over North America up to 11 months out of the year. As part of his show, he incorporates comedy and even magic tricks with the music. The Magic Pipe is even rigged to blow smoke during pivotal moments!
You want to go see this spectacle for yourself? Great news! He’s on tour RIGHT NOW. Check out his website at http://that1guy.com and find out how you can get tickets to his next show and experience the odd soundscape that is That 1 Guy.
J.W. Wargo is a writer and Nomadic Bizarro Storyteller currently off the road and resting in Hawaii. His first book, Avoiding Mortimer, was released as part of the 2012 New Bizarro Author Series. He enjoys hitchhiking, street performing, and convincing people to eat Vienna Sausages. Visit him at http://jwwargo.blogpot.com