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Friday, Oct. 17, 2008
When you are given the name Martin Luther King Chavez Dosh, it's a safe bet that you're in for a pretty atypical upbringing that likely won't result in punching the clock as a typical 9-to-5er.
"My parents are pacifists and named my brother after Ghandi as well," shares electronic musician Dosh in an interview with The Japan Times prior to a gig in New York. "In general, people always thought I had a cool name. I thought it was cool for sure. It is pretty hard to live up to, though."
Born to a former Catholic priest and a mother who nearly became a nun, the Minneapolis-based artist took an active interest in music from a very early age, seeking training before he was barely out of diapers.
"Apparently, I began begging my parents for piano lessons at 3, but my mom made me wait till I was 6. I always learned by ear, and though I could read sheet music a little, I stopped piano at 11 because I hated practicing. That was a big mistake.
"I became obsessed with top-40 radio around this time and started making mix tapes off the radio with my boombox. I picked up drums at 15; I got a 4-track (home studio) when I was 24 and that changed the course of my life, and basically led me to this point."
Piano and drums are the driving forces behind the predominantly instrumental soundscapes that adorn each of Dosh's four full-lengths, including this year's "Wolves and Wishes." Balancing a love of experimentation with a strong melodic edge, his compositions flirt with elements of postrock, jazz and funk.
While solid on disc, Dosh is at his best in a live setting. Surrounded by his drum kit, modified Rhodes piano and a table with several looping pedals, he swivels on his stool between all three stations creating live loops, which he then plays over the top of. Longtime collaborator Mike Lewis has become a permanent touring partner, adding saxophone, bass and keyboards to help re-create the different textures in each song.
"Clearly the concept I've made for myself is very limited," says Dosh. Ever since I was a kid, I've needed some kind of structure to be creative. My solo stuff is the logical extension of this."
In an effort to continue to explore and expand the sonic boundaries of his setup, Dosh has had countless guests — including the likes of American indie darlings Bonnie "Prince" Billie and Tapes 'n Tapes along with his wife, children and pre-teen drum students — make appearances on his recordings.
"My favorite parts on my albums are things that other people added that I wouldn't have thought of myself," he explains. "I usually begin to envision other sounds on the recordings when they are close to being done, and the sounds I hear are mostly things that I can't play. Having friends play on the records makes it way more fun because, invariably, the songs become new to me at that point."
Dosh and Lewis will showcase tunes from "Wolves and Wishes" and 2006's "The Lost Take" during their first tour of Japan later this month. Written last fall, "Wolves and Wishes" is described by Dosh as a calm older brother to "The Lost Lake," the hyperactive little sister in his family of releases. He made a conscious effort to exercise patience when developing the songs, allowing loops and samples more time and space to build up and play out.
As someone who admits he would spend years crafting new layers into a single song if not for deadlines, Dosh is torn on the issue of listeners getting his music from the Internet. While downloading itself doesn't seem to bother him, it's the inferior sound quality he's disappointed with.
"People around the world know who I am, and that is incredible," he says. "The very fact that I can go to Japan and play my music there is just unbelievable. It brings me a lot of joy to know that people like this music. The only downside is the idea of people experiencing it in MP3 format — yuck!"
Dosh plays Oct. 19 at O-East in Shibuya, Tokyo (2:30 p.m.; ¥3,500;  5458-4681); Oct. 20 at O-Nest in Shibuya, Tokyo (7:30 p.m.; ¥4,000;  3462-4420); and Oct. 22 at Metro, Kyoto (7 p.m.; ¥2,700;  752-2787).