Arrington de Dionyso’s Malaikat dan Singa TOUR DIARY : Italy January-February 2014
January 21st 2014
Today is still yesterday in the United States of America. Is that right? Or am I now into tomorrow? Well whatever it is I love flying across continents because I can always imagine I am a time traveler, or a space traveler at least, arriving into worlds so different and strange, each with their own sets of rules and customs completely alien from the world I first came from. Except…it’s all just Planet Earth! And…really I’m just going to be Italy, I go there all the time! It’s nice to have a three week tour, usually when I do this kind of thing I’m gone for at least twice that, sometimes two months at a time.
I really enjoyed watching Minority Report since I never got to see it when it came out. In the last few months I’ve become a near obsessive Phillip K Dick fan, but I’m concentrating more on his later works that touch upon the Alchemical/Gnostic/Kabbalistic ideas that were revealed to him during his experience of ecstatic illumination described most fully in the VALIS trilogy published shortly before his death. I also watched a few episodes of The Office and The Simpsons, oh man. That one episode where Springfield gets infected with “Portlandia”? Holy shit, so funny and kind of dumb too. I’m not saying Minority Report was a great movie or anything, but I’m interested in seeing the different ways Phillip K Dick‘s stories get adapted to film.
As carry-on, I have a guitar without a guitar case and a bass clarinet that does have a case. I checked a bag that was entirely full of records, CDs, some artwork and hand-made books that I intend to sell on tour. So that’s the bag that gets lost somehow and the computer doesn’t say where it is. Now I’m in Pisa but I have to catch the bus to Florence where Jacopo will pick me up in our tour van and take me up to his house for relaxation and band practice. My entire trip from my house in Olympia to Jacopo’s house in the hills outside of Florence was about 26 hours or so, because of a very long layover at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris. So…Jacopo makes a great dinner, I take a shower and try to sleep.
January 23rd 2014
We are Malaikat dan Singa. Jacopo Andreini is playing drums and driving his van. Enrico Amendolia is playing bass, and since he also works for my Italian booking agency LOCUSTA he’s also kind of a tour manager too. Jacopo and I drive from Pisa to Torino for our first gig at Blah Blah, a nice mid-sized venue that serves great food, hosts concerts, films, dance parties, etc. We haven’t actually had a rehearsal with the three of us yet, so we’re using our soundcheck time to run through the set. Enrico and I did a few Malaikat dan Singa shows in 2011 but with a different drummer. Jacopo and I have played a lot together over the years- he’s on that “Arrington de Dionyso Quartet” album that came out in 2002 on Wallace Records, along with Aaron Hartman and Fabio Magistrali. We also did a short tour together (along with Scott Rosenberg) on the West Coast US in 2004 in conjunction with the Olympia Festival of Experimental Musics which I used to organize. Jacopo and Enrico have also known each other for many years and played together in all kinds of different combinations, but this will be the first time the three of us all play together. And…it’s great! What a great first show! My old friend Jane shows up, remember the Janet Pants Dance Theatr? Yes, that Jane. She lives in Torino now, so we get to hang out a little bit before we go to our hotel down the street from the venue.
January 24th 2014
Malaikat dan Singa performs in Bergamo, sponsored by Invisible Shows. They book shows in some very strange places, and almost always a secret location, so you have to sign up on their list to even know where to go. Tonight we’re playing in a super weird building, it’s kind of like an empty church but I think maybe it used to be some kind of Masonic Temple or perhaps the private chapel of a wealthy family in one of the older sections of the city. Well, guess what? This show is awesome! There’s a whole big team of people working together to make this happen, the entire space is decorated with handmade paper masks that people my choose to wear upon entering, there’s a bar deep underground in the basement under the basement with a wide variety of local delicacies presented for the enjoyment of those attending. One of the best shows ever, really. There’s probably going to be some video of this show, somewhere, someday, possibly on the internet.
January 25th 2014
Gorizia is about 4 hours away at the very far Eastern edge of Northern Italy. We’re just a mile or so away from the Slovenian border, and actually tonight, thanks to Slovenia’s membership to the larger European Union, there are a number of Slovenian people in attendance at tonight’s concert. This show is sponsored by Hybrida, they used to have their own venue in Tarcento, build along the banks of a great river flowing down from the Alps. Unfortunately they lost their space because the people running the town were fascists. Now, when folks in Italy call their mayor or city council “fascist” it’s not like in America when we use that word to say some beaurocrat totally sucks. They actually mean fascist, like far right wing intolerant awful people who are working to advocate hard core racist and xenophobic policies within the Italian government. There are even regions in Italy where there are fascist parties that feel that Italy as a whole is just too tolerant for them altogether and they want to break away to form a completely separate mini-country where no outsiders will be welcomed whatsoever.
But enough about that. This show in Gorizia is awesome! I get to meet up with many of my old friends from the Tarcento/Udine scene, I’m fed an entire leg of lamb and many wonderful locally grown organic pickled vegetables and breads and wines and things like that. It’s a wild party time here, it’s a Saturday night and the dancing doesn’t stop until sunrise. I have a great conversation with an anthropologist who explains to me how my musical performance somehow relates to cybernetics, so my homework this month is to figure out just what exactly does a person mean by the term “cybernetics”? I’ve got to figure this out! It was a very stimulating conversation to be sure, in at least three different languages at once.
January 26th 2014
We drive four hours back almost to exactly where we were the day before, to Varese, which is only about 40 or so miles from Bergamo. We’re playing a place called “Twiggy” and it’s a pretty fancy dinner place upstairs with a rock and roll cave down below. What a great show! [You can view this show at the Pink Elephant's Graveyard] Before the show I do a short interview with a guy who asks lots of interesting questions. It turns out a few years ago he wrote a very long article going into great detail in his evaluation of almost my entire recorded career, listing every album by Old Time Relijun and some of my other collaborative and solo albums as well. I used to get kind of sick of people saying that this or that album was the best one, because I always feel like the best is yet to come. Now I am busier than I have ever been making music almost every day, so I don’t have any time to pay attention to what anyone else really has to say about it. All the same, I’m very happy that my audience in Italy is really digging on Malaikat dan Singa. It’s only our fourth show and I’m almost out of the vinyl I brought with me from the States.
January 27th 2014
I do an interview with a radio station in Bologna before the show. I kind of fucked up my voice really bad the night before, and the frustrating thing is that I know exactly at what point in the set I pushed myself too far- it was the very last song of the night! I’m getting that desperate sort of feeling where I’m gargling propolis tinctures and hot water and lemon and anchovies and licorice and the whole self healing thing. It’s all the more frustrating that “FREAK OUT” the club we’re in tonight, is FREAKING FREEZING COLD, and they’re just leaving the doors wide open while the bar dude is cleaning up and getting ready for the show. There is no cozy backstage area to hang out in and I just feel like this one of those deciding moments, where I have to decide if I am going to be sick or not be sick. I decide that I would like to be not sick, but really my vocal strength is probably at about fifty percent of what it should be. Fortunately there are three bands on the bill tonight so we have to play a slightly shorter set. Unfortunately, I don’t really have a whole lot to say about the other bands except they all seemed like nice guys I guess. Jacopo and I have a little “tour joke” that you sometimes have when you’re traveling with other musicians over an extended period of time. It all started with the American avant-garde composer Alvin Curran and ends up with continually saying to each other “Beware the Italian Underground!” and if you get the context of us saying this to each other, it’s really really funny but I don’t know if I can explain it beyond what it already is. Is that what Cybernetics is about? Or is it the way that while driving today, Jacopo tells me the story of how he wrote a tour diary about the tour we did on the West Coast back in 2004 and intended to publish it but never did, and now he intends to actually publish it because he just found that he still has it. I haven’t read his tour diary yet but he has told me about the things he wrote about, they were all the details about the different people we met on tour and played with or otherwise encountered. Not that I had “forgotten” any of it, because when he tells me something about it I certainly remember those particular instances, but I probably haven’t had a single synapse in my brain think directly about any of those shows at least since 2006 or so. So we talk about tour diaries and what that all means, how our friend Marco blew a ton of his inheritance trying to publish a print version of his zine that publishes old tour diaries from his friends and how he’s out of money even though he knew he could have just put his zine up online like everybody else does but he still wants to hold to his underground ideals and felt doing a print version was somehow very important to him. Is that Cybernetics?
The show is great! What fun! Even with a fucked up voice!
We have to drive back to Florence after the show, and on the way Jacopo finds out that Arthur Doyle has just passed away. Neither of us ever met him, but he was absolutely one of my favorite saxophone-bass clarinet players ever, out of many favorites I would dare say he is one who probably had the most direct influence on the way I play my instruments. He was apparently kind of a strange character and he had a very singular style of playing. I feel that for him the saxophone wasn’t just an instrument that you put your lips to and move your fingers around, but more like a microphone and an amplifier for the voice coming from deep inside the body. I have always strived to play that way since I first started listening to his music and I am sorry to hear he’s passed because he was obviously not in very good health, probably not to well off, and I imagine not that many people will have ever heard of him and there may never be a “proper” obituary the way there is for famous people. People all over the world are born and die every single minute of the day. Last year it seemed more people whose lives directly touched mine have passed away from this earthly being, both Jonah Adels and Josh Alpert in really horrible accidents. Is this Cybernetics? That all of these things that don’t seem so directly related to each other do somehow relate to each other in ways that maybe don’t make so much sense but also still do make sense in the long view of things.
The next morning I heard that Pete Seeger died the same day as Arthur Doyle. We have a day off on the 28th, so Jacopo invites a double bass player friend of his, Piero, and we do a recording session in memoriam for Arthur. Right after the recording session I go upstairs to wash my bass clarinet mouthpiece in the sink and I set it next to the computer while checking email, then I go downstairs to eat dinner and when I come back upstairs I see that the cat has knocked the bass clarinet mouthpiece to the floor in such a way that it has cracked in a way that makes it impossible to play and impossible to fix. I will have to buy another one if I intend to play the bass clarinet.
Arrington de Dionyso
January 29th 2014
Open the Crown [KLP244] is the most recent album by Arrington de Dionyso’s Malaikat dan Singa