The prog world is buzzing with excitement about the forthcoming DVD release by miRthkon; Oakland, CA based amplified chamber ensemble masquerading as a rock band. This illusion is well maintained by the fact that from time to time they do indeed rock. Maintaining a passionate aesthetic stance that they are (quite happily) ‘beneath everything’, their music – whether evoking the direct or indirect influence of progressive rock, contemporary classical abstraction, avant-garde jazz, catchy hook-laden pop, or thrash metal – is held to a simple but firm standard: Does it sound good? miRthkon’s forthcoming live DVD titled (Format) is a testament to the group’s innovative approach to live performance and music in general.
“The DVD was somewhat of an accident,” explains band leader and guitarist Wally Scharold. “It was not planned. We had incorporated live and pre-recorded video projection in our shows since mid-2008. These were originally introduced as short interludes between songs to keep the audience engaged during long song breaks due to required technical changes to perform the next song. By the time we played CalProg in October 2010, our multimedia approach was at its most ambitious, including nearly 30 of these videos.
It was very well rehearsed and we performed it beautifully, all captured in a free 32-track recording, provided by the festival. I had filmed our set from a single angle in the hall’s light booth for archival purposes, which was hardly enough to justify a legit concert film. But after reaching out to the fans, we managed to track down a couple more angles – one very close to the stage – and suddenly we had the raw footage to cut together something. However, the lack of any real planning (and professional videographers) made for less than ideal footage, so we had to get really creative with the editing when we just didn’t have the shot we wanted. One and 1/2 years later, it’s finally done.” Unlike a standard concert film, (Format) integrates interviews, surrealistic documentary footage, and an underlying plot pointing to a vast conspiracy!
miRthkon’s diverse musical influences range from Classical: Webern, Stravinsky, Dutilleux, Varese, Feldman, Gerhard. Metal: late 80s/early 90s thrash, Meshuggah, Fantomas. Avant-Rock: Mr. Bungle, Albert Marcoeur, Thinking Plague, Tipographica, Magma. Jazz: Eric Dolphy, Jimmy Giuffre, Anthony Braxton, Muhal Richard Abrams, Henry Threadgill, Hermeto Pascoal, Itibere Orquestra Familia, Ben Monder, Raymond Scott. Pop/Rock: ZZ Top, Michael Jackson, Ben Folds. “Zappa is the primary influence, on multiple levels: the approach to the music is similar how the rock band format is run much more like a chamber ensemble,” says Wally. “Players need fluency in virtually all modes of performance practice in which their instrument is or has been involved including contemporary classical, big band to avant/free jazz, metal, prog, funk, etc. Zappa’s attitude/philosophy/aesthetic/humor is also a huge influence. In a way, you could say we’ve hopped on to a similar thread of ‘Conceptual Continuity’. We employ his ‘journalistic’ approach of incorporating experiences from our own life/environment into the content of our work. Often to an extreme, though most of that goes over peoples’ heads.”
Wally Scharold – guitars, vocals, composition, sound design, conceptual design, text, video, producer
Travis Andrews – guitars
Matt Lebofsky – bass guitar, vocals
Carolyn Walter – piccolo, flute, clarinet, bass clarinet, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone
Jamison Smeltz – alto saxophone, baritone saxophone, vocals
Matt Guggemos – drums and percussion
Jarred McAdams – video, text, conceptual collaborator
In support of their new DVD release, miRthkon will tour thee US in August. Joining the band at various stops will be MoeTar, Lovely Little Ladies (Cheer Accident side project), District 97, Thinking Plague, Kayo Dot, and TBD.
miRthkon Tour Dates:
8/14 Philly (Sellersville)
8/19 Kansas City
8/20 St. Louis/TBD
8/23 Santa Fe
8/25 San Diego
Release date – July 3, 2012