Inquiring Minds

Inquiring Minds: Impressionistic Clarinet Blatter Arrington de Dionyso

Now that you've had a chance to familiarize yourself with Old Time Relijun front man and solo aural dissembler extraordinaire Arrington de Dionyso, it's time to see what he's got to say for himself. Rocks Off put the screws to de Dionyso in a late-September email interview, and as you'll see below, he was very forthcoming.

Rocks Off: What does [forthcoming album] Malaikat dan Singa translate as in English?

Arrington de Dionyso: "Angels and Lions."

RO: I have to know: is it true that you wrote and recorded Malaikat dan Singa to impress a girl? If so, did it work?

ADD: It's absolutely true! It worked! She's on tour with me right now! (She won't be by the time I get to Houston, she could only take three weeks off for the tour.) It was one of those situations where I knew I'd only have one chance to win her heart, so I spent two months teaching myself Indonesian and wrote and recorded an entire album of new songs that only she (and 500 million Indonesian speakers) would understand.

I'm not being "obscurist" though, at all. This album is some of my best, most inspired songwriting ever. After the album is released I'm going to put together a little book with lyric translations so people will get to know what I'm talking about.

RO: As a solo artist, you have a sonic aesthetic that strikes me as inherently polarizing: I always have the sense that listeners are either immediately put off by the melange of raw Tuvan throat-singing, instrumental grit and impressionistic clarinet blats, or they're thoroughly entranced. What sort of reactions have you encountered while touring over the years, good, bad and/or otherwise?

ADD: I've honed in on my art form over the last few years; I've got my music in a really good focus right now. All the passion and rawness is still there, but in live shows at least I've figured out some tricks to coax audiences in a little more. I'm not making the sounds I make to be off-putting at all - I really believe that I have something big to communicate to the world with my music, and so I don't want to scare people away if they aren't initiated into the world of experimental music.

It's kind of a sonic Aikido, if you will - I give certain gestures a little more time in performance that allows people to be brought in more gradually into my sound world. On this current tour, audience reaction has been ecstatic! People can't believe that such strong sound can come from just one person, without using all kinds of electronic gizmos and all that.

RO: There's a fervor to your various projects that feels almost religious in nature. When you're performing and recording, do you feel as though you're operating or working on a different spiritual plane than the everyday, physical realm?

ADD: Absolutely, yes. I make music to explore states of being, states of consciousness. I am playing to bring myself into a state of altered awareness and I am learning the architecture of trance that allows me to bring the audience along with me. In the right environment, this music can induce mild hallucinations - colors will seem a little brighter than normal, the walls and floors will seem less solid and the space around you becomes more fluid and generally somewhat anxious.

Of course, the way I am presenting the throat-singing and bass clarinet playing is very demanding on my lung capacity, so that's part of it, but I'm really tuning in to multiple frequencies in a way that isn't purely subjective- this music is mind-altering.

RO: How did you come to Indonesian music that influenced Malaikat dan Singa?

ADD: I've been listening to music from every part of the world since a very young age, so I have a good familiarity with many kinds of Indonesian music (there are many different cultures in Indonesia, all with an astonishing variety of musics). However, it is crucial to point out that musically speaking, the Malaikat dan Singa project has very little to do with Indonesian music - only the lyrics are Indonesian.

If I had recorded an entire album in English or Italian or French, the sounds of the instruments wouldn't have been that much different, it's just that singing in a new language really affects the songwriting process in surprising ways.

RO: Catharsis in Crisis, Old Time Relijun's last album, came out two years ago. Does the band have any plans to record in the immediate future? The group's Wikipedia page mentions something about you and your bandmates having plans to "occupy" and "maintain" parts of Olympia, Washington. Is this based in fact, or is it just some Internet rumor?

ADD: I just noticed that Wikipedia page a few weeks ago. Who wrote that? I don't think it was anybody in the band but it must have been somebody who was at one of our concerts when I announced that I was moving back to Olympia. I was living in Portland for three years and I got sick of it after a while, so I moved back last month, right before leaving on a two-month tour. So I sort of occupy Olympia, except I won't be home until after Halloween!

Old Time Relijun did some recording last summer - a few of the instrumental tracks got cannibalized into Malaikat dan Singa while I overdubbed vocals on the album. The band itself is just sort of on sabbatical right now - we toured for several years straight with barely more than two months off at a time, so we're all taking some time this year to work on some other projects before we reconvene sometime mid-2010 to see what comes next.

With HellTown, Lance and the Pants and Michael Mroz's Curious Functions, 8 p.m. tonight at Super Happy Fun Land, 3801 Polk, 713-880-2100 or

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Ray Cummings