[15 October 2013]
PopMatters Interviews Editor
After all these years, Dosh is still doing pretty well for himself.
Oh sure, the noted Minnesota-bred multi-instrumentalist known as Martin Chavez Dosh does pretty well for himself, hanging out with friends like Will Oldham and Andrew Bird, having released album after album of brilliant, thundering instrumental compositions on the Anticon label. But those who follow him know full well that some of the best parts of being a Dosh fan is that no two albums ever sound the same. There is a constant evolution to his work, and his use of contributors results in surprise oboe appearances, wordless vocal cameos from some noted indie darlings, and a thrilling sense of discovery to each release.
Thus, we are treated again to yet another surprise with Milk Money, his first album in about two years—and the longest break yet between releases. By cutting down on contributors, Dosh put himself in the thrilling and terrifying realm of complete self-support, which is why Milk Money is the most keyboard-heavy release we’ve heard from him yet: numerous tone-pads and synth textures occupying our headspace, his powerful-yet-unadorned drumming remaining a familiar constant, which culminates with “Legos (for Terry)”, a 24-minute epic that stretches time and space in a way that few other Dosh recordings ever had.
PopMatters is pleased to premiere the exciting world of Milk Money in all its glory. To help celebrate the occasion, Dosh sat down to talk about the challenges in making Milk Money, lessons learned from his teaching of drum lessons, and oh so much more. Milk Money is out via Graveface on 22 October.
PopMatters: You never seem to take THAT long between releasing albums, although the time between this and Silver Faces might be the longest you’ve had yet. Any reason for that?
Dosh: Well, Tommy came out in 2010 and I spent a good chunk of that year and the next touring behind it. I self-released Silver Faces in 2011 for my tour with Black Moth Super Rainbow, which was also where I met Ryan Graveface, who is releasing this new album. Most of the music was structurally ready to go by mid-2011, but I knew that I was going to spend the better part of 2012 on tour with Andrew Bird, so I just let it percolate and let the best songs rise to the top. “Legos” was the last song I recorded, in December of 2012..so I don’t know, maybe I’m just getting old. This album felt like a lot more work than some of my earlier ones. Maybe it’s also that I had so much material to choose from and it was harder for this batch of jams to reveal themselves as an ALBUM.
I also spent a lot of time recording and playing with my rock band, the Cloak Ox, and did a recording project with my pals Mike Sopko and Hamir Atwal, out in Oakland.
PopMatters: After listening to it several times over, I find that Milk Money very much has the heaviest keyboard influence of any of your albums, although still very much keeping in with your aesthetic, very much “nighttime music”, I gotta say. Is there a reason that led to this particular (although gradual) shift in texture?
Dosh: The inital impulse for me with this record was to do the whole thing by myself. I’ve always had many collaborators on all my records, going all the way back to the self-titled Dosh LP. I simply thought that not having anyone else add anything to what I did would color the music in a way that was noticeably different. Later, I decided to add all the vocals, so in the end, my desire to collaborate with other people won out, but I think you get the idea. I suppose the main reason it is so keyboard heavy is that I can’t play anything else very well, except for drums, so other instruments are simply not present.
PopMatters: Of course “Legos (for Terry)” remains a sprawling, fascinating thesis to the album, at times reaching a level of drone-like epicness, the scattered-and-chopped voices honestly reminding me of some of the finest works of glitch pioneer Oval. What was the intention on this nearly 25-minute epic for you?
Dosh: Well, the way that I compose stuff is purposefully unintentional. The only intention I ever have with anything I write is to try to create something that didn’t exist before. The intention reveals itself along the way. I realized that I was thinking about my dad every time I sat down to work on the song, so in retrospect, I think it was just me trying to imagine what it is like to be my dad. He was a Benedictine monk for many years before he got married to my mom, and he has a sense of patience and inner calm that is remarkable. I want to be like that, and I guess this song is sort of a way to remind myself that it is possible.
PopMatters: ‘Cos we all have them: Is there a single particular favorite song of yours on this album? Why is it your favorite?
Dosh: That’s tough one, of course. I’d have to go with either “Golden Silver”, or “Legos”, just because the process of constructing them came so easily. They revealed themselves to me much more quickly than all the others. Once I had composed “Legos”, I knew I had a complete record. With “Golden Silver”, my favorite part of it is the drum sample that I lifted from an old 4-track cassette of mine from 1998. I’m a big fan of drum breaks, and it was cool when I found that particular one and knew that I had played it!
PopMatters: For the longest time, much was made of the fact that despite your evolving, rich recording career, you still found time to teach drum lessons. Were students ever blown away by the recordings you had done? Did any fascinating “life lessons” ever emerge from your classes or students that surprised you?
Dosh: Teaching drums and percussion, in my own strange and ad-hoc sort of way, along with meeting my wife and witnessing my son’s birth, are probably the three most important things that I’ve ever experienced. So many of the students who I taught between 1998 and 2006 have become artists or musicians, and it’s so amazing to know them as adults now. You’d probably have to track them down and ask them yourself what they actually learned from me. I certainly couldn’t tell you, but watching a child grow up and go out into the world and figure out what “their thing” is, is one of the most amazing things ever. I think I’m still trying to figure out what my thing is.
PopMatters: You have been at this professionally for well over a decade now. Looking back on all that you’ve done, what would you say is your biggest regret, and—conversely—what do you feel is your proudest accomplishment?
Dosh: My biggest regret…hmnnn. I have lots. Not doing a tour opening for Bill Callahan back in 2006 is a biggie…I’ll leave it at that. My proudest accomplishment was probably writing the sequencer part on my song “Um, Circles and Squares”. Every time I hear that song, I literally cannot believe that I made it (with a little help from a few friends, of course).