Saturday, May 21, 2011

Monster Planet!

I co-host two nights in Seattle, both of which are unique to the Seattle scene, and are a great alternative to the usual goings-on. First, I co-host a bi-weekly in the Capitol Hill neighborhood called PROG!, dedicated solely to Progressive Rock, which saw it's glory days in the early 1970s. I'm sure a majority of people think we just play Yes and Rush albums, but we go WAY deeper than that. From Amon Düül II to Zappa, we play Krautrock, Canterbury scene, Hungarian funk-rock, Italian Symphonic, Zeuhl, you name it! It's truly a fantastic night where DJs share their newest finds, while projections play cosmic edits from obscure movies and live performance footage from classic prog bands. Feel free to check out our Facebook page at Prog! Seattle.

The other night I co-host is a monthly called Monster Planet, right in the Pike Place Market. You know, where the guys throw fish? If you don't know what I'm talking about, check out this vid:

We host Monster Planet at a great little place called the Can Can, which is known for it's outlandish cabaret shows. The great thing about the Can Can is that it looks like the Cantina from Star Wars, and some of it's clientele might be stranger than the monsters/aliens from the movie. The premise of Monster Planet is five musicians, generally electronic musicians, improvising with their gadgets to really shitty B-movies. The night usually starts around 9PM, and we go to close, so we generally play three movies a night. The nights are also themed, and in the past we have had nights that center around giant robots, werewolves, zombies, mutations and even the apocalypse. We've also done some great holiday themed nights for Thanksgiving and Christmas that involved a video artist who improvised with clips to the music! The only requirement for the movies played is that they are not too mainstream...the shittier the better. I'm a big fan of late 70s/early 80s Italian films, as they were into making low-budget versions of already existing blockbusters, like Star Wars and The Road Warrior, as well as making some fantastic zombie and cannibal movies.

Monster Planet was started by myself and my good friend and musical cohort, William Mempa, and now there's a small group of us that handle certain duties to keep the night going. Aside from being a really fun and original night, our main goal with Monster Planet is to form a sense of community amongst musicians in the city, giving them a platform (most likely a tabletop) to work on their improvisation skills with other people in the same boat. I have maintained since my early 20s that improv is a crucial skill in becoming a well-rounded musician, and these skills can be applied to studio and live work, as well as non-musical applications. For one, it teaches you to listen. Improvising isn't showing off your chops or "jamming." It's listening and reacting for the better good of the music, not a competition to make yourself look better with your fancy moves. One thing that has pleasantly surprised me since moving to Seattle six years ago is that most of the musicians I have played with here "get it," and as a result, we've recorded some stellar music that wouldn't have existed otherwise.

Since the first Monster Planet in April of 2010, we have recorded every show, and we have even multitrack recorded most of the shows. I'm mainly in charge of the recordings, so I have a hard drive that's gradually filling up with all this great audio material. Seth Branum (Manos) of Innerflight Records has been editing some of the stereo recordings and putting them on Soundcloud if you'd like to check out some of the music made at past Monster Planets:

Latest tracks by Monster Planet

Ultimately, I would love to see an album emerge from these multitracks. I don't care if the tracks are remixed and mashed up, or just cleaned up versions of the original live performance, I just hope they get put to use someday, more than the little parts I pick out for my various projects. I have informed all of the musicians involved that they are welcome to any of the recordings, so hopefully someone other than myself will find use for them.

So yeah, that's about it. Monster Planet is every second Monday of the month at the Can Can in Pike Place Market in downtown Seattle. It's also free, and there's Absinthe specials, so if you're ever in Seattle on a second Monday, come stop by for a drink and check out a truly unique evening with music nobody's ever heard before and movies that are at the very least, hilariously bad. And if you live in or near Seattle, there's no excuse for not showing up!

The next Monster Planet is on Monday, June 13th, and the theme of the night is CULTS!

Feel free to visit the official Monster Planet blog at itcamefrommonsterplanet.com

Yer Pal,
Gel-Sol

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