Dave Menzo Brings His Library-Crafted Songs to the Kalamazoo Valley Museum
On October 2nd, singer Dave Menzo will make his way to Kalamazoo and perform at the Kalamazoo Valley Museum as part of Art Hop. Before heading there, though, Menzo performed in the WMUK studios, showing off his guitar melodies that he loops and layers over and over again.
It's a unique approach, but for Menzo, it's appropriately odd. The singer prides himself on his far-reaching ideas. On his latest album, "Shhh...", Menzo decided to challenge himself by renting out every instrument he used on the album from the Ann Arbor District Library. Menzo says he thinks he's the first artist to try it, but he doesn't want to be the last.
Menzo says the idea for the album began online, on Twitter.
"And I saw someone tweeted, Oh my gosh! I just went to the Ann Arbor District Library and I took out the Cell ! It's a modular synthesizer, and it's a wacky thing. And I was like, no way, you didn't check that out from the library. Then I kept clicking around, and it was real!"
So Menzo paid a visit.
"They had just shelves full of this stuff," he continues. "And I was in disbelief...So instantly, I was like, okay! I've got to do an album with this stuff. As a fan of concept albums, this was right up my alley. That was the first place my mind went to. To be the first guy to write an album using this stuff."
What the library didn't have was a guitar, Menzo's instrument of choice. But Menzo said the limits made him change his style. He moved away from guitar and more towards synthesizers and other electronics he found at the library. He also used his voice far more than he ever had more.
There's even one song on Shhh..., called "Vocal Force," that's just Menzo's voice, and nothing else.
"Within certain confinements, you'll actually force yourself to be more creative. Because you're working within those limitations and finding new ways to create new sounds or do something to reach beyond those limits."
"Within certain confinements, you'll actually force yourself to be more creative," Menzo says. "Because you're working within those limitations and finding new ways to create new sounds or do something to reach beyond those limits."
Earlier this month, the New York Times actually highlighted Menzo's approach as part of a growing movement in libraries to move away from books and towards other items -- instruments, frisbees, and fishing rods, to name a few.
Menzo says for music, the trend is only a good thing. With costs lower, any musician, no matter how rich or poor, can play and record.
"The cool thing to is, even if you are going to buy this gear, you can test this out first," he says. "In all actually, it'll give these people a chance to test these things that otherwise they would never get their hands on it."
Menzo has always been a fan of concept albums. On his last album, Color Wheel, Menzo spends the album's 13 songs attempting to express his life's experience with chromesthesia -- it's a type of synesthesia that Menzo says allows him to "see" music as color and shapes. Kind of a "roadmap" for his music, as he puts it.
"It's just a different type of sensory experience, it's visual," he says. "When I'm putting songs together, I can see the song....It's why my music probably sounds so experimental and trippy. Probably because the sensory experience is such a factor."
Menzo talked a lot more about his music as part of a wide-ranging interview and performance. You can listen to the whole interview here:
And here are a few tracks that Menzo played in the studio: