Poster by Erin Dosh
Photographs by Haley Van Dyke
Dear readers of the LMB, Martin Dosh is a marvel of a musician and an even greater gentleman. Harken back to Bonnaroo 2006 when, drenched in sweat from the Tennessee sun, I yelled through the wire fencing that separated the artists from the crowds, “Hey! Were you the guy drumming with Andrew Bird?” Dosh indulged my boyish fandom and left the comforts of the back stage to have a conversation with me, explaining that yes, he was the drummer that accompanied the Birdman. He also told me that he toured on his own and that he was anticipating the release of a new album that would become The Lost Take (2006). That album pulled off the rare feat of properly displaying the virtuosity of an experimental percussionist that often only presents itself in a live setting.
Then, mid-week of a drowsy SXSW 2007, I catch wind that Dosh is playing an outdoor show sandwiched between Buck 65 and a hip-hop act I cannot recall at the moment. This is what happens to Anticon artists – no one knows how to categorize them, so they all slowly congeal in the eclectic showcases. Regardless of the odd lineup, I was excited to see how these layers of sounds I had been listening to on repeat for four months would play out live from the hands of one man. Plus there is always the rumor that Bird would slyly step on stage.
But, as it turned out, Bird was not the main attraction – he didn’t even pla, he merely showed. Mike Lewis of Happy Apple (which for all you Bad Plus fans out there, is a collaboration between Lewis and The Bad Plus’ Dave King with Erik Fratzke on bass) complimented Dosh’s swirling loops and samples with a smooth layer of uptempo saxophone that calmly broke up the moments of intensity that Dosh dives so deep into. There was never a boring moment that night in Austin, even if the show was bothered by technical issues and Dosh’s unflinching perfectionism.
In the meantime, Andrew Bird’s success rose to another level and Dosh’s consistent percussion and familiarity with the looping that Bird is so known for cannot be ignored as an integral part of that result. Bird most definitely stands on his own two feet, but when he receives the praise that he does, Dosh is never too far away.
It’s strange, because somehow just playing with Dosh, we both respect how we had cut ourselves off for many years, and when we combined what we were doing, somehow it worked.
-Andrew Bird during an interview with Pitchfork
Even Bird’s newest album, Armchair Apocrypha, which pushed him over the edge and into the mainstream, was, according to Bird, at some points a creative collaboration with Dosh. Here’s what he had to say during an interview with The Onion’s A.V. Club:
The A.V. Club: How did you approach the recording of Armchair Apocrypha differently than Mysterious Production Of Eggs?
Andrew Bird: It was quite a bit different. I think the first song we recorded was “Plasticities,” which Martin Dosh and I had just started playing together. That was one of the first songs where we were just experimenting with us both looping and combining our distinct universes with each other. We went into Third Ear [Studio] in Minneapolis and recorded basically what we do live, which is him building a loop on drums while I’m building a loop on violin—which is a risky way to go. You don’t have as much control, but we thought, “This is working really well live, so let’s just try it like we do it [on stage].” And it worked out really well.
But now Dosh is on his own, performing last night in Andrew Bird’s hometown, yet no sign of Bird on stage. The crowd wasn’t there to see Andrew Bird’s drummer, they were there to see Martin Dosh, constructor of live music. It really is amazing to watch Dosh put together a song, first starting with either a riff on the keyboard or some hammering of tones, then adding some drum bits to the loop all while Lewis takes a deep breath and waits for Dosh to finish the set up and unleash on his minimal drum kit. It’s a journey that can only be seen to be understood, an obstacle that may distract the casual listener of his albums. But once you see it live, every time you play the record you visualize the construction and anticipate the climax.
I think Dosh understands this gap in visualizing his music, so he made this amazing video that demonstrates what he does. It’s nothing fancy, just a visual explanation.
He also made another video, more of a live performance, but still a visual thing and Mike Lewis is on this one.