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Diminished Men at Fred Wildlife Refuge in Seattle January 26th

© Jack Gold-Molina

Diminished Men have been playing psychedelic music for more than 10 years, and have the albums to prove it. While they were formed in the Seattle area, they have toured Europe and the U.S. – drummer Dave Abramson particularly extensively with psych juggernaut Master Musicians of Bukkake. Their recent performance in Seattle at the Fred Wildlife Refuge venue demonstrated that with this band, no two shows are ever the same.

Steve Schmitt’s guitar playing raged over the Bass VI playing of Simon Henneman. In conjunction with a surrealist light show and smoke machine, they created a musical and visual tapestry whose elements shifted and changed while guitar and bass seemed to spar with each other through the feedback of their amplifiers. Abramson, solid and powerful, often broke up the time, throwing the band and listeners off balance until he reeled it back in from the abyss of wailing guitar tones and swirling dry ice. Following a stellar gig, It’s Psychedelic Baby! had the opportunity to connect with him.

How did Diminished Men get started?

Dave Abramson: I met Steve Schmitt when I moved to Seattle in 2002 through a classifieds ad in the The Stranger, the local paper. I had just moved from NY where I had been influenced by my friend’s instrumental band The Mofos. Gary Siperko, the guitarist and main songwriter hipped me to a lot of great garage, surf and instrumental music. Steve and I had a mutual interest in film noir, westerns, surf, post-punk, wirey guitar tones, spring reverbs, dub production, etc. We played together and worked out a few tunes but didn’t form Diminished Men until about 2004/2005.

You are the drummer for Master Musicians of Bukkake as well. How did that come about?

Dave Abramson: I had met some of the MMOB guys around at shows and seen them play a couple of times, but didn’t really know any of them. Producer/engineer Randall Dunn offered to record Diminished Men, which ended up being a killer music education for us. Through that I got to know Randall and a couple of the other guys a little more. Around that time MMOB was in a reformation mode. They invited me to sit in on a few shows and then after a while asked if I wanted to tour and join the band proper.

You have done quite a bit of touring internationally with both bands. Are there any projects on the horizon?

Dave Abramson: Neither group has been touring that much as of recently. Diminished Men are hoping to go back to Europe in the spring. Both groups are planning to record new material this year.

Diminished Men are known for your intense live performances that never duplicate themselves. Is that the same thing in the studio?

Dave Abramson: Each album has a bit of a different focus depending on what we were into collectively or individually at the time but even that tends to be rather varied. The set lists for live shows typically draw material from different albums and we often use a technique of superimposing different tracks on top of each other or morphing elements of one piece into another. Maybe some of those strategies mixed with sheer volume and the energy of playing live make the shows a little more volatile and dynamic than the recordings.

You are doing some excellent work as a free jazz drummer also, in bands like Spider Trio with Geoffrey Taylor and Wally Shoup. Can you talk about some of those projects?

Dave Abramson: Spider Trio was one of the first free improvised groups I joined when I moved to Seattle. I learned a lot from Wally and Jeffrey. Lately I’ve been playing with Wayne Horvitz, Skerik and Evan Flory-Barnes in a group called The Royal We. I love playing Wayne’s compositions and of course all of those guys are incredible improvisers. Seth Alexander is an amazing alto saxophonist and composer I’ve been playing with for a couple of years now. The group sometimes plays under the names Action Figure, SATrio, or Seth Alexander Quintet and has featured lots of great local players (Birch Pereira, Bren Plummer, Stuart MacDonald, Christian Pincock, Ray Larsen, Geoff Harper, Luke Bergman, Chris Icasiano, Evan Woodle, Greg Campbell and Mike Gebhart). Other folks in the improvised/jazz/experimental realm I’ve collaborated with are Paul Hoskin, Lori Goldston, Eyvind Kang, Greg Kelley, Monktail Creative Music Concern, Jaap Blonk, Sarah Manning, Briggan Krauss, and Gregg Keplinger. Gregg has been sort of a mentor to me. His visceral drumming and relationship to sound has been very inspiring to me.

© Jack Gold-Molina

- Jack Gold-Molina
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