Despite the inherent toxicity of the Internet, silver linings still tend to appear here and there. In regards to the impending clusters of words you are about to read, I’m talking about the obliteration of musical stereotypes – specifically those based around geography.
I want you to imagine – if you wouldn’t mind – the sprawling plains of Indiana. The Indy 500. The Colts. Whatever – just allow the involuntary images and logos and hallucinatory roar of V12 engines to briefly commandeer your thoughts. It’s okay – unless you have lived there previously or have some family connection to the area, it’s likely you wouldn’t be able to conjure much else in terms of concrete details or facts regarding the severely landlocked U.S. state.
Now I want you to imagine jazz music. No, not that Pandora Radio coffee shop swill – nor the classics that any responsible vinyl enthusiast would have filed away on their designated shelf. I’d rather you do your very best to find yourself transported back a good seventy years or so – maybe even eighty – to New York City or Chicago or New Orleans. Where it all began. Find someone who still hasn’t experienced the comfort of power steering. Or someone who’s never heard of the Surgeon General’s warning regarding cigarettes. Make a good impression and find yourself invited to wander the bustling side streets with them until you stumble upon an inconspicuous back entrance to some futurist jazz club. Work your way through the haze, buy yourself two fingers of whiskey, take a seat in a corner booth, get comfortable, and listen to the band.
Pretend the best you can that it’s something you’ve never heard before, that you’re witnessing something not quite evolutionary – but surely a precious sonic rarity that mimics the churning of magma far beneath the crust of the Earth. What you’re experiencing is something totally new. Music still has the ability to wholly and completely stun you. There is still guiltless, unadulterated wonder in the world. Capitalism isn’t a dirty word. Plenty of people still abide by the wisdom of Reefer Madness – but the smoke trapped in this obscure underground establishment has more power than propaganda. The more you breathe, the more the music mixes with your blood. Know it. Remember it.
Blink. You’re back – wherever you happen to call home. Armed cosplay militants are prowling the streets with police escorts. Some cantankerous white lady really wants a haircut. The news says the sun is taking a breather and a frigid future fit with famine and ecological uncertainty is imminent. The President is attempting to tamper with the upcoming election by defunding the USPS. All the while, you’re still reading this horrifically long intro to a music review/artist spotlight. You’re a little woozy and relaxed (with an earthy, slightly burned taste in your mouth), but still pissed off at me for waxing on in such a long-winded fashion.
Now, listen to any of the albums found here. I suggest “Illusory Expansion”.
If what you’re hearing doesn’t sound exactly like what you imagined to experience in that decades-old futurist jazz club, I don’t know what else to tell you.
See? Didn’t I promise you a satisfying squashing of a token musical/geographical stereotype? Out-of-this-world, interstellar-level free-form jazz music from Indiana that makes you feel as though you’re experiencing jazz when it was still a novelty? Hell yes.
Crazy Doberman – Indiana’s foremost experimental free-jazz purveyors – have a rich history that dates back to 2006 when Tim Gick (full-time Doberman member since 2016 and unofficial spokesman) met Drew Davis (a founding member alongside Jason Filer, Paul Baldwin, and Aaron Zernack – who all still regularly record). At this time, Doberman would not yet exist for another seven years; Gick and Davis were each devoted to their own respective bands/projects. However, they bonded immediately and commiserated over the lack of creative fertility in Lafayette, Indiana.
“I think all of us have struggled to find support for our proclivities towards eccentric aesthetics in such a culturally conservative state such as Indiana. We’ve really had to search to find the culture that we want to be part of but geographically and temporally are removed from. Lafayette is a factory town with an engineering university (Purdue). One would think that this would possibly add to a thriving underground culture, yet it does not. There aren’t even any shows on campus, in venues or houses, so we’ve had to make our own culture detached from any broader community support. Drew got some of the worst of this growing up – being raised in a strict conservative pentecostal household where no secular art, music or film was allowed. He would regularly come home from school to find his room raided, and CDs by the like of minor threat and books by the like of Burroughs sitting on he kitchen counter as a sign of the long conversation at the dinner table to come and the group prayers to be said after to exorcise the evilness brought into the house through drew’s careless adolescent perversions.”
Fast forward to 2013. Davis had started Doberman – a fledgling iteration that did not yet warrant ‘Crazy’ being included in the name. Gick had just moved back to Lafayette after a brief time spent living in Oakland, CA. After playing what turned out to be the final show for his band TV Ghost, Gick was able to witness Doberman as they closed out the night.
“It really stuck with me. I remember thinking at the time ‘I wish i was in that band’. Drew got me a job at the bar he had helped start up for Paul Baldwin (the closest thing Lafayette has ever had to a patron of the arts). But Drew soon left for a job in Chicago. I kind of floated around listlessly, seeing Doberman play a few times at the bar when Drew made it into town, collaborating with a few of the Dobermans here and there. During this period, correspondence between Drew and John Olson began to increase – which culminated in one of the last American Tapes 7″ records with Doberman’s name on it.”
It was in late 2016/early 2017 – when Drew moved back to Indiana and Gick took the leap and became a full-time member — that the Crazy Doberman we know today was conjured through a series of recording sessions and a handful of performances.
“We recorded a couple of rehearsals (some of which ended up on This Land God Has Abandoned) and played a couple of shows in late 2016 and early 2017. The latter of the two shows ended up being booked as support for John Olson. We decided on John opening up, Doberman to follow, and a free form collaboration at the end. This proved to be the birth of Crazy Doberman – both in concept and in name. After the set we played together, we were behind the spot and John said ‘This is Doberman – but crazy! That’s the name! Crazy Doberman!’ This began Drew’s and my new conception of music – creating through conversations with the instruments instead of a predetermined order. Recordings from this show were edited into the first Crazy Doberman release on Castle Bravo (Hell is Within Us).”
With a clear vision in mind for the future of the now free-form jazz collective, Gick began to record live shows and private group improvisations and edit them down until he felt they represented something cohesive and complete. This is still how Crazy Doberman albums are brought to us today – give or take a few fluid lineup changes or recording approaches.
“It can range from full setups with up to 12 people on stage and plenty of amps and a full electronics to just John, Drew and myself playing horns – fully acoustic and untreated.”
Take all of what you just read and combine that with Crazy Doberman’s willingness to tour and collaborate with as many like-minded noise freaks as possible (BEFORE COVID-19 obviously), and you have yourself what very well be the ultimate paragon of the grizzled, perseverant DIY spirit that flows – to some degree – through all of us in the overarching experimental music scene worldwide.
Most currently, the crew released a digital album entitled “FOUR hymns for UN-REST” on June 5th (all of the proceeds – which amounted to $1,470.83 – were donated to Richmond Community Bail Fund in an effort to aid those who were wrongly apprehended by law enforcement during BLM protests) and a vinyl entitled “hypnagogic relapse and other penumberal phenomena” via Oakland, CA label Digital Regress.