Primary Instrument: Vibraphone
When jazz legends Lionel Hampton and Milt Jackson first introduced the vibes to the jazz idiom circa 1930, they could have never in their wildest dreams foreseen where Mike Dillon would take the concept 75 years later. Likewise, Dillon's heroes Black Sabbath, The Minutemen and Bad Brains would've been hard-pressed to envision a vibraphonist internalizing their punk ethos and conjuring his own rage-against-the-machine spirit through the mellifluous sounds of the vibraphone. Enter the man himself, Mike Dillon. None of these observations matter or ever will. Some would call a force of nature like his visionary. But again, Dillon confounds. He's not interested in celebrating vision or any of the lofty ideals that come along with it. Mike Dillon is about throwing down, getting on the good foot and chasing the muse wherever it flows. Case in point, Mike Dillon's Go-Go Jungle and their rawkus debut album, Battery Milk, to be released January 30, 2007 on the Brooklyn-based independent record label, HYENA Records.
Born and raised in Houston, Texas, Mike Dillon's musical history runs deep. In the late '80s and early '90s, he was a member of the pivotal Texas bands Billy Goat and Hairy Apes BMX. He soon moved onto acclaimed experimental and improvisational bands like The Malachy Papers, Critters Buggin and Garage A Trois, all of which are situations in which he still plays to this day. Dillon's reputation also led to collaborations with MC 900 Ft. Jesus, Super Chiefs 3, Polyphonic Spree and Sex Mob. A percussionist by trade, Dillon re-discovered the vibraphone while battling drug addiction. After a six month morphine binge, he was penniless and looking for a fix. Having no more gear to pawn except his vibes, he kicked drugs cold turkey and began learning Thelonious Monk's Well You Needn't.
Mike Dillon is known to furiously circulate around the country, simultaneously calling Austin, New Orleans and Kansas City home. These nomadic experiences led him to his highest profile gigs yet: recording and touring the world as a percussionist with both Ani DiFranco and Les Claypool's Frog Brigade, projects which have been a mainstay of his world for the past several years. And yet somehow in the midst of all this, Dillon put together Go-Go Jungle in early 2006. The band features Dillon's longtime musical co-conspirators, including Mark Southerland on tenor saxophone, JJ Jungle Richards and Ron Johnson on bass guitar and Go-Go Ray Pollard on drums.
Battery Milk opens with the soul-fire strut, Go-Go's Theme. The tune answers the question: What would Bobby Hutcherson sound like jamming alongside D.C go-go legends Trouble Funk? Broc's Last Stand continues in the old school, soul jazz spirit with Dillon's acid-tinged vibe work propelling the groove. But just when you think you know where the Go-Go Jungle's headed, Dillon changes pace. The Blame Game has a Tom Waits-esque spoken word feel with swirling electronic effects and deep, ethereal blowing by Southerland. Dillon takes his gift for black comedy to the next level on the hysterically creepy, The Voyeur, which also inspires comparisons to his boss in the Frog Brigade, Les Claypool.
Further into Battery Milk, bassist JJ Jungle Richards delivers a Curtis Mayfield-worthy vocal on a slinky re-working of Aaron Neville's New Orleans R&B gem, Hercules. And even still there are moments of metal, punk and Zappa irreverence such as Stupid Americans and Lunatic Express. The album is rounded out by two of its most important tracks. Bad Man is a tongue-and-cheek political statement most notable for the dichotomy between its easy rolling, happy groove and sinister-sounding sampled snippets of George W. Bush. Harris County, a tribute to none other than the late, great Eddie Harris, is built around spitfire improvising and rhythmic interplay between Dillon and Go-Go Ray.