Primary Instrument: Bass, acoustic
Chrys 'Kit Demos drives 113 miles, each way, for his gigs here at the Outpost. He is only surpassed by Mr. Morris, who drives 150 miles.
Kit sometimes brings his daughter along and she has the ability to stretch across several folding chairs and nap while the ensemble churns away.
He has much in common with the regional artists in that he has a day job and he's justifiably proud of it, teaching Math and Science in the Maine Public School system. Here in the Northeast, few seriously believe you can make a living solely from performance and recording sales. But that oddly frees them up to follow their muses. Charles Ives had a day gig too. and as Jason Crane noted in a blog comment somewhere, Coltrane was an accountant on the side.
1.What brought you to music?
My father loved rock, soul, and jazz. Sly and the Family Stone, Hendrix, or Thelonious Monk was playing on his stereo when I was a tyke in early 1970's Connecticut. I started guitar/music lessons when I was 6 at a plaza music store in Old Saybrook, CT. In the meantime both my grandmothers were musically talented, one played the old stride piano style music, the other, whose family immigrated from asia minor around 1917, had a slew of old 78 rpm records recorded in Greece and Turkey which I grew up listening to. I still sing and play old Greek music for my family from time to time.
As a jazz performance major at my state university, academic work was helpful but increasingly disappointing. I'd come across the occasional disparaging remark about musicians like Ornette Coleman, or other post bop elements. How sad... I'd scribble these rule breaker's names in my note book and haul myself over to the library with a reel to reel tape recorder in my duffel bag, set my self up with a book, pretend to be just listening, but instead be recording for later independent study. The desperado I was...
The final straws were were drawn in late night experimental jam sessions with a few art majors and the reprimands I got from semi-retired professors after sneaking in to record my experiments on an old ARP 2600 synthesizer stored on campus. I switched to major in Physics and recently built my own modular synthesizer from do-it-yourself blank pc boards. I've continued to push my own boundaries.
2.Describe your role models, muses and mentors.
I have almost completed the process of deconstructing and reconstructing the residuals of my music education. My instructors were professors Tom Hoffmann in jazz studies and Keith Crook in classical studies. All of their effects on me have now been seriously metamorphosized. These guys had open ended instruction technique: the last thing Tom told me to do was to sing every note in your head just before it's played. That kind of advise can lead you anywhere.
My wife, Ivy Demos, is a fiercely independent artist who takes control of space and time in her studio to produce challenging works in mixed media. Her dedication, understanding, and support (which I believe is mutual) has been very enabling. We both knew what kind of journey we were on when we married and continuously prepare ourselves and each other for it.
I have been listening to Otomo Yoshihide and others such as Sonny Sharrock, Archie Shepp, Captain Beefheart, Nobukazu Takemura, and always keep several Brazilian samba sources handy. That's my short list for now. The recording John Tchicai with Strings is intense.
3. Describe your community of colleagues and audiences.
At this point, I may be on a first name basis with every member of my audience. OK.
Right now I am working with drummer John Mclellan, guitarist/composer Jeff Platz and an amazing cellist, Junko Simons, who's virtuosity slices the edges of music's boundaries. Sitting behind her cello, you get the impression she's about to drive a truck through a keyhole, casually. Jeff's compositional aesthetic can run deep and dark with jagged melodic lines that are keenly tooled for improvisational excursions. John Mclellan is an incredible drummer who completely replaces the tradition of articulating rhythm with something else all together. Very surreal. One time an audience member offered to help tie down John's tom-on-the- floor bass drum. He declined, saying he needed an excuse to stop playing (as he needed to yank the thing back to his unattached bass drum pedal)! Playing with Jim Hobbs (sax) is unlike any experience, since he leaves the saxophone's domain way behind while anticipating my most ambitious live experiments with lightning response.
4.What are the important elements you apply to your personal approach to performance, repertoire and composition?
I have been into electronics for years but in a way that preserves physical interaction and all it's vital room for error. I have avoided delay, multi-stage pedal boards, and loop effects, to favor more interactive pitch and tone shifting pedals. When the conditions allow I occasionally harmonize the acoustic sound of my upright bass with what is coming out of my amp.
I like to play with the expectations of what bass should and should not do in an ensemble. I work out and rapidly juxtapose contrasts in approach, ostinato with sharp arrhythmia, extended technique imbedded into modal phrasing, playing several bass lines at once, etc.. The bar gets raised each gig and session in my mind, so a good gig for me is when I go home with a completely new playing technique.
Composition is a result of hearing those I'm working with and responding later: I compose with the performers in mind. I'm not particularly prolific, but there is more written instruction in my composition than there is musical notation, typically.
5.What role does teaching have in your work?
I teach Chemistry, Physics, and Electrical Engineering in a high school and also have private music students for individual and ensemble sessions. Sometimes for the sake of instruction, I will compose something for the students to play that I think will provide challenge or help bring out some part of their latent creativity.
Full time teaching, although not all music related, has been a welcome life change from my previous work in refractory composite material research for missile propulsion and atmosphere re-entry vehicle heat shields for the Department of Defense. The income is a fraction of what it used to be, but the peace of mind pays daily.
6. How have changes in the economy impacted your work?
Since so little money exchanges hands where this music is concerned, it is insulated from the drumbeat of free market booms and crashes. This music is an economy of ideas and has very little role in any monetary market driven economy. The question is so wrong but it's right since everybody asks- how do you make money doing that? Isn't the answer painfully obvious? The same elephant is in all our rooms: musicians and artists should really be subsidized as a national resource. Expenses like transportation, food, etc. are always growing. Traveling and performing despite the challenges around us has become an art in itself. The list of challenges to free musicians in this country may be little longer than the list of challenges apparently faced by our cohorts in Europe. The American economy has never been particularly favorable to the arts. I don't expect that to change.
7. If you perform beyond your region or overseas, how has that changed over time?
I performed in Germany at the Internationales Jazzfestival Münster in 2007 which was a truly professional operation. Everybody I talk to who travels to Europe says the grass really is greener over there. The experience was one of my best and I hope to go back again.
8.How has technology and changes in the way music circulates impacted your work?
Technology has impacted my personal circulation more than the circulation of my music, but it is helpful to pass charts on with high speed connectivity, rehearse, brainstorm ideas and run a performance series or two with the networking options out now.
9. Describe your current and potential future projects and collaborations along with things you would like to do.
I'll continue to organize and book more gigs in Maine, keep bringing people up who can make the trip north although its a balancing act between booking others and performing elsewhere. I just finished a recording with Jeff Platz on guitar, Junko Simons on cello, Daniel Carter on Sax (a beautiful musician not to be missed) and John Mclellan on drums. I have further to go on my bass, but right now I am now attempting to render and record a modular synthesizer part for a composition by New York guitarist/composer Chris Welcome. Challenging stuff. I love it.