He has heard every label there is for his music. He’s been called a freak, a visionary, an innovator and a weirdo, all because of his unconventional instrument and unprecedented musical approach.
The “Magic Pipe” isn’t only what Michael Phelps used to blow his endorsement money up in smoke; it’s also what Mike Silverman uses to compose music. Using the stage name of That 1 Guy, Silverman’s work ethic is as astounding as his touring schedule this spring.
“I feel more strange when I’m home. I tour so much and it’s just such a part of who I am and the way I like to live that I feel more at home on the road. I’m in such a routine and I feel a lot more productive, like I’m supposed to be doing what I’m doing,” Silverman explains. “It also invigorates me, I feed off the energy.”
For nearly two-thirds of the year, Silverman crisscrosses the United States tantalizing and confusing audiences with songs like “Mudpies” and “Weasel Potpie.” Lyrics like “Cracked like a bell, but don’t mean that it rings, and just ’cause it’s shiny, doesn’t mean that it’s clean” on “Buttmachine” give Silverman’s craft a charming sort of absurdity.
“I loved [Dr. Seuss’s] rhyming and the sort of absurdity of it. It felt very real to me. It had a lot of color to it and the words are really animated,” Silverman adds. “The illustrations looked just like the words and I always loved the way the whole thing felt. It had such a magical vibe and that always stuck with me an as artist.”
Silverman’s modesty is enveloped in his sarcastic lyrics, but don’t take him too seriously. You’d be missing the whole point if you did. That whole point is manifested in the “Magic Pipe” which stands as tall as most centers in the NBA and weighs about 50 pounds. It has 13 trigger points that program drum beats, bass lines, guitar licks, vocal loops and just about any other noise Silverman can craft into a melody that is impossible to define.
“[My music is] a mentally hard thing to categorize. I think that’s something we as humans do; I’m the same way too,” Silverman explains. “You see a band and you want to put it into some kind of category in your mind.”
Inspired by 1960’s solo artist, Captain Beefheart and his “Magic Band,” Silverman borrowed concepts from Beefheart to form other percussive instruments in his weird, little army like the “Magic Saw,” the “Magic Flute” and the “Magic Boot.” The result is a fantastical escape from normal song structures into an idiosyncratic adventure of lyrical irrelevance.
“I’ve always been drawn to music that makes me check it out a little harder or makes me second guess it. I like music that’s fun and different and has a unique energy to it,” Silverman points out. “I’ve always strived to make that kind of music myself.”
For his latest album, PACKS A WALLOP!, which was released last month, Silverman presents his faithful fans with entirely new material. His past releases, 2007’s Moon is Disgusting and 2004’s Songs in the Key of Beotch, included road-tested tunes that were re-recorded in the studio and packaged as albums.
PACKS A WALLOP! highlights include, “Step Into Striped Light” a swampy number mixed with electronic chunk that employs the vocal stylings of blues master Tom Waits. “Suckatash” is a funky cut that has a hypnotizing beat built around the popular saying by Sylvester the Cat from “Looney Tunes” with bass lines that are just as wacky as the cartoon. And finally, carrying with tradition, Silverman closes the album with “Stones Throw,” a lengthy ambient piece that inspires serenity with its lack of percussion and exclusive use of violins.
“There’s this whole ambient thing that I want to do next year, and [“Stones Throw”] was going to be for that, but I finished it and really liked the way it sounded and thought ‘This should go on the record,’” Silverman recalls. “If you have something you want to say, you might as well say it now cause who knows. I really enjoy that pattern. It gives my albums continuity.”
If the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) doesn’t give Silverman too much hell at airports with his unusual instrument, count on him to be playing nationwide soon. His “Packs A Wallop! Tour” is scheduled to run through May.
“I know how to approach the TSA and explain to them what I’m doing,” explains Silverman. “That’s all you’ve got to do with them. Otherwise, you just look like a freak with a bunch of weird pipes and wires.”