Dosh: The only person I'm trying to impress is me

Dosh: The only person I'm trying to impress is me
Photo by Cameron Wittig

Martin Dosh wears many musical hats. A former percussion teacher, the 41-year-old local has spent the majority of the past decade touring the globe behind the kit for Andrew Bird and collaborating with Andrew Broder -- first in art-rock act Fog, now in thorny rockers the Cloak Ox. Against all scheduling odds, he also has a solo career as an experimental multi-instrumentalist artfully looping percussion, Rhodes piano licks, and synthesized textures on seven Dosh albums. His previous few records were more conventionally melodic, but his latest effort, Milk Money, strips Dosh's sound back down to its core.

Reached in his touring van en route to Brooklyn on an early-December East Coast tour, Dosh opened up to City Pages about going it alone, Milk Money's ambient tone, and embracing creative naivety.

City Pages: Milk Money represents something of a return to Dosh's roots in that you play all of the instruments and only used guest vocalists for a few select wordless cameos. Why did you decide to close the creative circle back down to one?

Martin Dosh: In general it's just happenstance. [Saxophonist] Mike Lewis and I had some stuff going as a two-man band for a while and then Mike got super busy with Bon Iver and Arcade Fire so I ultimately had to revert to the one-man band again. I didn't really consider looking for anyone else to collaborate with because I knew it would be impossible to find someone as sympathetic as Mike in terms of understanding what I'm trying to do musically.

Did working alone again change the tone musically for you? Milk Money feels like arguably your most ambient album, and obviously you really stretch out quite a bit on "Legos (for Terry)" [the album's 24-minute closing masterpiece].

It's really weird to me that this 24-minute-long song is the one people are glomming onto and calling great. I never would have predicted that. The down side is it feels like some critics are dismissing the rest of the record as an afterthought. I sat with this music for two years and worked really hard on all of them.

This is the longest stretch of time you've ever had between releasing proper records. How did the extended gestation process influence the shape of the album?

I really enjoy digging into my own recorded archives for inspiration, and this time out I took the time to really do that. It's exciting for me to discover some musical snippet that I played 15 years ago on some tape and then use it to help generate a new song. When I hit play on my old recordings I basically have no idea what's coming next, so it's almost like crate digging in a record store for cool samples. Except instead of some obscure funk recording from 1971, it's something I created myself that provides the creative spark.

I imagine this unconventional approach helped the record-making process feel fresh for you.

I'm trying to stay as naive as possible with my music-making. I strive to keep the creative process mysterious to myself. I record pretty much every night for two hours after I put the kids to bed, so that gives me a lot of raw material to work with.

Speaking of your kids, Milk Money continues your tradition of naming songs after significant people or events in your family life ["Legos (for Terry)" was named in honor of Dosh's father, in part because its meditative feel reminded Dosh of his dad's past as a Benedictine monk].

I don't really write the songs with any person or event in mind. But by the time I finish working on them and have listened to them hundreds of times they usually evoke certain feelings in me. That helps me figure out the name and grounds the song for me in a specific time and place.

I want each of my records to remind me exactly of where I was both emotionally and physically when I made it. I really just want to make music that I enjoy listening to. The only person I'm trying to impress is me.

Dosh plays a CD-release show with Anonymous Choir for Milk Money on Friday, December 20, at the Cedar Cultural Center; 612-338-2674

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