A&E » Arts

No song list, no noodling

Zilla boasts String Cheese Incident’s drummer along with unique show of improv and DJ tracks



Who: Zilla meets DJ Hoola

When: Saturday, March 25, 9 p.m.

Where: Boot Pub

Tickets: $20

Zilla takes the term jam band to a whole new level.

No songs. No song list. A promise of no noodling instrument solos and a sound more likable to DJ dance music set than a band.

No, this isn’t a distorted nightmare. Throw the String Cheese Incident drummer into the mix and nightmare turns into a one of a kind show – something Zilla’s Jamie Janover calls a new paradigm.

"We don’t have any songs: no material whatsoever," Janover said. "Someone might yell out F sharp or give the band a nod and we know what key we are starting in – that doesn’t mean we are going to end up in that key. We can go anywhere from there: any tempo, sound, groove, key. Someone starts and the band has to follow along. It’s 100 per cent organic electronica."

If having no play list wasn’t hard enough, the band functions more as a computer spitting out DJ beats – only instead of taking hours to lay a single track down on the computer, Zilla’s weapons of choice are instruments, ranging from keyboard to dulcimer, and tracks are made as the show is happening.

"We are playing live instruments and trying to simulate (the DJing) style by repeating phrases over and over to get that repetitive trance thing. We make the music evolve. We aren’t just noodling it," Janover said.

"We are influenced by West Coast break beat dance music and other styles of electronica. We wanted to play this kind of music live rather than rely on DJs. It’s an emerging style, but it isn’t very easy. Computers usually make this kind of music. Keeping things perfectly in time and in tune is really challenging to do live."

The Colorado-based trio of musicians, Janover, Aaron Holstein and Michael Travis, are extremely successful in their ability to create this new brand of live electronic dance music: their fan base extends all over North America and the band has recorded six live albums. The trio is currently recording Zilla’s first studio album on the String Cheese Incident label SCI Fidelity.

Travis, who has spent more than a decade as the driving percussive force behind the String Cheese Incident, isn’t the only band member with impressive credits. Janover has recorded eight hammered dulcimer (Indian stringed instrument) albums, won the 2002/03 National Hammered Dulcimer Championship and played with the likes of Phish, New Monsoon, Keller Williams and Garaj Mahal. Holstein is a double, triple and sometimes quadruple threat, spanning bass and guitar, keyboards and sampler, and scatting and beat boxing. He’s rumoured to play up to three instruments at a time – oh and he sings, too.

As if improvising and laying down live-instrumental DJ tracks wasn’t enough of a challenge, this special performance also adds guest DJ Hoola to the mix – many Shambala Festival fans will be familiar with the Nelson boy’s sets of disco, house, funk, rock, breaks, electro and reggae.

Now most bands would have the DJ warm up the crowds, perform in between sets or at the least rehearse set tracks into the set list. But wait; there is no set list.

DJ Hoola is going to take up the improvisational torch and jam with his turntables, sometimes leading the band, other times following, letting the two entities ebb and flow throughout the evening. Like a DJ, there will be no and-now-for-our-next-song breaks, just one long stream of grooving electronica to keep the dance floor going.

"It’s pretty cool because it’s all going to be a spontaneous, freestyle sort of thing," said DJ Hoola, alias Mike Paine.

"I’ve never practised with them before. I’ve never even met them. I’ve got some of their albums coming to listen to. It’s going to be completely improv. It’s definitely cutting edge. I don’t know anybody who is doing this."

"He’s having to be a musician rather than just a DJ playing," Janover said. "He’s going to have to interact with us in real time."

The new duo will warm up with Vancouver and Nelson shows before heading to Whistler.

Advanced $20 tickets are available via Ticketmaster or by calling the Boot at 604-932-3338 extension 0.

DJ Hoola, who recently toured Canada with DJ Lorin Bassnectar, also plays a Disco show Sunday, March 26 at the Garibaldi Lift Company.