Home studio inspection with Dominique Leone

Dominique Leone is a recovering music critic. His writing has appeared everywhere from Pitchfork to Paste. It's easy to take this fact and run with it, as his piecemeal grabs from rock history could easily come from academically ingesting truckloads of releases and then spitting out a schizophrenic stew of hyperactive outsider pop.

Thing is, Leone has always been a musician. He was a performance major at Texas Tech, gave trumpet lessons afterward, and honed his oddball compositional sense all along. His music and his writing are both products of finding hidden connections and ignoring boundaries to deliver something deeply personal.

Take his recent disc, Dominique Leone, for example. The effortlessly weird "Nous Tombons Dans Elle" offers a spastic videogame shuffle, Beach Boy falsetto harmonies, and noise breakdowns. Elsewhere, "The Return" is a 13-minute trip through swampy ambience, Todd Rundgren mindfuck, psych organ freakout, and proggy chord progressions. Leone ends the record with "Conversational," a simple, Beatles-esque ballad with string accompaniment, and a perfect Band-Aid for the opaque oddities that precede it.

Works of Igor Stravinsky box set
Works of Igor Stravinsky box set
"Dünder" drawing
"Dünder" drawing
Digidesign Digi 001 system
Digidesign Digi 001 system
Upright piano
Upright piano
The Rest Is Noise hardback by Alex Ross
The Rest Is Noise hardback by Alex Ross
Score for Drumming by Steve Reich
Score for Drumming by Steve Reich

When SF Weekly sought physical evidence of what makes Leone tick, we nearly found our plans thwarted. Leone recently moved from San Francisco to Berkeley, placing many of his material possessions in storage. His house, shared with a few roommates, was the very opposite of his recordings — a neat and uncluttered enclave where he worked on new songs. But his spartan environs couldn't keep us from rifling through what was there, and below he gives us explanations for some of his possessions.

Works of Igor Stravinsky box set
"That was like twenty bucks at Amoeba, for the whole thing — there's twentysomething CDs in there. It's from when he moved to America in the '50s or '60s and recorded all of his stuff with the CBS Orchestra. Classical CDs are supercheap now."

"Dünder" drawing
"That's my friend MaryClare. She drew that for me. MaryClare's actually one of my bandmates sometimes. ... She's a flute player, and we have another band called Paul and Diane. She's in Switzerland right now, and she sent me all these drawings."

Digidesign Digi 001 system
"I have a friend who worked at Digidesign. He hooked me up with this admittedly way-out-of-date system. But for my purposes, it's fine. ... The next record will be better recorded. [Leone recorded his eponymous LP on a digital 4-track recorder.] I have better everything — better mikes, better performances, better instruments, better ProTools."

Upright piano
"I bought this at a flea market here, and I love working on piano. Most of the time I do my writing here before I start recording."

The Rest Is Noise hardback by Alex Ross
"This is a good book. It's about 20th-century classical music and about the various movements, strands, and composers. It's good at putting things into context."

Score for Drumming by Steve Reich
"Willie Winant is a percussion instructor at Mills and other places, and he's played with everybody — John Zorn, Sonic Youth, everybody. ... He played a couple shows with me. Then he said, 'Well, why don't you play marimba in this [Reich] piece?' We played at [Piedmont's] Chapel of the Chimes. On the summer solstice, [New Music Bay Area has] this event where they get musicians to play in this crematorium in Piedmont. It's great, it's really cool. So we played Drumming there, and I think we're gonna play it in the [San Francisco] airport next month. In the international terminal, I think. I'd love to come into the airport to that."

 
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