By Jim Schutze
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Speaking from his home on a chilly day in Minneapolis, electronic musician Martin Luther King Chavez Dosh is as enigmatic as his music. On this day, he'd just as soon talk about his unusual name as his latest release, Tommy.
"My name is next to impossible to live up to," he says. "I mean, where do you go with a name like that?"
Christened by his activist parents (Dosh's father was a priest while his mother was almost a nun), Dosh doesn't mind the implications or expectations associated with his name.
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"Obviously, my parents hold a lot of strong beliefs about peace and non-violence," Dosh says. "I do not think, however, they were putting any undue expectations on me."
Be that as it may, Martin Dosh has been exceeding musical expectations since he was a teenager. After leaving home at 16 to begin college, Dosh began playing drums with a number of bands up and down the East Coast. When he moved back to Minnesota in 1997, he decided to start making music all by himself—and to reduce his moniker to simply his (very) last name.
"I played in bands for many years and I didn't discover that I could make my own music until I was 25," he says. "I wanted to call my first record Martin Dosh, but a friend told me that Dosh sounded cooler."
It wasn't until several years later, in 2002, that Dosh finally released his self-titled debut. The first release was a bit tentative, but by 2004's Pure Trash, Dosh had found a creative and effective niche: electronic compositions based on percussion and tape loops of his wife and children. One of Trash's best and most beautiful cuts is "Simple Exercises," a song in which a haunting melody is played while Dosh's wife explains what it feels like being pregnant.
"I got a lot of flack for making things too personal," says Dosh. "But with my music and my life, it's all going down at the same time."
Dosh's most recent effort is named in honor of a recently deceased friend—not the legendary album by The Who.
"I figured some people would be outraged that I dare call my record Tommy," Dosh says, "but I always call my records something that first pops in my head."
Tommy is another excellent collection of drumming, tape loops and various electronics. Helped out by Andrew Bird, Dosh even decided to sing a bit more than on previous records.
"I wanted to force myself to sing," he says. "I wanted to sing words that I care about."
On the album's best track, the gorgeous sound collage entitled "Number 41," Dosh shows how much he has grown compositionally.
"I've spent a lot of time with these songs," says Dosh. "They've had a longer gestation period."