100 Dallas Creatives: No. 34 Music Innovator Stefan Gonzalez
Stefan González as Orgullo Primitivo
Mixmaster presents "100 Creatives," in which we feature cultural entrepreneurs of Dallas in random order. Oak Cliff native Stefan González has been honing his craft since grade school. The now 29-year-old auditory adept has pushed his skills, into a Bermuda Triangle of emotional experimentation. While most commonly associated as one-third of the free jazz trio Yells at Eels (alongside his brother Aaron and father Dennis), González has no shortage of musical and creative outlets.
The avant-noise expressionism of his solo project Orgullo Primitivo has been described by Observer music writer Jonathan Patrick as "refreshingly skeletal, free from the overwrought decadence that defines so much of Dallas' 'experimental music.'" González's abilities have also graced the stage of the Ochre House Theater during their production of Christhelmet earlier this year.
And if that wasn't enough, González finds the time to teach a new generation of skin-slammers as part of La Rondalla. The program offers free after-school music education for eager students ages eight to 18 and was founded by his father Dennis in 2010.
From violently hammering on an amplified coil, teaching kids to lay down break neck blast beats, curating his weekly Mixtape Session at the Crown and Harp, and changing the very definition of music as we know it, González is the epitome of Dallas avant-garde. We luckily had a chance to talk with González (who by the way, just won a Dallas Observer Music Award for "Best Drummer") about what fuels his passion and why he still calls Dallas home.
Your aesthetic in five words. Raw, honest, painful, fiery, sensual.
What motivates you to create? My motivation to create is deep seeded and started a long time ago before I even really understood what it was. At this point my motivation is to soak up all the things I see around me that both tickle my fancy and completely disgust me, and like a sponge, wring myself out. My initial creative motivation was all things rock and roll. Now it is all things worldly that have their own individual rhythms and harmonies. I love all sorts of music too. I'm currently obsessed with musical recordings as contrasting as Julee Cruise's "Into the Night," Peter Brotzmann/Peter Uuskyla's "Born Broke," Don Cherry's "Brown Rice," S.O.B.'s "Thrash Night," and King Crimson's "In the Wake of Poseidon." I am constantly indoctrinating my body and mind with conflicting musical information so as to not conform to any one sound, but to do it all at once and as organically as possible.
What do you know now that you wish you knew as a younger creative? I will say that one thing I am learning the hard way, although it is still resulting in mass positivity, is to not spread myself so incredibly thin over so many projects. Too late for that though. It's a sink or swim world out there. I would tell my younger self to live more like a musical monk of sorts and to give less of my energy to the world of romantic entanglement and alcoholic, drug-related indulgence. Not trying to be a hypocrite by any means, but all things relating to the party world and world of romantic surrender have only slowed me down and distracted my brain and body from churning out quality art. They also can serve as a sort of romanticized inspiration, but that only goes so far. I am burned out when it comes to those things. I want to create music for the sake of music. Nothing politicized, nothing coming from a social critiquing standpoint, nothing opinionated or idealistic. Just music. It needs to start speaking for itself.
How long have you been teaching at the Oak Cliff Cultural Center? I've been teaching for two and a half years now. I love every minute of it.
How did Outward Bound Mixtape Sessions come about? Outward Bound Mixtape Sessions came about through Moody Fuqua asking me to curate a weekly night similar to an open mic night, but more forward-thinking, in that every group, every solo act has something different to offer rather than everyone jamming out with acoustic guitars whilst trying to be all too agreeable and considerate of each other's eardrums and musical feelings. I see it as a night for the freaks and a night to let the spectacle of Dallas Outsider Culture grow to its fullest potential. It has showcased everything from singer/songwriter material to all manner of harsh noise, shoe gaze, psychedelic rock, techno, ambient music, hardcore punk, thrash, no wave, and so on. To me it is all part of a bigger picture where people are free to be themselves and are not pigeonholed stylistically.
What's new in your world? Currently I am working on releasing Orgullo Primitivo's "Textures of Falling Out" on cassette through Punk Alive Records. I am also looking at options for releasing it on vinyl and CD if at all possible. Other than that I am bracing myself for some travelling with Orgullo Primitivo, The Young Mothers, and Unconscious Collective. Next weekend I will be playing a solo set in Minneapolis with my good friends Cokskar, Agitate, and Scaphe. The Young Mothers have plans to tour Scandinavia coming up very soon and Unconscious Collective will be going on tour in support of our most recent double LP, "Pleistocene Moon".
What brought you to Dallas and what is keeping you here? I was born here. I was born and raised in the Oak Cliff area. What's keeping me here is the fact that I feel I'm relied upon by my creative peers. I've tried to escape a few times, but Dallas is strange like that. It either repels you or sucks you in. I am finding my place here more and more each day but still dream of breaking the chains and getting out to another city with another trip, another history, and a new sense of excitement. Playing it by ear; but for now that is not an option.
What is something that Dallas doesn't know about you? Being as busy as I am and almost always being in public makes it hard to have many secrets. One thing many people don't know is that I would have never been born if it weren't for my brother (at a mere four years old) jumping on my Mother's stomach, inducing a miscarriage. She was completely unaware that she was pregnant in the first place and my brother was just being a 4 year old kid and rough housing. Much to my benefit, I was conceived within a month or two after that incident.
A mystery philanthropist offers you unlimited funds for life. What would you do? I would allow myself to be funded enough to re-release everything worthwhile from my discography that is currently out of print and go on a solo tour as Orgullo Primitivo, reaching as far as Europe and Latin America. Once that dust settled I'd have this mystery philanthropist put those unlimited funds into the after school music program I teach under.
100 Creatives: 100. Theater Mastermind Matt Posey 99. Comedy Queen Amanda Austin 98. Deep Ellum Enterpriser Brandon Castillo 97. Humanitarian Artist Willie Baronet 96. Funny Man Paul Varghese 95. Painting Provocateur Art Peña 94. Magic Man Trigg Watson 93. Enigmatic Musician George Quartz 92. Artistic Luminary Joshua King 91. Inventive Director Rene Moreno 90. Color Mavens Marianne Newsom and Sunny Sliger 89. Literary Lion Thea Temple 88. Movie Maestro Eric Steele 87. Storytelling Dynamo Nicole Stewart 86. Collaborative Artist Ryder Richards 85. Party Planning Print maker Raymond Butler 84. Avant-gardist Publisher Javier Valadez 83. Movie Nerd James Wallace 82. Artistic Tastemakers Elissa & Erin Stafford 81. Pioneering Arts Advocates Mark Lowry & Michael Warner 80. Imaginative Director Jeremy Bartel 79. Behind-the-Scenes Teacher Rachel Hull 78. Kaleidoscopic Artist Taylor "Effin" Cleveland 77. Filmmaker & Environmentalist Michael Cain 76. Music Activist Salim Nourallah 75. Underground Entrepreneur Daniel Yanez 74. Original Talent Celia Eberle 73. Comic Artist Aaron Aryanpur 72. Classical Thespian Raphael Parry 71. Dance Captain Valerie Shelton Tabor 70. Underground Culture Mainstay Karen X. Minzer 69. Effervescent Gallerist Brandy Michele Adams 68. Birthday Party Enthusiast Paige Chenault 67. Community Architect Monica Diodati 66. Intrepid Publisher Will Evans 65. Writerly Wit Noa Gavin 64. Maverick Artist Roberto Munguia 63. Fresh Perspective Kelsey Leigh Ervi 62. Virtuosic Violinist Nathan Olson 61. Open Classical's Dynamic Duo Mark Landson & Patricia Yakesch 60. Rising Talent Michelle Rawlings 59. Adventurous Filmmaker Toby Halbrooks 58. Man of Mystery Edward Ruiz 57. Inquisitive Sculptor Val Curry 56. Offbeat Intellect Thomas Riccio 55. Doers and Makers Shannon Driscoll & Kayli House Cusick 54. Performance Pioneer Katherine Owens 53. Experimental Filmmaker and Video Artist Mike Morris 52. Flowering Fashioner Lucy Dang 51. Insightful Artist Stephen Lapthisophon 50. Dallas Arts District 49. Farmer's Market Localvore Sarah Perry 48. Technological Painter John Pomara 47. Progressive Playmakers Christopher Carlos & Tina Parker 46. Purposive Chef Chad Houser 45. Absorbing Artist Jeff Gibbons 44. Artistic Integrator Erica Felicella 43. Multi-talented Director Tre Garrett 42. Anachronistic Musician Matt Tolentino 41. Emerging Veteran Actor Van Quattro 40. Festival Orchestrator Anna Sophia van Zweden 39. Literary Framer Karen Weiner 38. Man Behind the Music Gavin Mulloy 37. The Godfather of Dallas Art Frank Campagna 36. Rising Star Adam A. Anderson 35. Artist Organizer Heyd Fontenot
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Dallas, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.