The Lost Generation
Most people have a natural mental membrane that filters their feelings, thoughts, theories and emotions before spewing them out into the world unchecked. Some don't. If Mwanza Dover ever had one, it's long since been overpowered by his boundless passion, restlessness and creativity--not to mention his flair for the dramatic.
"I hate Dallas," the longtime DFW musician says. "I do not want to be here. I don't belong here."
"I hate stuck-up elitists," Dover posits on his MySpace home page. Not two lines later he adds, "As I have gotten older, I have expanded my tastes beyond what most people could even start to understand."
The Black Arm Band and Mazinga Phaser II perform at the Dark Side Lounge on Friday, January 13, with the Golden Falcons, the Freek Out, One Umbrella and others. Wild Bull performs at Hailey's on Saturday, January 14, with Jetscreamer and One Umbrella.
Puzzling, yes. But what do you expect from the former King of Denton Space Rock, Melodica Festival founder and prime North Texas collector and promoter of the obscure and arcane turned garage rock revivalist, Nick Cave emulator, laptop electro-glitch champion and suddenly one of Dallas' most exciting and (gasp!) popular DJs?
You might expect a crash and burn, and in October 2004, Dover was at wit's end with the apathetic shrug Dallas had shown his garage-soul concern the Falkon. One particularly bitter night he unleashed a MySpace tirade proclaiming the end of the Falkon and a move to New York. The former was true, somewhat, while the latter wasn't, but the rant was still quoted in the Dallas Observer at the top of its music column.
"I was defeated, depressed," Dover says about the end of the Falkon, which by that point had truly honed its high-energy attack. "I was playing in the best band I had ever played in, but nobody cared."
It was a major crossroads for Dover. He'd started the Falcon Project in 1998 in an attempt to rekindle the psychedelic aesthetic that had slipped away from him in his other band, Mazinga Phaser, a key cog in the then deservedly hyped Denton space rock scene. As the Falcon Project progressed, Dover's musical restlessness came to the fore and another band was born--the Falkon, a raucous manifestation of "sonik soul music" that had been building in Dover like a pressure cooker. Yet Dover found making converts out of the old crowd was nearly as hard as carving out a new fan base with no help from the skeptical local press.
"The more people ignored the Falkon, the more pissed-off we got," Dover says. Ultimately he was left with two choices: to drop everything and move to New York, where his musical adventurousness would assumedly find more acceptance, or to reassess, regroup and rebuild.
In the end, Dover threw the Emily Dickinson book out of the window and took every path he could--simultaneously. On their 10-year anniversary, he resurrected Mazinga Phaser and played a string of shows. A new and, yes, improved Falkon rose from the ashes under a new name, the Black Arm Band. He continued to front annual Nick Cave tribute project the Good Sons. He developed new material for his electro-kissed catch-all solo project the Wild Bull. He began a weekly DJ run at the Cavern with an eclectic underground set dubbed The Lost Generation. He made huge waves among local laptop jockeys by running a monthly American Idol mockery called Laptop Deathmatch. He's even fulfilled his East Coast-centric goal by being invited to play this February in New Jersey as part of Symphony 13: Hallucination City, the 100-guitar symphony of legendary N.Y.C. composer Glenn Branca (whose early ensembles included Lee Ranaldo and Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth), around which Mazinga has planned a two-week "Branca or Bust" tour.
With so much going on, you'd think Dover might finally be all smiles in 2006. Peering over a mountain of gear at his rehearsal space on the outskirts of Deep Ellum, occasional wicked grins emerge from the bespectacled Dover. But a great deal of scar tissue remains. Just as his laptop intermittently leaks hisses and crackles, Dover's various beefs, agendas and driving demons continuously bubble to the surface.
"There is nobody to promote experimental or left-field music in this town," he says, bemoaning the lack of fanfare regarding his Branca announcement. "The local media wouldn't know Faust from Amon Düül if it bit them in the ass."
Another sore spot is the aforementioned lack of press and support for the Falkon, leading to some reservation over whether people will give the Black Arm Band a real chance, despite his enthusiasm over the "telepathic" interplay of the project that he says is "like the Stooges after spending a year with Sun Ra."
Yet the main skeleton Dover is currently dragging out of the closet is Mazinga Phaser.
It can't be easy getting kicked out of the band that you founded. One minute, Dover is getting big-time press notices after his '90s Melodica Festivals lured big-buzz national acts and shone a spotlight on homegrown pedal-mashers like Comet, Light Bright Highway and Mazinga. The next, he's given the boot out of his own band.
"That's the weird thing about Mazinga, actually," Dover says. "I was the only person [in the band] who was really into space rock. Everybody else was kinda like, 'Hey, we're getting press, we're doing records, we're doing a tour...'
"On [1997 sophomore album] Abandinallhope there was such a constant tug of war between me, who wanted to really make space rock, really take it out there, and most of the rest of them, who wanted to be more accessible," Dover says. The band even went on to release an album without him, 2000's tepid Dissatisfied Customers of Hallucination, which Dover calls an "abomination."
With the ex-members' blessings, Dover has given the group a second whirl, re-forming and returning the band to his original vision. But like the first go-round, Mazinga Phaser II has already been chaotic. Original Mazinga drummer Travis Williams came back but couldn't stick around after running into legal problems. Original singer Jessica Nelson has been replaced by Dover's fiancée/girlfriend (it's a little vague) Ineka Guerra, a burlesque dancer who has had to modify her cabaret style to fit the band. They still have no bassist.
Yet Dover is undeterred, having already posted two new electro-leaning demos on the band's MySpace page and claiming that other new material veers toward the first two PiL records.
On tap for the new year, besides the upcoming tour and Dover's performance with the ineffable Branca, is a reissue of Mazinga's 1996 debut Cruising in the Neon Glories of the New American Night with a bonus disc of outtakes and vintage live material. Dover's Wild Bull project has multiple albums in the can that have been shipped to national and international IDM labels. Dover has begun cross-country songwriting sessions and tape swaps with likeminded noisers Jackie-O Motherfucker. The Black Arm Band plans to gig heavily in the spring, the monthly Laptop Deathmatch is still going strong and the DJ gig has expanded to a second night (Thursdays at Elm Street Bar), helping Dover pay the bills and giving him another pulpit from which to spread his tangential musical doctrine.
"I'm in my 30s, and I feel like I wasted my 20s," Dover says, but he's wrong. Few local musicians stirred up as much electricity as Dover in his 20s, particularly during his years in Denton, yet at this point it might be naught but a prelude to his roaring Dallas 30s. Even if the town he hates wanted to ignore him, his numerous projects, outspoken demeanor and artistic drive make that impossible. Here's hoping you've found your Lost Generation, Wanz.
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