Jon Ragel from Portland, Oregon, performs as his alter ego, Boy Eats Drum Machine, a one-man act that leans heavily on turntables and digital sampling. “Also saxophone,” he says. “A tenor saxophone. A real one.” He said this as if he was sure I would doubt that any part of his self-produced soundtracks could be of analog origin. Even though Boy Eats Drum Machine has more than one finger on the sample button, the sound is organic.
Boy Eats Drum Machine’s energy derives from crafty sampling and layered production, but rock and pop are at the heart of it. Ragel’s Bowie-like vocal stylings and melodies of ’50s and ’60s radio hits are all over the place. “There’s a little bit of that sound of hip-hop cut-and-paste in every one of my songs,” he says. But unlike much of remix culture, Ragel avoids borrowing from the most common hits. “I’d never sample, say, James Brown. A lot of great songs have been made by grabbing an ABBA lead and turning that into a new song, but I prefer writing the song than having the elements sound kind of weird.”
Ragel played in bands out of high school and says he got serious about BEDM about six years ago. This year, as Boy Eats Drum Machine, he released two LPs and performed at many music festivals, including SXSW in Austin, Neon Reverb in Las Vegas, and Musicfest NW in Portland. The solo nature of the project gives him latitude to do his own thing and be different, he says, but not just different for the sake of it. “It’s all about what kind of song you can come up with and what kind of story you can tell. That’s always going to be the most important.”
Home Video and Primitive Noyes also perform.
BOY EATS DRUM MACHINE: Soda Bar, Saturday, November 13, 9 p.m. 619-255-7224. $7.