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What do Frank Zappa, XTC’s Andy Partridge, and the Cartoon Network’s Dethklok have in common?

Mike Keneally wants an occasional day off, but then there’s Todd Rundgren…

Mike Keneally: making (lots of) music while the sun shines.
Mike Keneally: making (lots of) music while the sun shines.

These days, Mike Keneally calls Arizona home. But he gigged in and around San Diego from the mid-’80s until just last year, so he’s got plenty of local stories: good, bad, and yes, a few downright ugly. Example: “I had a gig booked at a dive called the Moonglo in late ‘87, and I told Frank Zappa on the phone that afternoon that I wouldn’t be able to come up to LA and audition for his band that day, because of this freaking cover-band gig I had booked. I know, you don’t have to say anything; I was temporarily insane. I went to the club that night, and found out that the club owner had double-booked the night, and there was another band’s gear already on the stage. I had blown off Frank Zappa, and I didn’t even have the gig I thought I had. My band had to restrain me from trashing the place. It didn’t help my frame of mind that the club owner had never heard of Frank Zappa, so when I tried to impress the magnitude of his sin upon him, it had zero impact. Fortunately, I was able to reschedule the Zappa audition for the following day. A few years later, I drove by the site of the Moonglo, and it had been razed to the ground. So someone else managed to do the trashing for me. Deeply satisfying.”

Keneally became semi-famous playing with Zappa as a so-called “stunt guitarist,” and then logged time with son Dweezil Zappa’s band. “Our live gigs were out of this world,” he recalls. Not long ago, he and other Zappa alumni played Zappa music without Zappa in The Zappa Band. He’s also gone around the world with the ProgJect prog rock tribute band, and with the real-life touring version of the cartoon metal band Dethklok. But just now, he’s eager to discuss his two new albums, made in collaboration with San Diego’s compulsively-productive Marcelo Radulovich. One, called Monday, features shorter instrumental pieces. The other, Bask, came out more song-based.

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Asked how the two decided on those two musical directions, Keneally confesses: “The songs themselves decided, really. We were sending files back and forth, and Marcelo was creating too many songs for it to all fit together sensibly in one collection. The stuff that will be on Bask is generally more groove-oriented, with more conventional song structure, although still pretty fucking strange. The pieces on Monday are works which initially struck us as being more ‘ambient,’ for want of an immensely better phrase. So initially, we were thinking of Monday as our ambient album, but it’s not really that. It’s atmospheric instrumental sound that doesn’t really adhere to any genre, or follow any other path other than its own internal logic — but it does feel logical and satisfying to me as a complete experience. It’s only about 24 minutes long, so it’s not too much of a demand on people’s time and energy. For a first contact with it, I think headphones, eyes closed, deep breathing are good things. But it also works as an environment decorator, and it’s worth trying it out as a social gathering soundtrack, see what happens then.”

The pair worked fast, so as not to take too much time away from their various other projects. “We started doing stuff just about exactly a year ago. Marcelo recorded all of his stuff at home; I probably did about fifty percent of my stuff at home, fifty percent at Marcelo’s place. It’s a long drive from my place to Marcelo’s place, now that I’ve moved out of town, but there were two times over the past few months when I was going to be in California for other reasons,” including a string of gigs in LA, and a stop at the San Diego Music Awards to accept the Country Dick Montana Lifetime Achievement Award.

Asked about future plans, Keneally speaks from his customary can’t-slow-down vantage. “I’m insisting on taking the last six weeks of this year off from work — except for, hopefully, a couple of Zoom get-togethers with Andy Partridge, formerly of XTC. (The duo released a 2012 album together.) “I also want to weave [in] live work for Beer For Dolphins and The Bird Brain” and other band projects. “And what if The Zappa Band rears its head again? There’s also the ongoing possibility of a theatrical collaboration with Todd Rundgren that we’ve been discussing for a while, but there hasn’t been any infrastructure or time to make it happen yet.”

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Mike Keneally: making (lots of) music while the sun shines.
Mike Keneally: making (lots of) music while the sun shines.

These days, Mike Keneally calls Arizona home. But he gigged in and around San Diego from the mid-’80s until just last year, so he’s got plenty of local stories: good, bad, and yes, a few downright ugly. Example: “I had a gig booked at a dive called the Moonglo in late ‘87, and I told Frank Zappa on the phone that afternoon that I wouldn’t be able to come up to LA and audition for his band that day, because of this freaking cover-band gig I had booked. I know, you don’t have to say anything; I was temporarily insane. I went to the club that night, and found out that the club owner had double-booked the night, and there was another band’s gear already on the stage. I had blown off Frank Zappa, and I didn’t even have the gig I thought I had. My band had to restrain me from trashing the place. It didn’t help my frame of mind that the club owner had never heard of Frank Zappa, so when I tried to impress the magnitude of his sin upon him, it had zero impact. Fortunately, I was able to reschedule the Zappa audition for the following day. A few years later, I drove by the site of the Moonglo, and it had been razed to the ground. So someone else managed to do the trashing for me. Deeply satisfying.”

Keneally became semi-famous playing with Zappa as a so-called “stunt guitarist,” and then logged time with son Dweezil Zappa’s band. “Our live gigs were out of this world,” he recalls. Not long ago, he and other Zappa alumni played Zappa music without Zappa in The Zappa Band. He’s also gone around the world with the ProgJect prog rock tribute band, and with the real-life touring version of the cartoon metal band Dethklok. But just now, he’s eager to discuss his two new albums, made in collaboration with San Diego’s compulsively-productive Marcelo Radulovich. One, called Monday, features shorter instrumental pieces. The other, Bask, came out more song-based.

Sponsored
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Asked how the two decided on those two musical directions, Keneally confesses: “The songs themselves decided, really. We were sending files back and forth, and Marcelo was creating too many songs for it to all fit together sensibly in one collection. The stuff that will be on Bask is generally more groove-oriented, with more conventional song structure, although still pretty fucking strange. The pieces on Monday are works which initially struck us as being more ‘ambient,’ for want of an immensely better phrase. So initially, we were thinking of Monday as our ambient album, but it’s not really that. It’s atmospheric instrumental sound that doesn’t really adhere to any genre, or follow any other path other than its own internal logic — but it does feel logical and satisfying to me as a complete experience. It’s only about 24 minutes long, so it’s not too much of a demand on people’s time and energy. For a first contact with it, I think headphones, eyes closed, deep breathing are good things. But it also works as an environment decorator, and it’s worth trying it out as a social gathering soundtrack, see what happens then.”

The pair worked fast, so as not to take too much time away from their various other projects. “We started doing stuff just about exactly a year ago. Marcelo recorded all of his stuff at home; I probably did about fifty percent of my stuff at home, fifty percent at Marcelo’s place. It’s a long drive from my place to Marcelo’s place, now that I’ve moved out of town, but there were two times over the past few months when I was going to be in California for other reasons,” including a string of gigs in LA, and a stop at the San Diego Music Awards to accept the Country Dick Montana Lifetime Achievement Award.

Asked about future plans, Keneally speaks from his customary can’t-slow-down vantage. “I’m insisting on taking the last six weeks of this year off from work — except for, hopefully, a couple of Zoom get-togethers with Andy Partridge, formerly of XTC. (The duo released a 2012 album together.) “I also want to weave [in] live work for Beer For Dolphins and The Bird Brain” and other band projects. “And what if The Zappa Band rears its head again? There’s also the ongoing possibility of a theatrical collaboration with Todd Rundgren that we’ve been discussing for a while, but there hasn’t been any infrastructure or time to make it happen yet.”

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