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Marco Benevento: A New Form of Fusion

By Published: March 3, 2008
AAJ: With the Duo, and maybe this is just my perception, but it feels like more of an indie rock or traditional rock outfit. Was there an effort on your part to not be as "rock" and try and do something a little more jazz flavored? And maybe that comes out in just the instrument choices in that it is a piano and not some of the other organs you play in the Duo and so it inevitably sounds more "jazzy."

MB: There wasn't a conscious effort to make it different.

As a matter of fact, I recently talked to Joe about this because the Trio is opening up for the Duo at Mexicali Blues in New Jersey on February 22nd. I was talking to Joe about it and he was hesitant to say yes and I asked why. "Well it just sounds a lot like the Duo." I was like "Woah! I don't think this music sounds like the Duo at all personally."

AAJ: Yeah I don't think it does.

MB: It wasn't a conscious effort, the only effort was that I wanted to put out tunes that I had been holding on to for a while and [I wanted to] play them Matt, Reed and Andrew and record it. Maybe naturally, like I was saying there were some songs that Joe wasn't really vibing with, so these songs are going to come out like this because they didn't work with the Duo.

AAJ: What is a circuit-bent toy?

MB: Oh, man, you need to type that into YouTube. Some schools even show little kids how to circuit bend their Speak-and-Spell and they love it. When I was a kid I always like to take apart my shit but I never put it back together or made it rework. It's definitely a natural instinct to want to take your radio apart or take the backing of your Casio keyboard and look at the little green circuit board where all the wires are soldering.

Circuit bending is where you go in there and intercept a wire that's on that circuit board and you solder it onto a toggle switch or a knob and the you hit a button on your toy and flip the switch or turn the knob and see what it does to the sound. It's awesome. The only reason that I found out about it was my friend Tom Stephenson in Chicago showed up at a Duo show with a duffel bag filled with these toys. He said, "A friend of mine told me to come here—he thought you might be into this stuff," and he pulled out all these weird toys with weird pitch knobs. Joe and I both [fell in love] with the toys.

AAJ: So you use them on Duo records as well?

MB: Yeah on Play Pause Stop I use them on the first track, "Play Pause Stop," a lot. And I use circuit bent toys live with the duo. They just make these weird lo-fi, glitchy sounds that can be really effective. "If You Keep on Asking Me"—there's a bunch in there. And at the end of "Atari" there's a bunch. Actually the very end of "Atari," the last two seconds, is a circuit bent Speak and Spell.

You should get into them man—I just got a midi circuit bent Speak and Spell that can be triggered with a drum pad so when you hit the pad it makes [amazing sounds].

AAJ: So wrapping it all up, what's next for you? You mentioned earlier that there is some Duo and Trio dates that kinda overlap?

MB: The trio—Matt Chamberlain, Reed and I are gonna do a bunch of dates in May—New Orleans Jazz Fest, San Francisco, Boulder Theater.

AAJ: And you're working on a new Duo record also?

MB: If all goes well, Joe and I will release a new record in 2009. And I hope to release Live at Sullivan Hall.

Selected Discography

Marco Benevento, Invisible Babies (Hyena, 2008)

Marco Benevento, Live at Tonic (Ropeadope, 2007)

Benevento/Russo Duo, Play Pause Stop (Reincarnate/Butter Problems, 2006)

Benevento/Russo Duo, Best Reason to Buy the Sun (Ropeadope, 2005)

Benevento/Russo Duo, Darts ((Self Produced, 2003)

Benevento/Russo Duo, Benevento/Russo Duo (Self Produced, 2002)

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