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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Friday, Aug. 1, 2014

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Musician Nick Sanborn in an atypical moment of rest. Sanborn took time off from his half-dozen musical projects to tackle this week's Track Marks.
Musician Nick Sanborn in an atypical moment of rest. Sanborn took time off from his half-dozen musical projects to tackle this week's Track Marks.

Track Marks: Nick Sanborn

Track Marks is a weekly questionnaire for people who make music or just love listening to it. The people change but the questions remain the same.

This week OnMilwaukee.com catches up with Nick Sanborn whose many musical endeavors make him an omnipresent figure on the Milwaukee music scene.

Sanborn just might be the busiest man in town juggling time between Milwaukee folky indie rockers Decibully, his solo electronic project Made of Oak, Cedar AV, Collections of Colonies of Bees, Buffalo, playing as a touring member of North Carolina indie-pop group Love Language, and running the vinyl only label Listening Party, along with Decibully bandmate Andy Menchal. Phew!

Somewhere in there he also finds time to bartend and DJ a weekly jazz set at Burnhearts bar in Bay View every Sunday.

He'll be performing twice this week: Thursday at Club Garibaldi for the weekly MELT electronic music series and with Decibully Saturday at Cactus Club.

We talked with Sanborn about his genre A.D.D., his Phish T-Shirts, and choosing They Might Be Giants over Snoop Dogg.

OnMilwaukee.com: What was the first tape/CD/record/8-track you ever owned?

Nick Sanborn: I had a bunch of dubbed cassettes, but my first real CD was "John Henry" by They Might Be Giants. All I wanted for Christmas that year was a boom-box for my room, and Santa totally hooked it up. I'm guessing my parents were probably sick of hearing me blast "Ana Ng" off my Maxell copy of "Lincoln," so the first item in my stocking was that CD. While the much cooler kids -- the ones who would later be getting laid while I was in my room learning Primus bass lines -- were no doubt listening to (Nirvana's) "In Utero" or (Snoop Dogg's) "Doggystyle," being an outwardly nerdy music-obsessed 11-year-old in 1994 basically required an infatuation with They Might Be Giants. I still buy every record they release.

OMC: What was the first concert you attended?

NS: Again, not super cool, but my dad took me to see Michael Hedges play solo at the Barrymore in Madison, where I grew up. I don't remember much about it, but I do remember that it got off to a really weird start. He came on stage and started spinning in a circle while playing, got visibly dizzy and knocked into one of the speaker stacks onstage almost tipping it over. At the time, of course, I thought this was punk as f*ck. Also I remember that it was a pretty dad-heavy audience, so I felt a little out of place. My dad is a pretty laid back dude and a great guitar player, so he's naturally a big fan of understated guitar virtuosos like Hedges or Bo Ramsey.

OMC: What was the last concert you attended?

NS: By the time this is up it will have been Volcano Choir with Mystery Palace at Turner Hall, which my Magic Eight Ball says "will f*cking rule." It will.

OMC: Who is one popular musician or music act you just can't understand?

NS: For a long time it was The Smiths, but a friend made me a Morrissey mix a while back that brought me around on their singles. Now it's the dude on the bus listening to the worst Auto-Tuned rap or R&B bullshit I have ever heard via their tinny phone speakers, practically begging someone to throw him into oncoming traffic. If I ever get to make a "The More You Know"-style PSA, it will be about headphones.

OMC: Musically, what are you into that you're embarrassed to admit to?

NS: I have pretty diverse tastes which include quite a bit of popularly questionable material, so I used to be embarrassed about liking certain bands when I was younger. Then about four or five years ago I had that quasi-adult moment where you completely stop caring whether other people like what you like. I started openly wearing my Phish tour T-shirts and began my weekly jazz spin at Burnhearts almost immediately after that.

OMC: What are you listening to right now?

NS: "Tusk" by Fleetwood Mac has been killing me lately, but "Workingman's Dead" by Grateful Dead, "Complex Housing" by Salva, "Get Up With It" by Miles Davis, "Pattern + Grid World" by Flying Lotus, "Pilot Talk" by Curren$y, Wye Oak's new record and everything Sharon Van Etten has ever done have all been in heavy rotation lately. Also there's this amazing podcast called "Uhh Yeah Dude" that always occupies at least an hour of my ear-week. I have a case of genre-ADD.

OMC: What song do you want played at your funeral?

NS: Tough to say. Maybe "So Long and Thanks for All the Fish" from "A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy?" Actually that could probably be the whole ceremony.

OMC: What artist changed your life and how?

NS: A bunch of artists have changed the course of my life in different ways but I've been much more affected by the musicians and creatives in my life. There's a lot of real-life type stuff that makes being a musician for a living potentially depressing at times, and it'd be difficult to stay inspired and positive without all the wonderful people I'm lucky enough to know and work with. Wow, that was a total Chicken Soup for the Soul answer. Sorry.

OMC: If you could see anyone perform past or present who would it be?

NS: Elvin Jones. He's my only real concert regret, since he died in 2004. He was an outstanding jazz drummer who worked from the '50s through the late '90s, and his playing and attitude about his craft are endlessly inspiring to me. When I started getting into jazz I was totally focused on bass and piano players, but Jones was the first drummer to make me really think about his instrument. I think he may be my favorite musician -- musician, that is, not composer or songwriter -- of all time.

OMC: If you could spend one day with any artist living or dead who would it be?

NS: Justin Timberlake, duh.

OMC: If you were stranded on an island with one record for the rest of your life what would it be?

NS: Does the island have Wi-Fi? How about a smoke monster? These are more pressing questions, and they have actual answers.

Talkbacks

sandstorm | April 4, 2011 at 7:20 a.m. (report)

place just south of Fish Creek called The Clubhouse.
it was torn down years ago.

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Blaine | March 30, 2011 at 3:22 p.m. (report)

Bo is still at it. Solo albums as well as playing and producing Greg Brown and Pieta Brown and Lucinda Wms. Where the heck did he play in Door County?

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sandstorm | March 30, 2011 at 11:32 a.m. (report)

a Bo Ramsey reference. awesome!
used to see Bo Ramsey and the Sliders up in Door Co.
killer musician.

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