Sound Advice: Arrington de Dionyso’s This Saxophone Kills Fascists with Jennifer Simone (April 13)

Experimental musician Arrington de Dionyso brings his This Saxophone Kills Fascists Free Jazz protest band to MOTR Pub.

click to enlarge Arrington de Dionyso - Photo: Lena Shkoda
Photo: Lena Shkoda
Arrington de Dionyso
If you asked most people whether protest music needs to have lyrics, the instinctual reaction would be, “Yes, definitely.” It’s understandable given the songs most people think of as “protest music.” While the delivery can enhance the power of the protest, the words are what convey the direct message, as exemplified in everything from Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land,” Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin’ ” and Civil Rights anthem “We Shall Overcome” to Fugazi’s “Reclamation,” Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” and Beyoncé’s “Freedom.”

But all forms of art are used to express varying emotions and points of view. Pablo Picasso didn’t need to paint “war sucks!” on his famous “Guernica” painting to make an obvious anti-war statement. And composers and musicians, particularly from the worlds of Classical, Avant Garde and Jazz music, have forever used sounds and melodies as aural metaphors, translating melancholy, anger and resistance into notes.

Olympia, Wash. visual artist, composer and multi-instrumentalist Arrington de Dionyso has been exploring various methods of music as a means of expression for more than 20 years now. As guitarist/singer/visionary behind the adventurous Experimental Rock band Old Time Relijun, he put out several albums on K Records beginning in 1997. De Dionyso has continued to release music through K and other labels over the years, including solo excursions and collaborative projects. After Old Time Relijun, he picked up baritone clarinet and formed Malaikat dan Singa, uniquely blending Free Jazz, Psychedelia, Post Punk, throat singing and entrancing Indonesian ritual music. He even learned the Indonesian language so he could sing in it.

But back to “protest music.” Now playing various saxophones and other instruments, de Dionyso’s current project is This Saxophone Kills Fascists (a reference to a slogan the aforementioned Guthrie famously placed on his guitar). The inspiration for the project was the remarkably ridiculous #Pizzagate conspiracy, which spread the outlandish theory (as truth) that a basement in a pizza place in Washington, D.C. was home to a secret child sex trafficking ring involving Satanic rituals, Hillary Clinton and top members of her campaign staff. A man was even arrested for shooting off a gun in the pizzeria after traveling to “investigate.”

The preposterous nature of the faux scandal (and the number of people who readily believe it… still) is so “sign of the times” that even from afar one could imagine it inspiring protest art. But de Dionyso found himself swept into the fake controversy directly because he once painted a mural at the restaurant, leading to death threats and harassment from delusional (or insanely gullible) “alt-right” maniacs. (Read de Dionyso's essay about the unreal experience here.)

Instead of forcing de Dionyso into silence or hiding, the artist took the experience as a jumping-off point for This Saxophone Kills Fascists, a Free Jazz project with which he has been touring the country, performing with different local musicians at his various stops. He has posted a few recordings of the music’s unadulterated, impetuous expressiveness at thissaxophonekillsfascists.bandcamp.com.

“I’m using the spiritual legacy of Free Jazz to form a new voice for protest music, using abstract music as a form of protest,” de Dionyso recently said to the Phoenix New Times. “With all this stuff about the media and fake news, any words you put out there can just be twisted and turned around.”

For more on this free show, click here.

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