W David Oliphant and Sir Richard Bishop Team Up for Experimental Music Performance

Connor Descheemaker
W David Oliphant's home studio, where he and Sir Richard Bishop will this week rehearse and record their second collaborative full-length

Believe it or not, Phoenix has a storied history of experimentalism. For Sir Richard Bishop (co-founder of the legendary Sun City Girls) and W David Oliphant, that history began in 1981, when Bishop saw Oliphant and immediately considered him to be "the leading exponent" of that scene.

Fast-forward nearly 35 years, and Oliphant has brought Bishop back from his travels, if only for a week, in order to rehearse and record their second collaborative album. For just four days, August 5-8, the duo will work in Oliphant's home studio, culminating in a collaborative performance this Saturday, August 9 at one of Phoenix's most formative art spaces, the Icehouse.

See Also: Sir Richard Bishop: From Sun City Girls to Rangda, Guitarist Defies Labels

Though the two have known each other and collaborated live for multiple decades, it wasn't until late 2011 that the two finally recorded together, resulting in the Chopda Media full-length Beyond All Defects, all recorded and written in one take with no overdubs. Thanks to the two's lifelong musical bonafides, the record received acclaim from Michael Gira of Swans, and Stephen O'Malley of Sunn O))), two experimental heavyweights in their own right.

The two saw in one another a sort of spiritual partner, fellow musical trailblazers capable of pushing one another to new sonic limits.

Of his own roots, Oliphant says, "We started doing a couple of performances here and there. You know, at the time there were obviously a lot of other people around the country and the world doing crazy things, but there wasn't anybody else in Phoenix."

"I did have a much [greater] appreciation for melody maybe than my bandmates. But I kind of threw all that out the window once we became familiar with the concept of improvisation and 'sound for sound's sake.' Things didn't have to make sense. People didn't have to like what you were doing," Bishop explains.

Moving into their musical relationship, Bishop shares that, "On occasion [David and I] would cross over, I would sit in [on] one of David's things, Maybe Mental or Life Garden [Oliphant's earlier projects] along the way, and I would have a guitar or something. I think even back then he had the capability of tweaking it, processing it, where all the trust went into him. ... I could have played anything, and it could have come out as anything ... that was kind of a beautiful thing, because even I didn't know what it was going to sound like."

But even with such a clear understanding and trust of each other's musical abilities, even a period living together did not produce any living documents of the two's collaboration. So with Beyond All Defects, the two were able to produce a dynamic hybrid of their respective sounds and influences.

For Oliphant specifically, "That [first record] for me summarizes all of the work that I've done over all these years. It has elements of almost every, really every, single project [that I've worked on]."

Though the record is comprehensive in scope, its setup was quite simple, with Bishop bringing only his acoustic guitar, which was in turn bowed, strummed, beaten, plucked, and everything in between before being processed live by the expansive electronics setup of Oliphant, adding an array of Asian percussion sounds, largely of Tibetan origin.

Of his seemingly straightforward contribution, Bishop explains the ultimate appeal of the acoustic guitar as being most about surprise and potential.

"I could have easily brought an electric guitar and had a little more control over certain sounds. But at the same time, the idea of something that can make the loudest, most chaotic sound imaginable, as well as everything else, with the simplest of folk instruments, an acoustic guitar. I just thought if we could pull something off using this layout, then we can do anything else in the future. And here I am again, with the same little acoustic guitar, because it worked so well last time."

Location Info



429 W. Jackson St., Phoenix, AZ

Category: General

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Really looking forward to this. Was always entranced by Oliphant's 'Maybe Mental' and Lifegarden, and adding the brilliance of Bishop and you've got the ingredients for something very special! Can't wait!

Rob Birmingham
Rob Birmingham

I've been privileged to host a Sun City Girls show at Hollywood Alley and to see Sir Richard a couple of years ago at a venue I worked at in Portland. I'm looking forward to the show at the Icehouse. Work better let me off early. Great article! Fun Bobby

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