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

Connor Descheemaker
W David Oliphant sits amid his electronics-and-percussion setup, through which he will process and add to the acoustic guitar sounds of Sir Richard Bishop

That aura of limitless possibility still holds true for both musicians, even so far into their careers. Even in recording these most recent full-lengths, the two go in without any major plan, simply following the directions the music pushes them toward, on a sort of "planned improvisation."

"Who knows? Eventually that might be the next experiment, to actually pre-plan it. To me, experimental music includes everything. Experiment with a pop song. For me that would still be experimental music. So that's one of the great things [in our collaboration], neither one of us are afraid to try anything," Oliphant affirms.

Bishop and Oliphant, it seems, choose to exist within the only genre that could contain them: the one that can potentially include all others.

Oliphant expounds, "One of the things that has always attracted me to working with sounds in the way that I do is specifically trying to find and yank out that inner mystery-spiritual-whatever-you-want-to-call-it. It can all be wrapped up in one generic feeling, and mystery is the easiest way to talk about it."

"But the stuff that I really spend serious time on, trying to tweak to an exactness as much as I'm able to...it's very much to try and bring out the best version of that hidden thing that I can possibly find."

Echoing their studio process, the two are approaching the weekend's performance as an experiment. As of this writing, Bishop has not met Joe Willie Smith, the local visual artist and instrument-maker with whom Oliphant has long collaborated under the moniker Amnesia Quartet.

Over two sets, the pair will aim to recreate certain songs from Beyond All Defects, before joining forces with Smith and his unnameable instruments for a set of all-new, improvised material, never heard before or after this performance, all while live visuals are crafted by A Liquid Reality.

Bishop muses, "[The event] is going to bring me back to the '80s, almost. Because it's going to be beautiful, it's going to be noisy, it's going to be strange, it's going to be very mysterious, and I don't know in what way. And that's what's great about it."

Besides being a sort of reminiscence for the performers, Bishop and Oliphant see the event as a potential history lesson for the current generation of experimentalists in today's Phoenix underground. For over 30 years, a handful of musicians have been making challenging sounds "right in your backyard."

The unexpected nature of experimental music and performance is what attracted Bishop and Oliphant to art in the first place, and they hope the same holds true for their audience.

As Bishop contemplates the show's possibilities, he comes to a hopeful conclusion: "Maybe by the weekend we'll have more of a clue [what the show will be like]...It's an open book, but it could literally be the best show ever in Phoenix. It's totally possible!"

And how will you know without showing up?

Sir Richard Bishop and W. David Oliphant perform with Joe Willie Smith this Saturday, August 9 at the Icehouse in downtown Phoenix. Tickets are $10 at the door, and complete information is available at the official Facebook event page.

Find any show in Metro Phoenix via our extensive online concert calendar.

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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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