11 Songs, 51 Minutes

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About That 1 Guy

As the one-man band known as That 1 Guy, Mike Silverman plays an instrument of his own invention, which he calls "the magic pipe." After growing frustrated with other instruments, he designed it over the course of a month spent haunting hardware stores, collecting odd lengths of pipe and tools with the manic fervor of Richard Dreyfuss' character in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Despite never having designed or built an instrument before, at the end of the process he had created something that was surprisingly tuneful, despite resembling a cross between a harp, a bass, a set of bathroom pipes, and drug paraphernalia. Two strings of differing pitches are attached to the pipes, one set firmly grounded and the other able to be maneuvered as it is played. Trigger points all over the piping play prerecorded samples when struck. There's also an electric saw, and a kick drum made from a cowboy boot is attached to the bottom. The effect is something like a washtub bass redesigned by Terry Gilliam and Tom Waits. Also, as the high point of his live show, smoke blows out of the top.

Silverman was originally a classically trained double bass player who had been a member of a California jazz band called the Fabulous Hedgehogs. Realizing that the small fees they were being paid for their performances would stretch further if he didn't have to share them, he booked a show on his own and asked to be billed as just That 1 Guy. At the time he was growing frustrated with the traditional style of double bass playing and took to setting up drums and drum machines that he could kick while he played and removing all but one of his bass strings, playing the instrument like another piece of percussion. Still dissatisfied with the sound he was getting, he began dreaming of "the magic pipe."

The bizarre instrument, the skill with which he played it, and the humor he brought to his performances earned Silverman enough accolades to come to the attention of Ani DiFranco, who signed him to her Righteous Babe label in 2004. That year he re-released his debut album, Songs in the Key of Beotch, through the label -- it had previously been available through his website, where it had sold thousands of copies.

Engineer Karl Derfler recommended that Silverman play musical saw on two tracks of Tom Waits' Orphans, but he ended up playing bass on them instead. Derfler then agreed to record Silverman's second That 1 Guy album, The Moon Is Disgusting. Released in 2007, it was a concept album based on an idea for an animated film Silverman had, exploring the entirety of human evolution. That year he also released a live DVD filmed in Australia, where he enjoyed a dedicated cult following. ~ Jody Macgregor

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