What if Mr. Bungle, the Flaming Lips, the Bad Brains and Ornette Coleman started a band together? They might sound a little like the Hairy Apes BMX, a band with as many playing styles and influences as can fit on a stage.
Hairy Apes BMX started as a side project in the late 90s, bringing together musicians from bands such as Les Claypool's Frog Brigade, Karl Denson's Tiny Universe and Mister Resistor.
"We decided to make this about everyone's studies," percussionist Mike Dillon said. "We all study different kinds of music, and we are all in a lot of different bands.
"We have a jazz attitude. A lot of my heroes (like Thelonius Monk) were just playing all the time, and that's why they came up with such great music."
Dillon and the other members of the band socialize with a circle of musicians that is always picking up new instruments and exploring new styles of music but are still able to maintain a sense of humor and clown around on stage.
"We goof off on stage, but we are also really conscious of good musicianship," Dillon said.
The BMX in the band's name, Dillon said, stands for "Butt Moving eXperience."
"We encourage the butts to get moving," he said. "We've even been known to march around the room with marching band cymbals to get people out of their chairs."
Their list of songs includes several political songs such as "No Guerra," a Latin beat, anti-war song and "Redneck Julius Caesar."
"You know who that's about," Dillon said.
Dillon is a big fan of late-night radio rant man Art Bell. A hint of Bell's funny and paranoid diatribes can be heard in some of the more political songs.
Hairy Apes BMX recorded its last record, "Beautiful Seizure," during the buildup to the war in Iraq.
"We wanted to let our opinion be known," Dillon said. "What's up with this situation? Fear leads us into greed.
"That's the thing about being and ape."
Their first album cover featured a picture of an ape in a suit; a not-so-veiled reference to what the band is all about.
The nonpolitical music dwells on lighter subjects. The song, "Tofu and Thai Food," is a tribute to the food the band eats on the road.
And the song "Hearing Aid," also on the "Beautiful Seizure" album, is about the "joys of going deaf and the impending fate of being a musician," Dillon said. "We were just making fun of ourselves."
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