GULL

11 May

GULL

“This Bird Has Flown”

by Ryan Muldoon

“Civic pride” would be perhaps the most unlikely emotion I expected to feel at Austin Psych Fest, but leave it to Richmond, VA’s own Gull to take you on a trek towards the unlikely. One man plus one guitar plus one drumstick plus one homemade mask wired with a microphone equals one captivated crowd in Austin. What a joy to see a crowd transfixed by the immediate and otherworldly sounds of Gull – and to be able to crow, “Yeah, he’s from my hometown! Richmond in a weird place, I’m tellin’ ya’!” to anyone unfortunate enough to be within earshot.

Listen: I’ve seen Cannibal Corpse live and I’ve seen Peaches live, but I’ve never been so unnerved as the first time I saw Gull live, playing on the street in Richmond, all tribal space rhythms and voodoo chants and trilling, thrilling guitar manipulation. I was scared. My younger son danced. A moment later, Gull had my son wearing the mask, and they squawked and rocked in unison.

We should all be so lucky.

The combined history of the one-man-band for even the most discerning listeners may begin with Dick Van Dyke in “Mary Poppins” and end with Captured By Robots. How did the evolution to the single-heart sound play out for Gull?

I was born one, I will leave one … to become no one.

 

Gull in the day time ...

 

What is your own personal musical history? What albums or events had the most impact on you growing up? What can you tell us about other projects, past or present, you’ve played in aside from Gull?

My brother was a huge influence … he fed me Bad Brains and Faith No More. I have a strong memory of being 9 years old and skating in a parking lot with my brother while “Woodpecker from Mars” blasted out of his car. Mike Oldfield probably caught my ear before anything though – the “Piltdown Man” in “Tubular Bells” scared the hell out of me as a kid … but I always wanted more (thanks, Dad!). Also, Yogi Yorgesson’s “I Yust Go Nuts at Christmas,” a Swedish-American staple (thanks, Mom!).

I have been playing in Snack Truck and Ultra Dolphins for the better part of 10 years. I had a band called Bucksnort in high school … I played “funnybass” and unintentionally did my best to make my future me laugh.

At least here in Richmond, I think you’re often best known for your street performances. What is the most common reaction you receive when playing on the street? What is the most uncommon reaction?

Death threats are most uncommon, but death thoughts are probably pretty common.

Similarly, I know you have done more than your fair share of touring as Gull. Can you summarize the reaction you usually receive when playing for the first time in a new town? The crowd at this year’s Austin Psych Fest seemed fully enthralled by your performance.

“Hey! This guy thinks he can fly!”

Why “Gull”? What’s the fascination?

My father is an ornithologist. My mother is a pheasant. I am their gullible son.

Aside from the degree of novelty and dexterity one experiences watching Gull, there’s also the matter of the microphone-assisted facemask. What drove you to this idea? How many masks are there? Ignoring for a moment the connection to a very popular movie from last year, do you feel like you’re an avatar for … something else … when you’re performing as Gull? Is there a spiritual dimension to wearing the mask, or do you view it perhaps as pure showmanship?

Functionality is the birth of necessity which is the birth of the afterbirth of invention. There has been one main mask (a skull), which has been substituted by a feathered mask once. The skull mask was at one time made out of papier-mâché, but now it is mostly cardboard and hot glue. Also, skull is very close to gull in how it is pronounced … sgull!

There is something ritualistic about wearing the mask. Donning it helps me to get into a particular state of being, which I would say is spiritual for me and showmanship-py for those who are watching.

 

Gull in the night time ...

 

Between you, Gwar, and Richmond Lucha Libre, why is Richmond so afraid to show its face? Is it because of Gov. Bob McDonnell?

I think we just follow the leader … the master minstrel (Boob McDonnell) and his minions.

What music have you been listening to lately? What inspires you to make music today?

Telepathik Friend, Angelo Badalamenti, Kate Bush, Afreaka!, Roky Erickson, The Budos Band, Captain Beefheart, James Brown, Joseph Spence, my friends, the great salt expanse, Ernest Shackleton, National Geographic, David Attenborough, Tibetan funerals, strong women, John and Bonnie Rappole, and my dog, Ramona.

What’s next for Gull?

Life into death. The sky is not the limit.

Gull – http://www.myspace.com/gullface

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