Dwayne ‘MonoNeon’ Thomas Jr. is the kind of musician, bassist and, frankly, person that doesn’t come along very often.
First and foremost, MonoNeon has undisputed bass chops. As I touched on with a short How I Play segment with Dwayne, he’s currently involved in a number of musical projects from hip hop to the avant-garde with some of music’s most interesting figures including Georgia Anne Muldrow and David Fiuczynski. In recent years, MonoNeon has taken to YouTube to blend his vision of sight and sound; to be heard and seen and to be taken in as a walking, talking work of art.
To describe what and who MonoNeon is must be done with care. To simply write off his clothes and delivery of YouTube play alongs and original compositions as strange is doing a gross disservice.
To Dwayne, the visual arts and the notion of seeing as well as hearing are paramount to the very notion of art and to who he is as a musician and creator.
To show his dedication to the craft, he’s developed his own artistic manifesto. Anyone whose seen a MonoNeon video on YouTube has seen it:
A series of bullet points that tell you the viewer everything you need to know about MonoNeon that are used to bookend each of his videos. And it’s not like these parts come up, stay on screen for 2 seconds and then cut to black. This manifesto is on the page for a good 30 seconds– more than enough time for the reader to thoroughly read through it and at the very least skim through it.
Moreover, it’s not like Dwayne is shy about sharing his vision with others. Below is the rhyme and reason to Dwayne ‘MonoNeon’ Thomas Jr. Why he dresses the way he does. Why he has the sock on his headstock. Where he gets his ideas and so much more.
Dedication and commitment to make sure the reader understand’s Dwayne’s artistic vision and driving ideas is important to him. Otherwise, why put it up at the end of each of his videos? Why go through great lengths to put his vision up in places (including Smart Bass as of now) where people can see it, draw from it, understand it and maybe even develop one for themselves.
Below is the rhyme and reason behind MonoNeon. To stay true to the artistic undertone and the particularities of the MonoNeon idea and person, I left all the formatting in place. I have not personally edited this, merely dropped it in place as is for everyone to see and read for themselves.
– – –
“Well since I can’t paint or draw… I had to find a way to express my fascination for avant-garde visual arts. I wanted to sound and even look like a painting by Ellsworth Kelly or a sculpture by Anne Truitt.” –MonoNeon
How Do You Find Inspiration From Visual Arts?:
Sometimes I force myself to find inspiration from visual arts because I know it’s there. There is a sound in Franz Kline’s paintings, a sound in Claes Oldenburg’s sculptures… I want that!
The attempt of wanting to sound like these things is the most important part for me.
What is “MonoNeon”?:
It’s about having identity but also keeping oneself shapeless and formless.
MonoNeon (formerly PolyNeon) was created from a sudden revelation of what I wanted to do.
It happened when I stopped thinking about becoming or being a great musician, the idea of a great musician was overwhelming for me… so I had to refrain from it.
What made you get into visual arts as a musician to find inspiration?:
It all goes back to discovering John Cage, which lead me to Marcel Duchamp.
Duchamp is the guy that inspired my “Ready-Made-Bass” idea (the sock, pseudonym taped on the bass, etc). I took a visual cue from Marcel Duchamp and moved with it.
What are some the art movements that inspire you the most?:
Dadaism, Fluxus, Color-Field, Minimalism, and Neon light installations.
The reason I love Dada and Fluxus is because of the playful anarchy and subversiness.
I want to have a little provocative quality in my playing, Dada and Fluxus somewhat helps with that. Minimalism is something I got into because it is always around me, so I started reading about it to get familiar with the gestures in minimalism art. Justin Adian’s and Sol LeWitt’s minimalism sculptures are some of my favorites. Neon light installations by Dan Flavin, James Turrell and Joseph Kosuth really gets me excited… Lol!! Neon light installations just makes me want to play my bass, I really want to sound like that stuff.
Have you thought about creating your own art movement?:
Yep! It would probably be some high-visibility, found art stuff. I have to get my mind right to create something like that and be serious about it.
MonoNeon’s art manifesto… how did that come about?:
I don’t like to talk… so the art manifesto was my way of showing my intentions for the MonoNeon aesthetic. Also the manifestos from Dadaism, Fluxus, and Luigi Russolo’s “Art of Noises” manifesto inspired mines. I have two manifestos but usually only use the first one.