There’s something to be said about people who are not afraid to take creative risks and own them. Good, bad or otherwise, without people out there pushing the creative envelope it begs the question – where would we be?
Whether those risks are musical, artistic, social or otherwise, each
Enter Dwayne ‘MonoNeon’ Thomas Jr.
Combining visual art and music together have been MonoNeon’s game since he first started putting his music on YouTube. On a mission to be seen as well as heard, MonoNeon has built a reputation for his style and artistic expression well as for his undeniably funky, soulful bass chops.
A self-taught bass player and former student of the Berklee College of Music, Thomas has made a huge splash in the world of visual art and bass playing. A quick tour of his YouTube channel will find a hooded Thomas with his unmistakeable right-handed-bass-turned-upside-down bass guitar sitting bedside presenting listeners a massive array of covers from The Bar-Kays to video game music play alongs. to original compositions with guest musicians featured split-screen.
I had a chance to invite MonoNeon to participate in the How I Play series. Here’s what MonoNeon has been up to musically, the inspiration for his style choices and where he plans to go from here.
1. Where are you currently located?
2. What’s your current gig?
Latest released music: “Neon Eggs & Ham” song with Kriswontwo and Jerome Flood (drummer for August Alsina) and an EP titled “John Cage On Soul Train” with microtonal guitarist/composer, Michael Vick. I’ve also been playing bass on Georgia Anne Muldrow’s latest Rap EP entitled, “Ms. One”
3. What is one word that describes your playing?
The idea of wanting to sound like John Cage and Albert King all together or even wanting to sound like Frank Stella and Mark Rothko is inspiration for me. I have a vague way of thinking about things, but it always leads to something that gets me excited about playing my instrument.
4. What is your favorite piece of gear at the moment?
My quarter-tone/microtonal bass built by Tim Cloonan of Callowhill Guitars.
4.5. Why the sock on your bass?
It was inspired by Marcel Duchamp’s readymade art works.
5. What is one thing you could not live without?
High-visibility clothing/accessories. Anything neon. Paracord bracelets. Chillin’ with my grandma drinking beer and eating Jack Pirtle’s.
6. What is your practice space like?
Twin-size bed, bass, and a MacBook Pro.
7. What album are you currently listening to?
“Claudine” soundtrack album by Gladys Knight & Pips and Curtis Mayfield and listening to anything by Frank Zappa.
8. What book are you currently reading?
“What Nerve!” (Alternative Figures in American Art 1960 to the Present) by Dan Nadel or any avant-garde visual art book. Books about Dadaism are in there, too.
9. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
“There is no need to prove them wrong or right…. just play!” – MonoNeon
10. Why did you begin posting videos of yourself playing bass on social media?
The reason I started posting videos of myself playing on YouTube and other social media was because I simply wanted to be heard and seen. I wanted people to be aware of me and I was not concerned if they liked it or not. I wanted viewers and listeners to be aware of me, at least. It was important for me to have concepts included with my playing, not just wanting to sound good.
When I started posting videos, I knew I couldn’t just post videos of me playing my bass. It was important for me to have concepts included with my playing and the video capture that. The idea is what I focus on. I didn’t want to focus as much on playing proficiency on my instrument.
Rather, I wanted people to hear and see an orbit of my sensibilities: the Avant-Garde/Microtonal/Gospel/
Right now I rather attempt to have a intense idea and put that into effect instead of having superb musicianship.
Check out MonoNeon playing a song by composer BRAVO (Aaron Donte’) below and be sure to subscribe to his channel.
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