Music » Interview

Feelin' Fine

Here’s the condition one-man band This Is My Condition’s been in.

by

comment
At first, Lawrence musician Craig Comstock called his one-man band Untune the Sky.

"I thought it was just such a beautiful phrase," he says wistfully.

Wistfully, indeed, because a few weeks later, the musician buddy who'd offhandedly thought up the moniker in a late-night bullshit session demanded it back.

"I thought he just tossed it out there, but I guess he had other plans for it," Comstock says with a shake of his head.

For a while after that, Comstock used his own last name as a handle — think Van Halen or Bon Jovi — but decided that it was too '80s. That's when Comstock, in a moment of existential clarity, realized what he had to call his gig.

This Is My Condition was born.

"It's perfect because no matter what I play or when, it always applies to my, uh, current condition," Comstock says.

For now, anyway, it's a condition very much worth having.

This Is My Condition (TIMC for short) is a startlingly innovative one-man act in which Comstock plays drums and a guitar (the instrument is laid horizontally across a snare drum) while bellowing into a small microphone. TIMC roams freely and gleefully between unstructured, semi-melodic improvisation and heavy, rhythmically intense sequences. Combined, it's a torrent of sound and distortion more formidable — and more interesting — than some of the work produced by whole bands.

Comstock, however, didn't start out making noise-rock. He's a student of music in the most eclectic way. "Genre is sort of meaningless to me," he says. A peek at the records resting on his table corroborates: His most recently played LPs include a Johnny Cash collection; a King Tubby set; and albums by Wolf Eyes, P-Funk and the Pretenders.

But Comstock has more than theory and some vinyl.

After graduating from the University of Kansas with a degree in music in 1988, he played in a variety of more traditional hard-rock bands, including Black Calvin. Then, a few years ago, Comstock abruptly tired of writing songs and, at about the same time, saw the movie Scratch, a film about DJing. Inspired by DJ Crush and his beat-juggling skills, Comstock bought the fanciest record player he couldn't afford. Next, he bought an armful of classical vinyl — Stravinsky, Bartok, Monteverdi — and began experimenting, juggling beats and looping particularly curious passages using another tool he'd just picked up: an echo pedal, which allowed him to loop the best of Bach endlessly.

Comstock eventually decided against using any prerecorded beats in TIMC, favoring raw-edged improvisation.

"A lot of times, I just work the ideas out on the spot," Comstock says. "Process is very important to me. I'm strict about not using anything that's prerecorded, and I never use computers to compose."

That might sound funny coming from Comstock, who is a software engineer by day. But his regimented, fussy approach extends to every detail. TIMC's first album, for example — 14 tracks of strafing, mind-bending music — will be released only on vinyl.

Still, the best way to understand TIMC is to witness Comstock in action. His shows are a whirl of arms and sticks and elbows as he pounds on several drums and shouts or sings into the microphone, all while interjecting guitar melodies and riffs created by rubbing, scraping and sliding a drumstick against the guitar strings.

It's this visual aspect that inspired Comstock to put together a DVD (with the help of local wizards at Unresort.com), patching together footage from several area performances. The DVD, which precedes his upcoming album, is packaged in cardboard cut from old Bee Gees album sleeves.

Despite his nitpicky style, Comstock says his motivation and goals for TIMC come down to a pretty simple fact: "I just want to make music I can enjoy," he says. It has taken time — 10 to 15 hours of practice a week — to build the performance stamina and creative confidence necessary for reaching that somewhat straightforward goal.

And though some critics (people who, Comstock says, usually haven't seen him play) question whether what TIMC is doing is actually music, Comstock says he doesn't really care. After all, he plays drums, guitar and sings — simultaneously.

"It's a little different," he says with a shrug. "And I'm OK with that."

Comstock is a little different himself.

But that's just his condition.

Add a comment