Talking Collaboration and Live Shows with Dominic Minix
Dominic Minix is a New Orleans based musician. Since the young age of 13 music has been an influence on his life. As a student at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts he was able to study jazz and cultivate his unique sound and focus it on guitar, piano, and vocal performance. No longer a student, Dominic has been able to apply the improvisation of jazz into other genres ranging from math rock to hip hop.
Minix has been playing with a quartet, Yung Vul (a.k.a The Dominic Minix Quartet), for four years. Dominic along with Michael Scott (drums), Xavier Molina (trumpet), and Nic Lefebvre (bass) have brought their improvised sound to a new arena at the Ace Hotel in New Orleans. The quartet hosts a monthly residency at the Hotel's Three Keys venue. Curated by Minix, there is a new guest musician every month that joins the quartet for a completely new collaboration each show. The series, started by Minix and Jocelyne Ninneman of Pont Productions, has hosted a diverse catalog of guest artists including AF the Naysayer, Froyo Ma, Baron Ahmon, Cliff Hines, and Quinten Corvette.
Minix was able to talk with us about this unique series and the experience of creating a new collaboration each month.
How did the Clashback Series come about?
We played at Ace Hotel for the first time in August 2016. It was a really fun show and a cool venue! After the show Jocelyne [Ninneman] approached me with the idea to do Clashback as an opportunity to create all the weird collaborations I had been planning. We started Clashback the very next month in September. It was a quick start and every month is a whirlwind of rehearsal and rearranging music but it’s exciting working with such great artists.
The series often has a different guest for each show. How do you plan your set list knowing there will be a new guest there?
Any engaging performance has a beginning, middle, and ending so for the Quartet the challenge is to make room for everyone to improvise within that structure. Clashback is essentially the Quartet featuring a special guest so I design each Yung Vul/Clashback show with an arch in mind to engage listeners as well as give every artist enough space for their individual sounds. So the design of Clashback is no different. We may sound a little different but the dynamic arc of the set is consistent.
Do you create new music with the guest of allow them to add to a current Yung Vul song?
New and different music every month! I start by meeting with the guest artist and going through their catalog to choose the bests songs for a live set. We then rehearse with our guest and kind of purposely mess up their music. YV likes to reinterpret the music in our own way so the guest set sounds different from their original recordings. These collaborations happen very quickly and most rehearsal time is devoted to arranging the material of the guest artist. As far as new Young Vul music, the quartet has developed our chemistry to the point where little rehearsal time is required for new originals. In light of that we usually perform our own set without the guest then call the guest up for their tunes.
What are some of the challenges you have faced with basically planning a new show every month?
Managing all aspects of the event is the challenge. Between reaching out to guest artists, negotiations with Ace, organizing rehearsal time, promoting the event, being musical director for the event, and writing new music each month there’s a lot to manage. It makes every month very unpredictable and a rush actually. I get off the bandstand with shaking hands from all the nerves that are released in performance. Me and my band call Clashback ego battle. On the inaugural Clashback New Orleans bounce legend, Cheeky Blakk, randomly sat in with the band and that kind of unpredictable chaos set the tone for the series moving forward.
Outside of having a new guest every show, what do you do to keep each show unique in order to bring fans back every month?
The goal is to make challenging music. Not only do we want to challenge ourselves but also the audience. In that way every month is different from the last. I’m always working on new music of my own so I bring it to the band every month to keep the quartet set fresh. Clashback has been a great opportunity to experiment and develop our live sets. Last month I added a cover of [Bob] Dylan’s “Buckets of Rain,” the month before I added a DC hardcore reinterpretation of the Allen Toussaint song “There Should Be a Book.” I love unlikely stylistic combinations like Bad Brains and Allen Toussaint because the conventional school of thinking would assume that the two wouldn’t work together but the lineage of rock and roll and Black American Music starts in New Orleans. We give listeners unusual combinations to keep the show from being predictable.
What have been some highlights of the Clashback Series?
Cheeky Blakk sitting in was a lot of fun because the show was out of control. She came up started rapping on our angry song “I NO ONE” which is a great vehicle for rappers to do their thing. I let her go for a long time and in the middle of her performance she asked if we knew “Sweet Thing” but we didn’t and I had to scream lyrics over her to get us through the song.
We played a really fun Halloween show with AF the Naysayer! We were in costume as Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and two sheep. We couldn’t make it through the first song with the masks on because we couldn’t make eye contact. But we closed the set with AF’s song “Macro Sky” which was very different for us but it put everyone in a dancing trance, including the band.
You recently released a new album, Cannonball Adderall. How did the Clashback series influence this album? Were any of the musicians you collaborated with for shows on the album?
I would actually say that that everything up to the process of making Cannonball Adderall prepared me and the band for Clashback rather than one influencing the other. We recorded Cannonball Adderall in May 2016 after I got off an international tour with Christian Scott. Between working closely with him and building a sound with my own band I have become comfortable creating in a collaborative context that simultaneously makes space for individuality. Before the Clashback started in September 2016 YV had already had a reputation for collaboration. The quartet works with artist/frtiends like Froyo Ma and Baron Ahmon (who has a verse on “I No One” from Cannonball Adderall). Our collaborative streak preceded the Clashback.
What is on the horizon for Yung Vul in 2017?
In February I’m taking a trip to Paris to start to make a place for Yung Vul out there. One goal of 2017 is to get international! We’ll record more music too as we build the Clashback with more new artists.