When you live and breathe music like classically trained bassist Mike Silverman, it can be hard finding others to play with who are as obsessive.
After a while, he quit trying. “I got kind of frustrated working with people,” said the Las Vegas-based Silverman. “It felt like if I was by myself, I could work at my own pace … I could push it as hard as I wanted, or pull back and relax as soon as I needed to.”
He did more than strike out as a solo musician, however. Still wanting the full sound a band offered, he decided he’d just perform all the parts himself, playing as That 1 Guy. In the 10 years since, he’s relished the independence, freedom and lower overhead the funky, spastic project offered him, despite occasional loneliness.
“It’s nice to collaborate with other musicians and find inspiration through them,” Silverman said.
“Sharing ideas and exchanging energy is probably the coolest part about the experience of playing music, and that’s something you have to learn to simulate by yourself. It can be really hard, and something I do miss.”
Collaborations with Buckethead and Tom Waits have stymied some of that feeling, and the rest he has fought to replicate with his Magic Pipe, Magic Boot and Magic Saw. All three instruments are Frankensteinesque creations he forged from plumbing parts, bass strings, electronics and more.
“When I’m building and design ing, it’s a very haphazard process.
I just start banging away, working until it’s done. For me to call myself an engineer, I wouldn’t do that,” Silverman said. “My process is such a mess, real engineers wouldn’t let me.”
The 7-foot Magic Pipe is his main weapon of choice in creating a near-impossibly eclectic mix of lighthearted tunes that recall anything from Rush and Frank Zappa to his favorite, Captain Beefheart. That 1 Guy has released several studio albums, including his latest, 2010’s “Packs a Wallop!” It’s easy for the music to get lost in the wacky, sideshow nature of the gangly instruments and unusual playing techniques, but it’s something Silverman came to terms with long ago.
“The instruments and playing them by myself does overshadow the music,” he said. “I used to worry a lot. I always wanted to prove myself and prove my worth as a musician and songwriter, but you can’t control how people appreciate music and art. I know where my heart is at, and I just focus on doing the best I can. At the end of the day, you are just honest with what you do.”