100 Creatives 2012: Damon Smith

Categories: 100 Creatives

Damon Smith
Damon Smith expected to enjoy Houston when he moved here in August 2010, but not this much.

The Bay Area transplant -- an internationally established double bass player, who has shared a stage with Peter Brötzmann, Cecil Taylor and Alvin Fielder -- is also a visual artist, arts scholar and serious collector of rare art books. Since moving to Texas, he's become an ambassador of all things Houston, ranging from its museums and galleries to the improvised music and food.

Smith, who often blows minds with his knowledge of jazz and contemporary art, has a duo project with fellow 100 Creative Sandy Ewen and frequently plays gigs with David Dove, whose Nameless Sound won a Mastermind Award in 2011.

GlueBox by Damon Smith and Daniel Healey
What he does: Just about everything -- ranging from photography and collage to drawing and painting -- but "music gets the most attention and formal study," says Smith, who oftentimes incorporates field recordings or video work into his double bass presentations.

Why he likes it: In Smith's words, "For the most part, it's more of a compulsion, but I love the way the double bass feels when I'm playing, the resonance, the feeling of the horsehair against strings, the vibration coming through my fingers. I hope I can sometimes get beyond what I am drawn to aesthetically to do something that feels like it needs to happen instead.

"I also really like the collaborative aspect of improvised music -- you have to have flexible material that allows other people's material to speak while still being able to stand on its own. The same sounds are always different."

What inspires him? If he had to narrow it down to three, it would be Cy Twombly, Peter Kowald and Thomas Bernhard. Bigger-picture influences include European improvised music, free jazz, modern and contemporary visual art, art history and some fiction and poetry.

Additionally, his present life in Houston -- "adventure eating (H-town strEATs!), the Menil and the musicians I play with" -- gets him going.

If not this, then what: An architect or tuba player.

If not here, then where: Somewhere in Europe, like Berlin or Vienna, where he has spent time playing music. Says Smith, "I'd like some arts funding with my fascism!"

What's next: Short term, Smith plans to tour and document his work with Houston musicians. "A recent trio album with Sandy Ewen and Weasel Walter is a good step in this direction," says Smith in reference to a March release of the trio's music on ugEXPLODE.

"Long term," adds Smith, "I'm trying to get more sounds and material from the double bass and with other musicians and artists."

More Creatives for 2012
(In order of most recently published; click here for the full page).

Geoff Winningham, photographer

Johnathon Michael Espinoza, visual artist

Jaemi Blair Loeb, conductor

Katya Horner, photographer
Johnathan Felton, artist

Nicoletta Maranos, cosplayer

Carol Simmons, hair stylist
Joseph "JoeP" Palmore, actor, poet
Greg Carter, director
Kenn McLaughlin, theater director
Justin Whitney, musician
Antone Pham, tattoo artist

Susie Silbert, crafts

Lauralee Capelo, hair designer
Marisol Monasterio, flamenco dancer
Carmina Bell, promoter and DJ

ReShonda Tate Billingsley, writer

Kiki Lucas, choreographer and director
J.J. Johnston, theater director
Mary Margaret Hansen, artist
Richard Tallent, photographer
Viswa Subbaraman, opera director
Emily Sloan, sculptor and performance artist
Sonja Roesch, gallery owner
Enrique Carreón-Robledo, conductor
Sandy Ewen, musician
Camella Clements, puppeteer

Wade Wilson, gallery owner

Magid Salmi, photographer
Carl Williams, playwright

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