Ton of fun
Le Ton Mité sees the vibrant colors and broken tones of the present
What the hell’s a Zicmuse?
“Zicmuse stands as the progenitor of what is happening now. I aim to unify disciplines: graphic design, music, literature and fashion. I offer a lifestyle consciousness that captures the present and assists people, like you, in displaying your contact with today.”
That third/first-person definition comes straight from the mission statement of Zicmuse himself. That would be McCloud Zicmuse, the Olympia, Wash. artist who makes music and clothing, prints posters and business cards and loves color as much as Vincent Van Gogh. In a recent interview for New York Magazine, he went so far as to say, “I find color to be the most satisfying thing on earth. Not better than sex, but a great complement.”
Under the moniker of Le Ton Mité ("the moth-eaten tone") Zicmuse plays a spiky, off-kilter brand of folk music that manages to be both experimental and intimate. He has a new CD, Tickets to Real Imaginary Places, on a couple of French labels, and has just finished a tour of the East Coast with the Bay Area’s Deerhoof. He’s now touring with French act L’Ocelle Mare, and in anticipation of his the upcoming Chico show we had a few questions for the colorful aesthete.
Where are you from originally?
Le Ton Mité started as a cassette tape in 1998 in Little Rock, Ark. It grew into a band in 2001 in Olympia, Wash., and started touring in 2004.
Besides the music and tour, what are you working on now?
I am working on a DVD compilation of my Super 8 films with soundtracks by various artists, an installation of artwork at the Department of Safety, in Anacortes, Wash., and am constantly working on making the future.
You describe your music as “songs you wish you heard as a child.” Can you explain?
I think I should change it to read, “songs I hear.” They are not fantasies, they are simple songs about real experiences. Or, better yet, “."The word “broken” comes up a lot regarding your stuff (broken music, broken folk).
In what ways is your music broken?
It is not pop. The notes are not always “right.” It defies easy explanation and therefore is broken. I think it is easier for people to have an emotional experience (good bad, etc.) than it is to succinctly define what is going on. It is a band with only one visible member and many invisible ones. Plus, if the old adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is true, I am constantly fixing, reworking, making variations and revising the music and the band. Therefore it must be broken.
Your dad makes your guitars—can you tell me about them?
They are unique, simple creations, made with natural woods. They are my good friends, and sound more like pianos than guitars. The guitars and I have a fairly good relationship. I keep them in tune and they keep me in line.
The ideas behind your art: illuminating and connecting with the present, etc. Do you think people are getting it? Have you seen people being affected by what you put out there? How so?
I think that people who witness Le Ton Mité experience a communal connection to the moment, to the point that they forget they are at a rock show. I feel that I am lucky to have the experiences I am blessed with every day, and that to share these is very important. I have seen people strongly affected by Le Ton Mité shows. People who listen to Le Ton Mité range from 13 to 73 years old, so reactions range from, “you are funny and awesome” to “your music has opened up new paths of thought in my mind that I did not think were possible.”
It is interesting to balance musicality and performance. Le Ton Mité says, “Relax, we are all in this together.” I think the biggest secret is that the audience is part of the band. In Boston, I sang an improvised duet with an audience member, “you make circles in the sky.” The crowd was very loud, but the people who were there with Le Ton Mité were there together and we made a memorable experience and by the end brought in the rest of the crowd for the ride.
What would be your ideal fantasy project that would bring together all of your ideas, ideals and disciplines into one huge experience?
Something like a bookmobile. A traveling environmental experience: A zicmobile, or a planet like Titan but warmer.
Tell me about what is happening today?
I just spent a week touring with Deerhoof on the East Coast, I enjoyed the company of friends and making new ones, so today, I am recuperating and running errands in preparation for the West Coast tour that starts tomorrow. I am thinking of L’Ocelle Mare performing at the First Unitarian Church in Philadelphia, the camaraderie of Martha and Anne in the van over there, and happy to have shared a home cooked breakfast this morning