Droogs of Eidetia
Heavy metal. Jazz. For many casual music fans, those two terms conjure up very different concepts. Jazz is now widely considered a brunch-time affair—soft, unobtrusive melodies to be enjoyed in the background with a mimosa and an overpriced omelet. Metal, meanwhile, is the music blasted out of pick-up trucks driven out to the middle of the desert, as the drivers enjoy drinking beer, smoking pot and possibly sacrificing virgins.
So it’s easy to forget that there are varieties of jazz as thrillingly abrasive and avant garde as obscure, Scandinavian black metal. And there are styles of metal as musically sophisticated and intellectually compelling as the large-scale experiments of the free jazz movement.
Droogs of Eidetia play a thrilling breed of music that perfectly splits the difference between metal and jazz.
There have been other musicians to blend metal and jazz—notably New York’s downtown maestro John Zorn—but a lot of the early experimentations in blending styles resulted in hybrid monstrosities, like musical basilisks, with a head of jazz, a body of metal and a tail of pure white noise. A thrilling beast, to be sure, but disjointed—alternating measures of one style after another demonstrate some musical affinity, but really serve to accentuate the differences.
With the Droogs, the blend of jazz and metal feels natural and organic. Stuff that should strike the listener as bizarre comes across as perfectly reasonable—it’s cutting edge music played so that it sounds traditional. For these guys, there is no divide between metal and jazz. It’s one music.
The Droogs of Editiea is a group of four Reno musicians so insanely prolific that their eclectic and seemingly contradictory resumes would easily run for the length of this article: Ryan Parrish on saxophones, Ryan Hall on guitar, Mike Mayhall on upright bass and Mike Lockwood on drums. Two Ryans, two Mikes. Drummer Lockwood has been out of town for the summer, so the group has been performing as a trio.
The band name combines A Clockwork Orange slang for a street gang with a fictional land inhabited by the eidetic—people with total recall, photographic memories or, as is seemingly the case with these musicians, an unerring ability to remember and replicate sounds.
For the musicians, all of whom also compose, the Droogs offers up a unique opportunity. Years before the group had even formed, Hall had written a batch of tunes intended for the group’s instrumentation: baritone sax, upright bass, drums and guitar.
“I like the evil beauty of that combination,” says Hall. “It can be very harsh but still very pleasing to the ear.”
“With this group,” says Hall, “we’re performing stuff that we write but can’t play with any other group.”
The group plays a lot of what might be called “hard listening"—as opposed to the “easy” variety—fast, heavy-hitting tunes based on exotic scales and complex rhythms. It’s the kind of stuff that would drive you crazy if you were to try to ignore it, but is a blast if you pay close attention. And even without the drummer and with an undistorted guitar tone, the music has a dark timbre that resonates with the brooding intensity of the best metal.
In the end, the Droogs of Eidetia works best because far-out jazz and heavy metal really have the same end goal: a complete and total mindfuck.