Sounds Like: Syd Barrett's freewheeling poetry teamed with the guitar strangle of Eugene Chadbourne or Derek Bailey
For Fans of: Captain Beefheart, the Incredible String Band, James Blood Ulmer
Why You Should Pay Attention: The 33-year-old Newcastle avant-troubadour has made one of the most unique singer-songwriter records in recent memory with the abrasive, vivid Nothing Important. He worked at U.K. record stores for 10 years, so his ill-angled folk is partially a music geek explosion — in describing why he likes his guitar slightly out of tune, he quickly references jazz great Thelonious Monk, revered Bahaman guitarist Joseph Spence, microtone alchemist Harry Partch and Japanese "post-minimalist" composer Mamoru Fujieda. He claims his broken, lo-fi sound was mainly inspired by a CD by Kenyan fingerpicker Henry Makobi. "He basically was recorded in a hotel room all in one go, and he would put coins in his guitar," says Dawson. "So, the thing would buzz and rattle and just kind of quiver, and you can hear these coins sloughing about and people coming and going in the room, and I was just really entranced by that." But a lot of Dawson's distinctive sound comes from, well, less cerebral measures. "I got a pretty cheap guitar, and then I stood on it once in my old house by accident," he says. "Then my pal Nev Clay…he trod on the guitar again and really finished it off…Then this guy came and fixed it. It's a pretty unique, crappy instrument now."
He Says: "I want things to be truthful; but sometimes if, say, if it was a cut, I might exaggerate it to be a really nasty gash. Or, if somebody was just having a little bit of a kiss in a doorway, I might turn that into full-blown, just filthy animal sex in a cave somewhere. The idea of accuracy is really faulty anyways. It's an illusion of things being crisp, especially when you talk about memory. The idea that there's one way that things are is wrong. So, I feel OK to play fast and free with my own experiences, because I can't be sure that my memory of them is correct anyway."
Hear for Yourself: Nothing Important's 16-minute epic "The Vile Stuff" (here shortened to 11) details some booze turning a school trip into a parade of mishaps. By Christopher R. Weingarten