David Thomas (musician) : biography
David Lynn Thomas (born 1953 in Miami, Florida) is an American singer, songwriter, and musician.
He was one of the founding members of the short-lived protopunkers Rocket From The Tombs (1974–1975), where he went by the name of Crocus Behemoth, and of punk group Pere Ubu (1975–present, intermittently). He has also released several solo albums. Though primarily a singer, he sometimes plays melodeon, trombone, guitar or other instruments.
Thomas has described his artistic focus as being the "gestalt of culture, geography and sound". Common themes crop up throughout much of his work, such as the US Interstate Highway system, images of roadside or "junk" tourist culture, Brian Wilson, AM Radio, and many others.
Something of a cult figure, Thomas’s high pitched voice is one of the most distinctive in rock music; Emerson Dameron memorably described Thomas’s singing as "James Stewart trapped in an oboe", while Greil Marcus writes that "Mr Thomas’s voice is that of a man muttering in a crowd. You think he’s talking to himself until you realize he’s talking to you."
Current solo career
Thomas’s solo activities were diminished, though not extinguished by the reformation of Pere Ubu. Throughout the 1980s, Thomas maintained a rotating trio dubbed The Accordion Club, which at various times included John Kirkpatrick, Chris Cutler, Garo Yellin, and Ira Kaplan. While these groupings tended to share a repertoire with Pere Ubu, the focus was smaller. Thomas stated: "I often use the same songs in both projects … I can explore the stories behind the songs. I can extend/expand/interpolate those stories." Though The Accordion Club never recorded any albums, two songs appeared on Rē Records Quarterly Vol.2 No.1, and it led to the formation of Thomas’s current "solo" project, the Two Pale Boys. Devoted to "spontaneous song generation", they feature Keith Moliné on guitar and Andy Diagram on "trumpet through electronics;" both make frequent use of MIDI, giving them a broader tonal palette than might be expected from two instruments. In addition to singing Thomas frequently plays melodeon. Says Thomas:
- "Pere Ubu is a big rock experience, often overwhelming in its power and intensity of dataflow. It’s a Hollywood blockbuster on a cinemascopic screen. Projects like the [Two Pale Boys] are intended as indy arthouse films."
Thomas typically has a large number of ongoing projects at any one time. He has performed in theatrical productions, including several productions by Hal Willner, and a London West End production of Shockheaded Peter. He has delivered his lecture "The Geography of Sound In The Magnetic Age" at Clark University and UCLA, among other venues. He has staged his "improvisational opera" Mirror Man, at venues in Europe and North America, featuring at various times contributions from many of his previous collaborators, as well as Linda Thompson, Bob Holman, Robert Kidney, Van Dyke Parks, Frank Black, George Wendt, and Syd Straw.
Most recently he has alternated recording and performances primarily between Pere Ubu, David Thomas and Two Pale Boys, and the reunited Rocket from the Tombs.
Though born in Florida, Thomas was raised in the Cleveland, Ohio area. He cofounded Rocket From the Tombs, which disbanded after about a year, then he formed Pere Ubu, which was originally active from 1975 to 1982.
Afterwards, Thomas worked with a variety of musicians including guitarists Richard Thompson and Philip Moxham, and Henry Cow alumni bassonist/oboist Lindsay Cooper and drummer Chris Cutler. Initially, his solo recordings eschewed Pere Ubu’s "rock" focus. Lindsay Cooper’s bassoon was often prominent, and, when Richard Thompson’s guitar was not featured, guitar would be absent (such as the entirety of 1985’s More Places Forever). Thomas’s lyrics became increasingly whimsical, with birds being a common theme: