‘Bisti’ boys: Genre-crossing Zillaphyst plays next to dinosaur in virtual concert series

A virtual concert by Zillaphyst that was filmed at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science will be shown on Friday, June 19. (Courtesy of Tony Orant)

Going where the music takes them is how the members of Zillaphyst compose their songs.

“Whoever takes the ball runs with it first,” said band member Tony Orant. “It could be Mike Gerdes triggering a sound or a sample or a sound bite off something he grabbed off television and that will force maybe myself or the drummer or the bass player to respond to that, and the minute there is a musical element going on, everybody kind of jumps on it and sees the way we basically start pulling it and stretching it and seeing where it goes and where it could lead to, so it could cross all kinds all kinds of different genres.”

The four-piece band is made up of Mike Jaramillo on drums; Kelly Wilson on bass; Mike Gerdes, who “triggers samples and sonic mayhem”; and Orant on keyboards, synthesizers and organ. A performance by Zillaphyst will be shown at 7 p.m. Friday, June 19, at facebook.com/NMMNHS. The show is part of the “Our Fair New Mexico – A Virtual Concert Series” presented by the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with state museums, historic sites and cultural institutions. The virtual concert was filmed at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science.

The band included the museum’s Bistahieversor, or “Bisti Beast,” robotic dinosaur in its concert.

“We are performing with the dinosaur,” Orant said. “It is crazy cool. I turned around and saw this dinosaur move, and I almost couldn’t play. It was so awesome. I had no idea. It was odd not having an audience, but pretty much once we’re doing what we’re doing we’re not really aware of an audience anyway. Once we started playing, it wasn’t really any different. It was a different environment, which was great, and I think the environment helped inspire whatever music came out.”

Zillaphyst’s music combines multiple genres to make its signature sound.

“It will cross all kinds of genres, so you would not be surprised to hear some funk, some rock, some prog rock, some electronica,” Orant said. “Definitely some jazz, and if we’re lucky, sometimes some soul.”

Band members feed off one another’s creative energy.

“Everything we do is completely improvised, so we don’t really rehearse,” Orant said. “We’ve all known each other a good long time, and we’ve all played together in various combinations in different bands, so we kind of know a little bit of how each other thinks, but basically, you know, we only get together to do shows or special events or recording”

The band’s members all have musical backgrounds, including Orant, who moved to Albuquerque from Chicago.

“I moved here a few years ago and decided I would only play music that I really liked, and these were guys that I found in various bands, and we just seemed to click really well,” he said. “I don’t know if they found me or I found them, but we had all worked together and kind of circled around each other in the scene. … I think we all pretty much found our passion for music early and just pursued whatever path it would provide for us.”

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