Translucent Ham Sandwich Band is a multifaceted group from Orange County. The band incorporates improvisational music, video, a juggler, a belly dancer, a magician, poets, and a mentalist in a show that can only be called a sensory smorgasbord. This feature is in two parts: an interview with the man behind THSB, and a review of the band's performance at Steamers in Fullerton on 10 April.
What is the story behind the name Translucent Ham Sandwich Band?
That is the kind of question that you know you are always going to be asked and then regret coming up with a name that nobody can forget but needs to ask how you got it. Well…it was a reference from the Ken Burns Baseball Documentary. There was a story about a writer from a major newspaper who reviewed the introduction of stadium fare and wasn’t all too pleased that they were selling what he called “Translucent Ham Sandwiches.” I thought that was a pretty unique thing to say couple with the fact that I do not eat pork and highly suggest that people stop eating the so called “other white meat.” Pigs are filthy animals who eat their own stool and as the saying goes, “You are what you eat.” Hey, I didn’t make it up…I’m just taking the advice, you know? So, everyone should get on the THSB bus and we can all take a field trip to the local slaughterhouse and see how these animals are cared for. What say you?
How did this project start?
It started out as a desire to perform free music and be forward-thinking in the ever-expanding field of, dare I say, jazz music. I am not going to hide from the jazz word, for all the purists and non-purists alike…And I do mean that in both the jazz world and the Rock/Funk/Pop/Alternative/(Ad nauseam) world as well. We play “Music” in this band and people can label it if they so desire, but I think it would be best to simply listen to it rather than trying to justify how it is going to fit into a neat little box so we can package it up and shelve it next to miscellaneous/other.
It is Music, period. It is not jazz, not rock, not funk, not disco, not hip-hop, not reggae, not ska, not punk, not emo, not metal, not classical, not world, not thrash, not blues, not Chinese traditional melodramatic screamo either. It is simply Music.
Perhaps I feel so strongly about this because it seems to fit into my ideology of blending all into one. It is a common theme of mine, and one I enjoy very much…Oneness.
That being said…I do use jazz musicians in this group because they are the freaks who know how to improvise well. Being that the music for this group is 100% purely improvisational, it makes sense that I use musicians who are adept and who can improvise for an hour straight. It takes a certain kind of individual who is willing to bare all in front of an audience and risk everything in the moment unprepared. I like to hang out with these kind of beings.
The other entertainers in the show, (Magicians, Jugglers, Belly Dancers, Burlesque, Poets, Artists, etc.) are there to help us complete the show with their highly tuned skills in their individual areas of expertise.
What do you tell someone who asks what your music sounds like?
Lots of sharps and flats… and some naturals thrown in there for safe keeping. Sometimes, all at once!
What sort of response do you get from clubs when you contact them about performing?
So far I have been very lucky and they have all contacted me to come perform. Our first show was at The Mint in Los Angeles, and then word spread quickly around town about it. The Translucent Ham Sandwich is a very intriguing act and one that is sending out a very important message. Stay tuned people…
What sort of response do you get from the audience?
I think for first-timers, it is a bit of a shock to the system. There is a lot to take in. There is the movie aspect, which is a main focal point in the show. Then there are the entertainers around the room that apply pressure to your ability to maintain steady focus who are doing magic and juggling and roller skating and dancing etc., all while a 9 piece band is playing their hearts out trying to get you to pay attention to them because they are needy and desperately want your love and adoration.
This creates quite an atmosphere for all involved. It leaves you with a feeling of over flowing powerlessness and an over-stimulated sense of fullness coupled with bewilderment and short term enlightenment. It’s an all-inclusive sort of deal.
What would you be doing if you weren’t making music?
I would be running for President of the United States. If I can manage a 20 piece band, I can run this country no problem.
Review of Translucent ham Sandwich Band at Steamers in Fullerton
On the one hand, mere words are insufficient to describe a performance of Translucent Ham Sandwich Band. On the other hand, it is a chance to describe a unique experience.
When I arrived at Steamers, the stage was set up with a projection screen, two drum kits, a piano, two electronic keyboards and some other miscellany. The projection screen had an image of a ham sandwich and the words "Translucent Ham Sandwich Band - let's go."
The show began with a spoken word piece accompanied by three members of the band. After that, a comedian/mentalist took the stage. He did some jokes, some audience participation card tricks, and a trick in which he spoke to a member of the audience about her pets and finished by guessing correctly the pet's name.
And then came the musical performance which is best summarized with the phrase, "And now for something completely different." The band members were dressed in monk's robes, except for the magician, who was dressed more like the preacher from Poltergeist. Evan Stone gave the signal to start the video, which was really more like a slide show, edited in a sort of rapid-fire MTV style. The band began to play a funky jazz similar to Miles Davis's Live - Evil while Evan spoke into a disconnected analog phone.
It did not take long to realize that a lot was going on in this show. It was a feast for the senses between the music, the magician at the front of the stage, and the woman offstage painting to the music. (The finished painting was a blue background with white chem-trails and the words "One Nation Under Sedation" in white letters.) Meanwhile the mentalist made his way through the audience, doing some more card tricks. But wait, there's more! About midway through the first half of the show, a juggler stood to the side of the stage. He later moved from juggling to balloon art. Also about midway through the first half of the show, a belly dancer made her way through the audience.
The music itself which is completely improvised, ranged from jazz and funk to reggae and Dixieland. It was a tremendous soundtrack for all the art that went on. The whole show was also an excellent example of the Buddhist tenet of impermanence. I will take a moment to politely disagree with Mr. Stone on one point. He said that the video is "a main focal point" of the show. For me, there was so much other stuff going on, I hardly paid any attention to the video. That being said, Translucent Ham Sandwich Band puts on a show unlike any I have ever seen. And to think that I saw it in quiet, conservative, plain Orange County.