That 1 Guy concocts his own pipe dream
Because he performs under the stage name That 1 Guy, Mike Silverman is used to encountering misunderstandings while playing the festival circuit.
“They think I only take two minutes to set up my stuff, like I’m one guy with an acoustic guitar. They don’t realize I have as much gear as an entire band,” Silverman says.
Except his gear is concentrated mainly in one instrument of his own design, which he affectionately calls the “magic pipe.” Shaped like a harp Dr. Seuss might envision, the instrument is fashioned from steel pipes. Each pipe has its own string on it. One is pitched high, the other low, and both are played in a percussive manner. Oh, and smoke billows out the top.
So the question is: Does Silverman hear more musical jokes about being “heavy metal” or more drug jokes about performing with a smoking magic pipe?
“I hear that last one usually per gig. That’s fine because it is this giant bong-looking thing. That’s not what I intended to do with it, but I get a lot of that,” he says.
A classically trained upright bass player, Silverman paid his dues in the California jazz scene before reinventing himself as That 1 Guy.
“I’d developed this very percussive approach on the upright bass. I was creating all these rhythms and was very much a one-man band on that instrument. This was a way to take those concepts and extend them – make more sounds, more control of the sound, more sonic density,” he says.
Surprisingly, Silverman came up with the name before the act.
“It came on a dare,” he recalls. “I used to play this place with my band for $50 bucks every Tuesday – for an eight-piece band to split. I came up with the idea of being a one-man band called That 1 Guy. I told the owner of the club, ‘I’m gonna show up next week by myself just to keep the 50 bucks.'”
Sure enough, the owner booked the gig. Silverman devised the concept for the show, and, despite misgivings, arrived for his first solo attempt.
“The owner had me set up on the bar because he didn’t want to bother turning on the stage lights, and had me plug through the juke box because he didn’t want to (turn on the P.A.),” he says.
Things have broadened quite a bit since That 1 Guy’s first gig. His second album, “The Moon is Disgusting,” will be released later this month. It coincides with a tour that stretches from Kansas to Canada to Scotland.
But does it get lonely on the road when you’re only That 1 Guy?
“I love it,” Silverman says.
“I toured with a band for many years. That was fun, too. But I love the freedom. I feel completely open and liberated. There’s already a pretty tight schedule with where I’ve got to be and what I’ve got to do. It’s really fun to fill those gaps by yourself and explore the country on your own.”