Yow, Now

Noise-rock pioneer hooks up with former Blue Men in Qui

One afternoon last week, David Yow tried unsuccessfully to hide in a quiet spot to chat with the Tucson Weekly on his cell phone. He was in a nightclub somewhere on the East Coast. Said club shall remain unnamed, since Yow identified the opening act, which completed its soundcheck while he spoke, as "some terrible fucking band."

Known for his howling-dog vocals and outrageous stage antics, Yow was part of one of the most influential noise-rock bands of the 1990s, The Jesus Lizard. After that band's breakup in 1998, he pretty much left music, embarking on a lucrative career in photo retouching.

"After The Jesus Lizard, I had no desire to be in a band again," he said. "If you had asked me a year ago whether I wanted to sing in a band, I would have said no."

But now, the 47-year-old Yow is at the microphone again, having emerged from his musical retirement as the freshly-minted frontman for the Los Angeles-based group Qui. The trio will bring its avant-art-punk-blues sound to Tucson for a concert Oct. 25 at Club Congress.

Although Qui has been a working band for seven years, until recently it was a duo consisting of drummer/vocalist Paul Christensen and guitarist-vocalist Matt Cronk. The two 30-year-olds, who have been friends and musical partners since high school, released one full-length album, Baby Kisses (2003, Heart of a Champion), before retooling the group with Yow at the fore.

A chance encounter last year led to Yow teaming up with Christensen and Cronk.

"We met in Las Vegas when they were in the Blue Man Group," Yow said.

For several years, appearing in the Vegas edition of the popular performing ensemble was Cronk and Christensen's "day job."

"We met backstage and got to talking," Cronk said, interviewed a few minutes after Yow.

"Paul and I had both been big fans of The Jesus Lizard. We hit it off with David real quick and got chummy really fast. That wore off pretty quick. When we started working together it became a lot more than we were just excited to be playing with one of our heroes. He became a full-fledged member of the band, and the process became a collaboration."

Yow concurred: "I might be old as far as age goes, but I'm pretty young at heart and all kinds of crazy. I can keep up with these guys pretty well.

"I do find it interesting that I'm closer in age to Matt's father than I am to him. I think of him as a son sometimes. I love him like a son," Yow deadpanned.

Cronk and Christensen left the Blue Man Group and are now devoted to Qui full-time, as is Yow, whose graphics work had tapered off about the same time he met the guys in Qui.

"I made really good money doing that for a while," Yow said.

"But the companies I had been working for stopped having me do work for them; I don't know why. Since that is the only work I know and I love working with these guys, I decided to make Qui my main focus."

Qui's MySpace page describes the band's musical genre as "Christian/comedy/regional Mexican"--which simply proves that the gauntlet officially has been thrown down in the race to create the most outrageous category for your music on the popular social-networking site.

The new version of Qui promptly got down to business last fall and recorded the album Love's Miracle, which was released last month on Ipecac.

In addition to seven challenging and dynamic originals that veer in wildly creative directions, the new album features two audacious covers: Frank Zappa's "Willie the Pimp" and Pink Floyd's "Echoes."

Those tunes are not played as ironic burlesques but sincere tributes, said Cronk, who cites those artists, as well as Tom Waits, '60s rock and hardcore punk as major inspirations.

As for Yow, his favorite band has always been Led Zeppelin, although under duress he admitted that he also likes Madonna and Radiohead and recently downloaded Britney Spears' "Oops! ... I Did It Again" from iTunes.

Yow says he doesn't follow current music like he used to, but from what he has heard, not many bands can approximate the musical assault that was The Jesus Lizard. "I kind of exist in a musical vacuum, so I don't really seek stuff out anymore, but from what I've heard, most bands these days are not that extreme-sounding."