How to build sound

Local musician Dosh constructs songs from his numerous innovative machines

Emily Garber

By sitting inside what he calls his “triangle of doom,” Martin Dosh becomes omnipotent and invincible. He has built a monster, a beast, a machine that only responds to his commanding touch. It is a puzzle to which only he knows the answer.

Dosh, both a last name and a title for his musical project, has created his own musical Monster of Frankenstein, made up of a modified Rhodes piano, a drum kit, vintage keyboards, two loop pedals and an electronic recorder with a 12-second sound capacity.

With Dosh as the brain and engine, this sutured beast manages to crank out elaborate symphonies.

Even so, Dosh said, “I don’t consider myself a songwriter Ö I mean, I can’t sit at a piano and sing at the same time.”

But Dosh, that’s been done. The Ben Folds formula has run over audiences on one too many occasions – it’s the age of instrumental music, and your time is now.

Before people even knew his last name, Dosh was an important facet to the Twin Cities music scene. Moving back to Minnesota after going to school at Simon’s Rock College of Bard in Massachusetts, he instantly became friends with Andrew Broder.

“I told (Broder), ‘If you ever have a band, I’m your drummer,’ ” Dosh said. He soon became a permanent asset in instrumental group Lateduster and a touring member of Broder’s band Fog, a multilayered force of delicate pianos and lashing guitars.

Dosh’s quest for more control over his music led him to split with both bands, though he said “at some point I could go back.” His experiments with repeating loops in Fog and Lateduster gave him the idea for his solo project.

In 2003, Anticon Records released Dosh’s solo debut, a self-titled collage of old recordings made in his parents’ basement. Though Anticon is mostly thought of as a hip-hop label, Dosh describes the artist-label relationship as “totally awesome Ö I can give them something and I’ll know they’ll put it out.”

Initially, Dosh’s goal was to make one album a year for a decade. “If after that no one knows about me, I’ll try something else,” he said. He’s now on his fourth release and already people beyond the Twin Cities are beginning to take notice.

“The level of love in other cities can be far greater (than Minneapolis). Here, I’m a fixture,” he said, “but people in other cities really appreciate what I do. Shit like that is mind-blowing.”

Dosh records most of his albums by trial and error, often having to go back and learn how to play his own material for live shows. “It’s fun to learn your own songs,” he said.

By creating his masterpieces in his home studio, he spends more time with his wife Erin and real-life monster, son Naoise (pronounced “Nee-sha”).

It would be an understatement to call Dosh’s family his muse. His 2004 release “Pure Trash” was a narrative story played out via song titles – the track “I think I’m Getting Married” leading right into “Bring the Happiness,” followed soon after by “Naoise.” Naoise has an entire EP named after him, and Erin supplied the illustrations for his upcoming release, “The Lost Take.”


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Erin’s voice makes an appearance on the new album as well. She recites an old poem she wrote on the fifth track, “Ship Wreck,” one of the many songs that dug Dosh out of an instrumental ditch.

Before this album, the former creative writing major rarely used lyrics in his songs. “Instrumental music is more about the listener Ö they can fill in the blanks with whatever they’re feeling.”

Admittedly having stage fright when it comes to singing, Dosh said he might try it more often. “The few times I’ve sung in front of a crowd, it’s been really amazing.”

Since it never dominates the music, the presence of voices on the instrumental record rarely takes anything away. Instead, it adds another dimension to what Dosh can create in his “triangle of doom,” further proving that the musician can make music from even a monster.