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"Joe was just getting sick of being Joe Myers," says Casebeer.
Myers says the persona harks back to a childhood obsession with magic. "Now the way I play guitar, I think I bring some of my love of that craft into my playing. People think what I do is really difficult and I don't see it as difficult. I just see it as timing and illusion for the ears."
One signature sleight of hand is Myers' use of alternate tunings. "I change tunings, so every time I pick up the guitar it's a discovery. Now it's a discovery with standard tuning because I never use it. It's fresh to me again.
"I have such a serious musician side that I feel like I'm raping that a bit by being absurd. You can have a level of absurdity that complements the music. But I'll only get so absurd."
So don't expect Myers' assistant to be throwing knives at the guitar between sets. For that matter, don't expect to see Myers playing his regular, long-standing Thursday-night gig at Hollywood Alley to promote the new album. He's stopped the tradition. "I became a seven-year habit for a lot of people, which was nice. I built up a large following, but after a while I feel I was always so accessible there that it was like, 'Let's get a quick beer, a pizza and a song and get out of here.' I appreciate the loyalty but hope to be able to bring it to different venues without the habitual time slot."
Myers has been turning up in the oddest places lately. In recent months, he's opened for Little Feat, the Beach Boys, Steve Morse, Tori Amos and even Don Rickles at Union Hall.
Myers is more amazed that Rickles did not rip him a surplus orifice than he is by the overwhelming crowd response. "I saw Don Rickles backstage and he was so nice to me--totally opposite of what I thought. I saw him operate on a level of professionalism I've never seen opening for any rock band. Everyone wasn't treated like a roadie. Stephen Stills wasn't such a nice guy to his people. Neither was Warren Zevon."
Myers got the call from Evening Star to open up for the Beach Boys at Veterans' Memorial Coliseum a mere two hours before their show last fall, playing to 10,000 people, his biggest crowd ever.
"I'm real easy. One guy, three guitars on a rack, go on and get off real quick. Sometimes I think that's why they use me," he snickers. "The Beach Boys were kind of arrogant, a little distant. Even though they put out zero energy these days, it's still pretty amazing that every song they do is a hit."
Lately, Myers has been spending a lot of time working with composer Brent Michael David, who has scored works for Kronos Quartet, the Joffrey Ballet and the National Symphony, among others. David tapped Myers to play with him at Lincoln Center and work on avant-garde projects like providing the soundtrack for the play Katsina at Herberger Theater Center.
"We also did a silent film in Sante Fe, The Silent Enemy, a quasi-documentary on Native Indians from 1931, which might tour Europe this year," says Myers. "We'll be playing live to the silent film."
Meanwhile, Myers and Casebeer are already brainstorming a theme for the next CD package. So what's next--cramming the CD into a tortilla shell? A diaphragm? Tuna-fish sandwich? Refusing to speculate, the pair does reveal one idea that got away.
"Originally, with Under the Crazy Hat, I was moving toward a science theme, writing elemental songs like 'Alchemy.' Which would've made the packaging . . ."
"A Petri dish," giggles Casebeer.
Joe Myers is scheduled to perform on Sunday, April 20, at Nita's Hideaway in Tempe. Showtime is 9:30 p.m.