REAL DON MUSIC
TFW a hellish bout of writer's block gives way to an endearing, enduring creative endeavor: For an artist, no feeling could be more relieving—or more inspiring. Real Don Music, the ongoing experiment of inveterate weirdo and serial bandleader Kirk Huffman, emerged from struggle and stasis, a time when Huffman was between bands, between jobs and at a pivotal point in his personal life. When the world offered nothing but dullness and darkness, Huffman found gold within himself. Calling upon his copious experiences and influences, he channeled his affinity for dusty MoJazz-era soul, European acid jazz and smokey 90's trip-hop into a timeless sound that surprised even him. He found his sense of humor, too, naming this new project after the genius singer-songwriter of Sesame Street, the eternally frustrated, occasionally masochistic Muppet known as Don Music. Since that harrowing summer of 2013, Real Don Music has become one of Seattle's most unique and enigmatic acts. Huffman operates as an autonomous force free from the obligatory and increasingly irrelevant cycles of the music industry, releasing songs and playing select club and festival gigs when the mood strikes. First came the singles — "Emeralds and Angels" and "Smoke by Day" were deep slices of heavy vibes, evocative of both silk-suited swing and blunted soul; which Huffman paired with wildly inventive videos. The "Dank Sinatra" and "Dank Zappa" EPs followed in 2015 and 2018, respectively, the latter with a deeply disturbing video directed by acclaimed Seattle photographer Steven Miller. Showcases at taste-making festivals like Capitol Hill Block Party and Summer Meltdown followed, Huffman fleshing out the band's live set with a trio of horns, a limber drummer-percussionist and a turntablist. Striking album art, compelling videos, tight performances and of course the music, weighted by groove and driven by melody, composed and precise: Together they reveal a Real Don Music as Huffman's latest and greatest gift to a world hungry for the real. It's a world Huffman knows well, having spent the last 18 years in a boundary-smashing assortment of rock 'n' roll bands. As bassist in '00s indie-prog-emo hitmakers Gatsbys American Dream he toured back and forth across the US and Canada, playing huge festivals like Bamboozled and Warped Tour, selling 60,000-plus physical albums at a time when mp3s had otherwise completely obsessed the music-buying public. Along the way Huffman had his share of debauched runs-ins with rock stars and celebrities of every stripe and state of intoxication, a parade of surreal post-modern moments that would fuel his coming projects. For instance, Kay Kay & His Weathered Underground, a freewheeling psychedelic-cabaret-rock ensemble which he exposed to an unwitting nation via an appearance on Late Night with Carson Daly in 2007 and Wild Orchid Children, his cadre of freak-tastic mind-melters whose epic jams made it onto an episode of NBC's 'Parenthood' the following year. These were further inventions of Huffman's own twisted vision, pushing the limits of not only what a band can sound like, but what it can look like and how it can operate. In 2008 Huffman along with producer Paul Kolderie and composer/arranger Phil Peterson collectively produced Portugal. The Man's "Censored Colors" which was hailed as a top ten album of that year by Alternative Press and other music media outlets, further cementing Huffman's songwriting scope and ability to sonically shape artists other than himself. In 2014, while his erstwhile compatriots spun off into said world-touring outfit Portugal. The Man and The Heavy, Huffman decamped to Los Angeles for a year, absorbing the anonymous brilliance of songwriters and lyricists whose core contributions to Billboard hits were rarely recognized. These idea-mad songwriting sessions provided lasting relationships with industry folks in LA, fellow lifer musicians who recognize Huffman as one of their own - it was those same industry operators, the ones who continue to follow Huffman's every move, who also convinced him that the hamster wheel and the cookie cutter of the music-industry machine were not for him. Huffman returned to Seattle to stay grounded, close to his roots and reality. There he continues nurturing the music community that gave his music a launching pad and the family that gives him big-picture perspective. Like his current namesake, Huffman is OK banging his head against a problem until a creative solution comes loose. After all, nothing good ever comes easy. Nor has Huffman's story come full circle. It's more like a controlled, continued spiral into the unknown, with Real Don Music his good as new, second-hand gold.