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This piece is part of the Algorhythms project: artists telling stories about music they discovered from humans. Because where we discover music is an important part of its impact, and not all music is discovered through an algorithm.

Mike Dillon on Minutemen and Run the Jewels

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“Punk jazz provocateur” is not an epithet you can give to many people. And yet when you get to know the music of Mike Dillon, you understand why it applies to him. He’s a vibraphone-heavy percussionist who shouts through a Tom Waits-like gruff — imagine if Steve Reich and Frank Zappa decided to start a ska jam band (someone please start that petition).

He’s played with acts as diverse as Rickie Lee Jones, Les Claypool, Garage A Trois, and Ani DiFranco. And his most recent single is a vibraphone cover of Johnny Cash’s interpretation of Nine Inch Nails’ classic slow burner, “Hurt.” They say that to define is to limit and I challenge anyone to pigeonhole Mike Dillon.

For his Algorhythm, Mike remembers a friend who introduced him to “life-changing” music from a smattering of diverse artists. And somehow, despite the mélange, you can trace the influence of each into Mike’s singular style…

The music that my old friend Jeff Liles turned me onto was life-changing. He played Minutemen’s Double Nickles on a Dime for me, he gave me an advance cassette of Paul’s Boutique by the Beastie Boys. He booked Bad Brains in Dallas in ’86 at Theater Gallery and took me to see Fela Kuti in ’89. In 2015, he turned me onto Run the Jewels when we were playing the Kessler Theatre. I could go on and on. To this day he books the Kessler in Dallas and is a true lover of music. No computer generated algorithm would ever turn someone onto Run the Jewels and the Minutemen. Music is human expression and the beauty of discovery comes from humans sharing with other humans how they’ve been moved by that expression.

Mike’s new record Rosewood is out July 17 on Royal Potato Family. Pre-order the record — and listen to our full Algorhythms playlist here.

Interested in defying the algorithm and expressing your music with other humans? Check out the Grey Matter beta.