On The Verge
Boy Eats Drum Machine
Photo by Alicia J Rose
A one-man band singing for his supper is a long-standing American tradition, but the advent of digital technology gives today’s solo troubadours a lot more freedom than their forefathers. Jon Ragel, a.k.a. Boy Eats Drum Machine, takes the stage surrounded by sax, floor tom, guitar, sampler, TV sets and turntables. “I could have continued to play in bands, but I was dedicated to turntablism,” Ragel says. “Being a one man band gives me the opportunity to do the kind of things I want to do. It’s also easier to travel and schedule gigs.” On stage, Ragel dances from sax, to guitar, to turntable singing in a nonchalant tone that suggests Brian Ferry at his most insinuating. One his current effort, Hoop + Wire, he blends ‘70s Brit pop, reggae, R&B, country, hip-hop, soca, rock and a touch of disco into a smooth, propulsive sound that motivates dancers while his kaleidoscopic lyrics take you on a mellow, surrealistic journey, all based on the solid beats he borrows from records or local drummers. “I’ve never actually used a drum machine,” Ragel confesses. “I sampled real drums with an MPC 2000, then edited and spliced them to get the syncopated beats that I want.”
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