Introducing Mt. Non Fiction Records
In Ken Burns’ epic documentary on Mark Twain, Burns likens Twain’s talent to the Mississippi river itself. Just as the river gains its character by absorbing something from every place it passes through, Twain had an uncanny ability to internalize every character he ever met. As a writer, his voice is a chorus of every voice he’s ever heard. All successful writers must do this at some level, but Mark Twain made it the focus of his art.
A few weeks ago, several of my friends and I were treated to an impromptu “performance” in our living room by Seattle musician Simon Henneman on an acoustic guitar on which he had tuned every string to the same note. It began tentatively, as Simon explored the confines of the system he had devised. Then he entered a trance. His eyes were closed, his movements were slight, and his fingers were channeling every sound he had ever heard. Blues, free jazz and minimalism mingled freely with the sacred music of India and Bali to produce something so vast and multifaceted that the only word I can find to describe it is holy. It occurred to me that Simon is a lot like a musical Mark Twain—a vast and effortless river of influences and voices.
If you are involved at all in Seattle’s experimental music scene, chances are you’ve run into Simon. He’s a quiet and unassuming character, yet his talents as a composer and improviser are near legendary: he plays about a dozen instruments brilliantly, in approximately as many projects. But Seattle is teeming with versatile and underrated musicians. What makes Simon such a treasure is the combination of his awe-inspiring ability with his generous spirit. If Simon likes what you’re doing, he’ll do everything in his power to encourage and foster your project. If you play your cards right, he might even join your band. A tireless champion of the local avant garde instrumental community, Simon took over Mt. Non Fiction Sessions—basically an open mic night/social club devoted to free improvisation—from its founder Ethan Cudaback about a year and a half ago. Mt. Non Fiction used to meet every Sunday at the Blue Moon, it has since moved to a private club in North Ballard. MNFS has produced some of the most memorable anecdotes of recent Seattle music history. As it turns out, it has also yielded some of its most memorable recordings. An obsessive and expert archivist, Simon has amassed countless recordings of truly magical improvised sets.
Tonight Simon is hosting a party for the first three releases on his new CDR label, Mt. Non Fiction Records, culled from his MNFS archives. Simon plays on all three mind-blowing albums.
Expect little fanfare. Like its founder, the label is unassuming, no-frills, and at home in the underground. I won’t even disclose the location of the event, but if you’re a curious soul and a savvy link-clicker, you’re invited. Just be sure to bring an instrument.