Not so very long ago, in those lighthearted summer days of 2016, when our biggest worries were wondering which celebrities would be next to die young and weirdos dressing up like clowns for midnight strolls, Dangerous Minds told you all about Qui, the fascinating but underrated experimental post-hardcore duo of guitarist Matt Cronk and drummer Paul Christensen. The pair have parlayed some favorable friendships into jaw-dropping musical collaborations, even ensorcelling the Jesus Lizard’s David Yow to serve as their frontman for a spell in the ‘oughts, releasing in that trio configuration the wonderful Love’s Miracle. In an email exchange for that article last year, Cronk told us about recording their How to Get Ideas E.P. with Melvins drummer Dale Crover, and in the process he let the news slip about a future project with Mr. Bungle/Melvins Lite/Trio-Convulsant bassist Trevor Dunn.
That project—a full length album inventively titled Qui w/ Trevor Dunn—is now on the horizon, and it includes a ripping little cover of “Ashtray Heart,” a standout from the last truly great Captain Beefheart album (IMO YMMV), Doc at the Radar Station. It’s a really great cover; I won’t be so ridiculous as to say it surpasses the original, but it contemporizes the source material without shedding or shitting on everything that made the original a stunner, and it features contributions not just from Dunn, but from main Melvin King Buzzo and Cows bassist Kevin Rutmanis.
In a recent phone conversation, Cronk talked about hooking up to work with Dunn:
In 2012 we were recording our last LP, Life, Water, Living, with Toshi Kasai and Dale Crover, and Trevor was in Los Angeles during that. Dale and Toshi played him the record and he really liked it. After that, it was really Toshi pushing us to do something with Trevor, saying how we should hit him up, and he just gave me Trevor’s number. So I just hit him up, said “hello,” and asked if he would be interested in doing something. He got back right away, and I believe he actually said “fuck yeah!” So we did like a year of writing the whole record with him in mind to play on it, making practice demos and sending files back and forth—he lives in New York. And then last year we got it all together. We booked a few days in the studio, he came, and we banged it out. It was really fun, Trevor is an incredibly nice guy. It was really cool, apart from emailing I didn’t really know him from Adam, but he was charming, friendly, and easygoing. We were a little nervous, to be honest, he’s a bit of a giant to us—I’ve been listening to his stuff since I was in high school, but we all hit it off right away and had a lot of fun in the studio. It was a real honor to get to play with yet another of our musical heroes.
Cronk also talked about how Qui chose to cover “Ashtray Heart”:
That’s my favorite song. My father was a big Beefheart fan who used to rock me to sleep to that stuff when I was a baby! And Doc at the Radar Station is my favorite Beefheart record. When Paul and I first started goofing off together 20-plus years ago, the drumming on that record, the sort of broken, angular, jagged drumming was something we really liked, and something we’ve toyed with a lot over the years. We really wanted to play a Beefheart song and “Ashtray Heart” seemed like the one we could do with the instrumentation we had for this album. My dad hasn’t heard it yet, and he’s really been chomping at the bit, like “WHEN’S THAT RECORD COMING OUT?”
Well, Matt’s dad, the album isn’t going to see the light for a couple of weeks, but we can hook you up reeeaaal gooood on the Beefheart tune: