Sunday, October 13, 2013

Doug Theriault 13 Questions

Photo by Ricardo Wang

Doug Theriault is a maverick instrument builder, improviser and composer who resides in Portland Oregon. His music is not easily identified as it is constantly in flux. His main instrument is the guitar. All of his guitars are heavily modified with electronics. Currently he is using a guitar played through custom made synths of his own design. His business ( was making experimental controllers and instruments for others.

Doug plays guitar/custom built electronics and a new instrument of his own design, the Sensor Guitar. For the last 15 years he has presented his work all over the United States with a wide variety of musicians, dancers and visual artists from around the world. He is known in underground, academic and free improvised music circles for a highly idiosyncratic approach to guitar and electronics. Doug investigates the reciprocal contamination of creative means and sensibilities. He uses varied organic and electronic sound instrumentation, concrete sounds, voice, light gradients (sensors), space and performative movement in connection with architecture and notation systems.

Which was the first musical sound do you remember?

The heating vent.  I always associate it with warmth.  I can now emulate that sound with the guitar.

What do you dream about?
    I dream about the many possibilities of music.  There are so many approaches to making it that it's always surprising and brings me great enjoyment.

    So, why did you decide to pick up the guitar?

    I heard Jeff Beck and Alex Lifeson of Rush.

    For Walter. Live Electronics and field recordings.  
    Dedicated to Walter Marchetti. 
    Play the image to listen

    Which work of your own (or as a sideman) are you most proud of, and why?

    My solo guitar work.  I feel I've set out to make the music I always wanted to make with the guitar and have been successful in fulfilling that vision.

    Which is the main border, the main drawback of the guitar?

    There is no drawback.  It's an instrument of endless wonder and surprise.

    What do you change or add to your guitar? 

    Everything.  I've made sensor guitars using light, heat and capacitance to control parameters. Build into guitars USB and MIDI control and have tuned it in various combinations.  I've also added inputs into it for feedback and playing through it various homemade radios and electronics.

    What’s the difference between a good guitar and a bad guitar? 

    Who's playing it.

    Do you play other instruments? Do you approach them differently? 

    I build my own effects.  Either pedals or computer and digital emulations.  I play other instruments if I'm composing.  Usually the piano.

    Define the sound you're still looking for.

    I've found it.

    Why and how do you use a prepared guitar?

    I played guitar in Jazz and rock bands.  This did not satisfy me very much. When I first wanted to work with sound I was doing a lot of pickup feedback and tremolo work.  But then I played the guitar on the floor.  It was the only way I could coax out the sounds I was looking to achieve. I had met a friend and we listened to Bill Dixon.  Then we listened to Iancu Dumitrescu.  We thought it would be an interesting combination to combine two double basses with electronics that was a combination of Dumitrescu and Dixon.


    Our first show was at The Seattle Improvised Music Festival in 1994.  At the time it was a trio with James Wood on amplified table and electronics, Jeffrey Taylor (of Climax Golden Twins) on tape and myself on guitar and cracked electronics.  From there it expanded to include Mark Collins and Matthew Sperry on double bass.  The guitar on the floor was interesting for a period of time. Then I started playing the guitar upright for a number of years.  The improvised music scene changed again during the 2000's and I switched back again to tabletop guitar and electronics.

    Besides a huge paper clip my preparations are all with electronics.  I use the guitar as numerous switches that change different parameters depending on the notes and velocity used.  The guitars notes controls massive feedback matrices.  The velocity controls the length of time those notes are sustained and determines what switches get turned on or off.  The switches control various aspects of the processing and feedback.

    Which living artist (music, or other arts) would you like to collaborate with?

    Matthew Barney.

    What dead artist would you like to have collaborated with? 

    Derek Bailey.  We had exchanged many letters back and forth.  He was very supportive and a cheerful beam of light.  He also was one of the funniest people I've ever talked to. He got sick and that was it.

    Theriault, Smith and Gree
    Alive @ the Waypost Portland Oregon May 14, 2013

    What’s your latest project about?

    Turning a violin Bow into a giant antenna where you can change stations by moving it in different directions.

    Selected Discography (Discogs):



    Jeph Jerman, Doug Theriault - The First Attention ‎ (CDr)

    Gravelvoice Studios 1998

    Doug Theriault / Jeph Jerman - 112 02' W 34 50' 15" N ‎ (CDr, Album)

    Outer Limits  2002

    Doug Theriault   Jeph Jerman   Mike Shannon (2)   Dave Knott - Theriault Jerman Shannon Knott ‎ (Cass, C60)

    Animist Recording 2002

    Doug Theriault / Jeph Jerman - No Titles ‎ (CDr, Ltd)

    Foxglove 2004

    Doug Theriault / Jeph Jerman - Red, Water ‎ (CDr)

    Fargone Records 2004

    Doug Theriault / Bryan Eubanks - Big Clouds In The Sky Today ‎ (CD, Album)

    Creative Sources 2005


    ‎ (CDr)
    Toast And Jam Recordings 2005

    Doug Theriault, Brian Moran, Ed Chang - Tic Tac Tek ‎ (CDr, Ltd)

    Fargone Records 2005


    ‎ (CDr, Ltd)
    Fargone Records 2005

    Doug Theriault   Kathleen Keogh - Broken Flowers ‎ (CDr, Album)

    Audiobot 2006

    Jeph Jerman | Doug Theriault - Tathata ‎ (CD, Album, Ltd)

    Nitkie 2010


    ‎ (3xFile, FLAC, Album)
    Ilse 2012



    Douglas TheriaultJeph Jerman - New Year's Day ‎ (Cass, C60)

    Animist Recording 1999

    Bryan Eubanks   Doug Theriault - Arrest Of Attention In The Midst Of Distraction ‎ (CDr, Ltd)

    Fargone Records 2005

    Observable Indifference

    ‎ (CD)
    Vicmod Records 2011


    ‎ (CDr)
    Toast And Jam Recordings Unknown


    Stein: Plays
    Concept, Execution | Stephen A. Miller 2012
    Sound | Doug Theriault
    Model | Lindsey Matheis

    Three Trick Ponny
    Choreography & Performance: Linda Austin
    Set Piece Design & Fabrication: David Eckard
    Music: Doug Theriault