Inside the mind of musician and taxi driver Wyatt Hull
By Chris Mastrovito 10/07/2010
Interviewing creative types like Ventura singer/weirdo and Gyspy Death Star frontman Wyatt Hull, 29, often makes you feel as if you’re the one being interviewed. Like many fanciful right-brainers, he takes notes on just about anything around him, making you regret just how many noteworthy moments, or dismissively insane ideas, have gone unrecorded in your own life.
“It’s opened up a whole new world for me” he says. His notes, which he logs all day, everyday into his cell phone, are full of his weird ideas, as well as words and phrases sampled from life as it is, in all of its odd and inspiring incarnations. They will all go into his “archive” of other such disjointed thoughts which he will later access when it is time to write lyrics for his bands, create art or build one of his unusual inventions.
I’ve met many people with crazy ideas, but never anyone who actually considered the possibility of building something like an automated robot band. “I’m still working on it,” says Hull. “It’s pretty complicated.” So far, the contraption consists of an automatic kick drum fashioned out of a sewing machine. He had to take it apart temporarily when it began to occupy the entire living room of his home at Working Artists Ventura (WAV), a space that already holds a trove of musical instruments, including an electric guitar, a keyboard, drums, a miniature reed organ and the twin autoharps played by him and his wife, Jodi, in their indie-rock duo Metal Larx. “I’m going to sell out and get into pop-country music if this robot band doesn’t take off soon,” he vows.
Hull later spoke vaguely and almost secretively about a gestating idea he had for an onstage effect that would somehow involve suspending himself on springs. As ridiculous as the visual image was to me, somehow I knew he wasn’t joking. For Hull, there are few boundaries (and much fluidity in them) between the imagination and the actual physical plane in which ordinary people find themselves limited.
Hull’s L.A. rock star presence betrays his humble beginnings in a German Mennonite village in central Kansas where he spent most of his life. “I almost went insane,” he says. After a few unsuccessful attempts to run away, he set out on his own at age 17 immediately following high school, heading to Southern California to pursue acting, but finally found his true calling in music. The L.A. rock band The Colour, for which Hull was lead singer, toured around the U.S. and the U.K. for seven years, released an album on EMI records that was produced by the Grammy award-winning Jacquire King (Kings of Leon, Modest Mouse, Tom Waits) before disbanding in 2007. He soon moved to Ventura, fell in love with the town, and started a little band called Cheetahsaurus. That project suffered a similar fate when, after growing from just two members to seven, it had to be slain, most unfortunately, like an uncontrollable musical hydra. Lately, Hull prefers the dynamic of musical endeavors limited to just two members.
Amid pipe dreams of robot bands, the demands of booking shows at Billy O’s in Ventura, and his taxi business, Fast Cab, which serves the greater Ventura area, Hull manages to focus on his main project of the hour, Gypsy Death Star, the electronic power duo with friend and electronic music composer Cesar Augusto. Hull finds ample time to write the lyrics for Augusto’s eerie beats while playing the tracks on his cab rides. “Probably about every song I’ve written in the last three years has been written while driving a taxi. There’s just something about moving in a vehicle.” The debut album, How to Skin a Ghost, is now available.
But it’s never enough. Some of the ever-developing projects on the horizon include a proposed calendar full of photos of local taxicab drivers in provocative poses. Why? “I want to sell the calendars, and channel proceeds toward some sort of organized coalition to get rid of those new parking meters on Main Street,” he explains. Leave it to Hull to come up with unorthodox avenues for local politics. “I’m also writing a children’s book about a water nymph.”
The mp3 download of How to Skin a Ghost can be purchased on iTunes and Amazon.com. The CD can be purchased at any Gypsy Death Star live performance. Gypsy Death Star will perform at the WAV in Ventura, on Oct. 16, 8 p.m.