RHYTHMPLEX documents the process, writing, and work of drummer and percussionist Jon Mueller.
The Rhythmplex symbol is derived from a ‘Chladni Pattern’, named after Ernst Chladni, who discovered that different vibrations created different repeatable patterns.
Performance and speaking booking and inquiries:
jon (at) rhythmplex (dot) com
Wholesale inquiries for Rhythmplex releases:
Thrill Jockey – sales (at) thrilljockey (dot) com
ABOUT JON MUELLER:
“An audacious ringleader for new music” – Pitchfork
Jon Mueller has been a drummer and percussionist for over twenty-five years, performing throughout North America, Europe, United Kingdom, and Japan. Solo concerts at New Museum (New York), The Arnolfini (Bristol, UK), Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal, (Montréal, QC), Issue Project Room (New York), Guggenheim Museum (New York), Alverno Presents (Milwaukee), Hopscotch Fest (Raleigh), SXSW (Austin) and Cafe OTO (London, UK) have been described by audiences as resilient, intense, and meditative. His recordings have been released by record labels such as Table of the Elements, Type Recordings, Hometapes, Important Records, SIGE Records, Taiga Records, and others.
A founding member of the bands Volcano Choir, Collections of Colonies of Bees, and Pele, he has also appeared on recordings with Rhys Chatham, Jarboe, James Plotkin, Fred Lonberg-Holm, Marcus Schmickler, Bhob Rainey, Hal Rammel, Dan Burke, Asmus Tietchens, Lionel Marchetti, Z’EV, Jason Kahn, Jack Wright, and many others.
He’s given talks about listening and creativity at Loyola University (New Orleans), Viva! Festival (Montreal), Weslyan University (Middleton), PechaKucha (Chicago), and more.
From 1999 – 2009 he owned the recording label and promotion company Crouton, which published and promoted over 40 releases in deluxe presentations. Crouton also organized events in the Milwaukee and Chicago areas with artists from around the world. These were documented by the press and even filmed as part of a PBS documentary. A list of the label’s recordings can be found at the Discogs website.
written by Ryan Prado
Jon Mueller’s world is one driven by deciphering the riddles in the ruse; a realm where happenstance and mystery aren’t exactly strangers, but where his evolving processes toward honing his creative bents are given room to writhe. For the time being, that world, or at least part of it, is called Rhythmplex―a kind of umbrella snapshot encompassing the cogs behind Mueller’s percussion work, art, writing and more that helps to outline and articulate his multi-pronged oeuvre. Rhythmplex, in action, is Mueller’s word for attempting to describe the complexity of rhythms and their effects, throughout all areas of his life.
Mueller’s passion for drums came early, as a 14-year-old growing up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Straight away, his interpretations of percussion were fueled by a fledgling academia. As he explains in an interview with Natasha Pickowicz in 2011, “Hitting the drums and cymbals sounded good, no matter the combination. There were no major or minor keys to complicate things. My brain instantly shifted to this perspective: Just hit them and listen, then hit them some more. Find interesting combinations of sounds. Try to get a feel for the coordination, but don’t worry too much about it if you can’t.”
From there, he studied snare drum for one year, his parent’s pre-requisite for getting a drum kit. He continued studies for rock and jazz through college. While at Columbia College in Chicago, he took private lessons from the late jazz musician Hal Russell, an experience that provided a new world of ideas for Mueller.
As drummer for Polyvinyl Recordings artist’s Pele in the late ’90s and early ’00s, Mueller forged ahead within this expressive ethos, carving out a process of navigation, and of rumination, toward the art of vibrations and of why and how he came to the rhythms he was creating.
During those early days in Pele, Mueller―along with bandmate Chris Rosnau―took the nascent steps of experimenting within established musical constructs to see what new prisms they could be capable of creating through. A lot of that drive sprung from the free jazz world in and around Chicago in the ’90s. Mueller began to take part in numerous improvisational concerts wherein he would quite literally just show up and build sounds from the ground up with virtual strangers.
This intense learning regimen informed Mueller of the instinctual synapses found when exploring spontaneous creation, perhaps most importantly to constantly analyze the moments in music that made him feel something, and to avoid the elements that didn’t.
Pele’s more structured arrangements, despite beginning with impulsive musical tendencies, gave way to Mueller and Rosnau’s much more experimental project, Collections of Colonies of Bees. The band released three full-length albums during the ’00s and sprouted a deeper excavation of Mueller’s burgeoning spirit for repetition, crescendo and multi-instrumental soundscapes. The continued move toward minimalism was spurred in part by Collections of Colonies of Bees’ release of the album Birds via minimalist label Table of the Elements, who’d released albums by seminal artists like Tony Conrad, John Cale, Thurston Moore and many others. Mueller began releasing his own albums through the label, expanding more and more into his own minimalist/maximalist niche with dense, repetitive music that builds to boiling points of energy played out over long periods of time.
“That’s something I don’t necessarily feel conscious of anymore,” says Mueller of the way he crafts his music. “I definitely don’t think about it when I’m creating stuff, but it’s part of the system now. It’s part of my DNA. It’s how I think.”
Mueller’s spectrum-spanning tastes have yielded intriguing, experimental solo projects, such as are found on his LPs Physical Changes, Metals, and The Whole, as well as Mueller’s more recent recordings with his project, Death Blues. Conceptualized as “a multidisciplinary project that addresses the inevitability of death as impetus to become more present in each moment,” Death Blues has performed in various incarnations since 2012, and have released three LPs, including 2014’s Non-Fiction.
As part of Volcano Choir, Mueller―along with the six additional members of the band, including Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon and musicians from Collections of Colonies of Bees―expands his own aural ambiguities through the process of breaking compositions down, then building them back up organically. The band, like Mueller’s own efforts, is a work-in-progress―some secret he’s attempting to unlock. But then again, what isn’t?
“I’m more continuously fueled by movements―the spirit of punk, the anger of metal, the release of gospel, the celebration of the blues, the tranquility of choirs, Pygmy voices, Georgian voices, visceral sound art. Within each of those is also a philosophy,” says Mueller. “Certain approaches can communicate to people that there’s more than just ‘playing drums’ involved, that together, we are at the crux of these vibrations and sounds, and that, ideally, can be a fulfilling experience.”
In tandem during his music career, Mueller has written a novella, Pianobread (1999), a box of short stories, Endings (2004), and contributed writing to ChangeThis and Pear Noir!, among others. Mueller also owned the recording label and promotion company Crouton, which published and promoted over 40 releases from 1999-2009.
Mueller has been invited to speak at functions such as the Loyola Music Industry Forum in New Orleans, lecturing on creativity, and how creative enterprises can be approached in different ways based on changes in business, technology, and the increasing saturation of communication. He has also lead discussions on listening for various functions, including a Listening and Creativity workshop at the Viva! Art Action Festival in Montreal in 2011.
These disparate interests relay a complexity to the whole of Mueller’s catalog―a panorama of creative indulgences where anything is fodder for a vibration within him, and by that virtue, a fulcrum for new vibrations and rhythms within his music.
“If something interests me, it comes out in various ways, or if I favor a certain feel, attitude, approach, etc., any work I do is going to contain elements of that,” explains Mueller. “When one wholly engages in something―physically, mentally, spiritually―that thing will carry through to something else we do. It’s now a part of our thinking and understanding. In that sense, we are like drums. How we are struck determines our response.”