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MonoNeon, the artist with an unmistakable microtonal approach, a lover of fart pedals and an existential funker in action with his signature Fender instrument. | Photo: Ken Spielman Photography
MonoNeon, the artist with an unmistakable microtonal approach, a lover of fart pedals and an existential funker in action with his signature Fender instrument. | Photo: Ken Spielman Photography
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TOP 7 Tips for Artists from MonoNeon

Dywane Thomas Jr., also known as MonoNeon, is an American bassist and experimental musician from Memphis, Tennessee. You've probably registered him on social media because his personality stands out a mile. He can impress you with his virtuoso playing, hilarious play-a-long videos, or his colourful clothing style reminiscent of a walking plush toy store. Flea has said of him: "This guy is the greatest f***g electric bass player", and that counts for something. However, MonoNeon is first and foremost an amazing artist who follows his manifesto. He recently released the second part of it, so let's get inspired by his top 7 tips for aspiring artists and musicians. 

1. It's not about being different anymore. It's about doing what I want. 

Okay, so here the cards are clearly dealt. I'm sure you've heard the many tips on how to "be different", "be yourselves", "be unique" and countless similar words of wisdom on how to stand out from the crowd. In the past, this has been true for some artists and it has worked for them to be different, shocking or outrageous. MonoNeon may have realized that just being different in the incredible flood of virtual content no longer makes sense.

The difference has turned into ordinariness due to its quantity. Imagine a world where there are thousands of MonoNeons (which is actually reality). What's the point of wearing a teddy bear hat if it doesn't guarantee that you are unique? The only point is that I do what I want to do and feel good about it.

2. The simple act of choosing an ordinary object is ART enough, just dignify it.

I totally agree with this statement. There is a huge amount of things, living creatures, objects and spaces around us that we just don't pay enough attention to. I find myself staring in awe at the mouldy walls of the London Underground. I see in them strange patterns, touches of the metaphysical, beauty in decay. It's very hard to describe but very easy to feel.

You might be a fool to marvel at the perfection of a worn door handle, dive into the whiteness of spilt milk or admire the most kitschy golden cat waving at you from the window of one of the many local shops. But you're alive. You are here and now, aware of the world around you, able to rejoice and feel even the banality of life. Put a face on that banality. Give it your artistic spirit.

3. Microtonal-Southern Soul  

MonoNeon is a big fan of microtonal music and its representatives such as Julian Carrillo, Z.Z. Hill, Ivan Wyschnegradsky, Denise LaSalle, Little Milton and Alois Hába.

Just to clarify. Microtonal music or microtonality is the use of smaller intervals between two notes than a semitone, also called "microintervals". We can use this name for music that uses intervals that do not occur in the usual Western tuning of the twelve semitones that make up an octave. A microtone can be thought of, for example, as a tone found between the keys of a piano tuned in the usual European equal-tempered tuning. In layman's terms, you are simply always somewhere "in-between". And that's what MonoNeon really loves.

4. I wanna' play the way I live, and the way I live ain't perfect... it ain't flawless.

A very deep and authentic confession, with which I also cannot but agree. Play the way you live and live the way you play. It can be applied to all genres of music and we all probably feel very well what is being said here. If you get on stage and pretend, it can only work to some degree. But you're never going to touch the soul of your listeners.

Do you know that famous (and often ridiculed) saying about the one person in the room who is interested in your music? You always play for that one person. And if you're lucky, it can turn into a thousand or a million enthusiastic fans. But one never knows, and being afraid to stick your (imperfect) neck out is not for everyone.

5. Minimalism sculptures

Again, a very specific expression of taste and sources of inspiration. MonoNeon encourages you to follow artists such as Anne Truitt, Sol LeWitt and Richard Serra. In his opinion, their work will help you play better and you will always find plenty of material for your artistic development with them.

6. There is no time for insecurity... JUST PLAY!

I jerk and shout excitedly: yes! It speaks to my soul. I need to get my hands in the mud, have my first awkward moment at a gig and not worry about why I'm not good at something. I just go, play and repeat the whole process until I start to feel like I know what to do.

Play, don't worry about your gear, get rid of preconceptions, get rid of the endless thinking process and grab your bass every day. A very simple but effective solution to improve as a musician.

7. At the end of the day, we all just wanna' be heard. 

There is no need to be afraid of your presentation. Don't worry about what others will think of you or whether you should upload another video. Try everything possible (and often impossible) to get your name out there. Do you have a record? Do you make videos capturing you playing? Are you gigging? Do you go out with friends or to concerts? No? Well, you better fix that.

Turn off the comp, leave your phone in your backpack and hurray to create or party. Both are needed. People will want to hear your new song, they'll want to see you on stage, and they'll need someone who resonates with their souls. So don't be afraid to let the world know you exist!

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Marek Bero
Bass Gym 101 books, touring & session bass player, football tactics aficionado.