Iowa City musician uses alter ego as muse


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Local musician Mitchell Gardner has produced several LP records of his original songs. But his new project — set to be completed in February — is a rock opera based on conversations with his alter ego.

The Iowa City resident and Des Moines native, who grew up in a musical household, said he has been a musician for as long as he can remember. His parents were Christian missionaries, so as a child he was attracted to the large sounds found in hymns such as choral harmonies and towering church organs.

The 20-year-old has built up a large collection of different instruments, including guitars, bass guitars, ukuleles, numerous horns, a saxophone, and an organ he picked up off of the curb.

Despite growing up on hymns, he now focuses on jazz.

"I listen to jazz because I like the tones," he said in his quiet voice. "When I listen to it, I get this almost sick feeling; it can make me weak at the knees."

The music and videos Gardner creates, while influenced by jazz, do not fit into a traditional genre.

"If you listen to what's on the radio today, 80 percent is the same synthesizers, high hats, and drum kits," said Tony O'Donnell, who helps Gardner create his rhythm and beats. "But [Gardner's] music uses sounds recorded from nature, like bird songs [or] the sound of people kissing. His music is like a collage of what we hear all the time."

Gardner works under the pseudonym "Daesoph," loosely pronounced "days off," because his music acts as an escape for him. The name also includes "Aesop," in reference to the author of the classic fables, because Gardner enjoyed his small stories with huge lessons as a kid.

His latest effort, a rock opera currently titled How I Learned to Love the Bomb will be released in February. He said conversations with his alter ego acts as his muse.

"It's this alter ego that I frequently reference," he said. "I don't talk to it as another personality, but I see it as the inspiration and what gives me the drive for doing my music."

Gardner's friend and collaborator Dan Williams said there are other reasons Gardner makes music.

"He is making it for the people," Williams said. "He can make some really great riffs that make you want to dance, and he can make you want to sit down and think. It is really listener-friendly and easily accessible."

Though How I Learned to Love the Bomb is still a work in progress, Gardner has a good idea of what concepts the finished product will cover.

"It's about narcissism," he said. "And being OK with admiring what you do, admiring yourself, and working with what you have."

O'Donnell said the technology they work with out of Gardner's College Street house isn't the best available, but that doesn't hold them back.

"It doesn't matter if what comes out sounds perfect, because nothing will," he said.

In the end, Gardner seems to possess the same characteristics he said he looks for in a good musician.

"I really like musicians that have this internal feeling that they can really go somewhere with there work," he said. "Musicians who are really confident even if they don't know exactly where they're going."

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