Recycled Percussion brings their unique blend of rock and hip-hop to NMU

shane.nyman

Music fans feeling unfulfilled by the performers on this semester’s calendar may find a pleasant surprise buried amongst trash cans and old pipes in Vandament Arena.

Recycled Percussion, a unique four-piece group from New England, will bring their high-intensity percussion, rock and hip-hop concoction to Northern on Wednesday, March 12.

“We use garbage cans, 30-gallon drums, five-gallon pales, old fire extinguishers, oxygen tanks, scuba tanks, various types of metal that we cut, pipes, kitchen pans — anything that we like the tone of,” said Recycled Percussion’s Todd Griffin, who performs under the alias DJ Pharaoh.

Griffin has been a part of Recycled Percussion for the past two years, although the group began more than 13 years ago in New Hampshire as a talent-show act for Justin Spencer.

The band’s founding-father, who pounds the makeshift drum sets made exclusively from recycled goods, wound up winning over audiences in school and decided to take the show out on the road.

“We do this full-time,” Griffin said. “We travel eight months out of the year, and do a little over 200 shows a year on average.”

The group performs in front of a wide variety of audiences. Griffin said 85 percent of their shows are at universities, while the remaining 15 percent is made up of corporate events, award dinners and NBA or NFL half-time shows.

“We’ll do a show one night and there will be 30 people and then we’ll play an NFL half-time show and there will be 80,000 in the audience,” Griffin said, whose band will play during the intermission of a Memphis Grizzlies basketball game four days before they visit Northern.

Although the group is named Recycled Percussion, there are more musical elements involved. Adding Griffin as a DJ two years ago, and then guitarist Jim Magoon last August, was part of the band’s plan to have their sound appeal to a wider audience.

“When they started, they had just four drummers and that’s all it was. They realized they were pigeon-holing themselves into a certain market and they really could broaden out,” Griffin said.

Adding the electrically-driven beats and scratches of Griffin and shredding guitars of Magoon is what really inspired the theme for their current tour, Man vs. Machine.

“There’s play between what two guys can do with a bunch of buckets and recycled items against two people that have all the technology they need, with myself and the guitar player,” Griffin said. “We play back and forth on stage, kind of like a mock battle of sorts during the show.”

Each year, the band re-writes and re-orchestrates its live show after visiting different junkyards and car yards. They find new objects that could be used, test new things and see what would add something different to the show.

Unlike most contemporary bands, their main attraction is the percussion, so the two drummers — Spencer and Ryan Vezina — are out front, backed by the DJ and guitarist. And aside from the long list of cans and drums used in the show, the group also uses some more unconventional means to make music.

Recycled Percussion’s performances also often feature the use of power-tools.

In years past, jackhammers have been used, and this year’s show includes metal grinders used on a 50-gallon drum.

“The guitar player sometimes does solos, but uses a drill instead of a pick,” Griffin said.

Recycled percussion has been featured on different compilation albums, and has a five-song EP available from iTunes. The EP will also be physically available to buy at the show.

The group was nominated for several awards in the 2008 Campus Activities Magazine, including Best Music Group, Best Major Performance and Entertainer of the Year.

The event, sponsored by Northern Arts and Entertainment, begins at 7:30 p.m. on March 12 at the Vandament Arena. Tickets are free for students and $3 for the general public.

For more information, visit the group’s Web site at www.recycledpercussion.com or at MySpace.com/recycledpercussion.