Wednesday, June 29, 2005

All Hail Electroshockbox

Music keeps one-man band sane

Humberto J. Vergara
El Paso Times

John Sweeden, aka Tron-D, wakes up in the morning to coffee and cigarettes.

Then he spends a few hours writing new beats on his custom-built Dobro Theremin -- a loud string instrument that dominated popular music in the 1920s -- and works designing custom furniture.

At the end of the day, he makes what he calls a small sacrifice and hangs out with his demons. During all these activities, his heart and soul are focused on one thing -- his music.

"Being a musician keeps me sane," he said in a phone interview from Tucson, his voice deep and raspy. "It keeps me grounded. It is my relief."

Tron-D is a one-man band known as Electroshockbox. He will perform alongside Mano Sol and Aztec Zodiac at 10 p.m. Thursday at the T Lounge, 1218 Texas.

"I think El Paso is one of the best places to play music," he said. "Last time I went down there, I had a good show at Moontime Pizza. El Paso has great, intimate venues."

Sweeden's interest in music sparked in 1992 when he moved from Muskogee, Okla., to Tucson for his senior year in high school. It was there that he created Electroshockbox "after being exposed to LSD and the herb."

With a combination of funk, electronica and goth music, Sweeden made Electroshockbox's newest release, "Panther Master," a symbol of his own personality.

"I like to call my music Satan- tronic -- that is music that deals with voodoo and bringing humanity back to its feet, but in a tongue-in-cheek kind of way," Sweeden said.

Tron-D's infatuation with the black arts prompted him to name his album after an emblem he created of a half-demon, half-human creature who is torn because he loves and hates humans at the same time -- the "panther master" was born.

"I think the song '(...) On My Back' is like no other song I've ever heard. Tron-D has a fearless energy about him," said Rodolfo Romo, an electronic media major at the University of Texas at El Paso.

Bands such as Helios Creed, the Butthole Surfers and the Carpenters -- yes, the Carpenters -- have influenced Electroshockbox's music. "In general, gospel music has influenced me. But I'm not religious. I just like the music," Sweeden said.

The name Electroshockbox originated from an animated sequence in a nickelodeon in Tijuana. After dropping five cents, the image of a dancing chicken receiving electric shocks on a box stuck with Sweeden.

Nowadays, he carries an artificial mold of a chicken with authentic feathers everywhere he travels.

Crystal Robert, booking director for the T Lounge, booked Electroshockbox to perform because of the two local opening acts.

Mano Sol, an electronica-rock band, and Aztec Zodiac, a jazz fusion band, will complement Tron-D's incendiary music. "I was looking for electronic music, and it sounded like these bands would work well together," she said.

She said El Paso has a community of electronic and funk music lovers.

"I'm excited about this show because we are bridging the El Paso and Tucson community," Robert said.


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