If you go
What: Dustin Wong and Takako Minekawa
When: 9 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Rhinoceropolis, 3553 Brighton Blvd., Denver
Cost: free-$10

Listening to Dustin Wong's music, you might picture a man in a studio, laboring over mountains of equipment, or at the very least a guitarist with a vast array of pedals.

It's just eight pedals, and the tangles of sound Wong creates on his records can be replicated live. He's over from Japan for just a handful of U.S. shows with Japanese pop songstress Takako Minekawa, and he'll be at Denver DIY spot Rhinoceropolis on Wednesday to show us how it's done.

I'm curious how you found Rhinoceropolis. Not a lot of people from out of town seem to know about it.

Really? I've played there before with (my other band) Ponytail. One of the early tours with Ponytail, I remember playing a show in Olympia, Wa., and it was one of those shows where it was a restaurant show and nobody was gonna show show up. One of the guys who was gonna play was Travis from Pictureplane (who helped run Rhinoceropolis).

Is your music difficult to replicate live?

I write with that setup, so all the songs are composed with the pedals, so they're written live. They're not written in a platform on a computer, so it's a live performance and you'll hear everything you hear on the record when you see it live, too.


Depending on the place, it might even sound better.

Do you need to be in a very focused headspace or is it second nature by now?

I still need to focus. The weird thing about performing -- I become very sensitive to my surroundings when I am performing, so the littlest sound, you know, I can hear it. Conversations, little rustlings. I guess my awareness becomes heightened.

It's hard to believe the different sounds you can get just from guitars and pedals. How do you even begin to dig into them and tease out what you want?

It's like a mixture of intuition and just experimentation. Like the first initial idea, the first melody, might be the most conceptual part of writing the song. You know, maybe singing to myself or hearing a melody in my head. That initial melody, that's the most difficult part to come up with, to make it interesting right off the bat for myself. From then on it becomes intuition and how I can play off of it -- building, building, building -- and seeing how each melody can change the movement and the feel of what came before it.

Was it always the intention to have a trilogy of albums?

It kind of turned out that way. The first two records came out -- when I put those out, the third one was instantaneous. When I finished mixing the second record, the next day I was writing the third record. Once I was done with the third record, you know, that kind of rush of getting into composing again, it didn't happen because I was really satisfied with the three records I had put out. And I felt like it completed a certain idea. If I went and recorded another record in a similar vein, I think it would be overkill.

What made the material feel like a conclusion?

The progression from Infinite Love to Mediation of Ecstatic Energy -- I could see myself experimenting with different time signatures and ideas and counterpoint rhythms and things. This record, I have a song that kind explores an idea where, "what is this loop included four key changes or a song that's in 7/8 with 4/4 on top?" and that kind of stuff. It was fun. It was challenging. I was experimenting and I could have gone even further than that, but it would just be grandiose. How much can I lift? You know? That's not the point of it.

I hear there's a short story accompanying the physical album.

I'm really bad at coming up with song titles and ... a song title has to capture the essence of the song in a nutshell, and I was having difficulty capturing that with these individual songs. But I had a feeling for the whole record and I kind of could see this peripheral narrative ... I wrote down the story and what I did was go chronologically. I would choose different words and see if it reflected the sounds of the songs. And by choosing the different words chronologically, it connected with the words of the story and reflected the sounds of the songs. It was a creative process for me to be able to come up with song titles.

When in the process did you move back to Japan?

I was working on the record while I was in the States and finished it when I was in Japan.

Did the new environment change what you were doing?

I was in solitude a lot more in Tokyo, because I was more of a hermit and I kind of kept to myself. I do have friends there, but it was this very lonely time, and at the same time, a very rich time. I was beginning my relationship with Takako and it was a very healthy and amazing relationship, so I had that and being alone in Tokyo. I can't put it into words, really, but I felt that internalized.

What is it about working with Takako that works?

I really like her energy, and I sometimes find my sounds to be a bit too geometric and she brings in a much more rounder... an emotion that's more... it's just a sweet emotion.