Anthony Pirog

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About Anthony Pirog

Washington, D.C.-based guitarist Anthony Pirog is a musician who knows no stylistic limits. Educated in jazz but enthusiastically embracing diverse forms from indie/punk-informed rock to ambient experimentation, Pirog has emerged as one of the most noteworthy artists on the 21st century D.C. area music scene, defying predictability with live appearances in myriad configurations, from solo experimental sets to his genre-defying duo with cellist (and life partner) Janel Leppin, the hard-charging instrumental rock quartet New Electric, the proggy alternative rock trio Skysaw featuring former Smashing Pumpkins drummer Jimmy Chamberlin and singer/songwriter Mike Reina, and his avant jazz trio with bassist Michael Formanek and drummer Ches Smith. Pirog even led a performance of Terry Riley's landmark minimalist composition "In C," featuring an ensemble of 22 musicians, at D.C.'s Sonic Circuits experimental music festival in 2011. It's safe to say that no one knows precisely what to expect from Pirog, and that fact alone might make him noteworthy, but it's also helpful that he employs technology with uncommon intelligence, is guided by a surefooted artistic conception in each of his projects, and happens to possess killer chops. Pirog was born in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, with childhood years spent in Maryland and California before his family moved to Vienna, Virginia, just outside Washington, D.C., when he was nine years old. Anthony's father -- a former electric guitarist in a surf-style band -- played a key role in his son's burgeoning musical interest; the younger Pirog enjoyed listening to his father's record collection (from Howlin' Wolf and Sonny Boy Williamson to doo wop and, of course, surf), and first began learning guitar (starting at the age of 11 with Roy Orbison's "Pretty Woman") on a 1963 Fender Jaguar that his father decided to give to him. During the 1990s, Pirog attended the same high school as Janel Leppin -- although they wouldn't begin performing together as a duo until 2005 -- and played in myriad bands, his interests moving inexorably toward avant jazz and experimental music. Pirog's decision to pursue a career in music arrived with a scholarship to attend a summer session at Boston's prestigious Berklee College of Music, where he later enrolled as a full-time student upon graduation from high school. Pirog studied jazz guitar at Berklee for two years before completing a degree in jazz performance at N.Y.U. in 2004. He would return to the D.C. area six months after graduating, but not before he had absorbed all he could from the N.Y.C. club scene -- attending shows at Tonic and the Village Vanguard by the likes of Bill Frisell, Kurt Rosenwinkel, and Marc Ribot -- to supplement what he had learned through his formal music education. The guitarist wasted no time in making an impression back on his home turf of D.C. and environs. No musical style seemed to be off-limits for him, as Pirog could be found playing club gigs with groups (and as a solo artist) running the gamut from rockabilly, indie rock, and avant folk to creative jazz, fusion, and free improvisation to electronica and experimental ambient. He played numerous annual shows at Sonic Circuits, including the aforementioned 2011 performance of "In C," and became known for his mastery of electronic treatments and looping, filling the stage with over 20 pedals at a time. On record, Pirog made one of his first appearances as a member of the heavy indie-meets-Crimson instrumental quartet New Electric on the group's eponymous EP released by The Perpetual Motion Machine in 2005; meanwhile, the guitarist joined up with Leppin to form the ambient-folk-classical-experimental-etc. duo Janel & Anthony and also formed his own label, Sonic Mass Records, which issued Beginning to End, his solo debut of live improvisations ranging from pastoral acoustic to jarring processed noise, in 2009. Janel & Anthony tracks would appear on various compilations released by the Zeromoon ("intelligent noise music of the non-entertainment genre") label through 2010, and Pirog made his first appearance as a bandleader on the modern creative and free jazz-noise-ambient-etc. release Trio/Sextet, issued via limited-edition vinyl and digital download by Sonic Mass in 2011. In one of his most visible (and straight-ahead poppy) endeavors, Pirog was invited to join Jimmy Chamberlin and Mike Reina's prog-influenced alt-rock trio Skysaw, appearing on Great Civilizations, the group's 2011 debut album released by Dangerbird Records. As the 2010s progressed, Pirog captured the attention of the D.C. area label Cuneiform Records (based in Silver Springs, Maryland), which would soon give the guitarist his widest exposure yet as a leader or collaborator in avant music circles. Janel & Anthony's Cuneiform debut, Where Is Home, received considerable critical attention upon its release in 2012, and Pirog made his own label debut with the release of Palo Colorado Dream in 2014. Co-produced by Pirog and Reina, the album featured the leader on guitar and electronics in a trio setting with avant jazz and creative improvised music stalwarts acoustic bassist Michael Formanek (Tim Berne's Bloodcount, Thumbscrew) and drummer Ches Smith (Tim Berne, Mark Ribot, Trevor Dunn). ~ Dave Lynch

Lewisburg, PA, United States
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