Daryl Palumbo does not have business cards. However, given his personal experiences and genre-spanning creative journeys, there's a good chance that if he chose to carry the things, they'd be limited to his name, an email address and one word: music.
In a culture where countless participants obsess over the acquisition of credibility, Palumbo has amassed something betterresults. As the co-founder (with guitarist Justin Beck) of the furious Long Island rock outfit Glassjaw, Palumbo created two albums' worth of sonic/psychic catharsis that raised the urgency level of America's post-hardcore scene by several parsecs. With his other main outlet, Head Automatica, Palumbo has delivered two albums of dancefloor- geared rock (2004's 'Decadence') and taut power-pop (2006's 'Popaganda'), that crossed not just musical boundaries, but also the generational prejudices of fans who bought Elvis Costello's 'Armed Forces' the year it came out.
Meanwhile, on a completely different tangent, Palumbo teamed up with Hatebreed/X.O. Skeletons member F. Sean Martin to create House Of Blow, a venture designed to pursue the pair's shared love for rhythm and atmosphere via vintage drum machines and synthesizers. Three years ago, Palumbo's ongoing search for the infinite beat led him to convene Sports, a DJ triumvirate whose club forays have kept many a tri-state party raging longer than law-enforcement officials would approve. The trio issued a continuous tag-team mixdisc, 'I'm Hungry', last year.
"The shock of moving from event to event is part of the strategy," Palumbo offers when asked for a linear theory to his pulsating musical universe. "If you're into alternative music, you could enjoy anything from Carcass to Archers Of Loaf to El-P. When you're an evolved music fan, it's all for the taking. That said, the shock value of genre hopping and running headfirst into the most extreme aspects of these genres is what I find fulfilling as both musician and fan. It's great to be able to move from Glassjaw to working on a club track for Cubic Zirconia."
There's a hackneyed trend where most musicians who have tasted a microcosm of success in one field use an immersion into various musical idioms to kid both themselves and their public into thinking they are on the forefront of some attitude they will describe as "cutting edge" or "next level."
What do the death-metal shredder making his jazz fusion album and the pop-punk millionaire fronting behind turntables at a hip club share? A similar, parroting cluelessness and exasperating naivete that dilutes the very mediums they are trying to champion. In his experience as a music lifer, Palumbo has built his reputation on understanding the vocabulary, culture and idiosyncrasies that inform the music he loves. At any time, the object of his heart's (and ears') desire can be anything from room-evacuating powerviolence to 80s British proto-new wave (think Nick Lowe not Thomas Dolby) to classic trip-hop sides from the Mo' Wax label and filter-fortified electro to the entire canon of the late Frank Zappa, whose musical complexity and sardonic social commentary Palumbo says have been influences on him since childhood.
These aren't the whims of a musical dilettante damaged by iPod playlists and a middling aw-shucks-it's-all-good mentality. Palumbo has been able to pay homage to the sounds that shaped him in the best way possibleby creating great work with his own indelible stamp. Sure, his forward-in-all-directions mindset makes for some intriguing moments in the realms of possibilities and inspiration. But there is a commonality that runs through all of his projects, from the synaptic-gap meltdown of Glassjaw's 'Motel Of The White Locust' to Head Automatica's brooding body-mover, 'K-Horse.' Plain and simple, in Palumbo's universe, it's all about the beatand the details that ride on top of it. Exposure to hip-hop's countless hybrids during his formative years instilled in him a deep, profound love of the beat.
Just as the Uzi-fire acceleration of hardcore conveys a velocity that articulates purging everything in its path to start anew, allegiance to the beat is what fuels hip hop. It was an understanding of beat science that allowed Palumbo to solder hardcore's sweaty us-against-them populism to the all-eyes-on-me braggadocio of hip hop.
"There's so much to be said in the minutiae," he continues. "Mundane details seem tedious at the time, but overall, detail is the key element. Attention to detail is 150 percent of what I do. A concept, four chords and a change in the chorus: Can you sing it and play it on one instrument? Then it's a song. When you've cracked the code and it's legitimately like the references you are taking from or pointing tobut bears your own stampthen it's finished. Not everything I write in my life is supposed to hit a listener emotionally or tug at heartstrings. Even if a song is going to hit you on an emotional level, I want your hips to feel it, your shoulders to feel it and to get that sway-and-bob element out. Which I find equally important."
In the next few months, listeners will have the opportunity to further discover the wide breadth of Palumbo's talents. Daryl and Justin Beck have chucked the avant-garde-hardcore rulebook into a tree shredder to sublimate Glassjaw's latest exercise in foreboding fury, while Head Automatica's third album, 'Swan Damage', promises to keep an arm around your shoulders and both feet on the dancefloor.
In addition, Palumbo is bringing the big thump in remixes for NYC icons Rival Schools, hip-hop hero El-P, house music upstarts Cubic Zirconia, U.K. grime champions Roll Deep and firebrand hip-hop artist Yak Ballz. Whatever the time and situation calls for, Palumbo will throw himself into it. There's one thing he simply won't do, however, and that's phone it in.
"If you don't have the passion, you aren't going to create anything of worth," he resigns. "Look at this recent movement you're seeing in club music: Everybody can afford a laptop, so now everybody can execute electronic music. However, if it ends up sounding uninspired, there really isn't any room for it. I'm not interested in empty 'culturally relevant' statements. That's why real progenitors can execute the work: because they have the passion. You're not going to see or feel the nuances if you don't have the passion."
Pretenders and opportunists can suck the soul out of art as much as they want. Daryl Palumbo will be around to make more.