Sound It Out: “20 Questions” #22 — Nick Millevoi

Another installment of the recurring “Sound It Out: 20 Questions” feature on, with an artist answering a survey inspired by the famous Proust Questionnaire…

(Nick Millevoi, rocking Greenwich House. Photo: Bradley Bambarger.)

If Neil Young ever went around the free-jazz bend with Crazy Horse, it might sound something like guitarist Nick Millevoi and company catching fire in tracks like “Desertion and the Arsonist’s Match,” from his 2016 Shhpuma/Clean Feed album Desertion. That disc – featuring Nick with keyboardist-engineer Jamie Saft, bassist Johnny DeBlase and drummer Ches Smith – is a sonic thrill ride of improvisationally minded, psychedelically tinged avant-rock. Nick’s follow-up with his Desertion Trio – the guitarist alongside DeBlase and drummer Kevin Shea – came out earlier this year, with the simpatico Saft again on organ and the recording console. Titled Midtown Tilt, the new Clean Feed album can be combustible – dig the roaring climax of the big-sky title track and the serrated edges of “The Carideon” – even as it has more tinges of urban-noir (“Numbers Maker”) and Spaghetti Western (“It’s a Hard World for Little Things“). For all the improvisational flair and rock volatility of Nick’s guitar with the Desertion Trio, the music always brims with hooks and a composer’s sense of drama (befitting a kid who grew up listening to The Police – see his comments in my Mix magazine cover story on Andy Summers). Nick – who was born in 1983 in Philadelphia, where he still resides – has garnered glowing reviews for these recent two albums, with NPR describing his guitar in full flight as “like a rocket darting skyward between clouds.” And no less than Wilco six-string ace Nels Cline sat in with Desertion Trio in Philly for the tune “The Fire That Partially Damaged City Hall,” from Desertion. But Nick has pursued a wide range of music beyond the Desertion Trio: in a dizzying math-rock vein with Many Arms, splintering free-improv with Haitian Rail and ambient-noise solo works such as In White Sky and Hopeful Prophecies for Old Technology. Nick is an artist worth following, whatever avenue he ventures down. And he’s a lovely guy.

Nick made his Sound It Out debut in February 2017, leading the Desertion Trio in a wall-shuddering show at Greenwich House. He returns to the series on April 21, 2018, performing in a duo with pianist Ron Stabinsky. — BB

  1. What was the first jazz album you fell in love with and stayed in love with?

A Love Supreme by John Coltrane. 

  1. What’s one of your all-time favorite non-jazz albums?

Songs in the Key of Life by Stevie Wonder.

  1. What’s the last album you listened to from beginning to end – and did you like it?

Moonlight in Vermont by Johnny Smith. Johnny’s playing is of the highest level. He’s a jazz guitarist who doesn’t get discussed enough.

  1. What’s your favorite film score?

Dead Man by Neil Young. It’s also my favorite recording of Neil’s guitar playing – and just the best guitar tone.

  1. What was the most recent concert – of any genre – that made you fall in love with music all over again?

Mike Stern’s band at the Ardmore Music Hall in Ardmore, Pennsylvania – insanely ripping.

  1. Which are your very favorite and least favorite venues for live music?

The Stone, old or new, is my favorite – direct, simple, generous in its approach… My least favorite is any place with bad sound. If I can’t hear my guitar, I get grumpy.

  1. What’s your favorite quote about music?

“Ya think, ya stink.” — Neil Young. Ron Stabinsky reminded me of this one recently, and I’ve been making sure to keep it floating around in my head. It’s a good reminder for improvising!

  1. If you could have a drink with any visual artist, who would it be?

I think sitting down for coffee with Tyree Guyton could be really cool. He’s the guy who created The Heidelberg Project in Detroit, a constantly changing and deeply inspiring place.

  1. What are the top three tools of your trade?

My Creston Telecaster, my 1972 Deluxe Reverb and a handful of picks.

  1. What’s your most indispensable piece of technology that isn’t music-oriented?

My iPhone. It helps me get places, communicate, and plays music for me.

  1. What are your top media sources of writing/opinion/news about music?

I read a few guitar magazines and get most of my news from NPR. I probably get most info on current music from social media.

  1. What non-musical/non-technological quality is most important to being an enduringly creative musician?

Keeping your mind open and staying driven.

  1. What living person do you most admire – and what’s one quality he or she has that you most admire?

Stevie Wonder. He is a deep source of positivity and love.

  1. What living person do you most despise – and what one quality he or she has that you most despise?

All the evil people trying to destroy us. Unfortunately, there are too many of them to list, but we all know who a lot of them are.

  1. What’s your favorite place in the world?

Wildwood, New Jersey – insane, chaotic, energetic.

  1. If you could live in another time period, when would that be?

I like things from the late ’50s and early ’60s – guitars, design, records, jazz. That said, I wouldn’t trade places if I had the opportunity.

  1. What book would you most like to read again?

Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut. It’s only novel I have read three times and will most likely read again.

  1. What film haven’t you seen that you feel like you should?

I have never watched any of the Fellini films, which I think is ridiculous.

  1. What aspect of the past do you miss most – and what’s one thing you look forward to about the future that doesn’t yet exist?

Futuristic “space age” design that is mainstream and not cheesy. I think that may go for both parts of the question…  

  1. What would you like your last meal to consist of?

A cut of meat cooked by Anthony Bourdain, his choice.