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Dusty Santamaria: Minor Cult Figure

dustyIn the song Sylvia Says, the opening track off the album Minor Cult Figure, Dusty Santamaria sings, “Left my home in ancient Rome, a messenger out on the sly.” The line is quintessential Santamaria: cryptically romantic, damp with the collective shadow, hinting of an unresolved past.

A selection of previously recorded material from 2008-2015, the ten tracks that comprise Minor Cult Figure were hand-picked from four full-length releases and an EP, and pressed for the first time on vinyl.

Santamaria, a fixture Portland’s underground music and poetry scene for over a decade, relocated, temporarily, in 2016 to Southern California. (The Willamette Week lamented the departure in last year’s article entitled Portland Is Losing Dusty Santamaria, The Greatest Enigma It Never Knew It Had) Uprooted from his adopted city and based for the past year in the town of Temecula, Santamaria found himself at an artistic crossroads.

“Being back in Temecula is killing a part of me that probably needs to die, but it is also training me to focus, with discipline, on what I’m calling my True Will,” said Santamaria. “Any illusion I had of my status as a small-time Portland rock star completely disintegrated into my new reality as an anonymous worker in a suburban neighborhood.”

That encapsulation within a stale and arid landscape inspired a renewed desire for touring. In 2016 Santamaria hit the road in brief stints, traveling as far east as Texas and Louisiana to perform his songs. With the release of Minor Cult Figure, a greater devotion to the touring life seems imminent.

“I love the road,” said Santamaria. “It’s a great reminder that wherever you go, whatever you’re looking at, you’re really only looking at one thing, which is life experiencing itself.”

And, perhaps, it is on the road where Dusty Santamaria truly belongs. His songs and poems have often suggested an allegiance to some ambiguous gypsy lineage. The lyrics on Minor Cult Figure spill from the speakers like archival sacrament, while Santamaria’s adaptive voice navigates the hallways and passages of his own documented past, ghostly and elegant, yet timeless in structure and substance. The music pulls from a variety of American styles, weaving doo-wop with folk, country with punk. Layers upon layers. An overlapping of time and place where, beneath the surface, swims the voice of the messenger. Cadences rise and fall like echoes of a playful mysticism from the backroom of an occult shop; to understand the songs, one must be willing to pass through the beaded curtain and offer up a palm.

“I’m giddy as hell that these songs are coming out on vinyl,” said Santamaria about the release of Minor Cult Figure. “Most of the folks that helped bring this record to life are living in the Pacific Northwest. It was in the rainy Oregon winter that I first got a notion of artistic community. I’m very grateful for that. This area of the world always leaves me wondering, what’s really at the bottom of the rain?”

-Charles Ghent

The Map Is Not The Territory

Selected Notes and journal entries from A DIY tour across Oblivian U.S.A.

I am a little known avatar performing the naked song for a post human audience.  Self-taught in spiritual wordplay attempting acrobatics of rock n roll poetry. Words, voice, & sound picked & strummed from a hollow body guitar. Some call it music others call it fire. The road is a place I want to belong. The road is a place I think I belong, so, sifting through a horrifying political climate; I stepped into the suit of the Troubadour, and sang at Sad Cafes across the Conjoined States of the Northern Americas.  I relied on love, intention, compassion and three to five chord songs to  further investigate my youthful hypothesis of purpose in this incarnation.


A poor boy rejects the work force to celebrate community in a vanishing world. Lighting a candle for Orpheus each night along the Black tar highway.


October 7th Temecula Ca. Las Vegas Nevada

Opening night concert Southern California, a vanishing Eden where ecology struggles to compete with mythology.  I strum, sing, stomp my feet for a smoky collective of friends, family and strangers. The show is not the show but those who go. Those who go stand like Icarus inside a sleepy midnight saloon. Wings melting along with the myth of the west. I search for songs of hope and courage. No blood in my veins only four lanes on the highway.

Headed East. Friday night Nevada. Double down Saloon. Aliens and anorexia.  Las Vegas ejaculating neon across a vast indifferent desert. Two table spoons of insomnia. The barmaid slips off her dress of cocaine. I’m opting for wanderer to be my solution in the conflict between king and thief. Strum, sing, scream, stomp, talk about the tarot on a late night radio program, have a drink with an off duty cop, seems like a decent frightened kid with an alarmingly undeveloped sense of self. It becomes a clear concern that reality is malleable and no one really has a grip on things.

It’ll be like kicking a two hundred year drug habit when fossil fuels finally do run out in this country. Clean energy alternatives and anarchist sensibilities at the forefront of my mind while looking at the desert sky behind the wheel of a big black Mariah. The peculiar, unsettling philosophy of individualism haunts the forefront of my mind every time I wait for a drink or attempt to navigate a Knotted nightmare of evening traffic.

Amerika is rotting teeth but tooth decay can be reversed. We are scraping the surface of a master plan. Wake up and mutate. Wake up and stay free. Evolve from primordial animal to human being to something more than human all in the span of one biological lifetime. Sing Songs about it. Make poems about it. It might not make you money but it costs no money to make. This machine kills fascists, this machine kills apathy, this machine kills anything that needs to pass so that it may be reborn. This machine kills anything that needs to pass so that it may be reborn. And again verbatim for as long as it takes.


October 11th Denver Colorado

Let’s not forget that we are simultaneously dead and alive. When dead, we are dead tired when alive.


October 26th Nashville Tennessee

Step out of what is real and into what is true. Evolve less in “virtual reality” and evolve more in “real virtue-ality ”. One day we’ll all find out that all of our songs were just little notes in one great big song.


October 30th New Orleans

That’s not an exit it’s just a painted brick wall. Sleeping next to Moira in Logan’s bed. Dreams of obligations to family. Working again at the tiny sad Temecula produce shop for Consuelo instead of going with Moira to play a show? It might not have been playing a show was something more in line with my true will than working the produce stand but maybe not more than serving my family? I’m not convinced I’m helping them that much anyhow. New Orleans and all its Magick. All it’s sun soaked swampy charm, alcohol induced dreamscapes. A perfect place for ritual Magick if I can get myself together enough to do something. Get it together, Dusty Santamaria. Make this tour of musical exploration and sharing as meaningful to as many people to as many people as you can and remember to keep an attitude of manifesting money. What you have from your adventure is almost running out. San Antonio painting sale really pumped up my pride. Austin show memorable,   emotional, well played, well paid. Eureka Springs silent and if not for the synchronicity of Moira reuniting with her lost friend, Leigh, would have been dismal. Oklahoma, a good small Tuesday night gig. Woody Guthrie museum, absolutely inspiring. Nashville reignited my ambition and faith in my musical and performance capabilities carrying me through my lyfetime. Goth kids getting out of the sun. Sick cats with tongues stuck out sitting on a wood picket fence. Night blooming jasmine on an 80 degree Halloween weekend.  Pop up DIY haunted house in a bleak harsh looking neighborhood. New Orleans. Always holds me in its spell. Lots of harsh poor decisions I’ve made here in the past, still haunt me when I step back into the swamp covered by concrete.  Tuesday’s concert will be a per formative success. Tuesday’s concert will be an economic success. Tuesday’s concert will be an artistic success. Tuesday’s concert will be well attended. It is said that a human incarnation is the most precious gift in the ten thousand myriad worlds of being.

Nov 3rd Somewhere Along the Highway

The unity of all conscious thought is clearly mirrored back through relationships with friends while traveling. We are a new breed of human being this century. Possibly because of the severely wounded state of the planet? Is she screaming for us to evolve?  The dazzling connectivity of life being that when one thing is being pulled down another is being propelled up. Playing music in little sad cafes moving from town to town gives perspective of continuity of conscious thought between different beings as well as a romantic outsider role in which to observe them. This is perhaps why it is currently such a sought after lifestyle. The feeling of freedom, of course. But wherever you go there you are. Drop beliefs, raise consciousness. It’s a grandiose statement but it’s close to the truth. In my bones I feel it to be “true”. Until we are all happy no one is completely happy. Until we are all free,  no one is completely free.

Frozen Music: Or,The Way you Do Anything is the way You Do Everything…

imageSomeone once said, “All art aspires to the nature of music.” I’m not going to qualify a statement like that with descriptions such as “true” or “false”. I will however admit that the phrase has repeated itself over in my mind like a stubborn mantra for the last couple of years. It is in the last couple of years that I have become deeply invested in the meditative process of painting.

Perhaps, according to the quotation, other mediums aspire to the nature of music because pure music (meaning only sound in conjunction with time) is completely devoid of any and all ideology? Perhaps it’s because in playing music it becomes apparent that no moment ever repeats itself? Do not be deceived. A note is never played the same twice. I don’t know…

I’ve played in bands all my life. Punk rock bands, garage, psych, rhythm & blues, honky-tonk. Stuff like that. Stuff where energy and impulse rank higher than technical prowess. The same approach has been translated in this new obsession with painting. The way you do anything is the way you do everything. These nine pieces were created compulsively, with great joy by an untrained hand. I have a profound shyness regarding institutions of higher skepticism. I believe a painting knows how it wants to be painted just as a song knows how it wants to be written. All the artist has to do is not get in the way and let the thing breath through him.

“Frozen Music” is how Goethe described his favorite architecture. I think it applies to these paintings and it’s what I’ve always wanted to call my first art show. Hopefully, each piece tells a story, though I’m well aware that not every piece will reveal its secrets to each individual viewer. Thank you for taking the time to read this statement and for looking at the show. To paint is to love again.



Strange Wings Of Impossible Butterflies

It’s embarrassingly difficult to surrender
A Friday night to solitude and books of poetry
At my desk next to a moaning heater in mid-December.
My opposing inclination is to reach for the telephone
And call a woman that might possibly allow me to hide
From myself in the dark safety between her legs.
Such is the weakness of males, right?
“Why do you need so much attention?”
An old poet asked me once ….
I want the secret galleries of the soul to reopen
With conversation in the city and admit me.
I’m waiting for a fly ball I know I can’t catch.
The secret to living in the twenty first century is….
Hunting with my fingertips for a gospel on the piano
I know the blessings and grace I’ve been given.
Every person I see is a cracked carnival mirror of consciousness.
Spinning around in the dazzling light show of counter actuality.
My father was born at the Beginning of the Second World War,
He saw life was holding a concealed knife behind its back.
And noticed importance only with the stabs it gave.
A lifetime of savings in the wrong currency.
I’m disappearing among the Handshakes of potential allies.
Identifying strange wings of impossible butterflies.
Hunting with my fingertips for a gospel on the piano.
The secret to living in the twenty first century is…

Journal entry, Portland Or.
Dec. 15th 2016

Mexico City 2015

I’m staring out the window of descending flight six sixty seven. The enormous city below could be no other. Mexico City, El Distrito Federal, Tenochtitlan, DF, a chaotic collage of color and concrete that swallows the desert floor, a seemingly endless improvisation of architecture, a hyper metropolis slowly sinking in a lake, even from above one can recognize the contrast between developed and undeveloped worlds that inhabit this place. A Famous blanket of smog hovers like the shadow of an Aztec priest. I’ve come seeking words for a city that defies description. I’ve come to dance with twenty million strangers. I’m only here to meet the monster. I’ve come to see if it wants to give me a name.
The violence and ingenuity, the faith and generosity, the challenges and rewards of people living here provide an endlessly inviting canvas for the most vibrant paints of imagination. From the first steps out of the airport and into the streets I feel a palpable sense of struggle both familiar and foreign to my understanding of the human condition. I reach for my notebook to scribble this naïve observation, “it’s only dangerous because it’s so fucking sweet. Dangerous only because the balance of power has to be redefined.”
Navigating the metro system in a city of twenty million inhabitants can be a dizzying prospect. Riding trains at rush hour is like being at a maximum capacity punk show. The moment the door of an approaching train is opened I am pushed inside by a stampede of hopeful riders, all of us maneuvering and contorting our bodies to conform to the mosaic of humanity already inside, no one with an inch of space to call his own. If a passenger absolutely does not fit into this comical jigsaw puzzle, he is pushed out of the car back into the station to await the next train among a curious cast of characters, cops, cripples, beggars, buskers, children selling chocolates, inconspicuous pickpockets, overly conspicuous mariachis and always a pair of teenage lovers, entwined in hopeful embraces, soaking up hours of promise before submitting to the madness around them, all the necessity and absurdity of being, No one with an inch of space to call his own.
Stepping out of the catacombs of the station I become absorbed in the labyrinth. Crooked hunchback buildings tattooed with catholic saints surround me. The cacophony of solicitations from an informal economy, certain as a sunrise. I am anonymous in a sea of secret brown faces. The delicious scent of onions and chorizo mix with the acid odor of exhaust fumes and sewers. Although my Spanish is limited, I read the language of the streets. With our eyes, we all must learn to speak the language of living things. An amputee juggles oranges for a few pesos at a stop light. Three business men exit a limousine outside an immaculate 4 star hotel. Street dogs rummage through the trash. This is the language of living things.
In the Plaza de Garibaldi, mescal runs through my brain like a polluted river. I float passed an army of sequined mariachis toward a cantina, so dimly lit, it appears to be in black and white. I stumble to the bar and trip over a few rehearsed lines. Mescal. Even among the laughter and drunken congeniality there hangs the unmistakable essence of sorrow. I move like a shadow into the corner to watch the life in front of me. Every 15 minutes or so two heavily made up working girls with bodies shaped like tamales come into the cantina and attempt to lure one of the patrons into the back room. Soon it comes my turn to receive the invitation. She introduces herself as Marta Elaina and feigns a seductive smile which aside from the insincerity is even less effective due to the absence of several crucial teeth. I decline as politely as I can and head back into the night. The streets of the centro are silent. Ive forgotten what silence is like. Looking around, there is a still a profound sense of the old city. Some history refuses to be buried. I walk through the night. I buy a black rosary from the last remaining street vendor at the Zocalo.

The Gallant Knight

gallant knight 1Early painting, 2007, Acrylic on a piece cardboard torn from a lemon box.

The Triumph of Venus