"For me, music is a definite calling. I wrote my first song on piano when I was five years old," says Genre, a Bend musician who is currently performing a mesmerizing mix of flamenco guitar interspersed with tributes to The Cure, Morrissey and Depeche Mode every Thursday evening at Tart Bistro. On these nights, Genre's hands undulate across the neck of his Pedro de Miguel guitar the way a storm scatters over a field, brutal and full of beauty.
"True flamenco music has its own distinctive style of play and rhythms, which appeal if not for the simple fact that they are found nowhere else on the planet," Genre says.
The lithe San Diego native carries himself with a gentle elegance highlighted by a rotation of retro band T-shirts elevated to Saville Row style with an impeccably tailored jacket or cherry red suspenders, reminiscent of the Bowery Boys - if those boys were once keen on synthesizers and mope rock. Even with a sly wink of his tastefully mascara touched eye, this musician's tastes are not stereotypical.
"I used to sing in a Cure cover band and a Slayer cover band at the same time (in San Diego) and at one point even in the same show," says Genre, who declines to ever offer his real name or many details about his personal life, other than that he's worked in the culinary world.
Genre is currently in the process of the final mixing of a new four-song CD of original music that includes Meshem Jackson on drums, Julie Southwell on violin, Warren Zaiger on fretless bass and synth work by Dylan Randolph.
"As my name suggests, it will be quite a mixture," he says, "Some electronica, some acoustic."
He counts Morrissey, both as a solo artist and with The Smiths, as his favorite musician. "People have said they recognize elements of Siouxsie Sioux and Morrissey in my voice, but my music as a whole hasn't much reference to them. I like that. If I am not able to do something different, then I won't do it at all."
Upon my first listen to a rough cut of Genre's new album, I became so overtaken with this yearning tenor that I almost burned my house down. Forgetting I had placed dinner in a toaster oven, I became immersed as the story of Genre's CD unfolded, acoustic, electric, blithely original, at times playful while other moments I was struck by knife-edged yet ethereal darkness.
Soon, the smell of something burning brought me back to reality and I looked up to find the kitchen engulfed in black smoke. It seemed a strangely appropriate situation as I opened every window and door while Genre's music kept playing.
During a recent set at Tart, he held the entire bistro's attention as his hands flitted across his guitar strings like a hummingbird, or any of the other clichés that come to mind when describing the kind of deft fingers other musicians envy. But beyond Genre's immense skill is a graciousness and lack of ego. He is quick to answer questions about both timing and technique, share tips on the various ways to strum, recommend other bands and talk about how much he admires the other artists who contributed to his new CD.
Being a 20-year fan of both Moz and Robert Smith, the news of Genre's tributes such as "Just Like Heaven" and "Dial-a-Cliché" first drew me to Genre, but this musician's phenomenal talent has kept me coming back to Tart week after week.
"In my opinion, it is not a cover. There are elements present and I give credit where credit is due, but it feels like I am playing my music. I don't try to sound or sing like anyone else but myself," says Genre, "I think that anyone who enjoys the music of The Smiths, Morrissey, The Cure and Depeche Mode, though, will genuinely experience an immediate devotion to what I do."
7pm every Thursday. Tart Bistro, 920 NW Bond St. Free.