Smackdown3_YOURNAME_Score Chris Black | About Chris Black
About Chris Black

GIF by Shelly Black.


Chris Black is a multi-instrumental composer and performer living in Tucson, Arizona. He has been a member of such groups as Shoulders (Austin, TX), Les Wampas (Paris, FR), Golden Arm Trio (Austin, TX), The Wedding's Off (L.A., CA), and the Taraf de Tucson (Tucson, AZ). He is the founder of the alt-classical, D.I.Y. chamber music concert series ChamberLab, currently in its seventh year.



2010 – Present
Founder, artistic director, composer, performer.

Jimmy Carr & the Awkward Moments / Jimmy Carr and the Coronets
2012 – Present
Contrabassist, violinist.


2-Door Hatchback
2013 – 2015
Contrabassist, singer, songwriter.

Tango Rosano
2012 – 2015
Contrabassist, violinist.

Bajo Turbato
2010 – 2013

Gabriel Sullivan / Gabriel Sullivan and the Taraf de Tucson
2008 – 2012
Contrabassist, violinist.

Ashes of Love
2007 – 2009
Lead singer, guitarist.

The Wedding's Off
Los Angeles, CA, 2002 – 2003.

Golden Arm Trio
Austin, TX, 1999 – 2001, 2006.

Austin, TX, 1989 – 1994.


Lullabies & Nightmares: Chamber Music, vol. 1, 2017
Drunk at the Funeral, 2012
Dunno, 2011
Jericho, 2006


Speak Easy
Artifact Dance Project, Tucson, AZ, 2014

The General (Buster Keaton)
ChamberLab, Fox Theatre, Tucson, AZ, 2014

Happening to Your Body
(Short Film) directed by Jon Ecklund, 2014

Beowulf Theatre, Tucson, AZ, 2012

(Short Film) directed by Rory O’Rear, 2010

Fugitive Pieces
Salvage Vanguard Theater, Austin, TX, 2002

Tilt Angel
Salvage Vanguard Theater, Austin, TX, 2001


Buffalo Exchange Arts Award

Golden Hornet Project String Quartet Smackdown
Sweet Sixteen Finalist, 2014
Winner, 2012

Best Alternative Packaging for a Compact Disc
Tucson Weekly Staff, 2012 (for Drunk at the Funeral)


I was born on a naval base somewhere north of Chicago, in the winter of 1969. Not long after, my parents moved us to the deserts of New Mexico and Texas, where they became music teachers. I remained unemployed. I was a housebaby.

My heroes growing up were Snoopy, Bugs Bunny, Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, and any cat.

In my freshman year of high school, I wanted to be a reporter, but the orchestra teacher was a friend of my dad's and said that I was tall and had big hands, so I became a double bassist instead. We played a Brandenburg Concerto and Stravinsky's Firebird. King Kastchei made a believer out of me.

Then we moved to the Hill Country of Central Texas, to a little town that had no orchestra at all. It was a football town, and so I joined the marching band, playing bass drum and quad toms during football season, and double bass during concert season. We played "Dancing on the Ceiling," if I remember, and the theme from The Magnificent Seven.

The woodwinds cried a lot, because the band director made sure that we felt like losers, or losers-to-be, because of the very important band competitions that were held every year. It's a shame.

So I became a lover of the theatre instead, playing roles in the school productions of The Crucible (Judge Danforth) and Midsummer Night's Dream (King Oberon). In my heart I was a goofball, and I longed to play comic roles, but I was tall and had big hands, so I was given roles like judges and kings, whose gravity greatly exceeded my own. It was comic, but not on purpose.

Undeterred, I enrolled in the University of Texas as a theatre major. The bad news is that I was a terrible actor, and would drop out in disgrace by the middle of my junior year. The good news is that by then I had joined my favorite band, SHOULDERS, playing bass and keyboard.

My years with Shoulders ('89 to '94) were wonderful. It was an incredibly exciting band, dynamic and strange, and my musicianship rose to levels I hadn't previously imagined. We had some success in Europe, with a French record deal and two tours with the Pogues. We never caught on in the States, unfortunately. Back home they were trading a hair metal obsession for a grunge obsession, and never quite went for post-punk New Sincerity cabaret rock. Nevertheless, good times were had. And then, after a while, less good times were had, and I moved on.

During that time, I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time to play bass with French rockers Les Wampas. I appeared as bassist on Simple et Tendre, and as multi-instrumentalist on Trop Precieux. As an electric bassist, I am most proud of my work with the Wampas.

Having returned from my latest engagement with the Wampas, and at loose ends musically, I started the first band of my very own, and I called it Run Devil Run. I played guitar and screamed, and there was also piano, electric bass (played by Todd Kassens, of Shoulders, and the best electric bassist I've ever heard), saxophone, trombone, and drums. The drummer was Tony Nozero, of Drums and Tuba, and he changed everything I ever knew about percussion.

We rehearsed and rehearsed and rehearsed for months as I ridiculously tried to make everything sound exactly as it did on my four-track demos, and finally played our first and only show at the Electric Lounge.

It wasn't very fun, and Tony left the band. This broke my heart, and so I let the band go, and fell into a non-musical period that would last for five years, during which time I only occasionally made four-track recordings of various little things, but otherwise played very little.

I started a few web sites, most notably the Hideous Jabbering Head of Abraham Lincoln. This was a humor site, where people could ask the Head questions, like an advice column. It is now defunct, and the domain has been taken over by some porno/virus thing, so don't look for it.

In 1999 I played in public again as bassist with the Pearly Gates. During this time, I was hearing a lot about a band called the Golden Arm Trio, fronted by pianist/drummer/composer Graham Reynolds. People told me it was amazing, and that he played with his elbows. There was a Pearly Gates / Golden Arm Trio show coming up, so I went out and bought the CD, which had Graham's phone number in the liner notes.

I called him up and offered to sit in. He paused for a moment, and said, "Well, maybe we should practice first." Okay! So we did, and that started one of the most satisfying and artistically prosperous periods of my life as a musician.

From the very first concert I was forced by Graham's ferocity, power, and imagination, to perform feats of bass playing of which I had never even dreamt before. Indeed, within five minutes of the first show, I was playing double-stopped slapped tri-tones, which I didn't even know was a thing. But I absolutely HAD to, or be left in the dust.

It was wonderful. It's safe to say that the majority of what I now believe about music composition, rehearsal, and performance came from my time with Graham and the GAT (2000 to 2003, and then again in 2006).

During that time, I also raided Graham's phone book and began building bands, most notably the Holy Ghost, which featured anywhere from nine to eleven musicians on such instruments as bass trombone, bassoon, violin, electric guitar, "rhythm" and "lead" pianos, double bass, and on and on.

Other bands of that time include the L.A. County Choir, the 5th Period Remedial Band, the Impalers, the Gun Show, and many others.

Graham played drums in the beginning, but over time the throne went to Jeremy Bruch, of the Blue Noise band. From Tony Nozero, to Graham Reynolds, to Jeremy Bruch, I have been very lucky. The reason I have no drummer now, and really haven't since (except for a few shows with the amazing Gabriel Sullivan), is that these people are impossible to replace. Indeed, I became a drummer myself for a little while.

During this time, Graham and Peter Stopschinsky started the Golden Hornet Project, an alt-classical concert series devoted to the music of "outsider" composers, such as ... well, all of us. I participated in concerts for string quartet, brass and percussion, and even a classical "hoot night." I would later take the same idea and get it going in Tucson, Arizona, under the name ChamberLab. But that's not for some time yet ...

In 2003 I moved to Los Angeles, where Shane Valentine (pianist from the Run Devil Run days), Roderick Cumming (of The Wedding's Off), and I became Black Valentine, a piano/bass/drum/violin/guitar catastrophe that mostly terrorized open mic nights at Mr. T's Bowl. In the meantime, I joined The Wedding's Off as drummer, playing an oversized parade drum and about a thrift store's worth of platters and metal serving dishes, and a snare drum that I inherited from my great grandfather, and a circular saw blade that bit me over and over again. The band got MUCH louder when I joined. Also, we tended to rush. A lot. My bad.

I only lived there for a year before going back home to Austin, but it was fun while it lasted.