Idiot Fish isn’t just a species of fish in the Sebastidae family—it’s an evolving project of eclectic drummer and composer Wally Schnalle and the name of his upcoming show at City Lights Theater.

Performing with jazz musicians Jeff Massanari on guitar, Charles McNeal on saxophone and Joe Costantini on bass, Schnalle mixes the sound of live jazz with programmed electronica and synth from his drum set, creating a new blend of funk, jazz and electronica.

Although his ensemble has mainly consisted of duos and trios, Schnalle is more than excited to perform as a quartet.

“The musicians are great funk players with a bluesy edge,” he says. Playing as a quartet will enable him to have counter melodies and harmonies to his compositions.

With his computer, Schnalle runs software attached to each drum, which emits a synth sound once he hits the drum.

In addition to the synths, a large screen projects interactive visuals as a reaction to the audio coming from Schnalle’s drum set.

“It’s like a multimedia jazz experience,” Schnalle says. “Or a low-budget mini jazz rave.”

The drummer and composer first discovered his love for jazz when he was in high school as a drummer in the school band and then his own rock band.

Greatly inspired by drummers Jack DeJohnette, Elvin Jones and Billy Cobham, Schnalle decided that squeezing himself into a particular genre was limiting and began experimenting with electronics.

Schnalle experimented with the synthesizer, Moog, and “it was widely uncontrollable and made random sounds, but it planted a seed for me,” he says.

Eight albums and more than 70 compositions later, Schnalle says he is still experimenting and perfecting his art—especially with new technology.

“The technology is finally at a place where all the loop, industrial sounds and lighting are all coming out of my laptop,” he says. “It’s not just to turn on the computer and play another track as a DJ—every time Idiot Fish plays, it’s different because there’s interaction with the musicians and me playing those electronic sounds through the drum set.”

When Schnalle isn’t performing Idiot Fish, he also works as a freelance musician, often playing in venues such as Poor House Bistro, Pagoda and the Hedley Club in Hotel De Anza. He also teaches at a private studio and at San Jose Pro Drum and is currently the music editor for DRUM! Magazine.

First timers to Idiot Fish should expect an “audio and visual feast featuring world class jazz musicians working their craft,” he says. “Idiot Fish will evolve and eventually get legs, but this is a work in progress and will continue.”

Sunday, March 24, 2013 at 4pm
Tickets are $12 general admission, $14 at the door; open to all ages

City Lights Theater Company
529 S 2nd St, San Jose, CA 95112