Surf rocking Tsunami Brothers latest project for eclectic musician Bill Damur

As likely to turn up with a lute in a medieval minstrel troupe as a thrash guitarist in some rock band, Edmonton musician Bill Damur has learned to be versatile.

What was true in music school – “You’re there to suck in every piece of information and every experience you can” – is true in the real world, as in, “If you’re going to make a living in this town as career musician, you can’t say no to gigs.”

He hasn’t. His latest venture is a surf rock quartet called the Tsunami Brothers (Damur, above, third from left), making its debut Saturday night at the Alberta Avenue Hall as part of the Deep Freeze Festival. It’s a tropical-themed night that includes a bikini fashion show. Can’t say no to that.

Also not refused in this odd career funded by a day job as a music instructor at Alberta College was a new wave band in the ‘80s (Voice, associated with Skinny Puppy), a progressive rock group (Baffin Island Party, Marshall McLuhan concept band) and a jazz fusion band (Mobius, a Chick Corea sort of thing, says Bill). From the Ventures act this weekend, Damur is going “avant garde” next weekend as a member of the Boreal Electro-Acoustic Music Society (BEAMS), which plays the Ortona Armoury (9733 102 Street) as part of “Art’s Birthday,” which is a celebration of the birthday of “art” itself, allegedly invented one million years ago on Jan. 14.

Out there enough for you? Try this: On the question of popular music’s descent into anarchy, Damur says, “Music, up until the 20th Century, was largely Newtonian, which is to say there were distinct rules for harmony and for voice leading and blah blah blah. Nowadays, music is much more quantum, it’s relativity observed. What’s noise to one person may be music to another. It’s all relative to the observer. And we always say the next generation’s music is anarchy.”

Damur doesn’t agree with the adage that you have to know the rules of music really well in order to break them all properly – “rock ‘n’ roll is the people’s music, you can learn that on the street,” he says – but he’s one to talk, holding a Master’s degree in music from the U of A. The son of Edmonton jazz scene pioneer Bud Damur remembers being a misfit in the strictly classical, or “legit,” circles of musical academia, whose members wouldn’t know an improvised rock solo if it bit them in the ass – and sometimes tended to frown upon people who did. Damur is one of the rare musicians who can be credible in both worlds, or as he puts it, “I could walk down two hallways, the Grant MacEwan hallway and the U of A hallway and find compatriots from both schools.”

As for the Tsunami Brothers, Damur had been itching “to get my hands dirty with a rock band again” and come with an idea for a project that involved cute Asian girls dressed as aliens. Friend and fellow musician John Towill had a different idea: Start a surf band.

Damur’s reaction was quick, “I know nothing about surf – let me learn!”

The Asian girls will just have to wait.