Artist Profile: James Sudakow explores dark matter with his electric violin

James Sudakow - MusicZeitgeist Indie Artist Profile

If you were old enough to grab on to the end of the musical experimentation coming out of the 1960’s into the early and mid 1970’s you may have been exposed to some of the gurus and instrumental masters that drew from Asiatic influences, the experiments in synthesis going on in London and Paris, crossed over with Western instruments and the psychedelic movement coming out of San Francisco; we’re not just talking The Beatles after their infamous trip to India or Jimi Hendrix and LSD, but instead acts like John McLaughlin (Mahavishnu Orchestra), Shakti, Klaatu, Japan (and what later became David Sylvian and Robert Fripp), Pink Floyd, Frank Zappa, and later The Art of Noise, Vangelis, Diamanda Galas, Praxis and even Mr. Bungle.

A huge surge of experimentation coupled with extraordinary skill and talent from this crossover produced recordings whose like hasn’t been heard since.  In the hipper-than-thou 90’s this musical panorama split in two: those that found it overly ostentatious and cerebral and thus dismissed it as Prog, and those that couldn’t get enough and started rabidly following acts like Dream Theater and Coheed For Cambria.

Having been raised on these kinds of records myself, hearing James Sudakow, an electric violinist based out of Long Beach, California felt to me like a comfy childhood blanket.  He mixes synths with electro-loops and recycled breaks with live drums, percussion, electric guitar and bass and of course his whining, squealing, soaring electric violin played through a Marshall stack.

Thankful for the fact that he is sticking his neck out and trying some old and experimental and cool in a whole new way, we asked James for an interview.  Here’s what happened:

MZ: Who?

James Sudakow on electric violin and viola, Andy Zacharias on bass, and David Gaziel on drums and percussion. Both CD releases were produced and engineered by Eric Zimmermann.

MZ: What?

All instrumental music featuring and led by the electric violin. The electric violin sounds I create range from what people would typically expect to hear from a violin – clean traditional sounds – to the complete opposite end of the spectrum of sounds most people would never expect to hear from a violin – heavy distortion, power chords, sounds effects and feedback through a Marshall stack triple lead amplifier. I think that the overall music is unique not only in that it is driven by an electric violin played in a non-traditional way but also that it pulls from many different musical genres. It combines rock and progressive rock, industrial electronica, fusion, improvisation, and psychedelia all together into something that ironically ends up not sounding exactly like any of those styles but it’s own thing.

MZ: Why?

Even though Jimi Hendrix was before my time, I always wanted to do to the violin what he did to the guitar many years ago – completely transform it and pull out of it sounds you wouldn’t think possible. As a fan of all forms of rock music, I wanted to find a way to make the violin a rock instrument and move beyond typical classical, country or even jazz applications. There is a natural energy with rock, progressive, and industrial music that I wanted to be able to infuse the violin into while still maintaining it’s classical and foundational roots. I’m continually trying to satisfy my rock needs with this traditionally classical instrument.

MZ: Until When?James Sudakow live at Tangiers

There’s always more music to write, and creating a little cognitive dissonance for audiences by playing the electric violin with heavy distortion through a Marshall never gets old. I’ll know it’s time to stop when I don’t feel the natural energy I get from finishing recording a new song or playing live. I think I’m far away from that now! Until then, we’ll keep it going.

MZ: Where?

We’re in the process of organizing tour dates across the U.S. for the late summer this year and into next year. We’ll have all of that up on the website within the next month or two.

Find out more at:


Available for purchase:
New CD – THERE IS NO SOUND IN SPACE (2009 release)

Debut CD – GREEN (2007 release)

Listen now to “‘Purple” by James Sudakow at

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