In advance of the Sun Ra Arkestra's annual Halloween performance, Ars Nova Workshop asked guitarist Nick Millevoi to interview Arkestra guitarist DM Hotep. These two Philadelphia-bassed axe-slingers discussed Hotep's time in the Arkestra and how that has shaped his musical life. 

The Sun Ra Arkestra performs at Johnny Brenda's this Monday, Halloween, at 8 pm. Millevoi's band, Desertion Trio, will be featured on the Ars Nova calendar later in the season, performing alongside Nels Cline/Larry Ochs/Gerald Cleaver, also at Johnny Brenda's, on December 11.

Guitarist DM Hotep has been a member of the Sun Ra Arkestra as long as I've been going to see the band play. As a guitar player myself, I've always been intrigued by his unique approach. Using his guitar as a MIDI controller with a stereo amp setup, Hotep seems capable of conjuring any sort of sound out of his guitar from one moment to the next. In a band full of horns, he's an understated presence, often near the back of the bandstand, humbly ripping a hole in the cosmos and contributing doses of sci-fi sonics to the ensemble.

We recently started collaborating in visual artist Erik Ruin's band, Ominous Cloud, and I continue to be enthralled by Hoteps ability to channel the unexpected. We had yet to have a good hang where we talked 
about the Arkestra and his experience with the group, so I decided to document the conversation. -Nick Millevoi

How did you end up being the guitarist in the Sun Ra Arkestra?

It was the right person at the right moment at the right space and the right time, you know? It was pretty much that kind of situation.

I got to know the avant garde musicians in Philadelphia through [vibraphonist] Khan Jamal. Khan Jamal, like in the mid-90s/late-90s, he had an organization called Jazz Composer's Forum and it was a big group of musicians who were a little on the avant garde side just looking to workshop their pieces for large ensembles.

I guess I got to know Tyrone Hill [through the Jazz Composer's Forum]. Tyrone Hill was in it and I auditioned for the string section for the Arkestra's big new millennium concert at the Painted Bride. I wasn't initially gonna audition because they were looking for a string section. My girlfriend was like, “You play strings,” and I was like, “Guitar doesn't really count,” and she was like, “It's strings right?” So I ended up getting in the rhythm section and the guys became aware of me. Then, a couple of years later, they needed a guitarist in the band. Charlie Ellerbee was there and I guess he decided he was gonna go in a different direction and they needed an emergency guitarist and called me.

Ars Nova Workshop is proud to announce the British Contemporary Music Festival, a two-day celebration of Britain’s extraordinary contributions to jazz and contemporary music.
Presented in conjunction with the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, the UK’s largest international festival of new and experimental music, the festival presents compositions and performances by some of the leading pioneers of free improvisation and avant-garde composition in the UK. Renowned saxophonist/composer John Butcher will present a scintillating evening-length composition inspired in part by classical Arabic and Sufi music, while the compositional achievements of ground-breaking free improvisers Derek Bailey and Paul Rutherford, many of them world or US premieres, will be realized by a remarkable ensemble of creative musicians from the UK and Philadelphia.
On Friday, June 24 at FringeArts, the festival kicks off with an evening of compositions by guitarist/composer Derek Bailey and trombonist/composer Paul Rutherford, two of the artists who helped lay the foundation for European free improvisation beginning in the 1960s. The program includes the US premiere of Bailey’s realization of Karlheinz Stockhausen’s “Plus-Minus;” the world premiere of “Ping,” Bailey’s transliteration of the titular Samuel Beckett play, and a trio of solo guitar compositions; and the world premiere of a new version of Rutherford’s piece “Quasi-Mode” for 12 players.

Bailey co-founded Incus, the first musician-owned independent record label in the UK, with Evan Parker, Tony Oxley and Michael Walters, while his long-running Company Week festival convened a wide range of improvisers annually for nearly 20 years. Rutherford met drummer John Stevens and saxophonist Trevor Watts in 1958, laying the foundation for European free improvisation through the trio’s experiments with American jazz. He was a member of the Spontaneous Music Ensemble, Barry Guy’s London Jazz Composers’ Orchestra, Globe Unity Orchestra and Keith Tippett’s Centipede, and founded the group Iskra 1903, originally with Barry Guy and Derek Bailey.
On Saturday, June 25 at the Phialdelphia Art Alliance, the festival concludes with saxophonist/composer John Butcher and percussionist Mark Sanders performing Butcher’s hour-long composition Tarab Cuts, which was shortlisted as one of the Best Contemporary Jazz Compositions of the Year in the 2014 British Composer Awards. The concept of “tarab” stems from Arabic classical music and refers to a state of musical ecstasy, a melding of music and emotional transformation.
Butcher earned his PhD in theoretical physics at the University of Surrey in England before turning his full attention to music. He’s since become a vital and prolific contributor to the British contemporary music scene, both as a renowned improviser and composer. He’s well known for his solo work, often employing multitrack effects, extended techniques, and acoustic explorations of his environs. A regular duo partner with Butcher, percussionist Mark Sanders has played with many renowned musicians including Wadada Leo Smith, Derek Bailey, Henry Grimes, Roswell Rudd, Peter Brotzmann, Otomo Yoshihide and William Parker.


Ars Nova Workshop is proud to present its spring 2016 season, a thrillingly eclectic mix of American innovators and European masters.

MacArthur Fellow saxophonist-composer Steve Coleman and his ensemble, Five Elements, are in Philadelphia for a  two-week residency. Activities include multi-level workshops, performances, outreach, masterclasses, and more. Events and activities will happen in a variety of locations throughout the city.

Upcoming performances include:

Friday, October 9, 6-9pm
Rigby Mansion, 523 East Church Lane
Free Admission, Rain or shine, BYOB, BYOBlankets

Sunday, October 11, 11pm
Ortlieb’s, 847 North 3rd Street
$10 Admission

Monday, October 12, 4-7pm
Tuesday, October 13, 4-7pm
Wednesday, October 14, 4-7pm
Thursday, October 15, 4-7pm
Friday, October 16, 4-7pm

The five 3-hour workshops will focus on merging intuitive and logical faculties. Sessions led by Coleman will develop individual work, demonstration, theoretical skills, and listening. Sessions led by the band will focus on ensemble demonstrations, communication, and instrumentation. Includes some public rehearsals and performances. All workshops will be held at the Rigby Mansion in Germantown. Tickets are extremely limited.

For up to date details please click here.


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September 2017

  • Sat, 09/16/2017 - 7:00pm
    Ardmore Music Hall
    Ars Nova Workshop is thrilled to launch its new partnership with the Ardmore Music Hall with iconic guitarist Bill Frisell’s new quartet Harmony, featuring vocalist Petra Haden, cellist Hank Roberts and bassist Luke Bergman.
    (read more)
  • Thu, 09/21/2017 - 8:00pm
    The Rotunda
    Ars Nova Workshop is pleased to present the return of Norwegian saxophonist Frode Gjerstad, leading his quartet with trombonist Steve Swell, bassist Johnny Ruun and drummer Paal Nilssen-Love.
    (read more)
  • Sun, 10/01/2017 - 7:00pm
    Ardmore Music Hall
    As part of its new partnership with the Ardmore Music Hall, Ars Nova Workshop is pleased to present The Bad Plus in what will likely be the revered trio’s final Philadelphia-area performance with co-founding pianist Ethan Iverson, before Philly’s own Orrin Evans shakes things up in 2018.
    (read more)
  • Thu, 10/05/2017 - 8:00pm - Sun, 10/08/2017 - 11:00pm
    Featuring Anthony Braxton, Zeena Parkins, The Art Ensemble of Chicago, David Torn's Sun of Goldfinger, Claire Chase, Tim Berne's Snakeoil, Sun Ra Arkestra, and many more!
    (read more)
  • Wed, 10/11/2017 - 8:00pm
    Ardmore Music Hall
    As part of its new partnership with the Ardmore Music Hall, Ars Nova Workshop is thrilled to present the Philadelphia debut of Hudson, the new supergroup featuring Hudson Valley residents Jack DeJohnette, John Scofield, John Medeski and Larry Grenadier.
    (read more)

Ars Nova Workshop is a Philadelphia nonprofit jazz and experimental music presenting organization.  ANW informs, inspires, and challenges listeners to elevate the role of jazz, improvisation, and experimental music in contemporary culture. ANW events provide a forum for discourse, emergent trends in contemporary music, and unique forms of cultural exchange, while nurturing a diverse community for innovative music.