Preview: Iconic indie frontman Ian Svenonius will read, rock and maybe commune with the dead

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From the May 2, 2013 edition

D.C. musician Ian Svenonius, who played Columbus last September with his group Chain and the Gang, also fronted Nation of Ulysses, The Make-Up and Weird War. He’s been stalking stages with wide-eyed, James Brown-inspired huffs and puffs his whole life.

“That’s why I was driven to write this book about groups,” Svenonius, 44, said by phone this week. “It’s the only thing I know, and I barely know it.”

Thus, he sought assistance from beyond.

Wednesday at the Wexner Center, Svenonius will read from his new book, “Supernatural Strategies For Making a Rock ’n’ Roll Group.” The 250-page tome tackles the science of forming a band, replete with advice from dead rock stars like Brian Jones and Jimi Hendrix gleaned from a séance. Supposedly, the dead were a last resort because living rockers were interested in protecting the secrets of their mystique.

“We talked to these ghosts of deceased rock stars, and they were really interested in talking, but also they had a different kind of perspective,” Svenonius said. “They had a geopolitical, social, historic perspective on things that a lot of current rockers probably wouldn’t have because they’re just too concerned with playing some festival or what blogs they’re on.”

A culture with rock camps and a “School of Rock” movie is interested in preserving rock ’n’ roll, but not necessarily its most compelling aspects, Svenonius noted.

“The form is different than just music. It’s not just the blues scale and these couple things or certain rules. It’s not just these permutations. It has a lot more to do with art, political parties and gangs than a formal kind of music,” he said. “Psychic TV or Black Flag, these groups are more symbols than they are about records.”

Conveniently, the spirits and Svenonius were on the same page: “It all jibed pretty well with my feelings on the matter.”

Wednesday’s reading may or may not feature another séance, but it will definitely be interactive. Svenonius also hasn’t decided the format for his performance with Calvin Johnson’s Dub Narcotic Soundsystem at Skylab later that night. The two DIY pioneers aren’t collaborating, but it’s an iconic double bill.