John Vanderslice is one of those musicians who's mostly famous with other musicians. Born in Gainesville, Florida and raised in Bethesda, Maryland, he currently lives in San Francisco, where he owns and operates Tiny Telephone, a recording studio geared toward the indie rock community. When not producing the likes of Beulah, Pavement's Scott Kannberg and the Mountain Goats, he writes and performs his own haunting, faintly psychedelic songs.

From 1992-99, he fronted the band MK Ultra, which released three albums: MK Ultra (1994), Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (1996), and the spectacular, critic-adored The Dream is Over (1999). After that album, though, the band went their separate ways. The songs Vanderslice was planning to put on their next release were reworked for his new, somewhat sudden solo career. His first full-length, Mass Suicide Occult Figurines (yes, from a line in a Neutral Milk Hotel song) was released in 2000 amid supposed controversy concerning the song "Bill Gates Must Die". This wasn't his first time having fun with the press, though; MK Ultra claimed their second LP was a soundtrack for a never-released indie film directed by Ernest Borgnine's estranged son.

He's signed to Barsuk Records in Seattle, home of Death Cab for Cutie and This Busy Monster. In summer 2001, Barsuk released his second solo effort, the dark and wistful Time Travel Is Lonely - a concept album concerning Antarctic exploration, conspiracy theories, childhood trauma and the ILOVEYOU virus. Not as pretentious as it sounds, I assure you, and the songs are exquisitely crafted and exist far beyond the loose narrative frame. It's also just recently started to come out in interviews that the album was Vanderslice's shell-shocked response to the sudden breakup of his old band.

(My best friend lived within five blocks of the World Trade Center. When I talked to her in the days before she was allowed to return to her apartment, I mentioned that I'd been listening to Time Travel... over and over. "That's all I've wanted to listen to since I left," she said. "Everything Changed", indeed.)

On May 7, 2002, Barsuk released his third (and more ambitious still) solo album, Life and Death of an American Fourtracker, which loosely chronicles nineteen years in the life of a potentially-unstable young musician. It's dense and full of sonic trickery, but its extreme attention to detail doesn't overshadow its incredibly warm, humane core.

Since he went solo, Vanderslice has been a touring machine; he often fills the opening slot for indie luminaries, building a small but loyal fan base and always taking time to chill with the audience after shows - he claims it's his favorite part of touring. Yes, in addition to being one of the busiest guys in indie rock, he's also one of the nicest. Seriously. He's a damn funny guy and has been known to be late for his set once he's gotten into a conversation with someone at the merch table.

In his spare time (what spare time?) he writes for Tape Op, speaks out on behalf of mp3s and file-sharing networks and runs an open source music hub at

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