By Mason Endres
It’s not every day that someone comes across a 494-year-old werewolf that plays violin, but with South By Southwest just around the corner, don’t be surprised when the Violin Monster takes over the streets of Austin — with or without a full moon.
The man behind the myth, whose real name he refuses to disclose, has been playing the violin since he was seven. Since his early days he has morphed into the Violin Monster he is today. He resides in Ann Arbor, Michigan for seven months out of the year, but travels and performs throughout the country for the other five. He says he’s been “perceived really well” in Austin, and considers it a home away from home.
The Violin Monster plays anything, from traditional Irish and fiddle music to the Star Wars and Game of Thrones theme songs. “I think it’s cool a lot of these songs have been passed down and played for hundreds of years,” he says referring to to his Irish and fiddle music. “It’s upholding the tradition.” One of his favorite things to do is randomly play “Happy Birthday” and catch reactions of unsuspecting bystanders. “When it’s someone’s birthday and I’m playing it, they’ll be like, ‘How did you know?’”
The Violin Monster doesn’t currently write his own music, but he does have his own way of playing and interpreting songs. “I kind of have a rough, monster style,” he says.
Of course, such an outrageous character is bound to generate some strong reactions. The Violin Monster says his favorite responses come from children who see him. He does his best to make them feel comfortable, and by playing songs like “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” kids switch from frightened to friendly. “I’ve had numerous parents tell me that their two-year-old requests to watch videos of me on YouTube,” he says. “They’re really intrigued by the whole thing.” Recently, the Violin Monster has been interacting with dogs. While playing the streets of New Orleans during Mardi Gras, a frightened puppy approached him. “At one point, it actually peed a little bit,” he says. “By the end of it, it was actually licking my face.”
The Violin Monster is no SXSW newbie. This will be his fourth year at the festival, and he hopes something extraordinary will happen. In previous years, he’s been featured on the SXSW website, approached by Jimmy Kimmel’s producers and appeared in Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations.” “There’s always random articles that I pop up in, or like different bands’ music videos. I think I’m in some metal band’s music video,” he says. A band called American Fangs even approached him about joining them onstage at one of their showcases. “I wasn’t even plugged in, I was just there rocking out onstage,” he says.
After working for years as a street performer, the Violin Monster is aware of the ordinances that could negatively affect his livelihood, specifically in Austin. “It’s always a concern, what places are going to be friendly or not toward it,” he says. Police have stopped him during SXSW in previous years, and with a simple phone call to the station, he’s proven himself to not be in the wrong by by any means. “Cities can pass ordinances that they will put into law, but it’s unconstitutional,” he says. “What I’m doing is guaranteed by the constitution if I’m on public property.”
The Violin Monster encourages other street performers to be informed on local laws so they can react appropriately in situations dealing with authorities. At the end of the day, he’s chosen this “crazy lifestyle” for himself, and says he accepts all the risks that come with it. “I am prepared to go as far as being arrested one day,” he says.
The Violin Monster says being on the road for five months of the year is both exhilarating and exhausting. While his ultimate goal is to travel the world, he hasn’t been outside the U.S. yet. “I’m working toward next winter going to Central or South America,” he says. Hopefully, with the help of a “Violin Monster Van,” he can expand his audience and frighten listeners across the globe.
If you catch the Violin Monster during SXSW, take a photo and tag us on twitter or instagram @orange_magazine