By Zach Collier
It’s been over 3 years since local multi-instrumentalist and illustrator Al Deans released The Quasi-Stellar Radio Show; Adventures of Walter Ergo at Velour Live Music Gallery. A rock opera about a guy who is both a failure at love and space college, Walter Ergo takes listeners on a sonic and visual journey through the stars.
The show may be a multi-media sci-fi odyssey, but it’s actually an incredibly vulnerable and personal group of songs. Deans first developed the concept in 2016 after an intense period of uncertainty. “I was questioning everything,” he says. “They were just little pieces of splintered songs and fractured feelings back then.” Eventually he quit the conventional lifestyle and entered Van Life, focusing primarily on music and healing.
“I lived out of a Sprinter Van for the better part of this 3 year project,” Deans says. “I tracked a lot of it in my van down in Escalante, Utah.” The rest was recorded at the Angelus Theatre in Spanish Fork. Deans played all of the instruments himself (minus the viola) to get everything just right. “That took a while and a lot of alone time. Practicing and writing, lamenting, sucking, getting better, and quite frankly, processing a lot of emotions and past pains and breaking down false beliefs.” His emotional work guided the creative process. As much as he loved working on the project, he was relieved when it was all over.
More than just an album, Deans also compiled Walter Ergo-themed visual art into a comic book that acts as a companion to the show. The Walter Ergo premiere at Velour in 2019 was a full-on multimedia experience. This weekend, Walter Ergo’s second run at Helper’s Rio Theatre in Helper, UT will feature crafted set pieces.
Of all the places to mount a second show, why the small town of Helper?
“I played bass for a guy named Jacob Westfall about four months ago there at the Rio,” Deans explains. “I just happened to mention my rock opera to Kenny there and played him a few songs from the record and he asked me to play the Helper Arts Festival.” Deans recently started a band, so he felt like the Universe was encouraging him to do the show again. “I didn’t really have the energy for the last few years for this kind of thing. Last time it was mostly just myself doing everything. It’s quite a bit of work to put together a show like this. We’re not doing a lot of the things that I would like to do, but it feels really good to create and to have other people working on this with me.”
Deans has been running live sound at Velour for years. Whether the scene realizes it or not, Deans has shaped the sound of thousands of musicians for tens of thousands of concertgoers. He’s also the drummer for Star Crossed Loners (one of the most criminally underrated bands in the scene, IMO). Even though I’m a huge fan of Star Crossed Loners and I’ve appreciated his help at the shows I’ve played, it’s nice to see Deans take center stage with Walter Ergo. He belongs there.
You can catch The Quasi-Stellar Radio Show; Adventures of Walter Ergo this weekend at Helper’s Rio Theatre. The first show is August 19th at 4 PM, and the second is August 20th at 2 PM. Follow Al Deans on Instagram and check out our favorite song from the rock opera, “Living Lovely Lies,” below.