Work the Sound

About six years ago, Drew Norman adopted the stage name and alter ego, "Professor Gall," after 18th-century German physician Franz Joseph Gall, who pioneered studies of phrenology.

While Gall's theories about human character and how it relates to skull measurements may have been faulty, Norman respected the pseudo scientist's "gall" enough to assume his moniker.

Based in Portland, Professor Gall evolved from a solo act with Norman on banjo or guitar to a full band, featuring Norman, Scott Johnston on saxophone, Monte Skillings on trombone, Todd Burba on clarinet and accordion, Sean Hudson on upright bass, Jake Pegg on tuba and Andrew Clarinet on, ahem, clarinet.

The band bills its eccentric style of music as "junkyard folk and steampunk jazz." However, Norman also uses words such as "goth," "old-time," "retro," "acoustic" and "raw" to describe his klezmer- and bluegrass-influenced folk and jazz.

The sound developed on its own, and "it seems to be working," Norman says.

In October 2010, Seattle's City Arts Magazine recognized Professor Gall as the face of Portland's growing steampunk movement.

The nebulous term, which was coined nearly 30 years ago by a science-fiction writer, can be applied to most media and delineates Victorian-era science fiction (think Jules Verne).

"The reason I've taken the 'steampunk' name is because I've always had a problem describing what we do to people," Norman explains. "I think it has more to do with the aesthetic we're presenting."

Professor Gall sets out on its first tour of 2012 on Thursday, Jan. 5. The tour began in Cottage Grove and heads south to Eugene, Ashland and then into California and Arizona.

The group plays at 9 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 7, at Caldera Tap House, 31 Water St., Ashland.

In April, the band plans to release its third album, "Magnetic Roots."

"Conceptually, it's about the connection or lack of connection with nature in the modern time of living in cities," he says.

Norman originally wrote the lyrics as spoken word, but later adapted them for song.

While the new album is still in the works, the band continues to tour behind its 2010 release "Psychology of Booze & Guilt."

On the album, songs such as "Skin Bottle," "I'm a Drunk" and "Whisky Was the Medicine" take a look at drinking in today's society and the ensuing guilt that so often follows self-indulgence.

"It's supposed to be humorous, but it can also be very cynical and serious," Norman says.

The cover to the show at Caldera is $3. Call 541-482-4677 or visit

Share This Story