Carlos Santistevan

Carlos Santistevan is a musician, sounds engineer, and organizer. Since 2001 he has helped establish an oasis of creative music in the high desert southwest as the director of the High Mayhem Emerging Arts collective based out of Santa Fe, NM. Using an upright bass and electronics he creates soundscapes and spontaneous compositions from the extremes of acoustic and electric music. Early influences of punk rock and free jazz have led him to develop a unique approach to music and improvisation.

He has performed at The Stone, High Zero Festival, Ende Tymes Festival, The Outpost Performance Space, SITE Santa Fe, Hemlock Tavern, Striped Light, the Empty Bottle, Outsound Creative Music Festival, The Olympia Experimental Music Festival, High Mayhem Festival, and countless DIY venues and galleries.

He has regularly performed and collaborated with such artists as: J.A. Dino Deane, Raven Chacon, Laura Ortman, Marshall Trammell, Tatsuya Nakatani, Thollem McDonas, Chris Jonas, and more. Carlos is a seasoned improviser and a member of diverse ensembles such as In Defense of Memory, iNK oN pAPER, The Uninvited Guest(s), The Late Severa Wires, Out of Context, Black Iron Trio, Taiji Pole and more.


In Defense of Memory – featuring Laura Ortman and Marshall Trammell, In Defense Of Memory is, itself, an Interculturally-situated ecology of everyday relations-warriors plucking, striking, bowing and flowing self-defense in Creative Music vibrational continuum.

IDOM began in New Mexico as a performance-constellation in a confluence of principled, cultural activities set in an ecology of Indigenist trajectories of solidarity, historic resistance technologies and highly resonant sonic vibrations set in Albuquerque and Santa Fe.

VIDEO OF IDOM with Susan Alcorn

Conduction Ensemble – After working with JA Dino Deane in Out of Context for over 10 years, Carlos has taken the baton to preserve this highly singular form of music creation leading a group of NM improvisors through the Conduction Lexicon developed by Butch Morris and JA Dino Deane. The Debut performance of this ensemble will take place in Spring of 2025 at The Outpost for an Out of Context LP release and tribute to JA Dino Deane.

Chacon/Nakatani/Santistevan Trio
Comprising three of New Mexico’s finest and most diverse improvising musicians and composers – Raven Chacon, Tatsuya Nakatani, and Carlos Santistevan, this trio creates “improvisational music of urgency and deep resonance.”

The trio was formed in 2020 during the pandemic when Baltimore’s High Zero Festival asked curators around the country to assemble improvisers in their regions for a streaming edition of the festival. Santa Fe bassist Carlos Santistevan invited percussionist Tatsuya Nakatani, and guitarist/composer Raven Chacon to play with him, and they recorded their first official session together in Santa Fe’s San Miguel Chapel—the oldest chapel in the United States. VIDEO CAN BE FOUND HERE. They planned to release the recording but the hard drive containing the files was stolen from Santistevan’s car before a proper backup could be made. The trio quickly made plans to hold another recording session at the San Miguel Chapel and recently released the LP entitled, Inhale/Exhale on Other Minds Records.  Apperaring on numerous Best of the Year 2022 lists by Wire Magazine, Van Magazine awarded Inhale/Exhale one of the best albums of 2022

The trio’s unique sound is created by their diverse and distinctive experiences in a myriad of other musical fields, including Nakatani’s time playing avant-country with Eugene Chadbourne and in his Nakatani Gong Orchestra project, Santistevan’s deep roots in the “aesthetically untethered experimental music of Northern New Mexico, and Chacon’s forays in metal and noise groups. Also a celebrated composer, Chacon, who grew up in the Navajo Nation, became the first Native American to win the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 2022 which he received for his composition, “Voiceless Mass.” 

“Nakatani’s frenetic percussion provides a foundation for the buzzsaw swarm of stringed instruments from Chacon and Santistevan. Throughout the two improvisations, beats and crashes map the space, the adobe walls offering a muted and earthen resonance.”– The Wire. 

Organic naturality imbues the deeply engaging and utterly compelling work with a hint of earthiness, of being firmly rooted: past fleeting moments of here and now. A timelessness strangely at odds with the improvised nature of proceedings and magically merging in addition to that at the very same moment.” -Vital Weekly

“In subsequent re-listens of “Inhale/Exhale,” I keep finding new things to discover and latch onto, to the point where I’ve begun to question whether or not it’s actually the same album I first listened to over the summer, or whether new MP3 files keep getting uploaded to replace the old ones. “

Solo – Carlos often performs solo using an upright bass and electronics. Occasionally these performance still happen under the auspice of The Uninvited Guest. VIDEO CAN BE FOUND HERE

Former/Occasional Projects

iNK oN pAPER – Mighty drum and bass duo with Milton Villurrubia III. VIDEO

Tara Khozien and Carlos Santistevan – Acoustic duo with vocalist Tara Khozien

Out of Context – Large Ensemble Conduction Trio led by JA Dino Deane

August Trio with JA Dino Deane and Alex Neville – Trio with JA Dino Deane and Alex Neville

The Late Severa Wires – Legendary noise quartet with Yozo Suzuki-guitar, Ultraviolet-turntables, Mike Rowland – drums

Black Iron Trio – Trio with JA Dino Deane and MIlton Villarrubia III

Taiji Pole – Trio with JA Dino Deane and Matt Deason