artistically speaking, 2019 was a surprisingly good year for me. since my return to canada from philadelphia in october of 2007, i was trapped in both an artistic and clinical depression. but for a few rare instances, i stopped performing in public altogether (a drastic change from my semi-regular gigging schedule in philly, and occasionally nyc). from 2007 to 2014, a blurry seven-year period of my life, i was so depressed i barely spent any time creating.
BREAKING OUT OF THE FOG
in 2014 i made the conscious decision to make a concerted effort to break out of the depressive cycle i was in, starting with tackling a major source of frustration and stagnation of mine–ADHD. i started treatment using vyvanse which almost immediately released floodgates of inspiration and creative activity. over the first weekend on the drug, i was able to keep my focus so well that i completed an album that was about 90% complete since 2004! i’m not sure if it’s ironic or incredibly on point that an amphetamine would be the thing that helped me finally release third rail of a one-track mind (variations on a theme), but it certainly helped make the breakthrough happen.
over the following years, i switched my focus towards composition and DAW-based production instead of live performance. i continued to self-release a number of albums on bandcamp, including an expressionist two-part drone piece about my adventure in 2014 canoeing the length of loch ness solo over a day and a half, and my polemical eight-hour drone rendition of the internationale: a requiem for working class struggles betrayed. during this time i also began creating scores for a few student and independent short film projects including: the short thriller jakob directed by michael oakes; bursting at the seams a short documentary about poverty, homelessness, and crisis faced by shelters in toronto produced by OCAP; and contributing additional original music to the score for not just another case: when your loved one has gone missing or been murdered, a short doc on missing and murdered indigenous women directed by audrey huntley.
FORWARDS TOWARDS THE PAST, BACKWARDS TOWARDS THE FUTURE
in late 2018, i finally made the jump into the world of eurorack modular synthesis. this was simultaneously moving on to a new artistic phase and the return to an old one. my initial musical/sonic experiments—montages from cut-up cassette tapes, messing with the internal components of radios, feedback loops through electric guitar/bass pedals—all pre-dated the boom in accessibility to DAW software, so i started off in the very tactile and analog medium of hardware. while the increased accessibility and possibilities software like cubase, reason, logic, and the plethora of native instruments tools provide are amazing, the virtual instrument world is very incompatible with my ADHD brain where usability in an improvised setting (where i am most at ease) is concerned.
those who may have been around the underground avant-garde scene in hamilton, ontario during the mid-to-late ’90s may remember some nothing inc. shows where i layered multiple cassette loops live using some walkmans routed thru effects and into a mixer. i tried my best to replicate that with software and MIDI controllers, but i never got the results i was looking for. i need a button/knob to do one thing—and just that one thing—consistently, regardless of context. so MIDI isn’t my cup of tea, but i found what i was looking for in the hardware world of eurorack modular synth modules. as 2018 was drawing to a close, i decided to make 2019 the year i break out of my artistic rut and begin performing again. thus i began launching into a new artistic phase by returning to my hardware roots, but in a new way.
the effort (and expense) has proven well worth it. looking back on the past year, i not only found the tools i was desperately looking for to experiment with and create the my art, but i also found myself returning to public performance after a painfully long hiatus. i had the great pleasure of performing with a number of talented and creative local artists, and even had the honour of being a featured performer at the 2019 toronto new wave festival.
ONWARDS AND UPWARDS
i am genuinely excited for the year ahead, which i must admit is not something i’ve often felt. a number of things are already in the works for 2020, including a special collaboration
with my dear friend oops… NO SPOILERS! you’ll need to check back here to keep up to date, and i suggest you also follow me on instagram, facebook. big thanks to everyone who has supported me by coming out to shows, downloading my music (especially from bandcamp… apple music and spotify don’t really pay artists), or who simply shared it with their friends. i can’t wait to start sharing some new stuff with you soon, in the meantime here’s my soundcloud playlist of live shows from 2019. if you like what you hear, please share it across your social media. it’s a cheap and easy way to support independent artists.