Artist Musings

Dispatches from the FILMAdome – Artists in exile (Elliot Edition)

It’s time for another blog update! This time, from your friendly neighborhood Elliot (hi!).

It’s been a ///very interesting/// couple of months here. I say “couple of months” because for me this all started by getting a ridiculously hard-hitting flu back in February, which I heavily suspect was something more. I was back at work for a week or two before everything started happening.

Luckily, I already had this wonderful studio space set up as my once-a-week work-from-home slice of paradise, so I was ready to hit the ground running once we all got our orders to work from home.

So how have I been using my time?

I think the worst thing you can say to a musician is:

“Here’s a recording studio and all the time in the world. How’s that album coming along?”

…So how’s it coming along?

I’ve been whiteboarding. Since the new album I’ve been workshopping for a few years is heavily story-based, I need to take special care that the story is engaging and interesting. Luckily I love to write, but that’s the most I’ve gotten with it so far: drawing a big ol Dan Harmon story circle on my whiteboard and throwing ideas at it.

This isolation is affecting all of our psyches. It’s important to acknowledge that you’re not going to accomplish all your goals while sheltering in place. I’m not just going to emerge on the other side of this an enlighthened being who has created their life’s masterwork. I’m going to have some really good progress, though.

People don’t emerge from earthquake-ravaged buildings saying “look at all the macrame I got done waiting to be rescued. It wasn’t nearly as much as Jimmy over there, though…”

It’s okay to not be at your most efficient and productive during a global pandemic.

It’s okay to be not okay when things aren’t okay.

This is what I’ve been meditating on lately. Actually, I’ve been meditating a lot more lately. My “I need to constantly be busy” gears are spinning, so it’s a good way to slow things down. I’m lucky enough that my workplace hosts guided meditation video conferences daily, and I added in some Radio Taisou stretches to my morning along with some tea and a bagel. I try to keep that routine (which is all new additions) because the main thing for me has been giving myself a routine or schedule.

It’s so easy to feel like you just spent all day doing nothing. And then, if you’re me, it’s easy to spend all day the next day beating yourself up over it.

Your brain has been told that panic and big bad things may be imminent, but also it’s had a lot of time to get used to that anxiety. “Normal” now is adjusted, you are adjusting. Take it easy. Wash your hands, give yourself a few hobbies you can dip a toe into as you can, and in the meantime think about your deadlines as all now being much more flexible (outside of your job).

Having more time means having time to stretch out. I’ve been trying to find little self-care moments I can savor.

But okay, like, what have you been doing though?

I inventoried and cataloged all instruments in my studio! Helps me conceptualize the sounds I can be making, and also is good to have for insurance.

I own 42 instruments? That’s a good number.

Bob has been growing very interestingly! As everyone was gearing up for “ooh now I can spend much more time with my pets”, I was thinking “ooh now I can spend much more time making sure I take proper care of Bob.

Well…I don’t think it’s quite growing like it should…but a few of these stalks are doing REALLY well.

Did you know sloths move so slowly that they grow algae on them?

Going through the Elliot Back Catalogue, I’ve been locating and editing my ambient recordings, and learning this software called ReNoise that comes highly recommended by a friend of a friend who does things like “I’m going to make every sound that this vacuum cleaner can make, and then make a song out of the sounds”. In other words…interesting things are afoot.

While I get all of that together, check out a playlist I made on Soundcloud: It’s most of the sounds I’ve taken during my guerilla ambient sound recording. Feel free to use these in your own works as well! I’d just like to be sent a copy of the final product. If you want to know the backstory behind some of these, send me an email!

I’ve been doing music streams too!

I’ve got a every-now-and-then series on Facebook where I try to freshen up my guitar playing. Since a lot of the songs I’m best at are from back when I learned in the 90’s, the series is called “Does Elliot Remember This Song?”.

Many of my musician friends find themselves without tour dates, yours truly included. I was going to be in Berlin on Apr 4th for the Steamball festival / album release party for Feline & Strange (new friendband). Feline worked her ass off after the quarantine orders were put into effect, and hosted a HUGE live video event, getting video submissions from all of the performing acts and VJing them in short sets (so you get to see a lot of different acts). The full 6 hour video is here

I had to decline at the time because my setup was just plain not there yet. The rest of my band The Clockwork Dolls made an awesome live set video in 2 parts though, and I played along on my upright bass in my room to the songs from my quarantine corner

From a FB live video of me playing along on the bass in California while my band from Maryland plays live-to-tape over a broadcast originating from Berlin. My head hurts.

Which leads me to…

I’ve got my computer setup also all set to start streaming and video production!

Got the final bits and baubles together, and now I’m running a weekly live stream where me and my friends play Jackbox games on Monday nights, and the whole thing is streamed to FB as well so you can just watch if you don’t want to play.

It’s been really useful because while audio production is something I’m familiar with, video has always been something I was reluctant to start to try. No time like the present!

Pictured: probably the best submission out of any of the games so far.

I’ve also found a way to keep my regular tabletop gaming appointments…

No mere apocalypse can stop me from leading my Orcish chaos troops in their advance across the Reikwald. I mean come on.

Lastly regarding video stuff, I’m stitching together some build videos — I want to show everyone the weird crap I build!

Ideally I’ll have a live stream of “hang out with me while I make things” and then be able to post edited build vids on Youtube. Stay tuned!

I’m going to make this old TV do things.

I bought a schoolbus! I have named them:

Ziggy Starbus

Literally exchanged money and paperwork as I was waiting for my Uber to go to the urgent care in February. Since I was planning on buying a camper like this anyway, and since it entered my life right alongside the ramp-up to the pandemic, I decided that when I was kitting it out I’d also do so with an eye for off-grid living solutions …just in case.

What I ended up with as a result, as I like to tell people, “I just gave myself a big weird living room out in the driveway”

It worked out so well timing-wise, that for my birthday my partner Kim and I spent it in the bus, and she surprised me by getting a Zoom chat together of a bunch of people who had to miss my party.

Yes, that’s a battle shovel.

But I wanted to wrap this all up with something that I’ve been doing that I encourage you to try yourself.

Ya see, I’m nonbinary in my gender identity and expression…but I’ve always had to tone it down for work. I’d been cultivating a small interest in makeup and blouses I’ve been meaning to explore more though, and in Feb I’d started pursuing this in particular for my stage persona.

But now? I’m either at home or at the dome. The people I see daily are Carl and Graf. I see my partner, the drive thru people at the Taco Bell, and the Doordash driver. The only time I have to worry about being in public and sticking my neck out for gender expression and seeing someone react poorly? Basically the grocery store.

So that’s one hour out of the week where I have to give 2 damns about what anyone else has to say about how I look. That gives rise to pajamas, sure, but just because it removes all of the other fences and walls that have either been built around you, or they haven’t but you’ve convinced yourself they have.

Go all out. Wear your weird hat you got in the Alps when you go out for a walk. Wake up and think to yourself “do I feel pretty today? well, how can I show that?” Take a risk with your appearance that is so far beyond the realm of your day-to-day that you’ll always remember how it felt to actually cross that threshold.

And then when you have on all that makeup you just worked so hard on? You don’t exactly feel like touching your face all the time.

Not pictured: rockin’ nails and a killer skirt.

Be kind to each other, wash your hands, read a book, and keep on keepin’ on.