Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
For remote recordings I tend to play best from listening first through a few times, taking a step back, wrap my head around the whole piece and decide what avenue to execute. I think diving in fresh and seeing what happens is my best route and then talking through what works and what doesn’t. It’s always different with other folks.
I tend towards communication after the initial steps, being open and responsive is my role as an improviser. Listening and playing in the moment and thinking of the group as a unit and not showboating is best. Keep your egos out of there.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
I’m a night owl insomniac and I have no set schedule. I take each day however it comes to fruition. If I have projects in the queue I’ll know to take a few hours for each one and space them out but I never force them.
I'm very much a procrastinator and sometimes I make my best material the day before something is due. It's not intentional but incredibly stress inducing and that's just the way I function. An idea will burst into my head while I'm doing some random task and I'll have to write it down or I'll forget. Sometimes I think my strange habits were derived from fracturing my skull about eight years ago in a skateboarding accident, but who am I kidding I've been strange my whole life.
During the pandemic I have to be wary of my partner's schedule as she's been working remotely but has been super supportive and doesn’t mind me playing throughout the day. I’ve been less worried about restoring my own drums but now that shows are back I have a lot to catch up on. We have a dog Archi, who’s featured on track 5 of this release, that we take on walks and have a large garden space that is my other time consuming hobby. It’s warmed up now so there is a never ending list of garden/yard work to do.
Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?
I’ve never broken through with anything. Although one of my favorite performances was at the Orange Peel here in Asheville, NC opening for Godspeed You! Black Emperor with MANAS. It was the second night of tour opening for them with a sold out show and I felt so much pressure as a big hometown show but once we got up on stage everything ceased to exist and we did our thing. Felt like we were on fire, at least I felt that but whenever I feel like I’ve had a good show it's usually the opposite so who knows. That one was special though, the crowd energy was pretty wild. The way that group exists and how they manage their music and lives is highly admirable, true artists and the best people all around!
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
My head needs to be clear but I'm always plagued by thinking inside too much, it's very distracting. If I have lingering random thoughts rolling through my brain I can’t focus and there’s no point in playing, it always ends up being wasted time. I’ll usually go on a bike ride, get out in the sun, or play with Archi in our yard. After that my head will be less busy and I can walk into the studio and crank some fire out.
I’m easily distracted by small things like being overwhelmed with projects I’m behind on, strange encounters with people, or a day that’s just not going well. There are times before a show when I’m sleep deprived, barely eaten anything, and by the first song or first minute of playing everything stops and I’ve centered this one track mind and breathe this awoken environment of sound and rage.
Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?
My mother passed away in 2017 from a rare pancreatic cancer and I listened to a lot of heavy music like Sumac for instance. Anything that felt like pure anger I would put on and go for a walk or get incredibly drunk and just drift away from everything and that music helped me get through that time.
My dad has recently been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and we’ve been listening to his favorites and I’ve been showing him new bands that have helped keep his spirits high so I guess this is one way of positive healing.
There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?
People will continue to expand through the past in all sorts of ways, some good and some bad of course. Every artist is different and will use their tools in the way they please and how they see it fit. There are viewpoints that I don’t align with and make a great effort to steer away from. I’m down with people expressing themselves unless it’s purposefully repressing ethnicities amongst the people. Get out of here with all that hate!
The way that the Asian community has been represented over the years particularly through film is disgraceful and racist but the light is shifting and becoming brighter these days, onwards and upwards!
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work?
I enjoy movement upon and within music. The physical presence of a person's body moving between time with music is intriguing and interesting to watch.
Art installations with sound in unique spaces is always a good time. I like experiencing the different acoustics and reverberations while walking through one. The stillness of walking through a cold snowy night feels somewhat motionless, like time has slowed down a few steps. You feel more in line with what is happening in the present moment and what will come next. Whenever I walk into a space I usually make a few loud claps and swivel my head to hear the reflections from different angles, I think a lot of people do that though.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
Throughout the pandemic, Tashi and I have curated livestream shows through social media and have donated the proceeds to Black and Brown organizations or directly to the artist.
MANAS is very much a politically driven project. It is liberation, it is freedom through sound, it is small voices needing to be heard in whatever ways we can. We will help our brothers and sisters out in any way possible.
My approach is creating within the moment and using all the skills I’ve learned up until that point, always moving forward. I will never reach a point where I could say I’ve learned everything, I don’t want to and it’s not possible. The joy in art making in any form is that it’s a lifelong passion and to be content with where you are now and in this moment and to continue to grow as an individual, for yourself and your community.
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
That’s just it: It is the music that defines itself.