Monday, April 6, 2020

Musicians discuss life during quarantine

Richard Thompson live stream concert. (TSHIT photo)

By Andy

While we're stuck at home during these trying times, those domains have become our clubs to watch online gigs, grow closer as families, work on projects that once sizzled slowly on the back burner and create more music than ever before. This is the way it's going to be for a while, and things will advance in a new direction for all of us after the coronavirus pandemic subsides.

Our hearts are torn for those who have lost loved ones. We're trying to support as many local businesses as possible and help out in our local community the best we can while staying safe.

Things suck right now, but there is hope.

"I think when things get back to 'normal,' they won't be the same. I'm OK with that and I'm not sure I honestly want to go back to the way some things were but more move ahead into the future and make things better," said Vanessa Silberman, an international touring DIY singer/guitarist, producer, engineer, mixer and indie A&R with an artist development label, A Diamond Heart Production.

Currently residing in Brooklyn, NY, Silberman said she's been wrapped up in music by working on new tunes, releases, live streaming and other artists' projects while spreading positive vibes. Her usual remote projects of mixing/production and mastering are still on target. She had planned to hit the open road once again on a pair of tours and had recording sessions on her docket in New York City and California.

"The entertainment industry as a whole has been massively affected and is going through many changes, but also some things are very much still going and evolving," she said. "People are still listening to so much music, reading blogs, releasing songs, live streaming and watching videos."

All the while, there are emotional struggles in our daily lives and we don't know what's on the horizon. Each day is a mental journey like never before.

"I know the whole COVID-19 issue is foremost on everyone’s minds right now. My heart goes out to everyone in solidarity. Be strong. Don’t give in to fear. It will get worse before it gets better, but it will get better," said Fullerton, CA's Alfie Agnew of Professor and the Madman, which has a new album in the works and also features Sean Elliott and former Damned members Rat Scabies and Paul Gray.

Agnew and his crew have been spending their time molding the record into shape and getting the word out about its release. They're thrilled about what they've got on their hands with this recent collection of tunes, which once again are story-driven and tread an eclectic musical path.

"'Séance' is a trip; we want everyone to go on it with us and sonically relive the '60s, '70s and '80s through our lenses," he said. "Hopefully 'Séance' can provide a healthy escape for some from their temporary isolation."

During the quarantine, we are drawn toward tough conversations with family and friends and are also forced to look within ourselves for answers about how to deal with things on a personal level.

Agnew said it's a wake-up call and we need to rise to the challenge. Here's a few of his thoughts:

"Maybe people will learn to grow their own food once again, cook simply for themselves, and regain their health. Maybe people will learn how not to be so dependent on services and disposables and learn to do and repair things for themselves once again. Maybe some can reinvent themselves as the strong, kind, self-sufficient, mentally and physically healthy people they grew up admiring."

Our instruments waiting for a jam session. (TSHIT photo)

Checking in from the UK, Andy Cairns of Therapy? gave a huge thank you on Instagram to all the National Health Service Workers for their vital work during these times.

The band's European tour was pulled and some festival dates have been cancelled as well, Cairns noted, adding in a more important vein, "All of this is nothing, of course, when compared to what people are facing right now."

Last week, Cairns reached out to fans on Instagram by sharing Marshall Records' PMA Playlist via Discovered Magazine: a positive playlist featuring positive people; and a guess-the-riff challenge, which spotlighted Inspiral Carpets' "This is How it Feels," The Chameleons' "Up the Down Escalator" and fittingly, Therapy?'s version of Joy Division's "Isolation."

"I’m trying to play guitar and write every day. Before this happened, we had started writing new material with the intention of recording it later this year and releasing it early next year, and in-between we would play a ton of shows celebrating our 30th anniversary. With most of that now on hold and everyone house-bound, I’m trying to give my days structure," Cairns said.

After rising from sleep in the morning, he'll set off on a run and then return home to immerse himself in guitar playing, bits of lyric writing ("Nothing dates new music like the present day," he said) and arranging in a converted garage at the side of his house that is brimming with an arsenal of amps, guitars, pedals and more.

"If I get stuck, I take a rest and maybe throw on someone else’s music and try and play along to see if I get shake off the slump," said Cairns, who finished off one afternoon session figuring out the guitar solo on the Cars' "Just What I Needed."

Books take over during the evenings, and currently Cairns finds himself in a Manson Family phase after enjoying the blockbuster film "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood." Current albums he's clawing into are Bruxa Maria's "The Maddening," Casual Nun's "Resort for Dead Desires," Eye Flys' "Tubba Lard" and Rainbow Grave's "No You."

Over in East Palo Alto, CA, OXBOW's Eugene Robinson said he's been social distancing since 1962, the year of his birth.

While writing in his house, in his underwear while listening to Leadbelly (LOUD), Robinson notes that his isolation explanation might seem strange since he clomps onto the public terrain to unleash his music and art.

"I've always identified primarily as a writer and this is a solitary pursuit and I've been bedeviled by, while it's cool finding people who would pay me to do what I do, that they insisted I do it AWAY from my house. This has been a constant and continual battle and one that I stopped fighting 20 years ago. You want my ass at a desk so you can watch your investment in my contribution? OK. I got you. Small price to pay for what you pay me," he said.

The OXBOW howler now has more time to ponder his vocal delivery on the unit's 17 recently recorded songs, which were set to be Robinson-ized in April. That part of Robinson's world will be pushed back until we're given the all-clear, as will any cherished time spent in the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu dojo where he's trained since 2012.

Robinson's heaviest sorrow is only being able to visit his kids and grandson outside.

"And my kids? Lights of my life. I miss them with a certain intensity. But two are in their 20s and one is soon to be 18 so they have their own stuff going on anyway. Doesn't mean I miss them any less though," he said.

In the meantime, "I can run, do body weight exercises, jump rope....and for amusement I grow vegetables, load guns...wait for 'the signal.' And do my podcast The Eugene S. Robinson Show Stomper!"

Some of our reading material. (TSHIT photo)

Los Angeles-based drummer and writer Bob Lee -- who's married to my old schoolmate and Los Angeles Beat editor-in-chief Elise Thompson -- has been working full time from home and feels incredibly lucky to have his gig to focus on during the quarantine.

"I entertain myself however possible and try not to get mired in bad feelings," said Lee, who beats the skins for FITTED (with Mike Watt and two Wire members), Kurt Stifle & The Swing Shift, Santa Sabbath and Claw Hammer. "I'm listening to music. Rediscovering classics, getting into old jazz records. If I do watch TV, it's stupid comedy for the most part. I should start getting more into classic cinema; just saw 'The Holy Mountain' a couple weeks ago and loved it. 'El Topo' tonight? Hahaha, it could happen."

Seattle-based Stag guitarist/songwriter Ben London -- Lee's old schoolmate from Antioch College in Ohio -- has delved into his project, Quarantine Songs, where people submit lyrics and he writes and records a song with them in a few hours. Check out one of the tunes at

Heading back to Silberman to put a mental and health perspective on tackling life during the pandemic, she's trying to exercise, stay peaceful, meditate, read and FaceTime with friends, family and loved ones.

"I still feel busy but I feel like I'm trying to take things easy and make sure my well-being is good/calm," she said. "I used to do EVERYTHING at once, which I love, staying busy and just multi-task like crazy. But I would not make a lot of time to check in with my well-being, so I have been doing that and giving myself quiet time."

** The Recording Academy and its affiliated charitable foundation MusiCares have established the COVID-19 Relief Fund to help artists in the music community affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

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