The following interview (Part 2 of 6) was written by Kate Blaising. Kate traveled as part of the Project ATX6 Season 6 entourage to Thailand for @jaithepfestival in January. Following the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing lockdown, Kate photographed each musician socially distanced within their homes to capture and discuss the changes to their lives, music, and creative spirit. Photo Credit: @kablaising
Mike St.Clair of Pocket Sounds-
When we were in Thailand, were you worried about the virus, did you know what it was, or how it would affect you physically?
MS: I was a little worried. Getting the virus felt like something that was pretty low probability. In a way I was more worried about having to quarantine when I got home than I was about actually getting the virus. It’s crazy how much more likely I feel like I am to get the virus now.
Do you think the virus is real?
MS: Yeah, I think it’s real. It could be a little overblown, but I don’t know. I know people who have been on ventilators or who’ve had family members die, so it feels pretty real. I’m worried it could get a lot worse. I’m also, like everyone, worried about our economy, our government's debt, and tensions with other countries. It might be tough times ahead. A lot of trade offs. I’m not envious of the people that have to make decisions like the ones being made in governments and businesses. I remember being really bummed when they canceled SXSW, but now I’m grateful they did. Especially seeing what happened in New Orleans after Mardi Gras, it seems they did the right thing to cancel. But man, I don’t know what’s gonna happen to our music scene and all the businesses, hotels, Airbnb’s, etc. now that we don’t have that tourism for a while.
How has quarantine impacted your creative process?
MS: I’ve actually been fairly productive. Luckily I have a pretty decent home recording set up. It usually takes me a while to get into the flow when I’m recording alone. This is getting way more time to dig into really creating a product. I will say I was working much faster when I thought it was just gonna be like a month off and then back to normal. Now that I realize it’s not going back to normal anytime soon I’m having a lot more confusion about what I should really be spending my time doing. I’ve been lucky enough to make my living primarily as a musician, but those days might be over for a while for the majority of us. But who knows. Maybe the internet starts to be a viable way to generate income. Otherwise people just aren’t going to have as much time to make music. On the other hand technology has made it easier than ever to create interesting music, and easier to get it to the world, so maybe we don’t need as many professionals to have really cool music to listen to. Eventually the quality might go down a bit, not having as many jobs that allow people to specialize, or that drive people to hope to win the rockstar lottery or whatever. But people are always going to be making beautiful music and expressing themselves. It’s fairly recent in the human experience that these kinds of specialties even exist. Music is what I’m best at though, so I’m hoping it comes back.
Did you write new music? If yes, what was the fuel behind that fire… what kept you going? If no, what was holding you back?
MS: Yeah I’ve written a lot. I’ve got a single coming out soon called The Way Home. It’s all about wondering how we’re going to come out of this. Are we gonna find our way home, and will it be the same? Funny how we’re not able to leave home, but it’s kind of moving and changing while we’re in it. Kind of one of those tunes that wrote itself. I’ve got another one about wanting to get out of the city more. Lately I’ve been writing a lot about nature and getting back to it. I don’t know exactly why. I started a bunch of other stuff, and have been co-writing some for other projects.
Did you make any impulse purchases?
MS: Just some recording plugins. Everyone’s having sales. I held off for the most part, but I got the basic Izotope package and I got an Eventide micro-pitch plug-in. It was almost like they read my mind with that one. I have the guitar pedal with the micro pitch function on it, but I want it on my computer because bouncing it through the pedal sometimes causes noise, and it’s just a pain in general, and messed up workflow, which is the amount I wanted to use it. I kept wishing they had the option to buy just that function for the desktop, and like a week or two later they released it and had an intro sale price. So now I slap that plugin on way too much stuff. Ha ha!
If you could call your past self… lets say when we were in Thailand, what would you tell yourself?
MS: I might say “relax and have more fun with the elephants. Stop worrying they’re gonna step on your foot.”
Who were you quarantined with? What was that like?
MS: With my wife Katie. We’ve driven each other a little crazy at times. But I don’t think there’s anybody in the world I’d rather be quarantined with. We we’re both out of work, so for a few weeks she would sit and sew masks all day while I worked on music. Then to get exercise, I’d get on my bike and go deliver the masks to people. It was nice. Hopefully we helped, in our small way, to get the spread of this virus contained a bit.
Was life much different when quarantined? What was new, or what comforted you during quarantine?
MS: Music’s always been a comfort for me. Sometimes even an escape. Being a bit of a worrier, it’s nice to have something like music where when you get in the flow, or even just work on a difficult new technique, you can’t really get distracted by too much else. If I find myself being irrationally stressed, I often just start running scales in my head, thinking through a jazz tune or even writing lyrics.
Also, my dog Miles. I’ve been walking him a lot.
Did you watch other Austin musician live streams? Did you perform any live streams? Or why did you decide not to livestream? If you did perform live streams, what was it like to connect with others? If you didn’t livestream, how do you see yourself in the future performing under these circumstances?
MS: I did a few live streams, and I plan to do more. I’ve enjoyed watching live streams. Mostly I’ve watched other Austin musicians, but it’s also fun to see people from other towns, that I don’t get to see in person as much.
How do you find inspiration when life..just..stops..
MS: One thing I’ve realized is that sometimes I need space and time to really get into a zone. Obviously that will be a more joyful zone when the space and time don’t occur because of a global pandemic. But creating a slow quiet space for creative projects is something I want to work on.
How would you like to find closure with our adventure with Project ATX6?
MS: I don’t know. In a way it feels like even though our adventures might be almost over, the ATX6 class of 2020 will never come to an end. It’s been really special to get to know everyone. I hope we all keep working together when opportunities arise, and just stay in touch and share successes and the bonds we’ve formed.