Nightswimming : Mark Hutchins Talks New Pale Swimmers Digital Return

by EA Poorman

Mark Hutchins used to make the rounds as one of the premier Fort Wayne songwriters. He started making a name for himself in the band Vandolah, which to my recollection recorded one of the best local albums to grace the cd racks at Wooden Nickel Music called Please. Hutchins also made a little album called Sleepy Furnace, the first album he put out under his own name. Another stellar local album that stands up among the best. But in 2006, Hutchins followed the muse to the way of 4-track cassette recording. New Pale Swimmers was a GBV-inspired 4-track project where Mark would hit record on a little Tascam cassette recorder and just let ideas fly. It was a short-lived project, but one that if you ever had a chance to hear the music you never forgot it.

Recently Hutchins was asked about New Pale Swimmers, which got him thinking about the old tunes. He figured why not digitize the songs and put ’em up on Bandcamp for all to enjoy, which he did. Along with some brand new music he recorded over the last year, Mark has put up all the full-lengths and EPs he recorded as New Pale Swimmers. I sat down and talked with Mark about the New Pale Swimmers, the digital releases, and being a 21st century artist.

EA Poorman: So it’s been quite a few years since New Pale Swimmers have made a sound. You’ve recently put together a Bandcamp page that’s collected most of the albums and EPs from your side project to a convenient place to binge them. What made you decide to unearth these tunes now?

Mark Hutchins: A few people had asked about it, so I put the two full-lengths and an EP up on Bandcamp. Then I got the itch to go full-on 4-track cassette recorder and combined freshly recorded stuff with a few tunes I’d done last year. Now folkscan FINALLY experience the entire NPS catalog. And pay what they want. Or just listen for free. It’s okay; I’m a 21st-century artist. I live under a bridge.

EA Poorman: For those not in the know, can you give me a little background on New Pale Swimmers? How did the project come about? Who was involved? What was the inspiration for the NPS sound and aesthetic? How long did it last?

Mark Hutchins: I decided at some point to challenge myself by coming up with an album title and all the track names in sequence… then write and record all the songs in a week or two. It’s always just been me. I can’t tell you exactly what triggered this, but I’ve always been a fan of DIY, unfettered and unfiltered music. I’ve done plenty of projects that were second guessed, fussed over, refined and tweaked to death. This isn’t necessarily a reaction to it as much as it is a vacation from it–it’s the closest feeling to being a kid again, musically. Hit “record” and go nuts. Tape hiss is comfort food.

EA Poorman: So how many full lengths did you record under the NPS moniker? How many EPs? What was the typical recording process like for a NPS joint? Were you the sole songwriter?

Mark Hutchins: I did two full lengths, self titled and then Buzz Cat. A few years later, I did an EP called World Beater Takes Five. Then there are three more EPs I pulled together this year. The first NPS projects were a mixture of 4-track cassette and computer-based recording program. Some songs even morph from one to the other.

EA Poorman: With this being such a personal project, how often did you take NPS out into the Fort Wayne night life? The mid-2000s were a pretty happening time in the Fort Wayne original music scene.

Mark Hutchins: Except for maybe a gig or two, I never took this stuff to the street. But when NPS started in 2006, Fort Wayne was humming. There were so many original bands at the time… I’d venture to guess that Fort Wayne rivaled Bloomington and Indy at the time. It was really inspiring.

EA Poorman: So besides the old school stuff, you recorded some new NPS material and included it on the Bandcamp page?

Mark Hutchins: I did! Three of the EPs are almost all brand-new music. It’s like having a fit… I recorded a bunch of tunes that I titled first, then back in the closet goes the 4-track, for who knows how long. Don’t ask me how I managed to get a closet under a bridge.

EA Poorman: Probably the same way I did, which we’ll keep a secret. So besides the unearthing of New Pale Swimmers, you’ll also be playing a songwriter’s showcase on March 24th at Deer Park Irish Pub. Can you tell me a little about this show? Deer Park is one of your old haunts, isn’t it?

Mark Hutchins: Oh yeah. I love the place. It’s very cozy. I really hadn’t planned on booking any live stuff but Adam Baker (who is a really good musician and runs these showcases) invited me to play. So I’m going to do an acoustic set with my friend Lee Andrews on mandolin and possibly a special guest from Toledo. I hope to remember the words.

EA Poorman: So if someone strolls along on the web and comes across the New Pale Swimmers BC page and their interest is peaked, what would you recommend they start out with? Where should the NPS journey begin?

Mark Hutchins: A pint of hard liquor with a chaser, headphones, and the first one, The New Pale Swimmers. As you move through the catalog, I’d suggest you add opioids. By the time you hit the latest EPs, you’ll “get it.” I’m not condoning drug abuse here, but being in the proper frame of mind is key.


Head on over to https://newpaleswimmers.bandcamp.com/ and check out the entire New Pale Swimmers catalog newly minted in digital form for you to enjoy. Don’t wait too long, though. It won’t be there forever. And make sure to head out to Deer Park Pub on March 24th for Songwriter’s Showcase and check out Mark and friends break out some tunes.

 

“We Are Teamwork” : The Return Of Sankofa

Photography by Bambi Guthrie

I’ve mulled around the music scene in Fort Wayne for a few years now. I barely stuck a toe in the waters, as it were, but from a distance I feel I’ve seen genuine greatness come from the Fort. It seems to be this microcosm of musical minds not willing to let anyone write their narrative but themselves. Pushing through the “local artist” name badge and saying the hell with it. Dive bars and pizza joints become the Orpheum and the Chicago Theater. There’s a pride in hailing from the Fort, but it doesn’t define these guys and gals. It’s a starting point in their creativity. It’s a place to call home when you’re not.

One of these Fort Wayne artists is Stephen Bryden, aka rapper Sankofa. I’ve known of Stephen for years, but only at a distance. Hearing bits of his work over these years I’ve only come away in awe. He’s a hell of a rapper and a hell of a writer. He’s written about everything from his life, to the irreparable damage Mike Pence has done to the state of Indiana(a great music video came of this as well), to Bravas hot dogs. His Bandcamp page tells the tale of a man with the urge to create. Bryden has an extensive collection of LPs, singles, and EPs to his name, and after a bit of a hiatus and an inspired performance at this year’s Middle Waves Music Festival Sankofa has returned with the excellent Ink From Rust.

With the album release show coming up at the Brass Rail on March 11th, I sat down to talk with Stephen about the return of Sankofa, the new album, the release show, and the beauty of collaboration. But first, we talked about his recent performance at Down The Line.

J. Hubner: So tell about Down The Line. How did you get involved? Was INXS your choice?

Stephen Bryden: Jared at the Embassy had spoken to me about the possibility of playing 2016’s Down The Line and it had not come to pass. During our conversation, I’d half-jokingly suggested INXS, as I’d long been a fan of Kick and realized (after singing karaoke at Nate Utesch’s wedding-thanks Aaron Butts for the reminder) that my vocal range was fairly similar to that of Michael Hutchence and “Never Tear Us Apart” is a classic song.

J. Hubner: There were no rap artists you wanted to cover?

I was loathe to cover a rap group because it would go against the code of biting which had made me reluctant to actively pursue an earlier Down the Line role.  The expectations for each performer was 25 minutes of cover songs and one original song to last not longer than 5 minutes.  Honestly, I was on the fence about performing, until I realized that if I worked with Jared Andrews on keyboard (being that Kick was primarily synth and drum machine driven) it could prove to make for an interesting performance.  Jared’s a good guy and we’ve done a handful of shows on the same bill.

When Jared of the Embassy gave the go ahead, I got back to Jared Andrews and began rehearsing.  The true selling point for my participation was that 1 original song.  I realized I could perform a new song from Ink From Rust that would leave quite an impression.  Oftentimes, I plan and rarely does the outcome match my projection.  This outcome smashed whatever bar had been set.  Before we began rehearsal, I’d sent Jared Andrews the playlist and he asked about Kid Gloves, as he couldn’t find it in INXS’s catalog.  I explained to him that’s the song which will make out participation in the evening worth it.  Once I told him the focus, he was intrigued and-best as I can tell-as excited as me.

J. Hubner: So how did the audience take to the INXS set?

Stephen Bryden: The Down the Line crowd was quite participatory and loose during the INXS portion, then the botoxed moms kind of looked blankly while still dancing as my original song commenced.  It was then that Sankofa and not some funny guy trying to sing INXS songs showed up.  I know my live shows are lyrically dense, which made the ending of the song a perfect closure.  The people who had laughed with me up until that point then split into those excited to realize what I was doing versus the people who voted for Trump.  The song closes on a remarkably simple joke I’m overly proud of having made up:

Knock knock.

Who’s there?

Trump.

Trump Who?

Knock knock.

Who’s there?

Trump.

Trump Who?

Knock knock.

Who’s there?

Orange

Orange Who?

Orange you glad I didn’t say Trump?

J. Hubner: So, how did that go over?

Stephen Bryden: To say portions of the audience were furious is an understatement.  I had been invited to play my biggest show ever in the heart of Indiana and here I was dissecting number 45.  Bambi came backstage after our set and said people in the audience were furious.  She feared for our well-being.  Mitch Fraizer (our backstage plus one) made it a point to remove his backstage pass which said “Sankofa.” Jared’s friend texted him that he overheard people calling us names which would not be fit to print. Someone I knew in attendance that night said the people in front of her began flipping off the stage.

J. Hubner: So it sounds like it went over better than you ever could’ve imagined. 

Stephen Bryden: Andy Kaufman 101 and man did it feel glorious.  The Sankofa facebook page has a post from an amazingly incensed gentleman whose furor I screen capped then posted to Instagram for posterity.

img_1481J. Hubner: With a gig like that under your belt you could pretty much retire happily from music altogether, but you seem to just be getting started. Tell me about your new album Ink From Rust. Has fatherhood played a part in the inspiration?

Stephen Bryden: Fatherhood inspired the realization that if I didn’t take whatever shreds of time were available to me when inspiration yet lived, that this album would never get completed.  Honestly, it took a lot of planning.  I spoke to Bambi about shooting a video, got a timeframe for when to shoot it, how long to edit it, when to release it and then leave a month before the release show (this after confirming at date for the Brass Rail).  This process is essentially a Rube Goldberg machine leading up to March 11th.  I’ve compared said process to the building of old war planes-a lot of people had a hand in making key components, but very few were aware of the entire project (be that the warplane or this album).

J. Hubner: Let’s get into the nuts and bolts. Where did you record? Are these a new batch of tunes or are they ones that have been incubating for some time?

Stephen Bryden: I recorded at Tempel Studios.  Tom is a great guy with whom I’d worked before having home recording facilities and, upon selling off my gear to “retire” (yep, my wife Jenn and former collaborator El Keter told me I wasn’t done), I had been asked by a former collaborator in Switzerland about doing a track.

Post Middle Waves, I was amped to create new works, as I’ve been performing the same songs for so long and I truly felt there were pieces I wished to share with energy provided by the electricity of what Middle Waves represented to a city I love.  There are a couple songs I’d been holding onto fragments, never to see the light of a sound booth, in particular 32 Kennebec’s two lines “I only said I loved you, I never claimed to care,” and “You’re the first person to teach me that a smile could lie.”  As for timetable, I was making headway on two projects (both temporarily sidelined for Ink From Rust to develop) when Greg Locke mentioned he’d be willing to do artwork if I was to make another album.  I had confided in him (I like to keep things pretty secretive) about my other two projects and lamented that I’d already lined up artists for those pieces.  Within 24 hours of my grieving, a producer from Detroit named John Stone had liked a track I recorded to a beat he’d sent me whose recording I’d piggybacked on the Switzerland session.  I’d played with John’s group, The Prime Eights, twice-once at the Berlin and the second time at the Brass Rail.  John said he enjoyed the song and would be willing to produce an album for me.  Well, timing being what it was, I said YES and relayed the same word to Greg.  From that point, John sent me beats, I worked many words to them until I had what I felt to be fitting pieces for each beat.  John envisioned 10 tracks, whereas I foresaw a 5-6 song output.  I told him if he sent me beats and I was inspired, there would be more songs.  He sent me a file containing 30 something beats and I went to town.  All but the first song (Ras Kass) which started Ink From Rust were recorded in one marathon four hour session.

Artwork by Greg W. Locke
Artwork by Greg W. Locke

J. Hubner: Can you explain the name ‘Ink From Rust’?

Stephen Bryden: It came from the realization I had not created in ages and thus my pen was out of use.  It’s a simple way of saying I’ve been absent from the creative process for a long time.

J. Hubner: “Crimson Feather” is the first single and video. It’s a powerful song, man. Can you tell me a little about it? 

Stephen Bryden: It’s essentially my “what if” song, where the hook is about why didn’t I follow those paths and see where they could take my music?  It’s fairly boilerplate artistic self-flagellation, but it rings true. My mind state making that song was closest to that of my earlier works with production team Suspended Animators (ognihs and Manic Depressive) on an EP called SA-2.  Very dense material.

J. Hubner: Bambi Guthrie did a great job on the video.

Stephen Bryden: Bambi did an incredible job with the video and she is one of a near countless amount of people who helped make this project possible.

J. Hubner: So what you’re saying is you got by with a little help from your friends.

Stephen Bryden: I’m a rapper, I have a voice.  I don’t make beats, I don’t shoot videos, I can’t draw very well, I don’t know how to make graphics on a computer.  The last song on Ink From Rust (creatively enough called Ink From Rust) is my attempt to recall as many names of people who helped me get to this point.  I am one person and the amount of people who made what is considered to be my music expands way beyond some guy currently answering your questions.  It brings me great joy and no small measure of humility to realize how fortunate I am to have so many talented friends who are willing to help bring my visions to life.  My oldest son Arthur once said “we are teamwork” (naturally, I was helping him pick up his toys) and I have adopted that as a motto of sorts.  The people in the Crimson Feather video showed up having absolutely no idea what I was doing.  It was when they arrived that I explained I’d returned to making music and wanted them to be in a video I was shooting that day. The video was originally slated to be released February 11, but once I was invited to Down the Line, I pushed it back until the following day.  Turns out, that was a tremendous call.

J. Hubner: Speaking of tremendous things, Ink From Rust’s album release show is March 11th at the Brass Rail. What do you have planned for that momentous occasion?

Stephen Bryden: The CD drops 3/11.  The digital release will occur a week later.  I want people to be there, to experience the joy and moment of what will be an incredible night of music with friends.  If you want the shirts I’m debuting that night, show up. If you want to buy a CD with all the fun stuff, show up. If you want to see me pour my guts out on stage and do my damndest to put on one hell of a show, show up.  Far as merch, I will have packs-CD, poster, magnet, pen, sticker for $13. My long time friends Sub-Surface are playing and that alone is worth the six dollar admission.  wolfbearhawk is a band comprised of my friends (many of whom were in I, Wombat, whose last album I still play the life out of) and I wanted to include them on the bill to kick off the night.  The Prime Eights will be coming in from Detroit and then I get to play.  I’m not trying to be coy, but I’ve got stuff planned to make this a decidedly memorable evening.  The day of the show there will be a listening party at Bravas from 11-2 with an event-specific menu item and a coloring contest.  The winner of that contest will get a tee shirt.  I plan on having a limited number of CDs available for sale there for folk who may not be able to later get to the Rail.

img_1466-2J. Hubner: I wanted to ask you about “#doubledownondumb”, a track you released over the summer in response to former Governor Mike Pence’s obliteration of Indiana’s educational system and gutting of Glenda Ritz’ ability to do her job. How did that (great)track come about? I’m sure with you being an educator(and parent) yourself this hit especially close to home. 

Stephen Bryden: That song wrote itself.  During my “retirement,” only Bravas, NeighborLink and the idiocy of Pence could get me to find studio facilities (usually Nate Utesch’s basement).  The song had been gestating for a long time, but the original producer (Geno) is a guy who loves collecting vintage gear-at one point he had a mixing board autographed by the RZA-more than he does completing songs.  He’d produced my Sarah Palin song Lipstick Fangs years prior; Geno made a beat snippet and I looped it. Geno had been sitting on my Pence track vocals for an excruciating length of time and when it seemed like Pence was going to be Trump’s veep pick, I got the vocals over to ognihs and he came through with a beat in about as short an order as Bambi made the subsequent video.

J. Hubner: I imagine you probably have been influenced by all kinds of music and art in general, but when did hip hop make its mark on you? 

Stephen Bryden: Morris Minor and the Majors’ Stutter Rap.  Just like most true stories, it’s fairly embarrassing.  That was the first vinyl I bought (K-Mart, 7”, I believe it was 1987).  They were a spoof group who were modeling the track after The Beastie Boys (admittedly, not at that point serious artists themselves).  Stutter Rap was my gateway drug, leading up to a Walkman birthday gift with Run DMC’s Tougher than Leather and the DOC’s No One Can Do It Better its first two tapes.

J. Hubner: If you had to pick just one album that made the biggest impression on you, what album would that be? What was it about that record that affected you so much?

Stephen Bryden: My cop out answer is the biggest influence on my perspective of music is my mom-her constant dancing to however many records and tapes she would play.  She loved and still loves music, it gives her life.  Motown, Beatles, Stones, Spirit, Iron Butterfly, the West Side Story soundtrack, Dragon, Simon & Garfunkel…  She lived music and that passion made an impression on me.  I have found that the music I loved as a high schooler and college student still holds great emotional sway with me to this day.


Stephen Bryden, aka Sankofa, is the real deal. A down to earth dude that puts 100% of himself in everything he does. Head out to the Brass Rail March 11th and check out what will surely be one of the best shows of the year in Fort Wayne.  If you want the good stuff(t-shirts, CDs, magnets, pens, stickers) then get to the Brass Rail that night and reap your rewards. Hit up Bravas from 11-2 on the 11th for a listening party and goodies created just for that day. Keep up with Sankofa at his Facebook page, and get acquainted with the tunes at Bandcamp. Maybe drop a few monies for some solid tunes. Do it.

 

 

“Bible Belt Devil Music” : MOBILE HOME Hit The Brass Rail March 3rd

By J. Hubner

Feature Photo by Allyson McClain

Don’t let that title fool you. There will be no virgin sacrifices or blood lettings happening on March 3rd at the Brass Rail(after 3am all bets are off.) What will be happening is some punked-up rockabilly ala X, the Replacements, Blondie, and The Stooges. Streetlamps For Spotlights’ Jason Davis has a knack for bringing quality rock and roll bands to town to lay waste to local stages, and on March 3rd he’ll continue the streak with Columbus, Ohio’s MOBILE HOME. Along with MOBILE HOME, Streetlamps For Spotlights will be christening the stage as well with their presence.

MOBILE HOME indeed play a twangy mix of punk rock and gritty country, but it’s all done so well and with a real heaping of class. Bassist/singer Jess Kauffman, guitarist/singer Kyle Martin, and drummer Aaron Michael Butler are a trio to be reckoned with. Their vocal harmonies ring beautifully both in the studio and onstage. Live, there’s an urgency to their dusty tunes that pulls you in immediately. My advice would be to get out on March 3rd and check these guys and gal out at an intimate place like the Brass Rail before the chances are all gone. What I’m saying is it’s only a matter of time before these three are playing far larger venues and far bigger cities.

Kyle and Jess sat down with me and answered a few questions. Enjoy.

J. Hubner: So, the band formed in Nashville but now spend time between Columbus and Athens, OH?

Kyle Martin: It’s actually the other way around.  We’re originally from Ohio, but we moved to Nashville in 2012.  We had more of a honky-tonk sound at that time.  We started the Mobile Home thing toward the end of 2015, then we came back to Ohio not long after that.

J. Hubner: You’ve definitely got a twang to your sound, but with a punk rock edge. Who are some influences?

Kyle Martin: Bands like X, Husker Dü, Replacements.  Blondie.  The Stooges.  We did a Misfits cover set for Halloween and we did The Clash-athon in Columbus in December.  But, we also love country music and rockabilly.  We want to sound like the Everly Brothers when we sing together.

J. Hubner: Your self-titled EP sounds amazing. Where did you record? What’s the songwriting process like?

Jess Kauffman: We recorded the EP at our friend, Eric McConnell’s, home studio in East Nashville.

Kyle Martin: Jess and I write independently, then help each other tweak and polish the details.  Aaron Butler helps a lot with the arrangements.  For this record, we made demos on the iPhone, then sent them to Aaron to learn.  The next time we met was at the studio.  So, what you hear on the EP is actually the first time we are all, together, playing those songs.

J. Hubner: You’ll be making the trek to Fort Wayne on March 3rd to play at the Brass Rail. Is this your first time playing Fort Wayne? 

Kyle Martin: This is Mobile Home’s first time playing Fort Wayne.  We’re performing with Streetlamps for Spotlights on Friday.  Those guys are fantastic, and we’ve been wanting to get to the Brass Rail for a while now.

J. Hubner: What can Fort Wayne expect from a Mobile Home show? You describe yourselves as “Bible Belt Devil Music”. Will there be exorcisms and incantations? 

Kyle Martin: No blood rituals…for now.  We’re really using that with a wink to refer to the way people might have used it years ago to refer blues musicians and early rockers.  I think people called it ‘devil music’ because it inspires dancing, drinking, sex, etc.  You can expect at least one of those at Mobile Home show.

mobile-home-7063-2J. Hubner: You’ve got a great EP under your belts. Is there any new music in the works? 

Kyle Martin: We just recorded a single for a  #BandsAgainstHate compilation coming out from Disjointed Records.  An album will be slower to come, but we’re getting after it.

Jess Kauffman: Proceeds from the compilation will be donated to a charity supporting Syrian Refugees.

J. Hubner: Any great gigs that stand out?

Kyle Martin: Our friends Brenda the band threw a big party in Louisville that featured an open chili dog bar.  That was a great time!

Jess Kauffman: Another one of our favorites was a show at Mahall’s 20 Lanes in Cleveland, mainly because we had a bowl-off between Mobile Home and our buddy band, Dune, prior to the show. And because we played the Locker Room stage.

J. Hubner: Any not-so great gigs that stand out?

Kyle Martin: We’ve played a few empty rooms, but in this line of work, we probably haven’t seen our last one yet.


Don’t let Mobile Home play to an empty room on March 3rd. Head out to the Brass Rail that night and watch two amazing bands tear it up. Believe me, you won’t be disappointed. Go show Mobile Home some love, and go give their great EP a listen over at https://mobilehome.bandcamp.com/releases.

 

 

 

Poetry In Motion : Slow Dakota’s Musical Odyssey

Photos by Nick Vorderman

 

PJ Sauerteig makes music under the name Slow Dakota. The music is a mixture of chamber pop and idyllic folk. You get a feeling of tranquility come over you as you listen to the newest album titled The Ascension of Slow Dakota. It’s a literary journey scored with a bevy of instruments, both acoustic and electric(and electronic.) Sauerteig writes songs with a poet’s heart. He paints characters and stories like a cross between Sherwood Anderson and Sufjan Stevens. A recent nomination for the Pushcart Prize for some of his writing is further proof of his adoration for the written word.

Sauerteig was born and raised in Fort Wayne. A recent graduate of Columbia University, Sauerteig is going back and attending NYU Law School. On a recent trip back to the fort I sat down and talked to the Slow Dakota mastermind about his poetry and music.

J. Hubner: So how was your childhood? Were you a curious child?

PJ Sauerteig: I had a really idyllic childhood in the suburbs of Ft Wayne. I was lucky that our house was filled with art and incredible music: Peter Gabriel, African music, a little Bjork, Janet Jackson, YES, U2, Vangelis. I was an outgoing kid, polite, with a strange fixation on drawing monsters, wars, dragons, sieges.

16128206_1462719183752968_2006823160_nJ. Hubner: When did music become something more than just noise coming out of the radio? What was the first album you bought? What albums had the biggest impact on you?

PJ Sauerteig: Britney Spears was the first album I ever asked my parents to buy me. NSYSC, too. Years later, it was The Killers’ Hot Fuss. Vampire Weekend’s first album had a huge impact on me as a high-schooler: a big reason I ended up going to Columbia. Then I found In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, which grabbed me and never let go. Still my favorite album, and some of the best lyrics ever written.

J. Hubner: Has writing and literature always been a big part of your life? 

PJ Sauerteig: Ironically, I’m a super slow reader – when I was a kid, my parents had to read books to me aloud because I could never finish them myself. I wasn’t a bookworm at all. But in high school I got turned onto TS Eliot, who took my literary virginity, and helped me to love words. Today I’m still a slow reader, so I listen to audiobooks.

J. Hubner: You seem to be adept at quite a few instruments. Did you take lessons when you were younger?

PJ Sauerteig:  I took piano lessons from a young age, and got pretty good at it. But when I showed up at college, I quickly realized piano wasn’t enough; all the musicians around me could hop from bass to drums to piano, and sing better than I could. I felt like a dunce, so I bought a ukulele and taught myself. Then a mandolin (I still suck). Then a dulcimer. I can fake it on drums and guitar, and I’m getting more comfortable with my voice – I hated my voice for the longest time.

J. Hubner: How did Slow Dakota come about?

PJ Sauerteig: I first started writing as Slow Dakota when I came back from a failed volunteering trip to India – the first album, “Our Indian Boy” bloomed from the diary I kept in India. I was in another New York band at the time – Jeffers Win – but this new material felt somehow different, and far more personal. I bowed out of Jeffers Win, and it’s been Slow Dakota ever since.

16128808_1462718077086412_1654568790_nJ. Hubner: Let’s talk about your album ‘The Ascension of Slow Dakota’. Is this a concept album? Listening to it the record feels like stories being told, especially with the mix of both traditional song structure and spoken word pieces.

PJ Sauerteig:  I love concept albums – the first two Slow Dakota records were very strict concept albums – but The Ascension is a little looser. Instead of telling one story, The Ascension tells a bunch of interconnected stories – with lots of overlapping themes, reappearing characters (like the white dove), and images that keep popping up (suicide, people walking into water, lilac flowers). If the album has a single overarching question, it’s this: is there a grey area between music and literature?

J. Hubner: Can you tell me a little more about those spoken word pieces. Who did you get to help out with the readings?

PJ Sauerteig: I wrote all the different pieces, but I wanted other people to bring them to life. I recruited three readers – each of them has had a profound impact on my education, and on the ideas swirling around The Ascension. The old British man is Philip Kitcher – a fabulous scholar and philosopher. The female reader is Margaret Vandenburg – the author and librettist to whom the album is dedicated. And the last piece is read by a mentor of mine – the American poet and professor, Joseph Fasano. They’re each like gods to me.

J. Hubner: Who or what are some influences on the overall work?

PJ Sauerteig: A huge influence was Sun Kil Moon’s Benji and Universal Themes: sprawling, poetic musings on his Midwestern roots, with really thoughtful, witty spoken word sections. Joanna Newsom’s The Milk-Eyed Mender, too: she buries brilliant riddles in her lyrics. I also spent some time farming in Austria while writing the record.

J. Hubner: How quickly did the album come together?

PJ Sauerteig: The songs came together slowly, piece by piece, in different countries, over a year and a half.

J. Hubner: Have you ever taken these songs out into a live setting?

PJ Sauerteig:  I’ve only tried to perform stuff from The Ascension once, actually! Last summer, at Matt Kelley’s B-Side in Ft Wayne. I brought in a female vocalist and a trumpet player, but it was still nearly impossible to recreate any of the songs as they appear on the album. That’s a big reason I rarely play live. Another reason is that I’m terribly nervous and hard on myself.

J. Hubner: Do you see yourself as more of a poet the writes songs or a songwriter that writes poetry? Are they one in the same? Is it right to even draw a distinction? Art is art and creativity is creativity, right? 

PJ Sauerteig: That’s a great question, and one The Ascension tries to grapple with! I think it’s very strange that we keep poetry and songwriting in separate camps, although 2016 felt like progress: many great albums this year incorporated spoken word (Beyonce, Solange, Frank Ocean), Dylan got the Nobel for Literature, and we were reminded of Leonard Cohen’s legacy – a poet/author before he was a songwriter. Think farther back to Homer – before The Odyssey was written down, it was performed / sung by bards.

J. Hubner: You’re currently in New York going to NYU Law School. How does music and Slow Dakota play into your future?

PJ Sauerteig: NYU Law is keeping me crazy humble; everyone there is smarter than me, and one of my buddies just had a film accepted into Sundance. Sometimes after a night of studying, I’ll tinker around on the piano, and record it on my phone. I’ve got ideas for a new album – and after the melodies and lyrics marinate for a while, I’ll start reaching out to people about mixing, recording, playing instruments. It’d be a dream to work with Garrison Keillor one day. Or Louise Gluck, swoon.

 


What are you waiting for? Step into the beautiful world of Slow Dakota. Head over to https://slowdakota.bandcamp.com/ and give it a listen. Keep up with PJ and Slow Dakota at http://www.slowdakota.com/.

“A snapshot of where we were”: C. Ray Harvey Takes Us To Omaha, Alaska

photo by Adam Meyer

I think the purpose of being a great artist is to both create the art and evolve it as well. If you’re lucky, the artist evolves in the process. You want to keep moving forward in the creative process. You never want to devolve. In that process of evolving one needs to be able to process and create from the good and bad that happens in ones life. Process the everyday and make something of it. Hopefully it’s something others can relate to and say “Hey, I get that. I feel that way too.” If you can connect with others through your happiness or sadness or anger or despair, then great. But ultimately art is for the creator. It’s a process by which the artist works out some s**t of his or her own. You take hits and misses, the loves found and lost, and the triumphs and tragedies of your life and put them through this existential meat grinder and hope something digestible comes out the other end. The ultimate goal is to figure it out on a personal level, then you can move on to the next crisis of the moment.

C. Ray Harvey has been making music in the Fort for years. I saw him play for the first time when he was fronting Wooden Satellites on Record Store Day way back in 2010.  He fronted that band like a guy who’d been performing a lifetime(at that time he was probably only in his early 20s.) From Wooden Satellites he joined the ranks of Heaven’s Gateway Drugs and made two albums with those freaky Fort Wayne staples before bidding Fort Wayne a fond adieu and moved to Nashville for a year for work.

C. Ray has returned to Fort Wayne and to music with the band Omaha, Alaska. It’s a fictitious place with very real emotions and existential dilemmas. On the band’s debut Harvey is indeed working out some s**t, but also working on his songwriting skills and crafting some catchy pop songs. I talked to C. Ray about the band, the album, and where he goes from here.

J. Hubner: So tell me about Omaha, Alaska. How long has this been a project of yours?

C. Ray Harvey: Omaha, Alaska is just a container for songs I’ve written. After leaving Heaven’s Gateway Drugs in 2014 and living in Nashville for a year, then moving back to Fort Wayne, I decided to come up with a name and gather some of the bits and pieces of songs I’d been writing and give it a name. I threw post-it notes up around my office for how I thought the songs should sound, and what the first record should be like, what the first show would sound like, all before I had band members or had decided on the instrument make-up. Some of the songs were mostly written already, one or two even dating back to days in a band I used to lead called Wooden Satellites, but they didn’t sound quite like they do now.

J. Hubner: Stylistically it’s nothing like HGD, but you seem to be a songwriter that has many a muse to follow. Can you tell me which artists influenced the more intimate, sparse sound?

C. Ray Harvey: The vision for Heaven’s Gateway Drugs was primarily Derek Mauger’s vision. We all added to it, but he was the source. The parts I composed, the production I did for HGD, all of it was meant to catch a specific vibe. Everything I wrote for that, even the lines that were very personal, were crafted to fit that vision the best that I could. Start with an aesthetic, write to match it. Omaha, Alaska starts with more personal songs, and then I add an aesthetic to try and tie them together, cutting songs that aren’t fitting the aesthetic after the fact. In HGD, we had this massive playlist of psychedelic music from the past 50 years and we were pulling from that to craft songs. I’m less about the sound I’m going for in Omaha, Alaska and more focused on songcraft, so from an influence standpoint I’ve listened to a lot of classic songwriters and focused on what it is about their distinct personalities that makes their songs stand out, even as they transition styles or dynamics or crossover genres.

J. Hubner: Which artists influenced the more intimate, sparse sound?

C. Ray Harvey:  I could name names, but they’d be the hallmarks of “great songwriters” that you see in every list. Instead I’ll call out Jason Molina, David Bazan, Damien Jurado, J Tillman, Timothy Showalter and Conor Oberst as my kindreds, although I’d only make them look better if we stood in a family portrait together.

J. Hubner: I have to admit that I did look to see if there was an Omaha, Alaska and I alas didn’t find one. So this is a “place” of your own making. Sort of a metaphorical destination where one feels as lonely as they ever have. Can you tell a little about the concept of Omaha, Alaska? 

C. Ray Harvey: When I looked at fragments of songs I had at the end of 2015 and thought about my move back to Fort Wayne, I started to imagine a place where that music came from and I named it Omaha, Alaska. It’s a place with pride in small accomplishment, real or imagined, and just about as remote a place as you’ll ever find. At one point I had an idea for creating a fake city government page with an active message board of characters that I would write for, but decided that might severely hamper the productivity of the actual songwriting.

J. Hubner: The songs themselves feel as fragile as the fragile state that Omaha Alaska represents. Despite the emotional state these songs possess though, musically it’s downright catchy. Beautifully ornamented, yet sparse piano-driven tracks. What was the songwriting process like?

C. Ray Harvey: The songs in Omaha, Alaska are usually penned by me on guitar or piano without a lot of attention to musical flourishes. As opposed to the group writing that some bands do, jamming until they get a groove going, then arranging that into parts, and then writing lyrics to fit the vibe… I usually just sit down with a melody and the start of a lyric and then work out the harmony and try to pen it in one sitting. Then I go back and try to add the flourishes, which are fairly few in my songwriting. Given that I do this outside of practice with a band, it usually just happens a handful of times a year. It used to come faster with some bands, where I could write an album of music in a day. It used to be a bit more utilitarian, like in Heaven’t Gateway Drugs, where I had lines to color in and had immediate feedback on whether I was in the lines. Nowadays it’s a slow, pondering process of capturing those one-liners in my phone and then waiting for a day that I feel like or can practically sit down for a few hours and work out a song.

J. Hubner: Are these songs autobiographical or more just storytelling? Maybe a bit  of both?

C. Ray Harvey: Some of it, like “Read at 10:00 PM” is directly autobiographical. Others are embellished. I guess it all comes from in me, but a lot of it is congealed experience that I piece together from the lives of friends and add my own interpretation of how they feel, or merge it with my own similar experience. Given that in the 18 months before I formed the band, I left a previous band, lost a lot of friendships, went through a divorce, and lived in a new place where I felt very isolated for a year… I think a lot of that comes through in the music.

J. Hubner: Can you tell me about the recording process? Where was the album recorded? Who else is in Omaha Alaska that helped play a part in the creative process? You took a large role in the back end(engineering, mixing, mastering.) Do you like that aspect of creating as well as just the tortured artist aspect? 

C. Ray Harvey: The album was recorded on my PC in our practice space and in my garage. Our guitar player, Andy Plank, lent a few mics to the process, and everyone played the parts we recorded. Then I embellished, mixed, and mastered on my computer. Honestly, recording and arranging during the recording process is as much, if not more fun for me than performing live. I love having artifacts of creativity, and I love composing and layering sounds. I had to hold back in a major way not to get overly polished in fixing performances and severely limited myself in what I added to the songs after recording the “live” instruments. It was a new challenge. I’m happy that it’s a snapshot of where we were, even if I furrow my brow to think of all that could’ve been added.

J. Hubner:  You’ve taken Omaha Alaska out and played some shows. How has the feedback been to the new songs and project? Do you have any shows booked in the immediate future?

C. Ray Harvey: We performed our first show as a three piece in February, 2016, with no microphones. That was my design. I wanted the music to be so quiet, drumsalbum-cover-1500x1500-300dpi included, that I could sing over it and people in the bar would have to shut up and get close to hear it. I’m not interested in performing as the background music for somebody’s blackout; I wanted to perform something that people could choose to engage with fully or not at all. And that made people really uncomfortable. Since then, we’ve added another member, we play at normal volume, and we mesh a bit better with other acts on a bill, but I still try to get the venue dead silent at least once in a set. I’m not sure how that will change in 2017, or what the instrument makeup of the new songs I’m writing will be, but I think I’ll back down from the performance art aspect a bit and maybe start trying to have a good time on stage again. We are playing with Ryley Walker in February.

J. Hubner: I know you became a father in 2016. How do you like being a dad?

C. Ray Harvey: I like being a dad. I think it connects me to the human experience in a way I didn’t realize it could. That said, I don’t believe any role, even one so intrinsic or familial should be the limiting factor in one’s identity. That’s a complicated way of saying, I don’t see myself as a dad, or a songwriter, or a business analyst (my job)… I’m working to see myself as just C. Ray, a guy that enjoys doing those things.

J. Hubner: So what’s in store for Omaha Alaska in 2017. Is it still a lonely place? 

C. Ray Harvey: I’m done writing songs that focus on loss and loneliness without resolution. Those will always be touch points in my music, but I’m more interested in a narrative that builds up solidarity for the human experience. I’ve always admired Will Oldham for having a somewhat playful, acknowledging, and almost uplifting perspective on humanity. Suffering with a twist of smile in the corner of its lip. I want to create that feeling, a sort of grinning commiseration rather than the gloomy, self-focused exposure art that I could accuse myself of in the past. 

Keep up with Omaha, Alaska at https://www.facebook.com/omahaalaska/?fref=ts and at http://www.omahaalaska.com/. The debut album can be streamed over at Apple Music, Tidal Music, and Spotify. So you have no excuses. Put that album in your ears.

Fantastical History: The Literary World of E.R. Blake

Of all the ways to make a name in the artistic world I imagine that “author” would be the most difficult. It’s not as if you can sit down and write a book in one evening. It’s not instant gratification like writing a song, drawing, or painting a picture. These are art forms that can produce fever dream creations within an evening of caffeine fuel and sudden inspiration. Even a poet can belt out a complete piece in a night if time allows. But the way of the author is a longer road. Years some have taken to finish one manuscript. Then once it’s finished you have to find someone willing to take a chance on you and publish the book. Musicians, graphic designers, and the like can start a Bandcamp page, blog, or some easily created website and put their work out for the world to see and be their own publisher. A book, at least if you want to go the physical route(people still do like to hold a book in their hands, you know) requires cover design, printers, and I’m sure many more folks to make something you can flip through. Going the way of the author is a rough road, but can be a rewarding one.

Local Warsaw resident E.R. Blake is one of those valiant souls that wanted to tell a story, so she told it. After years of ideas, consuming books, inspirations, and working time into a busy day of being the mother of two girls she has given the world her first novel, the mystery/thriller The Exile Carpet: Dreamscapes(Volume 1). I had the chance to talk to E.R. Blake in-between local book signings about her upbringing, her inspirations, and of course her novel.

J. Hubner: Thanks for talking to me. So where did you grow up? Where were your formative years spent?

E.R. Blake: I was born and raised in Southern California, which has a diverse backdrop of cultures all intertwining into a unique version of the American Dream. Simply by driving through one county to the next, you are able to visit countries with rich language and a proud heritage on your way to shop at Target or a trip to the Beach.

J. Hubner: Were you interested in writing at a young age?

E.R. Blake: I never considered myself to be any great writer as a child. I had a rich imagination and spent my time creating stories in my head that I frequently acted out as a soloist in my bedroom. I was, and still continue to be, a voracious reader. My parents did a wonderful job of promoting the written word in various forms, such as poetry, plays, and all genres of novels. I would escape into the pages and surrender to the characters plight as my own vision of the authors work came to life. My parents both worked in the film industry when I was a child, so seeing things come to life on a set for a commercial they were working on stirred the portion of my brain to dream and create.

J. Hubner: Was there a specific age when you decided you wanted to write?

E.R. Blake: There hasn’t been a specific age where the light bulb illuminated and I exclaimed that I would be an author….how is that for dramatic? I played around with it here and there and comments were made that I should give it a go, but my focus until college was music. I believed that I would be a music major until I met a woman who changed my life. Granted, as a child I wanted to a marine biologist or  a Top Gun pilot…..thank you Tom Cruise. In high school, my parents met and befriended a woman by the name of Dr. Norma L. Goodrich. She was a Professor Emeritus, could speak and write 7 languages, some of them ancient languages and was completing work on an academic work regarding King Arthur. There was a common thread in our journeys to Scotland as a family, which began when I was 7, and her own travels and work on King Arthur. She saw something in me that I didn’t. We began to talk and she took me under her wing. When I went off to college, she saw that music was not my passion, but History was and steered me towards that topic as a major. She was an accomplished author, having proven the existence of Arthur, Merlin and Guinevere….I still like to find her work on the shelves in bookstores. One day, she suggested that I start research on a fifth century Irish saint named Columba. She was looking for some research help on a project she was working on and I agreed. I was told that it would make a wonderful dissertation and when I didn’t seemed thrilled, she said….you could always write a book. What pushed me to “knock out a book” were all the research notebooks and information I gathered with Dr Goodrich in mind over the years. One day I came to the realization that maybe I could and what was the harm in trying. What good would all that material do if it sat around in my house? If Dan Brown and Steve Berry could do it, I might as well take a crack at it!

J. Hubner: So let’s talk about the book. It’s called The Exile Carpet: Dreamscapes(Volume 1). What can one expect when they crack open those pages?

E.R. Blake:  First off, the cover is the key. The artwork, brilliantly created by Dickson Design Company, draws you in and beckons for you to open the cover. It has a54667974_high-resolution-front-cover_6494122 life of its own and fascinates me. The pin on the cover is the broach that characters wear in the book….the symbols are explained,,,,when you read the book. (wink wink). When you delve into the pages you will find a character rich thriller that speeds you though Scotland in a race against time. At the heart of the mystery, The Exile Carpet, an ancient artifact guarded for centuries and hunted for destruction. It is a character all on its own. The idea came from research when I came across an artifact sold on the Black Market called The Exile Carpet. It is a prayer carpet that depicted the voyage of Mary Magdalene to France from the Holy Land. It intrigued me and the idea was born. With children running about, I never had vast days of writing, so I would write here and there and edit as I went along. With all the edits, I would say 5 years to what you hold in our hand today.

J. Hubner: I gather from all your research and the story itself that you’re a history buff. Is that so? Do you have a favorite era you like to delve into?

E.R. Blake:  I am  HUGE history buff! I am most interested in Ancient to Medieval European history….how specific is that? I love to research and read about emerging civilzations and how they evolved. I get lost in it all……if I am having a challenging day, I can crack open a history book and surrender to the time period. It is better than candy.

J. Hubner: How has the reception been for the book so far? 

E.R. Blake: The reception has been amazing! It is an incredible responsibility to be allowed into someone’s imagination. It is personal and private, their own escape from reality. If my words can transport them into another place, beyond the page my task is done. The wonderful reward or me is that the characters have come to life. I created some of them out of thin air and then used people in my own life as influences for the characters you will journey with. For example, the character of Mitch is after a dear friend of mine who passed away when we were in Middle School. For me, he gets the chance to come alive each time someone reads. What a gift!

J. Hubner: Where is the book available currently?

E.R. Blake:  It is available online with Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

J. Hubner: I read that you’re a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in Edinburgh, Scotland. I’m not sure what that entails but it seems pretty significant. Can you tell me a little more about that?

E.R. Blake: Dr Goodrich helped me become a fellow. She nominated me! The Society is charged with the task of preserving, recording and assisting in new research projects in all aspects of Scottish History. There are research digs funded through them as well as research projects and academic publishing to preserve and catalogue the rich history of the nation. It is an honor to be a Fellow.

J. Hubner: You’ve given the world Volume 1 of The Exile Carpet. Is Volume 2 done and ready to go? Do you know the fate of the characters already?

E.R. Blake:  Volume Two: Restoration is complete. One and Two originally were one piece of work. I was prompted to split into two for an easier read. It will go into story edit in the New Year and look for a release in 2017. Volume Three: Ascension is in outline phase right now, with actual typing to be done soon. It begs me to sit down and write it out each day! I do know where the characters are headed and what the ultimate conclusion will be…..wait and find out!

J. Hubner: So can you tell me how one goes about getting a novel published? Maybe there’s someone reading this that could use some advice?

E.R. Blake: Publishing is a highly subjective industry. What you love and what someone else feels passionate about are worlds apart! The process is tedious. You write what you believe is a New York Times Best seller and then you send it forth to be judged as marketable material in the form of a Query Letter. Agents read these letters and decide whether or not they have the same passion to sell your material. After 134 rejections of this isn’t the right project for me or my client list is full, Amazon said yes! Oh happy day!! Is it horrible and difficult to be rejected and try to move on….yep! But it is completely worth it!!!

J. Hubner: So how has this experience been overall for you? Has your work turned out how you wanted it to?

E.R. Blake: My dream of my words on paper has come true….giving people the of a story that captures them and sends them beyond the page to question or research on their own is a humbling gift for me. Why Scotland as a backdrop you might ask? When I first traveled there as a child, the castles and monuments were not so stirring, but as I grew they called out begging to be discovered. I spent every summer there between the ages of 7 and 20 and it is where my soul sings. This creation is my love letter to the Nation of Scotland. Its magic is undeniable.

E.R. Blake’s The Exile Carpet: Dreamscapes(Volume 1) is available now online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Follow her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/erblakeauthor/. And be on the lookout for The Exile Carpet: Restoration(Volume 2) coming next year.

“The Doodle shall Prevail” : The Art of Frank Louis Allen

 

Artwork by Frank Louis Allen

 

It’s not often we find our main passion in our 30s, yet that is what happened with Fort Wayne by way of the UK artist Frank Louis Allen. After a back injury left him partially disabled back in 2011, Allen began drawing. He began sharing his work on the Facebook page “Artists and Autism”, an online community that promotes autism acceptance through art. This page allowed Allen to connect with other autistic artists and he began hosting weekly videocasts of his drawing. The page also introduced him to the founder of the community, Kara Stewart Allen. In 2013 Allen moved to Fort Wayne to marry Kara and become a full-time Hoosier.

Allen’s work is in-the-moment, spontaneous, and free form. It’s big and busy, with what feels like worlds being created within the pieces. I look at his work and I’m reminded of graffiti and subway art of the 70s and 80s. Work that was featured in documentaries like Style Wars and Kings of Broadway. There’s a certain confidence that comes through his work that pulls you into Allen’s world. I had the opportunity to sit down with Frank Louis Allen and talk to him about his art and what inspires his creativity.


J. Hubner: So where did you grow up?

Frank Louis Allen: I grew up in a county just north of London, England called Bedfordshire.

J. Hubner: What was your childhood like? What sort of kid were you?

Frank Louis Allen:  My childhood was mostly good except for the frustration of having Autism. I would find it very hard to balance my emotional reactions. I was mostly non verbal only talking to my brothers and sisters and absolutely nobody else until about my 3rd year of school.The other kids would always come around me and watch me draw as a kid.

J. Hubner: At what age were you diagnosed with Autism?

Frank Louis Allen: Like millions of people with autism you would not be able to tell we have it just by looking at us. I wasn’t diagnosed until my early thirties when I was tested at one of the worlds top research hospitals for Autism in London. They found that I was measured  in the top 1% of people for Visual Cognition (Visual IQ.) I hadn’t drawn much since I left school as I was overly anxious about needing a reason to draw something which is a shame. Just a few years ago I got over this by discovering that if I thought of myself as listening to music rather then drawing, I could draw without thinking about what I was drawing to good results. I feel my art expresses to me things about my emotions that I may sometimes not be able to put my finger on.

frank-creating-art-insoltion-for-the-coreJ. Hubner: So you had to take that component of intellectualizing your creative process and make it more of a stream-of-consciousness and visceral experience. Drawing to you is like putting on an album and just getting lost in it? 

Frank Louis Allen: Yes totally stream of consciousness. If i try to think about what to draw I’ve got nothing. I think the music distracts my brain enough for me to not think about it. Your subconscious does so many calculations in everyday life. When it comes to art and spacial awareness it has your back. I also have had a genetic eye condition since birth called RP, Retinitis Pigjentosa. I can’t replace eye cells as they die.  This way of drawing gives me hope that I can carry on as my eyesight degenerates.

frank-doing-collaborative-drawingJ. Hubner: So let’s talk about your art. You have such a distinct style. It’s big, colorful, and it seems to carry within it it’s own little universe with each piece. It’s like a microcosm of a million thoughts all coming together at once. Can you tell me about your influences that go into informing what comes out on paper? Growing up what were some things that pushed you to want to create? 

Frank Louis Allen: As a child at school I remember continually doodling during class. When I left school drawing for the most part stopped. I think my style of line is heavily influenced by comic book illustration, not the usual art you see in galleries. I am most comfortable in black and white and create most of my pieces with broad chisel tip Sharpie markers. I really feel out of my depth when it comes to using color. If I do color one of my pieces it is usually using a program on the computer, as I have found that working with paints completely throws hurdles into my whole process of creating. Although, people are generally very happy with the results of my colored work. Mostly the artwork is not consciously influenced by any artists as I know next to nothing about art. I just draw lines with no image or plan in my head and the drawings I create end up resembling whatever people see in them. I use music to keep this process as free as possible. I’ve never been someone with the ability to see an image in his head.

J. Hubner: Can you tell me how you ended up in Fort Wayne, Indiana from London? What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of living in the Midwest as opposed to the UK?

Frank Louis Allen: I met my wife online through her Facebook page Artists and Autism. It is a group that shares anyone’s work who shares with us and has autism. We currently have over 200,000 followers. We co-hosted an autism art show, and spoke to each other a lot, so I came over to America and stayed. Fort Wayne has offered fantastic art opportunities. It is a thriving place for it, it seems. Although I really miss how easily I can travel around near London. I could jump on a bus or a train and travel anywhere. America is the worst place in the world for this. I also miss being able to walk to get food. You are very limited to big chains in the states unless you are blessed with living close to downtown.

Frank Louis Allen drawing during the Flaming Lips' set at Middle Waves Festival, September 2016
Frank Louis Allen drawing during the Flaming Lips’ set at Middle Waves Festival, September 2016

J. Hubner: What was the experience like with the Middle Waves Festival? You were live drawing to the Flaming Lips as they performed their set, is that right? Where were you set up? Did you do that with any of the other performers over that weekend? 

Frank Louis Allen: Middle Waves was fantastic. I got a massive buzz from drawing to the bands there. I set myself up in the VIP area there. I was really thankful for the free pass the organizers set me up with. I also wandered around and created drawings to other acts, my favorite of which being Night Is Electric. They were just phenomenal. In fact all the acts I saw were.

frank-at-event-to-promote-coloring-bookJ. Hubner: Let’s talk about your recently released coloring book, ‘Coloring With Frank Louis Allen : Vol 1’. How did the idea to release a coloring book come about? Where is it available?

Frank Louis Allen: The coloring book is already available from Amazon all around the world. Just put my name in and up it pops. People have been saying to me for the past few years that they would like to color my drawings so I was pleased to fill that demand. I picked out quite a selection of different pieces and I really look forward to seeing what people do with them and where it takes the pieces.

a2-eagleJ. Hubner: Can we also talk about the weekly art show you host(or hosted?) on autismbrainstorm.org? How did this show come about? 

Frank Louis Allen: A friend asked me if I was interested in doing this show a few years ago. I got to draw whilst I talked to people from all around the world about autism and art. It was really great creating alongside people in both Germany and Canada at the same time. Someday I hope to pick it back up again.

J. Hubner: Besides your drawings you also create music under the name of R. Dakota. Is your musical process similar to your drawing process? Is is in-the-moment and spontaneous? ‘The I’ve been thinking about you lately session’ sounds very raw. Who are some musical influences?

Frank Louis Allen: Yes I create music in exactly the same fashion, just hit record and start to play and sing. A lot of the stuff seems to come out almost fully formed, but the downside of this process is I’m not very good at taking the music further. It seems to constantly change and shift. I’m working on this. When I do get the opportunity to play live it is always a very heartfelt experience and people really appreciate it even though the edges are a bit rough sometimes. I would say the biggest influences of the R.Dakota sessions are Frank Black and the Pixies, Bright Eyes and Nick Cave and the Bad seeds. Music and food are probably the two things that excite me the most in the whole world.

isolation-dayJ. Hubner: Are you exhibiting any pieces here in Fort Wayne? Are you showing in any galleries? Where do you direct folks that want to see your work?

Frank Louis Allen: There is a large permanent gallery of my work downstairs in the Academic Center of Indiana Tech University. I was very flattered to get such a gallery with so much of my work in such a cool building It is the best and easiest place to visit to see my work on display.

J. Hubner: What do you have planned for the immediate future? Will there be a volume 2 for the coloring book? Any performance art pieces in the works?

Frank Louis Allen: I’m hoping to do some new exhibitions around Fort Wayne and I am currently getting the right pieces together to accomplish this. I’m also hoping to set up some local signings for my coloring books. I’m looking to release Volume Two in March of 2017. Meanwhile, Volume One is easy to find on Amazon.


Keep up with Frank Louis Allen and his amazing art over at his Facebook page. You can also find out more about Frank here. Pick up his coloring book over at Amazon. And remember, the doodle shall prevail.