Shane Cotee of In The Branches and Steven Taylor of Ghostwire have a history of working together on electronic music. Steven mastered Shane’s second release from The Adaptive, 2015’s “Evolve”, starting a lasting friendship built on modern psychedelic music.
Among many upcoming collaborations, “Songs From The Abyss” was a vision that started with live guitar loops & improvisations on a 7-string Ibanez guitar. Shane sent about 30 minutes of raw recordings to Steven, then Steven sent back several new layers to mix into the tracks. This continued for the first half of the album, made of three songs that average over 10 minutes each. The album artwork shows how the songs have been split into “Part I – An Invitation” (In The Branches featuring Steven Taylor) and “Part II – In Isolation” (In The Branches).
This is potent music that digs into the darker corners of the psyche, but not without optimism. It’s a half-conscious, half-subconscious trip across time and space, blending ancient and future; organic and synthetic; experimental and traditional.
I drive from Boise to Seattle, with everything I can fit into my car, to visit my friend David before we perform at Portland State University (and an afterparty).
Obligatory THEADAPTIVE.NET side note: Stay tuned for official recordings from both of these shows. They were a blast.
Fast forward. David (the percussionist) and I return to his apartment in Seattle to practice and record new music while I’m in town. The next morning was the usual rainy winter day in Seattle. David headed out to go somewhere, and I get ready to record some guitar ideas. A Rode NTK mic is in my car, and it’s just been repaired from Rode. Freshly fixed up and ready to go. I’m stoked.
As I begin to prepare to go out in the rain and to get the mic out of my car, David comes back. Cursing. “Fucking fuckers!” or something similar. Someone had broken his window and taken whatever was inside. My immediate response was concern, followed by some sense of relief. I assumed my car alarm would have most certainly gone off if my car had been hit. Plus, who hits two cars in one night?
After all that commotion, I forgot that I was going to record guitar. David got all wrapped up in insurance claims and I was just “glad it wasn’t me.” Oh, man.
Later on, David left and I remembered what I was intending to do — record with my freshly repaired mic. I head down to my car in the garage, and glass is everywhere. No alarm triggered. A big landscaping rock had been used to break my passenger-side window and unload the gear. While David had lost several important things, I had lost much more. Stuff that was mine and wasn’t mine. Recording gear. Most of my clothes. Lights and lasers. A laptop, projector, PS4 — it goes on. I keep my composure, waiting to see how much insurance will help before choosing which emotion is the right one to be feeling. Sadness, grief, worry, dread, confusion, relief?
On the phone with Allstate. Good news — my deductible is $0 and it appears that the damage won’t cost me anything but time and emotional exhaustion. “Your renter’s or homeowner’s insurance will likely cover the items that were stolen.” My heart sank. I’ve been on the road since 2015. Touring and traveling and visiting everyone. Why would I have renter’s insurance? Oh. Now I know why.
Note: I now have Music PRO Insurance on the gear that was spared. I’m not making commission by recommending them — just stating the facts!
Without venting on the insurance agent, I tried my best to accept what she told me and continue forward with whatever is the solution to my new problem of losing all this critical equipment and belongings. I’m a musician and photographer on the path to learning how to survive with the deepest possible ethical, artistic, and spiritual integrity. I see money as a necessary evil and a useful way to barter between people. Sure, whatever. This felt like some next-level rite of passage shit.
Okay, fine. So that’s how it’s gonna be. I know this blog post is titled “What I Learned…” and I’ve just been describing the gory details. The truly good news was that they didn’t take everything. They didn’t take what I had in the room with me that night, which, by habit, was all of my absolutely critical stuff for making music, photos, and websites, plus basic survival stuff for about a week worth of traveling. I couldn’t help but admit that it could be worse.
I still have what I need to create music for all of my projects. I still have a laptop. I still have two guitars, effects pedals, and quite a bit of important stuff. I still have abundance, now shining bright in the light of new-found minimalism. Hell, even my car was lighter. Better gas mileage and more room inside the car.
The loss of so much stuff came with a silver lining of this message:
The less you have, the faster you can move.
Another idea came to mind that I thought of many times before:
The things you don’t give away may be taken away. Live accordingly.
For a self-employed artist and travel addict like me, that’s a great source of gratitude in this otherwise ugly situation. I’m lighter, I’m faster, I have less “fancy” gear and can focus on getting to know all of my most critical gear better. I can learn more about what’s possible with what I have, now that there’s less distraction around it. It’s got me thinking, why didn’t I do this before? Because I was attached. For good reason, I know. But when we are forced to detach, it makes room for something new. I already feel more efficient. I can pack up, move everything, and be set up recording again within 30 minutes of arriving somewhere. Still able to produce everything from sleepy drones to blasting death metal, mixed and mastered the way I like it, with instruments and equipment I love. I can still edit photos all day and build my library of 40,000 photos for selling as stock photos (I’ll be talking about this a lot as it becomes a primary source of income).
Yep, it sucks to get robbed. Lucky for me, the forced minimalism has a liberating after-effect. My photos will get more interesting. My travels will suddenly be further and further until I’m in Iceland, Europe, Australia, or wherever. I’ve known it was my destiny, and now it’s closer than ever. Stay tuned.
I made some purposefully-minimal music videos with a few of my photographs and some extended footage of Milkdrop, a nifty little plugin for Winamp. If you don’t know what any of that means, then don’t worry. Just lay down and take a nice nap with this one.