Six Questions w/ Animalweapon on Art as a Therapy for Our Pandemic Crisis

 

 

 

The coronavirus crisis has obviously upended virtually every aspect of human life over these last seven months. But American electronic composer Animalweapon (nee Patrick Cortes) had the experience of it actually giving context to an unfinished work.

Indeed, he had begun a composition last September, which was to be about sorting out those feelings that often come with summer’s ending, and the onset of shorter, darker days. The piece was ultimately shelved, until the arrival of this terrible pandemic created a new relevance for it from his quarantined point of view. And so on October 9 was released (via Polychromatic Records) the completed new single fittingly titled “Summer’s Over,” which reflects on the convergence of these many and sundry crises that have so insidiously marked out 2020.

Musically, it strikes the emotional zeitgeist chord so very perfectly, with a Satie-like piano intro giving way to languid beats, and then a somber but opulent sweep of synthesized strings taking it to soaring heights of sonic poignancy. When, Cortes mournfully observes, “We’ve set whole place on fire / A hurricane wind,” it sends a distinct chill.

We engaged him on what it all means, and he left us with much to consider as we carry on now into autumn, with so few of our problems actually having found resolution.

 

 

The song is very meditative. Was that meant as a kind of reaction to what we’re all going through right now?

Yes. With the way the world is, there’s probably something wrong with you if you haven’t done some reflection by now. I wrote the song to be indicative of what we’re all living with—not just this pandemic, but a serious racial reckoning, parts of the world being on fire at various times this year, and what a lot of us believe to be the threat of autocracy here in America. I don’t know if there’s a way to condense a year of relentless trauma into what’s supposed to sound like a simple song, but that’s what I shot for.

What was your personal experience of the coronavirus?

I’ve been fortunate enough to have been working this whole time, so mine is one of the more mundane experiences. Spending time mostly with only a few loved ones, followed by lots of guilt and paranoia about doing so, even though I’ve been careful and I trust that they have too. Lots of anger and frustration, lots of yelling at too many screens over the idiocy of some people. Lots of mood swings, depression, anxiety. Lots of TV and video games to get through that, and thankfully lots of time to make music and feel productive. And lots but probably not enough of being grateful that it could be so much worse for me personally.

Did you write the song as a kind of therapy or catharsis?

To the degree that I could. For me, whatever big life event there is has to be addressed in my music, because I feel like I’m doing something wrong if I don’t. It’s a necessary step in processing it, but I also don’t think I really get that full catharsis from writing about it, and I wonder how much that’s really a thing for most musicians. “Therapy” is probably the better word for it, because therapy is ongoing. And that’s even more true with this song: there’s no resolution in this song because there’s no resolution to “all of this,” and we don’t know when there will be.

 

 

The lyric goes, “How much time did we lose?” Do you look at the quarantine time as lost time, or as an opportunity to rethink so many things about our lives?

It can be either or both depending on how I feel at any moment. I usually write with a lot of room left for interpretation, and it’s never been important to me that anyone arrives at my original intent. That line was meant to address a number of different ways we’ve lost time. But of course, a lot of people are stuck with a lot of time to think, so inevitably some of us will re-examine the “big picture” stuff.

Do you believe music can have a healing effect in such troubled times?

Does anyone even want to meet a person who doesn’t? There were times in my life I straight up do not know how I’d have gotten through without music, and I assume most people are like that whether they realize it or not. People talk about an artist or a song getting them through a really tough time or saving their life. Obviously, if something I wrote had that kind of impact on even one person, it’d be more than enough for me. I would qualify that by saying it might not just be “healing.” Sometimes you don’t want to heal, you just want to wallow while listening to music that makes you sad or angry…or sometimes you need to listen to something that just gets your mind off it. Then again, I guess that still counts as part of a healing process.

This was probably the most terrible summer of our lives—did that inspire the title?

It actually didn’t! The title popped into my head sometime between when I started it a year ago and this year, so it predates what I agree is the worst summer ever—though that certainly made me keep it. I started working on it last September and it was always going to deal with that feeling some of us get when the days get shorter. Fast-forward to halfway through this summer and it felt like I had a better angle. A few years ago I heard an interview with Tom Waits where he talks about thinking of songs as sentient beings, some of them introduce themselves right away, and some he has to coax into existence. By that logic, this felt like it was waiting for the right combination of horrific shit going on before kicking in my door like, “What’s up? I’m your song about all this horrific shit going on.”

 

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October 11 marks the ten year anniversary of the release of my very first single, Mexican Standoff. To mark the occasion, I’m re-releasing it as a four-track single: a newly-remastered version of the mix that appeared on my first album Good Luck in 2012, two new AMAZING remixes by my good friends @neo_obsidian_music and @mvrkhntr, and the original, poorly-mixed and mastered version as it was first released in 2010 (because I definitely went back and ninja-swapped a much better version onto Bandcamp and SoundCloud a few months later once I knew how to mix better, and then polished that mix again for the album – the whole point here was to look back on how far things have come.) To top it all off, @blaketbradyart has created an all-new version of the original single’s artwork and as you can see, it looks awesome. It will be out in two weeks on Sunday, October 11 on all streaming services as well as my website. Oh, and this will not be the only thing I’m putting out in October. 😉

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