Days of Rona: Jeff Wilson of KOOK

The ongoing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, the varied responses of publics and governments worldwide, and the disruption to lives and livelihoods has reached a scale that is unprecedented. Whatever the month or the month after or the future itself brings, more than one generation will bear the mark of having lived through this time, and art, artists, and those who provide the support system to help uphold them have all been affected.

In continuing the Days of Rona feature, it remains pivotal to give a varied human perspective on these events and these responses. It is important to remind ourselves that whether someone is devastated or untouched, sick or well, we are all thinking, feeling people with lives we want to live again, whatever renewed shape they might take from this point onward. We all have to embrace a new normal. What will that be and how will we get there?

Thanks to all who participate. To read all the Days of Rona coverage, click here. — JJ Koczan

kook jeff wilson

Days of Rona: Jeff Wilson of KOOK (Santa Clara County, California)

How have you been you dealing with this crisis as a band? As an individual? What effect has it had on your plans or creative processes?

The band decided in mid-March to stop getting together…about the same time our county ordered us to shelter in place. We have members with co-morbidities and members who have to be in contact with the elderly, so it wasn’t really a choice.

For me personally, it has been an unusual experience, in that it’s been pretty normal. I have been a permanent remote employee for many years, and already work from home, and my work gets busier when the shit hits the fan in the world. My kids have been home from school, and we’ve been dealing with distance learning but they’re tech-savvy and in middle and high school, so we don’t have the kind of homeschooling nightmares some parents have. Feels a bit like the first half of summer… but with a lot more generalized anxiety and portents of doom.

On the “band plans” side, we had a two-week summer tour booked for June. Plainride was coming out to the West Coast from Germany and we were going to link up with them from southern California up to Seattle, and then we were adding some dates around the outside with Great Electric Quest and a bunch of other friends… so that’s a huge bummer. I was really looking forward to the whole thing. I always do.

For making new music… we’re in a weird spot. We have a close to an hour of material for III written, arranged, and rehearsed, and we have another four or five songs in various stages of development. We haven’t really been passing parts back and forth, because we’ve never really worked that way, but we’re going through individually and refining, reworking, and adding to the stuff we have written…we have good pre-production practice recordings of everything. For me it’s giving me the time to really carefully write some bass parts with no pressure to hurry. I also grabbed a MOOG sub25 synth right before lockdown and have a footpedal rigged up. We managed to use it a few times in practice and get a feel for what it adds, and it’s awesome…so now I get to live my dream of being Geddy Lee. I’m adding synth to different places in a way that I can actually pull off live. As soon as we know what the shelter-in-place situation is going to be like for the next few months… I suspect we’ll book some studio time.

How do you feel about the public response to the outbreak where you are? From the government response to the people around you, what have you seen and heard from others?

I have been very pleased with California, and Santa Clara County’s response. We were one of the very first counties in the nation to shelter in place, and it very much was the right choice. Some of the very first deaths in the country were right here, and a dad from my kid’s school (the same age as me) passed away in March. Right now in Santa Clara County, a county with two million residents that is the heart of Silicon Valley, we have 66 people hospitalized with coronavirus, and have recorded only 129 deaths. I’m a science and data guy… I get that people are facing real hardship, but the alternative is death… life has to win, right? 129 deaths are already too many, but most people here are taking the disease and shelter in place order very seriously. I’ve been obsessed with writing music about the end of the world since I was a teenager, but I have no interest in seeing it happen right now. The lockdown protests everywhere are insane and point to serious problems with culture, politics, race, and privilege in this country. I have a multi-hour rant about that, but I’ll spare the readers.

What do you think of how the music community specifically has responded? How do you feel during this time? Are you inspired? Discouraged? Bored? Any and all of it?

Creative people have to create, and I’ve seen some really great output and creativity. Jordan Olds and the 2 Minutes to Late Night crew are cranking out amazing covers. Our friend (and Karl’s godson) Lucust French of Burn Thee Insects went into the desert with a generator and tracked drums, and then came back and tracked the rest of a brand new song (with video) under the name of his solo project LAZER BEAM, it’s great. He livestreamed a bunch of it, and it sounds like he’s going to do some more. Mike Scheidt can continue serenading us with acoustic lullabies till the end of time in my opinion. Jeff Matz’ looped jams and the progress of his custom electric baglama is of great interest to me. It has been really good to be able to stay at least somewhat connected over the internet and social media. I’ve also been able to clean my friend list significantly based on the sharing of certain content and opinions (mostly wild conspiracy bullshit).

Bandcamp’s no-fees days have been great. I know artists that 100 percent make their living off of Bandcamp, and every penny helps. One day per month actually makes a big difference, because the community kept sharing and helping promote.

Who I really feel for is small venues, independent promoters, small tour bookers, and hustling multitaskers who make their living doing 50 jobs (playing in four bands, booking shows, doing live sound, engineering, tour driving/selling merch for other artists, etc.). The incredible amount of uncertainty they face, when many of them were already struggling in the best of times, is heartbreaking. It feels very likely that the large systems and governments that are trying to keep people afloat will just overlook live music (and art in general). I hope I’m wrong, and there have been a million fundraisers and government petitions floating around to raise money and awareness that I really hope have an impact.

What is the one thing you want people to know about your situation, either as a band, or personally, or anything? What is your new normal? What have you learned from this experience, about yourself, your band, or anything?

First I’ll just say I feel terrible for anyone directly touched by the virus; I know people who have lost friends and family members, and I’m sure most of you do too, and in the US at least, this is going to drag out for a long time. We’re fine and taking care of ourselves and each other. This will pass and we’ll still be here making weird music that confuses people and challenges eardrums. We miss each other, and we miss making music and playing it for people. For me, going to the studio and practicing is like going to the gym… no matter how shitty I feel before I go, I always feel great when we’re done. It’s similar to how I feel when I go see a great show… there’s always a kind of catharsis that comes with the end of a great set. The world is missing out on a whole lot of mood improvement and catharsis right now, at a time when it feels like we could use more of both.

Tags: , , ,

Leave a Reply