The Obelisk Questionnaire: Ann Everton of Darsombra

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The Obelisk Questionnaire is a series of open questions intended to give the answerer an opportunity to explore these ideas and stories from their life as deeply as they choose. Answers can be short or long, and that reveals something in itself, but the most important factor is honesty.

Based on the Proust Questionnaire, the goal over time is to show a diverse range of perspectives as those who take part bring their own points of view to answering the same questions. To see all The Obelisk Questionnaire posts, click here.

Thank you for reading and thanks to all who participate.

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Ann Everton of Darsombra

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I am a filmmaker, a musician, and above all, an artist. Making video art was my first creative path after exploring all sorts of art forms in my youth (graffiti, printmaking, oil painting, sculpture, performance art) — I had three days of education in Final Cut Pro 4 when I was in college, concentrating on Visual Arts, writing, and language. From those three little days of learning how to edit videos, I began working in video almost exclusively (save for photographic and graphic design work), from 2003 until now — but in 2013, I started to play music as well.

But I skipped the important part, which is that I met Brian Daniloski in 2009, and began collaborating with him in Darsombra in 2010. Initially, we’d just project my video work on Brian when he played (Darsombra was a solo act before August 2010) — that quickly evolved into me making video work specifically composed to Brian’s music. In 2012, we released our first album together (not including the DVD-album, Mega-Void, released a little earlier in 2012), Climax Community, on German label Exile on Mainstream. I composed, shot, and edited video work to the entire album, as well as doing the album art and graphic design, and Brian composed, played, and recorded all the music (though he was gracious enough to ask my opinion on different parts of the songs!). And then, in 2013, we changed it up again and I started to learn how to play music after we purchased a synthesizer.

I had had some musical background as a kid, playing violin, and singing at school and in church choirs, but music had always been a passion for me more as a listener than a player, performer, or singer. I was shy and didn’t like to practice — and I grew up in all-female educational environments for most of my youth, so I actually didn’t like the sound of the female voice (or my own voice, even). In 2013, I felt the call to perform on stage with Brian — previously our shows looked like him on stage and me in the audience, being the projectionist. With my background in photography and video work, I figured synth would be easiest for me — it’s a lot of little knobs and levers to change your parameters to your desire, like a camera. Also… it’s hard to make a synth sound really bad! My first (and only, so far) synth was the Roland Gaia — many folks take umbrage to it, but I love the sounds it makes.

I also sing (at last), and play percussion — singing was hard for me, even though the idea of using your body as an instrument was appealing to me as well. I had no faith in my voice, and it was not until one of my yoga teachers, Anjali Sunita (who was trained extensively in North Indian classical music), explained to me how you could sing from different parts of your body, and sing as a devotional act, the same way you practice yoga — a yoking of the individual to the ultimate. A touch to the universe, a touch of the infinite — that’s when I got past my prejudices against the female voice and began to really enjoy singing again. Also, singing with Darsombra is fun — we hardly ever sing lyrics, and we play with our voices a lot. We test our abilities and use our breath and posture to reach for the next level — it’s a practice, like yoga, that involves my entire body. Plus it’s a great way to convey feeling to strangers — even (or especially) without the use of language.

Percussion’s just great fun to get that stress or anger or nervousness out — I mostly play the gong, but I’ve been using bells a lot too. The challenge is timing — but that is why I love playing music, it’s so much like yoga. I never appreciated practicing until I started practicing yoga, in 2008—that’s part of the reason why my childhood attempts at being a musician were fruitless. I didn’t have the drive, so I didn’t have the discipline. Yoga changed that for me, initially as a physical practice — now as a subtle practice. I guess you could say I have a lot of creative outlets — I didn’t even mention writing, which I still (clearly) enjoy! And, of course filmmaking—my first love, and still my deepest.

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I was a very small child, in a church choir of fellow very-small-children, set to sing “Good Morning, Starshine” from Hair with all the other littles for a variety show. Though we had rehearsed the song, right before the performance the choir leader stressed to us how important it was to sing as loud as we possibly could… I took this quite literally and screamed my head off, making the little girl next to me burst into tears… I believe my folks have a VHS of the fateful performance somewheres!

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See above. Just kidding… I don’t have a best. Absolutely every one of the hundreds of shows we’ve played has been memorable, for better or worse, and almost every show of the thousands I’ve chosen to attend as an audience member has been memorable, usually for better… though seeing Magma in a small club in Quebec City was life-affirming. We had incredible seats, I shot so much video (one day it will make its way online), and they even gave a shout out to the folks “who came all the way up from Baltimore” to enjoy this rare, beautiful performance. I especially remember the lighting — Magma’s music tells a story without familiar words, and whoever was doing those lights was in on the narrative. So much narrative with just sound and light, no language (but Kobaïan, which not a lot of people speak).

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These are really good questions! This is a tough one for me… but I feel called to kinda take ahold of this train and drive it down the sexuality track. Ok… this may be a little obtuse.

Dear loves of Brian and I just broke up — a couple, together for 15 years, our lovers for the past four. I thought they would be together forever — so, in a very literal way, that belief was tested and scrapped — but it taught me something about myself, to believe my loves were so solid in their own relationship — I was projecting. And I see it so, so much as a performer — people see Brian and I on stage and project their fantasies of what our relationship must be like, how they wish they had a relationship like ours, etc., etc. I know this because people tell me this all the time, thinking they’re paying me a compliment, but they have no idea — what we call love and fidelity and sexual freedom may be completely different from what they’ve projected on us. They never project “queer poly pansexual freaks on a hunt for an orgy”… they often project “monogamous heterosexual.” My gears don’t turn that way. So test them beliefs… reality is so much more nuanced, thank goddesxxx…

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I’m trying to find out! My grandmother was an artist, a painter, accomplished in the regions in which she worked, fairly unknown outside of them. She painted images of Black people and communities in Birmingham in the 1950s, images of rural Alabama, moody landscapes, moody still-lifes. . . my life is haunted by her work, and her legacy. I only knew her until I was 13, and the last eight years of her life could not be called living. She stopped making art when I was quite young, and I never really got to know her. I have some very strange memories of her, though.

She has left my family (which is very small) with hundreds of paintings, water colors, oils, pastels… I love them, they are so moody and haunting and beautiful, pictures of another world you’d drift in and out of like an episode of The Twilight Zone. Her work is her legacy, and her progress as an artist led to… ? Misery? Obscurity? I never saw her live to see true reward for her work—and yet, she had a lifetime’s worth of it carried with her, and then with my father and auntie, and now, to me and the rest of my family. So I’m not really sure where artistic progression leads—does it lead to poverty, obscurity, dementia, people around you thinking you’re nuts, a haunted house crammed floor to ceiling with junk? Artists are weird birds. We float up there in the loft of reality, especially if we don’t get grounded by expanding our families. (Grounding’s not a bad thing, by the way.) We dream deep, but we can flake on reality hard. Or, at least, sometimes I do.

In my own life as an artist, I have been cheered to see one thing hold true for the artist who keeps making art—the longer you stay at it, the better it gets, the more people are familiar with your work, enjoy it, get it, the more opportunities you get. . . the trick is, you’ve gotta keep doing it. In 2007, I did a short artist residency in rural Hungary, on lake Balaton. There was a Hungarian artist there that my 25-year-old self had such a crush on. So, of course, I was all ears to his very good advice, which was, “Keep making art. See where it goes. Never stop making art.” Very simple, so right—the world will give you a million-and-one reasons to stop being an artist, but if you just sort of keep doing it… I agree with his beautiful Hungarian ass! Keep making art and see where it goes!

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Ideas made manifest through action.

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At the suggestion of my dear Zoom writing group, I will answer this challenging and intriguing question by reflecting on touring life in general… you will never take your own bathroom for granted again. When we’re on the road, particularly in North America, we travel in a van equipped with a place to sleep and a place to prepare food, but no plumbing… so I will just sort of describe a scenario to you, dear reader:

You wake up in a van, in August — it’s hot, it’s about 10:30am (you went to bed at 4 after working at the venue till 2 and then enjoying a post-show hang with friends from the bill), and you’re mostly comfortable because your van is conveniently parked under a tree in a driveway at a friend’s place. Said friend also sleeps in a mobile unit, which is quite clean, but they rent the unit from another friend who has a small house — to which the driveway is attached. The home is made from scraps of other homes and houses another musician, who is devoted to his craft but struggles with hygiene and household chores, as well as his health and alcohol addiction. He is a kind, gracious man, so you can’t refuse his hospitality when he offers you the use of his facilities (i.e. driveway, toilet, shower) — plus, his tenants are your friends and fellow performers from the night before, so that’s where the fun is.

So yes, you wake up at 10:30 — nature calls. Not the sort of nature which is easy to heed the call of in a plumbing-less van or in the bushes. You decide to hazard the toilet. The screen door of the trailer slams behind you as you enter, seeing the space for the first time in the daylight, wet, gray-green carpet squishing underfoot. You pass a small, economically-sized kitchen, covered in dried food and piled with dirty dishes in the sink and on the counter. Also on the counter is a gelatinous savory food item (like potato salad?) in a large bowl with plastic cling wrap on top, slightly puffed outwards, a halo of fruit flies alighting up in a vortex above the bowl as you walk by and feel the creaky, gritty floor shake the counter and disturb the bowled substance’s equipoise. The small cloud of flies eventually settles back down onto the engorged plastic wrap as you pass and enter the bathroom, pulling the thin plastic door closed behind you, and the toilet appears clean enough — yes, you can certainly do your business here. But wait! What’s that on the bathroom sink? It sort of looks like something from a deranged scientist’s lab — vials and jars and tubes of liquid await their next worldly purpose, whatever it may be, and all the liquid is yellow. You ask yourself… will I relax in this environment, surrounded by jars of urine?

I sincerely hope I did not incur some bogus vibes from recounting this memory… you asked!

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Well, I am in the midst of composing and shooting the video art/music videos for this new single we’re about to release… I am soooooooo excited to share it, as well as the album it’ll be on (though that will probably come later in 2021 — the single first, hopefully by spring). So, technically, that counts!

I love composing video art to the music we make — it’s always such a surprise what comes up when I’m in the right frame of mind and listening deep. Sometimes I see scenes I don’t want to film, or to make real — that happened a lot during the first half of Dissertations Help - forget about your fears, place your assignment here and get your quality essay in a few days Get started with essay writing Transmission, composing the video. This time around, we have two songs, one 15 minutes in length, and the other 10 minutes — for us, pop songs! Well, one is more of a dance track, of all things, and the other is a lullaby waltz/spacewalk (with brief but significant hand-of-doom shenanigans) — so I’ve got some fun ideas I’ll be shooting and editing soon. Lots of dancing, lots of play, lots of space and sci-fi. But I’m curious to see what comes up in future deep listens…

I often see color schemes for the songs before any sort of theme or narrative comes up — for example, the color scheme for “From Insects… to Aliens (The Worms Turn)” was blue, cyan, black, and white (and maybe bright green too) — for the first half of “Transmission” it was black, red, and white; for the second half, yellow, blue, magenta, green, cyan… basically, rainbow! For these new songs on the single, one is yellow, blue, and white (and black); the other, black, blue, cyan, green… purple? Like the colors of a ’70s fantasy landscape painted on the side of a van… That’s what the deep listen is for — to figure that out, and if there’s a story, like how “Insects…” tells a story about insects out-evolving humans, becoming sentient and developing methods of space travel and colonization. Actually, the “Thunder Thighs” video is about space colonization too… I sense a theme here…

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As of 2020 quarantine, I have become a HUGE fan of Star Trek: The Original Series (and The Animated Series, too — which I may like as much or even more than The Original Series). Neither Brian nor I had seen any Star Trek, so we decided to start from scratch — at first, I was a little turned-off by the old-school sexism of the show, though it was clearly of its time. . however, then I fell into the world of Star Trek fanfiction, and I’ve, ahem, never looked at Kirk or Spock the same since! So, I’m looking forward to publishing my own Star Trek fanfiction online, very soon… bet ya didn’t know I’m such a big nerd!!!

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Darsombra, Call the Doctor / Nightgarden (2021)

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One Response to “The Obelisk Questionnaire: Ann Everton of Darsombra”

  1. Rick says:

    Uh oh, Ann had to mention Star Trek. I can only imagine your
    reaction….

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