Things Get Weird With Tomás Ford

I’ve had a great time on this second patch of four days at Paper Mountain. I had a bunch of Life Stuff and a weeks’ holiday down south in between last time I was here and now, which meant that although I’d planned to do a bunch more work on the songs that made up my last webcast, everything was kinda frozen in time. Which was kinda fun in the end, because it meant that I was pretty fresh to it on monday.

But Then, Monday Was Kinda A Bit Bullshit

As with last time, the first day of residency-time was a big shift of gears for my brain. I struggled to get started – my inbox was (and is) full of crap for me to do at the moment, and so that was blocking me up too.

I knew I wanted this week to be about adapting and evolving what I’d done last time into something more like a series of music videos. I spent a lot of time ruminating over what everybody else had made, what I’d made, what I WANTED to make, picking apart my webcast from the end of the last run, and generally just doing a lot of the kinda hyperanalytical self-editing that I spend a lot of time doing in my creative process. It sucked and it hurt my head and it was kinda frustrating that I couldn’t just smash straight into doing something cool, but it all worked out ok in the end. I ended the day with a bit of a scrawled list of things I wanted to do with each of the songs.

Amidst that, I hit “GO” on my new page on Patreon, because I thought this week would be a good time to do that – it’s how I am rolling out these music & video releases anyway. Letting my audience in with behind-the-scenes and work-in-progress stuff, then giving my subscribers exclusive access to stuff for a windowed period before it goes live on all the other stuff.

I felt OK about that. I went and watched the directors cut of Aliens at Luna with my wife and fell asleep through the first act. This kind of creativity, where you’re doing mental gymnastics just to get aaaaaanything out, is exhausting.

Tuesday Was Marginally Better But Also A Bit Garbage Really Until I Realized I Had Taken Too Much Speed On The Train Home From Uni

I thought I was gonna come in and have a big day of drawing on tuesday, because I knew I wanted to use that as part of the visual language of what I was doing, but I didn’t really know how yet. Which is cool – often I will just make a bunch of elements and then figure out how I’m gonna collage them together.

It turned out my brain had other ideas. I have ADHD, and I generally manage that super-well with medication these days. But I stuffed it up on tuesday and both mis-timed it all AND forgot to eat anything resembling lunch or dinner. That’s a common problem with people who take any kind of amphetamines. Without food to stabilise me, I ended up lost in these wierd mazes of hyperfocus all day.

Hyperfocus is when you lock into an activity so hard that you can’t or don’t think about anything else, you lose track of time and become kinda obsessive about it. I did that with a few creative dead-ends – I tried remixing one of cr0nes’ tracks, but it felt too similar to what I’d done with a track from the last round of residency and the musical sketch I chalked out didn’t give me the direction I needed. Which is a pity – I really like the record she made in this project; knowing me, I will come back to this in a years’ time and tinker with it again.

Then I got into a rabbit-hole of trying to write a song that directly addressed Trump; I found a copy of the cognitive test Trump had been bragging about (the infamous “woman man person camera TV”)… there had to be a song in there somewhere. I tried writing it as a call and response with a Trump impersonator, and then realized that could be adapted to the audience. I then wrote that. Serena Chalker sent me an incredible list of dance move suggestions that read like a Fluxus poem. They’re in there too.

The lyric is currently six pages long. That is too long for a song. I could be working on this all week and I didn’t wanna. So I put that away for now – I’ll get back to it down the track.

At about this point I ran into Gok-Lim and we had a wide-ranging conversation about DIY arts and funding and all kinds of shit. I have been talking about that a lot lately. It ended with us touching on the topic of mentorship. Which coincided with an email I’d had asking to teach someone how to produce for fringe. Which… BAM: CAME TOGETHER AND THREW ME INTO ANOTHER TUNNEL OF HYPERFOCUS. I started thinking about what I could teach people about fringe-ing. I made a substantial list – it’s almost as impressive in its’ length as it is in terms of how exactly it wasn’t what I had planned to be doing. But it’s a lot, and I am going to persue that next week, I think. So that’s a surprising outcome from this week.

By that time, it was getting late and I had to leave for the uni tutorial I do on tuesday evenings. I’m doing an MBA, so it’s a big change of mental pace. I forgot to eat, and my medication COMPLETELY bottomed out; I ended up saying a few classically ADHD things in discussions and realized I needed to take some meds. With no food in my stomach, stuff got SPEEDY. I had A LOT to say about A LOT of things. It was fun – I used to get embarrassed about that kinda thing, but I’ve accepted it’s what my brain does, which means I can enjoy when it goes a bit off-chops.

On the train home, my brain was going wild making connections:

doomscrolling / the pile of visual information from this blog / information overload / early 90s video art about the overwhelming nature of the then-new 24 hour news cycle / U2’s Zoo TV tour / cyberpunk books / the wierd sex stuff you can do in the cyberpunk bit of AI Dungeon (don’t, it’s like Sense-8 in there) / Abbe May’s Doomsday Clock video / the terrible Unfriended movies / the comedy in what I’m doing / i like drawing

…and I realized I could bring together what I’d been making in a kind of… animated computer desktop. That I could tell the story of my reaction to Coronavirus pretty much the way that Coronavirus has told its story to me – through the language of the internet. The animation and drawing would be a visual way of showing it going through the filter of my particular brain.

(I crashed very, very hard when I got home. But it was worth it.)


Photo by Jamie Mykaela

On wednesday, I was joined by my pal and long-time collaborator Jamie Mykaela – I’d asked her to come in and do some makeup for me (as doing makeup for folks was her thing for a long time) and to bring her fancy-schmancy camera so we could film some video loops for the clips.

We started out with a mime character I’d wanted to be there. The idea being to do mime-inspired movement improv to illustrate each song. As it’s just one of the open windows on my imaginary desktop, I knew I wanted it to be quite profane; that you would look at something else and then when you came back to the mime you’d be like WTF IS HAPPENING THERE. We did a livestream while Jamie slathered panstick on my head:

Watching the process of the choreographers on this project from afar made me think back to doing movement classes at uni and the different ways I’d learnt to respond to stimuli like music. I incorporate a lot of things I’ve learnt from physical theatre in my work anyway, mostly through the lens of physical comedy these days, but those videos activated my Dance Brain. It was a much more conscious way of generating video performance than my usual approach of pressing record, letting instinct take over and figuring out what’s good afterwards.

This took all afternoon. Which was fine – Paper Mountain has heaps of natural light during the day and I wanted it to be darrrrrk for my big plan with Jamie.

Geraldine Quinn’s drag king video Close Enough.

My pal Geraldine Quinn works in a very similar way to me, and she put out a DIY music video this month where she appears as a drag king version of herself. She sent me a preview link a few weeks back and we ended up chatting about how much we love drag kings and the genderfuck side of drag. I skirt the edge of drag performance with Crap Music Rave Party – it’s based around terrible lipsynching and crappy costumes, and when it hits regional towns it’s often the queerest thing they have seen there for yonks. But much the same way as I’ve never really aspired to be A Proper Cabaret Singer, I’ve never really been tempted to do Proper Drag – it’s bitchy and competitive and the things that are valued as the peak of that form are things I’m not really interested in.

That convo had been spinning around in my head, and I’d also been trying to write a song that captured the pretty heavy code switching I’ve become aware of doing as a bisexual married guy. I’ve got a really super-duper camp side of me that comes out with some people, and then there’s a more Dad-ish blokey side of me that comes out in other contexts. I really like that about myself, and I think a lot of things I like best about myself come from the tension between those two things. I haven’t been able to shape that song into a song yet, but drag is the perfect vocabulary for talking about that stuff.

Photo by Jamie Mykaela

That dribbled itself into a brief for Jamie that was something like “Gingzilla dressing up as Divine dressing up as Neptune”. And say what you will about Jamie, but the bitch delivered.

The idea with this character was that I would record a bunch of lipsynchs for all of the songs. But we ended up bogged down in recording a song of mine called Bad Friends Club. It kept opening up new performance possibilities as we recorded it, and it ended up being a pleasantly dangerous mix of drag’s feminine and a very aggressive, very male yair-I’m-a-bloke-in-a-dress-what’s-it-to-yer kinda thing. It’s exactly what I’d been trying to express and I’m so excited about it. Halfway through, we discovered a piece of shiny green fabric that one of the other artists had brought into the space, and combined that thought with the slo-mo choreo our chorographer pals had been working on and OMG YOU GUYS IT LOOKS SO GREAT.

We ended up only doing the one track, but we’re going to get back together next week to do more. It’s a whole new creative territory for us. Jamie reckons it’s the most punk thing I’ve done since she’s known me, and I think she’s right.

On Thursday, I Played With Stuff And Figured Out How To Edit Stuff And Filmed Some More Stuff

I thought I’d spend thursday getting deep into editing mode, trying to get my head around what to even MAKE with what I’d made here. I struggled a bit with this, as it was boring as hell. I figured out I need to use AfterEffects, which I don’t really use, so it was a lot of watching tutorials.

Then I started writing this blog.

Then I did a wee interview for Paper Mountain’s blog that went too long ‘cos this residency has given me so much to talk about.

Then I got bored and had an idea to shoot some more footage – this time of a very generic “Dad” character, who was based around an italian sports jacket and some beige drill work pants I’d brought for a different idea. He did a lot of improvised movement, intended to contrast with the “attempted glamour” of my drag persona and to explore the gender-y bit of what I’m talking about with this work. He then shot some movements to one of cr0nes’ tracks – I’ll likely edit this for lolz over the next week and send it to her as a surprise.

Overall: YAY

I felt like I emerged from this process with a few big creative breakthroughs – the material took shape last time over the livestream process, and then this time the drag stuff was a really big deal. From here, I’ll edit this stew into a bunch of releases for my Patreon and YouTube, and hopefully they’ll show up in other bits of the world like Rage. It’s been a lovely experience to bounce off such diverse and exciting artists in such a kickass space. Let’s do it again.

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