The cancelations of events and shutdowns of bars and restaurants due to COVID-19 have affected everybody — and that includes local musicians who have seen their regular gigs canceled and, in some cases, their lifelines profoundly compromised. As a result, we are checking in with one musician a week to see how they’re doing, what they’re listening to and if they are up to creating new music while they quarantine with the rest of the world.
This week, we caught up with Jordan Miller, who is a master of all trades. Along with his work as drummer and vocalist for local rock trio Time Columns, he also plays drums for metal band Half Heard Voices. Outside of his musical projects, he writes and directs horror films and hosts a podcast, “Camp Nightmare.” Oh, and he owns and operates a recording studio, Gypsy Cab Studios. Plus he was a joy to work with during our nearly two-year run with the Frederick One Take YouTube series. In any case, we caught up to talk about what he’s been working on during the pandemic, how live streams might change the face of live music and what he believes is a good song to listen to right now (spoiler: his answer contains the best line in the history of “A Quick 5”). To learn more about all he has going on in both music and film, visit gypsycabstudios.com and to listen to his podcast, visit www.campnightmare.com.
1. What have you been listening to while self-quarantining and what about it makes you want to listen to it these days?
Miller: I’ve found a lot of my time in quarantine has been spent writing or with my nose in a book, so I’ve been listening to a lot of stuff with little or no lyrics, especially film soundtracks. ‘Blade Runner 2049’ has an amazing score by Benjamin Wallfisch and Hans Zimmer, and it is interpretive and immersive enough to fit a range of moods when you’re trying to make a creative space. I’ve also been revisiting Thom York’s score for the 2018 ‘Suspiria’ remake, which is really pretty and haunting.
When I find myself going back to bands, I’ve been listening to Tool’s ‘Fear Inoculum’ album, He Is Legend and some of my favorite Opeth stuff. Gorillaz has always been a good one too — especially ‘Plastic Beach.’
2. Have you come across any livestreams/internet-based performances throughout the pandemic that have stuck out?
Miller: There are a lot of good ones now. John Krasinski’s ‘Some Good News’ on YouTube was great and has been a really nice alternative to knocking yourself over the head with useless 24-hour cycle news chatter. I’ve also really enjoyed David Lynch and his daily weather reports on his YouTube channel. I obviously don’t live in LA and the weather there doesn’t affect me in any way, but there’s something very enjoyable about having David Lynch give you the weather and tell you to ‘have a great day.’ The man deserves a medal.
3. Are you using this time to work on new material with any of your projects — be it in music or film? If so, how’s that process going?
Miller: Absolutely. I think that is the most valuable thing a creative person can be doing right now, since we can’t go out and make anything or perform anywhere. I have been able to maintain my weekly podcast ‘Camp Nightmare,’ which I co-host with another local musician, JB Dunn. We’ve been putting more time into the show, releasing weekly episodes and having guests join us via Zoom. It’s been a blast to have that outlet to talk and joke about movies, filmmakers, urban legends, true crime cases and all the other crazy stuff we talk about on the show.
I have been writing some short horror stories, both for the Podcast and on my own, which I am considering eventually consolidating into something. Since I can’t really go out and shoot anything, I have just been writing a lot of script ideas and putting further revisions on previously ‘finished’ scripts, which has been pretty rewarding. I’ve had my next short film written and cooking in my brain for a while, and quarantine has given me more time to not only tighten that short script, but to start imagining what the feature-length version of that story would look like and start working on that script.
As far as music, I haven’t been doing as much. I was, however, able to break out my arsenal of microphones and record some drum and bass parts for an upcoming release, which is coming together really nicely. It’s not my album, so I don’t wanna give away any details, but it’ll be really cool when it comes out.
4. What’s the most positive takeaway you’ve been able to experience from all the self-quarantining and the the sort of art world being on pause for the time being?
Miller: It’s easy to complain about being stuck inside, but I have tried to look at this as an opportunity to work on personal projects and hopefully sharpen some skills. I had subscribed to the Masterclass website for a while, but with all this time, I’ve been able to really dive into a lot of really enlightening courses from teachers like David Lynch, Ron Howard, Neil Gaiman and Werner Herzog. Those have been awesome and really inspiring.
As far as filmmaking, it’s next to impossible to shoot right now. I have been working with other area filmmakers for some time to finish a feature-length horror anthology film which is now on hold. We had a shooting schedule lined up to more-or-less complete it, and I had my next script completed for what I wanted to shoot after that. Obviously with COVID-19, those shoots didn’t happen and that schedule went up in smoke. It doesn’t mean we won’t finish the movie, it just means we have more time to plan things. I’ve been able to revisit my next script and find some ways to unlock some deeper levels of the story simply by sitting back and thinking ‘I have nothing but time now, what can I do to improve this thing?’ I spoke with another filmmaker recently via a Zoom chat and he told me something another director told him: ‘Whatever you’re making, I promise that you could use the three to five more months of pre-production to make it better.’ I’m sure that’s not word for word what he said, but it’s close enough.
5. If there’s one song that you think could help everybody get through these uncertain times, what would it be and why?
Miller: That terrible song by Chumbawumba comes to mind — the one that says ‘I get knocked down’ and all that nonsense. I think right now that maybe Slipknot would be a better choice because no matter what, no matter how hot it was or where they were playing, they always wore their masks.
BONUS QUESTION: What artists, local or not, do you think have done a great job staying engaged musically online and what about what they’re doing sets them apart?
Miller: There are so many online performances from artists in intimate settings lately, and it’s really special. It might be the only time we get a chance to see some of these bigger artists perform in this raw, un-produced setting. I sat and watched Orville Peck perform in his living room and laugh off his own mistakes, and it was great.
My friend and Camp Nightmare co-host JB Dunn (performing under the name Plaid Buffalo) has been killing it with daily live concerts and acoustic songs. He and I recently discussed how this could be a shifting point in how people think about ‘live’ concerts in general. It’s been amazing to see artists embrace the digital tools available to them in order to keep playing.