The MidMountain Almanac: Volume I

April 2023

Germination Celebration

A note from River:

Our first year felt like so much, yet still not enough.

We made ambitious plans and gave ourselves grace when some of them didn’t work out. 

A thing that did work out was planting 285 trees to help preserve and clean our watershed. This planting was done thanks to the generous help of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, James River Association, and Virginia Department of Forestry via the James River Buffer program. We now have paw paws, persimmons, plums, hazelnuts, black cherries, and serviceberries, and more plus an elderberry labyrinth growing!

Another was sharing time or space with so many fabulous folkswhich ultimately made this possibleincluding my tireless parents, my partner Matt, Chad Clark, Mali Obomsawin, Ed Ongweso, Jr, Erin Taylor, Cory Doctorow, Devin Ocampo, Monica Stroik, Doug Kallmeyer, John Bergmayer, Mariam Baksh, Salem Berry, Sterling McIntyre, Maven Kahn, Timothy Bailey & The Humans, the Thunder BRidge crew, Writers in Baltimore Schools, the MidMountain board, our house caretakers Katie and Jess,  and many more. 

We celebrated on April 15th with our first in-person event—a concert featuring Timothy Bailey & The Humans, plus the MidMountain All Trans House Band. (Salem and Sterling, I love you.)  

I know there will be more to celebrate in the years to come as we keep growing. 

Thank you to everyone who shared space with us until now.

A Bird's Eye View

This mesmerizing visualization and audio was created by  Monica Stroik and Doug Kallmeyer, who visited MidMountain in July of 2022.

2022 events

My Pen and I

By Jamesha Caldwell

My pen will enter before I do. 

It is invited. 

It is honored. 

It is granted agency, 

the type of agency that only exists in the intergalactic. 

My pen will enter before I do, 

it is invited. 

it is honored. 

it is granted above all things because it is equipped with the legacy of masters. 

Masters who used words righteously rage-ous. 

Masters who used words callously courageous. 

Masters who used words to free. 

masters who used words to be. 

My pen will enter before I do. 

It is recognized because it is multilingual, and I can’t speak a lick. 

It merges diasporic evidence 

evidence of centrality. 

My pen will enter before I do because I simply cannot. 

But somehow, my pen has Roman..roaming ability. 

I mean real Mongolian leverage. Pillage every page until the eternal speaks only that of honor. only that of fear, only that of humor that empires seem to embrace. Because that pen knows that pages are not consumed by text that attests to the honesty of the wordsmith but only the words of the egomaniac. 

I am not manic until my pen summons that mechanical ego. 

ordained by the lonely, my pen will enter before I do until the machine guides my pen and not the self. 

Elephants Stay Together Forever

By Salem Berry

A Poem About Bees 

By Bry Reed

they don't prepare you for the flurry of bees 

outside your window.

they will gather slowly at first 

before committing to the bit and 

working ceaselessly to defeat the brick wall. 

they will throw themselves against windows

because sometimes they confuse the barrier for the sky. 


they don't prepare you for the light brigade

launching their restless charge against cement.

they are unconcerned with your minute domestic theatre.

darling please understand that these are bees

sometimes they confuse your apartment for the hills.


one day when you return home from a reasonable trip to the gulf

you may come back to find that a single bee in all their triumph, glory,

and honor

stumbled between the cracks

moved through the crevasse

sometimes they confuse the windowsill for rest


Art at the Heart of a Friendship

River talked to creatives Devin Ocampo (Faraquet, The EFFECTS, Medications, and Smart Went Crazy) and Chad Clark (Beauty Pill, Smart Went Crazy, MidMountain’s board) about being ahead of your time, the tension between chasing the magic of imagination and turning it into reality, their connections to MidMountain, the uncertainty of artistic creation, and how their relationship is still growing after decades of playing music together.

(This interview has been condensed for length and clarity, but is still long and there’s so many interesting tangents we had to cut… Huge thanks, also, to John Bergmayer for literally providing helping hands to edit.)

Beauty Pill is a band from Washington, DC with music known for its sonic and lyrical complexity, but it’s not just a band—it’s an ongoing, multi-decade, multimedia art project whose work has always felt, to me, eerily ahead of its time. 

Although Chad is Beauty PIll’s musical epicenter, it’s a massive collective effort–including five regular members, plus an occasional horn quartet. In Beauty Pill, Devin primarily plays drums, but he is also working on an exciting solo project—one shaped, in part, by his long collaboration with Chad and the challenging year they weathered together in 2022. 

I caught up with Chad and Devin across two interviews in January 2023, just as everyone else was catching up with some of Beauty Pill’s past work: We spoke right after the release of an anthology called Blue Period that covers music released in the early aughts.  

The Blue Period Anthology featured Unsustainable Lifestyle, an album met with a lukewarm response when first released (especially in comparison to the band’s acclaimed follow-up Beauty Pill Describes Things as They Are—also just re-released on Chad’s new label FINDINGS!) only to receive accolades from Rolling Stone, NPR, and others as part of its latest encore. 

But being a pop culture time traveler can be a little bittersweet.

Chad: I had to be talked into [the Blue Period Anthology.]

I did not want to do it.

It helped to have other people reinforcing this idea that there's a hunger—there's a love for this music.I didn't really buy it and was sort of reluctant to go back to that time in my life, because it was a painful time that the Anthology reflects.

And I'm happy for the attention, you know, because I'm an independent artist and just for economic reasons attention is important because it helps me sell my work.

I have a lot of mixed feelings about it and some pain associated with it and some ambivalence about it. 

It should be fun but it's not that much fun to be told you're ahead of your time. Maybe it's my personality, but I focus on the feeling of "it's not your time." 

I've been feeling out of place a lot in my life, so to some extent the Project Blue period has made me a little neurotic.

I don't even make sense to people anymore.

I want the music to be heard, you know. I like making people happy. I don't do that very often.

You can talk to somebody—-you can see in their eyes that you're making them happy, and that's just a nice feeling.

But Devin and Chad’s story starts before the Blue Period and even Beauty Pill, back in the 1990s, when both were deeply connected to DC’s punk scene and Devin joined Smart Went Crazy. 

Devin: The first time that we engaged, actually, one-to-one is Beauty Pill. In Smart Went Crazy... I was a fill-in drummer at first and then we got pretty intense...

Chad: I don't think that's accurate, Devin. I think that you transformed Smart Went Crazy in a radical way—Like, your musicality, and your style, and your vision, and your fire that you brought to that band is not inconsequential.

I think it's radical and I would say that you are a core architect of our last record, and a core reason why it's fucking great.

Devin: I appreciate that. I do, and I don't mean to downplay what happened after I got in the band. But my introduction to the band was just [as] a replacement.

I didn't know you guys at all as artists or as people. We had a mutual friend in Travis Morrison.

Chad: That's true. That's how it happened.

Devin: He thought I was a drummer. It was a total misunderstanding… I wasn't looking to get a gig as a drummer.

It was Travis that said, “that guy's a drummer” because I was practicing next to them. 

I was playing drums because no one else would play drums.

Chad: I forgot all this.

Travis Morrison was the lead singer of the popular indie band The Dismemberment Plan, a band Chad worked extensively on the audio engineering and production side. Beauty Pill also toured with Morrison after he went solo with the album Travistan. 

The sour critical reactions to Morrison’s debut solo album and Unsustainable Lifestyle both seem in retrospect like the result of reviewers baffled by artists exploring new directions–in Chad’s case, music that diverged from the punk and hardcore material they expected from based on his affiliation with punk DIY label Dischord and prior work with Smart Went Crazy.  

For reference, Pitchfork originally rated Unsustainable Lifestyle a tepid 5.7, but recently rated the Blue Period anthology that features the album a 7.4. 

Devin: I think making this Blue Period record—which theoretically has nothing to do with me, but is my whole introduction into the world of Beauty Pill—is really interesting to me.

The key is that I was just a hired gun structurally. I was given no responsibility as a band musician, as a band member.  You don't have to make decisions or whatever. Chad was just like, “I need someone to play drums and guitar and do some stuff, or just come in and play stuff, and then also help out…” because it was self-engineered at that point.  

You were just starting out with what became Silver Sonya. You were putting in a lot of infrastructure while we recorded that record. (Silver Sonya was a second little B room that was connected to Inner Ear.)

We made that record in flux.  I think some of it we actually made in the A room, right?

Chad: Yes. [Inner Ear] is the foundational recording studio for Dischord Records.

Nearly all of Dischord's records were recorded at Inner Ear. It’s run by Don Zientara who is a very unusual, interesting, sweet sweet guy who's beloved by Ian MacKaye who was the head of the label and the leader of many of its most well-known bands, and I worked there for basically about 10 years. 

And I actually had a parallel studio, which was called Silver Sonya in a smaller room, which largely focused on mastering, but also did other other recording audio stuff.

A note that Inner Ear actually lives on, just not in the building the current MidMountain piano was rescued from and where generations of rock and punk classics from Bikini Kill, Fugazi, Foo FIghters, Jimmy Eat World and others were recorded.

(That building was somewhat ironically torn down to create a new arts district in Arlington, VA.)

Don was very zen about the whole thing when I rolled up with a last minute box truck rental to grab the piano and basically pick over the remains of the studio like a starving vulture on a fresh carcass the day before he had to be out. Now the piano, some furniture, and a trove of other minor artifacts including a VHS copy of Harold and Maude and a magnetic master from the debut album of Coriky, a supergroup including Fugazi’s Ian MacKaye and Joe Lally plus The Evens’ Amy Farina, now live at MidMountain.

Don continues to produce music—but now from his basement again, which is how the studio started, ARLNow reported last fall.

But even before the piano rescue, I reached out to Chad—an internet mutual—about finding a way to bring Beauty Pill out to get involved in MidMountain… And hopefully, make something weird and beautiful on site. 

Chad: We want to do things in an unusual way, and in a way that feels like an adventure. 

Our last full-length album was called Beauty Pill Describes Things as They Are, and that was recorded as a public exhibit at a Museum called Artisphere which unfortunately does not exist anymore. It was in Arlington, Virginia, just across from Georgetown in Washington DC, and we made a record as a public exhibit.

We allowed people to watch us as we were working, invited people to come to the window, and observe us as if we were just another exhibit in the museum, even though we were musicians at work. And I think that record is infused with the energy of that circumstance. And that's partially why it's a strong record. It's a very strong record.

I think it's certainly the strongest thing that I have done.

I want to top it, I want to beat it, basically. 

I want to continue to do things in an unusual and exciting way, and the idea of coming out to MidMountain and creating or recording music was very exciting to me.

After connecting with River over brunch, Chad became the first creative to come check out MidMountain in late 2021, days after we closed on the space.  

Chad: Everything about it was beautiful to me, and exciting. I didn't know how easy or hard it would be to make a record there, but I very much wanted to do it.

Then the plans were complicated. 

Chad: Here's the story. We had planned for Beauty Pill to go out there and work, and unfortunately, I got very, very sick and we could not do that. But I was very profoundly sick. I was near death's door. For those who don't know anything about me or my history, in 2008 I had a freak virus that got into my heart, and infected my heart. 

And when you get a heart infection, you usually die pretty quickly. The heart does not have any defenses against infection unlike, if you get an infection in your lungs, or an infection in your liver, [or] your kidney, or pretty much anywhere else in your body. 

The body has defenses set up for that, but the heart is never expecting to receive intrusion. And so if it does, it's usually very quickly fatal. And somehow, I managed to survive that. And ultimately was given a mechanical heart to replace my original heart.

To learn more about the defects in robotic heart from Medtronics, read this ProPublica investigation. 

Chad: I had this mechanical heart for basically a decade and I was warned that it had been recalled by the manufacturer. I think their behavior was unethical, but I'm not going to get into that here because there's pending litigation. I will say that I don't think they handled it very well.

I knew there was a possibility that something might go wrong.

We made the plans anyway, and we were optimistic and unfortunately, I was hospitalized and told that we had to get this machine out of my chest so that I could have a heart transplant. 

This is all very dramatic and intense.

But in addition to the stress and the fear associated with that experience, I was really dismayed that we weren't able to move forward with our MidMountain plans.

I mean, comparatively minor concern versus dying.

But I was disappointed, you know, because I had this vision of what we were going to do and how it was going to feel and what we were going to be able to achieve—and it was dashed by my medical reality.

I proposed to you and Devin that Devin… could replace Beauty Pill at MidMountain with his solo project.

And so Devin took over our spot and it was a happy thing?

Devin: It definitely ended up being useful and inspiring. 

I would back up at this point, because now the stories converge.

The solo record really starts with Chad, actually, because he's the one who suggested that I make a solo record. 

I have always been in my whole musical life in groups, and primarily my material that I would say is sort of my life's work, or whatever...things that I write have been created for, and with in mind, a trio format for the most part.

My main three bands would probably be my work with Faraquet, a band called Medications, and then most recently a band called The Effects on Dischord. Separate from that, and I guess the side work I'm most known for would be Beauty Pill, and then my work with Mary Timoney, on a couple of her solo records, one of which I produced.

But although Devin works professionally in audio, he hasn’t made his personal art projects the focus of his career.

Devin: I've had a lot of jobs throughout my life to support myself as an artist, and I try to be, if not the best, the best that I can be at anything I try to do. So every job I've ever had I try to do really well at it.

Chad: I do think that is a characteristic of you, which is a kind of consistent excellence.  I mean, I know it sounds like I'm flattering you, but actually that's it. That's actually an accurate description. Devin as a guitarist is known as a guitarist's guitarist. Devin is known as a drummer's drummer.

I do a lot of things and I got a lot of attention for Beauty Pill, but Devin is the kind of person who can pick up any instrument and probably make music with it within minutes. He’s just one of those people. 

It's kind of annoying actually.

And that was a huge boon to Beauty Pill.

Devin: I think for the first period of our relationship musically, that I was sort of the side man certainly, but I tried to be the best side man I could be—and the guy who could realize certain things that didn't seem possible. I'm also sadly the one that says it's not possible, usually.

So that's also my role, which I think can get overplayed on either side. I can get too forceful with it, and it hurts Chad, you know, maybe more than it needs to. We found a good balance with that, I think.

Sometimes Chad is excited about something and it's not that it shouldn't be exciting, it's just that it's not realistic.

Chad: It was really hard for me to sell the band on... recording in public [at Artisphere.]

Devin: Yes, and it barely worked!

There was a whole like back and forth that happened—you know, a lot of legalese right before that actually happened. That said, when I doubt right before… then I am a hundred percent down. 

Because when we did Artisphere, which is what I think you're talking about, it was like, "this is just crazy. Is it really gonna happen?"  And then talks got further. "Okay, Okay. This seems like it's gonna happen..." Then there was a moment like this not happening and I went "oh, there you go!" 

And then somehow that got worked out last minute and then we were in...

Chad: You brought the frame in.

Devin: I brought everything! Literally, everything. I brought most of the instruments that were in the room. I brought them myself, in multiple van trips. I set up every rug on the floor. I set up stations in the room, and with the idea that it would be an artistic installation itself…

But Artisphere would never in a million years have happened in relation to Beauty Pill without Chad.

Chad: Originally the idea was much more conventional, which was for me to make a sound installation.

Devin: By the way, you still did that! We did that.

The band did a lot of things! But often, Chad would credit ideas that emerged from creative collaborations. 

Chad: It can be awkward and sometimes can be a little bit painful. 

It's a consistent feature of Beauty Pill, because I am the main songwriter, and because I'm the loudest person, I get a lot of attention and a lot of credit for what Beauty Pill does. And I spend a lot of time trying to remind people that there's a collaborative element.  

It's not a band in the typical sense. It is a lot my thing, but the people who are in the band are very critical to affecting the outcome. And this frame—we were invited to do this exhibit in Artisphere and it would never have occurred to me, but Devin came up with the idea: I'm going to bring in this big wooden frame, basically that would frame a big painting.

And he put it in the middle of the room and it was really important to Devin. And I was like, "oh that's cool." 

I didn't really fully understand the impact it would have, and it affected the whole exhibit. It was very visually striking and conceptually made clear what we were exploring...

It was something that the art press noted and they assumed it was my idea.

Devin: This is where our working together has become more open... But at the time we weren't directly collaborating on that idea specifically, but it was parallel because all of your ideas that were coming out, and in interviews and just the way you were framing, to use the pun—because the pun fits...

Specifically, I wanted to put it in visual terms because a lot of your talk about what it meant that we were on display, like an exhibit, making a record.

I think the one about Chad getting credit for that, though, is not insane to me. I go "Yeah, well Chad, you know, Chad works in ideas and as an artist."

I think one of the things that bothered me was that I've struggled to be taken seriously, I think not as a technician, which I don't see myself as. 

I don't see myself as a good guitar player. I just play guitar. That's my instrument to be able to get ideas out. Same thing as a drummer within Beauty Pill, which is mostly the band I've played drums in. 

I don't try to put good licks in the music, you know. I just try to put emotion in there, and I see things through an artists' lens as much as Chad does, and that's why we still work together.

The pandemic gave Devin a lot of time to reconsider his approach to music, but also created new barriers to his creative process because he had started a house renovation just before it hit, which took away home studio space.

Devin: I discovered in the lockdown period, and just stopping music altogether, that rock music for me was becoming a crutch.

When I say rock music, I mean something that its sheer volume and punch and power has so much effect over you, that it peaks over everything else, including whether the songs are written well, or whether the lyrics are good or whatever. It's just like "boom, boom, boom." 

It's hitting you.

It seems like dance music would have the same sort of effect. As long as it moves some booties, who cares. It's not a genre thing. It's just that type of art that has such a powerful one, singular voice, and I've been working in it so long it felt like a security blanket. Like I was just making sure that things rocked and I wasn't stretching myself enough. So this record which to me has no rock on it. 

I've been struggling very hard to eradicate anything that rocks.

But as Devin is exploring new musical territory, his approach to the economics of art has remained largely the same…

Devin: I recoil from the idea of selling it. It just cheapens it for me.

The first thing that I decided to try to tame this idea that I had, that I didn't want to

cross-pollinate sales and creation, is that I purposely never tried or even wanted to make a living at music or art.

I've always had a job. I've always had a full-time job.

 I've always paid for everything in my life through something other than art. It's been nice that things work out sometimes and I'm getting a little bit more cash in the pocket that I can funnel back to art. And so I sort of had a separation in that way, which has been nice, where my life and putting food on the table are sort of separate.

You know, I've got a job, and then the art sort of has to pay for itself. 

This is my goal, which I think is a lofty goal... I mean a lot of people don't get anything, or they're just getting no return. So the fact that I've gotten like monetary, you know, return on my investment—not a lot, all said and done and time put in—but enough where I feel very blessed.

But it's just not the goal... and at this point is even less of a goal because I have a pretty decent career in audio doing post-production work for National Geographic. It's a dream job for me and I love my job.

I don't want to quit anytime soon. I don't have any fantasies about spending 24/7 making, you know, opus after opus.

It's just not something I want to do right now. Maybe someday that'll be it. This is a key difference between the two of us.

Chad: A hundred percent.

Devin: This difference is always been there to a certain extent, but I think as we've gotten older and and as we have both moved into adulthood... that that difference between us has been part of the the conflict in the past because... It's intense stuff—money and and art, and trying to get it all done is an intense thing.

And I think we've moved into a more of a mutual understanding, rather than a fight so that's been, I think, part of the growing of our friendship.

The nice thing about working with Chad all these years is that I can learn from the experience and still do something about it.

Like we continue to work together, which is really nice for me because I can go. "Oh, I see things more the way Chad sees these things."

It doesn't matter whether it applies to me or my life.But I definitely know how Chad sees it and I can help him when I can to attain it. Whatever he needs to, you know. Whatever I can do to make his vision happen, I'll do my part.

Chad: I don't know if it's a coincidence, and I don't want to make you uncomfortable in saying this, but I think that your solo music is maybe the first music you have done where it seems like you're in a neighboring terrain.

Devin: Yes, that's true.

Chad: I think in the past Devon's music has the music that people the music the Devin has led almost seems entirely unrelated to the stuff that we do together. And I think this solo record, in some ways, people will go: "Oh, you know, it makes sense that Chad was involved in this."

The peril of course is that they think... [I had a heavy hand.] 

My effect on this record is very light and very me just sort of coming over to Devin's house and nodding.

Devin: I will argue against that only in that what most people would think your effect on this record is, I would agree would be very light in that you haven't really yet, like, put a stamp on anything...

But I don't want it let it go that you're the most important person aside from me in this project because what we set up when I first asked you to produce is we started to meet up first every week and, then we switched to every other week and that has been messed with in the last year or so.

We did that for months, which for Chad and I was like totally a brand new thing. We never spent that much time together if we weren't at practice with other people—and that was just him and I.

Chad: And it was very social.

Devin: We just hung out and had a beer and talked music.

Chad: And life.

Devin: And life and how it related towards the music I was making. 

For me, It really made me come back to life as an artist.

This dynamic is new for the pair. 

Chad: Yeah, I must say that I will call myself out on this... I have not pushed the idea of friendship [among band members], you know. I saw these as colleagues working together on a project and you know—these are people I liked and enjoy their company and I would say also loved.

But the idea of friendship as the focus was not primarily on my mind and I think that's changing largely. I mean, that's changing with everyone in Beauty Pill but it's changing most dramatically with me and Devon.

I think like a lot of times when we're talking, we're just really just talking as people about life and surviving life, you know. That's a new thing.

People think that Devin and I have been together for decades and that is true but in a way, it's like our whole vibe is new.

Devin: It's such a really interesting way to start a new friendship in a way. That's not true. We've been friends. But, yes, this new version of the friendship is so informed by working together for 20 years.

And so it's really nice and it's really special to actually to segues right back into where the story started, which is my opportunity to go to MidMountain. It's exactly why it meant everything to me. At that moment, I felt well, you know totally flattered that I would be suggested by Chad to take the place of something that he was clearly like, what's the word? I don't know, you were...

Chad: I was in love with MidMountain.

Devin: Yeah, that's a great word—that you were in love with this idea of what we were doing you were totally in love with and so for me to take it over, it meant a lot. And then to get there and also at that point we didn't know we didn't know if...

Chad: I was going to live.

Devin: One hundred percent, which is why I was sending you stuff.

Devin documented his work out at MidMountain to share with Chad and got to work. 

Devin: I took a fair amount of photos and one of the reasons why I sent a few people some video, including Chad, is as soon as I walk in my eye goes to... how is this affecting me and how is this going to affect the art that I'm trying to make here?

I wanted to sort of frame it… We go back to this frame I put up, but whatever, I wanted to frame it...but what I saw at MidMountain was similar things.

I just thought wow: This space is beautiful. How could I use this? How does it look?

The only other person in this journey that has been a hundred percent by my side while making this record is Jerry Busher, who is a very close friend–wonderful musician, all-around musician, primarily a drummer, and has been in bands that we love. 

He was a member of Fugazi in the end—for sure, the last couple of records.

So they settled in. 

Devin: I initially thought that this room [the green room] that had the most character, was where I was going to do everything, but I don't even know if I tracked anything. I might have tracked something real quick that first night, a little guitar overdub. 

And just heard immediately, it was just too much character. 

It was too much room, that had too much flavor that stood out. 

So like, hmmm, and then there's another room which has all the music instruments which also sounds really cool, and is a little more contained...but it was hot.

I was like going back and forth, going back and forth—and there's this stairwell that's right in between them. That is, the front door entrance, and there's a door on either side. In some ways the space is very symmetrical. The right side has a slightly different color...and then right ahead of you, there's a whole stairway that goes up into a whole house and then it goes all kinds of places.

I just felt that that was gonna be a really special space, but I didn't have the drum set yet because Jerry was showing up the next day.

We ended up doing drum overdubs in that space [with microphones set up in the green room, the music room, and the top of the stairs] then I did guitar in the exact same way.

We had used the green room for every single overdub, which was a lot of percussion that weekend, and any idea we can think of. 

I mean it was just so freeing. I don't know if I've ever worked in that way before or will again. It felt very singular and special, and I will always, always remember that recording situation.

Even though the whole group didn't make it out to MidMountain last year, Beauty Pill is still working on new music. 

Chad: We have a new album, and our plan is to involve Arto Lindsay as a producer. He is someone we've had the fortune to tour with. He's a long time artistic and musical hero, of me, and Devin and all of the band.

I’m pretty excited about collaborating with him. He's a very daring and interesting artist who lives in Brazil, and makes this very esoteric forward-looking music that involves noise and seduction. And those are things that are exciting to me. 

I don't know what Arto’s presence in Beauty Pill will be like, but I'm excited to just be around him and we are planning to do this in the summer. The exact strategy we know will involve Mid Mountain. We don't know exactly how it will involve Mid Mountain and we're working on figuring all that out now.

There's another element  that I want to start working with this year, later in the fall. There's a technologist whose name is Daniel Belcher. He's also Brazilian, which is, I think, a coincidence. 

He’s a really eccentric, interesting scientist who came up with this new technology that he initially designed for the deaf, or people who are hearing impaired, to involve them more in music. 

It's a haptic technology that sort of shoots music into your body physically. The way I've been describing it, is that it shoots music into your bones, which is a little bit of an imprecise description but I think it captures the idea. 

I'm very excited about it. I'm very excited about Daniel. He's a very, very forward thinking, interesting guy.

Devin’s plans for the year when we connected were still a little unclear—and that’s ok. 

Devin: I don't have very specific plans as of yet. I mean, with this record, it's been very important for me to work at my own pace. 

I'm not known, any more than Chad is, for working quickly. 

I think I'm averaging maybe a record every five years, even with various bands that I've worked with. So maybe every five years, I'm due for a record.

The last time The Effects put out a record was 2017. So I'm a little overdue.

The only pressure that I've ever responded to or felt,for working at a faster pace, is from band members. So one of the things that I really enjoy about doing a solo record is that I don't have that. So I'm not pressuring myself yet. 

I was a little reluctant to even do this interview because I want to be at the place where this record may never come out. 

Honestly, I'm still not sure about any of it.

On Alternative Histories

By Clarke Bedford

Alternative histories, also called “fictive art” among other things, are an enhanced version of real events that seems to the author a more satisfying reality than the objective version. I was, for instance, in a car accident in which my description to the insurance agent unintentionally deviated far from the actual sequence of events because I misinterpreted what I saw, a fairly common occurrence apparently. Now imagine the “alternative” description was intentional, elaborated, creative, possibly humorous and at it’s extreme delusional. Then take those attributes and write a narrative, include documents, photographs, invented personas and so forth and you have an alternative history, more to one’s liking because it conforms to a projection upon the world as what should have happened even if it wasn’t.

I live in an “art house” for instance because I feel that is a more “right” house to live in than an ordinary house. I don’t feel it is peculiar though I objectively know it is, but rather a typical house seems to me peculiar because it is without expression, (and no door color or evenly spaced bushes doesn’t count).

I constructed a scrapbook based on the invented suburban marriage and life of a Civil War General and a prehistoric fertility symbol because it is more illuminating about suburban life than a more typical pairing would be, the truth lying in absurdity and exaggeration. Similarity a sub-teen brilliant conceptual artist, idiotic Victorian art collector and a history of modernism keying off the motif of an argyle sock strike me as authentic in their own screwball way. So call the “alternative narrative” wish fulfillment of the restless and disappointed mind. Or make up something else to account for it, but remember to document fully! 

The Bone Chandelier 

By Maven Kahn

“Mary Greenlee died of late. Straight she went to Heaven’s Gate then Abram met her with a Club, knocked her back to Beelzebub.” We are the birds before the coming storm pecking at the carcass of the old world where this place was once a house of a slave owner, a woman who benefited from white supremacist culture. This is now a house of liberation, a house of art, a house of creation. We are the flowers, we are the maggots clearing out the rot, we are the new earth turned over, we are building a new world in the skeleton of the old. 

As you look towards the ceiling, you will see wired together bones that have been ethically sourced and gathered from deceased animals; cleaned, and re-purposed to make a macabre sculpture donated to the Mid Mountain Arts Collective.

When I was making this piece, I was thinking about rebirth. In tarot, the death card does not just mean dying, it means a part of yourself dies so a new part can be reborn. So too with abolition; it’s not just burn it all to the ground, it’s build a new world in the shell of the old. It’s a house that once was inhabited by a slave owner now being inhabited by artists, creators, and people who want to work for a liberation and a better world.

Composing and Decomposing/Morning Glory

By Mariam Baksh

After Left

By John Bergmayer

blank paper found left out,

evidence of fingers,

I miss even the shout

when it lingers. 

and even the missing 

(I see them around)

parts of my heart,

love unbound — are grateful. 

worth the wait for.

Our Neighbors at Thunder BRidge

We are grateful  to have many fantastic neighbors at MidMountain, including Karen and James Pannabecker, talented artists who are on a parallel journey to reclaim space with art just down the road. Here's the Thunder BRidge story, via James!

Thunder BRidge is transforming a former Civilian Conservation Corps camp and progressive juvenile corrections center into a cultural arts center and campground. Thunder BRidge campground opened in May 2022, offering the kind of camping many baby boomers remember from their childhoods, with large, private campsites and centralized bathroom and shower facilities. The property includes screened cabins, log cabins, and cottages for those who prefer beds and some of the comforts of home.

Six visual artists maintain studios at Thunder BRidge, with more rooms available for creatives of all media, including musicians. The owners have been rehabilitating a full-size gym, commercial kitchen, and additional cottages as part of a creative arts and special events venue. 

Purchased in June 2021, the property consists of 100 acres and more than 30 buildings the Commonwealth of Virginia boarded up in 2009, when it closed its Natural Bridge Juvenile Corrections Center. The Center provided teenaged boys with high school education and skills to return to society as productive adults, such as carpenters, woodworkers, masons, auto mechanics, barbers, gardeners, and cooks.

Thunder BRidge has reopened the buildings and begun tackling renovations one-by-one. By Fall of 2023, it hopes to have facilities available to host workshops for 10-20 overnight participants. The gymnasium may also be ready for performances.

Thunder BRidge includes an 8-acre pasture with two ballfields and an obstacle course; a pavilion for weather-protected dining, arts endeavors, ping pong, and other games; a horseshoe pit; and two creeks on its east and west borders. The adjacent national forest to the east offers the popular Belfast Trail, Devil’s Marbleyard, an enticing swimming hole known as the Straw Pond, and access to the 65+-mile long Glenwood Horse Trail. The Appalachian Trail, Blue Ridge Parkway, Natural Bridge, and many other attractions lie within easy driving distance.

Art and artist statement from Karen:

"I used to think of myself as a figurative painter. Even when I tried to paint a landscape, an animal or a person would inevitably appear. As of late I've begun to paint a person or an animal and instead an abstract landscape appears. I've been told it doesn't matter whether it's a landscape, a portrait or a figurative painting, you can always tell it's mine. I hope that's because it comes from the same place. A place that brings me a sense of satisfaction and joy. "

Art and artist statement from James:

"James Pannabecker, with an art studio at Thunder BRidge, enjoys creating artwork with postage stamps. Postage stamps, like music and smells, invite excursions of the mind. The brilliant reds of the 1965 Herbert Hoover 5-cent or the unusual bronze 1964 William Shakespeare 5-cent postage stamp bring forth memories of a child stamp collector and travels into distant time, such as his first exposure to Romeo and Juliet or President Hoover’s responses to children’s letters in On Growing Up. Folks often ask, “How do you generate your ideas for these collages?” A simple answer is, “As I sort through my hundreds of thousands of stamps, my mind wanders and I explore what these pieces of paper suggest, these small representations of human interactions with one another and our environments. And ideas come.”