Pace Live

Nina Katchadourian Talks to Lisa Liu

April 27, 2020
Conversation recorded on April 16, 2020

In the third episode of our Instagram Live conversation series, artist Nina Katchadourian spoke with friend and Manouche guitarist Lisa Liu about their recent album, (opens in a new window) the sTans, collaborative songwriting, and creative pursuits during COVID-19.

Scroll down to read the full transcript.
Learn more about Nina Katchadourian.
(opens in a new window) Learn more about Lisa Liu.

Lisa Liu: Hey!

Nina Katchadourian: Hey sTan!

LL: How's it going?

NK: It's going okay! I think we're live!

LL: I think we are, too. Wow. That's a success!

NK: I guess we should tell everybody our actual names. I'm Nina Katchadourian.

LL: I'm Lisa Liu.

NK: And we are collectively known as the sTans because we make music together as the sTans. Maybe during our conversation we'll tell you how that nickname came about. But we are joining you today from two completely different places. I'm in Berlin, Germany. And where are you, Lisa?

LL: I'm in Williamsburg, in Brooklyn.

NK: And we thought we would talk today a little bit about collaboration, in general, and then maybe also specifically how we've been collaborating and the situation of people collaborating across disciplines. Because I'm a visual artist by profession and by training, but music has been a part of my life for a really long time. When I met Lisa at a residency, a year and a half ago, which we will also tell you about, we began making music together, and I found out that I'm not the only non-musician who Lisa makes music with. She works with a lot of people who, like me, have a practice that straddles many kinds of things. I'm hoping you'll say a bit about your other collaborations, too.

LL: Sure, 100 percent.

NK: So maybe a good place to start our story is to talk a little bit about where we met, because there's kind of an interesting artistic connection to this. And I'm staring off to the side because I'm pulling up a PowerPoint so that I can show you. I'm going to show you a picture of Florida and here is a teeny tiny island called Captiva and Captiva Island is where the artist Robert Rauschenberg...Lisa, it looks like you're having a live Instagram chat with Bob. It's really sweet.

LL: Hey, Bob.

NK: (Imitating Robert Rauschenberg's voice) ‘How are you, Lisa? Thanks for coming to Captiva.’ We have a lot of things, in fact, to give to Bob Rauschenberg for both of us getting to be on Captiva, because this was the place where he spent decades of his life. He came down there in 1970 having kind of burnt out on living in New York and wanting to get away and move down to this tiny island where it really became his home and his studio until he died. There's amazing nature there. They're amazing houses there. And he willed his entire place on Captiva to artists so that it could become an artist colony and artists could spend time there and we were extremely fortunate to get to go and spend six weeks there in November/ December of 2019.

LL: Eighteen.

NK: Eighteen, Sorry. Eighteen, Really?

LL: Yeah, Yes!

NK: It's crazy, you're right. It became 2019. Thank you for that correction sTan. I was just showing you a couple shots from what it looks like there, but Lisa, do you want to add anything about the Rauschenberg thing in general?

LL: I think you summed it up really well. There were nine of us and it was across disciplines. There were a couple of painters, a photographer, a dancer, two musicians, a writer. Bob was a huge collaborator and he wanted to have that kind of mixing happen. And my M.O. going into the residency was to finish by my (opens in a new window) Gypsy jazz record. It took me about two weeks to get it done. And we had this mutual friend, Heather Wagner, but I didn't know who you were. And it was just kind of like, ‘Oh, you know, Nina's going to be down there, she's a great artist, why don't you think about collaborating with her?’ And by the end of about a week and a half of me finishing my record, I played all my notes and I was like, ‘Okay, let's do it, why not? Why don't we just try to collaborate on something?’ And then what turned out to be one or two songs turned into this kind of creative spark and we wrote and wrote and wrote and finished (opens in a new window) ten songs in about four weeks.

NK: There are some questions in the chat about what the residency was called. The residency was called the Rauschenberg Residency. It is an invitational residency, so you're invited to come. I got this invitation four years before I actually managed to do it because of my teaching schedule, and because of all kinds of other things that were in the way. It was an incredibly nice thing to finally get there when I finally got there. And as Lisa said, we were a group of nine people across very different disciplines. And Rauschenberg himself, as many of you probably know, was a great collaborator and worked with so many different kinds of people through his artistic life and we were encouraged to do the same. There was a spirit at the place of ‘see what happens if you guys work together.’ One day I got this text from Lisa saying, ‘Hey, I've finished my record project that I came here and had on the front burner, that I needed to finish first, but do you feel like making something?’ And I thought that would be great. I'm an artist, she's a musician, I also make music, but I thought, ‘she'll take the lead on the music, I'll do something visual and we'll put something together.’ And I’m going to go back to the slide show to show you something...This turned out to be a very important object. Coastal Angler magazine, the free publication that appeared in all the little Captiva knickknack shops and tourist shops where you could buy cheap bathing suits or some shorts. I didn't really know what I was going to do when I got to the residency. I just kind of went and I thought ‘I'll figure it out when I get there. I'll figure out where I am and maybe I'll get some ideas that come out of that.’ So, it's taking on these angling magazines and chopping them up and making collages. And I was struck by these men with fish, holding these big dead fish. And the dudes, they always look psyched and the fish always look really dead and really sad. And I couldn't get it off my mind. I'm going to backtrack now a little bit. While I was chopping up fishing magazines, Lisa, do you want to talk about what you were doing?

LL: I was recording my album. I was deep in my K-hole just trying to get my songs done and that was the room that I stayed in. My first two weeks I just spent time in my room and recorded. And when I got tired, I took a few steps and was able to take a nap on my bed. It was a really great setup. But then I was also assigned a separate studio, which was called the Garage Studio, and it originally was a garage and then Robert Rauschenberg converted it into another studio. And that's primarily where Nina and I got all our work done. [Referring to an image in the slideshow] Oh, and that's after I finished my record. You know, it's funny, when we first got there, we all just went into our own spaces and didn't really socialize, so when I finished my record, I just drank alone on the beach. Because I didn't really know anyone by that time.

NK: Solo celebration.

LL: Yeah, exactly. It's not a bad thing to do.

NK: So, then there was this text, ‘hey, do you want to work on something?’ Maybe I should show them this picture, because you had a piano in your studio.

LL: I did, yeah. And funny enough, my first instrument is piano. I'm professionally known as a guitarist, but I was just really, really stoked and psyched that my studio had a piano and I really wanted to focus and put a lot of my time into writing new songs on the piano. Prior to the residency, I hadn't played piano probably in about a year, because I've just been so heavily into my guitar work. When I got there, I had written the song probably on the second night that I got to the residency on the piano and I recorded on my phone and didn't really know what I was going do with it. Once I finished the album, that was the song that I sent to you to start our collaboration and the whole venture.

NK: Yeah, and what happened next was that I kept thinking about these men with the fish. I kept thinking that this position they're holding these fish in is sort of weird. It's like a seduction and it's sort of like a pietà, it's a little like someone cradling a baby. It was a very curious mixture of different things that I saw in those pictures. So, I wrote lyrics to a song and it ended up being a much more serious song than I'd set out to write. We called it the “ (opens in a new window) Fish House Waltz,” in part because there was this beautiful building, you saw a picture of it a second ago, but I'll go back to it here, which was known as the fish house. This really amazing house on stilts and built in nineteen-forty-something. The “Fish House Waltz” became our first song that we penned together. I think we sat back and were like ‘Hm, that was cool, let's do more.’ And then as you said, Lisa, we kept writing and for four weeks we couldn't stop writing songs. Then by the end of this we had eighty-five percent of this record done, which then took us about a year to finish and to put the final polishing touches on it. Maybe it would be nice to have some live music. I think of the fish house a little bit when I think of the song that I hope you'll play, because we made a video of you playing it there. We also used to, all of us there, spend time at the fish house and often be there for...well, we weren't often there for sunrise, one of our friends was there every sunrise. But are you going to play ’Sunrise’?

LL: Oh, yeah. Sure, sure. Let me grab my guitar.

NK: Maybe I'll give everybody some landscape. [Changes image on slideshow]

LL: [Plays song on guitar]

NK: Yay, thank you! I don't think I've heard you play that in a super long time. Thanks, Lisa. It sounded amazing.

LL: You're welcome, sTan!

NK: Should we tell people where the sTan thing came from? Maybe everybody's wondering ‘What the hell is this sTan business?’

LL: Oh, yeah. Early on, I had this phrase. I would be like, ‘Hey, what's the plan, Stan?’

NK: And my response would be, ‘I don't know, Stan.’ So, we started calling each other Stan. And then there's this funny thing where the ‘T’ in Stan got capitalized. And that was really the function of a typo that sort of stuck.

LL: Well, but it looks really freaking cool.

NK: Sometimes you take the hints the universe gives you [said very sarcastically with an added eyeroll]. I thought I would ask you, Lisa, to talk a little bit about your musical background, because you didn't start playing the kind of music that you mostly play now. Maybe you could say a few words about that.

LL: I have a really diverse array of interests and what I studied in music. I first started playing classical piano when I was six, I picked up the guitar when I was thirteen and started learning folk songs. Then when I moved to New York—I'm originally from Southern California—I fell into the post-punk scene and started playing really loud post-punk noise, experimental music. My favorite bands at the time and still are include Sonic Youth, Television, and Sleater-Kinney. I did that for about fifteen years and then probably about eight years ago I had this grinding halt where I got tinnitus, ringing in the ears. And that was a real shock, because I couldn't play loud music anymore. I got tinnitus from ten years of not having the proper ear protection, and it took me about a year and a half to get my hearing back in order. It was a very, very difficult time, to readjust to that new sensation of hearing so many different sounds and not being freaked out all the time. Also during that time, I found my way and realized that I can continue playing music, just at much softer volumes. And one day my friend came over and showed me “Minor Swing” by Django Reinhardt, a really amazing gypsy jazz guitarist. And that was it. I was like, ‘Oh my god, this is the music that I know and that I've heard.’ My favorite composer when I was fifteen was Debussy, so this was like, ‘oh my god. I knew these harmonies. I knew the sound of what this music was.’ And then for probably the last five years, I've just kind of dedicated myself to the art of improvisation and manouche and Gypsy jazz. That's kind of what I do, as far as my practice goes. But I also play with a lot of different people. You, and all the jazz musicians that I play with and freelance work on Broadway, and also working with other people in folk rock or whatever, whatever the job calls for.

NK: You said something interesting to me the other day when we were talking, which is that you feel that the experience of having tinnitus has strangely prepared you for the trauma and the crisis of everything that's going on right now. Being stuck in a confined space, and the way you've talked about having tinnitus is that it is like you were sort of stuck in your head. Now there's a different way in which a lot of us are kind of stuck. Can you recap what you said the other day to me?

LL: Well, you know, the experience that I had at the onset of tinnitus was just such a grinding halt. All of a sudden, my world had shifted. I couldn't play the music that I had been for the last fifteen years, and in a very similar situation here in New York, we got the order to stay at home. And a month later, here we are, still sheltering in place and it's this forced existence of having to pause and then what are you going to do? How are you going to adapt? It's kind of hour by hour. Some days you're like, ‘Okay, I can get through this,’ and other hours you're like, ‘Oh my god, I'm losing my mind.’ So, it's very much this long haul of how are we going to adapt and pivot in this time? And that was certainly part of my journey when I had to go through with tinnitus as well.

NK: I have made a lot of work for a long time that in some ways very deliberately tries to work with constraint. There is a project I started in 1993 called (opens in a new window) Sorted Books, where I go into a library and work only with the books that I find there. Library in this case could also mean a personal book collection. But the idea is to use the titles on the spines of the book to compose sentences and phrases and stories or riddles or questions or comments. One thing I really enjoyed about that project is that I show up with nothing and I have to work with what's there. There are so many limitations on it that it forces me to focus. The project has that in it inherently. I can't bring a lot to it. I have to deal with what's there. Another project that's very much in that vein, too, is one that I've been making every time I've been on an airplane for the last ten years. This is the ten-year anniversary of this project, called (opens in a new window) Seat Assignment, and it has certainly shown me that I fly a bit more than I probably should. That's something I'm thinking about a lot these days, that problem. But there is something in that project also in that the basic rules are that I only work with what I've got. I have my cell phone to document with and I have whatever happens to be on the plane. And then it's just basically about improvising and trying to be really optimistic about what's there. Not writing off the situation as something devoid of interest or lacking in richness in any way, but actually trying to think about it the other way around, that even here, there should be something to do. So, the last few weeks for me have been a lot about figuring out how to put that into motion now. If I really believe that now. I'm fortunate to be in a place that hasn't been as terrifying as a lot of other places have been. My anxiety is mostly about you and my friends and people who are far away that I'm worrying about. I know you've been working a lot remotely with people and making music with videos sent back and forth or tracks sent back and forth, and we will end our conversation with sharing with all of you the one song that we've made and finished. We have other things in the pipe, but the one song we made and finished during the pandemic has been (opens in a new window) a jingle for a UN contest to spread information about how to maintain good hygiene. We'll get to that by the end. Let's see, we lost the storytelling thread of the Rauschenberg experience. Is there anything else you want to say about that?

LL: No, kind of just echoing what you're saying. After I finished my record, that was my goal, and I was just kind of like, ‘Alright, let's see what happens,’ and really was open to the idea of collaboration. Echoing what you were saying before about this time, I have to pivot. I'm a musician, what do I do? I make sound waves. I share air. The very thing that we’re not supposed to do right now. How can I stay connected and pivot in this time? It's definitely difficult, but I’m trying to make a concerted effort of using the technology, and I’m the kind of musician who can also write and play rather than just being a live performer. I'm still trying to stay connected in that way, but it's certainly very difficult and super depressing sometimes.

NK: Well, let's go back to Rauschenberg for a moment, where it wasn’t depressing or difficult. I would say that I've been struck by how much....if there's something about my practice and yours, too, in a way, it’s responding to the stuff around us. The stuff that was around us then, I'm going to go back to the slide show for a second. There were these landscapes we kept finding. The tiny Captiva Chapel by the Sea, which is the old island schoolhouse, became a surprisingly inspirational spot for us because we decided spontaneously to go with a couple of the other residents to a Sunday church service in order to sing hymns, because we thought it would be fun to sing in this little church with people. And we got to see a baptism in a giant clam. They dipped the baby in this shell, which was hilarious. This was the Reverend John Cedarleaf, who was a really lovely man and really fascinating person, and someone who I've involved in an art project since Captiva. But the things that we encountered all around the island...this is the Captiva Chapel's graveyard. And we ended up writing a (opens in a new window) song about the chapel, which references these many, many, many children buried in this graveyard who died in infancy or at a very young age. One of the (opens in a new window) songs we wrote was about this seagull that I ended up seeing on the beach one day, kind of flat on the sand, it really looked like it had died. And this mom and her kid were standing over it, and I said, ‘Is the bird dead?’ And they said, ‘No, it's really sick.’ And it turned out it had been poisoned by red tide. So, I took the bird in a towel and ran all the way back up the beach to where the houses were, where we were staying, and found help. And the bird went to the bird hospital. A week later, the bird was better and was freed on the beach, so it's a really happy ending for the bird. That was another story that happened. A song that we wrote, based on things that happened around us. (opens in a new window) We wrote a song about these little lizards that were everywhere. One of them got stuck in the printer. It was horrible. I couldn't handle it. Lisa had to take it out and dispose of it in the bush shoes. I owe you. I owe you for that. I was awful.

LL: You owe me a lot.

NK: Yes, sorry. Picked up a free magazine from the local public library, and there was an interesting hurricane survivor guide in that. And there was also a list of all the named storms that had hit Florida the year before. And it had never really occurred to me how terrifying it would be to be in a hurricane. I grew up in California with earthquakes. Those are normal, but not hurricanes. We ended up writing a song called “ (opens in a new window) Cyclones,” which is based on a repetition of the names that are the names of these storms. Do you want to talk about where the music came from for that?

LL: Yeah. We went to church. We went to (opens in a new window) Captiva Chapel by the Sea. And there was this amazing organist, Lynne Dugan, who played this prelude and it turned out to be this this 15th-century French hymn. It was just really beautiful. Afterwards, we went up to her and I asked, ‘Hey, what was that you played?’ And she was like, ‘Oh, this is this hymn called “ (opens in a new window) Picardy.” And I was like, ‘I would love to have the sheet music if you have a copy of it.’ She's like, ‘Let me take it out of the trash.’ She had thrown it away! She dug it out of the trash and gave it to me and I brought it back to my studio and just looked at the music. It was this really beautiful melody, so I just kind of adapted this melody into what would become our song “Cyclones.”

NK: We will just show you for a second, this is the cover of (opens in a new window) the record that resulted in the end. Maybe we'll stop the record storytelling there and shift the conversation more generally to collaboration. I don't even know if I've told you this, that the very first collaboration I ever did, a really important one, was also the most large-scale of anything I've ever done. I was still in graduate school and my friends (opens in a new window) Mark Tribe and (opens in a new window) Steven Matheson and I were invited to make a (opens in a new window) public artwork for a college called Southwestern Community College. This was in San Diego and Southwestern is close to the San Diego/Tijuana border. There was an installation festival there that took place every two years called (opens in a new window) inSITE. And for (opens in a new window) inSITE94 we were invited to make something on the Southwestern campus. We were thinking a lot about the Southern California landscape, of everybody being in cars all the time. You're a fellow Californian, so you know how that works.

LL: I've spent many years of my life in a car.

NK: We thought the funny thing about this car phenomenon is that the school was in the middle of this campus and there was a huge parking lot that went around the outside. Everyone was inevitably in their cars and in the parking lot, but nobody was paying attention to that space at all. And we thought, maybe what we should do is find a way to activate this parking lot space because it's such a big space and such a dead space in a way. So, we concocted this scheme to organize all the cars that came to campus for one half day by color. And this was thousands of cars and the three of us were graduate students. We really hadn't had much experience making much of anything. And this is where I often like to say that collaboration makes you brave, because sometimes you attempt things that you would not attempt or dare to do if you were doing them on your own. So, for Mark and Steven and I, it was a really fortunate thing that we had each other. You know, we came up with this crazy idea and it's like, sure, why not try it? So, we devised this elaborate scheme, which helped us organize the cars as they came into campus and we had fifty volunteers helping us direct traffic. And I'm going to cheat now. I hadn't planned on talking about this piece, but I'm going to show you a (opens in a new window) picture of how this turned out in the end. And probably the most dramatic of the parking lots was the red one. It's probably my favorite one. I’ll just show you a shot of that. So, by the middle of the day we had this crazy situation of all these cars with very intense different colors. Here's the white lot. The white lot was the biggest lot of all. Seventeen percent of cars in San Diego in 1994 were white and no one could find their car by the end of this. And this is just a shot of the whole campus showing how big this area was. It felt like the biggest collaboration I've ever been part of because there really were thousands of people taking part in it.

LL: How long did it take you to do that?

NK: To plan it or to do it?

LL: Once all the cars came in.

NK: Well, that was sort of the interesting thing. We started sorting traffic at 5:00 in the morning with the fifty volunteers and by noon we had that situation I just showed you of these intensely colored parking lots. And then, in some ways, to me perhaps the most interesting part of the piece was what happened afterwards, which we hadn't seen coming, is that all this order gradually disordered itself. So, you'd have these giant fields of white cars. But then gradually it would get reshuffled and randomized all over again. And there were a lot of unforeseen interesting things. Another thing was that people don't have the same sense of color. So, we had a tiny parking lot that we had allocated to be metallic raspberry, which was a weirdly popular car color at that point in time. And the parking director we assigned to that particular junction of the road interpreted metallic raspberry to be more like maroon. We realized at that point that Mark and Steven and I had calibrated our sense of color quite closely to one another, but this person hadn't been part of all those conversations.

LL: It's like trying to match the white of your wall.

NK: Yeah.

LL: Or is it like white linen?

NK: Or when you show someone a certain shade of orange and you say is that orange, is it red and you can argue forever. But collaborating with you has been really important to me because I had stopped making music for a long time. I hadn't really made music for a long time when I met you. And even so, you sort of had to coax me back toward it. But then we also just had this very fantastic situation of time and privacy and people cooking meals for us and we were wildly spoiled, like a complete non-reality sort of setting. We're quite used to collaborating at a distance, because I live in Berlin half the year and we tend to bounce things back and forth. And then when we are in the same place we play and we compose more. Maybe now would be a good time for us to whip out the jingle and after that, perhaps if people have questions, they can put them in the comments and we can take it from there. What do you think?

LL: Yeah, sounds like a plan, sTan.

NK: Alright. I'm going to attempt something perhaps extremely ill-advised, but I'm going to attempt— because we can't really play you a song live with vocals, it just would sound terrible, we discovered— to attempt to lip-sync it. This could be a complete disaster. Let's see what happens. This is called “ (opens in a new window) It’s a No-No.” We wrote it last week and we wrote it to submit to the UN contest for art, music, any kind of creative output that helps educate people about the virus and what to do. We entered the hygiene part of the contest.

It's a No No

Don’t touch your face
Don’t rub your eyes
Don’t poke your cheek
Don’t tug your ear

Don’t put your finger
On your lips
Don’t scratch your throat
Don’t bite your nails
Don’t lick your toes
Don’t pick your nose
Don’t pick your nose

No no no no no no no no no no no no no
It's a no no
It's a no no
It's a no no

Unless you wash your hands
When you soap up your grubby mitts
The virus has to call it quits

So don’t touch your face
Don’t rub your eyes
Don’t poke your cheek
Don’t tug your ear
Unless you wash your hands

And don’t spit

LL: The suds were very impressive!

NK: I've been worrying for half an hour that the suds would completely fall flat. If you want to hear that in higher fidelity, you can find it on the (opens in a new window) sTan's Bandcamp site along with this record we keep talking about. Now we're looking at the chat comments here. Does anyone want to know anything?

LL: One question popped up. What makes for a good collaboration and how do you resolve differences?

NK: Oh, wow. Great question. Yes. We have talked about this.

LL: Many times.

NK: I was going to say should we answer about us or should we talk about other people we've worked with? Maybe we'll do both? I will say, temperamentally, Lisa and I have in some ways very different ways of working and in some ways a very compatible way of working. I tend to get into the weeds a lot. If I'm recording on my own, I tend to do fifteen or twenty takes of something again and again and again. And initially, much to my horror, Lisa was like, ‘I'm kind of all about like two takes.’ And I was like, ‘I can't work this way!’ But it has been really good for me that you have pushed me to let go a little bit and just commit to it and do it. I have learned from working with you to move more toward that. Your turn.

LL: My turn. I think what makes for any great collaboration, I work with so many different of people in so many different kinds of musical situations, is just to be open and to be listening all the time. And making sure that I am creating enough space for whoever I'm playing with, to let them have their space to do their thing and do it to the best of their ability. And my philosophy is, the sum is greater than its parts. I think we really struck a really great balance in that way. Sometimes we did butt heads, but I think ultimately we came to agree with what is the best idea? What is the best way to do things? And I think there's a certain kind of diplomacy and maturity that comes along with that.

NK: Yeah, maturity is a funny one too, in the sense that I told you all the story about carpark. I was like twenty-three years old when I made that piece with my friends. And none of us were really very formed as artists yet. We didn't know what the hell we were doing. And that was a good thing! We were very malleable. We were really flexible, we were able to find our way toward something that didn't have to do with the way each of us individually worked, because in a way we didn't know what that was yet. And it makes me a little sad sometimes that in some ways collaboration has gotten harder, maybe in an artistic realm for me, the more I've gotten, you could say, sunk into a way of working. It can be a little hard sometimes to try to step outside of the things that you like to do a certain way. And maybe because for me music isn't the main thing I's a very important thing to me, but a little bit less my public face. There is a bit of freedom there to stretch toward things that aren't my thing, because my thing hasn't really been one thing in this other realm.

LL: I can say that about myself as well. I don't just play one type of music.

NK: No, you don’t. Right.

LL: I feel like our album that we made together was a representation of that. It's classical, it's jazz, it's rock, it's folk, it's rockabilly, it’s heart-wrenching ballad. And I think what really excites me about collaboration is just an idea and if it's authentic.

NK: Yeah, I don't know that I would have written these songs if I wasn't working with you. And I think we've said that before to each other as well. This thing we made is some third thing. We said that often when these songs were being written, ‘I haven't really written anything like that. This is weird, where did that come from?’ Could you say a bit about your (opens in a new window) collaboration with Cornelius Eady?

LL: Cornelius Eady is an African American poet, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, he's amazing, he’s brilliant. And I've been playing in his trio, the Cornelius Eady Trio, for about four or five years now with another guitarist (opens in a new window) Charlie Rauh. And Cornelius is kind of similar to your background. He's not a musician by trade first, he's a poet, he does another artistic medium but really loves music and has found a very authentic expression through it. And what's really exciting for me about working with somebody like Cornelius, and somebody like you, is they have a very different perspective of how they approach sound and making music and making songs. Riffing off what you were saying before, when you're working alone you get kind of stuck doing things in one process, in one way and working with somebody who's not necessarily in the discipline of music all the time—what I do all the time—it really makes me expand and think about things differently, working with different kinds of people.

NK: A question just came up in the thread and I think it would be cool if we both tried to answer from an artist and musician perspective. The question is: Do you still think New York is the best place to live and work as an artist? I think the world is a big place. For a long time, I felt that you have to figure out—it's a very personal question—you have to work in a place where you can work. You have to work in a place where you're able to make your work well. That isn't New York for a lot of people. I've seen friends who came to New York with big dreams and a lot of mythology about New York in their heads, and it turned out to be a terrible place for them to work. They couldn't deal with it. It was just the wrong atmosphere and their work suffered from it and then they left, and their work blossomed. I have seen that. I happen to like the kind of kick in the pants that New York is constantly. And I also really like getting to leave. I am very fortunate that I don't have to be there all the time. I'm able to split my life between places with very different temperaments and moods. Berlin, where I am now, is a very, very quiet city, and I really need that quiet. You know, New York's great, but New York is actually not the center of the universe. It actually isn't. And a lot of people, I think, feel that it is. And it's a very unique place. It's a place very dear to my heart. It's like no other place I have ever lived or been. But there are a lot of places in this world. And you really have to go to the place that is good for your work.

LL: For me, at this period of time, New York's great. Prior to where we are right now in the lockdown, there's just so many different kinds of people to play with in any kind of musical genre and everyone does it at such a high caliber that I'm constantly being inspired. So, for me at this time, New York's the place to be, but I also tour a lot. So, I'm able to leave and have that space, just a breath of fresh air, but if I didn't have that all the time that would certainly be difficult.

NK: I think New York is a really tough city to feel trapped in. New York is never as beautiful to me as the day I'm leaving it. That's something I've sometimes thought because there's this sense that then it feels like a choice to be there. And of course, right now it's much on my mind. There are all these good questions that keep coming up in the thread and then they go away. They scroll away. But I think we've gone almost fifty minutes and maybe we should wind it down. If anybody wants to throw one more comment, we're listening, we're watching for you. ‘Coming back to New York is also the most beautiful feeling.’ Yes, it is. This is true. Scott, I know who you are. That was one of my students giving me some crap. Scott's also a musician, a really good one. Well, I think then we will wind it down. Thank you, everyone, for listening to us and participating. And there was a question, do we ever play live? Yes. Once we have. And we will again. But right now we're not in the same place. If you want to hear the record we've been talking about, you can go to our (opens in a new window) Bandcamp site and check it out. I'm really, really happy to be working with Pace and that they asked us to do this. Thank you to all the folks at Pace who helped this happen. And thanks, Lisa. Thanks, sTan.

LL: Thank you. Thanks everybody at Pace for guiding us through all the tech. Hope you guys all stay safe and healthy and see you guys soon.

NK: Alright. Should we try the high five that we practiced the other day?

LL: Here we go, okay.

NK: Bye, everyone.

  • Pace Live — Nina Katchadourian Talks to Lisa Liu, Apr 27, 2020