Dad Interview with Zachary Scott Lawrence of Endless Chasm
Name: Zachary Scott Lawrence
Bands: Endless Chasm
QRD – How old were you when you first realized you wanted to be a musician?
Zachary – Music started being important to me starting around fourth grade, but I don’t think I actively pursued making music until middle school.
QRD – What are a few highlights of your musical career?
Zachary – In high school, I rapped at a Franklin Graham rally (I swear to god), but I’m not sure that’s a highlight. With my current activities, being invited to the Kansas City Noise Fest three years in a row was really important to me, & I was honored to be invited to the Midwest Harshfest in Detroit this year. Getting interest from anyone, particularly writers or labels, in my music is always a nice thing.
QRD – At what age did you decide you wanted to become a father?
Zachary – My mid-twenties. Before I got married, I didn’t really want kids, but my wife’s excitement brought me around initially. Not that I wasn’t pretty skeptical, but I’m also a worrier & one never really feels “ready” & there’s no such thing as “ready” I’ve since learned. Still one of my best decisions. Having kids after thinking I shouldn’t have kids has taught me not to worry about worrying quite so much. If I think something is right, I need to get to doing it, even if I’m worried about the details.
QRD – What are some positive & negative impacts your family has had on your career?
Zachary – I can’t think of a negative, really, except it’s hard to juggle obligations & music as an avocation tends to get pushed to the backburner unless I’m coming up on a deadline (typically that I’ve set for myself). The kids will, on occasion, think it’s cool that daddy makes noise for fun & they’ll ask questions (usually, though, they’re just weirded out). The oldest ones are far more interested in the instruments & effects that I’ve built. They like to see how things are put together & what they do. When I can, I try to turn their questions into a little science/music lesson.
QRD – What are some positive & negative impacts your career has had on your family?
Zachary – I have a full-time professional gig, which probably has more impact on my family than my artistic activities. Positives, music & art are definitely healthy emotional outlets for me & I’m not sure I would get out of the house much if I didn’t book myself the occasional gig. On the other hand, any time I spend working on music is time I don’t spend with my family. When kids are down for naps or out for activities is when I tend to work, which has changed how I write & record - chunks of work at a time that I assemble into a finished piece.
QRD – Have your children effected the music you make &/or listen to?
Zachary – That I make, not really, though I am careful about my aesthetic; I often think, is this something I want my kids or other people to associate with me 30 years down the road? & that’s more than just if I use a weird picture on an album cover or an off-putting sample. I want my art to be something I believe in, something I’m proud of, because I want people I care about to be proud of it someday, in some little way, too.
I’m more okay with melody than I used to be & I think that’s because my kids & my wife like pop music & it’s around the house & in the car, so it’s rubbed off to a certain extent. I like introducing my kids to more challenging music, or some of the alt rock of my youth, but nothing is going to stop them from wanting to dance to “Gangham Style” every night.
QRD – Do you think being involved in music has made your children different than their peers?
Zachary – I think our interest in music has made them different. I like to think that being interested in quality art & maybe even making it & involving kids; helps them to be more creative, better learners, more well-rounded, & curious. Three of my kids got to see me perform at an all-ages benefit & while I don’t think they understood what I was getting at with my music, just seeing me on the same stage with indie bands, at least one rapper, a pianist, hopefully gets them to understand that they can do the same kind of thing if they want.
QRD – Have you had problems with the lack of steady money from a musical career providing the security you feel necessary in your household?
Zachary – No, only because I have a non-musical professional career & I’m not relying on music to pay the mortgage. There’s no way I could survive on the money I make from music, or from selling instruments & effects. That’s partly a function of the economics of independent music in contemporary times, but mostly a function of being pretty firmly entrenched in the avant-garde. There’s no money to be made in the experimental scene unless you happen to cross over into the zeitgeist. If I was relying on my music to feed my family, you can bet I’d be churning out piano ballads & I’d be miserable doing it. Art as avocation offers me freedom to pursue my vision as I see fit.
QRD – Given the limitations having a family has on being a touring musician, would you have toured more earlier in life if you’d known?
Zachary – Perhaps. In high school & college, I was playing far more conventional styles of rock & we gigged a little. I often had dreams of going on tour, making it big. Funny enough, after a 10-ish year break from music, starting back up making a style I’m much more passionate about & being lucky enough to know some professional musicians with lots of miles under their belts, the touring life holds no allure for me. I’m happy playing locally & making the occasional distance trip for an interesting event where I get to see my friends. Get me on the road for a few weeks & I think I’d have a meltdown.
QRD – Do you think being a father or a musician has a greater impact on your community?
Zachary – Father, no doubt. Raising decent, intelligent, loving young people & trying to be a good example is vital for the survival of our species. I just see being an artist, or tapping creativity, as an extension of that. I want my kids to grow up with passions & to be independent & self-sufficient enough to pursue them. My father used to play the organ at home, until he kind of lost interest & we got rid of the organ, but I was fascinated with the fact that he could play an instrument. I discovered later he could play the banjo, but just didn’t any more. I still have his old banjo. But just the fact that he could play an instrument & that he was interested in musical things at some point, probably influenced me in my early adolescence to believe I could learn the guitar & my parents supported me wholeheartedly in that. I think part of being a good parent is being unafraid to be creative & passionate about something, because it shows our kids that those are good qualities.
QRD – Would you rather see your children eventually become musicians or parents?
Zachary – I would rather they were happy. If either or both of those things make them happy, then I’m a happy guy.
QRD – Both family & music seem like things that will take up as much of your time as you’re willing to put in. How do you end up dividing your time?
Zachary – Family, job, chores come first. That’s the nature of adulthood, particularly when my music doesn’t bring in the bulk of our income. As the kids get older, it becomes easier to find some time to work, but naps & night is the bulk of it, typically when I’m alone, because I don’t want to neglect my wife in favor of hiding up in the studio. If I have a custom effect someone is paying me for, or I’m about to finish a project or I’m prepping for a show, I’m probably more intentional about blocking out time. Really, this fits my work habits anyway because I tend to ruminate on sounds, songs, ideas for a long time before I go in & record. By the time I get set up & start rolling, I have a pretty good idea of what I’m going to do.
QRD – What do your kids think of your music?
Zachary – They find it... confusing. To be fair, a lot of my adult friends do too, if they aren’t in the same scene & circles.
QRD – Do you think you could ever do a musical project with your children?
Zachary – I’ve entertained the idea of a family band from time to time. I don’t know how well that would work out. I do want to include my kids in what I do a little more. My oldest will sometimes tell me, “You should record that sound, it’s interesting.” I usually take his advice.
QRD – Any words of advice to young people?
Zachary – Start now, & don’t wait until you know more or get better; you’ll always be learning more & improving. Record often & listen to yourself. Read twice as much as you write, listen twice as much as you play. Develop a vision for your art & be able to talk about why you do what you do, even if it’s only to yourself. Find a marketable skill that you enjoy & that can provide steady work for the lean times, so you’re free to create the art that you want. Collaborate & talk to other artists as much as you can. Be prepared & develop good work habits; you can’t keep a job if you don’t show up on time & no one wants to book you for a gig if you always show up late & it takes you thirty minutes to get set up.
QRD – Anything else?
Zachary – Creating art is a little like raising kids. You nurture & guide & take control sometimes if you have to, but eventually you want them to go into the world & find a place for themselves & be complete. Only your family & friends can love you back, though.