Youth Boost are interviews with COMPAS' ArtsWork and ArtScope Alumni. ArtsWork and ArtScope are unique employment and arts training programs designed for youth to work alongside COMPAS teaching artists. ArtsWork began in 2001 and ArtScope in 2012. This month we interviewed former Arts Program Director Daniel Gabriel's son, Evan.
Hey Evan, so glad you were able to take time out of your busy life to tell us what ArtsWork meant to you. Do you remember how you first became interested in the arts? Was there a specific art form that you were passionate about?
I guess I found my first love for the arts in movies, around 6 and 7 years old. I would sit in our back room and watch movies for hours, after school, on long summer days, whenever. It was just exciting to me; action, battle, drama. I love the movement and stories. I was always so captivated by that. Sometimes I would even get a little bit sad when movies featuring exotic locations or tons of sunshine would end because I would look out and would remember I was living in a tundra :) But from there, I got really into music around like 8 or 9 years old, and I really haven't stopped listening since.
What years were you in ArtsWork – what did you do?
I was in ArtsWork from 2005-2006, and then returned in 2008 as the manager of the ArtsWork Store. In 2005-2006 I was a participant in the music group. As a Turntablist DJ, I basically tried to bridge the gap between improvisation with the live band, as well as sampling records in real time. It was an awesome challenge and helped me not only feel more comfortable in my own skin as a DJ, but also exposed me to the larger world of music; brass, woodwinds, live percussion, Jazzy keyboards, live singers. All of the elements that I would get from my records, but instead the sounds were standing and breathing right next to me in the room. And that eclectic nature was definitely reflected in our live performances too. So yeah, it was great getting to experience that world of live music alongside all of the talented peers.
How do you think ArtsWork made an impact on you that a “regular” job wouldn’t have?
I guess at a regular job your brain doesn't get stimulated in the same was as walking into a rehearsal room, or walking into a professional recording studio, or walking onto a plaza downtown for sound check. In those settings, you're alert, like, "okay, how is this all going to go down? What do I need still? Do my coworkers over there need any help?" Whereas, at a normal job the internal questions are not that heavy. More like: "when is lunch? Did I clock in? I wonder how many cookies are left in the jar?" It's a funny question because I remember wanting to change my summer pattern up a bit when I turned 16. I actually wanted a normal job, just to test it out. So in 2007, I got hired at Dairy Queen on West 7th and spent the summer working a cramped Drive-Thru lane window with no working intercom. You could eat all the ice cream you wanted but I was essentially miserable. I knew sweeping cigarette butts in the parking lot was not the move for me. So in the summer of 2008, I returned to ArtsWork as the store manager, where I sold leftover pieces made by apprentices from past summers on EcoLab Plaza. It was much better than Dairy Queen.
Besides gaining artistic skills, what did you learn during your time with ArtsWork?
I guess that no matter what stage you are in life, there are always people pushing past expectations or doubts and fighting to make their dreams happen. I say fighting because if you really want to do your independent grind, you have to be okay with sitting in a room and feeling like the odd man out, e.g. when you bring dusty, $1 records and everyone else shows up with reeds and guitar picks. But diversity is key in helping you realize what makes you individual, and what you have to offer. You have to fully commit and be 100% comfortable in your skin. You might have to face a fear of standing in front of an audience of 100 people and introducing a piece of original music (A huge shout out to the man, Soli Hughes. He was big on this and always made sure the artists took/received due credit). You might get inspired from hearing a visiting artist speak who is twice your age! You never know, but it's best to keep your eyes open and go seek. Don't wait in the Dairy Queen Drive-Thru.
How did working with a mentor artist, Soli Hughes affect your choice of education and/or work?
I mean Soli is just the cat's pajamas, period. My dad and him were buddies, so I first met Soli in the Guitar section of Mars Music in HarMar Mall (RIP) when I was around 6 or 7 years old, and even then, he was like, “what's up dude? Wanna learn a little guitar riff?” Soli has been playing music for so long, and has played in so many groups and scenes. His knowledge of the whole industry is so vast, and he's so humble about it. I drive everywhere in LA with my windows down. It's fun to bump Haze, Soli's old group, because I know that it's not only rare, homegrown Twin Cities Funk, but that I have a true connection to the music. It doesn't just sound cool. It's a natural extension of Soli's creative output from one period in his career. I love that connectivity.
I will also say that Soli was so cool about me being a DJ. There were certainly times where I felt a bit limited, a bit naive, experiencing shortcomings with the band because I didn't read music. But Soli never let those thoughts cloud my head much. He was always encouraging, really open and easy to talk to, but most of all extremely professional. He didn't baby anyone. He treated everyone like professional musicians. And that is not an experience you come across everyday.
What are you doing now?
At the start of 2016 I moved to Los Angeles to pursue my DJing career. In addition to DJing, I began producing my own music in 2014 under the handle, earoh, which is an acronym for Everything A Reflection Of Home. Additionally, I am a freelance hip hop journalist, and have written for Greenroom Magazine and Passion of the Weiss.
Did your involvement with COMPAS play a role in that choice?
Maybe, just a little :)
Where do you hope to be with your work in 10 years?
Art has long been the subject that I truly care about. I hope to continue exploring the same endeavors. All I can work towards in these next 10 years is improvement, to continue learning and take the good with the bad.