Isolation Drills: Jeff Zeigler (Uniform Recording)

Like the majority of you, all of us in the Philadelphia area are staying at home, learning to adapt to our “new normal.” MAGNET is checking in with local musicians to see how and what they’re doing during this unprecedented time. Photos by Chris Sikich.

Zeigler: Well, it’s all been pretty fuckity, and that’s even with me omitting a lot. Around the end of last February, my duo mate Dash Lewis (a.k.a. Gardener), was planning to come up from Richmond, Va., to work on a new record, and being the more prescient one, he suggested we hold off for a little bit and see how the looming virus panned out, so he wouldn’t get stuck in Philadelphia or somewhere in between.

Turns out he had the right idea. At that point, I was in the middle of mixing a new Ceremony record. The shelter-in-place order came down, and I was panicking, thinking I’d have to move my entire mix setup into my house, which would take days and throw my entire system out of whack for a multitude of reasons.

I took a chance on being locked out of my studio and held out, and that initial chaotic situation settled down. I started making my way back to a massive empty warehouse on most days, alternating between there and a quiet Port Richmond rowhouse with my two dogs Mike and Terry, who were my constant companions. 

From there, I just started spending my time alternating between mixing remote projects and putting together a bunch of ambient music that I’d typically write, record and release over the course of a few days at most. In the past, I’d generally spend a lot more time on  material, whether it be song-based, interstitial or straight-up extended ambient pieces. But at this point, getting an idea down, layering it as needed and letting it go felt best—I think both due to how temporary everything was feeling, especially at that point, and how I didn’t want it to feel like “work” or a chore. Just more of a immediate release.

There have been a lot of ups and downs in between. In August, my dog Mike passed away. He was quite old, and I’m glad he went in peace, but it was extremely difficult, amplified by the extreme amounts of time I was spending with him and the general solitude of this time.

I feel very lucky to have a tight group of friends in my COVID bubble to hang with on occasion. It at least partially makes up for the insane drop-in socializing I’m used to, seeing friends all the time at shows and, of course, seeing great live music, as well as playing out. It’s been beyond strange, and while I’m slightly more optimistic that this will be handled more effectively with a Biden administration than the shit heap that was Trump, we shall see.

I’ve been lucky to have a variety of mix projects come my way, ranging from the aforementioned Ceremony record to a live LP from Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders recorded in 1975 and a slew of Chris Forsyth releases: both live ones with Garcia Peoples, etc., and studio creations for an upcoming tribute album.

Bandmate Sarah Schimeneck and I also created a score for filmmaker Josh Litwhiler’s upcoming horror short, BAIT. From there, Atlantic Rhythms just released the first duo LP, Eraserhood, by myself and Dash about a month back. And I performed my first solo streaming show on January 31 via Bowerbird, the first utilizing the modular synthesizer I’ve been slowly building this winter so as to not go completely insane.

I’m just trying to keep my head above water and realize no matter what, I am luckier than some. Hang in there, people!