Whenever I finish a project, I get really destructive. I find it to be a very positive and clarifying experience, decimating what I had so carefully constructed—I even look forward to climbing around the smoldering ruins. Knowing that I’m going to rip my factory apart like this, I think it makes me do my absolute best while the building is still standing. But really, as I’m picking up the shards of glass, brick, and steel, I’m already building the next factory.
It’s a process that I wasn’t really aware of until after I finished I COULD DISAPPEAR. In a very real way, I made that album with the ruins of UNHAND ME, YOU FIEND! factory as I took it apart . . . inspecting each piece, picking only the pieces that I couldn’t bear to leave in the rubble, and taking only what I could carry.
My daughter was born about halfway through the making of that album, so there exists a significant time period during which the difference between building and unbuilding became a little blurry. Was it days, weeks, months? I don’t really remember. What I do recall is that one day (and every day after that day), I woke up in a very different kind of factory, and even though I’m part-owner, I just work here.
When I build a factory, I fit the plans to my exact specifications. I don’t always know what they are when I start building, but I do when I’m finished. No matter how long it takes, when the doors open and people come in, the lights are on, the floors are swept, and the machines are working. If someone gets lost on the tour, it’s because I wanted to get lost in that part of the factory as well. Willy Wonka is my foreman and my OSHA inspector. Conflict of interest? Absolutely.
The new factory isn’t anything like that. It’s a mess. Doors and windows are broken. Machines are on fire. Halls lead nowhere, rooms don’t have floors. The workers that showed up are hanging from the walkways, tangled up in ropes and pulleys and hoses, and the rest are on unapproved paid vacations. My building permits have expired. Half of the products coming off the line don’t work as they were originally intended. For example, the talking robot line appears to make some sort of cheese and mushroom omelette. I mean, who doesn’t love a good cheese and mushroom omelette. But I was trying to make talking robots. I have orders to fill for talking robots. And the omelette doesn’t look right in the box…
I’ll admit it: I was worried that the work of parenthood would take over my life completely, like some kind of oppressive fascist slave driver. At the very least, I feared that the first year would be a relentless barrage of seemingly unproductive tasks, one piled on top of another, buried in an endless stream of sleeplessness. And I was right. But I wasn’t worried as a man, just as an artist. I knew what I was getting into. I chose to work here. The work that I do at this particular factory, a place so clearly designed by M.C. Escher’s less-talented and mentally deranged blind cousin, is not at all unproductive. She’ll be one year old next month, and the simple fact that this building still has four exterior walls and a roof is a testament to how much my wife and I have accomplished. You HAVE to love your job to work in this place, and we love it here in our cuckoo factory with our amazing little talking cheese and mushroom omelette robot.
Last week, I found a room at the end of a hall that I hadn’t noticed before. It’s a small room, clean and quiet, with a chair, a desk, pen and paper, and a guitar. It’s on the top story, high above the factory floor. I can still hear the distant sound of the machines, but there are windows . . . somehow, there are windows on every wall, looking out over a gorgeous panorama of rolling green hills and blue sky. And over every hill, I can see a smokestack that I recognize as one of my own…