New Year’s Evolutions: cEvin Key (Skinny Puppy) and Donovan Melero (Hail The Sun/Nova Charisma)

We checked in with Skinny Puppy’s cEvin Key and Hail The Sun/Nova Charisma’s Donovan Melero on how they spent 2020, what they learned, and their thoughts and hopes for what 2021 will hold, as part of our New Year’s Evolutions Series!

cEvin Key – Skinny Puppy

cEvin Key

Cofounder of the seminal industrial band Skinny Puppy, cEvin Key, has been making music for more than 40 years. He used the extra time afforded by the pandemic to spend time on his near finished solo project, connect directly with fans, and find things to be newly inspired and optimistic about. 

How did you spend this past year? 
I had some plans for the year that obviously changed. When I realized this was going to be a home stay for quite some time, I decided to just devote the time to continue work on my album. I had finished it, more or less, but (could) tiptoe towards my goal instead of pushing. It allowed me time to collaborate with (producer) Greg Reely on mixing the album, which I really enjoyed. It reminded me of the old Skinny Puppy times, so I guess you can say it was a way to re-inspire. 

What new avenues did you find to express yourself and get your work out into the world? 
My Patreon crew has really become an avenue I never expected to unfold in the way it has. It’s very inspiring to connect directly with supporters. Each week since the March lockdown, I’ve decided this would be a good time to live chat with others to see how they are coping. I’ve found this to be extremely inspiring. It’s not something I expected to be so family-like, but the Patreon crew has been a fantastic inspiration to keep a regular weekly pace with.
You have to really find ways to stay productive. I’m thankful for the support of fans, through either Patreon or supporting my toy, Basal, which I made while recovering from cancer. In addition, I’m working towards the release of a new Euro Rack Module called BRAP. This isn’t out yet, but the time has been invested and hope that soon that can help support other creations. Over the time, I’ve also made toy number two with Simon Paul, so I am hoping to see this come to reality in this year. 
Each week, I’ve made a new video or two for my Patreon. This is something I’ve really had fun with. Kind of coming up with my own style I guess, that has become very inspiring. As well as speaking to other musicians each week on the chats we speak about gear and studio equipment, and often, I’ll go and study the results of our discussion. That has been fantastic to find places to study and devote the time. 

cEvin Key Basal
The now sold out Basal toy

How do you feel about the coming year in terms of ‘getting back to normal’? Is there going to be a normal? 
I gather there will be a new normal. It’s hard to say until the epidemic kind of settles down. I feel strange knowing that our L.A. County here is the most infected place on earth. It is terrifying, actually. It’s been quite an insane experience to watch the numbers and feel at one point that we were doing OK here.

It doesn’t feel that way right now, with close to 20K people testing positive each day and hundreds dying just in our county alone. I hope that there will be a return to the normal we once knew. I feel very much for all the people in the industry who have been unable to work, venues darkened. I can only try and remain optimistic. Luckily, I’m not a pessimist! 
Any sort of predictions for how this year is going to be (which will 
be interesting to revisit at the end of 2021). 
Yes, it is an interesting question. I hope the vaccine is a viable resolution. I’m not an anti-vaxxer, so I guess I place my trust in that offering a resolution of some kind.  We know that things are just not going to return to normal on their own. I really have no idea why the republican mindset was anti-mask. It only seems like their theory to get to herd immunity is even more scary that the thought of a vaccine.  

Some people still have shows booked for this fall. Maybe that is just thinking positive. Only time will tell. Stay safe, everyone. 

Images courtesy of cEvin Key.

Donovan Melero – Hail The Sun/Nova Charisma

Donovan Melero
Credit: Michael Rex

Donovan Melero of Hail The Sun and Nova Charisma worked the kind of jobs that suffered the greatest when COVID hit—musician, booking agent, and promotor. He took some time to refocus and jumped into a music magazine, training to be a pilot, writing, and more.  

How did you spend this past year?  
Oh man, this is a loaded question. I pivoted my workflow. I’m a musician, a booking agent, and a promoter in L.A. for the venue 1720. When everything I worked on basically closed overnight, I took three weeks off to decompress and then immediately started on new projects.  

I built kill iconic music magazine, which launched in December. It’s a culmination of stories and features from artists in and around the community of music that I am heavily involved in.  

I also started training to get my private pilot license, so I could learn a new skill outside of my comfort zone, one that might come in handy in the next few years.  

I suffered the loss of important relationships, which, during a pandemic, is extremely hard to deal with when my lifestyle is usually just go, go, go. But I have been able to learn a lot over the past year. Those experiences encouraged my writing, and I went to New York to record a solo record with Mike Watts, which should come out later this year. And I focused on lots of solo writing out here in L.A. as well, sometimes with the collaboration of my good friends Allen Casillas (Hail the Sun, VIS, Ahh-Ceh) and Joe Occhiuti (Ice Nine Kills, Nova Charisma). 

Hail The Sun also launched a Patreon for us to connect with fans in the absence of shows, which has been a cool experience and way for us to test out some reimagined versions of our songs. 

How did you make ends meet to simply survive? 
On top of merch sales and royalties, Hail the Sun did a livestream out of Chain Reaction. That took a lot of planning and time to pull off properly, but it was really worth it. And we did it with our good friends Kurt Travis and Andres. Luckily, over the last several years, I was able to save along with doing the things I wanted to do. So while it wasn’t ideal, I used that as a cushion to help build out new initiatives. 

What new things did you learn? 
I learned how to fly a single engine airplane. I’m still training, but it’s been exciting so far! 

How do you feel about the coming year in terms of ‘getting back to normal’? Is there going to be a normal? 
I think a lot of it is up in the air, but I am hopeful that in another year, we will be looking at a type of normal again. And when it is, there will be much demand for entertainment.  

Any sort of predictions for how this year is going to be? 
I don’t want to jinx anything, but I remain hopeful. Hail The Sun is releasing our fifth album, New Age Filth, this spring, and I’m eager to share it with the world. 

Follow cEvin Key on Twitter here, and Donovan Melero here.

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