New Year’s Evolutions: Naked Raygun’s Jeff Pezzati & Rule Them All’s Jon Gusman

We checked in with Jeff Pezzati (Naked Raygun) and Jon Gusman (Rule Them All) 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!

Jeff Pezzati – Naked Raygun

Naked Raygun
Credit: Katie Hovland

For Jeff Pezzati, lead singer of Chicago’s Naked Raygun, the big lockdown of 2020 allowed for his long thought about solo project to get off the ground and into the digital ether (hopefully in other forms at some point). 2021 is looking like it will gift us a new Naked Raygun record. 

This year I put out a solo release titled just PEZZATI, The First EP. It is a 5 song EP of sorts featuring some gentler songs that I’ve had in the holster for some time as well as some new tunes. It was all done virtually – there is no vinyl, CD, or other tangible versions (yet) of these songs.

And we finally made some headway on the new Naked Raygun album, which will come out in 2021. And it has a groovy music video too. 

I learned that you can survive on very little. 
That people are mostly good. 
That politics suck for a reason. 
And I learned how to cook. At least how to read a recipe.  

I think that things WILL get back to normal in about nine months or so. I also think that all new cars will be electric in 2 years’ time, and that if you can survive five more years and be healthy the medical field will be able to make you last past your 110th birthday. This year will be a leveling out of extremes. People will become more racially and sexually aware of one another and learn to respect our differences and embrace our likenesses.  

Images courtesy of Jeff Pezzati.

Jon Gusman – Rule Them All

Jon Gusman Rule Them All
Image courtesy of Jon Gusman.

Jon Gusman of Rule Them All learned “time is what you make of it” and made a lot with his time.  

I really thought 2020 was going to be a “hit the ground running” year.  

I’ve been working at being a full- time artist for the past 4 years now so the concept of staying in my house 24/7 wasn’t too foreign to me. Painting and drawing comics was how I used to spend any leisurely time I had before 4 years ago, so I also didn’t lose out on any luxuries either.  

With that being said, I had one obligation to fulfill and that was completing my BFA degree as a Visual Arts major. The pandemic hit right around the midterms for my spring 2020 semester, which forced all classes to continue remotely and this carried out into my last semester (which just ended a couple weeks ago). Taking college courses via Zoom was challenging but also stripped me of a commute so I had even more time to focus on my art practice.  

I think it goes without saying that all of the cancellations that happened across all creative communities hit us collectively very hard. My band Rule Them All had six months’ worth of shows booked for 2020 which all got canceled. I also had tables at a few different comic conventions and art exhibitions, all of which either got postponed or canceled as well. It was disheartening to wake up on specific dates I was excited about and not be able to do what I was supposed to do that day, but the time off really taught me a lot.  

I usually compare the world as of January 2020 to someone running down a hill trying to stop their legs but still having to deal with that forward inertia. We were all tired but willing to keep going because the year seemed promising. The shutdown forced me to sit with myself and rethink everything that I was doing.  

After all that introspection, I started a YouTube channel to document my paintings, I started a podcast (The Cauldron Of Burgers Podcast), a publication imprint, and a Patreon for my comics (Cauldron Of Burgers Press) and a newsletter (Burger Head Weekly). With my publication, I reformatted and reprinted 2 of my older comic titles. On top of that, I produced over 20 paintings and recorded a bunch of music with a few different bands which will get released in 2021 (Rule Them All, Pillars Of Ivory and more).  

I don’t think 2021 will be what 2020 was supposed to be, I believe it’s going to be a “training wheels” type of year, as in we’re going to have a little bit more of an opportunity to apply what we’ve learned in the last year to the physical world, but I don’t think things will be safe until 2022 (I try to stay away from the concept of “back to normal”).  

Overall, I learned the true meaning behind the cliche “time is what you make of it” and for me as an artist, no matter what is going on outside my window, I know the reason I’m supposed to get out of bed every day.  

Follow Naked Raygun on Facebook here, and Jon Gusman on Instagram here.

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