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THE VISIT

I dread it. I know the cost. I also understand the joy that comes from social exchange, whether intense or casual. When I was teething the end of my own rope, exhausted after launching REFUGE, then teaching the Symposium, fielding questions, asking questions, always questioning, everything, foremost myself, and my own direction and output, well … at the end of that rope my friend Eric Matthies came to visit.

Spent, but intent on catching up, and perhaps lighting the way ahead, I welcomed him despite knowing how much deeper into my own exhaustion and post-effort ‘directionlessness’ he would take me. In "The Left Hand of Darkness" Ursula LeGuin wrote, "When action becomes unprofitable; gather information. When information becomes unprofitable; sleep,” and I have used this a the basis of my training recipe since I read—and understood—it, which occurred at two different times.

When training will produce the result you seek, do that. When recovery will produce the result you seek, do that and use the quiet time to learn something. When neither action or inquiry can take you closer to your goal then sleep—because anything else you do will cost more than it is worth.

All I wanted to do was sleep but I knew it was important to gather information. And to look inward on the backs of the words and ideas we would share. It started over dinner, continued through a podcast that lasted over three hours, and restarted over coffee the next morning.

We met in a stunt gym in Glendale during prep for the original “300” for which Eric shot all of the behind-the-scenes footage and conducted interviews along the way. Back then he knew of me via climbing, Gym Jones, and the common thread of punk rock, DIY, and commitment that bound those things together. He tailored his questions accordingly and the resulting clips that Warner Bros broadcast were more thorough and insightful than I expected, which made me want to know more.

I have admired his work outside of the big-name studio stuff he has shot since becoming aware of it, starting with music videos with the old H-Gun Labs crew, passing by a conversation between Glen Friedman and Ian MacKaye ahead of Friedman publishing “My Rules”, and finally, the harrowing, sobering documentaries made with his wife Tricia Todd, “Killing the Messenger” (2013), and “End of Truth” (2017) focusing on the topic of journalist safety and the potential consequences of bringing stories back from the harshest of front lines.

Over the years and the various movies we both worked on Eric interviewed me many times. We made the “Soldier of Steel” videos together, and the “Rise to Fitness” series that came out after “300: Rise of an Empire”. That time together and the questions he used to guide me away from shallow water convinced me we would eventually work on something together—or maybe a couple of things. We did a little bike video in Bulgaria that was up on the Gym Jones site for a while but only available here as far as I can tell. And now, we are rather deep into collaborating on “Reality Bath”—a documentary about me—which is being funded, driven and shot by Ian Seabrook, while Eric offers guidance and expertise in the context, wearing his Producer hat.

I woke to mixed rain and snow and a forecast for more but Eric had never seen the Salt Flats so we gambled on the drive, knowing that the point was not necessarily the view but instead the road trip and the conversation. We were up against his departing flight so I pressed the pedal. We saw some terrain, made some photographs and got to the airport with some time to spare. Even under clouds, in winter, with the salt flats under water, the west desert is pretty amazing.

We spoke of many things in the podcast studio and outside of it, over food, on the road, and while making photographs. The overarching questions, which I cannot answer yet, but they weigh too heavy to evade are, “What next?” and “Where do you see this in five years?”

With the ink still drying on shipping labels for REFUGE, the future seems unimportant but we are caught in momentum of our own making and that will take us into the future whether we want it or not.

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While working with H-Gun in the early-90s Eric shot and/or directed some music videos:

Public Enemy "Bring Tha Noise"

Meat Beat Manifesto "Helter Skelter"

Nine Inch Nails "Head Like A Hole"

Nine Inch Nails "Down In It" (which initiated an FBI investigation after a Super 8 film camera—suspended beneath a weather balloon—got away from the crew and footage recovered from it appeared to show Trent Reznor dead in a field so the local sheriff took it for a snuff film)

The Melvins “Queen”

The Hangmen, “Rotten Sunday”

Skid Row "Monkey Business"

With their own production company, Eric and Tricia made the trippy documentary, Agile Mobile Hostile which covers a year in the life of R&B musician Andre Williams.