#WFH Diaries: Joel Douek of Man Made Music
Even as parts of the world are beginning to open up amid the pandemic, most folks are still working from home. We're checking in with people in the creative industry to see how they're faring. Here's an update from Joel Douek, creative director and chief scientist at Man Made Music.
Give us a one-line bio of yourself.
I'm a music composer, art sculptor, virtual and augmented reality company owner, with a background in neuroscience, who cooks and fire dances in my spare time.
Where are you living right now, and who's with you?
Living in Laurel Canyon, Los Angeles, with my wife and three cats.
What's your work situation like at the moment, and how is it evolving?
Being largely freelance for many years, I learned the hard way not to put all my eggs in one basket. This is proving critical at this point, as I've been able to redirect my work possibilities based on what is still functioning. That said, as I'm sure for a majority of people, it's stressful as hell! Royalties—which are the lifeblood for composers and songwriters—are in question, and substantially diminished. I am fortunate, though, to have ongoing music relationships that are sending some work my way. I'm currently working on a movie and a few sonic brands. While it's not always easy to motivate because of the constant underlying anxiety and the sense that because I'm not saving lives, I'm not really helping, I have been rediscovering how music can be a balm to many, reflecting emotions that cannot be put into words. So I am quite focused on how I can use what I write to help uplift, provide solace, and even raise funds for first responders.
Describe your socializing strategy.
I don't really have one. Never have. It's not a part of my life I see as in any way strategic. I'm an introvert, but I remain connecting to friends, family and work colleagues through Zoom sessions, much like everyone. But I do have to go easy with that. Even though it is fulfilling to see people, I can find it depleting.
How are you dealing with childcare, if applicable?
No kids, just our 3 wonderful cats who are a constant source of love, fascination and laughter. I think they look after us more than we look after them.
What are you reading?
Mostly cooking recipes, news and scientific papers on the latest Covid-19 research. The latter is because, through my background in science, I try to help dispel the continuous stream of rumors and disinformation on social media. It's a role I've chosen to play. While I'm no expert, my brother is, so I run things by him when I can't confidently answer. He is professor of virology and immunology at the NIH, working on a variety of treatments and cures. So I get good information.
What are you watching?
My TV/movie tastes seem to have shifted quite a bit since before the pandemic. A lot of what I might have watched, despite their best attempts at drama, seems trivial next to our current global situation. I still enjoy sci-fi, and am currently watching Madam Secretary (she's now president, by the way). It does the same thing for me as when I used to watch The West Wing during the G.W. Bush years. It lets me believe for 45 minutes that our country is run by caring, responsible, articulate, ethical, educated and extremely qualified leaders. It reminds me that an alternative to the criminal and corrupt, dysfunctional and ultimately lethal government we now have is not only possible, is always just an inch away.
What are you listening to?
I listen to jazz and classical music as I always do, but also to some of the new Instagram superstar DJs like D-Nice and The Vintage DJ. I like the feeling of enjoying something that's being livestreamed. I like that connection through music, and they play SUCH great music! It fills our house and makes us dance.
How are you staying fit?
I am a generally fit person, I eat the right things. My gym is obviously shut so there's probably some room for improvement there. I'm thinking about worrying about that. Because obviously we need more things to worry about.
Have you taken up a hobby?
I don't really DO hobbies … I just add additional careers. ☺ The cooking has most definitely become my latest obsession. I always cooked but I think now I'm approaching, and sometimes overtaking, restaurant-level food. Eating and therefore cooking is a survival imperative, so easily justifiable, but it's also an opportunity to put one's artistry into it. The results can be delicious. I am immunosuppressed, so I really can't go out and not super comfortable with restaurant food coming in. So I made it my mission to cook all the things I missed, that I needed. Szechuan, high-end Italian, Indian. Focaccia. I've now got it solidly covered. Readers all welcome for dinner. ☺
Any tips for getting necessities?
Yes. Look into the restaurants that have repurposed as grocery stores. For us, one of our absolute favorite restaurants in L.A., Tesse, allows us to order incredible quality food and ingredients. They even supply masks and TP. And homemade paté and salami. I feel hugely grateful and indebted to them.
An awkward moment since all this started.
Shortly before lockdown I picked up my wife from LAX. She had been in New Jersey supporting her parents. I wore my mask into the terminal. Nobody else did. I feel I knew what was coming, even though so many were in denial. I got a lot of weird looks. And it felt decidedly dystopian.
Best work email you got since all this started.
An email from my friends/colleagues at Man Made Music, delivering the final cut of our performance of the Beach Boys song "In My Room," all recorded individually while we were self-quarantined. So wonderful to see it all come together, knowing we'd be sharing it with the world to spread some community uplift. So proud of them, and so grateful to have been asked to contribute.
An aha! moment since all this started.
An important lesson told to me in my past by a wise old man. It came back as more real and relevant than ever: "In times of crisis, you see who people really are." It's borne so true both in the good way, and the bad. Since you (I hope) have my attention, I am going to add one more quote that was a game changer for an introvert like me, from Martin Luther King: "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. " This will help explain my next comment.
What's your theory on how this is going to play out?
I'm not going to dig deep into this question. There are many unknowns and I'm not the right person to ask. Ask the scientists—the virologists, the epidemiologists. Suffice to say, we're in this for a while. Follow the scientific guidelines and the governors of some states who continue to be pretty great in their leadership, such as California and New York. Let's face it, it's a low bar right now. But I refuse to be silent, and I refuse to be an enabler. Media seems to favor the loudest bark, so I'm going to bark really loud right now. Those who insist on breaking self-quarantine and protesting stay-at-home are bringing the virus back to their communities and ultimately prolonging lockdown and worsening economic loss. It's a heartbreaking irony. Want to see the numbers already? That will be on them, not us, however it is spun. While I'm a U.S. citizen, I am British born. The obsession with independent freedom in the U.S., where freedoms already run so wild and guns are bought at the corner store, is paranoid, blind and dangerous at a time like this. No society ever prevailed through those sentiments alone. What we need now, what we've always needed is kinship, community spirit, altruism and true common sense. Until a majority finally figure that out, we are doomed to relive this, rekindle wars, repeat the worst of human history. As I said, the shift of perspective, for everyone, is only ever an inch away.