Performers in the Time of COVID: Eyal Pik
I chatted to guitarist, singer-songwriter, music producer extraordinaire and, dare I say it, philosopher Eyal Pik on Zoom on the Monday before the new lockdown. It was the first Monday of the second term of his Master's programme, and in recent weeks he has been putting in 12 hour days. But he had just got back from his daily swim at a local leisure centre, which he laughingly said 'keeps him relatively sane' and he seemed relaxed and contemplative.
Eyal moved to London from his native Israel in January of 2016. It was, he told me, the culmination of a dream of many years and yet it was an enormously difficult time for him. Eyal mused, 'We are supported by 4 pillars: home, relationships, work and health. When I arrived here I found myself without any of those pillars. I felt stripped of identity.' But over the last four years he worked to create that 4-pillared structure in his new life. Having left the very successful band of which he was a member in Israel, he formed a new band which rehearsed regularly and performed frequently, and he gave guitar lessons to fill in the gaps. 'There was a lot of travel,' he said, 'and a lot of collaboration which is something I thrive on.'
He confesses that having survived the upheaval of emigrating here to Britain, the lockdown in March seemed relatively manageable. 'I didn't see it as some sort of avalanche,' he said. 'I immediately appreciated the rest from constant travel. 'I like being in my own safe corner,' he said. 'I like making things and learning things, delving into complex territories. Boredom isn't a concept I understand very well. In any case,' Eyal said, ''I think it's a mistake to glorify the past and fear the future. Everything changes all the time. Catastrophes occur every couple of generations,' he said referencing Israeli philosopher and chemist Yeshayahu Leibowitz* whom he reveres. 'I come from a family of survivors,' Eyal said. 'It's an innate quality. So during lockdown I didn't consider myself to be in mourning. I thought: no matter what is going to happen, this current situation is only temporary. The worst thing really was the shutting of the pool at the leisure centre,' he said, grinning.
The first lockdown, Eyal reflected, was all about communication. 'I found myself thriving both creatively and socially albeit virtually. ' During those first weeks he started making an EP called 'Quarantine' in collaboration with a friend in New York. 'I was having so many thoughts,' he said, 'and I've always found it easiest to organise my ideas by writing songs about them.' He told me that one of the songs he wrote quite early on in the first lockdown is called, 'My day means time.' 'A Facebook friend had used that phrase in a post and it really resonated with me. The song is a celebration of the relaxed spacious feeling that came from finding more time on my hands in a city, in a world in fact, that is always rushing. As a child, I was always upset when I ran out of time,' he reflected. 'There was always that moment when a parent would say: it's time to go now. I've always dreaded being told it's time to go. I hated the idea that I had to curtail an enjoyable activity or rush to finish something in which I had immersed myself. During lockdown, I found the time to address the smallest of experiences. It was as if someone said, 'We've got time. There's time!'
On the other hand, the survivor in Eyal realised that this new world that seemed to be emerging required a new identity. And lockdown seemed to be an opportunity to grow his craft. That, he says, was the motivation behind enrolling on the one year Master's programme in Commercial Music Production run by Tileyard Education in conjunction with the University of Wales, Trinity St. David. Tileyard, as Eyal explained to me is a famous recording studio in King's Cross and also a record label and publisher. As an umbrella organisation it represents hundreds of music industry companies. 'There are so many connections to be made on the course,' he said. Last week, for instance, he participated in a song writing course. The songs, he said, will be pitched to major labels. 'It's exciting but I also see a lot of pretending and game-playing going on amongst my fellow students. I'm caught between wanting to keep things pure and learning to play the game.'
Over the last couple of months Eyal has moved to a new flat where he has been able to set up a studio in which to work. 'I love it,' he said. 'I have a new sense of freedom.'
Now facing the new lockdown on the 5th of November, he is remaining positive. 'I still believe that we will find away around this virus,' he said. 'And as for myself, I haven't given up. I want to tour with my current band, build a studio and work in other studios around the world. And I want to start a family and eventually pass on the torch.' But in the meantime, his capacity for reflection will stand him in good stead. Perhaps we should all heed his very good advice: 'Everything is temporary. All each of us can do is try to see what our next move is.'
*'Human history is an account of human madness and catastrophes and the struggle against that madness and those catastrophes'. Yeshayahu Leibowitz
Photo credit: Kriz-P