Audio Producer Andrew Chugg Tends to the Burn Pile

Q(uar) & A is a series of interviews with some of our favorite storytellers and creators about how they’re living while in lockdown.

Andrew Chugg owns and runs Gilded Audio, a creative audio studio, and is also a music producer (most recent release here).

Where are you currently sheltering in place? 

I am sheltering in Ripton, VT. Currently alone, although prepping for the arrival of my younger brother who had been trapped in Texas since being on tour in early March. 

What does your face mask look like? 

My mask is a quite sad “general purpose disposable mask” that has reached a state that can only be described as “pathetic adult face diaper.”

Do you follow any kind of routine at this moment? 

My house is east-facing with relatively large windows so I try to be up early to catch the most rays possible. I water the seedlings, now somewhat legit vegetable plants, make some PG Tips and stomp around doing little chores for a while. I have spent most mornings the past few weeks mixing a new Buck Gooter record.

Then I get hit with the sharp avalanche of work work, so I see what most needs my attention. For this I primarily use the house phone which our clients and employees find to be delightfully vintage, mostly because I don’t always know who is calling and I always sound pleasantly surprised. Late afternoons I poke around the house fixing stuff or tending the burn pile (see photo). At night I usually make a too-big dinner and eat all of it.

“The burn pile.”

What are some pieces of entertainment that you have consumed and loved during this time? 

I have really been enjoying FM radio, primarily the weekend morning programming of both WDEV and WOKO, which feature call-in flea markets. People call in and sell their used stuff, it’s mostly old tires and old inflatable boats, but really hard to turn off. There is also a program called “Music to Go to the Dump By” which kind of reminds me of The Best Show for rural Vermonters. Since I work in digital audio traditional local FM radio is also a nice respite from the podcast garbage pile

Are you working on anything during this time? And if you’re having trouble “creating” things at the moment, how are you getting around it? 

My days overfloweth with projects, both personal and professional. This is how I always am, quarantine or not. And between you and me and your readers I think it is the source of both my greatest joys and most painful pains.

Professionally, we are in production on a massive investigative piece, in the writing phase of a wacky “outlaw” short story, a large-scale project for a museum in New York, firing up the 2020 Signal to Noise Award and a bunch of audio production services work. On the personal side I would say the big project is “learning how to be more level-headed.”

Have you taken up any new hobbies? 

Gardening is my new hobby, but I can’t quite give it the attention it requires to be successful. Last year I left a single tomato plant out on the deck and did literally nothing to it and it produced the best heirloom tomatoes. I think that was just dumb weather luck but I’m hoping the same thing happens this year, except with 13 plants. There are some risks that come with gardening though.

What’s the best meal you’ve eaten so far during quar? 

There have been lots of them! Wild leeks straight from the ground was really cool and garlicky. For the first two months there was a lot of Goodman’s American Pie with my partner Jordan Bell which is a nearly perfect cure for when your brain is about to explode.

Many days I have eaten like a child. Just like chicken fingers and cut up apples and stuff. Probably something going on in my brain related to trauma and comfort.

What’s your current iPhone wallpaper and what’s the story behind it? 

I recently got a new phone because my old one wouldn’t hold a charge and so it’s just the generic rainbow-y Apple background, but I am really proud to say that an inside-joke meme I made about my niece being grumpy about an oatmeal raisin cookie just became my sister-in-law’s phone background.

What’s the best quar purchase you’ve made so far? 

This scraper which just scrapes stuff off of stuff. I think the results of this tool would probably fall in the “oddly satisfying” category. The other greatest purchase was a gifted Cameo from Andy Dick for a friend who is an EMT in New York. It was so messed up!

Who are the writers, storytellers, or makers who are bringing you great joy right now?

I’m on a very strict media diet right now in order to better organize my brain. And because all live music has moved to Instagram (which TBH to me is hell on earth), my media/entertainment consumption is somewhat limited. But, there are a few gems that stand out. 

I’m very much on a Texas Outlaw kick, and have been for much of 2020. Steve Earle is a GOAT in my opinion and he has been on my mind a lot of this quarantine. His ‘88 live record from London is super heavy and makes me smile. Dwight Yoakam is also super sick and reminds me of a blend between Tom Petty and Roy Orbison, who in his early years was allegedly pretty deep in the LA punk scene. Speaking of that, the roundtable podcast It’s All Bad is unbelievable and very NSFW. The most insane stories from growing up fucked up in LA in the ‘80s, ‘90s, and early ‘00s. They are such amazing storytellers. I literally had to take a long break from listening because I was having nightmares, but it brings me great joy.

Any unexpectedly memorable moments of quar so far? 

After a purely putrid day of stuttering Zoom calls, postponed projects, clients who wouldn’t pay, and other things that felt like they were “blocking me” I took a shower and tried to clear my head. Before I jumped in the shower I looked out the window and saw my car lights were on. Went outside butt naked and the gnat flies started attacking my head and body. The car battery was dead. I had a profound moment where my childhood self was arguing with my adult self. Childhood brain was saying, “It’s not a big deal!!! It’s just a small problem” and gnat-ridden burnt-out adult brain was saying “Fuck this fucking hell I hate everything goddammit fuck fuck fuck asssshoolllllleeeee fucccccck SHIT!!!” And I really felt like my soul was feeding me this decision on a platter: child brain or burnt-out adult brain? And so I chose child brain which felt good.