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INTERVIEW: Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam and Peter Brewer on Their Words/Music Collaborative Album STRANGE MONSTERS

GOOD (2)Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam is a speculative fiction writer and poet with stories in venues such as Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, and Interzone. She curates an annual Art & Words Show, based around collaboration. She loves retold fairy tales and listens carefully to music lyrics.

Peter Brewer is a jazz musician and composer. By day he works as a recording engineer for the University of North Texas’ College of Music and by night and weekend he operates a home studio, Easy Brew Studio. He loves epic fantasy and classic science fiction: anything with dragons, robots, or space is good by him.

On July 1st we launched a Kickstarter to create a collaborative words & music album titled Strange Monsters. Our first completed track, “The Stink of Horses,” is available to listen to on the Kickstarter page. Because we wanted to include both of our opinions on what inspired the project, we decided to do an interview…with ourselves. We wrote the questions and asked them of each other, then wrote down the responses.

Please donate to our Kickstarter here.

How did this idea come about?

Bonnie: My partner Peter and I have batted around several ideas for collaborations. At one point we batted around the idea of a rock opera. But this made more sense as a first collaboration together. The stories already being written meant that the pressure was off, at least for me. Peter’s still got his work cut out for him. Ha. We’ve always loved albums that tell a story and seem like a piece of fiction themselves: Anaïs Mitchell’s Hadestown comes to mind. So we wanted to add our voice to a genre that’s underfed.

What made you want to go through Kickstarter?

Bonnie: I like the idea of a project being so supported by a community that it’s brought to life by that community. Also, since this is such a unique project, we weren’t sure how else to produce it. Kickstarting it seems like the logical choice.

Peter: I think it’s important to compensate artists for their time and efforts. Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of money. I also think it’s important to make a physical representation of the project so that it can be shared to a wide audience. There’s just something cool about having a CD in your hand. I like Kickstarter because of the all-or-nothing aspect.

What has been your favorite aspect of putting this project together?

Bonnie: I like being in on the recording and mixing parts, getting to bring people in to realize the stories and the music and then getting to sit in the recording studio and listen as it’s happening. As someone who has never been talented musically, it’s a whole other world.

Peter: It’s been fun getting behind something together with Bonnie. Working on something creative together.

What does collaboration mean to you?

Bonnie: I love having a foundation to start with when working with already-created pieces of words, art, or music. It feels like there’s already a support there when you’re building from preformed material and makes an interesting sort of building, with the foundation and the structure being from different people. I also love that collaboration seems to wake me up, stretch my brain a little. Make me think about things a different way.

How is the writing words process different than the writing music process? How is it similar?

Peter: Well, both are trying to tell a story. There’s themes, characters, structure. But music is purely abstract while words are not always. That abstraction can be freeing or restrictive depending on your state of mind.

What inspires you?

Bonnie: I’m often inspired by music, actually. A lot of my stories and poems ae based on lines from my favorite songs. I’m also inspired by art. I love challenging myself to write a story to go with a painting. And sometimes I’m inspired by a dream or a thought I have out of the blue.

Peter: I’m mainly inspired to write music by listening to other music, such as the Maria Schneider Jazz Orchestra as well as Mark Turner’s quartet and countless other musicians.

Also, outside of music, I’m a big fan of space exploration. I’m inspired by NASA’s ambition and ingenuity as well as their counterparts in the ESA and other space programs around the world. I find myself staring at the moon and stars often. Nature inspires me. I wrote a suite for my first garden back in college. I also listen to a lot of bird songs as I walk to work.

If you could be any monster, what type of monster would you be?

Bonnie: I’d be a siren, because I’ve always wished I could sing.

Peter: I’d be a dragon, because they’re old and smart and can fly and roast food with their breath.

Check out the Kickstarter here!

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