Few celebrations of music culture blur the line between performer and fan like National Drone Day. Now in its third year, the festival draws ambient, drone, and experimental musicians from across in Canada. (Read our interview with experimental drone metal pioneers Sunn O))) here). On May 28, at least 21 cross-Canada events will take place.
But the real key to Drone Day’s longevity will be attracting participants from all over the world, and not just Canada. That's why Drone Day’s website urges “global celebrations” to pop up where possible. Marie LeBlanc Flanagan works with Wyrd Arts Initiative, “a volunteer-powered not-for-profit that exists to encourage, document, and connect creative expression across Canada.” We got some tips from her on how anyone, anywhere — yes, you — can kick off their own festival of ohhhhmmmmm, drrrrrrrrgggggg, and even whooooooooosh.
1. Get pissed off.
"Drone Day began in the kitchen while I was making soup. It started with Record Store Day and quickly escalated into a very loud ladle-banging polemic against legacy holidays and the alienation of living [in ways] that feel more like a pre-fab life starter kit than a real set of human choices under a limitless sky.
I don’t feel like any celebratory days belong to us weird musical outsiders. I wanted a day I could get behind; a day I could celebrate without irony, baggage, or self-loathing. So I made one up."
2. Anyone can drone.
"Anyone can drone. I’m not just saying that. You can drone right now with your voice. The inner sanctum of drone is deep in a labyrinth of sonic vibration, but the doorway to drone is immediately accessible to everyone. If you have one, your washing machine is probably droning. Your hydro electric turbines are droning. The deep hum of your lungs are droning.
In this way, participants and organizers of Drone Day celebrations often find drone inherently collaborative. You don’t need to know the song, you don’t need a decade of training, you don’t need expensive equipment. You don’t need membership in the Drone Committee to start generating infinite tones."
3. Start small.
"My first Drone Day celebration was on my roof. We held it under the sun, with the breeze in our hair. There were children playing with kittens, teens climbing up the fire escape, mathematicians lounging in the perfect May sunshine. We made slow-brewed drone iced tea, and blissed out to the extended tones of drone. It was the first time I have ever relaxed at a show I was putting on. Usually I’m digging through sticky patch cables in a dank basement, checking the alleys for kids drinking, moshing out or drinking away my anxiety, hoping the show will break even and people will buy enough beer to keep the venue open another week."
4. Embrace the therapeutic aspects.
"People need the familiar, but they crave the unfamiliar. Music is always trying to balance the known with the unknown. But drone rejects all that. It hums in infinitely repeating tones, it pushes the ears and mind into a state of stasis, of the infinite still. And that’s where you really look at yourself, at your garbage life and how entirely magical it all is, and get a real sense of the possibility in every single moment, every single breath. Like all good therapy, drone is all about being right here right now."
5. Represent your city/state/country.
"It can be challenging to organize a nation-wide party. I feel a strong responsibility to make sure everyone feels [welcome]. With events like Drone Day, creating space for geographically disparate droners can be tough. It’s easy to have multiple Drone Day celebrations in Toronto, but finding, inviting, and encouraging droners on Prince Edward Island or in the Northwest Territories is substantially more difficult.
When it comes to geographical outsiders, it’s similar to my work of getting more women involved in Wyrd: I ask people, try to find and resolve any barriers, look for invisible barriers and try to solve those too. I work at it. It’s hard to get diversity but not impossible, and totally worth it. Some parts are easy, like ensuring the language I use is welcoming. Some parts are hard, like accepting that there aren’t a lot of droners in Nunavut."
6. DIY, DIY, DIY.
"On top of geography and inclusivity, [other challenges include] the absolute lack of resources for community organized and do-it-yourself initiatives. Major cultural institutions in Canada are internationally renowned for getting a lot of funding, but weirdo artists and communities are almost always passed over.
Events like Drone Day are organized in collaboration with community-focused small venues and independent record stores. They emerge out of the generosity, creativity, and excitement of experimental musicians and community organizers. These people often pay out of pocket to do the work of organizing community events: everything from posters to PA rentals to making drone tea."
7. Make it bigger than music.
"Canadians are literally dying from mental illness, and the fringe music community is no exception. After some mental health struggles, my friend Emma Fillipoff, simply disappeared into the void. I lost my mentor, Patrick Doyle, to a noose. Every few months I hear about someone else.
There are much bigger numbers of people struggling with mental health issues in shame and silence. There are professional and social consequences [in publicly disclosing mental health issues], and there is even evidence that it changes the way we see ourselves. Experimental music and art communities are full of people battling for their lives, alone and in silence.
People who rise up to seek help meet unending barriers: extreme stigma around support; lack of visible paths to recovery; multi-year waiting lists; and obscenely expensive psychologists. Touring musicians and underemployed artists simply can’t afford to take care of themselves, and often take to self-medicating.
This year, in Toronto we’re hosting “Drone Therapy” at The Music Gallery. It will meld therapeutic drone music with talk therapy and resource sharing, creating a much needed space for community healing. It’s overwhelming and a bit fucked up that our community is DIYing mental health, but it also feels empowering.