Steven Archer Rants: Writers Block

One of our most popular segments the thoughts and musings of Artist, Writer, Musician Steven Archer (Stoneburner/Ego Likeness). This time discussing writers block. A topic that has surely plagued me the last two weeks.

The Creative Block

This is for those of you who identify as artists. You know who you are.

Maybe you do it as a hobby, maybe full time. But that is how you see yourself.

“But Steven I don’t see myself as that.”

Then don’t fuckin worry about it. You’re either saying that because you really mean it, and that’s totally fine. Or you’re saying that as a way of staying safe, so that if someone calls you on something that you make you can say “well I’m not really an artist.” In which case, you are correct. You’re a student, (totally fine, we are all students) someone who just doodles for fun (also fine if you enjoy it) or a coward (much less fine, commit to the bit, let yourself get hurt.)

The medium you work in, or the tools you use are irrelevant. They do not define your job. They might from a marketing standpoint, but not internally, inside you’re just one of the tribe.

The physical act of making the thing, it’s a just a small part of your real actual job which is… ideas.

Playing ,”what if,” or “make believe,” or whatever you want to call it.

“But Steven I do photorealistic illustrations.”

Good for you, it’s still the same thing, because you are drawn to specific things to do those illustrations of. What you put out into the world is still influenced by you and your aesthetics if not ideas.

Why am I talking about this?

Because some of you are running around saying “I have a creative block! I can’t come up with new ideas!”

Shut up.

Of course you can.

You already have.

You have tons of ideas, and if you don’t, then you may want to reevaluate how you see yourself.

Because, again, it’s your job.

Here’s the situation.

It’s not that you don’t have ideas.

It’s that you are scared to implement them because you are worried you will get laughed at by…. someone?! Who, dunno.
But for some reason you just don’t see yourself as the type of person who does ,”X.”

Too bad.

The world needs more ,”X.”

And if you are reeeeeeally really stuck, and just can’t produce something you’ve already done, the problem isn’t the ideas, it’s you.

Garbage in, garbage out.

If you keep rehashing the same shit, it’s because you aren’t feeding your brain new information. Pick up a book. Pick up ten, twenty, five hundred, live other people’s lives, write their songs, paint there stories, look through their eyes.

You need to be fascinated by things.

And the more things that you are fascinated by, the wider the range of ideas you have to draw from.

Otherwise you’re not making art.

You’re performing a trick.

It may be a good trick, but if it’s the only one you know, then that’s all it is.

It’s a craft.

A series of actions that anyone can do that will eventually yield a similar result.

Like basket weaving.

Which is, again, totally fine.

If you want to weave baskets, fuckin do it.
But don’t run around expecting applause.

Because in the end, art is as much about the person that the work is filtered through as it is about the work itself. And the wider the width and breadth of your interests and knowledge the larger the vocabulary you will have available to express your ideas about a wider range of subjects.

“But steven, all I do is paint the same thing over and over with vaguely different permutations.”

That’s not art.

Even if people put it up on their walls.

Now, the fact that you have convinced people that your trick is worth spending money on and putting on their walls… that could very well be art. In which case, well fuckin done.

*Yes yes, baskets can be art.

Look, I get it, you vaguely feel attacked, so you want to try to pedantically find little shit to bitch about, because if you can tear down one aspect then hopefully the rest will fall down and you don’t have to take it seriously and you can keep just farting around and blaming other shit for your shortcomings. But that is just Soooooo fuckin tedious. If you used the time and effort you put into your defense mechanisms to pop a few humility pills and just got to work, we wouldn’t even be having this hypothetical conversation.

Really. Try it.

Or keep making excuses while knowing down in your secret heart that you’re just a coward.

Steven Archer Rants #9 Ten Rules For Artists

I’m a full time artist.
I have been for the last 10 years.

But I’ve been doing it my whole life.

My wife is a horror author (look up Donna Lynch on amazon if you’re curious).

We have multiple music projects that have run the last 20 years. Touring, releasing records etc.

I have a children’s book and a few others books out there, I do cover art for our publisher and used to do illustration for weird tales.

I make the majority of our money by selling art to customers directly through Facebook. And do commission work that runs from 300-17,000.

If you’re looking for advice it’s this.

1. If you really want to do the thing you have to build your life around that idea. You have to be willing to sacrifice your comfort and sometimes relationships in order to get there.

By which I mean, you have to want to do it enough to be willing to stick with your hopes and dreams and not become part of someone else’s.

And by build your life around it, I mean exactly that. We live in the middle of nowhere to keep costs down. We don’t and won’t have children for the same (among many other reasons.)

2. It will take infinitely longer than you feel like it should.

I’m pushing 50, we have managed to stay above the poverty line for the last 6-7 years or so.

3. And I can’t stress this one enough.

You have to put in the work.

I mean all the fuckin time.

I’ve done thousands of paintings, even more sketches, dozens of sculptures, released 50+ records, written hundreds of songs, played shows without number, curated art shows, owned a gallery, written music for NASA. And on and on.

Even now, I get up every day and I go into whatever studio makes the most sense and I work. I take a break to eat at some point, and then I work until I pass out.

It took a long time for my wife to really get that what I do is more important than everything, including her. I love her very much and I am always there for her when she needs me, but I am not always going to be around.

After 20+ years of this, touring together etc we have a pretty good system.

4. Make as much work as possible and give it away. Just get rid of it and move on to the next.

Learn to work fast and fluid. Don’t make your work precious.

Make it, get rid of it, forget about it.

When I put an album out, I do the standard promotional stuff, videos, whatever, but I’m already working on the next one, and probably thinking about the one after that.

5. We live in the future, take advantage of that.

A few years back I did a tarot deck, each card hand drawn. It took two and a half months to do all 78 cards.

It was worth it, they look great and it’s sold well.

A year or so later I got an iPad Pro and an Apple Pencil. I did an 60 something page illustrated book on it in two weeks.

Or, I blocked out the majority of a record for one of my projects while on tour for another by writing it on my iPad in the van. When I got home I dropped all the pieces into the studio and finished the rest in a week.

Take advantage of other shit too.

I block my paintings out in my iPad. Set up my projector and spend a few hours laying out a dozen pieces with graphite directly on the canvas to paint later.

I could do it the old fashioned way, but why bother? It ends up the same and this saves me time.

6. Read.
All the time.
Working in a painting? Listen to an audio book.

The more information and ideas you have in your head, the larger variety of ideas you will have to put into your work.

Human brains are connection machines. Learn to use yours.

7. See a therapist, if you need to get on meds, get on meds. The idea that artists need mental illnesses to be creative is ridiculous.

And the idea that meds make you less creative is also ridiculous.

If you go on meds and that happens you’re on the wrong ones. Talk to your doctor and find the right ones. It may take time and multiple tries. But it will be worth it in the long run.

My wife and I are both mentally Ill, and we have worked our asses off to get well enough that we are able to do what we do without year long gaps caused by depression or worse.

As she says “I am not creative because of my mental illness I am creative in spite of it.”

8. Don’t fall into the idea that drugs make you creative.

By all means, experiment, do the thing. I’ve done plenty and I don’t regret it.

But drugs aren’t bringing anything new to the table. All they are doing is scrambling your brain chemestry. You can get there on your own.

Though you may learn a thing or two from your explorations.

9. I said reading, but I also mean keep working on your education. Learn constantly. Be curious.
I am forever fascinated by how things work. And I spent a lot of time learning about that kind of thing, because it’s interesting and you never know when it might be useful.

And finally
10. Know thyself.


Spend a lot of time thinking about your motivations. What gets you off? What do you love about art? Why do you want to do it? Why do you do it? Why do you love your life? How can you contribute to the world? What makes your voice special? (And believe me, you better find something or you’re not going to work hard enough to get your work out there.)

You have to deeply love being you, or at least believe on a fundamental level that what you are bringing to the table matters.

Otherwise, why bother doing it?

If you need my bonafides, here’s a link to a bunch of prints so you can see my painting chops.

You can look up “ego likeness” or “stoneburner,” (the electronic industrial band not the sludge metal band from PORTLAND with the same name) if you are interested in the music.

And if you want to know more about my other shit, you can hit my personal page, it’s all there.

Steven Archer Rants #8 Choosing A Band Name

Hear once again the words of Steven Archer of Ego Likeness, Stone Burner

“On picking band names.”

Band names need to do a couple of things to function.

1. The main one is be memorable and easy to say. Ego Likeness is not the best people are always like “eagle kindness?”

2. Not be a common search term. Don’t pick a piece of technology like “router” or some shit.

3. Not limit you. “Fetal death exposition,” won’t be doing many ballads, where as both Stoneburner and Ego aren’t limited by the names themselves.

4. Be easy to abbreviate or simplify.
It took us years to figure out how to put “Ego Likeness” on a square sticker in a readable size.

For those keeping track.

Big E G O little Likeness below.

This is important because if it gets projected on the wall behind you on stage you want it to use all the space and be readable in the back.

5. It helps to have good concepts behind them. All of my bands, Ego, Stoneburner, QueenNeon, Oscellus, and Hopeful Machines have cool concepts or ideas.

6. Listen to this before you make a final choice.

Stoneburner: Red in Tooth and Claw

This will be my third review of the Steven Archer project Stoneburner. I’m lucky to be in close contact with Steven who is a bit of a pioneer not just in music and art but also in his interaction with fans. When it comes to allowing you an inside glimpse behind the curtain of his artistic process and an active effort to engage with thoughts and questions he sets the standard. As someone who has followed closely the releases of this project I continued to be impressed by the way each offering reveals a new head of this hydra breathing a new kind of energy. Red in Tooth and Claw does this with a rolling thunder of napalm. In parallel to April’s release Massdriver , this EP follows the story of a world destroyer. This time taking the form of an enormous rampaging wolf.

Bandcamp and Patreon links :

This record gets back to the core concept of industrial sound for me. It is heavy breathing machinery powerful and hydraulic. I feel the struggle of two clashing forces. The rampaging fiery beast, and the indomitable will of the modern world. Building sounds and textures on top of each and releasing the tension at that essential moment are trademarks of Stoneburner. I feel the fresh element here is how clean and isolated each of those parts are as they fit into the world that was created. Instead of a blending buzzing chaos, here my ear is drawn to shining aspects, only pulling back to see the whole picture in revealing moments of power. It is music that sounds like my mind would process data.

Sounds and Shadows Podcast with Steven Archer

Red in Tooth and Claw – Open with the teeth and meat. That’s just what this EP does. The creature stalks forward, slow and deliberate. Waiting for the moment to charge. Stevens vocals ring with a clarity until those slashing claws of distortion crush down on concrete and feel the crumbling buildings give way beneath their weight. Just like an attacking animal the onslaught is furious and abrupt drawing back to view the damage.

The Wolf World – Here the beast is running fast, closing the distance, in full flight or fight mode. You can feel the muscles, and sinew expanding and contracting. The wind rushing through fur. The hunger on the breath. The vocals build in chanting cadence with the pounding guitar in a Psalm 69 feel. Unbridled aggression and boundless freedom.

And All Things End – Here the heavy breath of post battle. I see a broken field of bones and ruin. A chance to observe the destruction of a world and the birth of a new one. The simple but powerful beat change really changes the tone and matches the vocals with a more melodic and introspective quality.

My Love is Never Ending – I love the change up to a dance beat feel. Again taking ideas and sounds which are familiar in old school industrial. Just taking that armor plating and giving it spikes and flamethrowers. This song has what i think of as night driving power. That song you put on when you are rolling down Woodwood avenue in Detroit at 1am with the window down feeling the wind hit your face. It’s a drastic break from the other songs on the EP and one that adds a needed contrast. Something to sharpen the other edges.

I’m Not Done – Who is the Alpha? What is made of cloth?
How do you say you’re sorry?
And there’s nothing to be afraid of

This is a cover of Swedish band Fever Ray off their self titled record from 2009. It’s a powerful closer where the drums have an intricate use of sounds that hold melody beyond the percussion. Steven uses a seldom heard vocal style with an almost Peter Gabriel quality. For this in spite of being a cover it ended up being such a powerful track for me.

Original Fever Ray version of I’m Not Done

In closing Stoneburner continues to find a way to make me more of a fan with every release I hear. This is no small feat. At the rate Steven is putting out art and music the true fear is stagnation. So far I see nothing but a boundless energy to charge in new directions at full steam. I feel envious whenever I hear a new Stoneburner release because it seems to never feel like the last offering was enough. Always reading, researching, refining, growing, that hunger inside Steven to find a new story and a better way to feel it never gets quenched. As long as that keeps being true, I will keep telling you that you need to buy this record. You need to buy this record.

Steven Archer Rants #7 Breaks

More wisdom from Steven Archer, who just dropped a new album I will be reviewing soon 🙂

A while back a friend of mine said to me “you got all the lucky breaks.”

And I’ve been thinking about this a lot. Because my immediate thought was ,”no I haven’t.”

But I wanted to do my due diligence and really think it through.

So I went way back in time…
In high school my Junior and Senior years I was good enough at art to enter a program where they shipped me across town three days a week for three or four periods a day to take art at a vocational school. The year between my Junior and Senior year I took a “portfolio development,” class at Corcoran in DC. Where I would eventually return and get my Bachelors if Fine art (painting).

During that time I started showing and selling my work a Sci-Fy conventions, and later bars, clubs, bookstores, galleries and anywhere else that would let me toss my shit on their walls.

Eventually I got married, we started the bands, and I came under people’s radar that way.

We got our first record deal because we played out enough that the record label came to us.

Donna, my wife, and I both got our publishing deals because the publisher happened to once have been in a band that opened for us early on, and we knew them casually. And it all come together because of that.

Both D and myself have a STACK of rejection letters (back when you got physical letters for such things.)

I started working with Weird tales magazine, because I had made plans to do a 365 days of Blasphemous horror, as a way of hopefully driving traffic to my various pages. We were at a convention pimping our books and they were right across the aisle from us. So I literally just walked over there, told them my idea, showed them my work as a way of making sure they knew I had my chops, and we started the next week.

All of this happened because I stuck myself out there and I practiced making the things I need to make, and put them out into the world in any way I could. I wrote people I made them aware of what I do, and I followed through with all of it.

The only break I can really think of, is my amazing mother who never said ,”this art thing is a bad idea,” and put me through school. At no point had a hand reached down from heaven and said ,”because you are you, I’m going to elevate you to the exclusion of others.”

Every other “break,” has been the result of my ridiculous work ethic and not being scared to put myself out there and say “hey! Let’s do this thing!”

Eventually enough people thought I was good enough that now sometimes people come to me and say “hey! Let’s do this thing!” And we do the thing.

Of everyone I know in the industry…
I cannot think of one person who got “the big break.”

Occasionally you may end up under the right persons eye at the right time. But if you don’t have the chops that eye will pass right over you and move along never to return.

So even if you end up in that situation. You have to have done the work or it just won’t matter. Full stop.

There are no big breaks, there is just work. And if you are putting all your eggs in this basket your work ethic, is the Only thing you can count on.

And while I’m at it…

Being good doesn’t mean people will care about what you make.
You can do all this work, and nothing may come of it. So if you’re doing it because you want recognition then you are in for a long slow painful rude awakening.

The only reason to do this, is because it is what you do. It is more important than anything. Including your own comfort and happiness.

So, there you go.
No breaks, no comfort, no Easter bunny, and no uncle Mikey…