100 Creatives: No. 93 Enigmatic Musician George Quartz
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Mixmaster presents "100 Creatives," in which we feature cultural entrepreneurs of Dallas in random order. Know an artistic mind who deserves a little bit of blog love? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the whos and whys.
When you have an appointment to meet George Quartz, there's necessarily some uncertainty about who will show up. Will you be speaking with Bryan Campbell, the man behind the man George Quartz? Or should you prepare yourself for the flurry of ostrich feathers and blaze of neon light that would appropriately accompany his alter ego? Should you address him as Bryan or George? We recently took time to investigate, and to ask him about The Last Resort, a musical trilogy that he recently performed in cooperation with local artist and curator Arthur Peña.
Each installment of the trilogy had a unique theme -- replete with elaborate sets, costumes and makeup -- and was hosted at a different warehouse space in west Dallas. This is only the latest from a performer who has seemed to be an omnipresent fixture in the Dallas art and music scene in recent years. George Quartz is likely to appear just about anywhere, whether it's on stage performing live music, as a DJ at the next big party, the host at your next karaoke night, on an excursion to the Texas Theater or on your TV. He jokingly says that he has his hands in so many pots because he's a "jack-of-all trades, master of none," but the way he has commanded an audience this spring has hardly been short of masterful.
What's the George Quartz origin story? Why the alter ego?
I'm a big fan of old Hollywood and show business. It's a good way to separate yourself from what you do. It gives me a lot more freedom. I can be a pompous asshole as George Quartz. Jewish performers used to change their last names to sound less ethnic. I wanted a name reminiscent of that - -a succinct, easy to remember, two-syllable name. Quartz is a play on the last name Diamond, or Silver. Something that sounds elemental, that reflects light. It's silly but it works.
Does George Quartz the persona have different values from you?
Lately, he's much darker. He embodies the ego run rampant. But George Quartz is an empty vessel -- I can make him who I want him to be.
You seem to have lots of different creative outlets. Are they all equally important to you?
Right now my focus is music. I've also done a little bit of acting, and I used to sculpt. I have to do one thing at a time. Music overlaps into other things sometimes, as far as building sets, shooting video, performance, etc. I can sort of do all of them. When you're sculpting or painting you're just sitting in a room by yourself. I like that too, but I haven't had a lot of time for that.
You're coming off The Last Resort. How do you feel in its wake? Was it everything you had imagined it would be?
Yeah, it was as close to what I imagined as possible. I'm surprised. We didn't have any major problems.
Where did the idea for the trilogy come from?
I've played around with these themes in the past. I've always been obsessed with ancient Rome. And we've had similar sets. In the second show, we had these ostrich feather palm trees. They look like they're from a really scuzzy, LSD Miami. I've always liked that Miami Vice world -- the neon-lit city streets. We've used those palm trees before and I really like those. They're really lightweight. I was going to get my own ... it turns out ostrich feathers are really expensive.
What was your creative process in developing the three shows?
I actually wrote a treatment that laid out my intention for the shows. It's hard to figure out what you're doing sometimes. I just do things -- whatever seems right. I bring a lot of weird things together and it works. There's no logic to it at all, but I can tell when it's not right
So, you don't go in with a working thesis that everything has to adhere to?
No. I've changed things last minute. The discotheque show was originally going to have a shopping mall theme. We were bouncing ideas around, and it seemed really forced. The discotheque idea ended up being so much easier. Instantly it was perfect.
I gather there's a lot of improvisation that goes into your live performances.
The whole show's improvised. I'll tell the band, "start out slow, get faster," or, "be really heavy the entire time." The first show started out slow and built to a disco tempo. The second show was beach themed, so I wanted the music to be more tropical, and influenced by island music. For the final show, I told them to go really crazy from the beginning, and that's what they did.
I'm gonna take a little break. I definitely can't continue to do stuff on this big of a scale without some kind of financial support. I want to get more into video and film. I'd like for it to be music-related as well. As far as playing live, I think I'll be going more in the minimal direction, just to take it easy for a while.
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