Checking In: Future Museums Producer Neil Lord Hops Off the Boat and Rides An Iceberg

Holodeck stablist gets proactive about records, ambient music & Elgin

“As electronic project Future Museums, multi-instrumentalist Neil Lord thrusts the listener further down the spectral whirlpool with a gorgeous, propulsive new single, ‘Rabbit in Passing,’” summates Kahron Spearman. “Modular synth dips into his usual Berlin school/Krautrock and New Age/ambient notions while also providing effortless bounce.”

Photo by Olivia Vale

Austin Chronicle: Where are you sheltering and under what circumstances? Who else is there and how’s that going?

Neil Lord: I’ve been sheltering in my tiny but comfortable home in East Austin. It’s small but our sanctuary, and I live here with my girlfriend and her precocious and incredible 4-year-old daughter. We’re an incredible team and have shown up for one another in innumerable ways. There’s so much support and equal space for autonomy.

“I’m gaining more and more techniques at not just having to play emotional defense, but becoming able to be proactive against fear, depression, and channel those emotions into positive tools for productivity.”

I’ve had so much time to work on new music and collaborate long-distance with many amazing folks I’ve been meaning to start projects with, so that’s been an invigorating response to the widespread terror outside. I’m gaining more and more techniques at not just having to play emotional defense, but becoming able to be proactive against fear, depression, and channel those emotions into positive tools for productivity.

AC: At what point did C-19 shut down operations for you, and what went down with the ship, so to speak, both personally & professionally?

NL: COVID shut down my expectations for the year fairly immediately, but I remained flexible and my new path made itself clear to me incredibly quickly. I never really felt like it was a sinking ship… more like hopping off the boat and beginning to ride the iceberg. My partner Brennan and I recently bought a house in Elgin, so we’re leaving the city and choosing to slow down in a smaller and tight knit rural community.

I feel like it’s the right move for our family and the next chapter in my path as an artist.

AC: As a global culture, people employ music for every purpose imaginable, obviously spanning religion to entertainment and everything in between. What happens to communities like ours when people can no longer access it in person?

“I think this entire experience has proven the fragility of our niche economy. The veil has truly been lifted at this point of how undervalued our community already was.”

NL: I think this entire experience has proven the fragility of our niche economy. The veil has truly been lifted at this point of how undervalued our community already was. What I feel is happening now is the true awakening of our most inherent purpose: making.

I’ve completely reconnected with my curiosity in whole new ways, wanting to learn and approach my music from different angles. A big priority of mine has been to leash my fear and anxiety, and train it to be a productive component in my work. I’ve personally given up on the idea of being a full-time musician.

I know that sounds fatalist and I don’t really mean in that way, but if we’re going to feel fulfilled in the least bit, I think some objective sacrifices are being made, i.e., coming to terms with the fact that touring and live shows might not be a part of our lifestyles for the foreseeable future.

So I’m just rolling with a deep appreciation and respect for the record-making process. I’ve become such a studio hermit. I love it. There are so many endless possibilities.

AC: Everyone’s had to shift or drastically alter their work situation. What does that look like for you?

“I have spent so much money buying records from all my friends on Bandcamp during all of this. My record collection has essentially doubled.”

NL: I was so incredibly lucky to have recently left my decade-plus-long stint working in the service industry for a job working in a tea processing warehouse. We had a couple weeks where our hours were cut, but other than that I’ve worked there with full-time employment ever since. I really feel like I won the lottery in terms of timing taking that job on. I went full-time there literally two weeks before shut down.

It felt fairly cosmic, honestly.

AC: What’s your soundtrack for the apocalypse and what role does music play for you as a fan and scholar of it in times of hardship?

NL: I have spent so much money buying records from all my friends on Bandcamp during all of this. My record collection has essentially doubled. It might be a little bit of a problem on my end, but music plays such a vital role in my life.

As soon as I get up for work, I put on a record. As soon as I get home from work, I put on a record. I’ve been trying to bike at least once a day and always listen to a new album.

I’ve been listening to essentially nothing but ambient music and mood-based instrumental stuff. I’ve bought everything I can get my hands on from this label in L.A. called Seance Centre, so that’s probably the closest thing to a consistent soundtrack. I work in my home studio at least once a day as well too, so obviously everyone in the house is sick of hearing repeated clips over and over again while I’m monitor mixing, haha.


Check out the entire Checking In series.

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