Creative-Class Nomads

Jefferson Reid & Tina King

| July / August 2005

They met in the Chicago caf? where he liked to draw his cartoons. The sketches made her laugh, she says. Later he bought her a drink at the Zebra Lounge. The night ended over pancakes, and they've pretty much been together ever since.

What 'together' means for Jefferson Reid and Tina King is hard to guess, and neither is talking. It's clear they have a creative partnership that has survived several genres and almost as many towns; they're freelance nomads of the new economy trailing the work from Chicago to New York to Los Angeles. Jeff, who has contributed both articles and cartoons to Utne, writes and edits for various L.A. Web sites, including IFILM and E! Online. Tina is a singer and photographer when she's not helping her collaborator on screenplays and other projects.

It was Tina who got Jeff to pick up his electric guitar after a long break and help her make a CD. They'd been at the clubs enjoying L.A.'s eclectic music scene when she had a revelation. 'If you're spending that much time listening to others create,' she says, 'you really ought to be putting your own ideas out there.'

It took about $3,000 to set up a digital recording studio, they say, and three years to master the basics of sound engineering. 'The financial outlay might be small, but the psychic costs are high,' Jeff says. Tina objects: 'Don't tell people that! It will discourage them from finding out for themselves.'



Their CD, Crazy Like Crazy, is a collage of sampled riffs, guitar licks, and lyrics that captures a bit of the vibe of Los Angeles, which Jeff describes as a big dirty urban place with its own 'crazy beauty.' They're building a Web site (www.neonlava.com) where others can hear a track or two.

Critics lament that a few huge companies now produce most popular music and film, but not all the fallout is toxic. Because the corporate products have gotten so bland, and the gear for making them so cheap, people like Jeff and Tina are realizing it's better to be their own media empires. The revenues might not get you a house in the Hollywood Hills, but there will always be late-night pancakes. And if it keeps you and a soul mate in the pairs event for an olympiad or two, that's solid gold.