Back when live music was still a thing, Eugene musician and visual artist Will Paradis found a very unusual vantage point from which he liked to sketch: the mosh pit at rock shows. “I started to get a following,” Paradis says, from his quick and expressive sketch drawings capturing the band mid-performance.
That following included UK punk bands like Subhumans and The Adicts on tour stops in Eugene. Angelo Moore, lead singer and sax player with Fishbone was also impressed. So were members of the Dean Ween Group.
“Sometimes I would go to present a drawing after the show,” Paradis adds. Other times, the musicians would seek him out “because they saw me doing it,” he says.
With live music on hold, Paradis has kept busy working on visual art and daily music live streams, primarily on Instagram. He performs his own improvisational guitar music at Art4Truth Friday, Aug. 7, at Cowfish as part of First Friday ArtWalk, where all COVID-19 safety protocols will be enforced at the indoor show, including masks and social distancing.
There won’t be any sketching at Paradis’ upcoming show. Instead, Paradis will accompany his own acrylic paintings, which are influenced by abstract expressionism. Paradis’ paintings have been up at Cowfish since early July, and the show wraps up at the end of this month.
Musically, Paradis has the intellectual sense of humor of Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart’s legendary guitarist — and Eugene resident — Zoot Horn Rollo. Rooted in rock ‘n’ roll, the music gets heavy at times, with the unusual grooves and abrasive edges of the Melvins and Primus. A lot of Paradis’ unique sound comes from his unusual technique.
“I play a right-handed guitar left-handed and upside down,” Paradis says, relying heavily on live-looping and effects pedals. He also does some vocal improv. “Where I’m sort of speaking/talking on various topics,” Paradis says, such as art, love as an energy, and — because why not — speaking to whales.
Paradis studied visual art at Plymouth State College in New Hampshire. After moving to Eugene, he worked for a time under the tutelage of the late, reclusive local artist Tom Blodgett. Paradis always had an interest in the guitar, though, and — outside of a few chords and the pentatonic scale — he says he is completely self-taught.
What bridges Paradis’ music and visual art is the pursuit of truth, referenced in Art4Truth, an all-encompassing, umbrella term he uses for his work in both mediums.
He’s also interested in psychonautics — a methodology for describing and explaining the subjective effects of altered states of consciousness and the power of improvisation, or what he calls compositional automatism.
That’s the idea that you can create a flow directly from the unconscious that’s seemingly random but connected by something more than just notes and colors, Paradis says.
Art can even help us understand the universe, he says. “I believe art goes way deeper, at least as deep as science, into the understanding of how the universe works,” Paradis continues. “Collective consciousness is a big part of what I’m about.”
Will Paradis performs as Art4Truth 6 pm Friday, Aug. 7, at Cowfish Dance Club; FREE, 21-plus. There will also be an artist reception at 5 pm. Paradis’ art hangs at Cowfish through the end of August.