I’ve spent my life as a late bloomer, perpetually running to catch up. I was late into my teens before I even knew that I could sing, into my twenties before starting to play guitar, in my late twenties before I was in a band writing my own songs, and only years later would release my first album. Chasing the clock, hoping to catch up before time runs out.
I was born and raised in the hills and valleys of West Virginia, a land of contradictions itself – a place of conservative values and union labor, of startling beauty and stifling poverty, of struggle and soul. It was here that I had my first musical experiences, from the traditional country gospel of my ancestors to sneaking into my older sisters’ bedroom to pilfer and explore their collection of 45s, pretending I was giving concerts, using the bed as a stage.
Reading the stories on this website is a humbling experience, seeing that every person has been through so many things — both good and bad — and it only goes to show the evils of ignorance and presumptions, which may just rid one of many a great encounter. At the same time, acknowledging the scope of everybody’s inner world can become a maddening experience. When stuck in traffic or when boarding a bus, the realization that everyone there has a family to go home to (or not), with their own individual problems and pockets of happiness, who are having children, each with their own proper names and lives, etc., etc. can drive one crazy.
Did you know that there is a word for this? Sonder, or “the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own.” I am afraid some people never have this feeling, which is unfortunate for themselves and everyone around them. But I am also convinced that an artist cannot live without it. The artist manages to internalize other people’s stories and turn them into art: in doing it, the artist makes the ocean’s vastness intelligible, drop by drop. In keeping with this analogy, we find that some stories are constantly and haphazardly pumped from the water’s surface, whereas others must be sought for at the depth of the Mariana trench.
I fear that my story belongs to the latter category, but don’t pity me because I’ve already come to terms with obscurity. Now let this be the introduction to my own little story about how a Dutch bloke decided to write an album based on the first publication by America’s greatest author.
Diving At Dawn has always been a frustrating stop-start affair for me. I’ve never been able to be genuinely productive and build momentum with it because I find working alone so tricky. As part of a band or production team, I’m pretty efficient, but when the responsibility falls solely upon my shoulders, I become a procrastinating perfectionist of epic proportions. The lack of productivity in my solo work has caused me a fair bit of anxiety over the years, but I’ve always been busy enough with other projects to distract myself. However, in 2022 my anxiety levels went through the roof. Unfortunately, age, experience, budget constraints, and technology have all conspired against me, thus turning Diving At Dawn into a genuine one-person band.
Mrs. Penny was one of those teachers you remember – she encouraged me, enjoyed my stories, and often read them to the class. She told me to study sciences for a better-paid job, and off down that road I skipped studying engineering. But as Iggy Pop once quipped, if you’re creative, there’s something inside you, and it needs to get out…
Million Pebble Beach is my chosen “Nom de Guerre” – a nod to a local artist and the area (Pete Codling’s One Million Pebbles project in Portsmouth).
The Pilgrim is the artistic name I gave myself as a singer-songwriter and guitar player because I’ve done and studied so many different stuff, lived in many places, traveled and changed my life more than once. I’ve lived many lives in one, in the search for myself, guided by inspiration, challenging myself, learning so much and preserving my essence and sensitivity.
I live for freedom, truth, justice, compassion and altruism. I want to get moved, I want to cultivate special experiences, relationships and feelings, I want to investigate the dark sides of the soul.
They sat in that window seat for 5 days as we moved through the house as normal, 106 Erlanger Road in London. We had a pact in that house that came from somewhere deeply rooted, you could feel it in the wooden corridors, in the table, the cups and furniture, it said, you’re ok – whatever is happening inside and outside, we got you.
15 of us shared the space, the landlord, living out in the countryside, set it up years before to be a kind of sanctuary I guess. They interviewed prospective tenants and also trusted friends of friends to fill the rooms.
Music ebbs and flows, back into time immemorial and forward into the unknown future. I was late to the party, learning instruments and theory as a self-funded young adult long ago.
After many years of compiling former band and personal demos for my own interest, I thought it was time to finish an album for release. Sea to City began with a bunch of “lost” songs from other abandoned collaborative projects and a cover concept. The songs seemed to join hands as a thematic collection, so I then wrote into the spaces, and painted the cover to go along with them.
As Ralph Waldo Emerson – the great American Individualist and Transcendentalist – once said: “All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better”. And so, the new Zonn mini-album “Songs Of Truth And Freedom” started off, as many experiments do, with the inventor watching the world around and perceiving that something needed to be done. This approach, coupled with my fondness for re-writing old tunes, led to the interpretation of a 1980s new-socialist stalwart into a novel anthem for the 2020s.
Some of my favorite moments and memories consist of being out on the road wearing a hat over greasy hair and some of the same travel clothes for days. Stepping out of the van barefoot to see the sights, the wind blowing my clothes as I look out over the expanses, I feel free of earthly possessions, free of the need to control how I look and feel, and free of the expectations of the outside world. Truly anonymous in a hat, I travel from town to town in and out of diners and cafes with my face slightly obscured. I’m just a traveler blowing through, never promising anything to anyone. I’m a transient presence for a moment and then I’m gone.