The counting of days of being in isolation has all but stopped for me at this point with everyday being almost identical to the previous with the varied differences of noted entries that I write into my journal to document the highlights of the day and conversations that I might have with friends and colleagues across the globe. To date, the pandemic has hit most of us in a similar manner with some countries being hit harder while other countries like America have been hit extra hard and still not taking it serious. But for artists and creatives, the show must go on which brings us to our next guest in our At Home – Creative Isolation series, Pay Kolmüs. Pay wears quite a few hats in her day to day, yet never seems to mess up her curls in the process. In all of the years that I’ve known her, she’s lived up to the her reputation of getting the job done, being an industry go to and can get you on the guest list of just about any event happening in the city that she calls home, Amsterdam. As with previous guest, I got a chance to chop it up with her in between her busy schedule to talk about today, tomorrow and what’s next.
Skeme – You’re one of the most productive people in the industry that I know but I don’t actually know what you do (laughs)! Jokes aside, you wear multiple hats, you’ve got a who’s who list of artists and creators on speed dial that you can reach out to at any given moment. For those that may not be familiar with your credentials, can you state who you are and what your profession is?
Pay – Hahaha, I guess I do too much. I probably would do more if we had more hours in a day, but I am a big advocate of rather doing one or a few things great/good than doing everything half-assed. I will stick to what I currently do, because I have done so many things in the past. Mainly, I come from a music journalism background, which I have done actively for 15 years. Right now, I still apply this, by doing live interviews on stages at conferences, hosting and presenting panels or live shows. Next to that I am an artist manager/creative consultant. Meaning, I handle the business of several creative talents and I advise and support talent and their team, building brands and businesses. My focus was mainly music, but I have branched out to more areas of the entertainment and creative industry.
Skeme – Your business often takes across the globe to have business meetings whether it’s Los Angeles, New York, London or other destinations, but you’re also able to work from your home office. How has not being able to take a flight from Schiphol to another country affected your work?
Pay – Honestly, it has not affected my work that much as I can do everything from home. The additional value of being in a different city or country to conduct meetings, is the face to face- building a personal relationship. Which always makes for a stronger bond, connection and understanding. But also, meeting new people, networking in other areas through other people. I really miss that, as I always maximize my visits to other places.
Skeme – Has your creative workflow changed during this time in isolation and how are you adapting or shifting your process of thought to function in the present but also knowing that it will be something that has to work when this pandemic is over?
Pay – My creative workflow definitely has changed. It has multiplied times 1000. I have always been able to accomplish more under pressure. I don’t know why, but when I am forced to find ways to get through things, that’s when the greatest ideas rise out of me for some reason. I always look for solutions. I have been dealt really bad cards earlier in my life, so having had experiences where I had to figure stuff out on my own, no matter what hurdles I had, kind of make me comfortable in this situation. Knowing how to navigate. I guess all those (really sad) situations I have been in, in life, are now also revealing to be great lessons to stay calm and immediately see options and solutions. So, my process of thought did not shift at all, it’s something I am used to. Everything I am currently implementing, will stand solid after the pandemic as well, next to the known ways of working.
Skeme – You’ve recently started a new IG Live discussion called What Now where you talk to different creatives about what they are doing during this pandemic. How has the response been so far and are you finding that people are taking away some important information from it?
Pay – Oh man, I can’t even explain how my “What Now?” series has blown my own mind. Thank you for being my first guest by the way. ☺ I literally thought of the idea in the middle of the night, coming forth out of the frustration and despair I saw and heard from a lot of artists. I immediately hit you up and you were down to just do this thing and see where it goes. The response has been amazing and overwhelming even. So many people have hit me up about the talks. Saying they love the talks; they need the talks. They need to hear their peers’ thoughts on how they are coping. And the inspiration of what you can do to keep busy or to keep making art. People are even now “in line” to be a “guest” on my show. Which is super weird to me, but also humbling. I am amazed at the love “What Now?” is receiving. I even got actual work opportunities out of it. People who want to work with me on different projects. So, I could not be more grateful, as I have lost a lot of income due to the Corona crisis as well. It’s not why I initially started it, but definitely a welcoming side-effect.
Skeme – Now that the world has seemed to have come to a standstill, which seems especially odd for a city like Amsterdam, how has your local surroundings changed in terms of local businesses in operation, people interaction and the overall vibe of the city?
Pay – I have mixed views about this. Everything is shut down. Businesses are closed or operating in different ways now. A lot of restaurants had to resort to take-away or delivery only. I am on the board of one of Amsterdam’s most popular venues. They had to close down and it’s been super interesting being part of the think-tank on how to navigate, what scenario’s there are and how to survive as a venue and cultural center. In general, people are not allowed to hang out unless 1,5 meters apart (6 feet for US). You will get fined €400 if you are not abiding by these new rules and measures. On the other hand, people seem more friendly, more relaxed. But then the weather is actually warming up now, since we got shut down in March, it has been nothing but blue skies and sunshine. Normally in Amsterdam it’s all rain and overcast. Because of the great weather, everyone is playing outside, hanging in parks as if there’s a festival going on. Breaking all the rules. Where I live, there are backyard and balcony BBQ parties full on. For three weekends in a row now. The first weekend I called the police three times, simply because it’s unacceptable that people are out here spreading the virus, infecting possibly risk groups, or getting sick taking up beds and ventilators that other people need. On top of that, putting more pressure on the health care workers, possibly causing more people to die from other causes, simply because there are no nurses or doctors available. There are so many things wrong with not socially distancing at this point. The police did NOT show up. Low on capacity they said. So now I am just frustrated and tired. We are all here in quarantine and people are still out here in these parks and backyards as if the world is not in crisis. Very discouraging to see that we deal with human fuckery of this level. Which I am sure Americans fully understand, having to deal with Trump and his supporters. That said, we are actually doing great with flattening the curve, according to the known numbers.
Skeme – Do you have a specific place at home where you work or spend most of your day?
Pay – Skeme you know damn well I live in a shoebox haha! Living in Amsterdam is like Manhattan style; Small place in a big city. My specific workplace rotates between the couch, my bed and the table. That’s it haha.
Skeme – Now that you’re not leaving the house as much, do you find yourself caring less with getting dressed or do you still have a routine that keeps you balanced?
Pay – I never really cared about getting dressed up, so my house outfit does not differ that much from my regular out-the-house outfit. I always dress casually. I actually do go out the house. Take my daily walk (to the grocery store) or jump in my car to take a drive, and sometimes drive somewhere to chill or walk outside of the city. I am happy to have a car, as that is kind of like a virus-free travel pod. This way I am not completely stuck in the city. I also drive to my mom, to check in on her at 1,5 meters distance. Which I feel is still better than FaceTime or something.
Skeme – What’s inspiring you at the moment to stay creative and productive so that when this period of isolation is over, you can set right back in and keep it moving?
Pay – I am inspired by all the creative people I know, still doing what they do, still creating their art and finding ways to connect even more ways to their art. I am inspired by the people that look at this crisis as a blessing to work on themselves, to progress as a person, so they can be and do better. I am inspired by nature getting back to its original state. I am inspired by all the people that are helping others in this time of need, health care workers, but also regular people who, instead of frustrating or crying about their own situation, are helping those who need others more than the usual person. For me, it won’t be “setting right back in” because I am already keeping it moving. And more than before this pandemic even. This crisis has been a blessing to me as well. It smacked me out of my comfort-zone and got me doing things I would never do, and these are things I absolutely LOVE. I could not be happier honestly. (Aside from the fact that I can’t wait to hug friends and family, and travel again.)
Skeme – What does that average day for you look like right now?
Pay – Not to sound like an overachiever or exaggerating, but: Work, work, work, brain overload, work, work, work, brain overload, work, work etc. With brain overload, I mean, so many new simulating impulses and ideas. I haven’t slept proper the past weeks, even though I have time to sleep, my brain won’t shut down. Especially because my Live Talks are in my late evening (due to time differences). Afterwards it takes a few hours before I can calm down.
Skeme – What are you doing to stay mentally and physically healthy?
Pay – Mentally: See the things I just summed up, that inspire me.
Physically: Sheesh. I was going to the gym every other day before this. I honestly have not done any proper workouts since. I walk a lot (almost daily) and I eat healthy. Since January 1, I stopped eating meat and have been cooking vegan dinners. I am not vegan, but 90% of my dinners are. I definitely eat my eggs in the morning. But yeah, since I have been doing that, I lost a lot of (belly) fat and weight. And despite the pretty much non-existing workouts and the gym having closed down, I am still maintaining the same weight and physical state. Lots of fruits and vegetables. Oh, for the past few years I have only been drinking water. It’s not necessarily that I have changed my habits to stay mentally or physically healthy, I have been doing that already. Which is maybe also why I am not having a hard time dealing with “the new world we live in”, my routine is pretty much the same, other than no gym, less meet ups and hanging with friends in person.