“Koi husbandry is nothing short of managing a biological hazard on a medium to large scale. Imagine you are a small, plastic diver in a fishtank. You’ve got your opening and closing clamshell, treasure chest, maybe a little castle. And amid all of the algae and scum is that hapless diver, surrounded by a world of filth.”
Stephen feels a responsibility toward his aquatic allies, and does his best to protect them from both the dangers of fish fudge and the reality of natural predators. Raccoons, herons, hawks—there are a cavalcade of creatures with sharp claws and deadly jaws ready and waiting to feast upon the happy koi fish that greet Stephen during each morning stroll.
Thankfully, his creativity in environmental development carries over to his backyard ecosystem.
“I used some of my skills from the game world to design a ‘koi-zebo’ and formulated a plan to construct a safe house for them,” Stephen points out. “I contacted a local contractor who specialized in repairing local Victorian homes, and he took my plans to construct such an enclosure with removable, screened side panels that is both functional and now a structural element in my backyard tiki garden."
“The herons and raccoons still skulk around my yard at night, but the likes of my koi: Sparkle the Wonderfish, The Caped Crusader, Albert Finney, Strudel Von Karpenburg, the Iron Chef, Studio 54, and Captain Jack (he was promoted) can all sleep in relative safety from enemies of an avian and mammalian nature.”
The rhythmic buzzing of the bees and quick fin strokes of the koi are far from the only musical influences in Stephen’s life. As the frontman for the thunderous, lumbering noise band, Slug, Stephen provided vocals and banged on metal stuff—from fire hose-box covers, to stolen bike racks, and all the way to jet fighter exhaust pipes—from 1989 to 1996. The six-man group produced multiple albums comprised of rapid songs with lots of feedback, metal clanging, and noise. When live, experimental improvisation led to scratching LPs with knives to make skipping loops to woo hungry crowds of audiophiles.
“Threads of collaboration came into play for me and there were no wrong answers for us as a collective. We were loud, ugly, noisy, and at times, contemplative, quiet, mysterious, and even pretty,” he recalls. “Live, we wanted to put out a heart-thudding, body-vibrating show of trance-like monotony. Eventually, in the end, our songs got longer and longer, and we started incorporating everything from sampling, scratching, breaking sheets of glass, to building our own microphones, amps, and effects pedals.”
Slug may no longer be active, but Stephen continues to feed his love of the medium through a weekly radio show, The Molotov Cocktail Hour, that he’s lovingly produced for the last 28 years.
"My show is the thing that’s remained constant over the years. I definitely have a particular lens for music, but my show is about connecting the dots. It comes through my ear, the sounds that I like, and I mix them, blend them within this certain sound period or sound idiom."