HERRON: What advice would you give to young creators about balancing a day job with an art- or music-making practice?

MAYOWA TOMORI: This is this is a total luxury/privilege thing, but if possible, find places that support your side hustle. Or tell a compelling story about how the art helps them. That makes it a lot easier because I've definitely had those jobs where, if I'm working at like a creative agency and tell them we need to take the week off to work on something with Michael, they're usually cool with it.

MICHAEL RUNGE: I think that's an interesting point, because both of our day jobs are adjacent to our dream job. So we also have resources and connections through our day jobs that can support AMPL in some of these fun projects that we're doing, so that that does feel like a privilege for sure.

HERRON: How do you face the blank page, the blank canvas, or the start of a project?

MICHAEL RUNGE: We both kind of approach it with a question like, “What would we want to do as an audience member?” If we were at this thing, what would we be excited about participating in (knowing that we're both a little bit reserved in a public setting)? If we would want to do it, then probably other people would want to do it as well.

We start by using our projects as an excuse to make something that we would be excited to participate in. Also, I think we both just have ideas that we’ve written down that we’re waiting to use until the right moment. And then sometimes when we're presented with an opportunity, that opportunity will inspire something.

So those are the different ways we get started. Something will excite both of us at the same time and then it goes through a period of refinement. Because we’re two different people, there's often miscommunication when we try to explain ideas to each other. So you really have to refine the idea and clarify it, because if you were just one person working by yourself, you never really have to explain it to anybody. We have kind of a built-in filter working as a collective because our idea has to be really clear between us before it has to go out to anybody else.

MAYOWA TOMORI: Maybe one of the things about working remotely and not doing this stuff together is that we often sketch using tools like Figma to bridge the gap between his and my brain. What’s always funny is that whenever we look back at past projects, you can always see which one is a Michael illustration and which one is a Mayowa illustration. Michael has a 3-dimensional, architecture background so he can make these great renderings, and then I’m like, “Put these three GIFs together and draw a smiley face over it.”

I also think that maybe it's actually just as simple as having known each other a while, so there's some trust. That makes it easier for getting things out and not taking things too seriously. In one of our early projects—do you remember the cookie, Michael? Flipping your cookie? We were working on a project together and had reached some sort of impasse and we didn't know which way to go. So we just flipped the chocolate chip cookie, and then whichever side it landed on, it was our path.

HERRON: If you were talking to an incoming Herron student, who are some people you’d recommend getting to know right away?

MAYOWA TOMORI: I think the first person that comes to mind is Jordan Munson. Jordan has a relationship to the local music scene and also I think to the museum scene.

There's a lecturer in the music technology program [Chuiyuan Meng] who teaches all the web classes and coding classes. He's just a good person to have a relationship with to be able to write your own code or build your own project software.

And then Scott Deal is someone who showed me that an artist's career was possible. He also has a sick studio in his basement. A lot of the first projects I worked on were funded by grants he had written. He’d written this crazy opera and had a bunch of universities came together across different time zones to perform it over the Internet. I realized, “Oh, you can get people to pay you to do stuff.” I grew up as a regular working-to-middle-class immigrant and my only career paths were doctor, engineer, or lawyer. Dr. Deal was super helpful in making me realize how art was funded.

MICHAEL RUNGE: Jamie Pawlus, Brian McCutcheon, and Greg Hull were my trifecta of people that I remember being super supportive. I think it might be different now, but I remember Herron having sort of a traditional edge to a lot of classes, but Jamie, Brian, Greg, and the whole sculpture department were okay with weird. It was really encouraging to have people that I admired and respected getting excited about nontraditional creative stuff and being weird.

HERRON: Is there anything you’d like to share with our audience that we haven’t covered yet?

MICHAEL RUNGE: I think we’re both really grateful for the projects that we've gotten to work on and every time that we get to work on another, it feels like, “Oh my God, this is crazy.” We're still able to do this stuff and people invite us into their space to create something that feels cool.

MAYOWA TOMORI: I mean, I think this is sort of a cliché, but relationships are important. The whole reason I got into the music technology program is because I knew Jordan Munson outside of the program. I knew him through something called Dorkbot, which was essentially a hardware hacking group. So I went to this thing because I was trying to build an electronic drum machine and thought they might be able to help me.

The whole Beam Camp project turned into our biggest funded permanent installation because Michael worked there for a summer and made a great impression and stayed in contact with them.