Sgott MacKenzie and the art of procrastination

Over a beer last week at the Dutch Tavern, Sgott MacKenzie, the New London artist, musician and children's book author, touched on a subject near to my heart and possibly yours: procrastination.

Of course, different people procrastinate in different ways, which is why I avoid the guilt-inducing "recently watched" section of my Netflix account.

"The way I procrastinate," MacKenzie told me, "is by working on other projects."

I think that's as succinct a statement on the creative temperament as you'll ever hear.

MacKenzie's latest project, on sale at the Custom House Museum in New London, is his second self-published children's book, "The Giant Squid and the Seagull Meet Leviathan."

It's a classic story of learning to accept people who live outside the mainstream of life. In it, the titular mollusk and bird chums investigate the often misunderstood sea monster Leviathan and, after a while, befriend him.

The book is a sequel to his 2008 book "The Giant Squid and the Seagull" and, like that story, this one was written with his now 4-year-old daughter Jasper in mind.

The bespectacled MacKenzie, who has long black hair with a dyed streak down the back, wrote the first book before Jasper was born, he said, in a bid "to become father of the year."

Now, four years on, he wanted to write something that would be appropriate for 5- and 6-year-olds.

"I am thinking about Jasper and where she is going to be as a reader," MacKenzie said.

And writing children's books is perhaps the most accessible thing he's done as an artist, and he's been a guest at local school story hours, a world away from art galleries and rock clubs.

"It's something I did that my mom likes," MacKenzie, who speaks in flat Midwestern tones, said.

Like his sea monster character, MacKenize's artistic life has been informed by the fringes.

Mackenzie, 42, grew up 13 miles outside of Detroit in Livonia, Mich., also the hometown of underground music figure Warren Defever, whose band His Name is Alive released several acclaimed albums on the famous 4AD record label.

MacKenzie knows Defever and has recorded with him.

After graduating from Michigan State, with an interdisciplinary degree in anthropology, psychology and zoology, MacKenzie, inspired in part by Richard Linklater's film "Slacker," moved to Austin, where he drummed in rock bands.

In 2002, he arrived in New London and, along with artist Brian Smith, formed the often brilliant and always beguiling experimental band Total Bolsheviks, who owed more to avant groups such as Lightning Bolt and Melt Banana, than to NL's punk and roots music scene.

In 2010, MacKenzie and Smith reunited in their current noise rock band who have a name unsuitable for PG publications like this one. They're called Ferocious (your favorite word)-ing Teeth, or FFT, and have recorded with ledgendary indie-rock producer Steve Ablini and released their second album in March.

Due to a Midwestern work ethic informed by his Scottish ancestry, MacKenzie's main arch villain is idleness.

"I'm a firm believer that the more you do, the more you do," MacKenzie told me.

What's most appealing about MacKenzie's attitude toward an artistic life is his resistance to specialization.

"At this point, I am so afraid of being compartmentalized, I got really spread out, but processing it is not problematic," he said. "I look at what has to be done next."

MacKenzie tells me that he has a painting due soon and that, while he was writing the book this winter, he finished an album of remixes.

Like most all-over-the-place artists, the clarifying agent is a deadline, real or artificial.

"If I didn't have deadlines, these things would not happen," MacKenzie said.

That rings true.

And so, while I would love to tell you more highlights from my interview with MacKenzie, like how he works in a coffeehouse, lifeguards at Ocean Beach Park and is also a blacksmith, I, too, have a deadline.

Stephen Chupaska is a writer who lives in downtown New London. Email him at schupaska@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @schupaska.

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