Stepping into the slender apartment of Gary Llama is like stepping into an art show, collided with recording studio, with fliers remnant of an old punk house. All of it pieces of the multi-faceted life led by Mr. Llama. It is here in this older fan apartment, that Gary tries to explain his latest works, a series of two singles, ‘Burn it all Down’ (2017) and ‘Power!’ (2016), both of which are something of a departure from his previous works, and his last full length, 2016’s ‘The Beauty of Music’.
‘Ever since Imagination Society, I’ve been just more electronic, more beat oriented’, Gary explains. ‘You know I got into this from Dub, like, thats what inspired me to go to recording, and I just realized last year, that the Imagination Society stuff was basically dub.’ Imagination Society was a side project of Mr. Llama’s, one of a few under different aliases, culminating with a couple of hip-hop departures, one, a collaboration with Richmond hip-hopper, Ben FM, and with the most recent, a group, ‘Mineral Writes’ formed with Brooklyn-based emcee Timbo King.
The latest single, ‘Burn It all down’, pulls the electronic elements from Gary’s work as Imagination Society, and combines it with his more established, punk rock approach. Lyrically, waxing about his personal process of non-attachment. The song is something of a narrative on his personal habits of minimal living, told in spirit of his insistence on personal process over ‘clever product’. ‘I get bogged down with stuff, like things in my surroundings.’ Gary says. ‘…I don’t know if it’s introvert shit, or fucking just craziness, or it could be Autism’ (Ed. Gary’s daughter is Autistic, and he suspects the trait in himself.) ‘…but I find myself needing to restart, clear space, physical space, to clear mental space, and then I’m good.’.
Gary Llama began playing music while still in grade school. Within a few years, he was writing and recording his own songs primitively on a 2-track recorder. In middle school he discovered punk rock, and formed his first band, Golden Llamas. Over the next few years, the band discovered punk rock, and renamed themselves 500$Fine, playing clubs around the area, and supporting causes relative to the punk music community. In 1996, Gary began also playing guitar with the band Shitload of Pain. In 1997, following the death of his friend and 500$fine bassist, Patrick Daly, he formed One Voice, One Life, Resist! records to release the final 500$fine recording. And that fall, began working on acoustic music as an experiment. This music became the blueprint for the work that would become ‘Silence Is Suicide’, Gary’s first solo work.
Over the next few years, Gary wrote and recorded more of this solo work, releasing the recordings to friends under the names ‘Silence Is Suicide’ and ‘Fbox’. But most of Gary’s focus was in the studio, working both as a freelance recording engineer, and later, at his mastering faciliy, MortarWorks mastering.
In 2004 though, this all changed. Gary became plagued with increasing health problems and, after shutting the studio down, and going through a divorce from his longtime partner, found himself in a deep depression with new health obstacles to overcome. So he began reading. And with the reading Gary began writing short essays, and painting. In 2010, after a four year hiatus, he began making instrumental music under the name ‘Cinema Society’, releasing a series of EPs. In 2014, he continued that work into a new realm, under the name ‘Imagination Society’, all the while releasing new music under his own name.
He also began publishing both his essays, and documentations of his art, in both book and zine form. His first two books, ‘Leave Nothing of Value’, and ‘Millions’ were catalogs of two years worth of art installations. In 2014, he published a collection of his essays, ‘An Index of Around Me’. In 2015, he published his first novel, a pseudo-biography that borders between fiction and non-fiction titled ‘A Fictional Tale of Things’, and continued publishing his essays and art in a subsequent series of releases.
Countering his work, Gary has been active with numerous activist organizations. In the late 2000s, it was with the anti-sweatshop efforts of his project Punk Rock Sweatshop, which later merged with the group Musicians Against Sweatshops. In the 2010s, that energy was devoted to work in the radical mental health community, with the group Mindful Liberation Project.
Despite still persistent health issues, Gary continues to release and record music, and occasionally publish books. In the 2011, he began journaling his experiences with his Blog, A Few More Blocks. He has also taken to podcasting, with the occasional interview show ‘Various Things’, and his even more occasional (read Sporadic) Llamatism podcast.
Gary lives in Richmond with his wife, daughter, and dog.
And an older article too.
A campaign to keep the club open!