My essentials: Julian Mallia’s cultural picks

90 | Julian Mallia, 37, visual artist, drummer

1. Book

Effective Practice For Musicians by Benny Greb (a world-renowned German drummer and educator with whom I had the pleasure of collaborating on the cover artwork of one of his music releases). This insightful book has become a valuable resource for me - especially when I stray off-path - because of its down-to-earth practical advice that is applicable to any creative discipline. Drawing from a wealth of hands-on experience, the author highlights the value of being able to do honest, regular self-assessments, devising a personalised, purposeful routine and adopting benevolent self-discipline. The book is laced with numerous amusing anecdotes that make this book feel like a friendly and patient mentor.

2. Film

Following by Christopher Nolan. I’m particularly interested in established directors’ early films - where they had a meagre budget yet still managed to create something striking by being strategically resourceful. Following is a neo-noir crime thriller in which a bored, young man starts following random people around the streets of London. At first, he establishes guidelines for this harmless game, but things get out of hand when he breaks his own rules. It’s a brilliant example of Nolan’s concept-driven and hands-on approach to filmmaking and it’s fascinating to witness the seed of what would later evolve into films such as Memento or Inception.

3. Internet/TV

Earlier this year I started following the Daily Stoic Instagram page - in an attempt to balance the franticness of the social media vortex with some ancient wisdom and practical advice. My Instagram feed is mostly filled with drum performances, art, musicians, cinema, daily stoic quotes intertwined with inescapable memes, weird content and cat videos. I also follow a number of local and international news websites to stay in the loop of what’s happening. The stoics preceded internet by quite a while but I think they would probably argue that it’s a virtue to be able to curate one’s feed and to choose where to direct attention. Occasionally staying offline is also an underrated art form.

4. Music

Closure/Continuation by Porcupine Tree. Although I keep an ear out for interesting music from different genres, from Chopin to Igorrr to Alfa Mist to Meshuggah, I do tend to fall back to the Progressive Rock/Progressive Metal side of the music spectrum. Bands I listen to repeatedly include contemporaries such as Opeth, Steven Wilson/Porcupine Tree, Dream Theater, Devin Townsend, Leprous, Haken but also earlier bands such as Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Camel, ELP, Led Zeppelin, Rush, etc. I am drawn to this wide-ranging genre due to its experimental, liberating approach to song writing that typically involves lengthy, meandering journeys, an element of technical proficiency, varied time signatures, elements from other genres and other tasteful dynamics.

5. Place

Although I’m tempted to mention inspiring cultural capitals such as Berlin or London, as an introvert, ultimately, I am most at peace when I’m busy with work I find meaningful - irrespective of location e.g., working on paintings, visual idea-generation, mapping song-structures, playing drums, etc. Quality time to work on my own projects is a limited resource so when I have the time, I prefer being productive in my art/music studio. Having said this, sometimes I do feel the need to strike a balance and occasionally visit other places, go to gigs/exhibition openings, socialise or just go for a mindless jog near the sea.