Interview, Interview, Our City, Our World

Sam Gruca says that it’s okay to relax

The noise artist perhaps best known as Pain Chain is holding it down in Lowell.


This interview was conducted over several weeks via an email conversation.

Dan Shea:
Who are you? / Where are you?

Sam Gruca:
My name is Sam, I’m a non-binary/queer artist from the Lowell area of Massachusetts. I am a creator in many forms – visual (collage, painting, photography, and clothing) as well as auditory (noise, accordion, and voice)

And how has the pandemic affected your art life and schedule, your work life, and your life and your community in general?

I work at a grocery store, so as an essential worker I have had to work extra days to cover shifts for my more at risk coworkers. I had a long stretch of working 10 days in a row which was really exhausting and taxing on my body as well as my mental health. Being subjected to mass hysteria daily has been a lot to take in. Especially for someone who is sensitive to energy. Now I have a few days off so I am trying to use that to create as much as I can. I have been working on collages, recording new material for splits, designing shirts and doing live stream performances. I think that the best thing to come out of all of this is the art that we are all creating. We can channel all of our emotions through art, it’s the best way to cope with everything right now. A lot of us are taking a hit by not being able to play shows or sell art at artist markets, but we can support each other virtually by sharing each others creations and donating funds to those who need it most when we are able to do so.

I saw that my local Stop and Shop has installed plastic half wall barriers between customers and cashiers. You have those where you work?! It sounds like you’re being productive and positive in the face of all this despite what your encountering though! Where can we see your live stream performances? Any mass hysteria stories to share?

We do have the plastic barriers they are pretty small though. I think Whole Foods is a little far behind as I have heard that other stores are starting to order masks and other ppe for their employees. We have gloves but that is it. I am trying my best to be productive and stay busy but it is hard sometimes. I have done live streams on instagram. I will be performing on the Teenage Halloween instagram on the 6th opening for Citrus, Michael of Michael Jordan Touchdown Pass, and Nana Grizol – some of my favorites so that is nice to look forward to.

Whole Foods is definitely behind. No barriers there. I don’t get it. The barriers at the stop and shop near me keep growing larger though! They should definitely get you some masks. Pretty fucked up otherwise. If you’re not already, make you’re own. They would have to let you wear it, right?

Link me to that virtual show and we’ll add to the calendar if you want. Glad to see you’re still making it happen no matter what. Are you finding the time/inspiration to create during all of this??

As of right now I’m taking a couple weeks off from work because it’s been too much. I should definitely make my own masks tho for when I go back. The virtual gig will be live streaming on Instagram on the @teenagehalloween profile April 6th I will be on at 8pm. Not sure how to link that lol. I’ve been doing some painting and collaging and recording to keep myself busy and creativity flowing. It’s not always easy tho.

I’ll see what I can do about the linking. Glad you can take some time off. I hope all of this mess leads to something positive somehow. I hear whispers of wide scale systematic change coming. It’s obviously not coming top down, so it’s got to come from us. I’m not sure what that’s going to look like though. Is your thinking there yet?

I definitely feel like change is coming. I don’t think things will ever be the same after this. I’m hoping it will change for the better. I think capitalism is holding on my a thread right now. The system has been broken for a while, but it’s really showing right now. It sucks that it took this long for a lot of people to wake up, but I think people are finally starting to realize they’ve been slaves to a system that could care less about them.

I don’t want to think about what change for the worse even could be. People might be waking up but it could be under four more years of Trump!? It’s a little too much to handle these days. I definitely think it’s all negatively affecting me, in a mental sense that is.

I personally don’t think we’re going to see much “change” for a while, but this virus will be the splash that leads to some kind of wave of positive societal change eventually. I feel like those in power aren’t going to get properly called out for their failings, and their graft, but that “underground” and leftist thought will grow and strengthen because of these failings and in the wake of this event we’re all experiencing together. I wish Bernie weren’t so old and that there were more like him.

Update on the Whole Foods front: They have installed plastic barriers between customer and cashier, finally!

Did I see that you have a release coming out soon? How much are you missing the community of shows etc. right now?

I just released a few new splits with Rush Falknor, Straight Panic, and Walter Wright. I have a few more splits coming up within the next month or two so stay tuned for those! I also have a 12″ vinyl of Soul Impression coming out hopefully soon, everything has been delayed with that due to the virus unfortunately. I am missing the community so much right now. Playing shows is a great way to express myself as well as connect with people. The catharsis of performing has been huge for me. It was the outlet that I needed and not having that right now has been really hard. Live streaming just isn’t the same but I have been giving it a try. I will be doing my next live stream on my birthday, May 18th via Toronto Noise Fest organized by my friend Ei.

And any parting words of wisdom, hope, nihilism?

Everything is hard right now, I can’t wait to hug everyone. Stay in touch with your friends and let them know that you love them. Mail letters to each other, it’s nice to have something to look forward to even if it’s something small. Don’t put pressure on yourself to be productive. It’s okay to relax. Reach out if you need someone to talk to, I’m always here to listen. Stay safe, stay strong, keep fighting.

Photos are collage art from Pain Chain’s split with Rush Falknor &  from when Ithey opened for Street Sects & Elizabeth Colour Wheel last December taken by @content_brakes
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