“A Day In The Life” with Toronto creative, Jason Ball

Fates aligned and I met Jason Ball when we were both working at a College Street cafe in the 90s here in the city. J had recently moved here and was working as a hot bartender, playing in cool indie bands, and buying and setting up all kinds of music gear in his rented Queen Street loft to get a start as a sound engineer.

The cosmos shifted and we lost touch. But years later he found me living overseas in Taiwan, and after flying halfway across the world to reconnect, I followed him back to Canada and into his studio in rural Nova Scotia.

It was 2001, and J had just launched Nervous System studio and produced his first record as Hopeful Monster, along with some very ambitious orchestral pop and alt-country albums for bands out of the nearby Halifax music scene.

Hereby the ocean, close to where he was raised, I fell deeply in love with this brilliant, generous man, who was blossoming as a songwriter, performer, arranger and producer while I worked late hours as a news editor in Halifax.

After a few years, we relocated to Toronto and started our family. Our eldest daughter Zola turns 16 soon, sister Edie will be 6 and Bohème is 8. Jason is the centre of their universe and is a natural teacher to our girls, who share his mathematical mind and quick wit.

For a decade now, Jason Ball has been passionately making records out of a small studio in our Weston home, where he also does remote work as a mix engineer for music, podcast and video projects.

A few months into the pandemic, Jason Ball fell off a skateboard, valiantly demonstrating to our daughter how *not* to do an ollie. He busted up his elbow which sadly put music on pause but happily revealed to him a new talent. This led to him overtaking our basement kitchen with several large projectors and transforming it into a rainbow splatter zone. He can (and does) make art out of anything, and our girls love to join him, be it for light shows or Hopeful Monster gigs.

Thank the stars J is musically active again after some arm rehab and is starting to perform live again. I’d follow him anywhere to be by his side.

-Written by Catherine Phillips

Jason Ball
Jason in his basement kitchen studio, with hand-made “Splodascope” lighting effect
Jason Ball
Zola and Jason performing as Hopeful Monster at the Cameron House in October 2019
Jason Ball
Catherine and Jason in Nova Scotia in 2020, on an anniversary getaway
Jason and Zola creating a liquid light show together, with Edie in the spotlight
Stills from Jason’s light show, The Liquid Crystal Display
Stills from Jason’s light show, The Liquid Crystal Display

Jason live-streaming as Hopeful Monster, with prerecorded liquid light show effects.

Which ‘hood are you in?

Weston (Jane & Lawrence)

What do you do?

I’m a lifelong musician and producer, but during the pandemic, I started making “liquid light shows”, using vintage analog projectors, oil & water dyes, clock glass, prisms and mechanical gadgetry. Now I’m using the light show as a source of video content for my music projects, and as a way of finding music collaborators who share my trippy vision!

What are you currently working on?

After a hot and noisy year in our tiny basement “art kitchen,” I’m starting to take the light show out in public. Because it started as a pandemic project, I haven’t performed in physical venues yet, only live streams and recordings. As a musician, I was really missing the energy you get from a crowd and people have responded enthusiastically to this online, so I’m really looking forward to bringing it to live events. My first in-person light show is in Collingwood this Saturday (Nov. 6), with long-time music collaborator Lily Frost. Toronto events are in the works and will be announced soon.

Where can we find your work?

The light show has a dedicated Instagram page that serves as a portfolio, and the ongoing stream of projector experiments is hosted on my music account. You can go to my YouTube or BlogSpot too!