Viaduct demolition spurs wellspring of creative inspiration


by OWEN LEI / KING 5 News

Posted on October 31, 2011 at 6:37 AM

Updated Monday, Oct 31 at 7:40 AM

SEATTLE -- From impromptu photo shoots to an ice cream tribute, perhaps an unintended byproduct of this week's Alaskan Way viaduct demolition is an outpouring of local creativity.   

That includes Ashton Hemmons and Eric Graham, 22-year-olds from the White Center neighborhood who record in a basement studio, but found their voice this week along Seattle's waterfront.

"Just started writing on it, and piece by piece it fell together," said Hemmons, whose hip-hop alias is Acewon.

"It's one of those things you don't really think about the fact that you're going to miss, until you sit down and try to write a song about it," said Eric Graham, who goes by Urrks. Together, the two call themselves The GNU Deal.

The song, recorded initially as an entry into WSDOT's competition asking what people would do with 30 minutes to themselves on the viaduct, will now make its way into their upcoming album.

"It's something else / the full view of the bay / catch it in the morning nothing can ruin your day," Graham says in one part of the song. "The tie-dye sunset is worth the wait / you forget it could all end / if the earth shakes."

"It was just an idea we had," said Hemmons, who said the song idea started as a metaphor for the slow crumbling of the independent music industry before hitting the note of nostalgia.

"We hadn't even had a beat for it yet at that point, and I just sat in the studio for six hours and made a beat," Graham said.

"We were just sitting in the room. I had been looking up a lot of stuff just on the viaduct, how it used to be and how it is now," he said, "and then we were like, 'What better way to get inspiration than just  to take a little trip on the viaduct?'"

Graham said they grabbed a car and headed out. It was the day before the highway closed down last week. They ended up driving up and down the length of the viaduct six times.

"It just all started coming together, and I was like 'No, turn around, we're not going home yet, just turn around," said Hemmons.

The lyrics, set to a sample of jazz saxophonist Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, echo the sentiment of many this week. On KING 5's Facebook page, several people have posted memories of growing up with the elevated view of Puget Sound. Others remembered the day it opened 59 years ago.

Local ice cream company Molly Moon's even named a flavor Viaduct Crunch after all the traffic troubles this week.

"We were both kind of taken aback by how much inspiration we had from it," Graham said.

And even though the viaduct reopened this weekend and will likely stay in its current form until 2016, Hemmons said it's just not the same drive they took just one week ago.

"It's very different, " he said. "I feel like it's a new city [with] just two twists [added] down by the stadium."