David Ure spends his days working at a California bookstore and his nights performing under his alter ego, “Mirrored Ogre.”
At least he did, before the coronavirus pandemic shut down live musical performances across the world.
After graduating from Loyola in 2006 with a B.A. in English, Ure moved to California, where he has pursued his passion for writing and music in tandem. He began work on his novel, “Outer Sunland Surgeon,” in 2011 but pushed it aside until later in the decade.
The 38-year-old spent the last few years finishing his novel, writing and recording an album and producing complementary graphics. Each piece plays into each other, and while people could listen to the album or read the book without the other, Ure said they’re best enjoyed in tandem.
The multimedia work tells a cautionary tale of a future in which immortality can be bought through advances in healthcare — a commentary on the modern class disparities faced in the American healthcare system.
“It’s taken to the point of absurdity, but it’s not so absurd,” Ure said. “I see it as a metaphor … more of a punchline almost. We don’t want to get to this point.”
The 100-page science fiction novella follows Robert Archibald, the son of an oligarch who experiences a traumatic accident and develops a “lust for pain.” Robert’s peers rally around him, developing a “pain-seeking cult.”
Ure was inspired by “The Singularity is Near” by Ray Kurzwell, which predicts a future of technology where humans will be able to “fundamentally change what it means to be a person,” he said.
In the world of “Outer Sunland Surgeon” — which was said to take place in the mid-to-late-21st century — people get voluntary amputations to stay chic. Ure said he took it to the extreme, and he wasn’t overly concerned with adhering to realism, despite the parallels to modern societal issues.
He said he wanted readers to see the novel as a “slightly shifted perspective to gain something from,” regardless of what that may be.
The industrial, post-punk album, titled “Outer Sunland Sounds,” works as an accompanying piece to the novel. Ure said the ideal experience would be to listen to the album prior to reading the novel, as it sets the “style” and “aesthetic.”
“The vibe of the book is kind of supposed to be a lower-budget sci-fi feel, kind of 1980s feel,” Ure said. “[So] it’s music that’s supposed to be depicting something in the future — but it’s retro-futuristic.”
Ure wrote and recorded demos of the tracks, while the mixing was taken care of by Zeph Sowers. The final products were mastered by Carl Saff.
Inspired by artists such as David Bowie, Swans and Nine Inch Nails, Ure has been writing music since he was 13. He began learning to play guitar at age 8. He remembered playing drums in his apartment on North Newgard Avenue as a student at Loyola. He even competed in a university “Battle of the Bands” event one year, but Ure said that was about the extent of his musical experience as a student.
Although his time at Loyola didn’t shape much of the multimedia work, he did adopt the Buddhist concept of Samsara — the cycle of life, death and eventual rebirth — for the novel, which he had learned about in a religion course.
Aside from his main passion of writing and music, he has dabbled with creating digital art and wire sculptures. Ure drafted a novel during his college days, which he ultimately scrapped, citing introspective authors Hermann Hesse and Fyodor Dostoevsky as driving his desire to pen a work of his own.
“I have always felt the drive to create things,” Ure said. “It’s like a compulsion.”
He planned to promote the book through live performances under his “Mirrored Ogre” persona, as well as through the bookstore, but COVID-19 threw a major wrench in that road. Without major promotional avenues, Ure said he’s yet to sell a significant volume.
He’s in the process of printing vinyl copies of the music to gear up for a return to performing at small venues, where Ure said he hopes to sell his books at shows.
Going forward, Ure plans to continue writing and creating music, and he said he’s open to producing stand-alone albums and novels.
Although he’s at a standstill until COVID restrictions lighten, Ure said he still feels complete with the work he’s done.
“I feel like it has its own life now,” he said. “It was so unfinished before for so long in my head [and] I can tell it’s done.”
A previous version of this article misspelled two novelists’ names and has since been updated. It also incorrectly categorized Ure’s bookstore job and now reflects it is his full-time work. A change has also been made to update the album’s name as “Outer Sunland Sounds,” which was previously said to be the same as the book.