Ethan Cutkosky—also known as “Carl” from the Showtime series Shameless—is open about his love for live music. In addition to being spotted at Umphrey’s McGee concerts and numerous EDM shows, the 18-year-old actor has a special relationship with the beloved national music festival Summer Camp Music Festival. After attending Summer Camp for the first time in 2017, Cutkosky starred in a promo video for Scamp last November, announcing the dates for the 2018 edition of Summer Camp in a video and telling fans that the festival was the “best time of [his] life”, attributing the positive experience to the music, the vibe, and the amazing community.
With Summer Camp on the horizon—the festival begins this week, spanning from May 25th to 27th—we caught up with Ethan Cutkosky, who is beginning rehearsals for the next season of Shameless. During his lengthy conversation with Live For Live Music, the actor talked about all sorts of things, ranging from Summer Camp and his favorite live shows and artists to conspiracy theories, his new clothing label, and more. Read our conversation below, and head to Summer Camp Music Festival’s website for more the full lineup, tickets, and more information!
MLN: You’ve been spotted at a lot of different shows, and you’re a pretty known lover of live music. Can you talk about some of your favorite artists?
Ethan Cutkosky: I’m into a bunch of things. It’s pretty interesting because Ian Goldberg, he’s the one that introduced me to a lot of going out to these shows. He owns Summer Camp Music Festival and helped make that what it is. I first started off going to a lot of EDM shows—Manic Focus, ProbCause, Big Gigantic—and just getting introduced into very well-produced music. Music that had very very good quality, very good people—just well-energized music, as opposed to a lot of stuff that’s going on these days.
I see my friends going out, especially down to like Canopy [Club] and shit—it’s just a great time. So, last year, that was the first time I’d ever been to Summer Camp, and that was just amazing. We were running through the mud after all the thunderstorms, but I loved every second of it.
MLN: Had you been to music festivals before Summer Camp?
EC: Yeah, I’ve been to a few. Summer Camp was kind of my first real, decent one. I wasn’t a big fan of Lollapalooza.
MLN: What about Summer Camp sets it apart in your mind?
EC: Everybody there is a true family. Say somebody recognizes Shameless there—they aren’t going to go out and freak out, they’re going to give you a hug. At the very end of the day, that’s somebody that you’re going to want to chill with. Somebody, whether they are recognizing you for the work you’ve done or whatever, they’re still going to want to treat you like a family member at the end of the day, because you’re at a family fuckin’ festival where everybody’s trying to have fun.
MLN: Going off that, with the live music and festival communities being so tight-knit and close, how does that differ from other communities you might be in, such as the acting community? Do you feel like there are similarities and differences there?
EC: There is, and there isn’t. I think that this community is a very different one than the hip-hop industry even. The whole hip-hop industry is a newcomer too, but there’s a lot of big game players in it. People are all trying to get this snatch at it, trying to do this and that, and wanting it to go one way, and then another way. I think acting is a lot like that too, but it’s a little more hush-hush—maybe hush-hush isn’t the right word, but it’s more subtly kept that it’s kind of like that. Whereas, like, with the live-music family, everybody kind of wants the same thing out it: To fuckin’ go to a show and have fun with it.
MLN: What are some of your favorite shows that you’ve been to?
EC: Hm, Bassnectar, Big Gigantic, Manic Focus, Gramatik, let’s see… Moe., Umphrey’s [McGee], who else? Um, those are both jam bands. With hip-hop, I just went to see Flatbush Zombies in Chicago, and that was honestly one of the best shows—hip-hop or anything—I’ve ever been to. In my head, it was like something your parents tell you about—it was like Pink Floyd back in the fuckin’ day because of the fuckin’ energy! It was the craziest fuckin’ energy show, and I knew every word to every song.
Umphrey’s McGee – “In the Flesh” > “Another Brick In The Wall”
MLN: How do you find the time to see all this music and also balance your job and whatever else you have going on?
EC: I sometimes have got to hiatus, but, I mean, usually shows are at night, so it works out pretty much in my favor. There is actually a lot of stuff that I’ve actually missed due to my scheduling, like I’ve never been able to make it to Electric Forest or anything, Okeechobee, when all my friends are going. Like, I just barely made it to Summer Camp.
MLN: Are you going to be able to make it back to Summer Camp this year?
EC: I’m definitely trying to. Definitely.
MLN: Going back, when you mentioned moe. and Umphrey’s, they’re both jam bands, but it seems like a lot of the artists you’ve listed are more EDM-minded. What drew you to expand from electronic music to jam bands. How did you find them?
EC: One of our friends is in a pretty good jam band that’s coming up and getting known. If you want to give them a little shout out, they’re called The Giving Moon. It’s my friend’s band, so I grew up with those guys, and they kind of, like, always were an influence on music, especially for all of our friends. So I’ve always had a taste or appreciation for jam-band music, even down to like Pink Floyd, which is very good classic music.
Actually, one band that I forgot to mention that was fuckin’ great at Summer Camp was Claypool Lennon Delirium—holy shit. They are fuckin’ sick, because I love how dark they are but yet it’s still kind of a jam band. But yeah, so I always have that in me to try to appreciate all types of music.
Claypool Lennon Delirium – “Boris the Spider”/ “Satori”/”Court of Crimson King” – Summer Camp 2017
MLN: From Summer Camp, what were your favorite sets last year?
Ethan Cutkosky: Let’s see… Gramatik, Claypool, Cherub. Pretty Lights is fuckin’ nuts. Actually, you can’t even say Cherub, because I think it was just Jason [Huber]. But yeah, just all the Red Barn sets were fuckin’ nuts. That’s the first time I’d ever been to the Red Barn.
MLN: What are some of your wildest memories from Summer Camp that you’d be willing to share?
EC: Um, when we were all crawling through the mud and everything at night after it had just stormed. It was when the storm was happening on the second day. We all had our camps set up, and there were thunderstorms everywhere, and it was just brutal rain. And it just started fucking coming down, and nobody was prepared for those… Like the whole fucking camp just turned into pretty much just mudslides.
MLN: Since we’re talking about getting into live music with your friends, and it seems like y’all are still pretty close, how long have you been going to shows, and what about live music draws you in?
EC: I think it’s the energy—that you can go out there, you can meet good people, you can have fun. In those environments, you start to realize that everybody just kind of wants one thing. Like as long the artist is spittin’ love and everybody’s dancing to that, what else is there to fuckin’ care about? It’s just like, at that point, all the other problems just kind of cease to exist, and you’re just there with a bunch of people, and the possibilities are endless as to what you can do with people.
MLN: Are there any bands that you discovered through going to Summer Camp that you weren’t necessarily familiar with before but now are into?
EC: Well, [Les] Claypool is definitely one of them. Then, moe. and Umphrey’s, I definitely was put on more when I saw them live. I mean, Summer Camp was just a great festival. Ganja White Night was somebody that I didn’t really listen to that much before, though I knew about them, but, holy shit, after I saw ’em live, I couldn’t get enough.
Ganja White Night – Summer Camp 2017
[Video: Mother of All Bass]
MLN: Let’s shift gears for a second. First of all, when did you get into acting and is that something that you think you’re planning on pursuing for the foreseeable future?
Ethan Cutkosky: Well, I started acting when I was around four years old in Chicago. I started working on Shameless when I was around ten years old and kind of grew up on it. I’m 18 now, so growing up on the show and going back in forth through high school and then turning 18 and realizing there’s a career to be done if I want to, but also, I’m not necessarily somebody that lives and breathes acting. Like that’s not the only thing that I can see myself doing. I love it, I’d love to keep acting, but there’s other stuff I’m going to do. Like I just opened up my own clothing brand called Khaotic Collective.
MLN: What inspired that?
EC: I’ve been drawing out like schemes for skating brands since I was in, like, sixth grade. I’ve been skating since I was in second grade, so it’s the only fucking sport I’m good at. I’m a skater. So, I’ve always wanted to have a skating brand that influences kids that are into the same shit I am. The fuckin’ same grind market, but not talking about stupid shit, you know what I mean? So, I wanted to create something based on all the stuff I love but also based on consciousness and trying to bring people together. So I have a brand based around becoming conscious of your subconscious and promoting that through its artwork, through whatever way I’m gonna try to funnel this through.
MLN: Do you think that this focus on consciousness and subconsciousness comes at all from being an actor and how acting requires that you remove yourself from yourself?
EC: Sometimes, I have seen that and I’ve thought about that in the same sense, but personally, I’ve always been interested in consciousness and metaphysics since the day I was born. I’ve always been staring at the sky for UFOs, always talking about conspiracy theories, and shit like that—just wondering about the extraterrestrials of human abilities. That’s where my interest has really come from, wanting to answer deep questions of life and really fuckin’ getting deep within yourself.
MLN: What’s a conspiracy theory that you strongly believe in?
EC: There’s a bunch, but I’m trying to think of one that’s gonna fuckin be like, “Whoa.” [pauses] Hm, I don’t know if I should say that one actually. [pauses] There’s… Eh, this isn’t going to be that interesting, but I’ll just say it anyway. The whole Stranger Things plot is supposedly based on a government project that happened back in the ’80s based on the US Philadelphia experiment.
MLN: What’s that?
EC: I’ve studied that one for years, and I knew about it before the script even came out. So, when I read the script, I was like, “Holy shit, they’re doing a fuckin’ thing on this.” So basically, the US Philadelphia experiment was a supposed experiment by the US Airforce or Navy where they tried to cloak everything on their ships for World War II. But in a sense, with their energy accelerator, they were able to disassemble people’s particles and reassemble them in a different space and time. But all that radiation is not meant to be handled by someone just, like, of flesh—like it’s just fuckin’ insane. So this is the supposed thing that they did, and they discharged all the people— There’s a lot of weird videos on this online. I would suggest looking it up because it is definitely worth the research.
But, so, in Stranger Things, you know how they use Eleven to breach in different dimensions? So that’s basically the plot, that they realize that they can use space and time at their own will and that they use kids and broke down people… It basically breached MK-Ultra.
MLN: What is that?
EC: MK-Ultra is actually a true thing that has been identified by our government that we did do. It was a project for mind control. We would use LSD to break down people’s subconscious so we could reprogram their consciousness.
MLN: That’s pretty wild. Unfortunately, we’re going to have to move on, but I’ll definitely look into it. Next up, for your character on Shameless, Carl, are there any qualities of his that you relate to?
EC: I couldn’t say too much. Maybe, as a kid, I thought I related to him a lot more, just like the mischievous aspect of him. Definitely when I was younger, just kind of being a mischievous little fuck. But, yeah, nothing like too much. Like nothing that I could say really say, like, “Yeah, that’s something me and him have in common.”
MLN: Do you ever hang out with your other cast members from Shameless?
EC: Yeah, sometimes. I hang out with Emma [Kenney] a lot—she’s the one who’s my age. And then, you know Jeremy [Allen White], who plays Lip? He lives over by me.
MLN: Do you share any musical tastes with any of them? Or with any of your actor friends?
EC: I would say Emma and I have pretty similar musical tastes. Jeremy, he likes a lot of hip-hop artists, so we share artists in hip-hop. But I’d say I’m probably the only one who can go grind on some EDM. I’m the only to go headbang.
MLN: Could you see any of them coming to a show or festival with you?
EC: I could, but are they gonna headbang? I don’t know. At shows, I’m trying to go a little hard, enjoy myself.
MLN: Yeah. If you could bring any of your non-jam band actor friends to Summer Camp, which one would it be? Even if it’s just to see them in that environment?
EC: I definitely think it would be interesting to see Emmy Rossum at a headbanger event… Or see Bill Macy there—like at a Bassnectar show. That would be a funny thing. Very out of their realm.
Summer Camp Music Festival will return to Chillicothe, Illinois, this weekend, with three days of moe. and Umphrey’s McGee, plus two sets of Phil Lesh & The Terrapin Family Band, and sets from Diplo, Slightly Stoopid, STS9, Tipper, RL Grime, Tycho, Cypress Hill, Greensky Bluegrass, Action Bronson, and many more. Head over to Summer Camp’s website here for more information and tickets!