GRAND HEAD test pressing. April 23rd 2017
I continue to labor away on my next solo album. Next scheduled instrument is trombone. I'm working also on a collection of poems and short stories. My Heavy Duty band Grand Head will be releasing a 7' record in a few months (or less). I hope to build a new patio cover in back yard, and keep up on the general up keep of our little home. I hope to stay fit, and sober in the coming summer also. The warmth of a day is in want around here. I'd like to write about more exciting things, but hence nothing like that is really happening. I'm finishing up "David Copperfield." Dickens is a force. Then my mother and I plan on reading some Stephen King. The selection being Mr. Mercedes. On Sundays we'll talk of what we've read. Work is plentiful, and my back hurts. I shouldn't, and won't complain too much. Now I need to go and make some coffee.
January 28th 2017
New album update: Some good, some bad, things clarified.
Last Saturday I went over to my friend Jim's house. Jim is recording the new album, and we're doing it at his duplex. Jim has a cool set up, no distraction, and a cool 4 track tape machine. I went to his house to take stock of the project. To give things a re-evaluation, and see where this album is at. We put on the first tape, and started listening.
One instrument per song, and I can't use the same instrument twice. Those are the rules, and the first song on the tape is one with viola. The song is called "Apple Of My Eye." Jim says "Sounds good". He says this with enthusiasm, and I know he means it. I also agree, and I'm feeling optimistic.
After another listen though the song is exposed in its inconsistent vocal performance. You can tell we're using different takes on some verses, and the EQ is not consistent with each other. Also my vocal performance could be better in places. The viola parts are great, and no work need to be done there. We decide the song need more work, and plan to do another take on the vocals. We move on.
The second song is "One Step At A Time". This is with stand up bass. I haven't heard this song since we recorded it, and I am over joyed at how great this is. It's possible the album opener. It is the standard. I am so happy with the sound of the bass, and my vocal performance. This song capsulates how it all must be. This excites me. This one is done.
This one is called "Daydreamer in a dark and starry sky". This is with Saxophone. This one passes all the tests! Also, in messing with a second take, (on track 1 & 2) we find that combining some of the different takes sounds very nice. At the end of the song we decide to bring in the other vocal, and a second sax. This is warm and cool, and measures up to the standard. It passes all the tests, and is perfect. No more work here.
The nest song is piano. This one has a vocal performance that makes me smile. The piano is great, and this definitely passes the test! We smile and feel good about this album.
This session ends, therefore, on a high note. We have 4 songs, and though one needs some work, we're in good spirits. We schedule to meet, and go through the rest on Wednesday.
Dark Wednesday comes
We review the first two song on the second tape. These are both with electronic instruments. The first song is with a Moog synth. It's sounds good, and we like it, but it just doesn't seem to jive. I'm not greatly dissapointed with it, but it just seems wrong. We decide maybe the vocals could be re-done. We move on.
The next electronic song is done with the iPad. My friend Steve Hefter did this. He came up with a real cool version of my song by using an app on his old iPad. I really dig the sound, then, my vocals hit. My vocals just suck, and I'm surprised because I thought the vocals were almost there, but no. It doesn't pass the test at all. I'm not sure re-doing the vocal will help. It sounds like it doesn't belong. Just like the Moog song. I'm left flat about these songs. Not confindent at all.
Jim and I talk, and come to the conclusion that only acoustic instruments fit the bill. That's what's messing with me. These song might have to be converted for another instrument. Feeling a little down we move on.
The next song is a newer one I've written. It is with cello. My memory tells me this one is going to be a real stand out. Real sparse, and full of space. Just what this project is about right? We sit and listen, and in my mind I'm thinking this must be a bad take. Not the one we are going go use, and to my relief I'm right. We move on to the next take with hopefulness. It starts with these great cello sounds. High squeaks, and very ambient. Then the meat of the song starts, and my vocals come in. We sit in silence and listen, when the song is over, I look at Jim. I say to him "That's a fuckin disaster!' He nods yes. The vocals just don't make it. The cello seems too sparse. Searching for something to grab on to. Actually the whole thing sounds unsure of itself, and it sounds like a big struggle. Something that quiet should not sound like a big struggle. It does not meet the standard, and I think it might just not make the cut at all. We move on to the last song, and I feel defeated. I think to myself; how does my memory think a song was so good, and then now I hear a competely different song. Defeated, defeated, damn it!
The last song on the tape
This one is a banjo song. It lifts our spirits, because it is better than I remember. I'm not sure it passes the test though. This one might need more time given to it. It is however the best song we've heard today.
We wrap up, and I leave feeling depressed. Oh poor me.
I now know this project is harder than I thought. I also know where the bar is for passing the test, and being good enough to put out. It the days that pass I come to terms with more work needing to be done. I also know that if I can get those other songs up to the standard of the ones that have passed the test I'll one hell of an album. This is going to take longer than I thought.
Dec. 5th 2016
This picture above is not one that I like. It's not one that I would use for my profile picture on Facebook. What I don't like about it is it's starkness, it's unfiltered reality. You understand right? It's in daylight, I have nothing to cover my balding head, no lack of light to "help" my skin, wrinkles, greys, imperfections. Things I don't like about myself stare back at me without a lie. It makes me feel superficial, not of the character that I think I have. That vanity rules me, that worrying what others think can dictate the decisions about myself, and how I present myself. God forbid that I post this on Facebook, and someone from high school stumbles upon me. They might think to themselves "man he sure looks old".
There has come a time to ease into being older. I want to use the term graceful, to say "age gracefully". I think I've crossed the line where you actually start to look like an older man. I'm not saying "old man", but older. It's the odd angle of yourself that lets you know. Even when you exercise and eat right you can't help mother time coming for you. I notice my legs look more like an old man's legs. I have to get the right angle though, because you only give yourself the perfect angle. You know the one that makes you look best, but that's not reality.
The picture above is reality.
So when I catch a glimpse of myself in a way that the world see's me, that the daylight see's me, that even the mirror shows me when I look back as I'm walking away. The half turned, looking over my shoulder, side of head, and body. This is truth, and is just lovely. I don't like it.
No matter the effort my elbows show ever millisecond I've been on this planet. The wrinkled skin on those elbows does not lie! I've notice lately that my knees look more and more like old man knees. I'm letting my hair grow out, and I might just post the above picture on facebook some day. Until then I give it to you, loyal checker of my wonderful website.
Ben Gazzarra doing a lip sync version of "Fools Rush In" is brilliant. Right?
The new project is shown in pictures below. It comes slowly
Oct. 16th 2016 sunday
The website sits and it bothers me that I'm just doing a poor job of keeping it updated. If they were teaching a class on bad habits for your website, they could use mine as an example (that with bad spelling and grammar). The picture above was taken August 3rd. It's with Emily Dalsfoist, and she did some killer cello for me. If we ever did a whole album together I would call it "me & em". I love the way this ablum is coming, and I'm not sure it will be the one to rocket me into world wide fame, but, like I said, I love the way it's coming. One instrument per track, and I can't use the same instrument twice. Also we're limited to 4 tracks. Though most of the songs are still only using 2.
I haven't been playing many solo shows lately. The last show I did was september 10th. I'm trying to learn my way around some Korg and Moog Synths, and I incorporated a few songs in the electronic realm for this show. Went well. Though these synths and electronic stuff twists my mind all up. I just don't have enough time in the day to learn it all. Not 16 anymore, with nothing but time and weed to burn.
What I have also been working on is a new 7inch record for my other project GRAND HEAD. This is a band that I play in with my brother. We're calling it doomcore (haha). Had a great day doing what I love, with my brother, and good friends Larry Crane and Jim Han. Jim came in to take some photo's. Credit Jim for the pic above, and below!
July 17th 20016
Man I suck at keeping my website current. In the manual it says you should update, and give people a reason to keep coming back. Just not that much real excitement goin on. The above picture shows Steve Hefter (St. Even) and myself. The pic was taken after working on a song for my new album. Keeping with my rule,one intrument per song, and I cant use the same intrument twice. Steve's intrument was his ipad. He plays some exellent guitar, and a pretty nifty piano, but this electronic gadjet was what I wanted him to use. Manipulating sounds, and using some beats, Steve came up with a great version of one of my songs. The only bummer of the night was I couldn't get the vocals down. Oh well, I will not be discouraged.
May 8th 2016
The work on the new album is going so well. Above are pictures with Tyler Tornfelt (bass), John Kelley (piano), and Kyleen King (viola). Now that I look at these pictures I'm wondering if it looks a little narcissistic that I have to be in every shot. What the hell, I worry too much.
One intrument per track and I can't use the same instrument twice. Those are the rules, and I'll be honest I've balked on going through with this idea a few times. What I've been doing is sending demo's of the song to the artist, and then making a date to meet and go over things. We sit and struggle with tearing the song away from the guitar, and making it a piano song (or viola, sax etc.). We then begin recording demo's with the guitar as a guide. When you hear the two instruments together it so nice, and you start having these ideas of adding guitar, drums, violin, etc. Then I have to step back and commit to the rules. One instrument, one vocal.
Up next is Saxophone. This could be the biggest challenge so far.
Check out my new home made stereo stand!
February 28th 2016
I've taken the first step to recorded my next solo album. The above picture is me with Kyleen King. She is a violist, and what you'd call a multi-instrumentalist. She laid down viola parts for the song Apple Of My Eye.
You see I have a plan.
One vocal, one instrument, 4 tracks tape machine, and I can't use the same instrument twice. Changing the instrument, changes everything. I've never been good with change.
Honestly it's kind of scary. It really strips it down to the bare bones. The older I get, the more I just want the bare bones. The frightening part is I have to give the best I've ever given vocally. I've always been insecure about my voice.
The wind outside right now is doing that horror movie kind of dance. You know the sound, whistling through the trees, and shaking the house. Bending the shrubs, and howling in its gusts. I have no time frame on this, and it really depends on getting the other players lined up. I'm in no hurry. Not worried about striking while the iron's hot.
Not sure how I want to release it (format). Another thing that's happening to me as I age is thoughts of my finacial future. Do I really want to spend that $2500 I've been saving for another vinyl? We'll see. I really want to do a 7 inch. That was my original plan. A 45 rpm record with some old songs on it. 2 songs left over from the Night Goes Through recording session. Then just put a CD of the new recording in with the 7" package. What do you think?
"I like this song. I like how it sounds like the music is running away at the end"
Sam Parker's comment to his mother Carrie Parker on my song "The Promise".
November 7th 2015
My good friends I tell you with a strong heart that the dream still lives strong. I tell you this with a good cup of coffee in front of me, a strong chair underneath, and roof that will not leak above. I'll also tell you that I just opened my blinds to a grey and raining day. That I did this with want in my heart, with not a care, because I chose it. I new what it looked like outside, and I opened the blinds so I could see, and it makes me happy. I was full of optimism before I opened the blinds, and I knew the grey seemingly dismal day was not just for me. It's for you, and me. To lament and pine for the sun, to say "Poor me, this is not how I would have it." Is a self-centered, self-serving, self-pitying slippery slope. If it were just this way, or just that way things would be nirvana. Taking a big deep breath and seeing how wonderful things are right underneath you nose isn't always easy. I'm talking about embracing how things are.
So the big dream is still alive, and Sam Parker tells me so. I'm not going to lie to you I still want to be rich and famous. Yes it's true. I might even kid myself that I don't wanna be a rock star, that all that fame would be too much to handle. I'll come up with some real nice humble versions of what I want out of music, but really (and it's always been this way) I want it all!!. Sure the big dream has shifted over the years, and taking a beating, but when you boil it down it's still the same. So on some days when I get up and throw open the blinds on my Big Dreams I'm disappointed. They look to be far of in the distance, and harder and harder to see. Seems like I should just lay it all down, and stop worrying about it. Stop trying. But if I did that I'd never get the chance to hear Sam tell me that "I like this song. I like how it sounds like the music is running away at the end."
His word are the simple gift that is tangible. It is the thing that is right in front of me that says, this is how things are, and they are to be given proper love. It is genuine, and a return for my work. That in the struggle is the arrival, and in that struggle the dream is hiding. Like the big silvery moon at night. I look at it and am in wonder. This huge floating mass that has craters, and mystery, and it just hangs out there. It is the big dream, and it holds things together.
Truth is Sam's "review" of my song is worth every bit as much as any magazine review I've ever had. It's humbling and not a phantom pipe dream, but a reminder that I make music and get to lie in the warm sunshine of doing so. That the big dream is like the moon, and is always out there. I need not to actually put my hand on the damn thing to feel its wonder.
So thanks Sam! You've got a lot of promise in those eyes, and I expect big things from you in the future. The only tip I have for you is, Enjoy all the simple moments, and DON'T GO INTO THE MUSIC BIZ. heheheheheheheheheheh.
JUNE 30TH 2015.
I arrive at my friend Jim's house around 12:15. The day is blue and splendid and promising. I walk into his apartment (his place is very streamlined. No TV, just stereo, and instruments, and records, and recording gear). The simplicity of his place, along with the harwood floors, is calming. The first thing I say is "What's up dopers?" I say this because Jim and Ray are passing the bong, and this gets a laugh. Today the three of us are going to Astoria. Jim has set up a show at the Voodoo Lounge, and this is a good reason for a road trip. Raymond is a new friend or acquaintance if you prefer. Like Jim he is a solo singer and songwriter. I've heard Ray play before, and I really dig what he does. Got himself a great voice, and songs to back it up. Now I've know Jim for about 7 years? (I'm guessing). I also really enjoy Jim's music, and hanging out with him. It doesn't take long to load up our guitar's, amps. and hit the road. I tell the guys we got all day, and will be taking our time getting there. After all the journey is the arrival.
I decide to take highway 30 instead of I-5. The guys both aprove of this decision. The drive, and sharing this drive together, will be the highlight of the day. It's comradery I crave, and I've made many music related trips. Almost always the time spent with each other, laughing, sharing a meal, talking about our favorite albums and books. That's always the true experience to embrace. Usually the gig is underwhelming. The road ahead of us is open and scenic, and we drive into the wind, and into country. I love all the farms, and animals we pass. Jim plugs his ipod in and we listen to some selections. It's a girl punk group that he just discovered, and it's good. I don't remember the name of the damn band though. I'm not aware of this during the drive, but Jim's on two hits of acid. He's so used to it that you don't even know he's on it. I'm not sure this is a good thing, and I worry about his intake of pyscadelics. He's a grown man, and can make his own decisions. I'm not sure I'd even want to take two hits of acid and not tell anybody. My acid days are well behind me though. Wether Raymond is on acid as well I'll never find out. Both are well behaved.
As we drive through Scapoose the conversation turn to animals. I say,
"It's odd to me that animals stopped their evolution after they learned to acquire just what they needed." Their needs, not their wants. But us humans are driven to think we need more, and more. So we clog our existance with a deep drive to acquire more than our fair share. The crow, for example, learned to use a few tools, and how to function in a group. Then they just left it at that"
After a few head knods, and some silence we drive on. Leaving me to feel as though I haven't made a clear point. Making me sound like I'm the one on Acid.
There's some small talk on this subject, and we hit a nice stretch of open road. I choose some old Animal Collective, and we listen. Volume up, talking down.
Farms really call to me these days. That's what brought up the subject of animals. Jim asks, "Do you think you could live in the country, have a few animals, you know, like a little farm" I say " In a second, I think I would like to have a bunch of old horses, and cows, and dogs. Be able to give these animals a nice place to live out their lives" We all give this some thought. Ray says, "It's probably a lot more work than you think. It's not all just hanging with cows, and petting old dogs on the back porch." All nod in a show of unity. We drive on.
Some time passes and we pull into the town of St. Helens. I say, "When I was a kid and we lived in Longview, coming to this town was a fun time. Mom would pile us in the car, and we'd come here just to have some Burgerville"
Like today, we'd huddle together in the car and go. Arm length being the longest distance between us. Killing fear, loneliness, and that empty feeling in one fatal arrow to the heart. Jim says, "Did you guys make the trip a lot?" "No" I say, "Money didn't provide that we throw caution to the wind, and drive down willy nilly. That's what made it such a speciall thing" As I say this we drive right by the Burgerville, and I point. "Looks a little different, but that's the one". Watching the speed limit, we drive on.
With St Helens in the rearview mirror I roll my window down, and take the last sips of my coffee. Just a bit before you get to Ranier you come to the old Trojan Nuclear Plant. As a kid the Trojan plant was something that hung over us. What if we have an earth quake? What if they have a melt down? Will we all be stricken with radiation? The Tower was a nightmare regular. We come to the Power Plant park first, and it's a beautiful park at that. A man made lake surrounded by lush green landscaping. They stalk the waters, but as kids we never wanted to eat a fish that lived in radiated water. We pull in, and right away I'm confused because I don't see the Tower. This was the reason I pulled in, I figured the guys would get a kick out of it. Driving around it's obvious that it no longer exhists. There's a couple guys hanging out at the park and I ask them. They say it was taken down 7 or 8 year ago. One of the men points off into the distance. We all follow his direction, and it becomes very obvious that there's something missing in the distance. You can see where the trees stop, and a big open, empty, chunk of horizon is blank. "That's where it used to sit". We all nod, and one of the guys turns and walk away. Leaving his friend alone with us three hoodlums. We use the Porta potty, and Raymond smokes a spliff.
We drive on leaving the empty space where Trojan used to sit. No longer bringing fearful nightmares to young boys and girl. Vanished from thin air. With only a big gap in the horizon, a green lusch park, and radioactive fish to tell the tale.
We pass slowly through Rainier, and I don't bore anyone with tales of old. Though I do mention that we would drive across the bridge from Longview to get last minute beers. Oregon having been kind to us budding alcoholics, giving us an extra 30 minutes to buy our poison.
We climb a long winding hill, and looking over our shoulders we can get a great view of Longviews industrial area. Belching up smoke, and chemicals. We crest the hill and sweep through more country. The road ahead is not straight, but curved like a burlesque dancer from much older times. We pass a few deer who look at us like we should slow down, we do.
Now we enter the town of Clatskanie. This is where I was when Elvis died. My mother always took us to visit her friend from school days. Shirley I think was her name, and she had two sons named Ronny and Donny. Shirley also had a hard drinking husband, and they all lived happily ever after in an old farm house. Until Ronny shot Donny with a shot gun. Cutting him clean in half. I remember the boys taking my brothers and I out into the farm. I watched Ronny pick up a big tree branch and brake it over a cows head. Not something that would come natural to a young boy, not with out a little regret. We laughed uncomfortably. I also jumped out of the hay loft in the barn and landed on a nail. This was traumatic, and I remember the sour sting of the rusty nail. How when I tried to pick my foot up the whole board came up. I had to put my other foot down and hold it, then raise the foot from the nail. But we would come to Clatskanie in the summer and go swimming with this rural family, and it was fun. We all pile into Mom's VW bus, and were making our way to a swimming hole when the news came across the radio; ELVIS PRESLEY HAS DIED! Anyway I tell some of this to the fellas and keep some to myself. This is also where Raymond Carver was born, and he has a memorial in a park here. We stop for this.
This little town has all the charm of itself still intact. Damn the day is fine in this small town. The streets are empty save for a truck her and there. Things move slow here, and it pleases me. The grocery store we drive by looks to not have changed since the 60's. I find the park and we pull over. Parking in front of the Library. I've been to this Memorial once before, and the fact that it's across the street from a Library has escaped me. Raymond Carver only spent two years of his life here, but it's nice that this little town recognizes him. The stone and marble headstone looks like just that, something you'd find over his final resting place. It has his picture etched in marble with his name above. Below his picture it says: Poet & Short Story Writer, and below that 1938 - 1988. Next to the picture in quotes "Will You Please Be Quiet, Please?. Under that in smaller letters at the very bottom: Born in Clatskanie. " I wonder how many people in this little town have even read that story. We take a picture of all of us in front of the Memorial, then walk over to the library. We check to see if they have any Carver memorabilia, they don't. Jim says he wants to check out this thrift store. The only answer to this question is "of course my friend".
We rumble around the store, taking note of odd hats, and other things. Raymond comes out from a little room in the back, and he has what you'd call a "find". What he has is a studded out, painted, crusty punk masterpiece. A black leather biker jacket of our envy. It has all the required punk icons like, The Damned & The Exploited, and Toxic something or another. It has flurishing and faded red and white paint in places, and is a dream. On top of everything else it fits him to a T. The price tag for this Art is $100. Which of course gives Ray pause. I say why don't offer $60? He does, and she takes the offer. It's truly a score, but comes with a small dilemma. Do you lose some cred if you didn't craft the coat yourself? I mean it shouldn't matter, but does it lose some realness if all those bands aren't your favorites. The names on the jacket are almost required, but do you really dig them. Spikey hair, The Exploited, rivets, studs, suds, and crust. Nowadays it almost has a "Hot Topic" feel to it, like you could buy a kit for a certain street punk look. Isn't it a uniform? It contradicts the whole "Individual" thing right? Fuck it! it's a cool jacket, and I say he made the right decision. Now he needs to go buy some Explioted records (or maybe he has them, I don't know).
We spend a little time looking for the historical society building, but can't seem to find it. We roll the windows down and hit the road. Our next stop will be Astoria, and we will share our music with friends and lame'ohs, and I will get angry.
We ascend into Astoria like a slippery gang of parasites. We are hungry parasites looking for a host. Maybe even grumpy parasites void of history of ourselves, and the ground we slide over. We find the "Voodoo Lounge" and make a brief appearance. We also stop in next door, and pay this record store, and the owner a little visit. The bearded gent that sits behind the counter is kind, and talkative, and seems supportive. He will be at the show, and I will remember him talking loudly with his back to the stage. Until I finish a song, and he turns to face the stage and applaud enthusiastically. Then he gives me his back, and goes again to not giving a fuck wether I live or die. We leave the record store, and the time is 4pm.
We hunt for food like I hunt for attention. With a hunger that can't be filled. We pass touristy breweries with burgers, and fries, and lots of people. It's not what we are seeking, it doesn't fit our intent, so we walk and keep looking. I see an Indian restaurant, and we decide to go there. As we walk up close you can see it's closed. Dissapointedly we walk on, and while we walk Jim is putting stickers on every sign and post he can find. The sticker image is of Charles Manson, and has Jim's logo on Charley's forehead. This is in place of the swastika that Mr. Manson proudly wore. Ray and I smile at each other, and I can't help but think that it's vandalism. In a much smaller size, but still vandalism. This of course make me think of how I'm trying to fight of the rigid nature of growing old. I don't want to be old, bitter, and cantankerous (too late?).
Just as we leave the hub of the city we come to a Mexican restaurant. Jim's not really wanting Mexican, but he relents and we enter the place. This turns our to be perfect, and we are the only patrons in the place. This is nice, and we share a great meal that comes just in time to ward of the grump in me. This is good because I've managed to get the nickname "Grumpy Old Dad". Ray has given me this name, and when the waitress comes he says "Maybe you should order first". This gets a big hoot from me, and we sit alone in this place. We eat, and enjoy each others company, and we are ourselves.
"I want to see the ocean" I say.
Asking a local how long it takes to get to Seaside. He says, "You don't want nothin to do with going that way. Go on out and see the ship wreck, take you only 20 minutes to get there. You'll see the ocean, and not all the traffic" We thanks him and head back to the car.
Now Ray's got his phone all dialed in with directions to this shipwreck. As we progress he tries to lead us, and at first we follow his prompts. Then I get confused, and start to second guess him, and his fancy phone. I make an alpha decision, and turn left when he says right. In the end I must admit defeat, and re-trace out steps. Now following his lead we find the beach. We get out of the car, and the boys smoke some weed. Walking to the beach it is windy, and vibrant. We walk to this old ship. Actually it's just the front part, and it rises up out of the sand. Not much is left anymore, and it's not that impressive really. But I take deep breaths that fill my lungs with this salt air. That makes it worth the trip, and putting up with Ray and his technology.
On the drive back to Astoria we listen to Lou Reed, and share more conversation. This is always filled with laughter. We get back and decide to go check out the Astro-column. Turns out the Column is having some repairs done, and is covered. Doesn't matter because the view from up here is something. We can damn near see all the way to that shipwreck we were just at. This may be the high point (both in elevation and mood) The three of us stand and notice how quiet it is. It is smooth and unabrasive here, without dilution, without expectation. Later the thought will come to me that we should have pulled out our guitars right then and there. Played our own little show, and been done with it. Driving back to Portland without a blemish on the day. We drive back down into town, and hit a few thrift stores, and used record shops. Outside one of the thrift stores a man sits with his dog. I kneel and pet the dog. He's a Golden Retriever, and this is worth mentioning.
The Voodo Lounge is a cool enough place. It's decorated with voodoo in mind I guess. We sit down in a booth that has a Ouji board as a table. It's a big replica, and a nice touch. The place is full of nice touches, but this is somewhat of a tourist town nowadays. 8 bro's pile in and have a couple pitchers of beer, get loud, and talk about getting a new pair of flip flops, and move on. This is what has me worried about this show. What I play is damn quiet, and this environment has me worried. We get things set up on the small stage, and I mill about, ending up outside. To my surprise I see my good friend Scott, and his wife Laura, walking up the sidewalk. I'm grateful to have friends go out of their way to see me (I know they made a nice day out of it, and I wasn't the only reason, but let me have my fantasy). Scott calls up another friend that lives has a house here, and they come as well. So this is cool, and I'm happy, but now of course I want to make everyone happy. I will worry that they don't really like my music, but I will try and play my best set.
Tonight I'm playing first, so I get on stage for a sound check. It's a small stage that's built for small acts (small time?). I run through a bit of a song, and after a few adjustments it sounds good. Right away I feel my voice is on point, and looking out at my friends (and not many other folks) I think this should be fun. The sound guy walks up to the stage and says to me
"It's a little early, but if you want you go ahead and start, or we can wait a 20 minutes, maybe more people will show up."
This is where my ego gets the best of me. I should have just launched into my set, but I didn't. I was hoping to play for more people, so I chose to wait. The goal of more people arriving was achieved, but this turned out to be a bad thing. Under the wings of bros chattering, and beers tapping. Under the dimmed lights of all my dreams. Under the sounds of hi fives being slapped, and laughter being laughed. I rose to my throne on the stage. Out of curiosity the room took notice, but it only took about half a song for them to return to facing the bar, or their buddy. For them to talk about the day, and this or that hot chick. The clutter, and mermer slowly swelled, and I was drowned out almost completely. I occasionally looked out into the crowd only to see even my friends drinking and talking. After each song (I'm surprised you could even know a song ended) everyone would stop and turn to applaud. To me this feels like an insult. It makes me feel more insignificant than I already feel. Like this is some kind of mercy clap. The condecending clap being pulled of with perfection by the record store owner we met earlier. A few times I felt like just quitting, but I kept on. I got even quieter, and angrier. Because I couldn't hear my guitar I actually started a song in the wrong key. I just ended the damn thing mid song, who would know. I finished my set, and look out into the crowd. As loud as I could I said "It's been a pleasure playing for my friends tonight, but the rest of you, not so much" Then I gave them the finger, and got of the stage. It was the same for Jim and Ray, though I think they took it in stride better than I. I'm not so good at taking things in stride. Later the sound guy apologized for the crowd. I know not to take it personal, cause those folks intended me no harm. To them it was just a place to share a beer, and some friendship. They didn't barge into a concert hall and start acting like asses. It just feel like such a waste of time, and energy. I don't mean the day, but doing this music thing. It didn't go the way I wanted it to, and to a certain exctent my immature nature is exposed.
After the show the three of us were hanging outside. We were loading our stuff, and preparing to go. Some stoned skateboarders came up and started shooting the shit with us. Raymond pulled out a spliff, and they all started passing it around. It came to me, and I waved it past. I spoke little, and just felt tired. Though I stood in the circle I felt out of place. Like I had nothing to contribute here. So I just stood until I felt the moment to say "You guys ready to go". At about 1am we piled in the car, and headed home.
After a few weeks had passed and something came back to me, a memory. It was in a day dream, it was the Golden Retriever. I recalled walking out of that thrift shop with two old photos I had found. I walked into the sun and to my right. Noticing the dog, then the man. I walked to them, and gave the man a look, he said
"Go ahead and pet him he's a good boy"
I knelt down to him, and he looked up at me. I put my hands on his face, and under his chin. I scratched him, and his tongue flopped out. I notice he had a shirt of some kind covering his mid section. I asked the man what it was. He said,
"It helps with his nervousness. It's a shirt that makes him feel secure. I'm not sure what all the science behind it is, but he's happier with it on"
I looked down at him and scrartched his head. He looked me in the eye, and I smiled back at him. Talking to him slowly, and with purpose.
March 8th 2015
I leave the house around 8pm. On the short walk to my car I feel the remnants of the warm pre-spring day. There's a chill in the air, but it smells warm, like I said, the remnants of this day. I catch myself trying to look at my reflection in the car window. I'm going out and I do care what I look like. I'm mostly in black though I do have a denim jacket on, the jacket being a standard Levis classic. It's vain I know, but I try to take care of myself, and I spend too much time not being happy with how I look. So being mostly pleased with my reflection is a good thing (Damned the vanity). I'm going to a Rock-n-Roll show, or a "Punk" show. Last thing I want is to be that old guy trying to look young, so a pair of black pants, black plain t-shirt, Black hat, and Denim coat seems like a good place to be. Honestly part of me just wants to stay home, watch some TV, have some more time with Amber, and finish the night with a bowl of ice cream. But some folks I know are releasing a full length vinyl tonight, and I want to support that. After all I know how much work that entails (and money). So I get in my car with a good attitude, and back out of my drive way. I get on the best road to take me straight into Portland Proper. This is McGloughlin BLVD. It's really highway 99, and will turn into MLK BLVD when I get into Portland. There's a stretch of this road that is something to see. It has about a 2 or 3 mile stretch that is almost like going through a tunnel of trees. It's a wide 4 lane road with a cement divider in the middle. Each side of the Highway is lined with big old trees. I would tell you what they are but I don't know, but they're old and big. So big as a matter of fact that they almost touch each other high above the middle of the road. It's' a real sureal trip, especially in fall. Going threw feels like your in a big tornado of leaves. All swirling around, and spinning violently, victims of the wind, and the ending of something, and begining of another. At night the street lights made it even more tunnel like, and ghostly. Tonight it's just calm, and a little underwhelming, but still a tunnel of old wise trees reaching over my head to hold hands and talk to each other about their day.
I take a left on Burnside and go over the bridge into downtown. I find a parking spot pretty fast, and as I walk to the club it's real deserted. I see all these hip bars open, but hardly anyone inside. On the walk I only pass a few people on the street. I guess it is only 8:30. The real night life is still at home looking in the mirror. Approaching the club I notice it sure looks dark, and empty. If there's a show everyone's inside. I get to the front door and it's locked and nothing is going on. I walk to a nearby Mexican restaurant and grab a local paper. It doesn't take me long to find out I have confused my clubs. The show is at Star Bar, and I went to the Star Theatre. I ask the bar tender where the place is and he looks it up on his phone. It's on the other side of the river around 7th and Morrison. He starts to give me direction, and I want to stop him, and let him know I've lived in Portland for 30 years. I just tell my ego to shut the fuck up, and let him give me direction, and I thank him and head back to my car.
On the Southeast side I find parking pretty easy. I grab my ear plugs, and breath mints, and try and tell my ego to wait in the car, but he's having none of it, so I relent and tell him he can come, but he must be quiet. Walking down the street I can see the big star in the window of the "Star Bar". I also see all the Sid Vicious, and David Bowie wanna be's standing in front, and around the side. There smoking and hanging on each other, and the girls are in Black with lots of makeup, Looking like Joan Jett, and Wendy O Williams, and all kinds of gothy. A couple things trouble my heart here. One is that I'm so judgmental of this group. At one time or another I've wanted to look just like they look, to have a goth girl on my arm, to be drunk and part of a wild, street, rebellious, punk thing. I tried to spike my hair up, and wore the same studded leather jacket, and those creppers for shoes, and jewelry. I wanted to feel part of something, one with others who were like minded. To be drunk and standing in front of a club on Saturday night with my arm around another punk, and smoking a cig, and maybe doing some Coke. Now I walk up to this place and feel not a part of it. Like they look at me like some old guy who doesn't know shit about it, this troubles my heart. The reason being that it's my own illusion, and it's my self-centered soul giving me a hard time. I take a breath and try and let the whole world be, and with practice, I can do that, so I practice.
I see someone I know, and we have a little conversation. She tells me it's packed and hot, but the music is great. I go inside and see that she's right. I can't even see the band, and I look around, look for a way to catch the music. The first band is almost done, and I turn around and go back outside. I'm thinking I can just walk back in and buy the band album, and walk to my car and go home. I return to the friend I was talking with outside. She's much more into this than I am, but god bless her she talks me into going back inside and getting up front and watching the next band. I have a few short conversations with scene acquaintances, nod my head to a few others. This of course makes mister ego happy, and I tell him to get over himself. It's hot and the band sounds great. It's a couple guys from The Humpers, and they can do this kind of Rock n Roll in their sleep. They do it very well, and I have moment of having fun, but it all starts to sound the same to me. Everyone around me is having a good old time, but I'm in conflict. I honestly just want them to get done so the final band can play and I can buy there new album and go home. They finish and I go back outside. Again I catch myself mentally trying to tear down the people around me. You know the young and Sid Viciouses, the wild and original David Bowies. I try and smile and know it's a state of mind that only opresses me. Someday they'll all get to be soft in the middle, hair thining, aged.
My friend and I go back inside and return to the same spot. On the far end of the little venue, right in front of the action. The band starts, and my first thought is that they're a little rawer than the other band. A lot of this comes from the drummer who's just not as good as the other bands drummer. I do this dissecting all the time in music shows. Don't get me wrong I like raw, and this band has kind of a punk Venom sound. Venom being one of my favorite bands of all time, and I dig what I'm seeing. It's considerably much drunker around me now, and a little more aggressive. About three songs into the set it gets a little closer to a slam dance kind of thing. Looking around I also notice some guys exchanging angry glances, and one punk guy standing right next to me is yelling insults at the band (yes this is something I would have done. Trying to be the punkest guy in the room). Then someone run into me and pushes me up against this table. Then it comes, the thought hits me that's been coming all along. It springs to the front of my mind like a bullet, like a trapped animal in a cage who wants out. This is the thought "I want out of here".
I see an opening and move to the back of the room (by the door). I look over at the mech table, and see the singer for the last band sitting there. For some reason I don't want to go over and buy an album while he's sitting there. And now I feel like the room has become aggressive to me, like guys are looking at me in a challenging way. I step outside, and stand on the corner, waiting for the Walk sign. Then the thought comes that, fuck it, I'm stepping back inside and buy the album and go home. The street sign changes to walk and I just stand there, looking at the club door. The sign cycles back, and says Walk again. And I walk.
All the way home I say I'll just buy the album at another show, and I mean that. Bottom line of it was I just wasn't having any fun. Like I just don't belong there anymore. That I don't need it, and don't have to belong, or not belong. I get home and change into some comfortable clothes, and dish up some Ice Cream.
January 23rd 2015
Publicity is bullshit, and hard to come by. I'm talking about the kind that makes a difference. And that kind rarely , if ever, comes your way. Everybody out there is looking to get some eyes on their "Thing". All of us looking for a big dose of approval. I look back on my music career, and can point out many times all things went my way. I got that great review by that great blog, and I got on that compilation that everyone listens to, and approval and praise from all the right people fell into my lap. I'm not sure any of it ever made a damn bit of good other than to beef up my ego. In the long run I didn't sell big amounts of records or have big sell out shows. I don't mean to lessen the hard work that a writer took to listen and write about my "Thing". I have a great respect for them, and have always been grateful. I'm getting to the point with this last release (Royal Violent Birds) that I didn't even want to share my reviews. I just started to feel like this big puppy dog. Like a little kid yelling from his crib "Look at me, give me attention, give me praise". Now the reviewer is doing the same thing you are. They're reviewing your record, and hoping you share the shit out of it (Facebook, twitter, etc. etc.). And that's ok, I get it, and I share it. But what I'm really doing is sending reviews out to poeple that either already have my album or are not into what I do. Either way I'm showing of right? It feels like "See I'm talented, and really good at what I do". Always trying to outshine, and feel a little superior.
It's never that black and white of course. The writer and the artist have a big part of their heart in the right place. We're expressing ourselves, and raising it to the sky. We want to show it to you, and share it. We want to see what you're up to as well, and want to help you and support you. Labors of love are a back biting bitch, and we all know it. It's just the game can really suck for all of us. I see it and feel it all the time. I read, and experience others trying to win at the game just like I am. Doing all the things I've tried, or thinking of trying. Just seeing them do those game moves makes me cringe a little now. It makes me recoil back a bit, and feel tired of it all. I'm letting go a bit at a time I think, and it's healthy. I started playing the game for real around 1994. That's when I got booze out of my life. I still wasn't in any recovery program so I needed a distraction. So I went whole hog with the band I was in at the time "The Jimmies". I'd been playing in bands for 10 years before that, but always left all the promo stuff to someone else. That's when I learned how much work other band members had put in. So I made a press kit, and wrote bios, and compliled all the record label address I could. I wrote letters, and included all the promo stuff I could. And we got on a little record label, and we played some high profile shows, and good things came. But in the end it got tired, and kept draggin its worn out ass for miles. Even though all signs said it's over. Then we finally ended it, and it felt good.
So running this little record label is another place for me to struggle with what to do to get my "Thing" out in the eye of the consumer. All I wanted was to help some friends make some real cool music, and release it in a real fun way. Just for the release show you know? I didn't want to worry about distribution or record stores or reviews (maybe just locally, but that comes with a bunch of bitter bullshit also). But I also want to really be a help to all that want to do a record with Gorbie International Records. So enters the conflict. I can't just sit and do nothing. It's always worth a try. So Jon Ransom is releasing a great record, and I'm getting ready to send out for reviews. I know it means a lot to him, and I'd love to see him succeed. But I want him to remember one thing: "Publicity is bullshit, and hard to come by".