Like how you get excited because you have brought a new life to this World and you want so show off. The difference being babies are not available for critical review. So it’s rare that you will show off a picture of your lil’ treasure and have the response be ‘that kid is ugly and his vocals are too loud.’
At this time, we were also getting played on the radio pretty regularly. Local Homegrown type shows that we always submitted to, quite a few radio interviews as well. The most exciting thing was that Grimm was getting played on the big broadcast FM station in my growing up area 99.1 WPLR was playing us on their Local Band Show. Not during Prime Time, sure, but I grew up on this station and it felt pretty great. All my old friends were impressed.
We were not making money quickly enough so we begged and borrowed cash where we could to start the sessions with Tyler. We had a series of practices split between the House of Grimm and Kerry Carriage House practice space. We worked on details, tightening. Lys started playing a mean electric guitar as much of this material was rocking.
We started recording on a Saturday and as expected, Kerry was first up with drum tracks. We actually had the whole band wired up down there to the best effect. The basic tracks were Kerry and my acoustic guitar and Carmen’s voice. It was such a different vibe from recording in Storrs with the Scamp. It was very professional. It was not nearly as fun.
I think that same description could be said of GG around that time. We were achieving something trackable, something noteworthy. But even then, I could see the cracks start to develop. This was our dream, Carmen and Me. This was not their dream. We were asking a lot of everybody with a constant gig schedule and little pay.
What we were doing was exciting, to all of us I believe. We were striking out with a unique type of Pop Music that was quite difficult to fit into any genre. We would stick with the ‘Indie Rock’ tag because that was the closest. By this point, our New World of Facebook was getting crowded in addition to the constant urging of Facebook to pay, pay, pay. The ground was shifting beneath our feet and I am not even sure if we were aware of it. By this point CC and I had been operating GG for about 5 years. And despite our constant cheerleading and trumpeting the ‘Cause,’ even we were wearing a bit thin with each other.
We had been having a single conversation for years and the frequency was insane. We had days where hundreds of notes flew between us. Texts likely even more.
Recording what would become ‘The Big Fame’ continued with band members scheduling their time with Tyler, showing up and leaving tracks. Tyler would send rough tracks that we would all obsess over though mainly Lys, CC and Me.
We added a song from the GG3 days into the mix as well because ‘Real Bad Voodoo’ had a perfect presence among these tracks. We invited Dave Hogan in as he played on that track more than everybody and he was cool enough to do a couple of other tracks as well.
Retrospect. That is really where the gold gets separated from the stones. We should have had him play on the record more.
The main difference in sound between the first record ‘The Last Record Party’ and our next full length ‘The Big Fame’ came from the band we were working with who had been playing these songs out in the World with us for over a year. Where, for ‘The Last Record Party’ we asked people to participate and make it awesome, this band knew exactly what they were doing far before we booked the date with Tyler. The other difference was in the songs we were producing which came from a slightly different place than previous, by this point Carmen and I had been writing regularly for a few years and the increasing confidence and inspiration coming from sounds that were around us which was no longer Classic Rock.
Carmen was the first person I knew who discovered new music online. It seems silly now, but fact was, before Spotify, it was YouTube. And Carmen was always on the hunt. She introduced us both to some higher quality sounds, some different sounds. And the new sounds were creeping into our work. We just wanted to be a Rock Band. Now we wanted to be something more. No…that is not true. We did not want to be more than a Rock Band. It was something that was happening beyond our control.
‘The Big Fame’ starts with my song. ‘Earthquake, Hurricane, Flood and You,’ which was a true story. The year around the recording was simply madness with the major weather events that were happening. This was a love song in my style before I became better at love songs. I love this song like an errant mischievous child. It starts with that chug which always fires me up. We worked with the right Drummer on the record as Kerry provided that fast, unrelenting beat that everyone laid into. This featured Lys and Dave on monster guitars. I loved the way they played off of each other which was even better when they did it live. Lys had a Mustang that roared and perfectly abetted Dave’s cool Les Paul sound. Julie cello on this was perfect and nearly unbelievable. Who would even put Cello on a song like this? We would. Also, one of my livelier harmonies. I did not sing a single song on this record. This was the Grimm show and that put Carmen in front of the mike.
Up next, ‘The Next Indie Boy,’ which we envisioned as the single. Who was ‘the next indie boy”? It was not me. This was written from the point of view of a girl who I had recently broken up with and effectively says ‘There is always another musician hanging around…’. Jerk. But fuck, what a song!!! The dual vocal chorus, two differing melodies fighting for space made me excited every time I heard it. The dual guitars of Lys and Dave really kick this one down. Bass master Eric, who it must be said played his head off on every track, his high bass harmonies on the third verse resolve added to the overall stew of kick ass, fuck you songery. This was the song we had a lot of faith in and hand made a video for it to get it out there. The classic Replacements rip of just pointing a camera at a cassette deck and letting it play.
Then another CC concoction that was just too fun to play ‘Dizzy in My Hips Swinging.’ This was a straight-out Rock and Roll song that featured CC, Me and Lys all singing different parts in the chorus as well as some sweet harmonies in the verse between CC and Lys. Kerry kept a quick galloping beat on this held down by Eric’s wild bass lines. I think my favorite part of this song was the cello swoops that Julie dropped in the chorus which added to the real ‘whoosh’ feeling of the track.
Based on our history as a band, we had a pretty clear theme for ‘The Big Fame’ record which was the trial and triumphs of a local band trying to reach higher. Although that year had a different agenda than ours. Carmen’ father passed away in that period which as a loss for everyone. She started exploring this in her lyrics, to a chilling effect. Conversely, I was starting a still happy relationship so my songs were decidedly bedroom tunes. The song ‘House Drinks’ was what I consider the best song we ever wrote and performed. This was a rather intense song, multi-layered and with multiple parts. The words were some of Carmen’s best work which was a conversation about her father’s passing. If not for this line up having played this song for a year already, it may have been difficult to record. We had little issue with this under Tyler’s steady production hand. This was one I am still quite proud of.
The next track was our heavy track and named tribute to the dude behind the kit, Killer Kerry Miller. Granted, it’s not about him, but about the power of his name. ‘Miller, Don’t You Even Care?’ is a tale of a fictional Miller and CC trying to breach his heart. This was all guitars on deck, aggressive and triumphed by a genuinely wild guitar solo by Dave Hogan. I still remember the first time CC and I heard the guitar solo after Dave left the studio and we were wide eyed and open mouthed. And then fits of mad giggling because it was a monster.
Up next was our Cello standout track ‘Until Then.’ Beautiful, bordering on baroque, with some of Carmen’s most heartbreaking and truly present lyrics. Julie’s cello work on this was outstanding. I think my personal favorite part of this was when my harmony vocal came in on the chorus. Carmen and I had finetuned how to sing with each other by then so we did what we thought was right and let the recording catch it. The final arrangement of acoustic, cello, glockenspiel was truly lush.
‘Quiet (St Francis)’ was next and was the most direct reflection of her recent loss with a story about visiting in the St Francis hospital. The words were stark and almost shocking with the raw emotion she was working through. It’s not painful because CC was not dramatic. She is plain spoken and hurting out loud. Despite the heavy lyric, I paired this with one of my favorite American Pop Music tropes, the ‘And Then He Kissed Me’ riff. That ‘dumdeedumdum’ bit. I have always had an almost unreasonable attraction to that riff, likely started when I first heard it on a KISS record. Eric would lock in with me on the bass and Lys would kick in some key harmonies for key verse lines and the chorus. All of this gave the song a sort of Kinks vibe that was almost rollicking.
Up next we brought Dave Hogan back for his 12-string prowess on ‘Road To Joy.’ It is a very un-Grimm like song as it is overwhelmingly positive. OK, that’s an over statement but it wasn’t doom laden. Lys on her Mandola, Dave on the 12 string, this was a nice song. Honestly CC and Me never cared for it after we wrote it but it did record well.
‘Real Bad Voodoo’ was up next for some good and dark guitar wankery. Both Lys and Dave on electric. This song was originally on the ‘The Book Of Love’ EP and was one of those songs that The GG3 used to play a lot. It has a delightful sleaziness to it, with some great vocals and harmonies. This was the type of song that GG was born on, so it was great to actually put it on this record. The GG3 used to rock this song hard with Dave overjoyed to wrap in some lovely Raymond Chandler guitar lines. The effect of the whole band on it was different, better, though maybe a bit less energetic than the live or EP version.
My Pirate song ‘The Wreck Of My Bed‘ was up next and man, this was a hoot to play live. Even before we started working with drummers, the collected musicians had fantastic timing so my stompy foot would come across as a primal invitation. This song was based on a long weekend and the condition of my bed after said weekend. Lys played banjo, Dave played 12 string, Eric pulled off some lovely high tone bass work toward the third bit. The heroes for this song were definitely Kerry on drums and Julie on cello. What impressed me about Julie was we made no effort to make songs that should include cello and she balked at none of it, using her instrument like a third guitar. Her tone carries this song through to its thrilling conclusion.
Another stunner, maybe slightly behind ‘House Drinks’ in my all-time favorites of The Grimm Generation songs was Carmen’s ‘The Eye Of Tranquility.’ When she presented this to me as a long form poem, I looked at it as an epic and wrote it accordingly. A very simple acoustic and vocal start as the other fall in behind and propel the song toward the second verse. The chorus was amazing and featured one of the highest vocals I ever put on record. This song meant a lot to us and we were mighty proud of it. It is the words on this one and CC’s delivery that sell this.
Up next was one of my older songs, one written in the time of the Folk Award days, ‘Bigger Than.’ I am pretty confident I wrote this about CC despite it being pre-Grimm. We often wrote about each other in subtle or obvious ways. This song was best served as an acoustic number, the less musicians the bigger the impact. This version sounds like pure Country and I hate it. Hate. It. It was likely my fault. This was initially going to be an acoustic track, no drums. When Kerry was doing drums, I suggested he try a drum track for this one too, which I don’t think he expected. As often happens when creating songs, when I hear the drums, I was excited because drums hold everything together. When we started laying the tracks on top of it, the whole thing went Country and though I should have cut it from the record, I did not. Love the song deeply, hate the recording.
And in conclusion, the song that would grow things out of its own soil, the swooping lap steel and locked in thud of the rhythm of ‘The Big Fame.’ This was the song that would bring about the Radio Show. I really like this one. It was one of those songs that I would listen to and not believe I wrote it as it was so odd, so perfect. Everyone played this song perfectly and we were pretty pleased with it. Had to be careful with this live: if it’s too fast, that was OK. If it was too slow, it would take a lunar year to get through.
Pop and CC were responsible for the cover which featured CC in 50s gear vacuuming in front of an abandoned movie theater that was still in Windsor. The image along with the title were perfect. It was about show biz, you know?
We did something unique when this came out and actually bought radio station ads in a big station in Hartford. They only aired very late at night as we did not have the finance, but it was pretty special tuning into a 50000-watt radio station and hearing those opening strains of The Big Fame.
Once we had Dave Hogan on a few tracks, we asked him to come sit in at a show. And when I saw Lys and He play together, that was when it was clear we missed something by not insisting he play more on the record.
With the addition of Dave this became what I think was our best line up, which was The Grimm Generation Show Band. Dave on 12 string acoustic and Les Paul, Lys on Fender Mustang, banjo, mandola, glockenspiel, vocals, Eric on bass and Kerry on drums, Julie on Cello, Carmen singing and Me playing acoustic and stomping right along.
This band was put together to play The Big Fame Radio Show. And the sound was mountainous.
We continued to push for press for the Radio Show at the Radio Museum and we did attract quite a bit of attention. It was just a different idea and people were fascinated. CC and I did interviews, radio shows, pimped the concept online …. We were doing what we did the best, which was Promoting. Ideas for this just seemed to come up from the ground and it was our job to catch every single one.
And in time, on the precipice of our greatest triumphs, CC and Me in the House of Grimm were deteriorating.
In retrospect, I know what happened. It was all very practical. In the same way the band was showing up to carry us, CC was carrying me. I had lost my job and was drawing unemployment. Meanwhile I had a new girlfriend who was around the house of Grimm too much. And I was barely paying rent.
And money was bad all around. There were fears she would lose the House of Grimm and that was something we took very seriously. To me, 53 Park Ave was not a house. It was my home. What I created down in my basement lair was the best work of my life. What CC and I created at that Kitchen Table should was simple magic. Should allow us to live comfortably.
But we kept it together. For just a little while longer.
We released ‘The Big Fame’ record and perhaps with this poverty frame of mind did not make it available to stream on Spotify. At the time where musicians were just not sure how to work with streaming services.
We wanted to sell records, at last. Exchange our songs for cash. It was that simple. We had paid our dues as did the folks who played with us. We accepted that the GG Leer Jet was a few years away but we wanted validation to not feel insane for pushing this for years. This weighed on CC more than me cause though we did not make a lot of money, I made more money in GG than anything else I did.
Looking at it from Carmen’s POV, it just hurt. She did not come up in bands and wasn’t sold this limo dream as a kid. She was frustrated that something that took so much from us, something we paid real money for occasion by occasion, could not produce any on its own.
At what point is the Rock and Roll Fantasy a fantasy? At every point, obviously.
If your dream is to play bars and get laid, the stage is waiting. If your dream is to reach people with your songs, far worse things await.
We received some great reviews from friend around the Country including Our Man In Nashville, Joe. We met him through a musician friend and he started to talk about us in his Nashville home. Joe was a good guy and more, loved the Hell out of Grimm. He gave us a stellar review that we pimped like it would cure cancer.
Meanwhile our bread and butter, The Internet, was getting harder to navigate. All previously free websites started charging. Facebook was a collective din where no sound came through and none got out. We were there at that perfect point where anyone could pull off a new band when people were still engaged. Before all of these same people as well as ourselves, struck out for better sites and content.
Despite all of this, despite the disappointment of our record not getting listened to enough, we had a Radio Show to do.
The Windsor Vintage Radio Museum was a box warehouse type building but what they had inside was mind-blowing. It was radios throughout the eras, the first ever televisions and collection of outdated and delightful electronics. We showed up dressed to kill and set up for the show.
Genuine Hero (look it up) and CC Boyfriend Matt provided the catering from his super popular Burger joint. The members of the Museum board did their job and though we were set up in the Museums itself, surrounded by all of these amazing nostalgia inducing electronics, it was standing room only. I am quite sure the Members of the Board did not know what they were in for.
And it began. Ginger acting as narrator stepped to the microphone and said ‘I am here to tell you a story… about Asher…..’ while the band crept in behind her with the repetitive noir riff of the title track from ‘The Big Fame’ … soft sensual…maybe a bit scary….before we kicked into raging ”Earthquake, Hurricane, Flood and You’ and we were hitting it with every step. The narration parts had Julie playing beautiful movements on her cello based on the theme melodies while Ginger continued the tale.
The parts where the song was quiet such as ‘Until Then,’ the crowd sat hushed, not a sound, not a rustle. The loud songs got raucous. It was perfect.
And after the show we had a Grimm Listening Party with the whole band over. It got wild and was an unforgettable night.
And that last with that particular line up. Kerry had decided to seek saner waters by moving out to Indiana and Ginger went with him. We were again without a drummer.
Good fortune swung our way this time with Julie suggesting an old friend of hers, Jack to try out. He’s a slightly unusual drummer in that he mainly played percussion with congas and djembes. We were always up for rhythmic experimentation, though currently we were in a riskier position as we had an established set in The Radio Show which would be our regular set for all the gigs upcoming. Even with the extended spoken word, it clocked in at 55 minutes.
Jack showed up with some percussion as well as a snare. He did not play with a bass drum which due to the size of the band at the time was OK. There were plenty of instruments bringing the bass kick.
I met Jack first at his house in Essex and we went up to the practice room. I had my sheets, my chords, my guitar and my recorder so I was set to go. Once we hit the spot, we did not pick up an instrument even once. We just chatted. We found we fought in some of the same ‘wars,’ specifically a gig about 20 years previous that we both played.
The Hopi Fest gig was a well-meaning musical disaster which featured about 1200 bands. My band The Great Upsetters (featuring Dave Hogan) was supposed to play at 5. And then 7. Then 9.
Around 10 we dropped the acid.
It was about midnight when we took the stage. No one wanted us to play. The gig was long over and wasn’t particularly successful at any point. We demanded to take the stage, demanded to play our show, despite the only people remaining were crew folk who did not like us even a bit.
We played, loud. It wasn’t good, everyone was way too far gone within the group and absolutely hateful outside the group.
I told the tale to Jack that first non-practice and he said ‘I was there. I was in the band right before you. I will always remember watching you guys take the stage and thinking ‘What the fuck is going on with these guys?’ I related this story to Dave Hogan who was equally amused.
Jack had spent his time on the CT Shoreline with his own series of bands. He was a Legend in that area, not only known for his singing and time keeping, but also, he was funny. Like real funny.
I liked him immediately and hoped he could drum.
We gathered the whole 7-member Show Band together at The Grimm House with Jack and his weird set up. After Ginger split, Carmen took over the reins of becoming the Narrator of the story, trying on a collection of Southern accents because that was what she heard it as. And she was right.
The set began, again with a soundscape based on the title tracks and the opening of the story. And then we were off, the entire set straight through, no breaks. Jack did phenomenal. His odd kit was, in review, perfect for a band of this size. He would keep the time firm and it was never splashy. Just straight down the line, even throwing in some kicky dance beats that were never in the songs before. It worked brilliantly.
And we went back on the road playing The Big Fame Radio Show every following gig. The more we worked it, the tighter, the more dramatic it became. Now having both Lys and Dave playing guitar brought a real driving sense to the set. Jack picked up on cues and focused on certain moments, versus beats. Everyone was playing like this was a live musical drama, which it was.
We played a lot of gigs in this line up, but two remain in perfect focus for completely different reasons.
A friend and Grimm booster from Facebook were involved in an arts festival held in Bridgeport at the historical McLevy Hall. It was an interesting event. Multiple floors on the building and each room had a different type of creation happening. Drum circles, costuming, every conceivable type of visual and video art (Including on the outside face of the building).
This was also a sort of homecoming for me because though we had played down Bridgeport some, not as much as we played everywhere else. I did see some old friends and walking around with the Big Band made me feel like a boss.
We were playing in one of the upper rooms and while we were setting up there was a tither in the crowd. Apparently, Chris and Tina, rhythm section for the Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club were in attendance. We were starstruck. And they were sitting in our audience waiting on a show.
Which we gave them in spades. Maybe the best performance of the Grimm Generation Show Band ever.
Afterwards Chris and Tina were effusive with praise for the Radio Show set. Tina in particular mentioned she was transfixed. The band was all wide smiles and jittery happiness.
I recall this night through a gauzy inner filter that indicated ‘remember this.’
The other gig was equally dramatic but all off stage. This was the final Cabaret show in New London for the Grimm Generation. At which point the wheels came off the cart.
It started badly. Way before we even got near New London. It was snowing like mad as Carmen, Pop and I made our way down south. I was driving and I am not a good snow driver. And that trip was a white-knuckle ride all down Rt 2 which on its best day is an underdeveloped highway. I remember keeping the car on the road between the two white lines till they disappeared completely. I remember the stone silence in the car because both CC and Pop were well aware of my distaste for winter driving. By the time we hit the gig I was a single raw nerve and was not being particularly pleasant to anyone.
We had 2, 20-minute sets after a 2-hour slippery nightmare to get there. That of course is not unusual. We rearranged our set, dropping the slower, quieter numbers and amping up all the fast songs. Everybody was supposed to play a 20-minute set, but other bands were being loose with their time, under the impression we were all here for a good time. Not an unreasonable expectation.
It was driving us crazy. We played our first set in the overcrowded underground venue and we did play well. We were supposed to come up an hour later which was delayed and delayed again.
I approached the lovely lady organizing this event, a lady who was responsible for booking us again and again in a number of super cool shows, including all three Cabaret performances. I was not pleasant. She did not deserve it either.
Another band would step up and play a 40-minute set. Magic acts came up and played a 40-minute set. Improv comics, a ventriloquist, Burlesque girls all came up for their 40 minutes while I turned red in my seat. Carmen and I were shooting looks at each other like a murder was a ‘coming.
What happened when we took the stage is one of my favorite Grimm Generation memories. We were very professional and if someone wanted a 20-minute set, that’s what they got. We were Teutonic in our timing.
We step to the stage, all rage and madness. Carmen grabbed the mike and said ‘THIS is what a 20-minute set sounds like….’ And BOOM! We played with all of the rage, all of the disappointment, years of regrets, a questionable future could summon. We were tight and hot and incredible.
I was never prouder. It was the most punk thing I had ever seen, ever been a part of. We roared and it was not posing. For all the artifice that GG played with, all of the humor, all of the pulp, we meant what we did, what we played, what we sang. These songs were pulled from us and we refracted them into Pop music so a deeper amount of people would hear what we feel.
This was the goal, always. It was not to ‘get chicks.’ It was not for the miniature amounts of cash. We had something to say and we would sing it if you will take it better.
That Monday we got the note from Lys. Thank you for the experiences but I’m going to have to leave GG and dedicate more time to my own bad. This quickly followed with Eric saying he needs to quit GG so he can start a band with Lys.
I think the last Cabaret showed them sides of us they did not want to see again. I could not and did not blame them. They stuck with us for a few years and my gratitude at that, despite no real money, despite consistent long car rides for practice, they kept coming.
I had the conversation again with CC: These are not friends. These are musicians. They will come around right up until they have a better offer.
Soon afterward we received an offer that I had wanted since we wrote the Radio Show. A full hour performance on WPKN which was the Bridgeport college station that I, we, listened to for years. It was finally the opportunity to put the Radio show on the radio. And everyone, Lys and Eric specifically, came back for one more performance.
We gathered at WPKN on a sunny Sunday morning, not dressed for a crowd. Performing in regular clothes felt strange. We all took our seats and Dave the DJ introduced us and the piece. I remember the sun shining through the high windows looking at everyone surrounding me focused on the work. I felt bliss. Grateful. Proud.
We played beautifully. And of course, the recording never came. Technical difficulties. The Gods who held us in favor clearly turned away.
The House of Grimm was in turmoil completely aside from the music. The girl who never left my room eventually moved and invited me along. Since I was barely paying rent and relations between CC and me were getting icy, I went. Three months later that relationship went to Hell and having nowhere to go, I asked CC if I could have my space back.
And she rescued me. She let me talk for hours as the breakup did finally fuck me up. She was my rock, in addition to her mate and future husband Matt. They would come down every night and we established a type of club, smoking friendly. We laughed for hours for a year or two. I was home again.
And things end as they began.
With all of our hard work over the year, we actually placed for the Best Indie Band in Hartford and were invited to the red-carpet ceremony. It was unexpected as we did not even submit ourselves for review. Everybody dressed Oscars appropriate and we gathered at the Bushnell in Hartford with the rest of the CT Arts and Music scene. We saw some old friends and saw some old bands we played with. Everybody dressed to accept rewards. It was surreal and pretty sweet.
Due to the being nominated (we did not win as a band of teens had all of their friends stuff the Ballot boxes. I was OK with that because if I had friends, I would have done the same exact thing) we received a gig, which would be the Last performance of The Grimm Generation and our Radio Show. We had the full show band back with one exception: Eric on bass had moved on to other pastures so we brought in a ringer for the bass, a real cool and skilled gentleman named Dave.
The gig was at Arch Street which was one of the livelier venues in Hartford that still featured original music. On this night, it was a morgue. This all brought back clearly what started this: me pacing wildly outside a gig on New Year’s Day when I won the Harford Folk Artist. Sadness and disappointment.
It had to end that way. It was too good of an ending not to.
I had always said, to anyone who would listen, that the best conceived story ever written would be about a band that tried to make it and failed. These stories have everything: love, drama, craft, disappointment, moments of triumph, concepts of belief, betrayals, heroes and villains, addictions, usually a touch of true crime, death and life. There is something about viewing the world as a member of a band that makes you feel you have soldiers standing beside you, angels looking over you and a steep decline ahead. Which is true in any team activity.
Carmen and I remain close but we do not communicate that often now. During the course of about 4 years we talked enough for a dozen years. Now that we had no child to shepherd (GG was the errant troubled child), life started away from each other.
CC and Matt married and I sang GG at their wedding. She no longer sings but has started writing again in earnest.
After GG I decided to do a solo album ‘The Zen Of Losing’ based on that leveling break up I experienced and asked Julie to help me out with her Cello. We produced a record together with assist by old friends Adam (who recorded and played just about everything) and of course, Dave Hogan.
Working so close with Julie we became very close and then fell in love hard. We started a band with Jack and played that record. Coming to know Julie, as she truly was, it made me wonder how many other things I missed during that period. I was obsessed with GG thinking that was the only way to get it done.
Lys put out her solo record (with Dave Hogan contributing) and started the Lys Guillorn Band with Eric.
We came together one last time without instruments at Dave Hogan’s Funeral. Everyone was very sweet to me during that period as she knew what Dave meant to me.
The Music Business was disassembling itself in real time. Napster led to Spotify and it was getting difficult to get anyone to buy physical product. This is all we knew, not based on music business experience but based on the sound logic of living through our teens. We were not simply musicians but consumers of music. In our time this was a fairly simple concept: find the bands you like and buy their records. If someone recommends something, they believe you might like, buy their record. If you were looking for new music, hit your record store and see what came out. It is OK to judge a record by its cover. You may not like the record but you tried.
With Spotify, Pandora, Amazon Music dominating people’s listening habits, the very idea of making a ‘record’ was a failing logic. It was about singles. The average listener would not listen to anything beyond a song.
Do not confuse this statement for a soapbox. I am not condemning anyone in this. If I did, I would not be curating my Amazon Music list so carefully. I am as guilty as everyone else.
The problem with this was if you wanted to really say something, to really explore, it would take more than a song. It takes a collection of songs to wheedle, confuse, clear up and speak it out loud. I am a music consumer and I love a good single. My teen metalhead leaning of ‘anything Commercial is bad’ wore off a long time ago. I hear good songs, not songs in a style I appreciate, and like them.
The Grimm Generation was a concept before it was a band. We over intellectualized everything we could get our hands on, reformatted it and made it marketing. We wanted people to really hear the words, both Carmen and Myself. And we wanted everyone to hear each other’s words as well. As noted, CC was becoming one of the more interesting lyricists I had even met.
The loss of the album format was a true blow to us, to all of us. But since we were making up the rules (people over 40 do not start Indie bands), we decided to break this rule as well and make a record like we would want to listen to too.
We wrote too much, in general. Now CC and I were getting together about every day to work out new songs. We were always looking for people with home studios who had time on their hands and were interested in recording Grimm.
Due to Facebook, I renewed my acquaintance with Adam of my previous band The Citizen Spy, who would play a big role in my musical life.
Adam came in at the end of my award-winning folk band that no one really cared about and was a good guy. We kept playing until the bass player found out he was having twins and that was that. Adam was a guitar player and a damned good one. He played mainly acoustic due to the group but could tear it up with vigor.
While looking for home studios who would put us with us, I reached out to him and he was intrigued.
We showed up at his home in Collinsville and laid down a guitar and vocal to a click track. And then left him alone. What he created around those tracks was impressive and maybe the best we ever sounded. Due to his learning, and perhaps based on the fact his father was a noted Bluegrass player in the area. There was a sort of Americana sound that neither Carmen nor I cared for, but aside from personal tastes, he was leaving a mark on these songs. I wrote a song called ‘Coming Home’ that was pretty dark and broody. He took that and with his equally talented brother on banjo gave a real down-home Country feel. It was impressive.
The lead off tracking was a song I wrote called ‘Blink, I’m Gone.’ It came to me as a whole story which does not happen a lot. I was reflecting on the name Asher and wrote the opening line ‘Asher wants to come. But tell him it is not happening…’ This turned into a noir song about murder.
A rare thing about this song was that I was singing it. I let Carmen sing as often as possible and took a few lead vocals but mainly counted on my background vocals. It worked well for me not because I was afraid to sing but it was good fun trying to figure out interesting harmony counter points to CC’s lead. Some genuinely well-meaning people suggested that I need to sing more as CC’s voice was unique. Unusual. My more standard voice may carry a bit better.
I really appreciated that but had my job to do. I liked the way things were going.
In another instance, CC and I took a trip down to the shore to work up some tracking with an old acquaintance named Big Dave. I knew him through a friend and he used to drop by his house and hang out. What I liked about Big Dave was he was unusual for the area being that his band played big and ugly heavy rock and there were just way too many hippies in the area.
After I moved out of the area, I did not see him anymore. Our next meeting happened at a Solar Powered Local Music Fest held in a beautiful farm in East Haddam CT. This was a funny gig as we had played a gig in Massachusetts. After the gig, the ride home, the Listening Party, we must have finally crashed about 6 am. The gig was at Noon on Saturday.
To say we arrived worse for wear is an indictment of the word ‘worse.’ We were a pair of twin wreckage. It was all very rock star in so much as we looked like we slept in our clothes, looked still drunk and wore mirrored shades the whole day.
My favorite thing about this Fest was we had a dog running around on the stage which was endlessly amusing to me personally. I may have still been a little high.
Lo and behold, Big Dave was there with his zydeco band that really rocked and we got to chatting. He liked what we were doing and had an excess of recording equipment and we asked if he would be game for a collaboration. He was.
The usual method was we would send interested people some practice tracks and then go back and forth on email. We had some tracks burning a hole in our psyche (another new set of tracks…nothing from any of the records, nothing from what we were currently playing live) and we took a ride out to his Westbrook basement lair. He knew his stuff. With some basic drum programming and skill, he took our basic vocal / acoustic tracks and started making something interesting.
He even knew musicians which was exciting. We wanted to do a track I wrote called ‘Brooklyn Good’ and I wanted a cello on it. And he knew a girl (this is foreshadowing …).
We were pretty excited about what Big Dave was bringing out on these songs. He had a bunch of weird ideas but we were not averse to weird. He wanted to go to Brooklyn and record street sounds as a subtle soundscape behind ‘Brooklyn Good.’ Which was pretty groovy, in concept.
As we went about the business of being Grimm, we reached out to Big Dave without replies. He had a few bands going and started writing protest songs to sing solo. So, he was busy too. But we found it strange how we could not get in touch with him.
Based on what we felt like was the potential of these songs, I scheduled a couple of days so that he and I could get together in the studio and start progressing on these tracks.
There was a boat in the basement. Not a canoe. Not a kayak. Not a boat model. A full-sized boat about 30 feet. This was my first sign I was entering Alice’s Wonderland.
We settled in his studio basement with a wild array of instruments strewn around. Big Dave could play the majority of them which was impressive. He had played with a variety of genre bands starting with the ugly metal he played when we met and continuing through zydeco, protest, a number of solo gigs based on his own songs and covers. He had a great voice.
The vibe in the room with just the two of us was strange. I would say passive aggressive but it was pretty aggressive passivity. We started chatting and he started enlightening me to a huge number of Conspiracy theories I could not care about. Wide ranging, global, 9/11 to local lore.
Anytime I would try and change the subject back to ‘Can I hear the tracks?’ he was launching into something equally new and bizarre. I like a good Conspiracy theory, but this was work. And it was not happening. And I scheduled two days of this with him. On purpose.
It was disappointing but I figured ‘OK, we still have another day…’ And we did. And the same exact thing happened.
During the second day of Big Dave’s Manifesto, he did mention that he had a Cello player that played some on ‘Brooklyn Good.’ This was exciting but of course I never heard it even once. He noted that he had the Cello player play the same few notes over and over and over so she could capture them and build something amazing. Three notes, over and over, for hours.
I felt a genuine empathy for the nameless Cello player sitting in this basement and working on a song I was now convinced no one would ever hear. By the end of that day, I knew there were no recordings coming and gave Big Dave my best.
We did go hunting for that Cello player and found her without too much difficulty due to Facebook. CC and I reached out to her, apologized for wasting her time, and then asked if she was interested in joining a burgeoning Indie rock band.
And she was! Enter Grimm Generation Cello player Julie Kay.
We had a few sessions with her and Lys and we started mining a sound that was something different. It was still Indie (define that as you like) but there was some movement in there as well. Something undefined. We started playing out the 4 of us.
As we gained momentum, we still needed some other players to fill out the sound. We were fortunate that our higher profile interested some players. After we worked through those contacts we were back on Craigslist.
Perhaps the grandest of the GG mysteries was our experience with drummers. We just could not find a drummer to work with and the majority of the Grimm shows were drummer less. We would set up and play and my big stomp foot kept the meter.
We auditioned a bunch of drummers. It was a theme throughout our band life. Kerry started playing with us more consistently as we started gearing up for the next record. Kerry was an excellent drummer but he played fast, which was a total kick on about half of the material cause I liked to strum fast as well. The other half it was hard to corral him.
I remember having a Latin beatmaker based on Carmen and My mutual love of Bossa Nova (this was all CC. When we first started writing the book, she would drop Getz and Gilberto into the playlist and I learned such a love of that sound). He spoke English rather well or at least superior to our Spanish. A very cool guy but it just did not work.
Usually via Craigslist, we would invite drummers in to audition that were total flakes, dicks, a bit of column A and a bit of column B. I remember one drummer who dropped by on a Sunday was such an emphatic douchebag that I had to physically restrain Carmen.
Finding a drummer has been my failure in this life. I have worked with some excellent drummers, but it was always someone doing me a favor as they had other bands that were their bread and butter. I think maybe drummers are the most conscious of getting paid. That is not a critique. It is a fact and since we would never play a cover, we were never going to make those big bank weekend Summer gigs that can genuinely affect your tax status positively.
The majority of musicians that we worked with knew that every penny we earned was going back into the band, financing the next record. We had a team mentality in that respect.
Bass players are just impossible. You will find drummers who are not interested in playing with you, which isn’t fun, but at least you could find drummers.
Bass players were the prettiest girls in the standard band set up as everybody wanted them. We did find one and let me say this: he was a brilliant player. As well as top tier weirdo, but that came with the instrument.
One night in New Haven while playing with Lys, Carmen started getting chatted up by some guy there who said he played bass. With the RedHead Lead Singer, you can never truly know what someone’s intentions are, but if they play bass, it’s worth the restraining order.
Enter Grimm Generation bass God Eric.
In retrospect, I know how this happened though at the time I had no clue. Eric liked ladies. And the Grimm Generation had three of them, plus me, not a lady. I think he came in a bit obsessed with CC but quickly became obsessed with Lys.
A man’s motivations are their own so this is just conjecture. I liked Eric a lot but we never got close. What was undeniable was he was a fantastic bass player and definitely the best I ever played with. Watching him showed me what bass can really do aside from loitering around the beat.
The very first practice with him, just Eric, CC and myself, we knew he was something special. He wasn’t cocky. He wasn’t loud. He was quiet and skilled beyond belief.
So now The Grimm Generation was 5 people: Carmen on vocals, JpK on acoustic and background vocals, Lys on lap steel, mandola, glockenspiel and vocals, Julie on Cello and Eric on bass. And we started putting together what would be our next record ‘The Big Fame’ and started gigging quite a bit.
We did a few gigs at The Bing Theater in West Springfield, Mass which was an old style movie theater repurposed into an arts venue. This was a perfect GG venue. We became very friendly with the owner and his family and we played there with a variety of friends and artists. One notable show was the first time I ever met CC’s Dude and eventual husband, Matt. Matt owns a much-loved burger joint called Goldburgers and he is good people.
We played quite a few gigs in Massachusetts with this line up. A more memorable one was when we finally had the opportunity to play Luthiers in Easthampton. It was a two set show with a couple of friendly bands in the lineup. We were very excited about this as it was a real cool venue.
We played our first set and something was wrong. We could not identify it but we all felt a little out of sync. What I loved about the members of GG was they each had a bit of madness to them. And when we played less than well, all that madness came a calling in unique and individual ways. I would brood. Lys would distract herself with the tuning of many instruments. Julie would be positive. And as I found out, Eric and Carmen drank.
I found this out as we were getting near start time for our second set and no Eric anywhere. We were about 10 minutes out. I took to the street to see if I could find him, looking in the bar windows. I came to the last bar and looked in the window and saw CC and Eric downing some drinks. The whole scene looked like a Fritz Lang movie with all the appropriate gravitas.
I noticed that with these different projects, the band drew lines in terms of what was and was not relevant. Because they were not on the EP, because we were not putting any of the songs in the set, they seemed pretty disinterested in it. It was confusing and a bit hurtful but I realized this about musicians … and I would have to say CC and I operated in the same way: If they are not playing on it, it was irrelevant.
This was something I warned CC about again and again, based on my general pessimism but bore out with some real fact. These people are not our friends. They are not coming out here to help us, to do us a favor. They came out as long as they saw something with potential. I loved these folks who we traveled around the area with, who we saw week after week for months and years, but I could not mistake that for being genuine friends because I knew the moment a better option came, they would take it.
In a sense, this was a bummer. In a far larger sense, we had people traveling the state to play our songs for little cash. It genuinely blew our mind that talented people, all with their own careers, would take this trip out to the House of Grimm. That itself was more important than any offense I could take. I fortified this in Carmen as I knew there would come a day.
Meanwhile we received the EP we recorded with Adam called ‘Coming Home’ with 6 songs total. While listening to it was fairly incredible considering that we had exactly 2 sessions with Adam and left him to his best devices to fill in the rest. And he did, with gusto.
One song on the ‘Coming Home’ EP stuck out which was the song I sang about a crime gone wrong ‘Blink, I’m Gone.’ The song had such weight to it we needed to do another video, and we enrolled Zack into this caper once again.
This video, in concept and execution, was clearly a love letter to crime dramas of the past several decades. The video centered on my character and Carmen, along with Lys, invited to be The Boss. I always remember this one-day shoot for a simple reason: it was hot. Crazy hot. Even at night.
The video starts with CC and I at the famed kitchen table and it was clear that things were bad. At a certain point, we needed to ratchet up the tension so Zack requested CC and I argue. And we went to it. Loud, clearly crazy, clearly angry we lashed at each other. The moment we were done, the moment the camera cut, it was clear that we did it well as the entire room was silent. It made us a bit nervous. Did we fuck it up?
It was clear that everyone thought the fight was real. No one would look us in the eye. No one said a word. We were as proud as we could be.
The narrative revolved around ‘Asher’ (another actor friend of Zack’s, killing it) and my relationship. I have to admit that when I saw the dailies, I was uncomfortable. Looking at myself looking at ‘Asher’ it was clear that I was in love with him. Which worked for the narrative but personally made me icky. It was clear I did a good job as this was a subtle tell of the tale. And it sold the video. Nevertheless …
The video ended in the backyard of the House Of Grimm. ‘Asher’s’ fate had been decided and now he was lifeless in the back of the truck. What really got me was when Zack said ‘action’ I was supposed to carry the body from the truck to the waiting grave. When I started to carry him from the back of the truck, ‘Asher’ went lifeless in his form and it was ghastly and fantastic. I think there were audible gasps from the collected friends assisting with this shoot. It looked genuine and more so, felt like it looked.
After I managed to get the body in the grave (dug on the hottest of all hot days), Carmen paced menacingly by the truck headlights, I fell to my knees and said a prayer for dying criminal. And Carmen slid up behind me and shot me in the head. Fin.
It is a pretty incredible video. Weighty, scary, dark as the night. And shot beautifully by Zack again, whose style was made for these themes. We started promoting the release of it with the ‘What Happened To Asher?’ campaign which became rather popular online. We were playing off of people’s True Crime tastes, as well as our own.
Selling a video is not like selling a record. Mainly because it is untraceable. We can count the hits and the views … we heard the name ‘Asher’ bandied about the Internet where it had not previously…. but like so many brilliant artistic actions that don’t find their audience quickly, eventually you need to put your pants on and go home. And hope someone liked it.
We started playing quite a few gigs with the new lineup. Bars, clubs, multi band bills, consistent Café Nine gigs. As well as starting to play out of Connecticut more, upwards toward Western Mass. We were part of quite a few tribute shows such as the Anthology of American Music show in which musicians were taking tracks from Harry Smith’s seminal field recordings.
The gig that was consistently fun for us was the Best Videos gigs which was a video store/venue where they would play a movie while the band played. Not every musician chose to have the videos play but we would gear the gigs around what movie was playing and dress accordingly. Like the Holiday ‘Diehard;’ show where we all showed up in outrageous 80s fashions. Or the ‘White Heat’ gig where we dressed as noir as Hell.
We played nearly all new songs in these gigs as that was where our heart was. Aside from knowing The Grimm Generation, not as many people who came knew a song or two that they preferred. So it seemed to us that if no one is really paying attention, why not play the new stuff for practice with a crowd? And the songs came together in ways they never had based on the fact that we were playing these songs as a real band and everyone was taking their parts seriously. Previously we would send someone our tracks and ask them to do something. There would be a few practices but we were looking to get that part recorded, ready or not.
The effect of working with the same musician’s week after week made us tighter than we ever had been in any other formation.
And despite the fact Grimm was always about taking moments from our real lives and putting them in Pop songs, after Carmen’s father passed away, she started creating some deep and personal songs that were simply beautiful. My fortunes fared better so my contributions were dirty sex songs with all of the language changed.
We were growing beyond our frame. All the while our name traveled farther but never far enough for our liking. We accepted the gigs that were offered with the understanding that this is how we grow our brand. I was not sure if this was the right path for us. I was not sure if endless gigging would serve our brand well, but to every musician I met in my life (including the majority of the band), this was the path to glory.
In addition, all of our clever word play and leading language which started the whole GG Shebang was starting to trend less. I don’t think it was the language. It was us. We were always game to over expose ourselves and expect that may have been part of the slow chill that crawled into progress.
I really do not remember where the concept of the Radio Show came from. I do know that while we were pushing ‘Blink, I’m Gone’ with all the Blair Witch style faux news reports and hashtags for #whathappenedtoAsher? And we conceived of a way to bring in the new material. A full blow Radio show in the style of the classic radio dramas from the 40s. We were already dropping Noir language and tropes as a matter of course and this seemed like the next logical leap.
We had no idea how to do it, stage it, create it but we never imagined being in a band at this age either. So, with our best ‘Damn the Torpedoes’ we dug in.
I wrote the narrative in a single night. It was a story about Asher and the woman (CC) who loved him. It ended in murder and perhaps redemption, though that is left open for interpretation. Each part of the tale leads into a song from the set/record all tied together with a lovely musical pause from Julie on cello, sweetening the spoken language pieces. This would become one of our crowning glories, The Grimm Generation Big Fame Radio Show.
Once CC and Me conceived of this and recognized it was completely possible, we looked for an appropriate venue to debut this piece. As it happens, Windsor, CT happens to be the home of the Vintage Radio Museum. We always acted as boosters for the town of Windsor, though do not believe we ever got such love in return from this suburb of Hartford. We played nominal gigs in our hometown mainly because all the venues were in another town.
We met with the President of the Museum who was gracious and cool, much older than our target audience but he viewed this as an interesting development. We asked for a date to throw the show and he gave it to us: a Saturday night a few months away. Perfect.
At this point we needed everyone we could get so connected with Killer Kerry Miller again and asked him to learn the set. This was for recording the record, which was starting to come together, but we also knew we would need a full band for this show.
This was good fortune as Kerry kept in touch with Ginger who previously played the angry woman with signs in the ‘Nothing Astral’ video. We need someone to adopt the southern accent and narrate and she was only too game to assist.
Due to our excitement related to the new songs and the Radio Show, it was clear that we had to bring this band to a studio and get these songs down and recorded properly. This was a new experience for us where we were not sending out tracks asking someone to ‘do something catchy’ for the song. We had a crack, tight band who were bringing out colors in these tunes we could have never conceived of.
Where to record it was the question. CC and I had great fun and were quite happy recording the first record with Chris The Scamp, but strictly based on geography this was not convenient. I think everyone in GG at the time lived about an hour away from each other, so something in the middle of that expanse was the smart move. But where?
We were not making enough money to pick carelessly. We sunk everything the band made into recording, but being an original band, this did not total into thousands.
I did what I did when I met a music problem I could not decide: reached out to good ole’ Dave Hogan, who was now gigging out and recording with his three-piece Graylight Campfire. They were good, too. They always reminded me of that period of the 70s that power trios ruled the land.
They had already recorded a few records around town so I inquired about if there was someone good who wasn’t crazy expensive. And he said Tyler Bird.
Tyler operated his own studio outside of New Haven and had experience working at much larger, more renowned studios. He was a good guy out of Tennessee, very laid back, very easy to talk to. This was all important but the Dave Hogan seal of approval basically got him this job.
Carmen and I met with Tyler at his condo and we discussed what we wanted, and the variety of instruments involved. This was not a lo-fi sound with various guitars, bass and drums, keyboards, glockenspiel, cello and any number of tight or counter vocal harmonies. Tyler put us at ease with a simple grin that related ‘Yup, Another day at the ranch.’
It was the right place for the right record but Tyler came with a price tag that was not hefty but more than we had. We had a massive Tag Sale at The House Of Grimm and titled it ‘Kickstart This!’ as so many artists had moved toward Kickstarter as a way to get their projects accomplished. We never considered this, perhaps based on pride but more likely based on the threat of embarrassment that we would not make a dime and the thin illusion of the popularity of our weird project would be outed.
And back out on the streets. We took every gig that was offered as it gave us an opportunity to sell CDs and make a bit of cash from the bar. At this point Kerry was hooking up with us for gigs and for the first time The Grimm Generation had a full band line up.
With the speedy Kerry on drums, every set was a bit faster and more exciting. It reminded me of something to my personal taste: the bootleg recordings of Elvis Costello and the Attractions on their ‘This Year’s Model’ tour where they were young, punk as fuck and coked out of their gourds. You can almost feel them fly completely off the planet at certain points, and that was the approximate power we were playing with in Grimm.
We played a lot of gigs, had a lot of fun and made a little money. One of the most memorable was the Cabaret shows deep in the heart of New London. New London is the classic New England Industrial city by the sea full up with industry, arts and heroin by the bucket full.
New London has a strange and strong music scene, a variety of styles, a number of different bands and a lot of experimentation. More importantly, people in town supported the music scene which made it a rarity around these cover band loving parts. We had played in New London before. Once at a Coffee Shop where no one came. The other time at a Biker Bar that was drinking kicks. Though no one came.
This time, we had The Adult Dose. On the biggest night of The New London Scene, the Hygienic Arts Weekend we were right downtown at 33 Golden Street, a delightful and sort of divey basement space. We played there before with just Carmen and Me and despite our folky sound, people were cool.
The most interesting part of that first gig was the fact that as tradition they had Burlesque dancers. We had played with Burlesque dancers quite a bit before based on a sort of renaissance on the form in the Northeast.
This time, when we were in our dressing room backstage, the Burlesque girls came in and started stripping down with just CC and Me in there. Carmen held a perfectly pleasant conversation while I went red and tried to look in any other direction than at the fine female flesh. It was rather hilarious and never forgotten by CC … used when my britches were a bit too big to remind me that I am fundamentally a real geek.
The next Cabaret was the full band and though the stage was tiny, we got all 7 members on it. And we tore it up. Dressed in wild outfits, playing at lightspeed, more women than men on the stage. It was a good time. One burlesque act tore apart a cooked chicken with her mouth on stage and completely grossed out the vegetarian Julie. I could see her point. The stage was slick with grease which even for a meat eater was … gross.
Now any right-thinking band would put out their first official record (we had 3 EP’s under our belt at that point, all home recorded). It generally works well if you go with the songs that you know best, that have received the biggest applause. GG was never right thinking so consequently we wrote a whole new set of songs. Then started sending them to musicians who came into our orbit.
And when it came to where we would record, I had only one thought: The Scamp.
Chris was a drummer, but seemed to be able to play any instrument he laid his hands on. He kept time with the art rock extravaganza that was The Bud Collins Trio (at last count, 6 or 7 members). I had read their name when I lived down in Fairfield constantly in the New Haven Advocate, so they were sort of Stars to me.
Flash forward 10 years or so and there is me, freshly laid off by the Insurance company du jour and had 401 K money burning a hole in my pocket. I had a retirement plan already: Be a rock star and die young. So that money was slated to record my first solo album, The Jason Drug Reaction ‘Down On The Pharmacy.’
Yes, I was Jason Drug for some years. Yes, my Mom HATED it.
After playing with bands I decided to follow my muse and see where it would lead. I was effectively playing with the Houses’ money. I went studio shopping.
I came across a spot not that far from my near Hartford address and took a ride out to see what it was about. I met Chris and his engineer Finch and liked them immediately.
I booked a week to do the tracks, practiced up with the recently pilfered band mates, brought along some friends to add flair. We had a good time. It was excessive and exactly as I dreamed it would be, cocaine and late Sunday night strip club included (note: if you go to a strip club late on a Sunday, no one will be happy to see you).
It was a good record. I had a pretty hard Ziggy Stardust era obsession at that time (which still stays with me) and it was pretty obvious. My partner at the time was the irrepressible and mysterious ‘Fetcho’ who played guitar, was brilliant at creating melody and was cooler than everyone you know piled up on top of each other.
With my solo record out, I marketed myself. Pre Internet. So, this was a hard copy promotion (printed on paper! For real!), stickers, a Bio and the printed CD. I sent them everywhere I could for reviews, for press, for acknowledgement.
When that did not work, I created a fake charity tour named CARMA with myself and friends from Gigglejuice. The idea behind the tour was to ‘raise awareness about homelessness’ which was as empty of a sentiment that I could come up with. I did not want something trackable…because it was a scam.
It was not a good scam because it was not very successful. I don’t believe we made a dime and likely lost a bit of money. But we did receive a ship load of press.
Recording ‘Down on The Pharmacy’ was fun and I always appreciated The Scamp. We kept in touch, even did some sessions afterwards, on the house. By now, social media was starting to grip the World so we fell back in touch. So, when CC and I were looking for a studio, he was my first and last call.
He was available, built a new studio at his house in the woods of Storrs and was less expensive as we were friends.
The recording of the first GG record ‘The Last Record Party’ was madcap. Because The Scamp got weird in delightful ways, he also knew how to record interesting off the cuff stuff that made the record fall into place, which was convenient as we came loaded for bear.
We brought Dave Hogan on guitar, 2 drummers, 2 bass players, 1 trumpet player and courtesy of some Bud Collins Trio members hanging around, keyboards and guitar. The Bud Collins keyboardist played on just about every track and I believe I was in the same room with him absolutely. We asked him to add color and he was cool and said ‘Sure.’
Each session ended with Chris The Scamp saying ‘OK, that was good. Let’s hope my computer doesn’t crash and everything disappears…’. Every. Single. Session.
It was a beautiful out in the woods spot to make a record. Meanwhile The Grimm Generation brought about 18 songs, but were switching them up constantly as a new 7 songs had been written since we started.
The record we made was The Grimm Generation’s ‘The Last Record Party’ which came with one of my favorite record jackets of all time: Black white and red photo realism image of a plane about to crash right on top of the House Of Grimm. Pop did not fuck around and took this vague idea of mine and created something lasting.
The record kicked off with electric guitar and trumpets in ‘Sometimes I’m Subtle (Sometimes I’m Drunk)’ which was Carmen’s creation. I still remember when she presented the words to me and I saw it almost all at once. The crashing bits and fanfare and a killer hook that stuck in your brain. Mike was the trumpet player who we hooked up with from Craigslist. He was an ebullient guy, a lot of fun and was the singer and trumpet in his own cover band that did really well around here. Sitting to play with him that first session, just CC me and Mike at the Table was surreal. I had never played with a trumpet player before and he was excellent. Not simply skill, but trying things to fit around and into the sound which he did brilliantly.
Next up was more muted trumpet magic on CC’s ‘The Definition Of Love.’ These were the songs we had been playing with The GG3 so Dave Hogan had time to build the perfect guitar parts for these songs. This was a lovely sort of noir take on our favorite subject. This was a popular song for us. People dug it pretty hard.
My first pass at the big singers’ microphone was ‘Tick, Tick, Tick, Tick’ and it was a beast. Lyrically, one of my personal favorites but I do wish it had more distortion on the record. This was a quick study of a relationship approaching the precipice of a high cliff. I wrote a lot of songs on this subject at the time (versus the sad boy breakup songs) because this was the life I was living at the time.
A beautiful GG3 version of ‘Hovering’ and ‘Keep It’ were next. What The GG3 lacked in membership was made up with ingenuity. Since we started as a stompy 2-piece, melody was not something we were paying much service to. It was the song. The song shared a particular point of view that we hoped would crawl through primal arrangements. Once Dave was in the fold, he laid beautifully poignant lines on top of that made it feel closer to conversation between lovers than crying in your beer. ‘Keep It’ was a song that came to me whole in another romantic misadventure and I remember those words just whole. I recorded the very first demo on a pre smartphone voicemail and think that version captured it better than any of the other 4 or so times I recorded.
‘I Fall For Everyone’ was next and we already thought this would be the first GG video so we were focused on getting this one just right. A killer lyric by CC that was funny and terrifying and just plain honest.
Followed by ‘The End of The World’ from the first EP, this time given a more royal treatment and baritone guitar. One of the things I loved most about GG was our harmonies that came from raw experimentation. My natural singing voice was a bit higher than Carmen’s so I would often swoop between the low and high harmony in a single song. Our harmonies on the chorus of this gave me goosebumps. I had worked vocal harmonies with bands before. I would not say I was particularly good at it, but faced with this arrangement, I had to be. We were two people and a guitar, so any flourish would need to come out via vocal work.
Next up was one of my best performances and maybe best songs, ‘Slow Language.’ And it hurt me. Because I meant it. This was one of Dave’s favorite songs of ours and when we played this as a trio, his guitar soared and spouted actual tears.
For a bit there I was writing songs that made hay with Biblical imagery and from that came ‘The Book Of Day Job.’ It was one of the funnest live songs we ever played because it was speed metal fast with Carmen and I croaking out a note for note harmony throughout the whole song. On top of that Dave Hogan used one of his sharpest tools: the slide guitar. He whooped and wheeled all over this and the result is just pure mania.
Followed by Carmen’s most direct song about sex ‘Pull The Trigger.’ Men in particular went crazy for this song and it was not difficult to see why. Raw, bordering on dirty but always on the angels’ side.
And then came ‘Forward Ho.’ Lyrically the song meant quite a bit to me as I wrote it after a grand disappointment in the Grimm camp. The point was ‘Fuck it…. let’s move on.’ I should have recorded that and saved the record from including this song. The best memory I have if this song is recording this session with Kerry and trying to keep up with him. He could play fast. And we wanted fast. But Christ. I remember feeling like that classic Maxell Tape ad where the guy was sitting in his chair and everything was blown away behind him. It was a personal victory that my guitar track was spot on, but this was not a great song.
As opposed to this one, which was a great song. CC’s ‘Toy Girl.’ Always a lyrical favorite of mine and just too fun to sing the chorus in that weird harmony. I always remember this track because we had a lot of hand percussion on it and I clearly remember The Scamp, Dennis the drummer, Dave and myself playing all kinds of weird hand instruments and just laughing like loonies. It’s likely the best and has the most trumpet than any other song on the record.
An early version of this was our first video. In the burgeoning Facebook Universe, there were a lot of people shopping their creative wares. We found one such cat named Dan who showed up and drove around Windsor with us, filming us posing around Windsor. The video came out quite good but it was before we had this version of ‘Toy Girl.’
One more thing about ‘Toy Girl.’ This style of writing that Carmen was pulling off was genuinely impressive because she had attitudes I never could. She discussed being a woman in ways I never heard anyone else address. She was all bluster but a real sense of naïveté in her style. She had a way of saying things that opened me up to what it was being a woman in this modern world. She was cool and distant. But she was real and talked about that distance. Songs like ‘The Definition Of Love,’ ‘The End Of The World,’ and ‘Hovering’ were stark and scene setting. She wrote in cinema.
Next up was my creation ‘Blue Eyed and Black Hearted’ which became our theme song. We also filmed a video for this which was strange. An older gentleman from the region reached out to us when we were looking for anyone with a pulse and a camera. We showed up at his place which had a garage. It was an August afternoon in Connecticut so the average temperature was about 1200 degrees. We performed in front of a green screen with CC wearing her usual array of fashion flair, me wearing a smart vintage (but thread worn) suit. It was diabolical. The video came out alright.
My song ‘Nothing Astral’ was next, which was previously featured on our ‘The Book Of Love’ EP. Simple arrangement of The GG3 with Dave bringing some sweet melody and Carmen really owning the song vocally. This was my paean to Tunxis Hill Park, a place where we used to congregate as teens. I imagined it as a dirty bit of suburban sex that I am not convinced I ever had in that Park. Followed by CC’s ‘Why Wouldn’t You?’ We loved this song when we wrote it with its vaguely psychedelic lyric and a reggaeish groove. It was really groundbreaking in our songwriting. Unfortunately, by the time we recorded this, we did not love it so much. We were already writing better songs at this point.
Next up was ‘Hipster + 10’ and we utilized members of the Scamps’ musical combo The Bud Collins Trio. We used their keyboard player Ziggy all over this record and you can hear how it helps. A thing I learned about from Grimm was to ask people if they want to participate and make something amazing. Of course, ‘amazing’ is in the eye of the beholder, but it was a type of marketing.
CC and Me were musing on how cool a keyboard would sound on ‘The Book of Day Job’ and Chris said he would call Ziggy and see if he is game. We met absolutely once and he played on near every song. We gave him practically no directions. Just play something cool. And he did. About 18 times.
We also had BC3 guitar maven Chris play on this as well as Les Scamps on the drums. This was rife with irony, by the way. The song itself was written after playing a gig with The Bud Collins Trio and was a song about themselves. I never told them that part.
‘Fire and Gasoline’ was written about 6 days before we recorded it. Lyrically, I love it. The final version was not great though Kerry’s crazy beat almost makes up for the overall lack of flourish on it. This song was best served as an acoustic duo oddly. CC and I did a show on WPKN and played this fast pile up as a ballad. It was one of the best recordings we ever did, the one time acoustic vocal version. Lyrically, the thing I like about it is it said exactly what I wanted it to say: Fuccccck You.
And finished up that record with the title track ‘The Last Record Party.’ Here is what I remember. I was pissed at Carmen. Why? No idea. Nevertheless, pissed. This is about Us. And she knew it. She knew I was pissed and knew it was about her. And she sang it with me which had 2 effects:
1) Impressed the Hell out of me.
2) Made me not pissed anymore.
This was the simple cause and effect of my song writing. If something gets me good and riled, a song generally comes from that. Not happy. Not go lucky. Just raging pissed. I spit out the words on a pad, less than interested about what type of tune would go to it. As I said before, this was therapy. Once I finished the song and calmed down a bit, I would look at what I wrote and think ‘Man. Thank God I’m not that guy.’
We had ourselves a real live Rock and Roll Grimm Record which was our plan from the start. And as social media grew more substantial, we needed a video.
GG was always lucky in meeting the right people at the right time. Enter The Director, Zach.
CC and I came up with the concept, which was a send up about looking for musicians for a new band and how similar it was to dating sites. This video, like all of the Grimm videos was filmed at the House of Grimm. When we met Zach, it felt strange…he was very young, or seemed so to us, who were no longer very young. He had good ideas and a steady cam. Notes flew back and forth between us.
When we finally came together some Saturday with camera in place, we had a ball. You did not have to convince Carmen or me to pose. It was really all we did. We did as the director wanted, helped him follow his vision as he was helping us achieve ours. It was a good partnership and we ended up working with him again a few times.
The video turned out excellent. It looked amazing based on Zack’s skill, and it was just plain funny. It did exactly what we wanted it to do, ending with a knock at the front door and when we opened it, a real live bass player awaiting us (Brian who also played on the record).
Another video we made with Zack was a full production for the song ‘Nothing Astral.’ This involved actors which was of course new to us.
We reached out to Killer Kerry to play the creepy guy peeping through a telescope at a young couple making out. Zack had some friends with an acting background to play the previously mentioned horny teens. It was genuinely surreal watching the kids making out in the car while Zack craned his camera around. It seemed dirty and it genuinely was. When I saw the footage from the car scene…it was pretty hot and maybe would not be allowed on network television. We also asked a friend Ginger to play a psychotic angry woman placing signs on street signs.
The central spot of the video was Dave and us playing in the Grimm garage while these stories wound all around us. Carmen and Pop did up the garage into something absolutely dreamy with a lot of sparkling tinges. The way Zack caught that garage footage, based on his taste, spun it into pure Garage Rock fantasy.
It was the three of us playing with a lot of close ups and beauty shots. Dave impressed me. He was not the poser that CC and I were. He brought out a genuine world weariness just in the way he looked, something with true gravity. CC looked killer in her Elvis Costello shirt and I did what I always did: wore blue, because of my eyes.
The value of this video has grown within me. In a Dave Hogan less Universe, it is a fitting tribute.
We were proud and excited of what we did and started sharing it everywhere in the cyber verse. And we did make some mistakes.
We stuck with Facebook, mainly because the site was so friendly. And at the time we were there anyway. The benefit of Facebook at the time was it was a free market. You can post gigs and videos of gigs, start conversations and network through Messenger. We did not at that point know the narrow reach we were really dealing with. We started a Twitter account, but we could not be limited in terms of how many characters we could post. Aside from YouTube there were not many other options at the time. Instagram would not come out for a few years yet.
We had a record, something we were proud of so we did follow up with the accepted logic of the time: get on tour and sell some records. We enlisted Dave Hogan and the GG3 hit the road.
Now…when I say on tour, we were not traveling the country. We all had jobs we had to get to the next morning. Despite our ego, we were not so confident that we could succeed, cash wise.
So, we set out for any venue that would have us, regionally. That was bars, clubs, coffee houses, multiband bills, yards and festivals. At one particularly prestigious Film Fest in Mystic we met Bill Clinton. OK a professional Bill Clinton imitator.
We hawked CD’s from every stage trying to recoup some of the money spent in making ‘The Last Record Party.’ We played some super fun gigs but mostly to empty rooms. It did not even matter at the time. We were having a ball. Every gig ended with a long ride home and a too late night up with CC and me listening to the recording of the gig. These were the Grimm Parties. This tradition continued till the end and brings me great joy to reflect on how hard we were laughing at our poor audience attendance but excellent performance.
We played a club in Belchertown, MA that was straight from a horror movie except usually in horror movies there is some kind of cast. This gig contained one elderly couple who danced to every song we played.
We played a Coffee House in New London to an absolutely empty room. A Saturday night too. And they charged me for the coffee.
We played a female centric arts festival that hated us but kept booking.
Despite our best efforts or directly because of those efforts, GG carried drama around like a PA.
I think that both CC and I forged into one massive ego who we took slights pretty easily. A band that we promoted but did not promote us. A venue that was not promoting and unprepared to hold a gig.
This particular brand of band drama was flourishing in the Social Media world where you could never lose the thread of what some like minded band was doing, with better or worse than us. It was immature of us but we convinced each other it was not.
We wanted a certain antagonism to be present in what we did. We never intended to be everyone’s cup of tea. We were definitely the black coffee with 2 espresso route, and usually that was my beverage of choice. Which may explain a lot. We did not want to upset people but were certainly not going to bore them.
Love and Hate are similar emotions. We were OK with a little of both. As long as you were paying attention. This did keep us out of some rooms, off of some collaborations. We resented that as well and the circle wound around.
This factored into our personal lives as well, though mainly mine. Understand that I had never had a real single life. I was married to my high school girlfriend at 22. Then married again at 27. At 40, I was single for the first time, which brought me to Match.Com, which brought me to The Grimm Generation.
There were a lot of gigs where I was watching the door with a real trepidation for fear that someone might walk through it at an inopportune time. Like when I had someone there. This happened a lot. There were many tears shed in the passenger seats of cars right outside the Grimm gigs.
I had ascended to be something that I could never be before: the mythical JpK. This was a name given to me by CC and when that name was used, I was more than human but less than pleasant. I was irresponsible and rationalized any number of questionable acts as ‘doing it for a song.’ I played fast and loose with hearts. As ‘JpK’ I was in complete control of all things, confident in every action.
It felt good to be a god. I was a false idol at best but it felt pretty fine.
Another more significant gig we did was during the great Snowmageddon storm here in CT where we had about 4 feet of snow on the ground and most of the state was completely out of power. On Halloween.
Someone who played that night would become a big player in The Grimm Generation. The Lil Cowgirl Lys Guillorn. She wrote lovely dark folk songs, played guitar and a plethora of other stringed things and was an accomplished visual artist as well.
I am not sure if Lys remembered when she and I first met. I came across her in one of the alternative weeklies and heard her songs and really liked what she was doing. I read that she was going to show up at a Rock and Roll Flea Market and decided to drop by. When I saw her and asked if she was Lys, she looked at me like I was going to lay a summons on her. I think I scared her. I was acting my least monster-y. Which is still a little monster-y.
I think both CC and Me had a sort of crush on Lys. She was so cool, so talented, so much the artist we were aping to be. We wanted her in Grimm. Though doing what we never even considered.
So, picture this: we are driving to this gig Halloween night, not a single electric light the entire trip. Gas lines fed back on the highway exits as only 6 approximate gas stations in the whole of Connecticut were operating. CC and me and her SUV tagged The Slounge after one particular misadventure. It was spooky, truly.
Nobody in the World would have blinked an eye if we cancelled considering the circumstances. We had a record to push and this was an avenue, so we found our way to Waterbury, CT. Of course, no one came out to see it considering the healthy dose of apocalypse all around but the bands came and we supported each other quite vigorously.
And we met Lys in person who was part of this multi band bill with her mate Ken. She was shy and smart and just plain ole’ cool. We all got on quite well. After we played, we suggested that maybe she should come up to Windsor some time and jam. She was game.
We did not have a clear role for her yet, but we also did not know how many instruments she played.
After sending her a few tracks …. Nothing off of the record just released, we were already writing a new set based on the sound CC and I were mining. She came with a mandola and a lap steel. We dug the lap steel big. It had an almost timeless howl to it and that appealed to us. She was also a hotshit guitar player but we would not discover that for a little while longer.
Hooking up with Lys came at a perfect creative time for GG songwriting. Carmen was coming in to her own lyrically and was really nailing the mood, the tone of our songs, which was slowly changing from the basic foot stomp raw Rawk sound into something that was a bit more open, more honest. I was using the basic chords I knew and throwing on a capo for these I did not know, and our sound expanded.
With Lys engaged with GG and playing a couple of different instruments, we decided to invite Dave over to play with the three of us. Both Dave and Lys were noted songwriters and performers in Connecticut so we were just pinching ourselves that they would travel to play with us. We called these the LAND Sessions, for Lys and Dave. We were always attempting flagrant wittiness.
It was a Sunday I would remember. Both Lys and Dave, who lived in the same are but had not met each other. And they watched each other with a wary eye. The thing was both Lys and Dave had personalities that would not be called ‘effervescent.’ They were both a bit shy, a bit quiet and we thought they would get on like a house on fire … and in time they did, forming a true and real friendship aided by a deep personal admiration of Gram Parsons.
That Sunday, though, they were not there yet. Being seasoned performers and genuine folk, no one was nasty, no one spoke out of line…but a general vibe around the room was sullen.
Despite that, the practice tapes were strong. There was something here with Dave playing with his warm Les Paul and Lys with her lap steel. Both Dave and Lys sang, and there was something about the vocals going between CC and Lys that was engaging. Carmen still had that lower sultry register and Lys knew exactly where to place her voice in that mix. Dave and I had practiced our harmony singing from the bands we played in together, dating back to our teens.
After they both left, Carmen and I just looked at each other and shrugged our shoulders.
The LAND GG set up played a couple of gigs with the 4 of us including a beautiful day at the Meriden Daffodil Fest. This was a big local festival and THE place to be seen. Plus, they paid well. The Grimm Generation was not used to being paid at all, so paying well was a step up.
This was the place to meet all of the CT musicians you ever wanted too. The whole event was organized by Robbie (who also hosted our first gig and ran the Homegrown Radio show for CT Music) and we took the stage on a glorious Saturday afternoon and tore it up.
Another gig the LAND set up made was one of the stranger ones (though paid even better…. we were socking away money for the next record) was at a Science Museum in Hartford. We were everywhere online at the time. New record, new video and we updated information every day or just made something up. Gigs were coming to us too quickly to count.
A Science Museum downtown during a Thursday Cocktail Party for the donors and we came dressed to the nines. Carmen in particular was done up as a version of the killer robot chick from Mars Attacks. Her hair was higher than the stars and she looked amazing. To counter, I painted myself green and wore attached antenna.
The room was a sonic nightmare. High ceilings, a lot of chatter (to be expected) and despite the costuming, not many people came near. Or maybe because of the costuming. This was the first time I heard Lys and Dave do their Gram Parsons set. It was beautiful, if not inaudible.
The alien gear and high hair had the intended effect and The Grimm Generation received press, which was the point.
Not long after that, Dave sent me a private note and said that due to his obligations with his own popular band, he would have to step back from GG. I understood. And suspected we would meet again.
With Lys in place and our writing expanding to include more stringy, less stompy sounds we kept gigging just the three of us. The hot rock sound of the GG3 started to take a back step into something more open, and we barely played any of the songs off the records we made. We were writing a new record and one we expected would be Our Statement record. I believed in all of that stuff, like CC did as well.
And it began. Carmen and I were close and she had to put up with my frustration of my lot of life: believing I am talented and having to prove this to the World. She was in attendance of that ill-fated New Year’s Gig. She took up two seats with her beau du jour. She had already listened to me whine and wail about the great unfairness of it all where I had to work a job like a chimp while being a legitimate delicate genius.
I was not sure if she could ever take this seriously. I certainly poisoned the waters effectively.
I was already a living example of how being the grandiose starving artists can wind you up in a basement. She already knew this dream was near impossible because I would mention it again and again. To her.
We met at the Table. I capitalize this as it was not just any table. This became the HQ for every folly that GG would follow. A kitchen, cabinets, stove, a sliding door onto the porch. Clocks on the stove and the microwave. One door that opened into a dining room, another door that led to the living room, one door that led down to my room. The home of many videos, many recordings, many brilliant ideas. Some meals.
For the book marketing, this is the way this would generally go: coffee gets made, we each have a pad, and we talk about big ideas. This was a bit different. Still coffee (as I was most entertaining when buzzed out of my brain), still the two pads. This time I brought some songs and asked her to sing them. It was songs that I had either been working on or songs from previous projects.
My songs generally had a theme which was relationships gone bad. I always found interpersonal relationships more interesting than cars or fast woman or doing something All Night Long. These played perfectly into the Grimm sound where so many of our stories written and put in the book were on similar subjects.
I used my personal failings as my Muse. And she was good to me.
That first session, acoustic and pad and my words printed out on the equipment from whatever Insurance job I had at the time. For it was Connecticut so that’s what people did. They still do.
Carmen was nervous but she was brave. Bold. She sang the songs as I asked her to sing them and in time, stronger. And stranger. Her low rumble brought out highlights in the lyrics that I missed while writing them. She was bringing something unknown, unexpected and simply glorious. We both felt it.
The following day, Carmen at her incredibly intense job of being one of Windsor’s 911 operator, Me at my stint at CignaTravelrersAetnaEtc., we started talking about the session. We were both excited. These notes worked to expand our World, to make the Grimm Brand go Worldwide.
This was how we operated, always. We were never into this to have fun.
This was our super-secret device used to take over the World, like any common mad doctor. This was not casual music to us. We were trying to teach philosophy.
The session happened again and again. What would become the Grimm Twins was forged at that Table.
Carmen started writing songs. And they were good. Really good. I knew she could write, but this was a revelation.
Here is how this would usually go: Carmen would kick up a sheet of words. A poem initially before she eventually started working into the verse chorus style. I would slip down to my room with words and put a couple of chords together. I would decide ‘this is the Chorus’ and ‘this is the Verse’. And then hook up with Carmen again and try an arrangement. And it worked.
The more we did it, the better it got. The more we did it, the more we believed in it. The book was put on the shelf while we worked on our new tactic to steal the hearts of the public while making bank.
And we had a tool: Social Media. This was still generally new. This was when Facebook was fun and not an undiagnosed sickness the country shared.
We knew we had marks against us. People generally do not start bands beyond an age of 40. In previous years it would be impossible to get signed with an older band as the market was always, in style and audience, youth.
We bragged about it utilizing Facebook as our weapon of choice. At that time, Facebook was still a reasonable place to market music. It was a dream platform where you can add a picture to a song and have text space to convince people to listen to it. We were all in. We were both charming and quick, but did not like to show this off in public as much so it gave us the perfect disguise to draw people in and start a conversation. And it worked quite efficiently for a few years. And those years were what we needed.
Despite being a musician in this geography, I had very few music contacts.
This is before I understood the raw power of the Red Head Chick Singer.
Carmen was hot. Red hair, a good sneer…. She was what a Female Singer in a rock and roll band should look like. And we used this to our advantage. She and I, the Grimm Twins took a lot of photos of ourselves in appropriately Rock and Roll ways. It started with us taking pictures of each other, but then we fell in with quality photographers who were looking to do something new. And we were new.
A selection of leading photos, a concept of a primal Rock and Roll sound based on a bashed up acoustic and a sneering Chick Singer, interesting song titles and a touch of salacious humor. With Facebook offering us up as a menu item. We cleaned up.
By cleaned up, I mean we were taken seriously. Despite the cracks in the logic of starting a new band at 40, despite the lack of gigs and poorly recorded shared demos, people were curious.
It was a moment in time. We used our lack of status and plain spoke mission as a distraction. We took ourselves seriously despite the low-level sex jokes and high-level self-involvement. And Facebook was where it played out and Facebook was good to us.
We started attracting visitors, views. We started getting noticed by musicians, local and National. We celebrated every small victory and defeat at that Table that started it all.
We started small but thought big. Since people were looking at us as a band now, we needed some kind of product to let them hear. I had a small 4 track recording rig that was already past its time but we did not need grandiose equipment I could not operate. We kept it simple: brown paper cover, simple woodblock style image art, 6 songs. This was our first release ‘The End of The World.’
We recorded this as a couple of acoustic guitars and a couple of voices. No rhythm section, no leads.
Though it had a piano on it. This happened when we met a piano player and invited him in. He was a nice guy soon to disappear into oblivion but did play with us a couple of times. We took a track from one of these sessions and put it right on the record, uncredited on ‘Hovering.’
It was our first blush, it was an EP and sounded decidedly folky, but the songs were there. The title came from something Carmen wrote which was a brilliant bit of stoned 70s memories from when she was a kid. Once I started working on it, the hook, the tune for Skeeter Davis’s ‘The End of The World’ kept buzzing in my brain. And we married CC’s song with that hooky chorus ‘Don’t they knowwwww it’s the end of the World….’
The aforementioned ‘Hovering’ was on it as well which was another CC song that was heartbreakingly beautiful, lyrically. I came up with a pretty simple structure that carried the tone of the vocal. We also included an earlier song of mine ‘Keep It’ and a song that would become our first video ‘I Fall For Everyone’.
CC was the same way as I was about Press; we wanted it. So as soon as the EP was finished, we started sending it out for reviews. And amazingly, we were covered in the Hartford Courant which was akin to slipping onto the stage of Madison Square Garden. The review was sweet; it was not overwhelming with praise, but it could have been far worse. That first taste, our names in the paper, made the stakes higher.
With the press came musicians. We were making a big noise online and at this point, and everyone was on Social Media. When someone in your field seems to be doing something different, you start to pay attention. We were getting our names in the papers, we were over posting our outrageous amazingness, so when we hit Craigslist this time looking for players, a few of them were already aware of us.
One who intrigued us made their way to the House of Grimm. That would be Bass Mike.
This would be the spot where I describe Bass Mike but this is an impossibility. He was the definition of inscrutable. I believe he was married. Or divorcing. He had children…or did not. He was a good dude, fun to play with, a great conversationalist, but I cannot recall a single personal thing about him.
Except he was the perfect Grimm bass player. He instinctively understood what we were doing and was all in.
He also likely had a slight crush on Carmen, which was expected and kind of her job.
Let me not be misunderstood: Carmen was never someone I would describe as salacious. She knew how to flirt and when flirting was the best advantage to take. I always considered CC as a canvas that other people painted their desires upon.
Though the only one who would paint on that canvas was Carmen herself.
At each turn as we were creating narratives and generally just shucking records, we would create campaigns. For example, our Lucky Panty New Year’s Show (with live free panties!). Or the Grimm Ghost Halloween Show with a live presentation of ghost photography and the creepy GG sound.
CC always became inspired by these shows and changed her look based on what was happening…and she was amazing at this. Whether rocking a Ziggy Stardust look or dressed in a vintage 80s business suit for our Holiday themed ‘DieHard’ movie party or what she put together for the GG videos that were still upcoming, her look was integral to what we did. She was in complete control of her look.
It was an element I could not have imagined on my own not having a key eye for fashion. Carmen owned it. And started dressing me as well.
We also had some talented friends. Pop was an artist who we came to know quite well and truly designed the Grimm Generation visual style. She was shy, quiet and wildly creative. She helped us along from vaguely scribbled concept to real cool Pop art stylings.
She was the Original G, meaning we were working with her just as we started and she was invaluable. We had such a vision for what the GG Brand would encompass and she was the one who could get it onto paper and make it sign. Also, the Official Grimm Generation Photographer which was where all the acclaimed click bait came from. Carmen and Pop would go back and forth on aesthetics, the tiny little moving machines of image that made us seem larger than life.
We dangled pictures of CC as a way to trap people online. And it could be said that the same was done of me. And it was successful. We started getting heard and receiving messages. Many were sleazy, or were an introduction to upcoming sleazy behavior, cause…you know…Dudes.
And what came from these off line conversations were a lot of bands looking for interesting openers.
So then came the gigs.
Our first ever gig was the Coffee shop in Wesleyan, invited by Local Music Man and general bon vivant Robbie. He featured us quite a bit on Wesleyan’s WESU which was exciting. OK, so he got the name wrong a lot. And sometimes never played us at all after promoting it. We took it in stride.
The next gig weaved together a few people who would fill out the greater GG Universe as we were invited to warm up The Peacock Flounders at one of my favorite gig spots, The Never Ending Bookstore. In New Haven, CT. The drummer/singer for the PF was one Killer Kerry Miller who would eventually join up for a time.
In addition, the guys who ran the Bookstore, Rev Dave and Brad were true believers in the realm of local Rock. They created a space that was small, but mighty. They booked us quite a bit in time and we were always appreciative of their efforts on our behalf, as well as toward The Scene in general.
When we showed up, there was a movie camera there. We were shocked. Not a video, not a digital camera on a tripod, a real live movie camera. This was our first real gig and we were wondering if the press had caught up with us. Nope.
It just so happened that the lead singer of the Peacock Flounders, Ron, was getting a movie made about him based on some historical CT rock reference. The man with the cameraman was a former CT Newscaster, which was absolutely surreal. It was a good gig. The crowds at the teeny tiny Bookstore were always incredibly supportive. It was a small room and that added to the energy. It was a fine place.
And from that gig, another band asked us to play with them. But we were facing a problem. For all our bluster, we were a guy with an acoustic and a girl singing. There are many brilliant bands based on this sound but it is hard in the clubs, bars, venues we were getting offered. We were popular with Rock bands, not folk bands, so our sound was thin for the rooms.
We had fascinating and fun ways to vent this irritation. When we would play and if the people kept talking, we would whip out a song that CC wrote called ‘I Like To Watch.’ We built into this song a long duo harmony that, when provoked by a crowd not paying enough attention, would ramp up between the two of us until the effect was something like a smoky siren blaring through the room.
Gigs were coming, new songs were being written at a rapid clip. This was when CC and I really hit our stride in producing work.
Where previously the glue that bound us was The Book, this was changing to The Song.
We had a fairly simple formula based on the tools we were given: an OK acoustic guitar player, a first time band for the singer and pop length songs that were exclusively based on the lyric. We wanted to cut out the middleman of solos and musical bridges and get to what mattered to us: being heard and perhaps understood lyrically. We set up a Tuesday practice night which in time became every night.
We produced song titles that were noticeable. This was part of the marketing, being able to assign significance using the canon of pop culture references to hem the listener into a time and a place that was all Grimm. Song titles were marketing. Understand, we had no listener at this point, no crowd to play to, no radio to play upon. Keeping ourselves amused was important when you are playing for an audience of two.
One thing about the dynamic of those days was that even before the band, the book kept us intertwined with each other’s lives. I came to know or know of CC’s boyfriends who, to a person, I did not like. Reflecting on CC’s love life brought us songs like ‘Waterford Speedway,’ which was a true story based on a real boyfriend with a real affair going on across the country due to the Internet.
These types of interactions, our own and others, was becoming a real theme in what we did. Not simply because we were drama hounds, but it was all new and public. This was before people really got the scope of Facebook’s public interaction. People would share things they would never say out loud to 30 million of their best friends. ‘Waterford Speedway’ was an appropriately dirty story about a woman traveling from a great distance for an even greater disappointment.
On a similar subject, related to the same beau was my song ‘Twisting Our Lives Away,’ which was based on my hearing their interaction above my basement lair. It was strange because there was never any romantic desire from me toward CC. but when I reflected that in the song, I came off as jealous. I do not believe I was but man…these songs. They paint a picture about me that makes me uncomfortable.
It was never a question as to whether these songs would come out because embarrassing personal discoveries in songs was my bread and butter.
When Carmen started kicking in songs, that was when the balanced voice of GG came through. A song called ‘Murder Wins,’ which she wrote, caused me to write one of my prettier, less obtrusive arrangements for it. Lyrically, her song shined like the late autumn sun. It was subtle, and meaningful.
‘Aloha Japan’ was another story song based on a different time. It always reminded me of a faded postcard featuring some sweetly smiling bikini girl from some gauzy 50’s timeline, with color faded to a sepia tone.
As we continued, she started bringing in songs like ‘Save The Girl,’ which was a more empathy driven version of ‘The Next Indie Boy.’ These were all true stories we were living in stereo.’Save the Girl’ was a plea to a woman we knew to not get caught up in the whims of a man to stop this madness and save herself. As opposed to ‘The Next Indie Boy’ which spoke to the same girl and said ‘Screw this guy. There is always another singer somewhere’.
‘Come to Me’ which would eventually be recorded on our EP ‘Coming Home’ was simply gorgeous. It was a torch song and very slow and sexy.
The song unveils itself, starting with snapshots of the very human feeling that accompanies missing someone and builds to a plaintive and deceptively simple “Come to me…..Be with me….Love me as I am….” which always took my breath away in its simplicity. With my habit of overwriting, trying to replace feeling for rhyme schemes, I could not have come up with something so simple and beautiful.
The recorded version lacks the initial passion of the duo version as I suggested Adam ‘do something like Radiohead.’ He did, I was wrong.
One of the songs I brought forth was during a period that I was working a lot of bible imagery into everything. That was ‘Pleasures of the Flesh’ which was another of my Dylan style ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ rips. It was fast and when properly played came off as high gospel based on the raw energy. Lyrically it bordered on blasphemy.
Something that CC brought forth, which I believe was one of my favorite never recorded GG song was ‘Proximity Bomb’. It was a too fun tune about how getting closer to the wrong person will bring harm upon you. In case the message was not received, the chorus is a countdown to ‘Boom’.
Now let us discuss the song ‘Alse Young’. For it bears discussion. When history books are written, any chance we have of showing up on them is based on this song.
Alse Young was a real person and is noted to be one of the few witches killed from Connecticut. She was from Windsor which was where the Alse Young lived before being taken in chains to the Hartford State House and hung for, and I quote the official records ‘keeping company with the dark’. We caught wind of this tale and I started the song. As traditional a folk song that we would ever write, it reflected the whole horrible story in 4 verses
This was our perennial Halloween release and we discussed the subject as much as possible. A few years later, we received a note from author Beth Caruso who was writing a book about Alse Young and actually came across our song in an Internet search. She was incredibly excited to find another reference to Alse and utilized the song in some marketing of her book ‘One of Windsor: The Untold Story of Americans First Witch Hanging’. I became incredibly excited when she guested on a paranormal podcast that I followed and they played the song on that podcast on Halloween. I actually spoke to a few of Alse Young’s relatives who were very appreciative of our work.
Based on Beth’s book and some dedicated friends, they actually started a movement to exonerate all of the Witches persecuted in that period. They were seeking the witches to be declared innocent. And they were successful. Alse Young was exonerated.
We did not create this, though helped where we could. This was all Beth and what it gave us is a unique entry into genuine American History.
After getting some notice with the ‘The End of The World’ EP we went back in the basement and started work on the next one. This only made sense as we were producing so many different songs in a wide variety of styles, it was difficult to keep track and to be sure we were working on a consistent sound. We were still a 2 piece (the mysterious Bass Mike split the scene) so that reads as folk. Despite some definitely folk songs, that was not what we were writing at large. We needed to get more product out to either confuse or attract the general public.
The next Grimm Generation EP that came out was the ‘I Like To Watch’ EP, this time only 4 songs.
All of the EPs (4 in total) cover art was all Pop’s creation, using a brown paper and a black and red theme matched with sort of wood cut images that spoke specific to the music. We were definitely upping our game with the sound despite the fact that we still did not use any other musicians. Playing together every night as we had been doing for months, maybe a year, had tightened up the control of what we wanted to sound like and what the songs presented.
‘I Like To Watch’ started off with ‘Hipster + 10’ which would be recorded for the ‘The Last Record Party’ full length. This was a song that took on a different vibe when we played it live. When it was just CC and Me, we roared out this song. I wrote it and liked the lyrics quite a bit. This was effectively a bitter song talking about bands whose name traveled farther than ours had. It made me angry and that is why I started writing songs, to assuage my worst impulses.
When Dave came on board for The GG3, he loved this song as it was decidedly darker. I remember a gig we played where we warmed up Scott from Neurosis so we had a pretty metal crowd in attendance. The three of us took the stage and killed this and I saw some heads banging in the back. It felt amazing because Dave and I came up through metal.
Next on the EP was one of my older songs ‘Sex Changes Everything’. It was a song that I had written several of the type which was a ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ type list lyric, always super-fast. I believe we went ahead with this one as it seemed to attract attention based specifically on the title. I had played this song with a few different bands in my years and it was a good song, though not terrifically Grimm.
Then the song that I said for a long time was the high-water mark for Grimm Generation songs, the high point of our collected career. At that point. That song was ‘I Like to Watch’. Carmen produced the lyrics for this one and it was an amazing slice of backwards voyeurism. This song had a real build to it from the start of the quiet vocal to the raw roaring we did in harmony to end it. This song was directional, showing where we were going.
The final song on ‘I Like To Watch’ was ‘A Year Of Living Dangerously. A Carmen Champagne penned lyric, a lovely quiet tone that spilled out desperation. It was another song that when CC presented it to me, I knew she was no joke.
The next EP was our Valentine Day release ‘The Book Of Love’. In my opinion, our best EP. We had started to really focus on the sound and these were songs that were played out by The GG3 quite a bit as the songs were written about that time. It was a small little Rock record still recorded on acoustics, but the sound quality was better as I was getting better at recording Grimm.
This started off with a GG favorite and a song that would eventually be re-recorded in a real studio for ‘The Big Fame’. The song was ‘Real Bad Voodoo’ and this was such a cool rock song that Carmen wrote and I came up with a slinky sounding arrangement. It had an infectious quality to it.
I should mention that all of this was new to me coming from a background of either writing my own songs or writing words for other people’s arrangements. I did not believe I could write music. My musicianship has always been unique but I would not say practiced. It was until this moment in time that I had a formless bunch of CC’s words that it just came to me. It wasn’t something I knew I could do. This started with her singing my songs, my simple arrangements. As she wrote more, I was put into the position to write good songs to go with her clearly good words. Since CC’s tone was lower than mine, I started using the capo in ways I have never done before, and started playing with the sound of the keyed chords. Some of these were perfect for Carmen’s vocal; some were perfect for my own.
Like so much about this period, there was something happening that seemed like magic. I cannot say that enough. I know how it sounds. I know. I’m a skeptic by nature and truly a pessimist. I also have no other explanation where I, we, acquired these skills that we did daily during the Grimm days.
Up next on ‘The Book Of Love’ was my ‘Pull Down The Covers … Slowly’ which was either very sexy or very scary. It was deep and slow; the quiet arrangement sounding plaintive in a way and near psychotic in another. This was a strange one and we did love it so.
Carmen and I often called the Grimm songs ‘our errant little children’ because even if one was ugly, or clunky, overly salacious or not, sometimes just dumb, they were ours and we birthed them. And honestly, I think we always liked our weird little songs a bit better. This song was another example of Grimm’s growing power with our two voices.
Song # 4 was another one I am proud of mainly because it was kind of funny and that was ‘Someday I’m Going To Leave You’. Carmen actually told me that when I brought this song around, she thought it was a veiled threat / message. Despite that not being true, it still felt good to hear. This song has an excellent stompy vibe and again features the patented GG harmony on that chorus line. This and ‘Real Bad Voodoo’ both came to life when Dave sat in with the electric guitar.
‘The Boy King’ was my song that I had previously played with The Citizen Spy. The song was based on one of CC’s beaus of the time that complicated their relationship in every conceivable way. This is a really good song, good words, good hook. This song was also a genuine fear that I had that this was autobiographical. Everything I accuse this character of could be reflected back on me and it made me uncomfortable. But it had a good hook so it survived my queasiness. I did re-record this for my ‘The Zen Of Losing’ solo record, which followed GG.
Finally, was our first pass at ‘Nothing Astral’ which was re-recorded for the debut ‘The Last Record Party’.
We were in a quandary. Though musicians were becoming available to us, we were attached to our style of communication and creation. Two people can operate far quicker than a band strictly based on scheduling. CC and I moved together and spent just about every night of this period either practicing or marketing. It was an addiction. ‘What can we do to advance our agenda? 3-2-1-Go!’ and we would be in constant communication, always World Building. This same mania could not work with a bigger group.
We knew we needed something else. Something to change our trajectory from Indie Folk to Rawk.
And I knew a guy. Enter The Man.
Dave Hogan (or Dave Hogan to his friends) was a hot shit guitar player who I happened to know from starting our first band together when we were about 15. Burning Ambition specialized in covering obscure metal and was completely out of step with everything happening at the time. We wanted to anoint the masses who had the poor fortune of not discovering bands like Raven, Loudness and of course, Iron Maiden. And they (We) were a bunch of classic Kerrang level loonies just like you read about in said magazine.
Except Dave, who had the same worship of these generally obscure bands but was much quieter about it. Mike, bass player, was a degenerate freak. The drummer was an immensely talented rhythm beast who drank to excess. I was near 250 pounds and wore a white karate Gi as front man gear.
Dave was quieter, though no less a drinker. There was something about him that you could tell, even from that age, he was studying his craft.
Burning Ambition became Wild East (cribbed from the Ian Hunter song, a massive influence on all of us) with just Dave and I remaining in the line up. We again were trying to convince people there was better music out there than they were listening too (there was no lack of snottiness in this) , this time creating a set that effectively replicated UFO’s ‘Strangers In The Night’ double live album. When people asked if they were our songs, we said ‘Yes, Sir’. Why not?
I was the singer and the only one producing lyrics. It was almost a parlor trick where I could hear a tune and create a narrative out of thin air (Note: the songs were not good). This amazed people…and honestly made me a bit difficult to deal with.
To point, I was always looking long at Dave. Thinking he just did not fit with where we were going or more so where my genius would lead us. I had my first conversation with Dave about why he should find another band. It was not the last time I had this exact conversation with him.
And, inevitably, all for naught. We did find a quite inventive guitar player but the trajectory of the band was heading to where the majority of teen dream bands went: playing shitty covers in shitty clubs for shitty people. And the same plan next weekend. I was singing covers (to this day, hearing Aerosmith ‘Dream On’ makes me queasy.).
Meanwhile …. Dave had a good band. A damned good band. I was jealous as fuck and Dave became my nemesis. I joined that band a few years later. They were good! And when I quit, I took most of the band with me to make my first solo record. And had that conversation again.
So, what did Dave do? He started ANOTHER band that was even better! Fucker.
He started The Rafter Bats which was playing a mix of rock and real bluegrass before anyone even considered such a thing (Flying Burrito Brothers aside). And getting very popular around these parts. Way too popular.
I was seething.
I still remember driving around on a Saturday and hearing that the Rafter Bats were sitting in playing a set on WPKN (The Best Radio Station. No qualifiers). I actually called them live on the air and the chilly silence at when my name was mentioned was a true and wonderful moment of my life. I did not want these dudes to hate me, many of them were good friends
But fuck …. It makes you feel like a supervillain to suck the joy out of a studio like that.
Dave was my nemesis but I am not sure I was ever his. Years after this, I believe with the invention of Facebook, he invited me down to sit in with him at Café Nine (New Haven) Cocktail Set, and I did. And we talked over old times and we became closer than maybe we ever were. Many of our mutual friends had already died via drugs, liquor, poor decision making. We were rounding out to be the last of our breed. I missed him. I hope I apologized but he knew me for what I am: a megalomaniac.
When Grimm started producing songs, I was keeping him in the loop by sending tracks for his review. It was not initially his bag but as we got more real Rock and Roll, he became more interested. We had him up to Windsor to add some guitar to what we were doing and it clicked. The GG3 was born.
It was me on Acoustic, CC singing, and Dave and his Mega Boogie and Les Paul. We still did not have a rhythm section but we were getting loud even without the extra members. The songs took the form of what would be our bread and butter: smart Rock and Roll songs with a dirty minded bend.
It was a unique arrangement but it had a sound that was full tilt. We were all assuming our roles within the GG Organization. Carmen was singing and dressing like a rock star already. I would thrash around with my acoustic, my steady stomp was the drum. Dave would sit opposite me and pull these lovely lines out of that fat Les Paul. It felt like we were a 70’s band.
Dave liked to play guitar. He always had some other projects going because he just wanted to play guitar and not worry about the bookings, the travel, the Plan. Despite his excellent voice which brought up a dusty church in some long-gone town, despite his ability to write his own Rock and Roll come Country songs, he always wanted to just be the music director for someone and just play guitar.
And in the GG3 that is exactly what he did. CC and I were the masterminds and he were happy as Hell not to care…just to show up when we need him, rock out and then catch a ride home.
We were gaining traction. Once Dave, a Dude who was already well respected in the area, started showing up at gigs, more musicians started paying attention.
Some things you can only see in the rearview mirror. And as is often the case, the objects do seem larger than they appeared.
When we co-opted the name Grimm from said Brothers, it was not a mistake. There was always an element of fairytale about what we attempted to do. And quite like the actual stories from the Brothers Grimm, much of it was terrifying.
I had a dream. And I had someone to dream with, which is this story.The dream was always the same: World Domination. Or at least validation. Being recognized for what you did versus who you were. Fueled by a teenhood full up on rock magazines (Creem, Hit Parader), classic FM radio and that Monday after the big concert when everyone in class wore the same t-shirt.
Currently, that seems quaint. And it is. The Music Business was always a business. If the greatest musician you ever heard never left their bedroom, they would not be the greatest musician you ever heard. They would be your cousins’ friend, your coworker, your Ex.
We started The Grimm Generation with a simple concept: Children of the 70’s at 40. And what I do not believe I have ever considered was how Rock music culture of that era affected us. Infected us.
Before the Internet, records were passed around between friends, hand to hand, and the receiver would offer something back.
And the World grew larger.
We dealt in myth. And we were our best customers. When you try to do impossible things, you need to think in impossible ways. I could not do it alone. And I did not have too.
The tale of The Grimm Generation is the story about a house. A domicile that gave us the space and time to create, the raw desire to reach out further. Every element of what we would become was co scripted with a collection of walls and windows.
This is a story about a band that did not make it. A story with real magic, real tears, love and intrigue, creation and re-creation of ourselves. There is not a moral to the story. Morals are for fairy tales and despite our personal preferences, this takes place in the very real time of the late 2000’s.
The Internet was born and we were reborn with it.
It starts with ‘The Story’. ‘The Story’ that started a whole unknown Universe of Grimm…a story that was shared by CC and Me on every form of radio, tv, print press interview available.
And it goes a little something like this….(hit it!)
‘Carmen and JpK met on Match.Com. They went on a date that went well but it was not a love match. Both retreated to their separate worlds until a note went from Carmen to JpK asking ‘Do you like Sparklehorse?’
That simple question bloomed into more notes, more sharing, more details of the damages done to us by a life of suburban excess. Marriages, divorces, kids, cars. And New Wave, Glam Rock, the effect of Led Zeppelin on our growing years.
It never stopped. For years. They realized that despite the romantic missing, they had some type of undefinable chemistry. Notes lead to cups of coffee. Stories transformed into larger lessons the more they wrung them out. Carmen would send poetry and JpK would send demos.
These reflections became the basis of a book ‘Dispatches from The Grimm Generation’ a collection of vignettes birthed by choosing a single subject and the two writer’s impressions of it. What was discovered was this errant chemistry was a true partnership as lovers came and went. And usually left a tale or two in their wake.
The Grimm Generation was coined based on the ideas of kids of the 70’s turning 40 and how our generation was sold fairytales as a future. We were given the American Dream but the anxiety kept us awake.
This constant communication, text, emails, (never a call) led to JpK moving right into Carmen’s refinished basement, henceforth known as The House of Grimm. And the pair set out to learn about how to promote a book.
JpK was songwriter mainly, good in a short sprint, ran out of breath on a marathon, with a genuine love of good Pop songs. He had some success, but much more debt. While beating his head against the cinder block cellar one Sunday, he heard Carmen and her kids playing ‘Rock Band’.
When he heard Carmen sing an AC/DC song, he thought ‘I could work with this’. And invited her down to sing a few of his songs…’
This is ‘The Story’. And this became what we did for the next 5 years. And what The Grimm Generation defined became our banner. We were already too old to start a Rock Band, but we were cagey promoters and had the benefit of a young Internet culture that suited us. We were both born posers and would take a position at the first click of a camera. This was when Facebook was still based on living people versus dying industry.
We were ready for our close up.
I have known Carmen for over a decade now, with a level of sharing that brought us closer to kin than friends.
That does not mean I know her, truly.
Carmen keeps it close to the vest, always. She is not what you would call effusive. Unless she is drinking. Then she was a red headed charm bracelet that sang out loud.
She was born in Hartford, CT and was the first American baby from a family with deep French-Canadian roots. When her extended family came round to visit, it was all Crown Royal and crazy Canadian food stuffs. And a deep, bracing whiff of redneck.
We grew up similarly as she had a few brothers and sisters, went to school, flirted with college, married young and had a few kids.
Then as was in vogue in the Nineties, divorced. As we all did that decade.
I was from Fairfield, CT about one hour south. I had a good childhood as I recall, though in telling some stories of my misguided youth, I have noticed eyebrows climbing ever higher.
As a kid, I had a deep love of language and what can be done with it. Being very fat kept me inside with my books, comic books, pads and pens. I wrote my first song at age 9 proclaiming my love for Kara. She never heard the song.
Many Kara’s followed. I was a World Champ’een Unrequited Lover. And it fueled my writing.
In time I discovered Pot and my worlds turned stranger and my sense of being a responsible person slipped away. I started writing more songs.
I started with bands when I was a kid. We did what bands did back in the Actual 80’s: we started at Teen Center shows, graduated to shitty club gigs with covers, write and record original music and break up. Over and over again. Some victories, a lot of laughing, some crying.
I held a job, married, had a child …. divorced…. married again, gained a step child…. divorced…
I tried to push back the creative need and limousine dreams to try my hand at being a decent Husband and worthwhile Father. I did not want to tell anyone I ever even wrote music as I tried to settle.
It was fruitless. It was what I was good at. I acted like a bon vivant living on lottery winnings. Immaturity was my brand. I operated with a dangerous combination of ego and absolute anonymity.
This dogged me as I came up, moved away from home (by only an hour, but in Connecticut that matters), needed new pot connections and consequently made new friends. Of course, they were musicians.
I have always had an odd and maybe strained relationship with musicians. I think because I was The Songwriter my end goals were always different than the dudes I played with. Everyone wants to have a good time, jam, pack the clubs, make a little cash and do it again next weekend. That was never my goal.
I had my musical heroes but they were also my competition. And my artistic vision went beyond what I could explain to even the most open minded and dedicated players. I was scattered, I was over blown, and absolutely pretentious. I would talk about crescendo where the musician would talk about where the solo was.
I was fated to be a solo artist as very few could deal with me for that long.
This created a situation where I was ever earnest about my work, my Art, always attempting to write a legitimate hit, mainly alone in my bedroom. I took to the recording bedroom style as the equipment became affordable.
I had a simple enough schematic for what I wanted to produce: a good chorus, short, words that were a bit darker and more detailed than will fit in a Pop song. Aiming for hooks, melodies. The fruit of what captures the ear and makes you turn to face the radio.
Songs were a means to an end. Originally it was therapy for me. If I never sang a note these songs would still exist moldering in some low drawer. I used my frustration to create. This also led me to involving myself in personally dangerous circumstances and rationalizing I was doing it for my art.
I read the 70’s / 80’s Rock magazine like they were Greek myths. At that time, they practically were. Consider the images of the wild flowing hair, lit from behind like a perfect capture in oils. Coliseums shake as the masses gather and call their name. In unison. Loud. And lighters fill the night. In tribute to these Gods who walk with men.
Who wouldn’t want that?
In those days it was the alternative papers that featured the local music sections. Anytime I was involved in something, I would send constant Press Releases to keep a generally uninterested World on where my mighty muse may lead me.
In 2009 I had an all-acoustic group named The Citizen Spy in the era just before Indie Folk had a genre. We were chosen as the Best Folk Group in Hartford by the Hartford Advocate. It was work to get it, to network, to suggest, cajole, beg for people to vote for me for, a band that very few had heard.
I collected the members though the tried-and-true musicians want ads.
The Musician Want Ads were always sketchy at best. First those same alternative weeklies had their ‘Musicians Seeking …’ section and then CraigsList. These were like dating sites where no one got lucky, even by accident.
You could find someone and review their work and express interest. And never hear from them again. Maybe they died. Maybe they were arrested for ‘rocking too hard’. Maybe they were still a little drunk from last night’s gig.
You become immune to this quickly (much like Internet dating) when you recognize it’s a numbers game. Reach out to more and you will get more. The ‘more’ you get is often unworkable, unstable stuff but it makes you feel like you’re actually participating in a type of Music Business.
On the Musician Want Ads, a Bass Player or Drummer would be considered the ‘pretty girls at the dance’ as everyone wanted them. They string you along (‘play original music for little cash? Sign Me Up!’) until their ship comes in (‘play covers and make a lot more cash? Sign Me Up!’) and then disappear.
The term that offended me when relating this to other musicians was that the people you find on the Musician Want Ads are ‘hobbyists. That made me angry. Despite being absolutely true.
I dedicated myself to finding players who could help me build something larger, grander in scope. I believed that if a group of people, even absolute strangers, can come together with a common cause, a sound that matters to those involved, they can produce something lasting, something beautiful. Something that can transcend social relations and slip into a higher airstream for all to see, all to experience. A labor of true love.
Which brings us back to the Best Folk Group in Hartford. I worked hard to get that award. I figured it would be a stepping stone to get my name a bit more public. I campaigned for it.
And won. It was a shock.
When it came time to play the gig, The Citizen Spy had already broken up. Because they were hobbyists. I had conceived and achieved and succeeded, and found myself alone again, not a step further ahead than I was
I was heartbroken. Until that Sunday night about a week later when I heard CC playing Guitar Hero.
2007…. or so
I was renting a room from a bandmate at this time and decided I needed to go. Carmen and I had already been in a constant conversation on every conceivable method of communication. It was a natural step.
It was the emails that bonded us. Texts are quicker, Instagram can show fine details, but sending emails was a perfect form of communication for us. It was like writing letters and throwing them into a virtual Sea. There was a weight and breadth to them, despite being composed of circuits and electric ink.
We started with Sparklehorse and coalesced into something deep, then deeper still. It was all about feelings that neither of us shared with other friends or family. We allowed ourselves to let go and share with someone who would not judge, even as we clicked through a series of actions we were less proud of.
This is where the talk of the Grimm Generation really started, as a code for ‘Children of the 70s at 40.’ We felt that what we were taught growing up was a very soft glow version of what life would really be like.
We missed the Drug Era but of course, drugs were appropriate for every Era. We missed the movements of a real Culture that we were too young for. These lessons never set in with us as a generation, and we fail spectacularly. We marry because it is what we believe we are supposed to do. We have kids because we are married, whether we wanted kids or not. We bought houses that we lost when the market crashed.
In retrospect, was this a series of excuses for not having our shit properly together? You’re damned right it was.
The true political intent was just a false flag. We had someone to talk too after being on Match.com too long where every communication was either someone selling you something you do not really need or you selling yourself.
The unceasing communication we struck was about the book that we were co-authoring. Neither of us had any type of experience in marketing a book, my scant experience in marketing a record was good but ultimately not useful.
With my living situation deteriorating, when Carmen mentioned that she was refinishing her basement, I jumped on it. I have always had a lovely relationship with basements and the House Of Grimm basement was perfect. And would allow us to really focus our attention toward the book.
All of this was happening in the background of my personal Waterloo, the Hartford Advocate Poll debacle.
It wasn’t anyone’s fault. Even by this point, less and less people read print media. These proud giants of alternative thinking were rotting in their boxes.
Where once the Grand Band Slam was a multiple night affair, everyone was involved and partying, playing a variety of clubs, outdoor gigs. Just a real general hullabaloo. it was shrinking in significance almost daily. The print media. The Scene itself.
I was offered an outdoor gig that was cancelled. I set up my own celebration gig on the day after New Year’s. Even the band did not show. No one came except for Carmen and her beau du jour. I was crushed.
And wallowed in it. Constant angry pacing in my 15-foot square underground sanctuary. Carmen was upstairs with the kids (approximate ages: Boy – 10, Girl – 6) playing Rock Band. And then Carmen took the mike and sang an AC/DC song. And I heard something there. Something undefinable. Something I needed.
Carmen had no background in music aside from a grammar school chorus and years of listening. There was something in her voice that was dusky and true. Not a traditional sound, but something that called out from late nights, broken hearts, too much liquor, on a loop.
It was a sound my more traditional voice could not convey. It wasn’t ability, it was atmosphere. And as I listened, I considered what if I took my decidedly pop songs and put them through that voice. I had no idea what would happen, but it kept me from thinking about the great expanse of what was not happening for me.
Since we lived together and had working projects, there were a lot of shared cigarettes on the screened in porch overlooking Park Ave in Windsor. This time was always about what happened next for the book marketing.
The book was The Thing. The book was our shared vision, our lopsided child. We went back and forth, story for story, until we selected the best subject and best writings that we produced. One of us would pick a subject (‘Lust’, ‘Butterflies’, etc) and we both would write our take on it. Some of the stories were long. Some were 3-line poems. It was an individual choice as to how to best capture the subject.
We felt like we were doing something so far unknown to the Market. The ‘Story’ and the stories we shared would leap out from the page and engage people our age. That was our market, clearly, as we wrote this about turning 40 in the high 2000s. We presumed that people would hear about it and reach out with their own tales of Grimm Generation excess and a community would be built.
We sent out the book to a hand-picked focus group who read it and provided insight, accolades and grammar hints.
Just like real authors do.
We then adjusted the tales through the insight provided group and built the book as suggested by the several thousand websites that offered encouragement and advice.
Just like real authors do.
We started shopping the book. When we received the first rejection (like real authors do), we laughed at the lack of imagination of the Big Book Business. By the third and fourth rejection letter, we were laughing a bit less. Seven and Eight hurt like Hell.
This process, unsuccessful as it was, really forged the Grimm dynamic that would become our trademark. We were hucksters, shameless. Specifically, together. We brought out the carnival barker in each other.
Individually we were still both a bit shy, closer to unknowable. United, we were glamorous grifters. We were good at it. Marketing that was funny, a bit salacious, but never uncomely. It entertained us greatly.
I expected to go into the book using this same level of grating glory, but I could not have anticipated the addition of Carmen. We fed off of each other, each idea discussed among smokes and bigger cups of coffee till we tore down every idea and rebuilt it to hold up to the GG standard.
We were in a single clear conversation for about 8 full years. The circumstances changed, the band members came and went and we were always looking at what is next to advance the Grimm agenda.
I have worked with people before, but it was nothing compared to what CC and I had.
We believed we could sell ice in the Antarctic. And because we believed it, we could do it. I always thought that if we tried hard enough, the two of us could will the house leave the ground and lift off into Space. Simply because it never dawned on us that we couldn’t.
We were not invincible. The rejection letters cut us in the places still exposed: lack of confidence, a genuine shared and fought against pessimism, old childhood ghosts of limits to what we can expect and what we could accomplish.
This January Sunday night, when a text was received and I slipped upstairs for a smoke, a new conversation began.
‘So…by now you do recognize I am quite mad. Right?’ I started with.
CC looked wary…trying to assume what angle this conversation was going. ‘I am aware.’
‘I heard you singing on Rock Band. And I have to say…. I could do something with that voice.’
‘Something … like what?’
‘A band!’ I exclaimed while she looked at me with an almost sympathetic nod noting I was indeed quite mad.
‘What am I going to do in this band? Sing??’
‘Yep. You’re the Singer, I’m the genius behind the scenes that plays guitar and broods.’
‘W.E. I think we can do something…. something bigger than the book, using the same philosophy. Children of the 70’s at 40. We may not know what people are reading, but we know what they are listening to. Their Facebooks are lousy with the stuff.’
‘So, I have the songs and you have the voice. It is something I am far more familiar with than book marketing. Why not?’
‘Because I can’t sing.’
‘You can. And really…who cares? Need I produce the list of non-traditional singers who have populated the pop charts? Dylan anyone?’
‘C’mon! You are high.’ (Note: I was.)
‘Yes…. but that doesn’t mean I am wrong. Let’s do this. For the next book meeting, I am bringing my guitar and you bring extra wine. If I am wrong, it will not take a lot for time to discover that.’
Join your Author as he unveils his new band Cursive is Code publicly for the first time at Cafe Nine for the Sunday Buzz series Sunday August 1st with super special guests Lys Guillorn and Her Electric Band getting back together for the occasion.
So one more time: Cafe Nine (250 State St, New Haven, CT 06510) Sunday August 1st. Show starts at 4;00 PM and is free. Cursive is Code live debut. It will rock and that is not hype.
In my estimation, the Greatest Story Ever Told (with apologies to the Bible) involves a team of heroes…or better stillvillains….who come together with a single minded intention.
This can be World Domination or World Saving or planning a particularly surprising Surprise party…. When you get a group of disparate individuals pulling together like a team, great things can happen.
Usually after a series of bad things. Cause that is Creation.And Creation ain’t always pretty. I refer you to birth, at large.
People come together, disagree, come together, make a little more progress…disagree…..repeat. People get tested and either rise to the challenge or stop returning phone calls. The goal in mind grows larger with the sweat equity of work. And Luck plays a hand. Because as much as we want to believe that hard work can get you what you need, Luck can do it faster, better, harder.
And the only thing that improves this concept is if everyone is holding instruments.
A band is a living thing. If it is healthy. The people around you can hold you together. If it is unhealthy, the same, but it is like a trust fall. There will come a time that they will not be there and you will fall hard.
This is a fable based on fact. This is The 1200 Bar Blues.
The Grand Libido: Magic is a deal. Magic is the willful suspension of disbelief. And so is sex. It can send you outside of the atmosphere (if done properly) or ground you to the life line you need to survive.
It can also upset your apple cart, destroy your home, your sense of self respect, the concept of trust in general. Sometimes if done properly. The rightness of the moment is magic, the reality of the next day is stage work. A genuine suspension of real belief required.
In summary, Sex is Magic. And here’s a song about a magician.
Hopi Fest: This is a song about charity. Or to the point charity gigs. I must state for the record that I am not against charity or charity gigs. The reason I must state that to this imaginary record is because of this song. It’s a true story and some of you may have been there, early on the bill on shitty Sunday at Sneakers. The gig that caused Hogan to hate reggae. The gig where we went on last to the deep disappointment of everyone who wanted to just go home. When we dropped acid about half way though.
It Could Be The Drugs (It Could Be The Dancing): Have you ever received a note in you band email offering a gig in the big city? They state they have found your song and LOVE it (capitalized). And they have an opportunity for you to play where the action is: (insert big city near where you claim here)? This is your chance! Of course the gig is on a Wednesday morning which is usually where the music scouts are out looking for new talent. Plus you will have the benefit of playing with other bands. Its not a competition. Its not. But make sure you bring everyone you know and everyone they know. Though its not a competition. Really.
Kinky Devil: Regarding the next song, Kinky Devil: No Comment.
Summer of Drummers: This is not a new quest. This may be a life long quest. Maybe my ultimate quest. I have no luck with the makers of beat. Drummers are like the hot chicks in the bar: everybody wants them, needs them, but they play to many other dudes. BTW…if you know a drummer, give them my name
Houston, We Got A Problem: This song exists for one reason. Lucky Money Oil. If you were conscious in the 80s you may remember seeing these in a variety of 7 11s and Wawa’s in your travels. A small bottle of oil that if you use will bring you great fortune. The downside is that it smelled like Patchouli and Grim Death. This song is about spilling that oil in your car and rolling up the windows IN THE Summer Sin to see which of your friends could last the longest before ejecting.
Show Your Work: Half of this band are teachers in the public school system. And a lot of our friends are teachers too. I have learned a lot from them even now, mainly that I wish I paid attention to the teachers I had. But I have heard the term ‘Show Your Work’ a few times and it struck me. This … this whole day…. is me showing my work.
I’m The Singa’: It requires gumption (or balls) to say Im The Singer. To step out on the stage with nothing but your voice and words you don’t remember and sell it…. As noted: balls and gumption. This one goes out to CC of GG.
The Death Of Indie: I blame Society. And Spin Magazine. Big radio and Pitchfork. I blame myself and some of you. What is Indie Music? Isn’t everything Indie Music? Are we Indie? Are you? This is a crime scene investigation with a wicked beat.
Our Future Is California: The best description I have heard of this song is from my mate Julie who stated ‘The prettiest F.U song ever.’. This is Our Future is California
Who Plays First: this is a tale based on the apocalypse and proper band placement. This is my ego to a 4 x 4 beat
The Deleted History Of Us; This is my take on a modern age Grimm Generation song. CC and I were always fascinated by the interpersonal interactions via the Internet, and how this formed our culture on a global level, but as deeply, personal relations. This song is about the last gasp of Internet love.
The greatest story ever told? I said it so I must mean it. Right?
This is something I have said before. Probably in this very space. It is something I believe. And something I have done.
And it goes a little something like this (hit it!):
The Greatest Story Ever Told is based on a band that did not make it. A Band you never heard of, playing songs you never knew.
But what about the coke fueled parties? The difficult second album? Who slept with whose wife / husband / daughter?
What about the grandiose celebrity failure checklist that passes as music journalism?
You see, bad behavior is not exclusively for the rich and famous. We have all done pretty fucked up things.
So for the Coke Fueled Parties, you get a junkie drummer. And that is no party.
Re: the difficult 2nd album, how about trying to get a gig during a pandemic where everyone who was afraid to go outside at all developed genius marketing? (More eloquently, if you cannot go up the Mountain, watch the weather because there may be a time that the Mountain will come down to you).
The assorted affairs? Yes, you need to be rich to do that. Right? (crickets…)
No…these are trappings of success. Right down to the fact that they are reported and cataloged and presented to a generally uninterested World.
No. What I am talking about is Death or Glory.
Or steady work or Glory.
Playing shows for the bartenders only or Glory.
Packing your shit back in the van during a blizzard where no sane soul would even leave their house … or Glory.
‘Forward, the Light Brigade! Charge for the guns!’ he said: Into the valley of Death Rode the six hundred…’
These are matters of faith. You trust your Muse; you weigh your chances and you make your move. And you seek out folks with a similar vibe, a similar desire who can hopefully play an instrument you cannot. When you bring a group together with a single-minded idea of what they want, amazing things can happen. Usually in line with samples sized bites of true disaster. But that’s show biz.
Bands come from everywhere. They can be your long-time friends, or family. They can be friends of friends that you have hung out with some but don’t know them that well. They can be an anonymous donor of rock that you found on whatever acts as Craigs List this century.
And you get tested. And they get tested right along with you. And how you all deal with these tests…is a test.
I have played with people I have not cared for. I know that people who don’t care for me have lined up behind my songwriting. It’s a Devils Deal…. but that doesn’t mean it cannot be successful. Some bands sound is based on the raw anxiety that each individual member has by having having to spend time with the other members. Fact: these are usually my favorite bands.
‘Their’s not to make reply, Their’s not to reason why, Their’s but to do and die: Into the valley of Death…’
If you have the drive, you push through and a proper line up gets assembled. Though unless they are friends or family, don’t get used to them. You’re not the only one in town selling this dream.
And songs come together. (Note: this whole magilla is related original bands playing a roughly Westernized Pop style. If you play jazz, I have no idea why you are even reading this).
You write songs with a message, and that message does not need to be deep. It does need to have a hook. Something that resonates either melodically or lyrically.
You bring these songs to the collective and everyone adds to the brew. The song that you wrote alone in your bedroom half drunk becomes a clarion call informing the sound of what you do. It is one of the most pleasing parts of the process having a musician kick up an idea that you would never have even considered and its genius. Something subtle, something wholly revelatory. This errant child of your drunk sadness starts to walk upright. And maybe shimmy a bit.
This is Glory. This is why potential is an absolute addiction. You broke your own heart writing this song with real tears and after it goes through the process, you sing it without a care. Cause everyone has a job to do.
So you build songs together, work up the dynamics, the drama with continuous practice, continuous play. A night or two gets picked and that is Jam Night. You all take to the Lab.
It is a secret thing right up until you start selling it.
‘Storm’d at with shot and shell, Boldly they rode and well, Into the jaws of Death, Into the mouth of Hell Rode the six hundred…’
The more time you spend with these people form the bond that is necessary to take on the upcoming disappointments. The first being that the more time you spend with these people, you realize that there is oil in the water and always will be. Everybody has a job to do and your current job is keeping your mouth shut.
And how could disappointments not come? This disparate collection of self-involved souls have created a masterpiece out of the ether. The World will tremble. The bars will overflow with milk AND honey when they behold what we created.
Inside the Jam Room, you forget outside the Jam Room. That you can be good, you can be motivated, you can be willing to lay down your life for that Glory. But you are unlucky. And an unlucky zealot is just a dude with an opinion.
‘While horse and hero fell, They that had fought so well Came thro’ the jaws of Death, Back from the mouth of Hell …’
And maybe time has passed you by. Maybe you are not in line with what ‘the kids’ are buying. Maybe your just tired.
Its possible, of course. With each victory thwarted by an uncaring World, the stress shows on all of the faces surrounding you.
You press on. A good review versus a bad gig. A drinking problem versus firing your guitarist. The slowly reclining press of a culture that is ceasing to exist at all.
This won’t stop you. It never does. You have something to say. Maybe in the next band.
‘When can their glory fade? O the wild charge they made! All the world wonder’d. Honour the charge they made! Honour the Light Brigade, Noble six hundred!’
Maybe to bring up the fact that it will be stream able the following day on the replay through Cygnus Radio at Noon (https://cygnusradio.com/)?
Of course not, Silly. But do listen.
This post is about growing up in the shadow of this particular 50,000 Watts station and why being featured on Sunday nights makes me feel like I have magic shoes that allow me dance on ceilings.
When I was growing from boy to older boy, before all of my comic books were traded for a single Alice Cooper ticket (it is a great Rock and Roll story and a poor plan), this station is why.
It was the King Biscuit Flour Hour and the show was ‘Black and Blue: Black Sabbath and Blue Oyster Cult).
I was about 12 at the time and comics were my life. I was into the X Men (as any right thinking outcast kid in the suburbs should be). Everything was comics. They covered my walls, my few friends were collectors and we would trade all day long.
So, a quick study of this is I was a kid who was into fantasy. Not the wizards and sword and sandals stuff. The deepest I could go into that vibe was the Frazetta posters that also adorned my tiny teen bedroom. And I’m not convinced I hung those there for any reason than I was 12 and the girls started to interest me.
This was my life. My parents even brought me to my first Comic Convention which was NOT a Comic Con. It definitely had more the vibe of the Waterbury Record Shows (on Sunday Mornings!) held at Ramada (or w.e.). Meaning it was generally middle aged dudes who smelled foul.
It was not until the Waterbury Record Shows that I realized poor hygiene was a tactic. Smelling bad was an excellent way to make sure nobody stands to close to you as you are digging for gold among the crates of vinyl.
So I was a nerd, but so were you, don’t lie.
I had always had older brothers and sisters and cousins who brought around music. Despite my young age, I was raised on Yes records and first albums James and I received for Christmas which were ‘Queen: Live Killers’ and ‘Aerosmith Live Bootleg’. Also an 8 track of ‘David: Live’.
Which if you boiled down the elements, you get my musical career.
So I was aware of rock music, considered myself a fan but it was comics. Until that Sunday Night ….
I was getting ready for school and had 99.1 Rock on because I believed that was what I was supposed to do. I barely owned any records of my own aside from a few single 45’s my Dad would get for James and I whenever he hit it in the Lottery. Understand I am not talking about ‘Lottery Winners’. That term itself is an oxymoron. If he made a few bucks on the horses or daily numbers, we would know when we received a 45. I remember my first one was Thin Lizzy ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’ and James opted for David Bowie ‘Golden Years’
(Which if you boil down the elements….etc.)
So it was 99.1 Rock Radio on all the time. Dr Demento was likely what brought me there. The real prize was ‘The King Biscuit Flour Hour’. In a pre-YouTube universe this was where you heard performers live. It was the only way, at the time.
So, getting ready for School Monday on a Sunday night and the show starts. The opening sponsored announcements. I barely paid attention.
Then the bell.
The fucking bell changed everything.
On the Heaven and Hell Tour. Opening number ‘Black Sabbath’. I knew none of this at the time (my sister listened to Volume 4 which when I hear again I knew every word without knowing I did).
All I knew was the sound of wind and rain, howling and the Bell. My ears perked up like a dog who heard a can being opened. I sat right down and stopped everything. The World itself stopped spinning and all focus was on me and my speakers.
Such a strange morning. Another day heavy with grey clouds,
the full breasted blush of Autumn now stick figures stretching into the void . Sipping hot coffee to still the shudders. I
feel off planet, an alien hologram of myself. I cannot shake it.
I have no recall of
writing that sentence last night.
Wrapped in an assembly of weather warm fabrics, the chill was
bearable. I busied myself with a running list of the things I would buy when
the money comes. I must have passed out during the travel section as I remember
the image of blue water and black sand. Then nothingness.
I heard music. A
melody. Repeating and beating louder between my ears. I assumed in my sleep I
hit something on my phone. My phone was
off and still resting on the seat. I knew it wasn’t the radio as the keys sat
next to the phone. And a assembly of melodies converged in my head, growing
I tried to focus but it was all surreal. There was something
familiar within it. Eventually I recognized was that all the melodies,
converging, crossing, swelling, were all sung in my voice. Falsetto and low
gravel, every instrument was my instrument. My voice doing things I could never
Is a caterpillar aware of what it is becoming, the wings it
will grow, the colors it will bring? Is
a bug aware of what it will become right before it hits the windshield?
For better or far worse, change comes to every creature on
Which is as reasonable a way to describe the last two days.
The melody. It slithers in the back of my head until I
sleep, and then it struts. Incessant. With a strong hook. A good beat you can dance too.
When I awoke with the melody beaming in my brain, I was
compelled to grab my guitar and make something out of it. It was intimidating.
Like being given a live check for millions but having a fake ID.
I found my way to a friend’s house who was sweet enough to
let me shower and get myself together. Being flush with real indoors and
genuine heat, I put myself on the couch, broke out my pad, my pen and my
digital recorder. And started to play.
It was the strangest feeling. My fingers worked their way
around the tune and added swerves and curves. It wasn’t conscious. The less I thought about it, the
more I noticed that I was playing guitar in a way I have never been able to
I hack at my guitar, beat it into submission while screaming
out my precious words. This was different. A near genius level of altering and
repeating the notes , repetition, repetition, repetition. Hypnotic notes flowed from my guitar while I
barely considered where this skill came from.
It was said that Robert Johnson disappeared that day on the
Crossroads only to appear a few years later with an ability to play that
shocked folks who knew him. Some said it was the work of The Devil. Some said
it was the work of hard and focused learning.
I had not practiced in weeks.
I was not thinking this at the time. I was not thinking at
I felt myself breathing, lungs inhale and exhale. I felt the
weight of the guitar on my knee, the scent of candles burned down days ago.
Everything within my physical body became acute. Detailed. I felt the sun shine
on my back, the deafening drip of a faucet somewhere.
My fingers worked and my voice worked with it. The more I
played, the more distant I became from playing. It was instinct. It was
flexing knowledge I never learned.
Dusk comes to the crossroads. A decided chill in the air as we press through November, and not having the finance to run the heater, I am layered in most of the clothes I brought.
Such a strange place. I feel invisible here. I expected that some local cop would eventually pull up and check my purpose. I thought that the folks who travel this route would be gawking at me, wondering what exactly I was up too. I have not seen a single person even look in my direction. It is solitude. And it should not be.
Things like this make me wonder. Is it this place, so often driven that it becomes automatic reflex to focus on the road? Is it my purpose here that allows a spectral anonymity?
It is a strange feeling to be in a wilderness while being about a 8 minute ride from a WalMart.
Beyond the half way point of November and no signs of progress. No nightly visitors, no pens of flame or blood. Just waiting causing me to question whether this is my residency in Hell. If that is the case I could do worse.
It is sunny today. Most of the leaves have left. The lovely burnished red of the foliage replaced daily with naked branch and blue sky blooming. The grass going from summer green to earthen tones.
I know the rhythms of the seasons. I have lived here all my life. This land of Devils.
That is not said as an opinion. New England born and raised.And always driving distance to some place with ‘Devil’ or ‘Hell’ in the title. As far as I recall, this was Puritan lands back in the beginning, and anything that was considered unusual was named unnatural. And a place where mysteries let loose. Devils were always about according to the Puritans. And names such as Devils Den, Devils Hopyard, Satans Kingdom, Hell Hole were given to the places that pricked at the cosmological conscience were warned away from.
The country, the USA, started on this side (meaning East)and so the oldest and more arcane history comes from here. It gets in your blood here, the dirty ground of real history. It redeems your daylight and electric candles as weapons against the cold Yankee nights.
There is blood in the ground here. Older blood sunk deeper into the soil. We have attached to our homeland witch hunts and Native American massacres, famous murder and forgetful grounds. As a kid, I ate this up. The book I would always own was the collection of Yankee Magazine Myths and Legends. There are vampires in Jewett City, mysterious ‘BOOMS’ out of Moodus, bodies buried beneath New Haven Green, the Melon heads stalk Dracula Drive in Yourtown, USA. Every part of the country reflects its age in its fears, whether it is roving gangs of homicidal hippies in the California hills or dead shot long dead gunslingers in the west.
Here, our history is longer and fears more traditional,
rooted in mystical depths. And that brings us to Hell.
We use the tools we have available to review any threat. In these modern days, mysteries are knocked down with regularity. Science tracks the phenomena, action and reaction and creates a hypothesis. The concept gets debated, back and forth, sometimes for centuries.
Without the science, we are left with faith. What someone wants to believe, someone will believe. If you believe your suffering will allow you a better view in Heaven,you cannot be dissuaded. If someone avoids the simple carnal pleasures for fear of dropping down into Hell, you will not be convinced. Even using plain science, where facts are not negotiable, people will see what they want to in the results and base their opinions on this flawed logic. And will not be unconvinced.
The Northeaster woods crawl with witches and boil with entrances to the abyss. The shore speaks of ghosts of pirates and haunted lighthouses. The cities whisper with murders and long held grudges coming to boil. We are cold people, in a cold place. As cold as the stones that sit in our multitude of cemeteries. As cold as the bodies that lay beneath.
And we will not be
Cloudy night with a glow of the Moon distant. Deeper shadows round the crossroads tonight.
What will it be like when I am rich and famous? What will it be like knowing what waits when I eventually flame out completely. Is having nothing an audition for losing everything?
The benefit of being wholly alone has it’s upsides. The ridiculous things you do are shared privately and there is no Greek Chorus warming up in the pit.
Someone who was aware of what I was doing out here, what I wanted and what I was prepared to pay, was perhaps a loss. I live so much in my own head that I doubt if someone offered advice, I would even be able to make sense of the sentence. My inner dialog has gone native
The positive is that when you do something embarrassing, you can get up the next day no worse for wear. That last night, recalled here, was embarrassing. A bad dream mixed with random nature had me running like a kid though a graveyard. The first sign of something scary had me sleeping in the swampy green light of a Target. Bad form.
I had long thoughts about what I would do next that morning, after the morning sun shook the night off. I had no place else to go. Death or Glory, right?
What if Death was not Death at all, but a quick blip before you wake up elsewhere? I did not believe in Heaven even a bit. I did not believe our good deeds were calculated and fed through a formula that decide the resting place of your soul. I absolutely believed in Hell.
It is a contradiction. I l know that. I have never been able to apply a working logic to it. I believe life is fundamentally bad. And as workers of these dirt driven fields, we turn bad right along with it. There is joy in moments and these times need keep us steely against another bad spin of fortune.
Life is not fair, but it was never advertised as such.
I drank coffee until I started to feel whole again. I knew I would go back to the crossroads that night. And every night following. Because I had nothing else.
When I returned in the bright 3 o’clock sunlight, I felt foolish all over again. This was practically the fucking suburbs. This was not Mississippi and the only thing haunting these fields was me. I settled in, slid my seat back and waited.
As noted, waiting is my sport. I was made for this, though I kept on having thoughts creeping into my head about whether waiting was enough.
Sacrifice was the word that kept coming in unannounced. Tap,
What if there was missing text in the accumulated legends?What if every single person who successfully made this pact brought something to show how serious they were? What if a bird was simply an offering? I pondered this as the sun slid away and night came to the crossroads.
As I got older, my writing changed. It was almost a return to my 9 year old form. It was confessional where before it was clever. This wasn’t a decision. I came to recognize that the writing was therapy. It was my nurse and it was my weapon. And I needed both in those days.
I cannot chart the exact age that my ego eclipsed my sweeter nature. I think it was a byproduct of living so deeply in my own head, I made a kingdom in there. And to the king go the spoils.
It came with a small measure of success, getting recognized,getting heard, my songs at last touch the radio airwaves. I took it too far, as was my nature.
I started to become cooler, not only in attitude but in empathy. And since my esteem couldn’t balance the small size of the aforementioned success, I started crafting a new persona. Less geeky chat(which is me) and more cool long looks. It was cheap but it was effective. I attracted attention. And the attention I craved wasn’t press or prestige. It was women.
And I became callous. To the king go the spoils. Even the most spoiled ones.
The songs became my rationalization for every deed and misdeed done. If I wanted a heartbreak song, I went out and got my heart broke.If I needed a redemption song, I found someone silly enough to redeem me and out it to paper. I did not write love songs . Too revealing.
I stepped out using the patter of a stranger, a sick ego and clever tongue. It goes a long way in the world.
I felt a darkness. Within. And I liked it. My songs became the E Ticket reason for everything I did to myself. And to others. Every unhealthy habit was a grand tradition in the life of an artist. I drank deeply.
No friends ever mentioned the change in me. No one longed for the better version of me. I was more successful with this character I decided to become than all the love lorn years leading up to it. And so I pressed on.
I hurt people. For the songs. I pushed the edges of decent behavior. For the songs. I dine out on fabricated stories of my life as a rogue. And songs came from that too.
I felt myself draining away from the world leaving my imposter to take my place. And he flourished.
It was not like the 80’s style comeback story movies I grew up on. The record was played, and played again all over the country. I received sweet words and sales were not great. The time spent working to the lower middle took its toll on everyone involved. And it was gone.
No one was asking what I would do next. No one missed what I brought to the banquet.
People went the way of the World and spun away. I did not take it personally. I was barely a person at that point.
That was not long ago now. It lead me right to this dirty cross of blacktop.
Saturday Night and I just got paid. Not accurate, but still a heady line. I will not see folding money again till this is over. I have been thrifty banking on the gas I use each day to get here versus 30 days. If it takes that long. And if it doesn’t, I simply don’t know.
My landscape is changing around me ushering in the cold, dead season ahead. The leaves that reached over my parking spot, which glowed dying fire as the chlorophyll blanched out are now skeletal limbs that shimmer and crack. The dead leaves carpet the roots of the tree where my black bird friend watched after me. The grass is slowing down and going brown.
I have not had any further astral visitors. I am no longer sure if I expect any. I am zealous. 20 days to go.
The sun is coming up over the Target parking lot. Another gray day in a series. And I am still shivering badly.
I knew I was going to spend the night at the crossroads. I gathered whatever winter wear I had remaining. November gets cold at night and I could not afford to use my heat.
I sat in layers and listened. Wind teased the highest branches and flicked rain on my windshield. It was peaceful. This was my home, my native land. There was not a whip snap of a branch or cry of an animal new to me. I lived round hear all my life.
I had a dream, which itself was peculiar. I do not dream. I have not dreamed in years.
I was in a hotel room, but not the type I have stayed in much. As opposed to the modern version of lodging with its single serve coffee maker and fire exit maps on the door, this was clearly an older style hotel, something akin to city life. The windows were open and I heard sounds of life being lived many down below. Car brakes and horns, industrial sounds of steam and distant voices.
I was fully dressed, the lights on, the windows open. Big band music churned out of a radio on the bedside table, adding to the time out of time feeling. And beneath , the sound of running water. I looked around the room and saw a door with light leaking from below. Small shadows of movement buzz in the refracted light.
I stared at the door. Nervous. I had no reason to be nervous. It was palpable within.
I heard a sigh, decidedly feminine behind the door. Then the lights went out beneath the door. And the sound, all those city sounds, went dead in a blink. The only sound was of the Big Band music slowly devolving into static and scratch.
I sat frozen in place as the lights in the room shut off. And the bathroom door opens.
What was strange, even within the dream, was that the windows that were letting the sound in, seemingly open and brimming with life, were pure black spaces now.There was no light at all.
My breath caught in my throat. I was terrified. ‘tap….tap….tap’. It was distinct and it was getting closer. ‘tap….tap…tap’. I could not move a muscle.It was blackness and increasing tension. True mortal fear. I felt as alone as I ever had in life.
I could not see it. I did not want t see it. I crushed my palms to my eyes.
My eyes opened and I was at the crossroads, in the driver’s seat. The dream spun away from me. It felt like it was evaporating all around me. I started to calm down,relief like a physical rush.
On the passenger side window, on the back windshield. ‘tap…tap…tap’
Light scratching sounds on the roof. ‘tap…tap…tap’ Though I could not see anything, I knew what it was.
My brain was a block of ice. Pure Instinct started the car and floored it, fishtailing wildly away from the crossroads.
I felt a prickling on my skin like electrical charges right as it happened. It was a flicker but a flicker that seemed to last far past flickering. And looked upon the biggest black bird I had ever seen perch 15 feet away.
I felt uneasy. It was not the proximity. It was the focus. The bird perched and turned to me and froze. Black eyes focused. Not on the car, but on me. I could not forget that static charge that hit me in the moment. It felt…significant.
Was this it? Did ‘it’ even exist? Am I slowly losing my shit, as has been mentioned?
It sat still. Still as ancient things. It reminded me of a woodcut found in one of those dusty library books I favored about omens and monsters of yore. And it stared. Not that the car, not into the field looking for dinner. Stock still staring directly at me. Into me.
It made me uncomfortable. I had to consider if I was letting my nerves get the best of me. Then was struck with the single thought ‘What did you expect?’.
Was this an overture? Was there a step I needed to learn in this dance? The bird sat mute and frozen; no guidance would come from that direction. Should I approach? Was this the invitation?
My car and pulled away slowly. It’s eyes followed me as far as I can see.
I took comfort that night in a dear friends flesh and a lot of liquor. It was gone the next morning when I returned.
I am used to waiting. I have a long habit of always arriving early, so waiting became a skill. I note the same ruts on the road, the same jeep tracks, heading off road that I have gazed at for days, which kicks my mind into questioning ‘where were they going? Did they get there? The same road trash that comes and go with the wind. The same shade from the same trees, now less shady with the leaves coming down. I sit and I collect my thoughts and I print them here, for reasons still unknown.
I wait and I wonder. What happens if I am successful? Would I suddenly have the secret song in my pocket that will allow my ascension? Will the chords come together naturally, or perhaps unnatural? Would I receive a letter that says ‘Congrats Kid. Your gonna be a Starrrrr.?
Or would I simply disappear, not being legal or bright enough to know the full extent of the contract?
And so my life as a performer began. Not in klieg lights and limousines, but in late night gigs at dingy bars playing the white trash American Songbook. It would not last long. As a writer, I wanted to make hits, not play the hits. So I started to learn the guitar and picked up a 4 Track Cassette Recorder.
If I can chart the specifics of when I became a day trader in this life, when I began a lifelong preoccupation with profane ways to call ordinary actions, or the necessary extra syllable that would make that chorus bulletproof, this was that day.
I knew the accepted way to become a figure in that early 90’s music business economy: start local, work local, build a following,make a record, get radio, perhaps a video, get press, get fans….repeat until you’re driving sold gold Cadillac’s. There is a simplicity to that metric,makes creative thought and the sharing of it into a Wikipedia page of how to farm.
I could not go that route, always thinking of myself as the creative engineer of better mousetraps.
How correct I was can likely be summarized in where I write this from. A beat up car on a beat up road, seeking higher guidance from lower associations. Desperation was a concept until I got desperate.
I started to let go of the world. I started to forget what was required of me to be a well thought, likable adult. I started to obsess on the ways I would flaunt my wealth and success among those many who did not believe in me. Belief is a drug and that and no one was selling it. I daydreamed conversations with the magazine clippings I kept as friends. The advice they would offer, and what I would offer back.
The ‘Myself’that brought me to the party seemed to leave with someone else, and what I had left was the Myth. I was pleased.
While others planned a future, I plotted a course for International stardom on my own terms.I remember the sloganeering that became my reasoning: This is all I can do. I cannot fix cars, cannot do math, can barely spell, much less punctuate. It is Death or Glory.
That was years ago now. Death keeps coming into the foreground. Day by day. Glory is still ethereal.
I worked at jobs, always considered ‘Joe Jobs’ to me, cause my work was what I did after hours. Honestly, I have no clue how I was hired at all. I did not have the resume, but I think my inner workings of global domination gave the outer appearance of confident. My ‘Devil May Care’ attitude and decent diction hid the lack of care I truly owned. Every job I had was a static place held together by what my next move was artistically.
I hid it well. At some jobs.
I allowed myself any number of behaviors I would never have suggested to anyone else. My particular version of ‘Death or Glory’ did not invite passengers. I was a wide ranging experiment on the power of self involvement and ego. I was the subject and I did the research. I excused this self lechery and leering by reminding myself that what I was doing was aiming higher than most.
I was willing to bet it all. I did bet it all. I never even got the see the wheel spin.
Are these thoughts insane? I ask you as I have no one left to ask. Whoever you may be and however you will come across this confession / transcript. Does everyone consider themselves a God of their own world? Is that a bad thing? I was told something in passing that I keep as armor: There is no such thing as a false sense of well being. If you feel well,you are well.
My logic was flawed. And I would do it all again the same way.
And while other kids were picking up the guitar and drums, I picked up the pen.
My songwriting habits solidified as I opened up to new sounds. My heroes were always the singers, as I was naïve enough to believe that s they sang the words, they wrote the words.
I grew my internal world by moving beyond the sad boy songs into something more gothic and suggestive. I wrote horror movie scripts with kickin’ choruses. I wrote in cheap rock and roll clichés, practically the traditional folk of white suburban boys.
So when a gang of friends started to take it more seriously , they needed a singer, I said ‘I’m a singer.’
To me, singing was always an act of courage more than a skill. Considering the quality of voice that littered modern music, not everyone who sings should sing. The goal was to get them into writing original compositions as I had pads of material ready to go.
Off to the practice room, like our fathers and forefathers before us.
My first live gig was a personal revelation. I was fat, morbidly so. As wide as anyone was tall. Decked out in denim vest with patches and spikes, we played a Battle of The Bands against kids far more popular than we were. That suited us. We were filled with rage. We played covers from obscure bands no one ever heard of. Every other band had at least one Van Halen cover.
Impossible to say whether we were good or bad but we were assuredly loud and ugly. So we lost. Of course. This isn’t a movie.
Right after the cool kids were crowned, I stood back a grimy sweaty massive mess. A girl approached me. Maybe the first.
And time slowed as she intentionally walked toward me. She was a vision. Thin, blonde, smiling at me…looking at me. Everything dropped to a slow motion crawl as I noted the stage lights glinting off her silver choker…
I slept in
my car last night. That wasn’t the plan. I am not sure if there is a plan. Is
there a process to offering up your eternal self for worldly gain? Is there a
registry I should have signed onto? In blood? Is that what Linked In actually
I park and I
wait. In lieu of soundtrack and chatter, it is just the tapping of this phone.
The phone doesn’t ring, the message indicator doesn’t blink. When I say I do not know what I am doing
here, that question needs be answered in tiers.
Is this a
fanciful suicide note? What am I trying
to say by walking back through these drug mangled memories? Is my story a
habitual this creating to keep a order. I am parked and watching the world spin
at the apex of these two roads. Chosen not by providence but by convenience. If
the will is willing and the flesh is leaning into it, does that trip the Devils
still…I am an atheist. Though clearly not zealous on the subject. I do not
believe there is anything beyond this earthen tomb. We born, we pass, we food
for worms. Until the going gets rough. Then I am praying to God for luck and
banging on the Devils door for validation.
is what this is about. Validation. I won’t let my life go unacknowledged. That
has grown from a notion into a threat.
Hell for eternity is awesome…as long as you do not believe in Hell. What if I
would be that I wasted sometime, changed my life, cut down the safety nets and
need to figure out what is next. And keep figuring that out until I reach a
is I would rise. Rise above this body, my peers, tempt the clouds with my sheer
freedom and conquer this world as it’s equal. Admiration and throngs of well
wishers. Poverty properly banished forever more.
met and married on a Sunday evening when I was about 13 courtesy of the King
Biscuit Flour hour and the FM radio band.
where I came from: comic books and horror. Literature, of a type. At least
literate. This was what occupied my head until that night. I was a fan of music, as I had brothers and
sisters and cool cousins who would treat it like a religion.
brought me Deep Purple and Black Sabbath when I would crawl around the carpet
and just stare at the covers. My cool cousin brought me to Yes. My extended
family brought about Lynyrd Skynyrd. I have forgiven them. Jackson 5 was on the
radio and then a heavy dose of AM radio classics as my parents were a bit older
than everyone else’s.
that had a big impact is a record I despise, to this very minute. Terry Jacks
‘Seasons in The Sun’ was proof of evil in a blissful world. I would weep like a
smaller child every single time it came on. Just that opening vocal melody
would make my face scrunch up like I was slamming lemon juice.
painful to listen to, and deliberating to me little kid ego who could not keep
it together at all, that record showed me that songs can hurt.
record I ever wanted was the 45 of ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’. My brother
wanted ‘Golden Years’ by Bowie. Our Dad bought us both in the same day. Those
two record were seeds to a burgeoning personal revolution. The grit of Thin
Lizzy matched with the suave alien Pop sound of Bowie had an effect I would not
recognize for years.
I stumbled from
books on Parapsychology into comic books. Obsessive on the things I loved, this
is all I did. It was natural, trading mysteries on outdated and rained upon
books for full color magic pages. And superheroes were the extension of what I
wanted to be. Having super powers looks pretty prime when you’re a kid where
you are generally powerless.
influences, all these mixed media muses lay dormant in me as I continued the
business of growing up. Until that
, 8 PM, and school the next day. I
settled in my room and turned on the radio. It was a rite as my brothers and sisters
before me had. I think it was the talk more than the music for me as I was
raised on AM talk and police scanner chatter. The sound of distant voices and
noises was always soothing to me. I have
lived within listening distance to 95 most of my childhood.
want peace, they aim for silence. For me, the opposite is true.
A big voice
came on the radio heralding the ‘King Biscuit Flour Hour with BLACK AND
BLUE!!!’ (the exclamation points came through the speaker like an aural
typeface). I faced the speaker like the DJ was going to bounce through it.
next was screaming. A horror flick soundtrack played over massive cabinets .
Massive bell ringing. Then the guitar. It was ‘War Pigs’. And it changed me.
I spent the
remainder of that 13th year in my room, eschewing the outside as I bought and
played out every Black Sabbath record. I had friends who thought I evaporated.
My room went from full color Marvel art to black and red. I started sporting
Satanic gear everywhere I could.
It felt right.I felt like I belonged to something. Heavy Metal was my religion. I sold my entire comic collection for an Alice Cooper ticket in the city.
To say I came here without expectations would be false. I have big expectations.
To say I came here without thinking it through…. that I am not so sure about.
I do not believe in an afterlife. And yet I come to this road and I wait. I come every day. Every day.
I have left my job. It kept me away from this place. Where I need to be. I need to shake some shit up, in an astral sense. Poverty does not scare me. We are old friends.
I am afraid. Terrified. Afraid of what will happen when he comes. Afraid of what will happen if he doesn’t.
It started with books, long days at the local library gaining knowledge on a number of subjects pretty to my dark mind: ghosts, New England lore, multitudes of ‘Phone Calls From The Dead’ and other 60’s paperback parapsychology propaganda, horror movies and Colonial history. The information I needed was learned though legend and cheap literature. And that knowledge did little except give me a reputation for being the fat, weird kid. Or so I thought.
Sitting here, alone in this deteriorating auto, acoustic in the back, crushed cigarette kicking up, I wonder if this was why it was important. Was this date fated?
Even asking that sets me in place as myth. I am not myth. Yet.
Words worked within me. Not the paperbacks I studied or books of legends I stole. It was words sung out loud. The meaning behind the act of saying anything to anyone a all.
After Kara came Shannon. After Shannon, Michelle. After Michelle, Krystal. Into infinity. And each had a song written for them, a pledge contained in every line and my heart woven throughout the lyric. They were not songs proper as I was not handy with an instrument. They were verse / chorus love letters no one would never hear or see.
It was the creating of worlds with unknown outcomes. It was creating characters, even in simple sketches of syllables. It was my license to become a Gentleman. It was all the brave words I never spoke, all the proclamations I kept private. I went from drawing Spiderman on my notebook cover to capturing phrases overheard or misunderstood.
An act of Zen recording these simple rhyme patterns on a lined sheet of paper, my printing block, my pen unsmudged. I recognize this for what it is now. Control. Sanity. But I was 10, so Sanity was an over reaching abstract.
The concept of chorus, where you distill the lyric and kick in something punchy, something melodic or a slogan, was burned in my brain from living in a culture that valued such acts of market driven trickery. Not that I minded. I felt writing a good chorus was comparable to winning a sports competition, except after your done running, hopping, playing, scrimmaging, all you have is a memory.
I have 4 lines that can define you. Call the unnamed conspirator on their pride, labor, spit. Raise or dash them. And they will live on forever. This is my power, what I was given. I made myths.
I still believe that too. And this is where it led. This shadowy clash of flat top roads and the suitable scent of sulfur.
In my dreams, I am a shiny constellation. Bright and too far away. A distant collection of sparks that can be admired, used, worshiped. Untouchable but present 24/7. I was here before cars. before radio, before fish and fowl. I will be here when all these things cease to be.
In my walking life, I am the same. Except proximity lays me low. Overburdened by oxygen, the inner dialog will never end. I am not admired; I’m am obscured by brighter planets. At times, I feel colder the space that holds the shiny stuff in place.
And I go supernova. I fall apart spectacularly. I clog the cosmos with confused moans.
And then get to work. Not the true work. Not the work that needs be done. I get to the building that contain this corporal self 5 days out of 7.
And proximity lays me low again. I am not a collection of flickers sailors will sing too. I am not a twinkly necklace hung on the throat of an astronomer.
I leave the tapping of fingers on tiny keyboards. I leave the beat of sex and cliché of history.
I am a tiny god. Lowercase.
I have a consciousness that will outlive all of the above. And a plan.
How weighty is the offer of a soul? How does it feel to burn eternally. versus the burning internally of my every day?
And what are the mechanics of such an offer?
I do not know. I am a traditionalist. So it starts with a cross roads.
This did not start today, this started thousands of years ago. This did not start today, this started when I was 9. This started with a girl, of course.
It was Kara. Proper pronoun would be ‘She was Kara’ but that would dwarf the significance of what she was. ‘She’ would be easier to paint in a picture, capture her stray handwriting on a sheet of lined paper. ‘She’ would prop into place a certain reality attached to the ground.
I never lived on the ground. I was either deep under or soaring high above. And Kara was my Sun. A destination that gave me bearing and ultimately burned me to cinder.
I liked Kara, you see. It was 3rd grade. I was too fat, too smart, too romantic, even then.
She was the first of many girls I fell for, ached for her voice, all while be expert in making sure she never knew I existed. Billy Bragg captured it in one line ‘In the end it took me a dictionary to find out the meaning of unrequited…’. It was something I excelled at.
I could never say what it was that turned my attention so turned to specific girls. There was no logic or type. Small, large, sweet, angry. Pretty or plain. The only thing they had in common was they wholly owned my heart. For a while.
More mystifying, looking back without the benefit of being 9 is what I expected, in a perfect moment, when one of these deities said ‘Yes’.
I wanted to be someone’s boyfriend. I wanted to be recognized as lovable. I had no concept of what that meant.
It would simple to say I was growing from a boy to a man, but that’s not accurate. I had no concept of what the end goal was. Despite the terrifying men’s magazines I had access to (thanks to older boy relatives), I had no clue how slot A lines up with tab B. Or tab B works with Tab A. Or Tab A into Slot C (much favored in the men’s magazines). Or what the point of any of it.
I knew I wanted to bring flowers and sweep ladies off their feet. I wanted to be the hero in every sweet fable, always knowing the right thing to offer and no the right time for restraint. It was the books I was reading, even then,. the movies I grew up on. It was the comics I was addicted too. And a deep personal need to be The Gentleman.
I wanted to swash buckles and swing in on ropes. I couldn’t even climb the ropes at gym at my weight but I was lithe in my head. I was lighter than air. I was Fred Astaire in flight.
I was tortured. Kara spun my world and I could only hang on. Her hair was true gold (OK, dirty blonde). Her skin was cloud cream. Her eyes sparkled blue, just like mine. She was my reason for being and she sat right next to me in home room.
She never knew any of this.
It was a walk home after school, brilliant sun under changing leaves, all alone that I had inspiration take. The First Muse speaks.
‘This girl I know
I really really love her so
And I just don’t know the way I can let her know
How much I love her
This girl I know.’
The simple melody that left me without cover. Scribbles on torn notebook paper that I could no longer dodge.
Followed by (in the full band arrangement of my mind) the main riff to ‘Live And Let Die’, oddly. A Gentleman’s tune is one ever existed. So British it conquered half the World only to be regurgitated by cartoon rock boys.
That was when I came to recognize the power of the pencil. Eventually pen, then typewriter, keyboard to Smartphone. It was not that I recognized that I was a genius. I knew no one would ever hear that song. It was how it made me feel.
Profane ideas and anarchy
The atmosphere slips from static to rabid
Spotlights spin and kill the battery
Bodies in the basement, heads in the attic
Seduce with cruelty, destroy with flattery
Amping up the electrical addict
Cigarette City, Celebrity nudity
with every cheap exchange shot cinematic
Bad weather, good natured
Green means stop, red means floor it
Watching the watchmen and tablature
Fight it, Fuck it, Ignore It
Social scavenger, local massacre
Ramming speed, four on the floor it
Breaking down the unnatural ambassador
If you can’t join it, deplore it
No regrets but no one forgets
Your ass is a star but your still on the dole
No regrets but no one forgets
You sold your soul without a loop hole
No regrets but no one forgets
You bought in for a bigger role
No regrets but no one forgets
No regrets but no one forgets
Sex and state and God and fury
Fear and truth the line is blurry
Peace and love and fascist fashions
Click Bait For A Grateful Nation
Of all the grandiose mysteries this experience called Life offers us, the current one stuck in my craw, the one I stutter on the hard consonants of, is the legacy of The Who.
For those who are too young to understand (or to think this is a half baked, fully stoned Sci Fi reference…or even a pronoun), The Who was a Rock Band. Not a Blues band turned up. Not a R&B band (yeah, that’s right, come at me Who fans…).
The Who were big. Bombastic. Smart…maybe overly so. The Who were required listening if you lived in a Classic Rock Town. The Who made amazing music, killer singles, created a sound that would in time be bled of purpose and become ‘Radio Rock’.
As the big bands of the time continue to be worshipped, deified in these days of ‘All the best music is ollllld…..’… not The Meaty, The Beaty, The Big nor even The Bouncy. I have dear friends whose taste I trust implicitly who can’t even listen to the stuff. And look upon the World at Large….there is still Zeppelin Radio Hours and Pink Floyd Nights and endless Beatle-y bits. But The Who is fading.
Why? I am not even the biggest Who fan…but I know why they are great. Some truly great songs, a real Rock and Roll attitude not hampered by fear of offending, concepts that are occasionally dumb but…ambitious. A literate lyric style unique to the author and the sound. This is where Punk came from, in attitude, in ambition.
So…sure. Rock Stars deservedly. But…..what happened? I am going to take some fairly unthunk up guesses…cause I don’t know. Do you?:
1) The Never Ending Ending: Sure the reunions were cash grabs. Sure, it was ridiculous that they continued to even exist after Keith Moon died. Is that it? They may have been the first, right? Certainly not the last. I will say though…the cash grab does come off a bit worse for wear from a band that seemingly had an ideology once upon a time.
2) Pete: Yeah….Pete. It is an uncomfortable subject. It is a hazy subject. Let me tell you how uncomfortable: I have no interest in looking it up. Pete has always been a polarizing figure. What was flippantly revolutionary…what was thrilling, the calling out of the culture for what it was…sold out / selling out…. with age and an excess amount of press facts and statements came out that were…creepy. You have the Internet too. If curious, go digging.
3) Sell Out: Is it because The Who were so quick and successful at selling out? Is it the mystical but commercial codex that translates the electronic binky intro to ‘Wont Get Fooled Again’ into the phrase ‘Buy Me’. Is it the irony of The Who selling so completely that I hear more of them in car commercials than on the radio?
4) The Concept Records (and shows)? The creepy English dance hall vibe? The just below the meanness in everything they say and do? The movie ‘Tommy’ (to me, a true dividing point that jackbooted my sicker inclinations towards baked beans and laundry soap).
A few words about tonight’s Singles Club release. And those words are ‘Practice Tapes’.
My life can be cataloged through Practice Tapes: boom box recordings (on cassettes!), jamming around someone’s big recording deck or in the current Zoom style tech. And frankly, I would not have it any other way. It is not simply the material that I created, the songs. Much of it is about the errant noises that pop up within. The voices (in harmony) of friends long lost, either to my world or the World in general. The pure adrenaline of folks with a central purpose: bring the song to its fullest and best arrangement, which is experimentation. Even the sound of my own voice (which I think anyone who knows me recognizes I love dearly). My youth, my growly screaming youth into my smooth Rock Croon I wear these later days.
Pictures exist but beauty (and memory) fade. Records exist but considering I have put out about 6 records and have written hundreds of songs, some songs get forgotten. And then remembered due to these infancy tracks of a melodies first steps. I have never kept a diary but can track my emotional growth…then backslide into stoned bellowing…then a bit more emotional growth…. then a deep slide into shallow Rock and Roll (the best kind) followed by….now.
If you are a songwriter, you know exactly what I mean.
I recognize that the aural quality is rarely releasable. I just don’t care. Life is short.
Which brings us to tonight’s track ‘Gods In The Garden’. A Practice Tape featuring me, Julie Kay on cello and Jack Adanti on shaky & beaty things.
A song I wrote and did not think much about. Maybe because it was a love song and I was being dark this past few years. Maybe cause I could not identify where it came from within me and it felt like an interloper. JikiJikiJa probably has not played this song since this recording.
Till I found this recording…and whatever damage I had related to this song faded. Perhaps cause I am not as dark as I used to be. Maybe cause I can truly relate with it now on a far deeper level.
Give it a listen. Let me know what you think. I would apologize about the bass frequencies but…. Life is short.
Gods In The Garden
It Blooms in November
Its a challenge to the senses
It opens in the rain, all spice and incense
And I fall too, I fall into you
I press every petal
Drop to my knees, let the day begin
And the days have collected bled of meaning
Except a taste I never lose that haunts my evenings
I carry ghosts hid in deep embraces
The Rabbit runs, The Wolf chases
And in the Garden lay Eden. And in the carpet we play
Between cloud and field
We are revealed
By the will of The Gods Of The Garden
And it beams bright in the grey, it sneers at the season
I feel it ever day Its beyond reason
Its beyond treason
I cant pretend it dint matter
That mirror that saw us true…it never shattered
And in the Garden lay Eden. And in the carpet we play
Between cloud and field
We are revealed
By the will of The Gods Of The Garden
I have a record to record. And a spaceship to acquire. A set to write (for next week’s Wandering Uterus show at Mac 650 on Main Street Middletown, CT! Ahem).
Busy, busy boy. So why can’t I do any of it while I trip away the day reading about Fyre Fest?
At first I thought I was having a mental block. After further thought, I believe it is your fault. Yup. Allllll you. It’s a social issue clearly as I am the tippy top of mental health. Right? Right (answer the voices back).
Distraction. Where is was often a much used word, it is now a craze. It is muttered at screens and speakers, responsible for late arrivals. Conversations about the distractions we deal with personally and communally become conversations that distract us from what we should be doing. Which is…living, I guess. Playing in the flowers and fishing and shit.
You see it clearly at play in the White House, and I wonder if we will ever not fall for it.
We LOVE to outraged. The GALL of whatever impossible stupidity that gets spoken aloud. And we can not help but take the bait. We whisper ‘distraction’ beneath our breath and then weigh into the ridiculous debate that really never deserved to be debated.
As we speak and get all self righteous, a much more malignant and meaningful monster slips in the door. Or a much more important bit of evidence gets lost in the fray about if the president knows much about history. (He doesn’t but this is not new information).
So it is Trumps fault? My personal distraction? I wish. (Remember. It is your fault)
No. It is deeper. And maybe even more ugly.
Why was Fyre Fest such a media event. It is the same reason Trump was elected. We want people taken down a few pegs. That is Leaf and Right.
People who voted for Trump wanted to ‘drain the swamp’. Too many people of power pulling power moves. So they voted a new cast of snivelers in their seats. They found the optimism that the country operated with unrealistic. And cut their won throats doing it. Bummer, since healthcare…..Etc.
Now the Resistance rises up and burns down everything Trump says or attempts to say. Like he is not a stooge, a patsy. They talk about how outrageous and sad it is (which…it is.) and miss the mark about what to do about it. I won’t pick a side. I clearly have already picked a side.
But then… Fyre Fest. It is a haters dream team. First it involves Ja Rule, who really does suck. And privileged rich white kids playing God with no concept of how that usually ends up (I am speaking of the organizers) and pictures from the scene of sad rich kids looking a bit nervous (I am now speaking of the attendants). A $100 Million dollar lawsuit. A lot of indie types weighing in on the ‘We knew it would be like this’ side. Horror and heartbreak (OK, not really) and recriminations from the Bahama Tourism Board.
How can you not dig into that? Whatever your lifespan, and whoever you choose to follow that span with, that’s good mental eatin’! Cause we allllll hate rich people, right? Yeah!
It’s a different disaster from our daily disasters and variety is the spice of life. Wisconsin loves Fyre Fest. As does Texas and Massachusetts. We all like big failures we are not responsible for.
I am rich with poverty and poor in everything else, but i do have my treasures, my precious things, I have a cabal of weirdos and free thinkers flanking me who I call friends.
And I don’t pretend that plural is toooo plural: they number few and are rare finds like a flea market Rolex.I trade quantity for anxiety. Gladly.
Despite this haberdashin’ prose, I am a cartoon curmudgeon. I am that slightly cool slightly angry character writ into a million sitcoms:
I’m good with quick funny line, but don’t hug me cause I have issues. I am poorly written in the flesh.
In order to realllly ‘get me’ (and as proven by Facebook, few are interested in that investment) you need put me in the proper setting. Caffeine’d up. Not terribly straight. Steered into subjects I can speak too (music, relationships, the sad state of horror) and given the freedom of enough rope to hang, I will pontificate and perform naturally. I will be funny and something close to charming. I speak and rant till the words just spin around me and I feel myself lift from the ground (note: not terribly straight at all).
And my friends are similarly wired. Each has a windmill to tilt at. Each has a strong opinion on things and will, state it with grace and humor.
Certain friends will spin along with you, on their own separate trail of destruction (or construction if your feeling generous) and the effect is two separate conversations lost in the sound of spinning…but every advice gets through, every question gets answered, in an almost natural cadence of osmosis.
Its a hard trick. But if you work these mechanics long enough, its the only way to fly. It’s a new language. Its real flesh and mind interconnections, quicker than digital, more stable than Plymouth Rock.
Ultimately this is about freedom. We don’t choose where we were born from but we choose where we really live.
And today….I wish these things to you all. We can all be millionaires even after the money is nothing but colored paper.
Listen, I will not let scientific fact stand in my way. (Topical, eh?)
And I won’t weight in on the relative value of owning a cat versus a dog. Yes, I have called cats ‘domestic terrorists’. I meant it too.
(FACT CHECK: As recorded in ‘Lust, Love & Longing: Dispatches from The Grimm Generation’ OOP)
But this is the Internet, which means it’s cat country. So I will withhold my (VALID) personal perspectives.
That said…. I am warming to the idea that we evolved from cats and dogs. Yup.
Let us talk about Monkeys. Who I also do not enjoy. Scampering and spitting furry diva’s. I can see a vague resemblance. But when it comes to attitudes, real identifiable human traits, they seem vaguely…French. That is not an insult to Monkeys. It is simply they seem a bit … rape-y.
(FACT CHECK: This opinion is based on actual events witnessed while serving a sentence for Community Service at The Beardsley Zoo. That aside, I know nothing about Monkeys. And see to have an issue with consistent capitalizing of the very word)
They just don’t fill the grey area between animal and human behavior as well as the domestic pets do. I figure it like this:
A race of super intelligent cats and dogs came to Earth in prehistory, figured it would make a nice spot to procreate in, but had a problem: they could not reach the counters. Counters are a necessary part of species proliferation. And despite being super ass alien, that did not make them taller. So they planted seeds.
Human seeds. And we grew like weeds. And they play dumb.
So when I say ‘cat person’, I don’t mean a person who loves cats. I mean someone with actual identifiable habits as the feline. For instance:
1) an air of self entitlement
2) a desire to play with yarn
3) the ability to appear as if your are just a moving piece of furniture
4) never properly learning their name
5) spends nights out on the town that you have no awareness of
And dog people:
1) an excitement at cars and things that go fast
3) The ability to eat anything with a straight face
4) mopes around when they know they have been bad
5) the only thing that allows you to own them is a closed door
I won’t make the obvious connection here (that the sexes align with these choices…though seriously?). I will simply say that to succeed in life, love like a dog and live like a cat.
(FACT CHECK: The Author has had no training in animal habits, pre-history, writing, thinking things through or acting like an authority figure.)
Good Evening. Don’t you look lovely this solemn and serious 420?
Step right in to the JikiJikiJa Singles Club. On the menu tonight…
‘The Last Thing.’ Drink all the way to the bottom, that’s where the poison is.
JikiJikiJa on SoundCloud: https://soundcloud.com/jason-p-krug/the-last-thing-jikijikija-the-singles-club-1
The JikiJikiJa Singles Club meets every third Thursday, forever. JikiJikiJa will be out around and in your town soon, so we need a secret handshake. Middletown in May, DR in July and Venus…TBD.
Interested in beating feet off this blue rock? We got you. Sign up for the JikiJikiJa Flight Crew by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
See you in cyberspace!
JikiJikiJa is … J to the P.K. on acoustic, singin’ and stomping foot. The shimmery celestial of the First Chair in the Zen Ground Force, Julie Kay. And The Mayor of Everywhere, the Beat Box of the Medulla Oblongata, The Untouchable Swiss Timer that is Mr. Jack Adanti.
This trio can’t be strung together under a human name. We needed to go old school into the secret history section of Rock lore and find the only word that can fit such wooden witchcraft. The Unspoken word. The Truth of All Truths (though still fleeting…these days) and bring it forth, wear it out, like a tattoo of a scar (if that becomes a trend, you heard it here first…).
Ah Life. It is a marbled colored pickle, in’it? Well….IN’IT????
Sorry. It’s the coffee. Oh … and the general surliness.
On a day where Mind Expansion is celebrated and appreciated, on a day when the first hippies see’s his shadow (or was it HIS shadow? Hmmmm), the fine folks at JikiJikiJa are bringing something Kind for the party. The Good Stuff. Tunes. Almost legal tunes.
But you gotta wait till nightfall. I am all about the Evenin’s.
So this is what’s up: Tonight JikiJikiJa will post our first single (our first release, period) on all your social media faces. We will be kicking ash and taking emails.
Cause it’s a secret. If the authorities find out what were planning, there will be Hell to pay.
Let’s just put it this way: Listen (Yay!) + Follow (OK) = Zoom! (Space)
You game, Red Ranger? Cause the countdown started days ago. Get on board by joining the flight crew at email@example.com. There will be prizes. Fun ones. Like the thoughts I wouldnt speak public. About him. You know him. Dick. And her. Can you believe her????
Tonight, and for every Third Thursday till Lift Off. The JikiJikiJa Singles Club.
So space craft aren’t built in a day. Are they? I need look that up.
I’m not a great planner, so I keep smart friends around me. I am a genius ponder’er.
Today I ponder leaving home. I have left homes before. But usually when I got there, there were still birds and grass and trees.
And now…well….what is there to do in Outer Space? Aside from breathe huge sighs of relief that we are beyond carbon coding and dictators du jour. We are good with our taxes and the quality of our cars vanishes in a massive, fiery plume. As, of course, we may too. Rocket travel is safer than auto travel (I hear), but a fender bender may involve more than exchanging information.
I am rushed with thoughts metaphysical. And some physical. I’m considering where the good space coffee is. I wonder if we can sing in space. Like sure, I heard that astronaut do ‘Space Oddity’ too, but did you download it? No. It sounded like it was an old Leadbelly recording with scratches still intact.
And worse yet, a cover song.
I think of the short term (tomorrow night, the first official JikiJikiJa release hits this spot, and others. The Third Thursday Singles Dance begins), I think of the medium term (getting the deposit on a spacecraft….which with my credit….yikes) and the longest term. A new hope. Home. I meant home.
I will miss these lil’ feathery bits of color buzzing around me. I will miss the particular green that comes in late April, The waters running high and strong like healthy veins.
I will miss my hawks the most of all. My Silver Familiars who are always there to act as a sign or an omen, but always good. The vultures serve the equal and opposite purpose.
What will you miss? Are you really ready?
Home is a concept. Space is not. Space is unforgiving. A small error and we become…well…..Christ…..something small I reckon.
I am readying myself. For anything. Cause anything is on the menu.
So tomorrow, we start building a community. I want to keep it private initially so you will eventfully receive a request to send us your email. I feel like if we keep it public…aside from the writings of a clear madman…we will deal with people beating on the launch pad to get in.
The idea is simple…and yes, near impossible. We build a community and blow town. In a larger sense. Possibly blow ourselves sky high in the process.
But fuck it. Nothing ventured…is…ummm…not good.
Drop by tomorrow night for the first Third Thursday Singles Club introducing JikiJikiJa. Every Third Thursday a new song. Plus others thrown in based on our whims and our wilds.
I am going to sing my heart out till we hit the atmosphere. Then I will luxuriate in the knowledge that we have a new home to settle.
So par-tay. Take your clothes off type of par-tay. We must repopulate like bunnies.
‘OK….I just read your blog from yesterday. After you went on and on about your feelings….’
‘Yup, that sounds like me….’
‘… and then you started talking about going to Space…and we can come too….’
‘This is true.’
‘The possible and Im’ are unrealistic markers…’
‘This is more about how you want to spend your remaining time here. Consider the musician. What was possible 10 years ago nears Im’….but at that same time, what was possible now is an ever opening flower….’
‘Meaning…the Olde ways of thinking are all used up. I could make a record and try and get it on the radio. Or a video. Or a movie or TV show. But I’d rather direct my energy to something more…. possible.’
‘Wow. OK….I will bite. You want to make music that pays for an eventual Planet Caravan.’
‘How much do you need to Brave a New World?’
‘Ohhh….about $196 Billion. But I haven’t even checked Craig’s List yet.’
‘You expect us to buy you a rocket?’
‘No. I expect you to enjoy the swinging sounds I’ll be laying down in the next 48 hours. The JikiJikiJa Singles Night come Thursday. And if you really like it, just stick 2 billion in our hat and were cool. Unless you wanna come….’
‘Ummmm…I repeat, Wow.’
‘I can see you think I am quite mad.’
‘Perish the thought.’
‘They said that about Lincoln too’
‘No, they didn’t’
‘W.E. History is for losers now. We learn nothing from history, even on a loop’
‘Are you OK?’
‘Eccentric. But getting better. At least that’s what the voices say.’
Hello Young Lovers. I have self exiled the fuck out of this year and now I’m R.T.G. (Ready To Go) into Spring swinging my usual loves of lore and Pop music and where the twain meet. Twain? Yes, Twain. I am back and ready to mingle and sing and talk about everything that either upsets…or resets…my personal Apple Cart. Lets catch up….
I put out a record that did pretty well for me. It was a record that I had to make, not for any career reason but more so self preservation. My Great American Novel, as it were. Taking my lyrical voice and really saying something.
I am proud of ‘The Zen Of Losing’. I am proud of the 4 headed cabal that made it: Me, Julie Kay, Adam Hagymasi, Dave Hogan.
So then….what? Oh, the Election.
I am not Political. OK, i wasn’t political. I never picked a side. Though common sense picked one for me.
This is a blog. It is self serving as a blog. I try and keep it funny so people enjoy it. But this could just as well be a summons. Cause if you are reading this now, maybe found it on Facebook or Twitter….you were likely here (online) back in September. October. November.
You remember when it seemed the World turned upside down. When your expected daily consumptions of music food and bullshit were hi jacked by the ugly gnashing politics of the day. Do you understand what I am saying? I am calling you a witness. As I witnessed too. We all witnessed, red and blue states together.
It was surreal, wasn’t it? Almost dreamlike in how everything that was broke down so quickly, so completely. All the thin veneers between us cracked and we saw what was on the other side. And it was not Us. It was Them.
I am not defending badly run campaigns and the American Id refracted into some kinda reality show monster movie. Brighter people have and will continue too.
What I am discussing is how an invasion feels. How it feels to walk into your yard and see all the new neighbors are…wrong in some fashion. Strange language and hours. Emphatic ridiculous ideas passed as proven facts, and repeated and repeated. It is not in my physical neighborhood….but I did not hang in my neighborhood as much as I hung online. Did you?
We watched, and we picked sides. Friends…dear friends who I had real and non Facebook affection for were hidden from my feed and consequently blinded me to what happened next. Things we cannot take back now.
Do you remember? What it felt like to feel the atmosphere changing, even in colonial Blue Connecticut, to something decidedly more alien. Something more suited to spores and single celled organisms.
It broke my heart. Not the Election as much as being so incorrect about where I lived. What I was proud of.
I have always been a Patriot. I know that term is…maligned in the new way of thinking…or at least over used by people who truly don’t remember where we came from. Being a true Yankee (perhaps in all the bad ways as well as good), living in the Intellectual Birthplace of American thought…I thought I knew a little something.
I was wrong. Worse, I was stupid.
And now…what? Why am I dredging all this up again?
Cause I got a band and a Master Plan. We are beating feet off this rock, and you are all invited.
Some people want money and fame. Some people want chicks by the bucketful. I have desired these things but now I have a new goal, a new reason to siong and write and put myself back in the world.
I want a rocket ship. And to sail away with JikiJikiJa.
Coming up April 1st (or the 59th Of February) it is a birthday. Coming up on April 1st, my dark lil’ jewel of a record ‘The Zen Of Losing’ came out to universal disinterest, eventually culminating in a ‘Boy, you like reviews. You have an ego problem’ (Noted and diagnosed).
Plus my most successful year as a songwriter by the numbers. Thank you.
It was all I could ask for. Right?
No, what I asked for was that the Universe send this record to people who need it. And the Universe complied. I received word from people who understood what this was: an ode to loss, romantic and otherwise. People in the space I was when creating it: surreal and effected days of leaping starving ghosts at every avenue/venue.
In retrospect, I should have asked for a Ferrari AND people to be moved by it. I am bad at life.
It wasn’t simply the romantic tragic I was working through. It was a time of loss of love…and of The Grimm Generation.
The greatest story ever told will have as it’s antagonist a band. This is my belief. Seriously, wouldn’t even the Bible have a bit more kick if they threw in a ska band? Could even Tolstoy create a character as complex as Phil Ochs? These are things I believe.
And belief matters. You can start an email chain that becomes a conversation that becomes a book, then a band. From your kitchen table. Simply because you believe you can.
It was an act of will, shared by two odd people who fit together….most of the time. (If anyone is in touch with CC, let her know I’m writing about her. We are having a long due friendship hiatus). And they believed so hard, others believed too.
Belief is a drug, make no mistake. Belief can bring you the stars or the body blow that causes you to see stars. Believe to shallow and you risk to little. Believe too much and everything is at risk. That’s the deal and it has teeth.
Have you risked everything for a dream? Are you still?
I’m scattered. I fear I’m not making sense.
Focus……focus….. the record.
Hard to focus, right? Cause life itself is getting soft around the edges. The dividing lines between right and wrong and left and leaving. The unthinkable that happens with rapidity, mechanical timing.
We all like things (like art, commerce and Pop Tarts) but why we like them specifically is not so simple a fit. You may like Pop Tarts because they are toasts slutty cousin. You may like art cause it allows you to view nudity and stare at it like its gonna spit money… but still come off as cultured. I don’t know why you like commerce. That is soooo you.
So….Music. I like music and likely a lot of the music you like. But we may like it for different reasons.
Some people hear music and sway their hips to the ‘to’ and back to the ‘fro’. They call it dancing, I guess. Crazy kids.
Some people like swishy, swirly sounds and endless jams to make their drug taking seem reasonable.
Some people like it loud. Some like it quiet. Some like it by Billy Joel. I don’t understand people.
And some prefer good diction (or great slurring) so they can get to the heart of what the hub bub is about for 3 minutes and 33 seconds. That’s me.
That is what this blog is / was / will be someday, Johnny….about: Words on Lyrics. Sometimes I even do it. Sometimes….well…. I got kids to feed (by kids I mean addictions and ego). This blog is almost a year old now. I started it to keep from losing my mind while I made a record. My mind never recovered, but the record sold.
So I decided I wanted to get back to the garden (as it were) and talk about some songwriters who really move me. I will avoid well trodden ground (Costello, Cohen, Dylan…the subject of the very first blog) and pick out some smaller stars that are the suns of my personal planet. These are my Lyrical Miracles. These are the artists whose work keeps me ever into the fray of trying harder to reach deeper through words.
I don’t know where I first heard his name but I know where I first heard him. As is my habit, flea marketing and pure grace of good luck. I found his first record, the impossible named ‘Wrong Eyed Jesus! (The Mysterious Tale Of How I Shouted)’. The record LOOKED weird. And it was. Brilliantly so.
Contemporary Southern Gothic, using all the ghost and strings of the American Folk Tradition, but in the hands of a mad King. A visionary, though I doubt he would cop to it. A swirl of styles from crazy funk to ghost whispering.
What really got me was the writing. The words he chose. Many writers set themselves a high p[lace at the table, high enough that you can see the trials and tribulations of your fellow guests and can pontificate, even if for the greater good. Jim’s words were eternally from a different place: defeat. He gets killed every other song. He mourns his killers.
Not to portray this record as a downer. It is absolutely life affirming. I don’t say that simply. It was for me.
Jim Whites work went well beyond this record, so far just this far from mainstream. His next records as solo artist were equally effective (‘No Such Place’ & ‘Drill A Hole In The Substrate And Tell Me What You See’ as well as his work with Johnny Dowd in Hellwood and with Mama Lucky on the ‘Mama Lucky’ record.
This is a story about a cursed man, dressed in Appalachian folk attire but clearly from today and perhaps tomorrow. Certain lines within this song slay me. The first verse ghost story, where the NY Girl sees the shadow watch him as he sleeps and disappears. But the shadow stays. It’s a very small, very brilliant bit of Poe, this whole track.
The second verse where he ‘tangles with some sailors’…. and brings about the end of every soul on board. This is a story that just drips with dread. It is the protagonist…who feels in every way like a doppelganger of the one singing it….
This song…to me…is weighted with regret. It is not simply horror. You can see deeper past the folk tale trappings to see feel that this curse was earned, and in this world, not some lofty creative one. It is also completely sold by Jim weathered vocal on the song….almost sleepwalking through these scenes as it becomes obvious that he owns this fate.
The last two verses bring us back home to the South and a door opens and one closes. And we have learned nothing.
Well I was shacked up down in Mobile
With a girl from New York City.
She woke me up one night to tell me
That we weren’t alone.
She said she saw the ghost
Of a woman staring at me.
I told her not to worry,
But in the morning when I woke up, she was gone.
So I headed on to Florida where
I tangled with some sailors.
And as I lay bloody on the wharf,
I cursed the ship they sailed on.
Wouldn’t you know, twenty four hours later
That ship sank into the ocean
Disappearing like an unwanted memory
Beneath the waves.
I guess it’s ’cause, still waters run,
Run deep in me
‘Cause I got this crazy way
Crazy way I’m swimming in still waters.
And I was woke up just before dawn
By an old man crying in the rain.
He was drunk and he was lonely
And as he passed by he sang a hymn.
And as I lay there listening,
Well I almost joined him in that song
But instead I just held my peace,
And waited ’till that old man moved along.
Then later on that day about
A quarter mile out of town,
I found his body hanging in
A grove of pines, swaying in the wind.
And as he swang that rope sang another hymn
And this time though I don’t know why,
I somehow felt inclined to sing along.
I guess it’s cause, still waters run,
Run deep in me
‘Cause I got this crazy way
crazy way I’m swimming in still waters.
Yes and there are projects for the dead
And there are projects for the living
Thought I must confess sometimes
I get confused by that distinction
And I just throw myself into the arms
Of that which would betray me.
I guess to see how far Providence
Will stoop down just to save me.
And it’s all because, still waters run,
Run deep in me
‘Cause I’ve got this crazy way
Crazy way I’m swimming in still waters.
When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. And started drinking my water with bubbles in it.
We have all seen the Great Old Pimp Panda hailing ‘Hi-Dee-Ho’ over the Worcester highways. Polar. Once a B Side in the Soda hit list, but now…. Pushers of The Fizz, The Sizzle, The SEXY Carbonated Sensation full of freak flavor (I use that term lightly…as they use their flavors).
Let’s take it back. For the old folks and perhaps ‘fogies’ out there, Seltzer is Club Soda. Wait. Seltzer was first. I wasn’t watching scads of classic comedians spraying each other with ‘Club Soda’ bottles (Yes, I feel the need to capitalize both Club and Soda as it is a classy thing to do). OK, So to you millennial’s (I’m not sure what a millennial is and don’t care) , Club Soda is seltzer.
Wait. Fuck it. It’s fizzy water.
I think I first became aware of Polar soda when I was a kid and they created a line of terrible, vile, awful diet soda’s with amazing names. Like ‘Cherry Cheesecake’ Diet. Or ‘Chocolate Mousse’. Or ‘Apples and Sunshine’. Or ‘Vanilla Stapler’. My mom would bring these home and my mouth would water in anticipation of FINALLY having Cheesecake in a drinkable form. Boy Howdy.
I can’t describe the flavor. Unless you had Tab. It’s Tab.
And life went on. I was periodically reminded of their existence by that big Polar Bear waving me on (or flipping me off, depending on whether statues read blogs) and went about my adulthood and discovered something amazing: Water is delicious. Seriously, try it.
Once upon a time I was strolling all causal like through the supermarket and my eyes went wide at what I saw: Green Apple Seltzer. Greeeeeen Apppppple Seltzzzzzzzer.
And my boyhood dreams of a Cheesecake Soda bum rushed the show (I am the show, in this example) and before I knew it, I was in front of the store, slightly dazed. With my quart in my hand (not a euphemism…but close. Good eye). I did not even wait till I got home, I opened that cap and drank with gusto.
And the Green Apple flavor was so strong and deep and good I saw colors and started swaying to and fro like I was at Woodstock. Oh. The Colors I saw.
No? Oh…you have had it. OK.
Polar Seltzer is proof of the Paranormal. It is haunted by flavor. But it has no flavor. I have taken to licking the color filled labels. Tastes the same.
My relationship with Polar Seltzer is the classic definition of insane: Yes, I will buy into you Cranberry Clementine, your Late Harvest Berries, your Ruby Red Grapefruit, and I will expect that flavor to flood my mouth and make my world a working place. Alas….it don’t.
I have lived a reasonable life. I have had success, failure, real Ethiopian food, traveled through an actual rainbow, owned pets, lost those pets, replaced those pets and lost them too.
I brought life into this world (with help), I have laid down in the middle of Route 95, I have stayed awake all night and saw the sun come, I have slept through New Years Eve.
I have operated my life and values (without fear of afterlife reprisal) with a simple formula: If your blissful moments outweigh your misery, You Win.
I have had a weird decade.
And now….I have lives left to live. But I have the accumulated clutter of this first bit clogging up the machinery. Not even in some sly, psychological slant. Simply too much info, reclining storage space.
How does one sweep away one’s accumulating history, without losing the lessons?
I have said this next phrase over and over again these past few weeks: I am in Safe Mode. I need my system scrubbed. And Re Start.
Now….clearly I am crossing conspiracies, personal and international. Clearly I am seeing myself as a sparking hard drive versus the real effort it takes to be human. In a world full up on humans.
How does one collect themselves….but never to the point of having ‘Emotional Hoarders’ show up at your shack? How does one keep righted, green for starboard, red for port, when vision (and author) are blunted?
My history has been recorded (OK, my version of my history, I can’t speak for the muses) in 3 minute bits of chord and song over these past 2o years. My songs are my errant children. They follow me and thrill me and disappoint me too. They are a proper heir. Slabs of honesty mixed with rhyme. Sometimes a near rhyme.
This, as opposed to a photo album or diary, captures not simply the freshness of the emotion, but also the cadre of friends and acquaintances I have acquired singing, sneezing, soloing in the background. My Practice Tapes of attempted Humanity.
Consider the man, the band. Taking part in a culture that was slowly and deliciously sliding into excess. Consider the country at the time: a criminal (not conceptual, actual) President in office, a world deluged in wars we did not understand. Meanwhile 60’s Free Love started to make some cash and between the beauty, freedom and ghetto’s, we started to re arrange our priorities. We expected more. Believed we deserved more. And we still do.
Meanwhile Sex And Drugs And Rock And Roll started to seep into the water supply and created a great Summer Cocktail to kick The 70’s into Space and eventually, absolute nothingness. It was a luge ride toward….well, right now. Personal freedoms were gained, only to be re lost in 4 year increments. We obsessed on sex and starlight and sparkles (before the Internet obsessed us).
‘Hello. Hooray. Let the show begin. I have been ready.’
And artists challenged us, used their own skin as canvas, used their own hometown as the content. The conceptual painters, the aural electronic pioneers, the re invention of invention. Some took us by the hand and showed us what was possible.
Some smeared on lipstick and mascara and made love to post mortem dolls on stage.
However you find your enlightenment is by definition ‘cool’.
Was Alice Cooper considered a serious social commentator? Of course not. He was a goon, a goof. A showman in a world of deep thinkers.
Did Alice Cooper prepare us for these current 2016 days of confusion? Damn Right He Did (spoke in my best Robert Evans).
‘Hello. Hooray. Let the lights grow dim. I have been ready’.
And he (and Dennis and Neal and Michael and Glen) did so by creating a love letter to a failing democracy called ‘Billion Dollar Babies’. And as we know of history, it tends to r-r-r-epeat.
I start with two songs: ‘No More Mister Nice Guy’ and ‘Elected’. I think it is safe to say that these two songs have predicted Trumpism and the social unrest used as fashion and the ears of anyone in power listening a great distance away. ‘No More Mister Nice Guy’ is a cartoon. I always imagined it akin to the ‘Beep Beep My Ass’ t-shirts showing a pretty beaten bird and Wile E.
It is a satire that circles around the idea that ‘everyone hates me so I’m gonna hate’em right back’. Which seemed funny. Till now.
‘Elected’ opens the door for deeper shades of Furnier Nostrodam’ning. Cause it’s silly. A rock star running for President. An UNREPENTANT Rock Star births a movement that is evidenced through a recording studio chock full of imponderable improbable deplorables with guitars and fur collars. Silly. A goof.
Now….I hear this song and compare it to the election season we just barely got through. And due to the damage (self inflicted) on my brain pan, this sounds like a legitimate campaign ad.
But the REAL Social satire…and by real I mean ‘actual, in this time present’ is ‘Generation Landslide’. Because I thought it was a cool song. Its actually a call to arms.
‘Generation Landslide’: discusses the real issue about what divides this country. And it is not race, or what color state you live in. It’s not age.
It is Money. And it always has been.
Consider the ‘Billion Dollar Babies’ that have spun us around this year.
The Politicians, and the cost of their suits, the price of their ads.
The cable news networks that took us into their confidence (like any decent grifter) though they never had any deeper information than we had.
Consider the costs of Government (foreign and domestic) that unsubtly changed the landscape, even while the mower was working it.
And he laughs…to himself. He knew it. Saw it coming.
We have made a bad habit of overlooking the goofs, the goons. It has held us hostage at the highest courts in the land. We have a lot of bad habits. They may kill us.
I have wanted to address this, something so clear that anyone with a computer can see it. It’s a national movement. To get the fuck away from Facebook. I will address this then Tweet it, or copy onto sheets of copy paper and rain hell upon the yard. Whatever.
Cause on Facebook, nobody will read this. Cause everyone is getting the fuck away from Facebook.
We never know the nice things that will develop in our lifetime. This country is only 238 years old, and we had horse and carts and now trucks with heavy horsepower. We developed a Postal system to share from great distances, which gave us texting. We had radio which gave us DVR’s so we need not miss a bit of anything ever.
They gave us a place to gather, to share, to learn about each other. And we turned it into Rwanda.
It’s not my fault. It’s not your fault. It is all of our faults. Let’s stop with the partisan bullshit. We lost, life sucks, get a helmet.
Meanwhile….. things are happening here that we barely acknowledged. Real things that have nothing to do with how you voted.
I have seen amazing and truly vicious arguments here. Friends stuck in endless commented conversations from people they clearly don’t know. That’s because there not local. At all.
I saw this on Samantha Bee and it shocked me (it was a warm-up for more shocking things coming, but I wasn’t aware then). The Russian Government (bet ya never thought you’d see that in one of my blogs, eh? Well you won’t see it twice) keeps a cabal of young adults lodged up for the single purpose of going on Facebook and starting shit.
If that sounds conspiracy minded, it is not. It is happening now, today. It will still be there tomorrow.
The goal is to upset the American apple cart…and hot damn if they didn’t do a bang up job with it. We helped, of course.
Come Saturday, we set sail for The New World. Cause we ruined this one quite nicely.
Come Saturday, we set sail for JikiJikiJa.
We will do as our ancestors, use our wits and our earned skills and survive. We will trade with natives, always keeping a careful eye on history, of what can be said of us 200 years later.
We will remain vigilant, we will retain our home in our veins, but we got to beat feet quick.
This is an allusion to an illusion. The trip we take will never leave land. JikiJikiJa is as much a place as ‘Heaven’ or ‘Shangri-La’. It’s is a state of being.
So let’s get to being , eh?
I am so excited. You can tell cause my cherry new t shirt says it. I am so excited. And I just can’t hide it.
Come Saturday… JikiJikiJa (Jason, Julie and Jack) plays our first gig in New Haven, at Never Ending Books (810 State Street, New Haven) at 8:00 PM with special guest Leila Crockett. You should go. I don’t say that lightly. I recognize the volume of entertainment choices you have at your disposal.
Regardless….heed my advice. Nothing you can’t just DVR.
Part of this excitement is a familiarity of circumstance. The Rev and Brad booked Grimm Generation early, our second gig. Carmen and I were so excited, so nervous. What Grimm always exceeded at was feeling unwanted, and the idea that a joint in New Haven liked us was just….glee. That first gig we played with The Peacock Flounders (who were having a documentary made about them at the gig which was mind blowing and too cool) and met Kerry Miller (Grimm Generation drummer), Sal Paradise (the driving force of Rope, who we played with more than a few times). That first gig was a shot in the arm for two glum cat’s who din’t think they were acceptable in any way.
So of course, hit reset, the ball spins again and our first New Haven stop is Never Ending
First off, Leila. I have been a fan of Leila Crockett since ‘Birthday Gun’ off the ‘Not Before Our Time’ compilation (also a Never Ending Books concoction), and have had the good fortune to share a stage once with before (in New London, where she played in a hospital johnny. You know. Cabaret’s…).
If there is a word I can attach to seeing Leila, the word is ageless. Her voice. It brings up in the consciousness old scratchy vinyl sides of Bessie Smith and Ida Cox. A guitar in her hands and that voice transports you, transforms you. Close your eyes and let history inform you.
Then, off to JikiJikiJa.
I am not making this easy. I can explain what we are, but I can’t play you what we do. I am going to ask something of you that is running thin these days, but it’s the only way to get the Earth back on axis.
You need to trust me.
This is a passion play. It is not marketable. This is what we trade with The New World oncoming.
JikiJikiJa Is … Jason P. Krug (singer, strummer, stomper), Julie Kay (cello) and Jack Adanti (hand percussion, cajon, conga) . Having served time together in the acclaimed The Grimm Generation, when Jason started his solo album, he asked Julie to come along. The result was 2016’s breakthrough album ‘The Zen Of Losing’ by Jason P. Krug.
Jason and Julie continued fine tuning the material from ‘The Zen Of Losing’ and the dynamics and themes of the record bloomed. Whisper quiet things (better left unsaid). Loud cacophony of accusations. Regrets and renewals. Space inside the songs to explore.
But you still couldn’t dance to it. Enter former Grimm Generation beat maker Jack Adanti, playing a wild mixture of shaky and stomping beats. And the sound grew into something beyond.
No longer simply a live unit to promote a simple record, JikiJikiJa (and amalgam of their J-centric names and an old Tyrannosaurus Rex lyric) became something unique, equal parts pastoral relief and mass fury. The Power Of Three. Unplugged.
Join us this Saturday night , 11/19 at Never Ending Books. I promise you it will be a night you remember.
Win a free copy of Jason P Krug ‘s ‘The Zen Of Losing’ by providing the following answer Saturday night at Never Ending Books. Ready…..Set….and don’t post answer!!!!….GO!
‘I am brown on the outside and green within, overly honest but not the sharpest tool in the shed, if you get my drift. Who / What / Where am I?’
Come Saturday night, I got 2 tickets, a date and destination to go to church. OK, not church in the traditional sense. Or….is it?
I find that I don’t see shows as often as I used to. And when I do, the need to see them has changed since I was a wee lil’ Rock and Roller. When I see a show now, it is generally an artist I am obsessed with and I am seeking the same things one does with church: Acceptance and confirmation.
My higher power comes in brilliant bits of lyric told true and a believable preacher selling/yelling them.
My benediction comes in repeated chorus hooks with words worth sloganeering.
And this Saturday night, I’m going to see Elvis Costello and The Impostors tribute ‘Imperial Bedroom’, one of my faves (of 7 alternate # 1’s) of his catalog. Preach.
‘Imperial Bedroom’ became huge to me…in time. Not initially. I did my due diligence of obsessed fandom and read everything I could about this record before I bought it, living in that ‘New Fan but The Artist Is Later In His Career’ twilight. The Artist is established, but he wasn’t always. You climb up the ladder of his/her career and review the reviews.
Because reviews are funny things, especially when such things still existed. A critic can take exception with praise lauded on a ‘Masterpiece’ and take the opposite tact because it’s:
‘Imperial Bedroom’, with a pretentious Beatle-y vibe (and actual previous Beatle engineer producing Geoff Emerich) , I could see why people lost their mind about this record, pro and con.
Coming after the aggressive and smart ‘Trust’ and the simple and kinda strange Nashville record ‘Almost Blue’, written while producing another on my top shelf of records all time ‘East Side Story’, there was a maturing happening, a start to the type of music he would do later I his career.
I was not ready for it. And keep in mind, I didn’t grab when it came out. It was after a year or two of (pre internet) research that led me to the record. And in that time, I played ‘Get Happy’ every hour of every day, which was full of aggression and sexual failure and cocaine. Just like I like ’em.
This record…confused me. It was the first Elvis Costello record that I did not fall in love with at first listen (the future would bring more of those, but hey…). It was all pomp and No Action. It was all steak but no sizzle. I was kinda heartbroken.
And clearly still dumb. And determined to be less so. I listened to the record every day like I loved it. It was a discipline. It was healthy, in my own cute obsessive way (Do I use the word ‘obsessive’ too much? Is that something to obsess over?).
It all starts with that album opener ‘Beyond Belief’, which is simply one of his best. I find myself in times of high stress repeating the lyrics, prayer style. History repeats the old defeats….
‘Shabby Doll’ rocks in a very see sawish, calliope way, but is RULED by Bruce Thomas (the only non Attraction in The Impostors based on a book he wrote…a real shame) and lyric that just rips to shreds the idea of love time spent is tile WELL spent. Being what you might call a whore…it always worked for me before…’
And the title track of the previous record….and another of his greatest concoctions, ‘Almost Blue’. Painful and rewarding. And it’s clearly jazz, so I’m not just making gravy here with the discourse
The standout to me personally is ‘Pidgen English’ which is a brilliant reading on the art and craft of romantic relationships, with lines so keen they cut to the quick. I can’t even describe with enough worship what this song did to my brain, so I’m just gonna leave a link here and suggest you go listen.
I am precious, clearly. I am a cornucopia of embittered odds and endings and too delicate to even finish this sentenc….. But I would not say Twee.
Twee, as adjective, reads as small and thin and weak. Precious…but not the ultimate masculine preciousness I identify myself with….a very macho precious….believe me….. but more sort of a Smiths fan with a cold. Small and dark and head overly weighted with the winks and ways of this gobstopper rock. Or a Cure fan on prom night.
Not me, nope. I am a red blooded American male. Grade A, baby. I came alive in the wild and wooly 70’s and am a product of our history since then. And maybe that’s the problem.
When I was a young rock and roller, it was Classic Rock (then known as ‘Rock’), and that was Led Zeppelin and Lynyrd Skynyrd and Ted Nugent and Bad Company. Endless Who and Hendrix. Dangerous music was the teen rebellion soundtrack for a growing gang. The most obscure and brutal Metal, NWA, anything with a pentagram (right up till Crue destroyed that with stripper dust and sadness).
And music that did not speak to us, did not speak to Harder, Faster and Dumber notions of Sex, Drugs….more drugs…OK, one more hit…and Rock and Roll….was called ‘gay’. Anything on the radio was gay. Every video that wasn’t ‘Number Of The Beast’ was gay. We liked our Metal violent, our Rock hard and identified the rest as unseemly for a heterosexual male to listen too.
I will gloss over how unintentionally hilarious this is with 4 syllables: Judas Priest.
What I remember was that music was another test of strength among you and your mates. I remember my brother buying the first B 52’s cassette and it upset me so much….made me feel so…weird…I whipped it out the window. Which he did not appreciate. I think Fred Schneider’s voice was an offense to my penis or some such thing. It made me uncomfortable.
I remember watching Joni Mitchell do ‘Coyote’ in ‘The Last Waltz’ with my stoner friends and we never got through the song. We would laugh at the lyric, leer at her chest and do terrible imitations of doggerel lyric and jazzy jam.
I don’t think we had a clue about Joni Mitchell, who I have to come to love deeply as an inventive lyricist…no, inventive everything related to the form. It was male bonding and gave us the opportunity to talk about how cool Deep Purples’ Burn’ record was (note: it really was).
And then I developed a secret. Secret sounds I would listen to when I was alone, and carried about on my Walkman like a Fellow Traveler kept his satchel.
No one could know. I didn’t tell my girlfriend for about a full year. It was ‘My Aim Is True’ and ‘Armed Forces’ that started it, leading into ‘East Side Story’ and ‘Singles and 45’s’. My secret lovers who really understood me.
We grow. I have learned to not use the word ‘gay’ in describing something I dint care for. I listen to things now I can never have imagined.
I love Belle and Sebastian. Love. I am not causal about it. I don’t believe I have ever said it so publicly nor ever been so nervous saying it. But I do. Marry me, Stuart.
The sound of Belle and Sebastian is…Twee. It is not the word I would have chosen but it really hits upon many of the elements of the sound: folk pop within a baroque arrangement, whisper near androgynous male singer, pomp and the circumstances of being pomp within the lyrics.
When I first heard them, that song was ‘Stars Of Track And Field’ and I was just simply unprepared for it.
What I was prepared for was the inner battle of teen ignorance versus wisdom: does this make me gay for loving Belle and Sebastian? Well…I am still mighty fond of woman but…does it????
It’s the subtlety that is at play in this music. The sounds are sometimes a Master Class in subtlety, but lyrically, they are not subtle. They are dark and strange and sex obsessed….just far better dressed with that cute Scottish accent.
Certain songs, and the better ones, are akin to a chamber quartet version of ‘Wang Dang Sweet Poontang’.
Stuart Murdoch is Every-man….if Every-man is overly shy, overly romantic, funny, a little sick and obsessed with chicks. So…Stuart Murdoch is the Every-man of JpKLand.
Even within the explosion of our modern love and gospel’y worship of the Old Weird America, The Handsome Family are all angles and elbows about fitting in that big ratty tent.
There is a simple reason for this. They are cursed with a true and authentic individualism that I would imagine better knows artists would not want carry. Consequently, they are smarter and darker and braver and better than the countless ‘Eagles with banjo’s’ that walk (barefoot) these same genres.
First, a personal fact: When CC and I started The Grimm Generation, I had to famous couples in mind as a rough draft of the territory I wanted to cover. The first was Lux and Poison of The Cramps, based on the absolute danger they kicked up when kickin’. And the second was Brett and Rennie of The Handsome Family for the very clear message they brought: Do What You Believe In. I think we got kinda close to these ideals.
For those uninitiated (aside from the True Detective Season 1 theme ‘Far From Any Road’ which earned them some exposure), The Handsome Family are a married couple. A married couple who seem to be able to pull off any artifice. They are immensely talented freaks who create songs containing stories that are a strange alternate Universe of the Anthology of American Music, but updated to contain the current crops of beaten down autos and beaten up riders that cross the darkened roads.
It is almost American Nostalgic Science Fiction, an absolute unique lyrical voice, and the pen of Rennie Sparks. A steady and strange hand on the rudder that leads us into murder and alcohol and the mating habits of ant’s or a view of Tesla’s Hotel Room.
Rennie is a hero of mine. She is a freak among freaks based on her Long Island intellectual upbringing (I don’t know her, I just scratch color the spaces I can’t know) and her sweet and bizarre sense of humor (I listen to a lot of Handsome Family bootlegs, so this is taken from that context). She plays bass and auto harp and sings too. She is the brain, the soul and headpiece, the mouth piece of The Family.
And Brett is the very Earth. He sings and roars with a bellow Odin would envy. He is large in size, but larger than life when playing and singing these twisted Rennie tales. His voice is ageless, and his style can cop a true Rudy Vallee honeycomb tone, and a barbaric, honest reading of ‘Knoxville Girl’. I appreciate his guitar playing deeply, and is the one artist whose style I would steal outright if not for the-not -that- talented thing. His guitar, with subtle and unsettled reverb, sounds like American Jukebox All Time Champ for eliciting honest and trans-formative sepia toned tones that sound alternate Carter Family and Link Wray.
This is a duo, and seeing them in that form is akin to being invited to their living room….right after a big fight between them. There is a tension that is ever present and it adds to the carnival of bad decision making the songs often portray as salt adds to sugar.
And you may never know any of this. Cause I don’t believe The Handsome Family will ever play well with The Market. Sometimes it takes certain devotee’s to hep the masses.
Consider this your hepping. Listen To The Handsome Family.
Tis the time, Tis the season where the veil between our world and The Other gets the thinnest and we play in planes of impossible and improbable. Like our Pagan fore mothers and their Mom’s too. And we dance and shake and we bring about the old ways of Harvest and gratitude and we all go home with someone else’s eye shadow on.
And November 1st is our Spiritual Monday and we await lesser holidays and shiver and struggle to another renewal.
Nothing tops being 8 years old on Halloween, no? You get to dress up like a freak and be rewarded with sugar. That’s pretty sweet (I don’t pun and am offended at the implication). What changes us between those pre-mordial lil’ ravers and our present day selves? As excited as you are about Halloween, your kid is spinning in place at the idea.
The older we get, the less we believe in magic. It’s a genuine shame. And I believe any number of people reading this do SQUARELY believe in magic. Or Magick. I do not question nor deny you your right to believe. I wish I still could.
OK…..That’s not entirely true. Here goes:
I was a ghost hunter before Ghost Hunters, before a ‘pusuit’ became a ‘hobby’. It became a ‘hobby’ when every kid on your block got a EMF meter and a terrible idea for a ghost group name.
I was a creep kid who always gravitated toward horror and the grand mysteries of life. The Weekly Reader was my 1st grade dealer in all things Time/Life and paranormal. It was a fascination to me from as early as I can remember.
Though I have an unfortunate handicap for a ghost hunter: I am as psychically deanse and dead as…..well, Im not sure what that metaphor is when what were discussing is life after death. Bail? Bail.
I was fed on tag sale puchased paperbacks from the 60’s (the least of which was ‘Chariots Of The Gods’, which spawned the legalization of marijuana. Aliens? Yes!) and Hans Holzer, ‘Phone Calls From The Dead’, ‘Michelle Rememebers’, ‘Yankee Magazine Myths and Legends Of New England’, ‘Candle Magic’. I watched ‘In Search Of’ like it was a weekly SuperBowl. Scoured libraries for anything on the subject. Found my way to the Beatles through the back door of Billy Shears.
There was never a question of whether I believed. I just wanted confirmation, proof. I came here believing in these things.
And then….big time. I met The Warrens on the strength of my mate being an expert spirit photographer. They sent us on a case. We went to a condo in what a run down part of Bristol. We sat and watched the Warren investigators question the young married couple with a 4 year old daughter. It was….fascinating. And truly a bummer too. These folks were plagued by knocks and bad dreams and current employment hardships and a likely excess of alcohol. I came and recognized what I could never see in the books: the true human cost of hex’s and haints. This young couple was’nt putting on a show for us. Theyt were scared. He was one of these tragic youth metamorphises in tragic future dudes. His stories, which were round about the phenomena pointed out that ….. I just wasn’t sure if I believed him. We took pictures and nothing came from them.
The Warrens lost our number quick. We persevered. And eventually found ourselves in a situation I can not explain, still don’t understand and left marks on all of us. And we quit ghost hunting. I wasn’t proud of it.
It all ended years later with me Carnival Barker style offering photographic proof of Life After Death within the trunk of my car.
I did not stop believing. Then. You don’t turn these things off like a faucet.
Now….that was years ago. And…I expected proof by now. Something incontrovertable. Something that can’t be mistaken for balloons or scam art. And mine ole enemy has taken root in my house, and that enemy is logic. I fight logic with both hands. I always lose. As does the field of Parapsychology.
So lets take a look at The Grand Mysteries and see how they hold up:
Bigfoot – Nope. The desire to believe in this myth is so strng, people are re writing it to make it stand. So Bigfoot is a multi dimensional being. So thats why we can never find bones. It lives, grunts, humps and dies and the bones float away to the ether. Now…come the fuck on. It reeks of desperation to change the myth midstream.
The Loch Ness Monster – Nope. There is not enough food to sustain a dinosaur. Sorry. Next!
Ghosts – This is hard. I have felt things…but did I really? I have heard things…but were they unnatural? When I really consider ghosts, it takes the track of how little we know about the brain. Do I believe we can imagine things into existence? I do. Do we? Well, sure. This present election is proof of that. I have never seen proof that I believe couldnt have been created. Have you?
UFO’s – I believe. I do. Though there is no more proof about this than there is about ghosts. It’s the logic. Space if infinite. We are the only beings to ever create life? The logic doesnt hold.
Demonic Posession / Alien Abduction – Same thing. Down to the speaking in tongues. Its brain based, not astral. It’s not simple enough to say someone is ‘crazy’. But each of our brains processes information differently. And the symptoms of each are too similar to ignore.
I don’t come here to convince you. I doubt I could. Belief is powerful. I have been told that the difference between an athiest and agnostic is an athiest just won’t shut up on the subject. I am not here to ruin your holiday.
I am just sharing. Hoping that by saying this out loud, maybe some kinda proof will find it’s way to me.
When you hear the names Gilbert and Sullivan, where does your mind go? ‘Topsy Turvy’ perhaps? Does it make you wax twee about how they ‘just don’t make them like that anymore’? Are you whisked away to a very fairy land of impossible conclusions, truly wretched love lines, enough whimsy to choke a fucking mule?
And does it make you angry? Like…righteous indignation type anger?
These are the questions that floated around my head in the dark of the theater. Impossible anger. That I only experienced once before in my life: at a performance of ‘Paint Your Wagon’.
So I’m not so into Operettas. I think that much is clear. And people are allowed to like or dislike whatever they want. Right? So…end of blog.
Nope. Cause…. I found a grand conspiracy among these grandiose players. Something truly nefarious. And I am naming names.
I put forth that both Gilbert (wordsmith) and Sullivan (composer) were very talented gentlemen. So why are their collected works such a stain on the very concept of entertainment and enjoying…anything?
By design, of course.
I put forth that these gentlemen were ahead of their time. Not in what they produced: they were more a victim of their time in fashion. No.
These were dangerous dudes. Anarchists. They toyed with the very reality around them. They knit together Parliament and Faeries and Pirates and made it all terrible. Like….truly…terrible.
I put forth that Gilbert And Sullivan were against Entertainment as a form, and worked within their network of black hats and authentic ghouls to produce impossible, incomprehensible, so fucking irritating ‘works’ for an attention starved public.
As I was growing angrier sitting in that dark theater seat, I tried to distract myself. Unfortunately I chose to read the words that they were singing. That…was an error.
It made me wish speech was never invented, writing was just a passing fad. I enjoy word play…but these words were not playing. They were conscientious objectors in the war against time passing. They were nonsensical….and yet deeply offensive.
This is not a mistake. Gilbert and Sullivan were trying to bring the industry down, burn it to the ground. I picture them as figures of derring-do, genial gentlemen of leisure from all accounts, but backstage… they were terrorists against fun and frolic. They made even the most innocent form of frolic into something that tastes war crime’y.
And considering this…considering these men as secretly supporting the system that would pull down all form of fun and leave us with grey tinged POV’s and the outlaw actions of laughter…like real laughter…. I admired them some. It made me smile.
Music discovery to me is like Indiana Jones type shit. I rarely listen to playlists (except for the continual round robin of my entire Amazon library of song shuffle…which means regardless of what pop’s up, I put it there. Intentionally or not.)
I find I don’t read as much music press as I used too, which is a little sad as record reviews were my favorite form of the written word, next to well used profanity. I was led to many singers and sounds based on what Rolling Stone or Paste said. They were not always right (I’ve tried you Will Oldham. You need to go now), but sometimes they are on the mark.
Not now. Magazines are gone. And the idea of seeking out reviews on line when I can just go right to YouTube seems a needless expense of my precious time.
So music discovery to me is much more dusty, far more speckled with sweat. I go out into the world and I explore tag sales…flea markets…second hand shops…looking for my booty of cheap gold: 99 cent CD’s. And then I buy too many.
The wide variety of what you will find…will go home with…is different on Sunday mornings than maybe at any other part of the week. A likely combination of Saturday night excess and Sunday morning exhaustion can make someone do crazy things. Like buy an Enya disc. On purpose.
That is my point. A good Sunday and a wild Saturday feeds into music discovery (for me), causes me to take chances with my taste and try things I ordinarily wouldn’t. Like…for example…instrumental music.
So among my pirates booty of raided discs, I sail the seas in my lil’ orange car. I learn, I love, I dislike and whip the CD out the window with a soul disgust. Which is immensely satisfying and if errant CD’s are what finally brings down the ozone…that’s on me. Sorry. My bad.
I have casket sized cases, bags, boxes filled with covered and naked discs. Scratched, surely. But generally true. They accumulate and I reach into the bag and today’s selection starts to play and my day is either improved or disproved by it.
So, whistle blows and I’m out of work, striding to my car. Sun is setting, night is coming. And I reach in and this evenings selection was ‘The Ventures: Japan Live 1965’. Key in the ignition and the disc drops into place.
I knew I appreciated The Ventures. You know the songs, so I won’t bother naming them….as you may not know the name. I did not know how often I had heard The Ventures in my life, but it seems it started young and kept coming. Not from the radio, as much. From every movie or commercial or cartoon or rap tune or TV show ever looking for incidental music. There music occupies a very unique part of the Americana repertoire. And there covers of ‘The Modern Sound’ make mincemeat of the originals. Simply because they were skilled beyond belief, individually and together.
I drove. I let the music wash over me. Understand, this was live, in 1965. So I wasn’t catching ‘Walk Don’t Run’ like from the radio version. They were blistering, live and loud, with a thrilling amount of wailing feedback just below the surface. It is cutting and it is live and it has a wildness to it that is …. influential.
Though not simply musically. I listened and the music slunk into me. I drive and I drove faster. I felt bad, dangerous. The guitar tones were twiddling with my Id. I wanted to do something really bad. Not to anyone in particular…unsure if it was visceral or criminal…. I felt the opening credits roll by as I leaned my arm out my window and let the wind float my hand. I felt blood flow around my body, corpuscle to vein to brain to below. I smiled to myself and let The Ventures play out my worst influences for me in inner Technicolor. I felt bad. And it felt good.
Why? Is it the countless Tarantino-esque movies I’ve seen that equate period music with violence? Is it the lack of words, but clear melody lines, allow us to sing our unconscious? Is it the tone of Stratocasters that have long been the missing link between The Louvin Brothers and Embalmed?
I don’t know. Try it. And keep repeating to yourself: it’s only a movie. It’s only a movie.
Before The Danbury Lie (AKA Whispers To Oblivion AKA The Great Jester AKA Rob Loncto) was banished from the Colonies (the actual charge was ‘Keeping Company With The Dark’ or some such thing), I knew him, Horatio.
Now, he’s gone West Coast, multi media, Worldwide. He writes books and blogs. He makes movies. He makes records still too.
Today’s Something Something Quarterly takes on modern music making and marketing. A bi coastal conversation tween two cats who are throwing it all against the wall and seeing what sticks.
Stay tuned for tomorrows interview with yours truly in Whispers To Oblivion. Ready? Set……………..
JpK: How’s the West Coast Lie Life?
Rob: West Coast Lie Life is alright. Finishing up the movie for the Without Mirrors album. I premiered it at a sports bar a few weeks ago. Also finally starting to work on some new tunes. Watching a ton of NFL. But mostly trying to live well in general.
JpK: How did the premiere go? Sports bar?
Rob: It was an art show at a sports bar. They had the movie playing on about 9 different TVs and the Seahawks game on the other 5. Some people were into the visuals, brah.
JpK: The idea of the super psychedelic Without Mirrors playing with the Seahwaks game on is even more surreal. The visuals are intense. And man do they walk hand in hand with the Lie sound. Additionally intense. I’ve mentioned this before. I admire your ability to brand yourself so convincingly. The movie feels like a direct result of the very first Danbury Lie release. Minimalist and strange, but hypnotic. Do you have an image of what the perfect setting for the watching Without Mirrors would be? I’m imagining you in a theater in front of a big screen and guitar. Is that the design?
Rob: Without Mirrors is best experienced in a home theater with the music blasting and your eyelids held open Clockwork Orange style. But if that doesn’t work … The movie is also cool to watch on the bus through your smartphone or in a cubicle during lunch break. On drugs.
JpK: lol!!!!!! Yes. I picked up on the lysergic add on’s that would benefit viewing. Even straight…once I stared watching, I couldn’t stop. Tell me about the new material. Have you been expanding the Lie sound? What you listening to these days?
Rob: I haven’t fully figured out a direction for the new stuff. I tried recording some experimental guitar loop stuff, some aggressive punk metal, I even played around with some EDM samples. Now I’m working on a song that’s probably a bit closer to The Danbury Lie that 2,000 Facebook fans know and love. Eventually the next direction will come together organically … or it won’t. We shall see…
JpK: OK, So let’s tilt at some windmills.
How important is playing gigs to being an original musician?
Rob: Gigging is a whole lot of bullshit and a whole ton of fun. I would love to do more gigs, I have only done 1 full-band gig as The Danbury Lie and it would be great to do more. But when you write weird, technically complicated psychedelic folk music, it’s not the easiest thing ever to find bandmates. Go figure.
JpK: Do you believe the idea of a Local Music Scene actually exists, or is local now ‘Earth’?
Rob: I definitely think local music scenes still exist, and it’s great to have a small community here or there that becomes friends and support each other’s music. In the end music is a form of communication and I think in many cases it can become great when the local scene develops its own dialect. I’m starting to realize that things maybe aren’t as different from the past as we think. At least for independent artists.
JpK: The internet? Played out for music promo or just getting started? I mean you and the world.
Rob: The internet is a mirror of reality. In real life, people like dogs and food more than my record. And I get that. The Danbury Lie is a pretty cool band but dogs and food are probably cooler.
JpK: What is your favorite song you’ve ever written/co-written and why. Also what makes you love one song more than another?
Rob: I really like the song “Gates We Pry” (https://thedanburylie.bandcamp.com/track/gates-we-pry). The solo kind of reminds me of David Gilmour and I like the buildup at the end. It’s also probably the best vocal take I’ve ever done. Plus I have fond memories of recording it, so it’s a combination of factors.
What is it about the American culture that we receive great gifts from our citizenry (for these purposes, let’s focus on the Creative American) and celebrate them, hail them throughout the land…for about 12 minutes. Not even the 15 that Warhol promised us. Hippie.
And then we pack their bag and send them to Europe to import some circa 00’s American awesomeness. And watch these well attended Euro shows via YouTube.
It ain’t right. I don’t blame the musicians. I don’t blame myself. I hold you a little responsible, but you know…we have that thing, you and me.
Today’s example is one of my fave bands, Grandaddy. Cause seriously, you couldn’t find a more American band. They came to me through a phrase I have never forgotten. Grandaddy was described as ‘Stoned Landscapers with an ELO obsession.’ I mean…come on. That’s JpK bait right there. They were much more than this, of course. That description sounds almost like a suburban punk band, versus the best excuse for progressive rock since ‘Close To The Edge’.
So let’s start there. Grandaddy is an American Rock Band. You cannot find their roots in the places you find American Roots Music. There is no blues, no country. It is Rock Music. Forged from Rock Music and raised up on Rock Music.
What nails the nationality of this group of weirdoes’ is their values. Good American Values. Based on self loathing, slacking and technology addictions. Songs about Sad Datsuns and androids achieving A.I. and celebrating with a drink…which fries their circuits in a visible flash or about riding their bike to their step sister’s wedding (which sounds as depressing as it reads).
They are singing our song about our peccadilloes as Americans and they are forced to play them for Swedes or some such horror. That’s not America. (I mean Sweden. It’s not. Look it up.)
So, to do my part, my due diligence as it weren’t, I implore you to find these next 5 songs on YouTube and taste American greatness as its most pure. Stoned Landscapers with an ELO obsession.
‘The Group Who Couldn’t Say’ – ‘Sumday’: First off,you can’t go wrong with a good hook’y ‘Doo Do Doo Do Dooo’ repeated refrain. The first time I heard this song, it owned me. That was even before I understood the lyric. Which is about a band who gets some industry heat and the big record company machine takes over. And all the band wants is to return to Nature. Which means it is about Grandaddy. Lines like ‘ They had won some kinda prize, For selling way more stuff than the other guys, They were the shrewdest unit-movers, So their bosses got ’em tours of the countryside’ and the common Record Company schlub who needs deal with ‘ And at the desktop there’s crying sounds For all the projects due, And no one else is around And the sprinklers that come on at 3am, Sound like crowds of people asking “Are you happy what you’re doing?”
‘Jed’s Other Poem (Beautiful Ground)’ – The Sophmore Slump’: Starts with one of my favorite lines about getting drunk with a robot ‘ You said I’d wake up Dead drunk, alone in the park I called you a liar But how right you were…’ This is the continuing saga of the beloved Jed The Android and how success first infects his creators and ultimately, his self. There is a true and odd sadness in this song, desperation. It comes through the set up, through the lyrics and sits on your chest like bad thoughts do. Despite what they sing about, what he is saying is far more human evolution, versus technological innovation.
‘Everything Beautiful Is Far Away’ – Under The Western Freeway – The idea….the words are simple. Though cynical. Beauty is distance. Is the idea that nothing viewed up close is beautiful? Or beauty is an idea we will never approach the shore of? Nope. In this case, it is about a space explorer abandoned with Earth in view. His family, his life, his very oxygen is an impossible distance. And he looks across ‘the great white expanse’ and sees swans (equally impossible) and he is ready to go. ‘He knew he was as good as gone, But gone was somewhere he really didn’t mind going to…’. It is science fiction. It is being human too.
‘F**k The Valley Fudge’ – Excerpts From The Diary of Todd Zilla: We have all come from somewhere. Unless you are reading this in the ether, then you need to stop reading and get born already. Damn! The rest of us, we came from someplace. Does that place look like it did? It it maybe a bit more mini-mally than you recall? Un-drivable on a weekend? Have all your child hood spots turned into parking lots? Have your parking lots turned into Subways? We all come from somewhere and the geography erodes. We remember things far past the point of memory. So fuck remembering anything. Let’s go and start some shit.:
‘We’ll start with that new future superstore and steal all their decorative rocks, and fight all their rent-a-cops And for the freeway maintainers who assist our escape, We’ve got sandwiches, chips, and cold Gatorade We’ll expose all the bicyclists who really are DUI students who can’t drive their cars. And we’ll take stucco dust and wet drywall sludge, combine it just right to make Fuck the Valley Fudge.’
‘The Warming Sun’ – Sumday: One of my favorites and really as decent an update (including present day contemporary hang ups) on a Beach Boys song that has been attempted. It’s big and beautiful and heartbreaking and swells with strings and voice. It is the story of a man who lost a girl, and he knows how and he knows why. It is a song I wish I had written based on the simple science of it. I miss you. I fucked up. You’re better off. I’ll never forget you.
In a dream
You were sitting there waiting by the door for me
And I got the opportunity
To experience the experience once again
How it could have maybe been
But in real life
You’re in another world
You’re with another guy
Who doesn’t have to cheat
And never has to lie
And all that stuff I didn’t get
Comes so easy to him
He doesn’t even have to try
But do you ever ask yourself
How it could have maybe been
I haven’t been that bad
But I haven’t been that good
Oh I wish I really could
Enjoy the warming sun
Enjoy a warm someone
And end the need to hide
Away alone inside
No I haven’t been that bad
But I haven’t been that good
Oh I wish I really could
Enjoy the warming sun
Enjoy a warm someone
And end the need to hide
Away alone inside
In a dream
You were sitting there waiting by the door for me
I get it now. I’m going to write this but no clue if Ill post it. This is between you and me, brain.
I have learned too much this year. We all have. I have seen just below the shiny surface right into the primordial ooze. So have you.
It would be grand to look at this divided country as Us Vs Them, Right (Us, again) Vs Wrong. Or closer to the truth, the excrement smearing monkeys from the wiser, less excrement smearing monkeys.
And not understanding has hurt my head.
I’m a patriot. More so, a Yankee. Birthplace of American Intellectualism. Where American history began. I am proud of all of these things. I am proud to have this as my heritage.
I am not well traveled. So the rumors of how lovely and uplifting the occupants of the other 49 states are just conjecture to me. I do believe these things about my countrymen. Even if I have a certain disdain for people who don’t have a certain disdain.
So….I never saw Trump coming.
I knew how people loathed George W Bush, and frankly, he gave them some good reasons. I could never jump on that bandwagon as my ego doesn’t fit on bandwagons. Nor waterslides.
George W was a poor villain. Cheney was an awesome villain. My fave was Rumsfeld. He looked like the inner machine never stopped, never slowed.
Make no mistake. I’m not defending these dudes. I am too dumb to remember what they did. I’m not a political animal…except interpersonal politics, in which I am a fucking Kennedy.
No. As Trump ascended, as more and more bondo’ed broken down trucks masking taped ‘Trump For President’ on their crushed quarter panels, I simply did not understand.
It took time. And you learn a lot during a car wreck.
I don’t believe people believe in Trump. I still hold out at least that much hope for my fallowed Americans.
I think they’re desperate. I think we’re all desperate. The difference is we are too well mannered to make a fuss. We accept our candidates as they come. We don’t believe them. We don’t trust them.
It’s what our parents did. And their parents too.
So perhaps….I was wrong. The Rise of Trump is not indicative of formaldehyde in the Gene pool. Maybe this is how we get a Dumb Revolution. Throw The Bum In, as it were.
No one can take the President seriously again if he wins. So is that the idea? Tear down the House to keep the dog out? Burn the crops to deny the locusts?
Is this really the point? To simply…start again?
People are frustrated. We are frustrated with them. They are frustrated with us. But the machine ever continues.
I registered to vote this year. For sanity. Maybe simply my own.
Today’s Head to Head, songo y songo, could be described as a battle for the heart and soul of Rock and Roll.
Of course, that would be a dirty lie and require punishment be served on the speaker of such dirty, dirty lies. I found balancing the two juggernauts, equal and opposite, has upset my personal apple cart of what Rock and Roll is really about.
So let’s look at the tale of the tape.
Young studs Bad Company and their true to life Rock And Roll Fantasy’ (as it likely occurred regularly in backstage accesses across the terrain of the 70’s) of what’s so epic about being a Rock Star. Known for their brawny riffs and mating call style groans and moans of one Paul Rodgers, Bad Company was the proto Cock Rock band. It’s fun to have sex to Bad Company. If that is trite, the truth is trite.
And in this corner, the band with the smartest fans in the world, the mighty Kinks. Originators. Always slightly left of center. Credited with creating the very distorted sound that Cock Rock was born by. Part of the original British Invasion. Led by the cantankerous Davies kids. Rowdy and smart. Their ‘Rock And Roll Fantasy’ is a nuanced bloodletting of what it is like to believe in a band, even if the band is starting to lose faith.
It started out as easy for me. Kinks! ‘Rock And Roll Fantasy’ is not only a great song, but it means a lot to me personally. And even more honestly, it’s a question I ask myself.
The Kinks are pure JpK Bait. Great lyrics, internal struggles as an actual band dynamic, being too smart for the market and not giving a flip. They are the DNA of what I listen to now and always have. And I have spent more than a minute bitching about my lack of love for Bad Company.
But life….is…complex. Cause we are discussing Rock and Roll. Which is amorphous. What I believe Rock And Roll is may not be what you believe Rock and Roll is.
And one of the weight bearing columns of Rock And Roll is that, in it’s best form, it’s kinda dumb. I loved that about Rock And Roll. So do you.
So…is this a contest of whose the smarter band? Nope. Can’t be.
The Kinks lay out a multi character play in the pose of a song. It has the Davies brothers themselves discussing whether this is a real life being a legitimate Rock Star. You have the fan P.O.V. coming in for the bridges. And the hook ‘I don’t want to live my life living in a Rock and Roll Fantasy’ which is subtle, which confounds. Who is speaking the line? Is the band breaking up?
Bad Company has never been considered ‘subtle’. They are the perfect Post Zeppelin band, all sex and no sword. They owned classic rock radio in a way The Kinks did not.
And their ‘Rock And Roll Fantasy’ contains about 8 words, repeated. Including ‘Momma’. It legitimately feels like a fantasy. Dancing in the aisles and Jesters and ‘ a sound so loud it’s churning up the ground’. You can almost taste the just behind the veil gaggle of groupies ready to provide some Heavy Love.
And….I am at loggerheads. Help. Check them both and weigh in. Your country needs you.
You have managed to survive another summer clinging to this pretty rock, bearing humid reaches and back to school’s. And you will be rewarded. High Five (clap!).
Here. Take it. It’s your E Ticket to Bliss. Autumn in New England is yours.
It is art in motion, an ever changing mural of the best hotel art you ever seen. See the ever rocking boats in dusk’s harbor. Taste the apples in the air, the brown sugar memories of Hallloween past.
This is what you get for living here. This is your per diem of pleasure before the bill of Winter comes due.
I was in conversation with a dear friend and the subject turned to holidays. How excited I get at the potential of holiday cheer and 4th of July fireworks. And how I just can not get to excited. Am I damaged? Too sharp for my own good? Am I making a grand statement about the futility of celebration when even Jesus and Elvis will in time be forgotten?
Upon reflection (or refraction…it was a later in the evening conversation), I realized that I do celebrate the holidays, just in a non traditional sense.
October is my Christmas and New Years. October is me (spiritual) birthday. October is my Independance Day, where the fireworks don’t flash before you and die, they die slowly, in the fashion that all life weaves in and out focus. October is my jam.
To me, October is an amalgam of every holiday, all laid out in a lovely 31 day package, And ending with Halloween, which is officially Christmas For Freaks. Like me.
Recognize your good fortune. People pay for such surroundings (and yeah…as do we). You have tripped backwards into bliss, baby.
Stomp around and make crunchy sounds. Get excited about pumpkins.
There’s a story here. It’s not an important story. It’s interesting to me, based on language and the desires that language guards. In a period of personal heartache, this song was a turning point. It was the part where I accepted my fate, weighed my heart and offered to wait, for how long, as long.
Just to be clean. Just to feel like I’m walking upright. See The Martyr, Be The Martyr. And let the first letter be a slamming door on a windy day…open and close with great clattering. This song is ‘Ring It Out’. It could have easily been ‘Wring It Out’. Ya see? Getting clean, being clean.
And that’s what this is supposed to be. But it’s not.
This is not the time to pass the time. This is not the time to sell a fucking record.
This is where I admit I am breaking down. That the weight of this ugly fucking rock wears down the most disinterested of us. This is Now.
Bad information blows in on impossible winds and birds make their nests. They console there twig walls with lies and half truths, trying to convince some other bird that this is the appropriate way.
Our global game of ‘Telephone’ has disrupted progress. We’ve had the blinders torn off this time and we see it too clear: 60% of this great Democratic experiment are morons and bitter as fuck about it.
At what point do you hit the turn signal when your whole fucking country is getting Westboro’d?
I’m fucking disgusted. I’m heartbroken. And care fuck’all about your opinion on it.
Jermaine Towns, left, and Brandon Shuford wait down the street from a multiple shooting at a nightclub in Orlando, Fla., Sunday, June 12, 2016. Towns said his brother was in the club at the time. A gunman opened fire at a nightclub in central Florida, and multiple people have been wounded, police said Sunday. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
Thor movies are dark. Dark in tone, darker in visuals to bare the effects.The comic book popped with lovely lethal colors. Like always sunny in Asgard.
It works darker. Gods were for the most part dicks.
It’s our mythology. Its gasoline for the machine. There’s a reason super hero movies are boffo box office. It’s church to the extreme (pay for the 3D. Really. Life is short).
We have always received lessons from the comic book universe at large. Some of them bordering on Nationalistic. It’s not only my mythology. It’s not yours.
Think of how we use the names. Think of how often you hear or speak one of their names. With a definition attached: wild or good or conflicted. With the pathos of the hero used, warped or kept simple, by the inflections.
It’s world wide. It’s a go to language between all civilized humans. As long as you don’t need directions.
I’m a fan. I’m in. I did not expect my childhood obsessions become so ever present. Which is not to say that they are all good. They are not.
A well done super hero movie will engage you and make you laugh and make you root for someone, even if it’s the villain.
A bad superhero movie drops me into a state of just staring at the screen wondering about the sheer number of Plymouth Dusters I could buy with the cost of that particular shot. And where I would park them.
Being a fan is intentionally aiming for the unrequieted.
Being a fan attaches your life experiences to the new experimental LP.
Being a fan is adopting zealotry as a social obligation.
Being a fan is creating a personal myth utilizing public property.
Being a fan allows you to straight faced attach the word ‘mania’ to anything.
Being a fan means sitting through a lot of bands your not a fan of.
Being a fan is being part of a silent minority.
Till show night.
Being a fan requires love and understanding.
Being a fan creates defensive positions for every shitty record.
Being a fan is terminal.
Being a fan is a beautiful deal tween you and strangers,
Be my fan.
And I’ll be yours.
The Beatles 1964 American Tour Indianapolis, Indiana State Fair Coliseum. 3rd September 1964. A typical concert pose for police officers across North America. Some officers resorted to putting bullets in their ears to quiet the screams.
Something was once related to me that was hilarious. And wrong. Truly rip roaring, knee slappin’. But almost racist.
And it was this: there are more dirt bags per capita at a Johnny Winter show than in any other place in the world. This was told to me on the floor of a Johnny Winter show. So to be fair, we we’re factored in that quick formula.
This came to mind when thinking on yesterdays They Might Be Giants blog, which is the collected face of joy and communion. Smiles and whoops and people high fiving strangers (I guess. Strangers are weird). Versus the Johnny Winter show which is the face of drunken sadness and imminent violence. Not jumping as much as steering into oncoming traffic, socially.
There is joy, of course. It’s not The Walking Dead. Though clearly you can find every character of the perceived apocalypse within this crowd. It’s an odd vibe. Bikers and late night bakers and trippers and purists and dealers all came to commune.
For joy is watching someone born to do what they are doing. Johnny Winter is The Blues. Whether your taste is the classic Chess sides or BB King, you can not watch him and not feel ghosts and hear trains. Not songs about trains; the steel tumbles down the rails on some endless night and it works into the spinning of the Earth and the crashing sea. Monumental. Absolute purity.
And this sound brought people from all around. Another type of communion, but not of the group variety. We were there to watch the Man.
If God exists, the only proof I could cobble together is the deity strength Irony that had to be cosmic intervention. Cause he wasn’t simply a white dude. He’s was the whitest dude alive. And he played the blues with a weight that played against the idea that any music belonged to any culture. Then destroyed by too many middling white rappers, but fuck it,
The Johnny Winter classic’s (Still Alive and Well, Johnny Winter And, Second Winter) were barn burning Rock and Roll records. Inventive writing, twisting of traditions and baked in the very bakeable 70’s scene. Johnny and his talented brother Edgar (whose White Trash is the only ‘funk’ I could deal with) twin albinos in flashy clothes and capes. They were very much comic books heroes except they’re music was not kid stuff.
When I finally got to see Johnny live, it was….something. He was slight and pale. Like even for an albino. It was almost like his big ass dragon tattoo got a smaller tattoo of a white guitar player. It was disheartening, actually,
Then he played. And his playing was a wild animal, snarling, beyond training. His voice came like an ancient blues side, with every creak and crack authentic. It was like seeing a ghost of a great blues man, and with every sip, the veil thinned.
A Johnny Winter show was like a transcendent experience. With shivs.
First, a lil astronomy. I use the words ‘Rock Star’ as an identifier, which is not based on whether you know who they are or not. This is sorta the point of this bit o’ writing. As has been (over) stated on the subject of Porn, not every porn ACTOR is a STAR.
Despite the lack of a true Q rating on some of these names, it matters nothing. Because when I met them, I wept and screamed and rolled around on the floor till Security dragged me to the Beatin’ Room (which I hear exists).
Fame and Influence are not the same thing. Right? On with the show….
As desperately as I despite to be considered ‘suave’, the closest I get in when I appear slightly bemused and stand very still and say nothing. Cause…it aint in the cards I’m holding. I want to be cool and collected, and leave that impression. And I do, if the conversation is short enough.
Fact is, I’m a spazz. I get excited and jump around to the point nits embarrassing to everyone. I’m fascinated by minutia so minute and will bore to TO YOUR FACE, YO. I have habits which foretell habits, and can be identified by stringing 100 cultural cliches about geekery into something like macrame, And who doesn’t like macrame?
I have met musical heroes. People of influence to me, and more important than ‘Stars’. I’m not bragging. A lot of people met more and more often. I do hope they handled it better…
Ian Hunter: He was the first singer / songwriter hero (for completists, Black Sabbath was my first band of heroes and Spiderman was my first hero hero). This was based on one of my first LP purchases ‘Mott Live’ based on the scary marionettes and silver ‘H’ guitar on the cover. The image was pure comic book, which is the route I came. Mott The Hoople was my gateway drug tween ‘Amazing Stories’ and ‘Creem Magazine’.
What I appreciated about Ian was his habit of self reference. He wrote an ongoing myth roll utilizing his band, his fans, the Music Business, teenage heartbreak and political fury. And this spoke to me, since I was always trying to recognize myself in greater and greater contexts. Ian saw me in the metaphoric crowd and called me by name.
To really put a fine point on it, it was ‘Irene Wilde’. That song….which at it’s core was an absolute cliche….was the story of a kid in love with a girl far beyond his hipness to talk too. So he imagines a future (which he actually created) of success and regret and in the end gives her the credit. Though you do get the sense she is dead or at least less hot.
This song was for me and every other ugly teen monster with real poetic and romantic ambitions. It said plainly that ‘Fuck today. Bank on tomorrow. You’ll show them. You’ll show them ALL!!!!’ (insert malicious creaky laugh here).
So I bought every record I could get my hands on, some through special Import order (that seems quaint now, eh?) and slowly worked my way through his style, his influences (Dylan and Little Richard) and his history. It became my obsession.
And the n came that day that Ian Hunter came to the New Haven Agora (or Twilight Zone or Metro etc.) and I was in a deep relationship with ‘Ian Hunter Live’ and kismet!
Well…no. I was 14. Though looked near 25 (for what they say about healthy living, unhealthy living usually makes you the dude who wont get carded), the enterin’ age was 18. My older brother (by 4 years) and I got in the general admission line none the less, and began the near 6 hour wait for entrance.
Afternoon turns to night and the line finally starts to move. Rowdy yips and excited yammering as we march into the venue. Step by step. I c an hear the soundcheck from out front, a half started version of ‘Gun Control’ and a bunch of tom tom tapping. Step by step. Anticipation.
My brother gets their first. I’m watching to see what they are going to ask me, what I can anticipate.
And it went something like this: my brother passes security, but waits. I approach, looking as 24 as I can. The Security Guard asks for me ID. I panic. My brother shrugs and walks into the venue. I’m alone on the streets of New Haven.
Defeated. Bitter. A bit shocked due to the unfairness of it all (‘THESE PEOPLE AREN’T FANS!!!! I’M A FAN!!!’). And then watching from the street as happy bastards take my seat. And when the final few walked in, the doors closed with emphasis.
And I’m alone. So I take to the side alley of the venue and listen to the growing sound of a gig. People file in and find a place. Drinks get gotten and drunk. Anticipation. Less exciting through a concrete wall. Just me leaning on a railing in the New Haven night. Just fucking bereft.
And a sound, beyond me. Something big. I turn in time to have the high beams catch me in my turn and it all goes vaguely psychedelic while my metered mind identified: a bus. A big ass bus. Turning into my alley. And fast.
I deftly throw myself against the wall and the bus occupies the place where I just was. And I peer up to shoot the driver a dirty look but see the big bus card above the windshield first. ‘Ian Hunter’.
The bus screeched to a halt and out of nowhere, people appear from all sides yelling for Ian. I din’t know Rock Stars came via bus. I clearly dint know anything yet. My alley filling up with punters and some vaguely scary authority figure steps from the buss and clears a way.
A minute…two….and then The Man steps from the bus. Big smile, looking weary but high spirited. He’s shaking hands on his way to the stage door and I’m queuing up. To meet my hero.
I want to ask him arcane questions about Mott The Hoople. stuff so delicate only myself and Buffin know the answers. I want to tell him that I’ve started writing and hes a big influence to me and tell him what he means to me. I wanna know if he ever actually banged Irene Wilde. I want information.
And he approaches and shakes my hand. A strong grip. A heroes grip. And I tell him:
Aaaaah Spring. Well, spring-ish. And a boys thoughts turn to two things: Live music and when is Halloween.
In the rush of excitement and prep for the Klekolo show, I was thinking on the shows I’ve seen, the heroes who left it all on the stage or phoned it in. A sketch of a life spent in the bleachers or pressed against the stage:
Bad: Stevie Winwood. It wasn’t his fault. It was the 80’s. Two shows went on sale the same day: Winwood and Peter Gabriel. And I chose poorly. Consider….being a fan of Traffic, and having spent some time in deep commune with ‘The Low Spark Of High Heel Boys’ record and lo and behold…. Stevie. I had a plan for the show….I would bring one bowl of seedy pot into the Coliseum and whenever he starts the song ‘The Low Spark Of High Heel Boys’ , that slow piano intro, I apply lighter to the bowl and then the sky. It was a good plan. Except the lights go down….the crowd roars…and the slow, deliberate melody creeps in ‘dum dumdumdumdeddum….dumdumdumdeddum….’ Stevie at the piano, solo….and I apply the lighter to the bowl and hold it to the sky. But fucking Stevie. He plays the opening line and then LEAPS up from the piano bench in a white linen suit and the band starts ‘Higher Love’ … and I’m left with a slowly fading high and the worst record of the 80’s played live. Meanwhile I heard Jesus himself showed up at Peter Gabriel.
Good: Hall & Oates. Sure, I couldn’t care less about Hall & Oates. I went to see Joan Jett. New Haven Coliseum. It was the ‘Bad Reputation’ tour. Sadly, Joan was a yawn. Just …… not. And I considered splitting at that point. As I was considering this, the lights went down. Oh shit….I’m now actually watching Hall and Oates. This can’t stand. What I dint count on was who the Hall and Oates band was, which was the GE Smith version of the SNL band. They were incredible, deep and raw white boy R&B, brilliant singing and harmony and the knowledge that somehow I knew every word to every song. Like you do. If your over 40.
Bad: Frank Zappa. I know. I’m a philistine. I do wish I knew more of his music before I went. I’m not convinced it would have made a difference.
Good; Metallica. 12 people in the room in Bridgeport. Pre ‘Kill Em All’. My head smashed into Cliff Burton’s.
Bad: Deep Purple. The rare occasion I actually ‘toured’ with a band. Bought tickets for 6 shows in 4 states. I was a huge fan as were most of my friends. I remember Vic and I walking to Trumbull Mall (that was like a 10 mile walk, one way) to get the brand new ‘Perfect Strangers’. And I remember after listening to it, Vic was so offended at its dullness that he pissed on the copy we just bought and threw it out. It was a fine and true bit of rock journalism. Despite that….6 shows in 4 states. The very last show I took a combo of mescaline and pcp and had to be carried all around Worcester. That was likely the best show.
Good: The Kinks. This was in the heyday of the first Who reunion tour (wait…did thy ever break up? Ah who cares? Get it???) and though I missed the tour, I caught the HBO special. And it was….lack luster. I love The Who. I understand their greatness. But when they came back for their endless breakup tours, they were clearly selling a legacy versus being what The Who always was: bold and innovative. Alas, too much Tommy makes Pete a dull boy. With this in mind, I bought Kinks tickets…it was the ‘Give The People What They Want’ tour. I went cause I was always a bigger Kinks fan than the Who so figured ‘might as well donate to the elderly of my choice…’. Whatta ass I am. The Kinks ripped that place up, more intense than the punks, better songs than the Who, just aggressive with a brilliant use of cocaine.
Bad…Then Good: Jethro Tull. The ‘Under Wraps’ tour, an album I have never and will never listen too. Based on what I hear that night. They opened with a weird stage set up based on plastic bags in flight or some shite and completely ruined every one’s night in 2 songs. I mean….if nothing else, if you see Jethro Tull, you don’t expect minimalist synth garbage. It was seeing Santa and having him sing ‘It’s A Grand Old Flag’. Just dull and devoid of melody. Then…at ong 5…the stage goes dark and from that blackness comes ‘Let me briiiiing you Songs From The Wood….’. And the place exploded and it was prime 70’s Tull, with the synths pushed to the back.
Good: I saw Tom Waits. I saw Steve Buscemi and Aiden Quinn talking in the lobby. I saw Elvis Costello sitting 2 rows away. None of which mattered the second Tom hit the stage,
Once upon a time, Facebook wasn’t a creepy social concoction that sits in judgement like old wedding photos from old weddings. It was where people met. Serious.
I believe I came across The Danbury Lie (Rob) through a Facebook post from Joe Wolfe Mazares (Ear 2 The Ground in Nashville) which led me to the first EP. I was intrigued. I think I went so far as to share it with real enthusiasm.
The sound was acoustic, but this wasn’t folk. Or…it was folk if folk was developed in a universe where Metallica and Woody Guthrie shared gigs. Dual attack harmony acoustic, lyrics full of menace, an almost chanting style of multiple Liar vocals. It’s world music in a dangerous world.
Since then, The Danbury Lie has made a movie, with soundtrack…wrote a book….put out about 12 new records…and moved away.
JpK: OK, so I noticed this was recorded in West Seattle and mastered in CT. Did you do the mix in Seattle? Was anyone else involved in the recording?
Rob: I did all the tracking, at a house I sublet for the month of March in West Seattle. I did a two-channel mix out from the 8-track I was using. I usually isolated the vocals so there could be more flexibility with where they sat in the final mixes. The files were then sent to Simon Tuozzoli to master. He recorded most of the stuff I’ve put out in the last five years.
JpK: What I first noticed was it was more similar in tone to the first Danbury Lie record and “The Great Jester.” Which means it’s like the world exists as it does today but with less electricity. How do you write the songs? I’m especially curious about where you get your titles.
Rob: That’s hilarious. On this album all the songs besides “Dog” are basically studio improvisations. Coming up with a guitar part, recording it, layering hand drum or tambourine on it, figuring out vocals and added instrumentation on top of it as I go along. The past stuff was all much more carefully written out. It’s nice to do something with a looser feel and just play around more.
JpK: I find it interesting that you record your material in virtual hermit-tude. Do you find that you second-guess yourself with no one else hearing what you’re doing? I found that once I tried to take recording seriously, I second guessed everything and wouldn’t let anyone hear until it was done.
Rob: I’m pretty good at not second-guessing myself when recording, but I find that the more time I spend with a song, often the more it sounds “normal.” Like on “Tastes Like TV,” I built the song around a guitar track and then wound up taking the guitar almost entirely out of the song so that the bass would be the main instrument. If I played with it long enough I probably would have second-guessed myself until the guitar was right back up high in the mix.
JpK: I love the opener “It’s Not Happening.” Where did you get the crowd sounds from? I’m guessing some Kiss record.
Rob: The crowd sounds in “It’s Not Happening” are from an online sound bank. I actually wrote a short essay about how this song was recorded that will probably be online before this interview.
JpK: Can you talk about the new video for “It’s Not Happening”? I love it. Dark and squirrelly. With the space needle taking the place of gargantuan Mars killing machines ala War o’ The Worlds.
Rob: Yeah, I have a ton of random footage taken from my adventures in the past 9 months so I just threw a bunch of random stuff together and loaded it up with trippy video effects. The stuff from the football stadium kinda works well with the crowd noise in the song.
JpK: I admire the way you work in multiple formats, whether the movie, or soundtrack to the movie, the records or the book….and a recognizable voice throughout all. It’s the start of The Danbury Lie Brand.
Rob: Word. JpK: “Tastes Like TV” seems like a pretty great update on Zappa “I’m the Slime.” Spooky and off-kilter. Do you know that song? Rob: Have not heard that Zappa song but I’ll definitely check it out.
JpK: “The Heroes That Binge.” Yeah this is why I really listened to you. The acoustic sound. Multiple layers but pure wood (pun intended) …. I love the drive of this…..the hook. And freaking whistle. This is great pure Lie here. What’s the hook line about fashion?
Rob: The hook in “Heroes That Binge” is “the masses are fascists.” Most of the lyrics in that tune are just me listing off band names I came up with before deciding to stick with The Danbury Lie.
JpK: That’s hilarious… .just listing off band names prior to the Lie. Christ … “Dog.” Yeah I can see how this song is slightly more structured. Were this lyrics first? I’m really liking the theremin sounds you’re using on this record.
Rob: I pretty much came up with the guitar riff and chorus for “Dog” at the same time. It’s a pretty straightforward song.
JpK: “Ant Holocaust.” Oh yeah. Thus is real creepy shit. I love the building beat through the news clips. Are you eccentric? Would ya say?
Rob: “Ant Holocaust” is inspired by a true story. The house I recorded in had an ant problem that needed to be dealt with. I don’t know if I’d call myself eccentric, but maybe you should ask the people living next door that heard me yelling “join the plans for the ant holocaust!” repeatedly into a microphone.
JpK: Digging “Native Cry.” I’ve always dug your voice … Okay. I’ve diagnosed it. During “Mass Awakening” … I always liked the Lie because it makes me feel like there’s deeper things beneath the sound. Like real sinister shit. Like this song could be just an awesome jam or the calling of Cthulhu. I generally associated it with Satanism. So seriously. Are you here to bring about the apocalypse?
And now it’s later, past the Holidays, past January, into the perfect misery of February.
And everything has changed,. The lake house is gone, dissipated like the sulfur scent that surrounded it. Everything is gone, the ground appropriately salted. And I am airlifted out to safety.
It is here that I discover some important things about my life. Despite my best efforts…despite my desire to keep my most ugly and fearful parts inside, this life is hard when your truly alone.
During that October, no one knew what was happening, because I dint tell anyone. I kept it inside. It was embarrassing.to me. It was my fault.
When it was at it’s worst, when The Girl stopped responding to me completely, when the days of silence, self imposed and the result of alienating everyone in my life started to dig deep beneath the top soil and infects the roots…it was then a helicopter came.
In the form of a dear friend (a singer, I believe) who dropped by my job with a cup of coffee and the innate knowledge I was fucked up beyond repair and slipping away.
I don’t know if she realized the impact of that cup. The timing. How it saved me. How she did.
If she dint know then, she does now.
These were the Bus Days. My job one downtown transfer from my home. 2 hours day and 2 hours night. Despite the frigid conditions, the wavering faith in Metro Transit System, the constant new hiding places for cigarettes (as the last bastion of smokers rights is public transit), I flourished.
Life like this was uncomplicated. Heavily scheduled. My body moved to make the mark while my mind started knitting together this record.
And when the songs came, they wouldn’t stop. I realized what my responsibility was then. Capture it all, Use it. Remember and Remind. And re-imagine the author completely.
Because though much had changed, the hurt, the pain, the…squandered magic haunted me.
So it was out in the morning at 5:40 to the bus stop, freeze till it arrives, headphones on. And a daily tour of failures in the form of the City Of Hartford. Places we went and mattered. Alleys we slipped into for a lingering kiss. Borrowed residencies for secret visits. I marked each spot daily.
And the same trip back that evening at 6:45. Everyday.
I had to get past it. But I was determined not too. I was determined to feel every human feeling associated with loss. I was an explorer in the dark side of my heart. I found great expanses within but truly feared I would never make it home again. And these would be caught and captured in a cast off journal found in some snowy wasteland.
Cause that’s where I lived that February. With a GPS set to oblivion.
(in this parlance, a ‘Perfect Object’ would be something that’s mission, design, execution and result all work beyond expectation. This doesn’t guarantee success… unless your goal was to create a ‘Perfect Object’. Then Rock On. You win.)
In going through a selection of my CD’s for travelin’ music, I saw the trademark blue sky and green field of ‘Not Before My Time’s cover hiding behind a few old Humble Pie CD’s. It made me smile. It made me remember when…
It was 2009. Man had yet to know the horror of a truly free music market and election process. Though an argument can be made that neither truly exist. The utter quaintness of our collective conscious can be spelled out in most of the web addresses relating to My Space pages. We’re we ever so young?
I was an outpost on the Connecticut Music Scene. I dint really know anyone except Dave Hogan. I never knew how to deal with other musicians. My pursuit was always so solitary. The moment I had a good working model of what I could be, I would change horses and streams and start over. I was toiling in a mine of mind. My goal was not to align with people of similar goals and work together to make something bigger and better. My goal was to fling CD’s at The Scene and wait to be anointed King Of Everything.
It dint exactly play out like that, but that’s another story.
In 2009 I had my band The Citizen Spy and we had just won the Hartford Advocate Acoustic award before promptly breaking up. I was still a bit away from The Grimm, and was honestly losing my mind a little. I had gigs set up and o band to play them. I proceeded to do a very short,depressing funereal tour and awaiting ‘Come What May…’.
Dave Hogan got in touch and shared something. He knew some guys from Golden Microphone (not yet having played Never Ending, the Reverend and Brad we’re unknown quantities) were putting together a benefit CD for a woman named Amy and he suggested me to Rev and Brad. After submitting something I had done recently to universal meh, Dave suggested ‘Jet Plane’ and old song of mine. I said ‘cool.’. They said ‘cool’.
Being righteous dudes, John (bass and uke) and Adam Hagymasi (electric guitar) were cool enough to sit in on that recording. We met the very capable and genial Shandy Lawson who recorded the many artists associated. And we were done in 45 minutes. The last act of The Citizen Spy. Though Adam had no idea I would forever haunt him. (Have I mentioned I have a new cd?
And that was it. I dint know when or how it could come out, and it dint even matter. It was a necessary shot in the arm for me. Grimm came next and we hit it hard.
I am confident in what I do. And that is songwriting. Not playing guitar, not golf or cooking, not math or keeping a job. Songwriting. I expected to appreciate the other artists on my way through the CD to get to my track. And then repeat. Repeat again. Once more.
It was gratifying….sorta like a flying hubcap to the face is gratifying…that I wasn’t even close to having the best song on there. That everyone involved brought their A Game. And together, we made an ‘All Killer / No Filler’ record. All for a good and real cause. It was heady. And kinda beautiful.
Dave Hogan’s ‘The World Oldest Question’ (for collectors, a different version than whats on ‘Fun Box’) was simple and sublime, with a great chorus hook and lyrical dobro touches. Forrest Harlow’s opener ‘World For Granted’ was great fun and pumping auto harp and a sorta delicious crazy energy. Lys Guillorn is on here with an early version of the LG band for a harmony guitar laden ‘How Many? How Fast?’. A perfect vehicle for her singing style. Moving stuff. The Sawtelles, who I had seen before and never failed to be confused but excited, came at it Sawtelle-y with ‘Fight Your Way Out’, with its ride cymbal beats, super weird tuning and classic vocal trade offs.
The Christine Oldman tune ‘The Third Times The Charm’ surprised me with canny and smart song writing and singing, after I already misjudged her as a ‘girl with guitar’. She’s mighty on that track, the literate voice of truck stops and bad patches of weather. Chris Bosquiet came with one of my 2 favorites on this record with the mandolin and plaintive vocal of ‘Alone On A Wire’. Beautiful, nuanced, takes it’s time and makes it’s place. I met Chris exactly one time and what I said to his was ‘Your tracks on The Amy CD was fantastic’. Frank Critelli’s ‘Thanks For Understanding’ is a joy of his diction, lyric and that irrepressible off kilter beat that he walks through this song and it feels like a folk version of REM in some odd off planet way.
Shandy Lawson, King of ShandyLand Recording brought out some pure folk shit with ‘Not Before My Time’ that made me wish I learned to play guitar. Just a perfect folk song, with that fucking title that says everything. My second favorite off ‘Not Before Our Time’ is Leila Crockett’s ‘Birthday Gun’ which…Christ. It’s fantastic. It feels…dangerous. Her voice reaches me in far flung places. She killed it on this track.
I really enjoyed The Who Who’s harmony and feel on ‘The Boy In The Hallway’. There is something vaguely mysterious about this track. It may be cause it is clearly multi leveled in terms of arrangements but plays as seamless. It’s understated in its excess. Shelly Valauskas brings some top rate Modern Folk with the luscious ‘A Lot Like Gravity’ while Shannon McMahon wrestles the ‘Pure Folk Singer’ crown from Shandy’s grasp with ‘The Test’.
Nobody was slacking. Everybody came to play. The CD came out with this glorious folk art cover and the Mission and pic of Amy on the back.
Music Scenes make records. Sometimes those records are focused toward raising awareness. Sometimes theyre just samplers. Meaning well doesn’t create a ‘Perfect Object’.
Passion does. And luck. And a pool of talent that’s willing to believe in such crazy things as ‘Music Scenes’.
I met a lot of these folks since. Some I have never met. Don’t matter. We made something bigger than each of us could.
And summer surrenders to Autumn…and you yourself have surrendered, but you can’t say it.
It’s impossible in times of great stress to tell the weather from the storm within. So the season came in aggressive with beauty, with each flaming orange a glimmer of the Hell within. Each red leaf a failing heart adrift on the winds.
Impossible. To know love, to be loved, and to hate yourself so wholly. Not due to what you are, but what you are not. Impossible to tell the shades and shadows of a haunted heart from the very real sadness growing in your most precious and prescient places.
How does one know when they’ve become impossible to live with? When they are left. And in time, every sly nod and foreshadowed evening becomes a map you could follow down some improbable river to this day. But its a rear view POV. Because it’s impossible.
Impossible to know when the line was crossed. Impossible to feel this way still about someone who so scorched my Earth. Impossible to carry this daily without telling a soul, without sharing a single ounce of the weight.
Couples keep secrets. And it’s impossible to know when that bond breaks and you need seek shelter in some other province of protection. So I never told a soul. Until a dear friend brought me coffee and I fell apart completely,.
Now…the lake grows cold. The fireworks diminish but the smell never departs. The reflection of the brilliant fall leaves becomes an offense to your system.
And it’s October now. Your sainted October. And you have had your world torn apart.
And there’s not enough medicine to make you feel anything.
And now…getting closer to air time with DH (Thursday 4/7 wpkn.org) ….I should be figgering out what to play, but that’s no fun. Better to decide at the moment and then we can all find out together if I remember it. More interactive.
We get to that moment where I pick up my plectrum and I think ‘Shit. How’s this go?’ and if you’re listening, you think ‘Dick. He shoulda practiced.’
And were having a moment, me and you. Isn’t that amazing?
Yeah, I’m cocky. I’m excited. I have had the good fortune of playing live in the WPKN studios before. Different points in my personal timeline, different projects and a giddy feeling that translates as ‘I cant believe I’m playing WPKN’.
I played on Jeff Day’s show which was a treat as I was always a fan of his Kinks specials. Hooking up with Gigglejuice and singing back ups and shaking an egg. Just the definition of fun.
We brought The Grimm Generation down to Bob D’Aprile’s CT Rocks show and …well, wow. Just Carmen Champagne and me and we played two songs live. To this day, two of my favorite Grimm recordings. That studio, that day, those mikes and Bob were good to us. And we played soft and sang pretty and got a copy to listen to on the ride home.
David Golden’s Sunday Brunch show was the scene of something I’m immensely proud of. The Grimm Generation got to play our radio play ‘The Big Fame Radio Hour’ live on the radio. As intended.
We don’t always get our intentions met. I need pay more attention to that. I am grateful for the magic I have been part of.
It’s an electric comfort to imagine your voice sailing out on the ‘PKN airwaves and reaching that thinking audience. It’s huge to me.
And it is today. At 4:00. 89.5 FM or WPKN.ORG. It’s gonna be special. It’s gonna be kicks.
This Thursday, April 7th at 4:00 PM, I will be appearing for my first interview related to ‘The Zen Of Losing’ on WPKN 89.5 on the dial (from Long Island to near Hartford) or at wpkn.org. for the online version or podcast. As fortune would have it, the man on the mike will be Dave Hogan, old friend, and player of some guitar and singing on ‘TZoL’. We talk record, play some record, I play something live. Then I think I get to hang with Dave and pick some music, which is a thrill for me.
WPKN has always loomed over me a simple reason: My Mom worked at UB and I don’t think we ever had babysitters. I remember going to work with Mom a lot. The 70’s, right?
This aside, when I was a kid, my only desire was to be a DJ. The idea of being a DJ was because I was such a deep music geek that I needed to share my knowledge of Rock and Roll, and share the work of artists I admired long and wide. It wasn’t the concept of a career as much as being an Apostle and bringing the good Word to the people.
I remember one Sunday morning, my Mom arranged to have me learn and practice proper DJ’Ing in the extra broadcast booth. I was in my glory, headphones on, talking up records and sharing rare and piquant facts about the music, cause I was overflowing with that stuff.
It was here that I discovered another element of what WPKN was: a true Library Of Congress style record collection. I marveled at the records I found, records that I had only seen refereed to in old Creem Magazines I was able to find at all the local tag sales.
It was a real Indiana Jones moment when I found a mint condition ‘Mad Shadows’ by Mott The Hoople. I just held it to my chest, with the expectation of knowledge, direction, bliss or whatever other reason people seek out Holy objects.
Alas, my career in radio never panned out as I found out DJs don’t play what they want too (outside of WPKN, in Commercial radio land) and I took my zealotry elsewhere.
My next association with WPKN was 17 and driving a floral delivery van in Shelton, CT. I was horrifying in those days, truly looked like Cannibal Hick #2 in any recent slasher flick. Deeper into music and developed my tastes, and maybe too stringently. The way my music taste works is first through research, second through discovery. I tend to follow certain artists and explore what they listen to, where they come from and see what I like.
So an obsession with Deep Purple can lead to Rainbow, Whitesnake, Jesus Christ Superstar, Gillan, Tommy Bolin, etc. And within the line up’s of at least two bands here is keyboardist Don Airey… who also played with Michael Schenker, which connects to UFO, another obsession. Oh, and Don Airey also worked with Andrew Lloyd Webber. Yahtzee.
So driving a crappy van (with decent speakers) around Shelton and the strongest signal was The Mighty ‘PKN. Four hour blocks of free from radio, and …Wow. European folk and experimental electronic and Doo Wop and there is not enough electric ink to truly describe.
It was presented unapologetic, deliciously zealous within those 240 minute blocks of music. Some of the music was terrible to my ears. Styles and sounds the opposite spin from my preferred noises. I heard styles that offended my sensibilities so deeply, I had to research deeper. Got turned onto to so much Rockabilly and Bluegrass. Daytime shows filled with free form trippy personalities that were part of the experience. A true cool.
I learned a lot from listening to WPKN.
Part 2 due tomorrow. Listen tomorrow at 4:00pm @ wpkn.org
And hold on as we spin the calendar forward a few years (as the present is always subjective) and in-jokes have been established, histories have been written and recorded, intimates have been met.
Its a relationship. And it’s good.
And it’s summer, and ya live on a lake. With a big pretty deck on the water. Rock on. It’s the good life, and though not your best year personally, you’re living well and happy.
The information you still don’t have (now two months away, but coming…) is how earthquakes and heartaches start the same. Deep down in the dirt, plates shift but you don’t feel it, can’t know it. It takes time and additional digging to truly usurp your world.
And on lieu of the conversations, the excess petal gets pressed to the floor and the summer gets darker. The sulfur scent of Lake Life in July is simple foreshadowing your too high to notice.
In time. … you understand. But too late. You were given a gift. And you squandered it.
So you’ve decided to take home ‘The Zen Of Losing’. Congratulations!
We know there are many options for your Internet Dollar, and we appreciate you shopping with us, where ‘reputable’ is our middle name. Though for branding purposes, that’s a nightmare, so we will stick with P.
As you know, where you purchase your ‘Zen Of Losing’ is important, with so many Record Mills about. The JpK Guarantee is that each of our CD’s (and Downloads too) are:
hand fed and coddled
told they are very special children
brushed 100 strokes every 30 hours
It’s this type of care that assures you that your ‘The Zen Of Losing’ will fit nicely into your home and completely undo your life.
So, for purchase, we have many options. May we suggest:
In addition, feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for CD purchase. These can be mailed to your home or hand delivered…but it must be noted that I may live in your basement for years beyond. That’s in the CD delivery contract.
Also soon available on vinyl. But just one copy for $1400. Assuming we get a bite on that, more vinyl copies.
Coming Soon: Amazon (drone delivery applicable where available…which is nowhere) & iTunes. Plus Retail locations.
“You want to know what this was really all about? The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying?”
“We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”
John Ehrlichman – reportedly told to journalist Dan Baum 1994
On August 8th, 1974, me and my brother were in our Stratford yard in the bright morning (my mind races to smartphone treatments to perfect my own memories. That’s troubling. But lets say Faded Color.) and our mom called us into the dark cool living room and told us to sit down. She switched on the television and it was reporters readying and a savory anticipation of something.
My family was not political in any way aside from my mothers John F Kennedy picture still hanging. That wasn’t political, that was faith. It brings to mind a salacious after school conversation with my 4th grade teacher where she called our American saint as a ‘philanderer’, which I had to look up.
‘This is important. This is history. You need to watch this.’ And we watched Nixon’s resignation speech, which I couldn’t translate into any real meaning, and then the long, lonnnng linger as Nixon flipped off and flew away. It was my first American memory.
I am not political, but I am an archaeologist of politics. When time and good reporting can add flesh to the bones of decisions. Politics is the theater of ideas, so it’s theater. Party loyalty and ambition and opportunity and unfolding history mix with money and hubris….and add 30 years to cook a good book.
I had a small Watergate fetish. I read everything I could, I took out the Nixon recordings from the library and collected late notices. It was a great drama built on a 1000 small slips, bits of poor judgement born of pure power and laziness. Ideas not thought out to competition, sweeping under versus sweeping up, all led by a ringmaster so objectionable, so uncomfortable on camera … it was near funny.
Richard Nixon was fascinating to me for he was the most human, most fallible President based on human frailties. He was ugly, and it was mentioned a lot. For years. He developed enemies and made no secret of it, though did make a secret list. He was a good salesman and saved his career with a TV spot with his dog. He sweated and came off as ghoulish standing next to our American saint (and philanderer) and it was mentioned a lot. For years.
Everyone wanted to be like Jack, but most of us are closer to Dick. And being disliked does offer some benefits. Like absolute freedom to stop caring about what’s appropriate. And surrounding yourself with men who will do what it takes and keep their mouths shut till the recordings came out.
Richard Nixon was sparking wires and the effect of too much pressure. And a real belief in the power of the Presidency that came away tarnished from use. Too many enemies and too many years of collecting information, files, tactics to punish and prohibit and ultimately, survive. And after Nixon, the truth of national faith was tested and a press that went from barking to biting was established.
And it leads us to these days, this election cycle. White hats and black hats prevail, but no notes of real humanity, which gets scrubbed away. Just blind belief and shouting down the crowd.
This story, this late confession by Ehrlichman, is the benefit of living long. It also lend real weight to things considered conspiracy theory right up until it becomes fact. The simplicity of aligning ‘enemies’ with drugs and declaring war on all of the above was almost to simplistic to believe. Though I read it before, but usually posited by people with a certain wildness of eye that made the whole thing seem incomprehensible.
I have too much faith in the country and the denizens within. Just like Dick.
What do you sound like? And can you name three people more successful than you who sound like you?
It’s sorta a rude question, isn’t it? Though….in considering, the rudeness of the question depends on the timing. If this question was asked at a moment of high passion between two people, and whispered in a rush, such as:
‘I like the sounds you make. Can you describe what they mean and tell me three famous people who make the same sounds?’
That’s just poor form.
Myself, being a delicate genius, I take exception to the concept of genre’s. I am absolutely aware why they exist. There’s a glut in the market of music makers, especially when any chud can home record their personal epic (a-hem…) and sell it outta the trunk of their metaphoric ride.
For instance…a white dude with an acoustic guitar. Americana? Folk? Irish Folk? When is folk not Americana? (answer, never.) Is Americana Rock? Is Folk still Folk? Now select a black girl with a guitar and play again. Is it Soul Music based on the color of the person holding the guitar? Is Indie Soul just Folk? Are the Red Hot Chili Peppers Funk? And if not, is that racist?
Or…is it really all just Pop? Cause if your writing in the most basic forms of song structure, and your desire is to have someone sing along, your making Pop. Even if its Folk. Right?
KKKKKKKKAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHNNNNNNNNNNN!!!!!!! (shaking my fist at Ricardo Montalbon’s head shot…)
So…. I get it. Glut. Too many artists. Too much competition. I think certain genres are clear. Metal is metal. It may be Prog Metal though. Or Black Metal. Or Industrial Metal. Fuck. Is Metal Metal? Fuck.
I am a singer and play the acoustic guitar. I play with a cello (Hi Julie!!!). But its not folk music. Why isn’t it Folk Music? Cause we say so.
I love Folk, but I don’t play it. I can create appropriate genre tags at will (Its Acoustic Erotica….no, its Suburban Murder Ballads….No, its Adult Emo….) but if no ones accepts your genre distinction as valid, did it ever exist? If its only described as Acoustic, are we all simply the bastard children of Dave Matthews? Or is it Country?
No. Country now means Classic Rock. If you want real country, you gotta go Indie Folk. Unless you want some Eagles in it, then Americana.
Here I am, about 7 days from CD release and mucking about on CD Baby. I’ve made my choices. Clearly I’m playing Punk Brazilian,
Then the next question…..name 3 artists that you sound like.
We sound like Nabokov’s reflections of New England as stated in ‘Lolita;’
We sound like the dead silent ride home after a party where secrets were revealed.
We sound like the 24 hour news network of my real beating heart.
I of course couldn’t answer the question. I don’t know what it sounds like. I don’t know if anyone has done it before. I’m too close to it.
Note: Being easily defined isn’t a sign your not doing something original and important. I don’t condescend to artists who are so fortunate. For example, Pandora.
Pandora is big on music discovery. And Pandora will only add you if it’s a simple fit. If your style of music matches someone more successful. I am far beyond believing that’s anything but fantastic for the ones who fit it. Which I honestly hope to be, but….not super confident about it.
Knowing your genre makes it easy to appeal to people who like that genre. They know what to expect; the crowds half warmed up already. That’s a positive thing.
And not subscribing to a clear genre isn’t a guarantee of failure. Too many people and bands have earned big bucks with a willful mystery.
It’s only here….with the record still unheard, the marketing untested…that it matters. I’m afraid picking the wrong genre will damn me to an eternal CSNY Hell ride. Or comparisons to Hozier.
So….when you hear the record…let me know, wouldja?
By means of update on your author, I’ll say this: I was a rambling eccentric with a record coming out some season. Now I’m a rambling eccentric with a record coming out in weeks.
Oh, and I’m an eccentric apparently.
It was mentioned by a dear friend. Spoken as a foregone conclusion so I knew it was true. And as I considered a response, a retort, a damning of this accusation, a how-dare-you style big over response (which i excel at cause I’m an eccentric), I found I had nothing. Like my brain spoke up and said ‘got a point…’.
1. (of a person or their behavior) unconventional and slightly strange.
Well….OK. I would say ‘particular’. But how does one know when they rode off the road of colorful and are listening to the rumble strip of the unknown. Being eccentric in some way feels likes its a gateway phrase. You’re not right, but your not particularly dangerous. How does one know?
A dear friend mentions it. Right. With that conclusion-y tone.
Anyway. It’s time. Welcome to the Spring Of Zen. Everything over the course of this past year and change….from the end of Grimm to the beginning of my personal walkabout….from the opening lines of the new record to the final mastering… it all leads to this spring. Where we take my very soul and see what it’s worth on the market. I’m ready.
A soul gets cocky if you don’t threaten to sell it every once in a while.
These are the events that bring us here:
I fell in Love and I got my heart broke. Particularly galling since I am such and expert on the framing and phrasing of Love. Or thought I was. Until.
My band fell apart. OK, self imploded. CC is a nightmare.
Which was timely since the material I was now writing was deeper and personal than anything I’ve done. And I knew I had to sing them.
And started working with the wind beneath my black beating wings, Julie Kay, Cello.
And this was where it got deep. When I brought these songs out and we played them in a duo style, a sound came from it that was hushed and powerful, but equally raucous.
My expectation….following the traditional wisdom of art and creation and marketing of such things…was to create a vaguely middle of the road type record, something that takes songs over my career and records in their most sell-able state. Bass and drums and guest spots.
But first….Julie Kay and Me, and it changed all my directions. The dynamic between the plucked cello and acoustic, between the lyric and the weighty space a duo arrangement leaves took on an almost ‘Astral Weeks’ intimacy. And I’m all about that freaking record.
The fact is….in my personal listening tastes….little I listen to is that traditional. I like weird singers with brill lyrics and POV’s that take thought. I Only Listen To The Mountain Goats. (Not true, but not far from false). So why make a middle of the road record when I wouldn’t buy one?
Now back to bullet point. I’m a formatting nightmare.
My goal was to record this growing record as a concept record exploring loss, in all 31 flavors. It was therapy to start with, but gained mass as it grew. It was a narrative, my story about The Girl, but the songs cut deeper and revealed things I never said out loud. And it became clear to me that what I was creating wasn’t simply a unit to shift. It was a first aid kit for the self obsessed at times of heartbreak. And I know I’m not the only one.
So I decided to cash in a Christmas bonus on a 32 track digital and write my Great American Novel. I knew the sound I was chasing.
But I also have talented friends. I asked, cajoled, and requested ex Citizen Spy picker Adam Hagymasi to have us record the duo arrangement for half the record and let him add whatever he thinks is appropriate in his private studio. And he did, in spades. He created something beautiful and engaging and that rocks too. I’m excited, too excited, to share that.
And to keep it true and faithful, I brought Dave Hogan in to add some vocals and guitars. He came ready to play. The effect of the ebow, balanced against the cello, makes a sound that makes me spastic with bliss.
Four players. 16 songs. 18 months. I’m not convinced the 4 of us have ever been in the same room before.
So Welcome To The Spring Of Zen. Eccentric approved. The new record ‘The Zen Of Losing’ by Jason P. Krug will be out by April 1st.
My next blog will be an exploration of a song on the record, where it came from, or just an anecdote related. It’s a process for me, a personal organization, that I will share publicly. To personally remind me how I got here. And that’s ‘The Girl’.
Within the Liz Phair story, we have a book load of lessons on how to disappoint everyone.
Not simply her later not great records (after WhiteChocolateSpaceEgg) but her fans let her down. The culture that created her turned on her. And in acts of true feminism that just came off vaguely slutty, you turned right back on the culture by attempting to be everywhere at once, a real work ethic dedicated to dragging her previous Goddess Of The Indie scene into a truly leaked sex tape dynamic of self effacing behaviors and declarative dumb statements.
It’s a tale worthy of a Liz Phair song, but she stopped writing by then. And clearly hanging out with Sheryl Crow is a cry for help.
It all started out so rosy for Liz and me. I found my way to ‘Exile In Guyville’ via some review that noted the frank lyrics, the sex positive (and negative…so just Sex really) ownership of being a modern girl in a modern 90’s dudes world. And I heard ‘6’1′ and I was on board. It wasn’t the usual hype that accompanied female artists who were supposed to represent larger social trends. It was true. This girl could write.
First, ‘The Divorce Song’. Still one of my favorite songs that captures relationships in barely three verses. And nails it. Continued with ‘Fuck and Run’ and ‘Help Me Mary’ and you see something within her that appeared genuine, and the thing was self doubt, over self rationalization, finding clues and omens in spilled sugar left to melt.
Despite not being a ‘girl’, I understood every word as if I wrote them. This music was not simply an indictment on being a girl songwriter in a male scene. It was an indictment of relationships, male female dynamics in general. And she made a genius case with that record.
And now….Liz Phair was something coming, the Artist To Watch, the next Babe Dylan. And her new album ‘Whipsmart’ was a true continuation of the trip started from ‘Exile’. It was about living in LA, musicians and scene makers now know her name. And more brilliant slabs of confessional, confused, cutting lyrics and a mix of musical styles that still excites in its lack of easy definition. ‘Shane’. ‘May Queen’. ‘Jealousy’.
And now, more magazines, more scene making, more crowning of Liz Phair as the voice of the Girlie generation.
But the thing is…. Liz Phair, if you don’t know her….if you only know her personality and movements from her confessional tones….one thing you did not get from her was confidence. Despite the sloganeering, despite the increasingly dumb Statesman of The Scene tags, this is a real live girl with real live doubt.
And how do you bring this self doubt into a maelstrom of cultural dialog? Make a good rock and roll record, cause that’s what she did. ‘Whitechocolatespaceegg’ is a fine record, almost Stones-y at moments, and smart writing, great arrangements. A fave of mine.
And the knives came out. The critics appreciated it but thought she went to big in sound. The very indie culture that Queened her turned their backs on her and found the next female superstar, which God Help Me may have been The Moldy Peaches. And she flailed in public. And disappeared…
Now….she didn’t really disappear. This isnt ‘Eddie And The Cruisers’. She put out a pure pop album and started putting out songs about how awesome it is to do young guys and fuck her boyfriend.
Which is also honest. But. We didn’t like THIS version of Liz honesty. Last I heard she was pimping the GirlieSound ep that started her.
And now…there’s a Liz shaped impact on the scene that can’t be filled with any number of lesser chicks.
Now….I hope she saved her money.
Or in her own words:
It’s nice to be liked
But it’s better by far to get paid
I know that most of the friends that I have
Don’t really see it that way
But if you could give ’em each one wish
How much do you wanna bet?
They’d wish success for themselves and their friends
And that would include lots of money
On the Lou Reed and John Cale duo tribute to Warhol ‘Songs For Drella’ there is a song in form of a conversation (ok, most of them are on that record) that’s called ‘Work’. It’s about Andy Warhol’s Old World European work ethic battling the scene driven loitering of The Factory.
And how in Warhol’s estimation, Art is Work. And if your not producing (songs or shows or assorted tricks to trap the public consciousness), you’re not an artist. It’s not simply about being misunderstood by this world, or to call yourself an Artist as the quickest route to confuse everyone you speak too. It’s proving your work.
Your job could be your work. Your family. Your faith. Or your work could be creating high quality real Rock and Roll.
Graylight Campfire’s Dave Hogan and I started in this Rock and Roll thing together at the ripe old age of 17. Our first gigs were Teen Center battles against all comers. It was grand. We lost one, won one with a set of songs wholly grifted from UFO, our spiritual kings of the period. We dint share that fact. No one knew UFO and in our opinion, didn’t deserve to know of them. We were zealous on the subject.
Since that dewy start, we have played with and around each other. After Dave started Red One, I wrote a set of songs and sat in with them. This became The Great Upsetters, which is one of my proudest musical accomplishments. The Best Band You Never Heard Of.
Since those days, Dave has recorded a couple of my songs and he has been involved in near every record I ever produced. That’s not to say we agree on everything. And one concept we dont agree on is Work.
Dave works. He is involved as stunt guitar for more bands than I can even name, studio and live. This is because he has worked his craft to become a genius guitar player, in a variety of styles. Dave worked from being his desired place as ‘just a guitar player’ to a fully fledged front man with one of the best pure voices in the entire scene. He works every week at solo gigs in an ever expanding landscape, his name travels well. He has worked his way into a position WPKN, the greatest radio station on the planet.
I work too. But differently. I conceptualize work. I consider work. I don’t gig as much (and likely never would) cause I believe its a race to the death: you will either last long enough to have a career or perish and be recalled by barflys. I spread my words, my ideas. I believe in the better mousetrap theory, though clearly the mice are winning. So far.
Graylight Campfire is a power trio in the best usage of that term. Loud and hypnotic. The hypnotic effect comes from real live magic.
Watching Brian O’Callahan (bass & vocal) and Dave play is akin to witnessing two musical hearts in one mighty beating body. Whether pared down acoustic set or full blazing electric, these two have worked together long enough that it seems an ever continued conversation between genius minds. ‘Tight’ isnt the appropriate word. To even use that term, I would need add ‘Fishbone Tight’ and to those familiar with Fishbone, you know there is no higher compliment. And though I have yet to see new drummer Geoff Birt, I have it on good authority that…well, it works.
And for their next trick….Tomorrow, Saturday, 4/25/15, Graylight Campfire play 3 shows in one day. Will they survive? No one knows yet.
It starts with a tradition for GC, which is opening day for Little League, Short Beach Park in my actual hometown (Shhhhh…) Stratford, CT. 9 AM start time as Graylight welcomes in the spring in their own original style. 9 AM. Yikes.
And then Graylight Campfire at The Meriden Daffodil Festival. 4:45 on the Bandshell Stage. Graylight is a fantastic Festival band so this qualifies as a Must See.
And on that subject, why the FUCK isn’t Graylight Campfire playing the mainstage at the FUCKING Gathering Of The Vibes??? Bridgeport born and raised. Brilliant band. Is it really necessary to have 30 reggae bands? Really? Fucks.
And finally…. Graylight Campfire after dark at Brennan Shabeens in Black Rock. Home turf for the conquering heroes. Expect tired musicians and a fully charged crowd. And a sense of victory.
Dave Hogan is my brother. We have fought together and apart and each other. But this isnt why Im promoting him.
This week started with a question: Is there a CT Music scene?
And this question gets answer loud and clear by the Mighty Graylight Campfire: There is if you want one.
So how long did it take? Especially considering good refrigeration was still a few good decades away? And what did it take to work in the medium of corpse?
Yes, today’s theme is creation. And time is right as I look out the shop window and see….well not trees budding and grasses growing green….but its not snowing. Presently. It appears the winter of my malcontent status is reaching quitting time. And Im prepared to bloom too.
How does one make a record anyway? Blood, sweat, tears, money, friends, frustration, alcohol, rationalizations, ego, crippling esteem issues and the ever-opening maw of critical listening to tracks.
Why does one make a record anyway? News on the street is that music is dying medium and in time we will all only listen to recorded conversations about music. You cant make a living. You cant expect the Zeppelin tour bus to pull up at the door. We’re all screwed, right?
Well, yes, surely we are. But we make records cause the only thing to fight off the destroying pace of this modern world is to use your voice, use your instrument, use your own blood and tears to crate something that lasts beyond death.
Yes. We are making monsters. Supernatural things which we cant know the devastating details of. We add our voice to the clamor and hope sense shines through.
Because we have no choice.
Don’t you think Victor Frankenstein wished he was obsessed with podiatry? Do you think he took lightly the playing God stuff?
And surrounded by artists bringing there own corpse king delicacies for review and appreciation.
And all in time for the Christian calendars dedicated date to such stunning resurrections.
Say it with me, Artists Freaks and Monster Makers: We Belong Dead.