Saturday
Aug152009

« Second Verse Not The Same As The First »

There was no fanfare today when the 20th anniversary of the start of my drumming and musical life came and went in a pretty dreadful day of work, toothaches, and just doing life. The story of this day in 1989 probably isn't that big a deal to anyone but it was a turning point for me. Of course, loyal readers of this journal know that music has mostly fizzled out in the past few years as life just got too dense and challenging to invest the time. In some ways I am glad to be rid of it; the layers of negativity that it evokes for me are gone: the darkness and alienation of the Hog Heaven period; the endless consumer merry-go-round; the no-go band projects with the flaky personalities. But as much as that sucked there must be the opposite virtues and joys: the endless hours dedicated to creating something from nothing; the ability to evoke mood and color from several instruments and recording gear and force of will; the sheer bliss of laying on the studio floor and pumping the latest mix and giddily getting a wild shit-eating grin.

Music for a while was my lens to see the world. Now I have other lenses to view things. But for a while, I guess I have to admit that my spirituality was music-based even though I had no way to articulate it as such. I mean, music is a way of understanding things at a deeper level. It is rooted to the mathematics of the universe itself. It is one aspect of our god-like power to create. It allows solo and group expression, akin to what I now understand as contemplation and action. The list goes on.

These days I don't really play anymore but find myself aching to do so. I hear music more fully than I had before, just as I listen to other people's music. That was one thing I never did before I picked up the sticks in 1989 and made a bunch of drum racket. It did happen parallel to my musicking but only in the years since about 2005 have I had more interest in enjoying music at a deeper level than when I made it myself. I anticipate that some day I will find a situation that will allow me the time to pick up a guitar and notebook and convey something real, and all the music that has seeped into me will somehow inform the resulting product. More than anything else I want to sing and write songs now, and leave behind the dissonant and dark stuff.

Not that there was anything so terribly wrong about that when that was what my soul had to say. It was ten years ago—halfway through this past 20 years in question—that the recordings that became my CD Receiving began to take shape. It is mind boggling that a decade has passed since then. It was a very fruitful year, 1999, but a very depressing one too. It was one of my darkest times. And much of what I did musically was dark. It was almost exactly then that I made some of the last recordings with any degree of humor at all. At the time I considered it to be musically growing up. The recordings that constitute Receiving in many cases came from pretty spontaneous moments that were sculpted into form. Some of my favorites were the ones that happened almost immediately. But equally so there are moments that are polished to a shine from long hours and even months of work. If nothing else, Receiving was a commitment to myself to record a CD's worth of stuff, and to press it to a commercial-ready product. I was aware that I was raising the bar for myself, and wasn't sure what would happen next.

Sometimes I think my life depended on this stuff to keep me busy, else I was ruminating on "stopping" cars or trains with my bare hands. Along the way in that period of 1999-2000 I was awake to do audio tech work, a few studio projects for others or my own music. I ate pretty badly. I was going to bed at dawn and getting up at 1 pm or later. I had very little social life. My imaginary relationship with Shelby was in full swing with what must have been mad sublimation of my creative passion—unable to act out with her, all my effort went to studio production while she was in Africa for a couple years. (I've written before that my most fervent and productive studio recording era was bracketed by her reappearance in my life just days before I got my VS-880 recorder in August 1997, and which ended almost to the day in December 2000 when our 12-year "friendship" totally unraveled in one day when she came back from Africa and I had just finished a holiday recording for my niece—on my VS-880, and the last thing of any real substance I did with that machine!) It almost seems that without Shelby, the whole enterprise fell apart, even though I maintained things for a while later with a bigger and better studio, other players, and more time, there was something missing. Maybe she was my muse after all, warped as that seems now.

I keep thinking that for all that musical period, the will to do it all was coming from outside me. Maybe it was the gear and all the promises that were made about how great it would make things. Maybe it was trying to please the people I worked around. Or maybe I was trying to live Mike Keneally's life. Whatever it was, now I get this feeling the stuff wasn't coming from within. The last few years—and the musical silence that buffers my earlier period from whatever may come—are letting me start to find my own reasons for playing, so that I might have a chance to sing my own song.

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