I just put a new band together last year, my first since '98. And I was hoping that I'd pick the old life up more or less where I left it, but I should have known I wasn't being truthful.
My own brush (just barely a brush) with the brand of quasi-success known only to local music, a testosterone-and-liquor-fueled ska/punk band, was probably the only real musical success I was meant to have. We were very lucky in that we really knew how to lay it down. We were given opportunities a lot of bands don't get, and squandered them thoroughly. It got ugly and ended badly after eight plus years, me rightfully holding the Dumbass Stick by its business end. But, I wasn't bothered much, either.
My vision was longer then, and I figured there was all the time in the world to make music my livelihood.
I know better now.
New times make new music, and time waits for nothing. I know these are excuses for my own cluelessness and the deep fear I nurtured for years about forming another band.
A curious business, local bands. Look, I couldn't stay away. For someone like me, it's the same as telling me not to breathe. Impossible and ill advised. These new days are not without their problems. I'm out rockin' again but I've forgotten all my old reflexes; the mechanics of getting and promoting gigs, engaging audiences, helping fellow local bands, shit - I don't even know what music is cool anymore..
My roommate says it's because I listen to too much jazz now; that I have gotten soft in the last couple years.
I've been feeling like a relic, at the ripe old age of 29 and blah blah. Many of my old cohorts have dropped out of music altogether or have become friends and ceased to be contacts through the years. A strange business.
I experience psychosomatic lower lumbar pain whenever I walk through the door of a club and all the 21 year olds look at me like I'm their Great Uncle.
I then commence to consuming copious quantities of Rum and Coke, smoke some heart medicine and snivel about having lost whatever dubious stock I may have once had on the scene. I clearly don't know what the fuck I'm talking about anymore, and chances are this won't stop me.
So let's kick out the jams, motherfuckers and let the unwarranted judgement flow.
Since I have started playing shows again, particularly electric shows, I've been paying a peripheral attention to national music, or at least to the New Rock. After all, the climate of national music has a natural trickle-down effect on music played at the club level, where I and some musician friends (as well as many excellent players and writers I don't know) are trying to scrape out some good, original music, an augmented income and a little notoriety.
I call us the Middleweights. Not rock stars. Not hacks. Just Talented Townies.
When I hear the rock stations these days, I worry. It's entirely possible that I'm delusional, but I think that rock and roll has lost something.
Where are the new rebels? The Young Lions, the Burgeoning Turks? The Longhaired heathens? The accusations of Satanic worship and orgies, amps turned up to 11 in furious Spinal Tap tradition, people snorting dope off of each other's asses, putting metal folding chairs through the TV and into the wall behind it? Why aren't parents afraid any more? Where in God's name has rock and roll's crotch gone? Where are the guts and the glory, god damn it?
The closest (in my mind) a band has come to that mass visceral nervous reaction in recent years would have to be Marilyn Manson, but how seriously can adults take middle aged men dressed in their moms' corsets and panties, co-opting Alice Cooper , pretending to relive their tortured high school years to a white noise soundtrack at 75 bucks a goddamned ticket?
Indeed, what does happen when you aren't 16 anymore, ain't 30 yet, but still haven't given up the old rebellious ghost? Where do you go for your Rock?
Equally useless are the vanilla-rock bands like Creed, forcing castrated, nice n' neat, ship n'shore Pepsi-Rock down our throats with manicured, coiffured, shiny-pantalooned malice, along with
stolen lyrics, clear eyes, hidden religion and minions of lookalike, sound alike swill peddlers.
I am EVERY BIT as jealous of these pogues as I sound.
I wish Ted Nugent would take umbrage to this outrage and begin hunting these guys down with his various bows, arrows, and firearms.
But can you really trust a guy who went from singing "Wang dang, sweet poontang" to playing with members of Styx and Night Ranger? Brothers and sisters, it's enough to make you lose the faith.
Nuge, why hast Thou forsaken us?
Not that there aren't many fine modern examples of rebellious type music, a sort of Audio Pleather.
But where are the bands who weren't contrary for the sake of their marketing strategies, but were trouble, or funny, or beautiful, or tragic, or legendary as the natural result of their glorious idiocy and stupendous talents alone? Whether they wanted these responsibilities or not...
Bands once set themselves apart from the pack by accident, like Iggy and the Stooges, or Joni Mitchell, and were rewarded for doing so.. By the sheer sound of their music or the general back alley rot of their attitude, or both, or neither. By doing what they do. Period. I think maybe that's gone now, or at least a part of it.
Where's the hair, the teeth, the grim sight of that janitor sweeping up bottles and eyeballs at the end of a performance?
You can't even count on punk rock any more, for Jesus' sake! Do you know who the two biggest punk bands of the last decade have been? Green Day and Blink 182. Isn't this foretold in the Book Of Revelations? I mean, I'm not up on my theology, but isn't that one of the seven signs of the Apocalypse? If you visit San Pedro, CA at high sunset and are quiet, you can hear D Boon spinning in his grave.
Musicians are so nice now! It's all sweet and respectable-like. We're so busy trying not to step on toes that sometimes, in my opinion, we wind up stepping all over our dicks (if the term 'dick' is unsavory, insert body part of your choice).
And of course, being just as guilty and hypocritical as everyone else is, I have no real answers.
I do think you can only beat your head against the same wall for so long before you get a fucking migraine, but I'm not sure that clarifies anything.
I also can't help but consider the idea that the times haven't changed so much as I have.
So what do I do? I try to stay honest, hard though it is. I still believe in all that magical shit I read in Circus magazine as a lonesome kid. I keep the amp turned up, do my damndest to play well every time and let the rough side drag. This has made a few angry along the way, and I understand the reasons why that happens, and most times I'm sorry, to a point. At the same time I can't help these good folks out, a fact that makes me hurt. In the end I want to make other people happy by playing and singing, but I can only be who I am.
There's still some part of my guts that remembers when being in a bar band meant something, at least to me. When you hit that stage and played like it was the last time, every time. When fire, pride, zeal and brimstone energy exchanged over the lip of any crappy plywood stage was the finest drug imaginable. When being background music for binge drinkers simply was not fucking acceptable. I feel as though I am not alone.
Don't be sad at heart, my friends. If we are bold, mighty forces will come to our aid. Some philosopher said that. I heard the quote in a movie about rock bands, but I think it's the sentiment, the leap of faith, that matters. If we keep our faith, our songs will always ring true.
Yes, faith's the only important part, especially now, when dark times seem to be on the horizon, middle age is a-creepin, and the time of our heroes has passed. I hope we are all strong enough to keep our nerve and to keep on writing, to keep on playing.
It's just us Middleweights now.