Monday, October 22, 2012

Glaswegian Water...

"Ocean: A body of water occupying two-thirds of a world made for man - who has no gills."  - Ambrose Bierce

Backstage room in Glasgow, Scotland ... the 02 Academy.
5:39 PM, listening to the Blood Red Shoes sound check.
Waiting for Dave Hause to shower so we can go find some food. 

The current question posed to me at the moment:  Should I wipe the top off of the half-drunk "floater" bottle of water on the table in front of me...then drink.  Or, do I set this computer down and lean over to the 2 cases of unopened water bottles on the side of the couch. 

I have a slight ethical objection to opening the new water while there are 3 half-drunk ones with-in my eye sight.  Early in elementary school I participated in a workshop that was designed to terrify me about the worlds fresh water problems.  About how people, specifically Americans, grossly overuse our fresh water supply with things like long hot showers, gigantic washing machines and backyard pools.  Their presentation was profound to my young mind, and with the exception of the occasional long, hot shower...I have become uber conscious of it.   This is why I'm willing to risk contracting an oral disease by sharing a mouthpiece with some member of my band or crew.  Doing my part, just a little. 

But then, the older I get, the more I fear little colds and infections and such.  I've definitely heard of a lot more 32 year olds dying then I did 25 year olds.  Which makes me more reticent of taking that disease leap of faith and just opening the new bottle, ensured of its sterility.  The added environmental benefit is that I can personally guarantee it's completion, knowing that those 16 ounces of precious fresh water have gone to good use.  If Scotland had recycling, I'd certainly do it, but they don' that's an environmental impact I must ignore at the moment. 

I also think that making yourself available to a certain level of dirt and disease is positive for the overall functioning of your immune system.  Just saying. 

The most interesting thing to me, personally, about posing this question casual my life must be at the moment to even consider such a quandary.  But on the other hand, maybe it's the little things that a lot of people ignore that could make a difference if said thoughts were collectively active.  Who knows, that leads to a totally new set of questions. 

I drank the floater, by the way...

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Luxembourg Insomnia...

"I have thousands of opinions still - but that is down from millions - and, as always,  I know nothing."   - Harold Brodkey

I'm sitting cross legged at the foot of a bed at 4:50 AM, half drunk, in a hotel room in Luxembourg with our guitar tech Brad sleeping a few feet away from me.  A situation that has somehow become normal for me, even mundane.  When I think about what my perceived adult reality was as a kid, and what it has become, I'm blown away.  It's even further in the future now than the time Marty McFly went to in Back to the Future 2.  As a kid, I thought by now I'd be a college graduate, a working guy with a family and all that. Probably with a flying car and meals in pill form.  After a certain point, 13 or 14 maybe, I thought I'd be exactly what I am.  It's just that I had no idea what becoming what I wanted to be entailed. Something I probably haven't fully realized until recently, over the course of the last few years when the band I created with 3 other people turned into something bigger. 

From the ground to the underground to the outer tinges of soccer mom's stereos.  From booking local shows, to booking east coast dates to spending 9 months a year on the road.  It's seriously a fucking trip, from the advantages, to the troubles, to the scruples and everything in between.  I would not trade it for any other life, but the perception of my life to a lot of people from the outside is starting to get interesting.  It now begins in my late twenties, when random people began digging my band.   People think they know you.  Your history and your baggage and your former pains and accomplishments.  Even the people who I've toured with for years couldn't tell me what my Mom's name is.  The kind of student I was in school.  How much bands like Strength 691, or 108, or CR meant to me.  What weekends with my Grandparents were like.  But to them, by listening to drum parts and reading a Wikipedia page, they think they know exactly who I am, who we are.   

It's this sort of judgement that's obtuse and dangerous and silly, and important to not take too seriously.   I'm an extremely opinionated and judgemental person, it's taken me the bulk of my adult life to let people be themselves without opinion, especially if it has no bearing on my life.  Now I've never been judged more in my life.  Everyone has an opinion, and one that has to mean something because my friends and I have chosen to publicly parade ourselves around and hire gigantic companies to promote our music.  Everything we say and do and write and record is now layed out for the court of public opinion.  And that's OK, it's part of the game.  It's just so much more important, now more than ever, to realize what a giant crock of shit it is. 

It's the most important time in my life to remember myself and where I come from.  To not let the leaking pen of a journalist or the quick fingers of a blogger define me.  They're random people, just like me.  People with their own histories, friends and families and scruples and insecurities to deal with. And I hope they find joy in what they do, malice driven or not.  It's like my Mom always said, "whatever gets you through the night".  The subjective nature of all of this is what keeps my skin thick.  6 years ago I was a pothead, college dropout who had a good job, a litany of past and present bands, and who's prime seemed to have passed when I stopped booking shows at 20 years old.    But I kept working and caught a break and now random people from all over want to pretend to know who I am, what motivates me and my friends and the type of people we are behind closed doors.  Let me lift the veil for you.  A bunch of lunkheads working their way through life, trying to figure it out...just like everybody else. 

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Psychology of the Touring Musician

"I travel not to go anywhere, but to go.  I travel for travel's sake.  The great affair is to move." - Robert Louis Stevenson

What brings us to this?  The lifestyle and the attitude of the touring musician tend to be so unique, there must be some common thread that binds us together, no?  The nomadic nature, travelers and seekers in the romantic, Kerouac sense. Fear of responsibility, listless and an aversion to the "normal" 9-5 grind in the classical, dare I say republican, sense. 

I've noticed some trends among my legions, but nothing that really stands out.  In essence, the bulk of touring relationships are moderately fickle.  Based on good times and music and general mutual interests.  But rarely do they turn into childhood, family dynamic, pain, love, fear and loss.  Typically the things that would drive our sub-conscious into the people we really are, and the decisions that drive our lives. 

The Spinal Tap image that most people perceive of us on the outside, is basically true.  The more I'm opened up into this fantasy land of bus parking lots and back stages and hotel rooms, the more I'm astounded at the mediocrity of its inhabitants.  They are just people.  People with a certain creative talent that are put in a position where people listen to what they have to say.  And are asked, quite often, to say a lot. 

With these questions in place, I'm trying to investigate further. 

Like most members of the advanced human civilization of our time, I googled my questions to see if anyone has thought of it yet, so I can appropriately steal from them and pass it off as my own.  I stumbled upon Micheal Brein, the travel psychologist, who lists many reasons for people, not musicians, need for travel.  The most interesting seemed to be the idea that it improves your self esteem.  He says "Anything people can do to enhance their own images of themselves elevates their estimates of their own sense of self worth in their own eyes as well as in the eyes of others."   This could most likely apply to the psyche of many musicians I know, insecurity and low self esteem and a feeling of being an outsider leads many traveling musicians to their calling.  It's actually amusing when these types of people are put onto pedestals of coolness, because their lack of coolness typically brought them there to a certain extent. 

For the older players, his idea of re-connecting and re-validating our lives holds water.  Saying "Travel enables us to make our current lives 'more real' by re-examining the present in light of the past."  This was best summarized by a T.S. Eliot poem saying.

And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time. 
We shall not cease from exploration

I like this, and like I said before, it can illuminate the more romantic side of the traveling musician.  Using the places and the people and the music to highlight the better parts of the past.  And to further suppress the things we're all running away from in the first place.  I realize this all my sound judgemental, but please know it comes from the most personal and sardonic place.  In essence, all of our perception is based most closely to our own likeness. 

But...I can't help but look at the people and places around me in an anthropological context.  The idea of what drives people, and myself, is fascinating.  With the personalities I'm surrounded with on a daily basis, it's hard not to try and figure it out.  I may be barking up an endless tree, but I'm not done in my quest to figure out the psychology of my people.  The nomads, the wanderers, the seekers...the traveling musician. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Dead Birds (Warning: Bummer alert)

"Who is mightier than death?  Those who can smile when death threatens." - Ruckett

This morning, I found 3 dead baby birds in my garden.  They must have fallen out of a nest somewhere in the tree-line over my yard.  They looked pretty fresh, to the point where I couldn't tell if they were really dead or alive.  I picked the first one up with a leaf, when I saw the next two, I used a shovel, then put them in a leaf bag we've been using for loose sticks and what/not, tied them up and tried to forget about it. 

I sat there for a few minutes, re-picturing their lifeless bodies in my head and I nearly started crying.  Something seemed so damn off about it.  I was worried at first about burying them, since I thought it was an inevitability my dog would dig them up and most likely eat them.  But I couldn't take it, something about there demise seemed so fucked up to begin with, I couldn't imagine them getting a mafia death at the garbage dump.  I wanted them to at least become part of the environment they lived in and somehow make their unusually short lives partially worthwhile. 

So I dug a two foot hole, took them out of the leaf bag and put them into the earth.  I know it might sound soft, but it was heartbreaking. 

It's a truth about the world, or at least a perceived truth that has always fucked me up.  If reality really is random chaos, a series of interwoven events that leave us floating in a constant state of flux.  Every death breaks my heart, and sadly, every life breaks my heart because of it's random and inevitable end.  Being rational and logical sucks.  It's like a quote from that movie Tree of Life..."Nature is cruel, and grace is beautiful".  It's true.  The classical thinker, rooted in logic and visible truth is doomed to merely search for happiness.  Stuck in a perpetual state of existential limbo. 

I'd like to believe otherwise.  And I know the questions I ask open more doors to a series of more open ended questions that no person to ever grace this earth has ever REALLY sorted out.  I've been searching ever since I was 11 years old and I pondered the idea of eternal nothingness, ironically sparked by the Bill Murray film "What about Bob?".  I know the simple truth on both sides, of faith and nature and everything in between.  But, somehow, it just doesn't work for me...and every time I close my eyes the same questions persist. 

I know this a bummer to read.  But it's honest.  I'm not sitting at home taking pictures of my food and or name-dropping the bands I just played in Europe for a month with to all my family and friends.  I'm in a cafe, drinking a soy latte, and thinking about 3 baby birds I found this morning.  Wondering about truth, wondering about my perceived reality and the rationality of my thoughts. 

I did meet Lars Ulrich a few weeks ago, he was super friendly. 

Monday, April 30, 2012

Superheroes, and guilt...

"He that is of the opinion money will do everything may well be suspected of doing everything for money" - Benjamin Franklin 

I just watched the "Superheroes" documentary, made my Michael Barnett, for the second time.  And again, I finished watching it with an odd feeling of hope and inspiration.  For anyone who hasn't seen it, the film follows small groups of civilians, and in all honesty, nerds...who dress up like their own unique superhero and attempt to stop crime and injustice in their cities.  Everything from confronting drug dealers in a park, putting up flyers to raise awareness about a local "groper", and a lot of community outreach to the food/water/hygienic products and most importantly, a connection to people who don't look at them like second class human beings. 

I initially wanted to pass this off as hokey.  And it is, there are a lot of people who help who don't put on costumes and make a difference in their communities everyday.  But these are total randoms, people with nothing to do and instead of squandering their money on nonsense, or idealizing pop stars and actors and rappers who don't give a shit and have zero sense of social conscious.  They decide to put on funny outfits, and walk the streets at night, doing good.  I can't hate on it, and even find myself inspired. 

I mean, I'm a drummer in a moderately successful rock band.  I have 30 college credits and about 4 hours of volunteer time to my name.  All I really did, was meet 3 guys who are also capable musicians, and worked trying to write good music and get it out to a lot of people.  In reality, a mostly self-serving task.  And yes, I've been trying the way I know how, collecting cans of food at shows for  years and trying to divvy up some of this new found reward to charity and what/not.  But something like this film puts a rock in my stomach, one that's there because my life is getting better, and if I decide to open my eyes everyday, so many people need help.  And the difference between me and them is typically an odd twist of fate, something that we have no control over that put me here and put them there. 

Luckily I have a job that effects people in a positive way.  And a singer who writes things who inspire people.  I recognize that, and this is one of a few career choices that I find worth in.  That doesn't mean what people do isn't worthwhile, this is just my personal set of unfounded expectations for the world.  You have to do what you have to do to get by, and a self-righteous point of view doesn't always fit into that.  But if there is anything this little documentary taught me, is that we ALL can be doing something more.  No matter what position you're in. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Angry Americans...

"Divide and rule, the politician cries; unite and lead, is watchword of the wise."
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I was supposed to try and relax today. My back hurts, I have this tingle in my fingers, and I'm 5 days into a coffee and green detox. But as I argue with borderline racist, self-righteous neo-cons on news websites I can feel my body tense up and my blood boil. The Zimmerman/Martin situation has really brought the nuts out of the nuthouse. And it's highlighting how unbelievably divisive and intolerant the nature of Americans today are. It's truly frightening, from both sides.

It may be part of this new red state, blue state phenomenon that has swept us up. I don't even remember this before 6-8 years ago. Until we started covering elections like NFL fantasy draft boards and providing the country with 24 hour, up to the minute, truly content-less news. Someone, somewhere seems to be benefiting from the American "line in the sand." This side or that side. Yes or no. But the whole concept of democracy in action is finding some middle ground between the voice of ALL people. Not over the top, morally guided policy. Again, on either side. That's where the 99% people are dead on. Many parts of the constitution are designed for us to defend against the tyranny of government and limit the exclusivity of power, not to better equip its own people to destroy each other. We need a leader who knows how to cross that bridge, not build another one. Sorry...bad metaphor.

But, you know what? Obama does come off pompous and over-schooled. When I read his comments on the proposed GOP budget today, I had a little bit of mouth throw-up when he called it "thinly-veiled social Darwinism." Seriously dude? After driving around all corners of this country for 15 years, I truly understand how half of America can not find common ground with a man like this. Just how the other half could not believe that George W. Bush could win, twice. I voted for Obama, and typically agree with many of his policies and social stances. And just like Texans wanted to have a beer with G.W.B, I'd love to shoot hoops with Barack. But I've lost significant faith in his ability to lead ALL people in this country.

If there is any case I can make for a guy like John Kerry, or Mitt Romney that their thought is malleable. If a guy caters, and changes what he says to appease the people he represents, maybe he's a good politician. I'm starting to see less harm in that. How has it been going since we started nominating people with their own rigid, social and moral agendas to put in place?

Don't worry, I'm not switching sides. I'm just mad at everyone right now. I wish we just all had donkey hearts...with elephant balls.

Thursday, March 1, 2012


It's one in the morning or so, the apartment is quiet, and while watching the tail end of the Heat/Blazers west coast broadcast, I wonder.

I wonder about life, and what this window I have in it means. If it's a useless snapshot of ones personal consciousness, which will end, and ends forever when it does. I wonder if a million years will feel like a blink of an eye and I could re-awake in another time. I wonder, less and less these days, if I'm being judged by my actions. I wonder if Humanism could actually save the world, or if only a rigid, well formulated set of rules and regulations is man's only savior against himself.

I also wonder about other things. I wonder if Alex Levine is right, and pro wrestling is a legitimate form of entertainment and sport. I wonder if Nascar drivers piss themselves. I wonder what a guy like Gerald Wallace puts in his hair, and if Joel Pryzbilla has to order some kind of special bed to sleep in. When I'm in Europe, the hotels have 5 1/2 foot blankets ... where one is left to the old shoulder vs. foot coverage dilemma. What does Joel do there?

I wonder about nature versus nurture. I wonder what I would be like if I was born and raised in one of those dusty towns I drive by in the mid-west. I wonder if I'd still be interested in the same things, if I'd look the same, and if the personality I have would ever surface? I heard recently that Darwin may have been wrong, and the tendencies we pick up through life do physically alter our DNA for future generations. Makes sense. Shit, made sense the other way too.

When the earth being flat was the common perception, what did people think happened to all that water? I wonder what kind of game changer the scientific community will throw at me next? I already lost Pluto, and being a Scorpio ... are the Scientologists right? Are we really just vessels?

No wonder I can't sleep.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Barack's Mac & Cheese...

"Musicians can run this state better than politicians. We won't get a lot done in the mornings, but we'll work late and be honest." - Kinky Friedman

I often wonder, do people like Barack Obama, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney fix their own macaroni and cheese?

This is a real question I pose. And something, to me, that can be taken as a huge microcosm of the disconnect between American politicians and the citizenry they're voted to speak for. Does Rick Santorum know the difference between Kraft powder blend or deluxe? Does he know the pecking order from homemade, to store bought, to frozen, to boxed? Does Joe Biden know that if you leave out milk, and double up margarine, your M&C is significantly creamier?

I could make that box without looking at the directions from a very young age. Even adapting various cooking methods of the Stouffers family size to include Morningstar Chik patties and Swiss cheese. A method that will be consistently mocked for it's lack of speed, but damn you to hell if you don't think it's delicious. ( I guess this paragraph was designed to make me feel normal, and in the context of this article, somehow superior to those I'm talking about...just being honest)

Now, please don't get me wrong. I don't find a lack of knowledge about the nuances of macaroni and cheese to be a real detrimental quality in a candidate. In reality, if he takes the time I take thinking about this stuff, he shouldn't be president. I just often wonder, more and more these days, do these people have any idea how normal people live?

I mean really, between the current state of political mudslinging and what happened during the NBA lockout, I really can't stand listening to wealthy people yell at wealthier people. It's all too much for one person, and our ideology supports it. The American state of mind that puts surplus and comfort and selfishness to the forefront of most motivations.

I find the idea of dying on top of a pile of money obscene and absurd. Somehow, I feel like we've been conditioned to think these things ARE our identity, when simply they are not.

I got off topic here. Maybe I'd just vote for the person who makes the best Mac & food stamps still cover those, Newt??

Saturday, January 7, 2012


"When at last we are sure, You've been properly pilled, Then a few paper forms, Must be properly filled. So that you and your heirs, May be properly billed."
- Dr. Seuss

A couple of years ago, in a late night haze, I stumbled upon a commercial for RLS, also known as Restless Leg Syndrome. I watched and wondered, "Is this why I'm awake"?, is the natural impulse for my legs to dance and shake in the night my problem? "RLS, you devil", I thought. Then the commercial ended, and I realized I'd just watched a 2 minute, paid-for advertisement, selling me a disease. With nothing else. I was baffled and skeptical, and then put it out of my head.

Until about 6 months later another commercial appeared in the night. This time, selling the miracle cure for this plague, RLS, that has consumed so many peoples lives for so long. Astonishing I thought, they sold the disease before the cure. Not only did they market an illness prior to the cure. They did it so apparently, that one semi-conscious insomniac got wise to it. These companies either think people are really dumb, or...people are really dumb.

It's no wonder that after some research I found out that prescriptions in the US have gone up to 3.4 billion dollars annually, a 61% increase from a decade ago. This industry is a beast, to the point that medicating people is written into the education of a doctor.

Someone brought it up to me the other day how common it is to see drugs prescribed for something different than what they were initially intended. Again feeding my feeling that the last 20-30 years of people, Americans specifically, have been guinea pigs for the drugs and companies that produce them. Who the fuck knows what this stuff does to us.

I've seen it with half a dozen people I know. It starts with one illness treated with medication. Which causes something that is treated with another pill. Then that one, now highlighted with the mixture of two, causes something else. Treated with what? Another pill, and so on and so on.

I don't want to sound like one of those pinko, YouTube nut jobs, who thinks every guys Imovie is as credible as the encyclopedia. But it does feel like some kind of dubious mind control, and with the type of influence and power the companies who produce the drugs make, I certainly wouldn't be surprised if hands were in pockets down the line to government, mostly on the lobbying side. Especially with $289 billion dollars in annual sales to the pharmaceutical market in the US alone.

Maybe it's good for the powerful few for us normal people to be sedated. Having people fixated about cholesterol numbers and getting a full 12 hours of uninterrupted sleep a night. Keep that serotonin pumping and the lemmings will continue to spin the wheel.

Maybe people have good reason to sweat and wake up in the middle of the night.
Maybe people are on the edge of anxiety filled breakdowns because of the world they live in, not the struggle inside their head. This makes me think of something my brother told me recently. He said, "there are a thousand definitions for mental illness, but not one concrete definition for mental health." We're treating "problems" with undiscovered solutions.

I know I'm paranoid, but this makes me nervous...

**My "info" from this is from who the fuck knows if it's true.**