9/23/2015 – Boomer

I’d forgotten that playing music can be cathartic. Way Back Machine time…

Music had been a huge part of my life for a long time. Performing, I mean. Ever since I was a young kid – before knowing how to play an instrument, really – I was starting half-assed little bands with any friend that would humor me. The really indulgent ones would sit and write lyrics with me and plan out how we were going to rock the world with our bad ass tunes. It wasn’t until junior high band, where I accidentally stumbled my way into the percussion section via audition, that I actually started to take the shit seriously. And from that point on, being a musician was it for me. So engrossed was I in my fantasy of being a professional drummer that I let everything else go. Outside of band and my percussion lessons, school became a distraction. And all the other stuff I had dabbled in – basketball, soccer, skateboarding – all fell away.

By ninth grade, I was in a band with actual, paying gigs. We sucked, don’t get me wrong. But we were out there, playing wherever people would have us. From youth centers to barn parties to family reunions. Hell, we even played a couple Christian events, which lead to us being labeled as a “Christian” band. Hilarious, considering our set list consisted mostly of Metallica covers. But hey, a gig’s a gig.

By high school, I had graduated to playing in bars and clubs around the state. At this time, it was Stone Nowhere, the band you’ve heard a billion times if you’ve ever listened to the podcast. And that was where I’d play for about a decade.

But then came the burn out. Spend enough time with people and, inevitably, you’ll get sick of it. Especially when it starts to become obvious that shit just ain’t gonna go as you hoped it would back when you were twelve and spending every study hall in the band room, banging away on your drums. No, when you look your future in the eye and realize that you’ve ridden this thing as far as it’s gonna go, you usually start taking inventory. That’s what I did. And I quit Stone Nowhere and focused my energy on this new, awesome girlfriend and our potential future together. For the first time, I no longer had any interest in playing music, let alone being a full-time musician.

For the next few years, I literally didn’t touch a drum stick. And, the thing was, I didn’t miss it at all. My former musician buddies would ask, incredulously, “Don’t you ever get the itch to play?” And I could honestly reply, “Not at all.” I had Christine, I had my friends, and I occupied my time by working on our website. Shit, I barely bothered even listening to music anymore. It wasn’t until we started working on the Shmopera that I even considered playing again.

Speaking of the Shmopera, it’s interesting for me to listen to that thing from start to finish. When I listen to my contributions, what I hear is a guy who completely forgot how to write songs and make music, learning how to do it all over again from scratch. The first few tunes are so embarrassingly simple that I laugh when I hear them. But by the time we get to Level Three, I can hear it all slowly start to come back to me.

Anyway, the Shmopera, the ZomBOOsical! (I type it that way because Moe will yell at me if I don’t), Eau de Moe, and all the tunes we wrote in between, were really nice experiences; revisiting a former passion. But after Eau de Moe, I didn’t play again for nearly three years. And then Scotty decided to get married and Moe and I had the bright idea to not just be in his wedding, but to also be the wedding band.

Which brings us full circle.

Rehearsing a couple nights a week has meant that we’ve completely neglected the podcast. I sorta feel bad for that, but not too much. Because I’m having so much fun. It’s true that at first I got frustrated and down on myself because the rust had come back. I just didn’t feel competent. But as we kept at it, my old muscle memory came back. Lo and behold, eventually I started actually having fun again. I was playing with an actual band, not just recording my tracks along to a click track in a dark room in Moe’s basement. There was an organic feeling to it where we could play with the form of the songs a bit, make each other laugh as we play, and find our way through the tunes together.

Life has been an absolute bitch lately. Mostly work-related stress. But having a few hours per week where I can go to Moe’s house and play goofy cover songs with my friends has been extremely helpful. Scotty gets married on October 3rd and, while I’m excited to play, I almost wish it wasn’t coming so soon. It’d be nice to see what else we could pull off.

Before Hilden died, I considered asking he and Moe if they would be interested in taking a break from the podcast for a while as I was sort of getting burned out on doing it. Not burned out like back in the Stone Nowhere days, but I felt like it was getting stagnant and I was hoping for a change of pace. The three of us had joked about forming a three-piece band called The Shits. We’d laugh ourselves silly coming up with album titles. “It’s The Shits!” “Christmas with The Shits!” Yes, we were easily amused. But I thought the idea, if not the name, had merit. Between the three of us, I felt we could really but a serious effort behind it.

Obviously, that never happened and there’s no reason to dwell on that. But playing with Yeske, Moe, and the other guys has been a really nice diversion for me. I do want to get back to the podcast when this is over, but I wouldn’t mind traveling back down this road from time to time.


9/22/2015 – Inherency

Thomas Pynchon.

That guy doesn’t seem to have a problem writing. Words pouring out of his fingertips. And damn…reading Pynchon makes me want to just give-the-fuck-up. Every damn sentence is poetry. And not in that flowery put-on sort of way. Pynchon’s writing is natural poetry; it captures the way people speak every day, but does so in a form that’s almost lyrical.

Pynchon throws in little turns of phrase like “a couple three”, which is so damned Minnesotan that I was startled when I read it. I hear people say “a couple thirteen, fourteen…” nearly every damned day of my life. It’s like Fargo up in this beotch.

Oooh, John, tell me more about this hip, underground writer that you’ve “discovered”. Wow me with your literacy!

I’m a little slow on the up-take, okay? People much smarter than I have been wise to Pynchon since the 70s, for Christ’s sake. But it wasn’t until I heard Marc Maron rave about him and caught wind of Paul Thomas Anderson adapting “Inherent Vice” that I took notice. And, to be honest, it didn’t click with me at first. I downloaded Pynchon’s Inherent Vice on my iPad and dutifully started reading, as though it was some sort of homework assignment. Like I had completely missed out on a required thing and now needed to catch up.

But I got lost.

Pynchon’s writing, while – as I said – lyrical and almost colloquial, is thick as shit. And character names started to blur, locations began to get muddy, and after a time I started to lose the plot. And I thought, “Shit. I’m too dumb for this. Back to my comic books!”

But, months later, I happened to see the book sitting in Barnes & Noble, and it just called to me. Saying, “Come on, dummy. Give it another shot.”

I mean, damn…look at that cover. Early 70s Los Angeles, a quasi-noir story of a “Dude”-like private eye, and all sorts of drug-induced adventure… It just called me back. I wanted to give Doc Sportello and his cast of misfits another try. So I picked up the paperback. Now I’m hooked.

This book appeals to me in the same way The Big Lebowski appeals to me: the main character (the aforementioned Doc Sportello) reminds me so much of Scott Hass.

Scotty’s a man I wish I could introduce to the entire world. I mean, shit, I wrote a movie inspired by the guy. But Inherent Vice is centered on a very Scotty-like guy: laid back, easy-going but intriguing, talented, and resourceful. Despite his apparently drug-addled brain, the guy knows how to get shit done. And it’s funny. Pynchon doesn’t go for punchlines, but if you grab his references, or even take the time to look them up, the rewards are worth the effort.

I haven’t seen the movie yet, as getting through this book first is my primary goal. But I’ve heard great things. The parallels to Lebowski are certainly there, and if you’re a fan of that flick (who isn’t?), Inherent Vice seems like a great companion.



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