Thursday, November 29, 2007

Ah, fuck it.

I wonder how many blog posts share this one's title.

I wrote the one below on my MySpace page, and so I hedged a bit because while few people actually read it, I know them, or they live in my town. In the swirling anonymity (I cannot, for the life of me, pronounce that word) of the greater (re: extra-MySpace) internet, it's easier for me to proverbially pin the ol' heart to my sleeve.

I ran into Jackie on Saturday, for the first time in over a month. I'd say five weeks to the day, maybe even. We had a show, and she came to it. I was rattled for a good four songs.

Now granted, I was also rattled for a couple other reasons. See, the show was an annual reggae party we play. I can't call it a fest, because it wasn't all day in some fields and no one was selling shitty bead jewelry or Bob Marley flags. It was two bands and a DJ/MC combo (said combo was called Mcpullish feat. The Judge, and it was awesome). Darth Vato occupied the middle slot.

As such, the stage was backlined. The headlining band, Pablo and the Hemphill 7, has six members (funny, right?), and since we're only a three-piece, it just made more sense for them to have everything up there. What this meant for me is that I didn't have to lug my bass cab up there, an opportunity I am nearly always on the lookout for. But since Jackie's arrival had already kind of knocked me into a self-exacerbated dither, I made myself susceptible to just about anything, and using their bassist's (Matt Hembree, so you know) rig definitely fits within that parameter.

A word about Hembree: he's one of my favorite bass players in town--his runs are a little unusual, and I'd love to figure them out, and the guy is as precise as he is animated. While watching a shitty Fall-Out Boy performance on SNL, a friend remarked, "I don't know how they actually play notes with all that spinning and jumping." I immediately thought of Hembree, who always demonstrates that one can be rock solid while occupying space a foot or two off the ground. I forget what head he uses, but he uses a 410 SWR cab. Since this might not mean a lot to you, here is what that means to me:

SWR bass amps are endorsed by (among others) P-Nut from 311. Now I hate 311, apart from exactly five songs, and part of the reason why is P-Nut. Here's why I don't like P-Nut. First of all, his name is P-Nut, which I find neither funny nor cool. He's a phenomenal bass player, and his tone is best described as growly thunder. Unfortunately, while that sounds like it might be something I'd like, he has a very funky, spanky style, and while this tends to impress a lot of other people, I just don't care for it. That's the other reason why I don't like him. But his tone is cool, and from what I gather, he gets it from using SWR rigs and Warwick basses. If you've ever gone to Guitar Center and seen some black dude (yes, sorry to stereotype, but this guy is at every Guitar Center, and he's almost always a black dude, and he's almost always awesome) wanking away on what looks like a walnut coffee table, chances are it's a Warwick. As I am a Fender guy (despite the fact that my J-bass has been a bit of a lemon--and it's an American, for fuck's sake), I can't stand Warwick basses, for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that they look like walnut coffee tables. Anyway, P-Nut gets that particular growl from a combination of his skill and his gear. In fact, I would say that his gear brings out the best in his skill. When you're as on-the-money as he is, an SWR rig sounds great.

I, of course, am not nearly as on-the-money as P-Nut, or Matt Hembree for that matter. And I swear, even though I used my own amp (which I love as if it were my own child), his cabinet grabbed a hold of every inadvertent pop and squeak and held up it for the crowd to see. It felt like getting pantsed in front of the whole class. My bass rig (an Ashdown ABM 500 EVO II run through an Ampeg SVT 410 cabinet) is geared for warmth, not spank. It's a perfect for a guy who learned to play from listening to Scientist and Sly and Robbie. But Hembree often plays with a pick, and he needs gear that gives him a brighter sound.

So that also had me rattled. And I had to take a crap, but before I got there, someone managed to back up both the men's and women's toilets, which left me, almost literally, up shit creek, sans paddle. You try getting amped up about playing bass with a torpedo in the tube.

But yeah, Jackie, man that was weird. As you may have guessed, I'm not exactly over her, which explained why I called her the next night and poured my heart out. While it was weepy on both sides of the phone, I doubt it changed a whole lot. I'm happy that she is doing well--she just got a teaching job and loves it; I just wish I was there by her side.

--The Robo-Pirate

See? Don't you wish I'd gone to the gym?

Anyway, if you read the post below (or is it above? Sometimes MySpace does weird shit like that), I have had something of an interesting November. At the risk of sounding like a teenager, I have experienced steady sets of emotional waves that swell and crest and break with very few breathers in between--some I have caught and ridden as far as they would take me, and others I have tried to duck under and hope for the best.

We recorded our new album during the first two weeks of the month. This experience was markedly different than our other sessions. Sure, we had a pretty big budget (for us, anyway) , so we we got to try some new ideas and weren't too worried when a bass take took longer than I'd normally prefer. And we don't have a release date, so we weren't constantly watching the clock. Our other three recordings (two EPs and an album) were made a little bit under the gun, so being able to relax a bit was a welcome departure from having to race through tracks to put out something we weren't totally proud of. Better still, we had our longtime friend and producer out for actual pre-production, and he got to mull the songs over in their rough, garbagy phase before putting them to ones and zeros. That made a big difference, and I feel like the result is much more focused, determined and even funnier than all our other records combined. It's like some of those old songs are masks, trying to be something we aren't, and while I don't hate them, they tend to embarrass me on occasion. I am finally confident that we captured who were are as people with these songs. And if, in March, when this album hopefully comes out, people gripe that the songs are darker, sadder and grouchier, well life isn't always free tamales and days off.

So our recording process was a lot of fun. And then it was over, and I realized a couple days later why I could hardly bear to sit at my desk through the day. I felt funny thinking this, but I honestly experienced post-studio depression. After all, I saw one of my best and closest friends for a couple weeks, vented a lot of frustrations, reached some new heights, and flexed my creative muscles with very little strain and head-thumping--going back to work was bound to pale in comparison. I guess it's gone now, but being sequestered in that environment made me feel like a different person, and I enjoyed being that guy a lot more than the one who clicks on a computer all day.

I am trying not to think of our two weeks spent recording as a vacation from my real life. Obviously, playing music is my career of choice; computer clicking is a means to make that a reality, and I try not to think of it as two weeks away at a Rock Band Resort (and really, since I only took two days off from work, it's hard to even call it that). Unfortunately, at this stage, as I sit with no out of town dates booked, no record to hock, no salacious stories or tales of woe to tell, music still feels like an escape. My hope is that in 2008, we'll be able to do everything we can to make our band a life rather than something to do on weekends.

If you think that's depressing, I'm sorry. I don't mean it to be, but I have to be a realist. We're getting older, after all, and the bills pile up and the responsibilities mount, and no matter how much I've tried to keep permanence at bay, it still inexorably stacks in the background like a cinderblock fence built by a contractor you don't remember hiring and workers you can't even see. But whatever. I still have a van and the debt gets paid on time, and 30 is the new 20, according to ephemeral Yahoo! Lifestyle articles , and so doesn't that make me 19? Right? Right??? That's okay. I'll keep telling myself that anyway.

But yeah, permanence, it's there; I can see it, and these days, I don't sprint from it like I used to. Shirking responsibility used to be a blatant source of pride for me, but in the past year or so, it's been like I inconspicuosly sneak around the corner, hoping it doesn't notice me. It's like, "hey, don't tell the boss, but I'm going to duck out of here ten minutes early." Thing was, it used to be twenty minutes.

So the record is a big deal, and maybe, just maybe, the contacts we've made will matter (or even exist) this time around and actually come through for us. We work as hard as we can, and I've always been one to immediately mistrust these dickheads who promise us hookups that likely don't exist. Unfortunately, where we are, we need a little lift from someone who is legit. If you're a band that can tour at the drop of the hat, you don't need these people; of this I remain forever convinced. But we're not that band. We haven't gone on a real, multi-state tour in over three years, and it's been life's looming, concrete shadow that has kept us from hitting the road longer than a four-day weekend. So while we will continue to work our collective tails off, it would really help if someone could give us a leg up. And it's not like I want to hear myself on the radio or live in a mansion; I just want to tour and for the other two guys to be able to pay their bills.

Is that whiny? Yeah, probably. In light of little perspective, I almost want to delete this whole post. If I could find my gym ID card, I wouldn't have even started it. Such is the result of getting up early with no place to go. Fact of the matter is, this isn't all that's been bothering me, and really, it's nothing new; I've been bitching about this stuff for three years at least. But it's all I'm willing to write about in this semi-public arena. I could go on with what's actually got me down and then mark it private, but what's the point of that?


Sunday, November 11, 2007

Baloney Casserole

In an effort to inure myself to the sting of bad circumstances, situations or the unpleasant consequences of bad decisions, I make jokes. Sometimes, they're even funny. Humor's good for that; it gives you a bit of safe distance from the blues, a little bit like how a trench and steel bars gives you a bit of safe distance from tigers at the zoo (or orange and black, if you prefer strict consistency).

I figured out today (after about three weeks) that I am suffering from a broken heart. I know that's melodramatic and all, and before you ask, my music tastes are no worse than they were before. But I've felt a little crazy, and after screaming at one of my best friends the other night over the use of a fucking amplifier, I kind of made the leap and admitted that this sort of baloney is probably rooted in my recent break up.

So here's what's funny. It's funny how heartbreak seems to come in waves, except these waves are ones you seem to catch every time. You don't seem to have the option of diving under and waiting them out. I guess that isn't funny at all.


Thursday, November 08, 2007


A few weeks ago, I managed, via foolishly clicking an unloaded link secreted within a MySpace message, to fill my computer with over 30 trojans and viruses. There are several lines between which you may read, but whatever. What this meant was that the IT guy at work had to spend two days trying to figure out what to do, ultimately settling on wiping and reloading everything, which was fine, since it works moderately faster now. However, during those two days without my work computer, a wonderful thing happened.

I got to work from home.

Now, before you assume that I hate work and my company and my colleagues and am just another person who didn’t date enough skanks in college, I want to be clear on a few background details:

  • My company, while not as fun as it was three years ago, is still Hella Fun. The reason why it is less fun is that it has nearly tripled in size.
  • I am very lucky to work here, and I have a position that makes use of my most prominent aptitudes. So for that I am grateful.
  • Most of the people here are a joy to be around all day, and even the ones who aren’t 100% fun 100% of the time are still pretty cool.
  • I don’t have to tuck in my shirt or even wear real shoes if I don’t want to, and the three people I am directly responsible are awesome and I love them.
  • I’ve been here three years, and I’m still allowed to be hourly, but with benefits. So really, this place is pretty awesome.

So, I like where I work, but here are a few key differences between unfolding my laptop at my desk at the office and unfolding onto my coffee table at home:

  • If I work from home, I don’t have to drive there. I hate driving to work because I hate stoplights, and I swear, Fort Worth seems to have stoplights every twenty feet. And I’ve mentioned before that pretty much every place I go regularly is narrowed at some point by orange cones, so that also beats me down. Never mind that driving to work means rumbling over two sets of brick-paved roads, behind pokey work trucks, behind pokey day laborer trucks and occasionally behind pokey cattle.
  • At my house, the only traffic past my workspace is me. For whatever reason, out of the three different rooms I’ve been in at the office, two of them have been high traffic areas. Now, I am out of my seat a lot, and I know where I’m going, which is no where important. But most of the other traffic is all busily work-related, and this annoys me. It’s pretty much “CHOO CHOO! OFF TO ANOTHER MEETING!”
  • The other thing that fills my office during the day and eventually causes me to go outside is the constant VOO! VOO! as people are paged over their speakerphones. I’m sorry, but I cannot ignore this. My brain won’t let me. My apartment is for all practical measurements devoid of ringing phones. No one really calls me, and I enjoy it. But up here, man I can hardly think for all the fucking phonecalls.
  • At home during the day, my complex is mostly silent, and I have the sliding glass door to look out of. Now granted, my view contains some old lawnchairs, Junior’s friends’ cigarette butts, but it’s a lot of natural light, and this makes me happy.
  • I honestly get more stuff done.

Basically, the things that stick in my craw are the sort of things that would stick at my craw in any office. I mean, how many businesses never get phone calls? If you answered ones that are out of business, that’s probably the best answer. But man, I am pretty distracted anyway, and all the interference makes it all the more difficult to focus.

I don't know if it's ADD or if I was supposed to be autistic but my wires crossed correctly at the last possibly instant, giving me a brain that developed mostly normally. But I am highly susceptible to the sound of other people's voices, and it takes all my focus (or a really compelling Wikipedia article--say, one about G.I. JOEs, for example) in order for me to ignore it. Other people's voices, combined with incessantly ringing telephones, combined with what is probably waiting to be spoken on the other end of the ringing telephones makes me fucking crazy sometimes.

Anyway, I like working from home.

--The Robo-Pirate