Greg Lake : 1947-2016

So I have to say right off the bat that I wasn’t a huge fan of Emerson, Lake, and Palmer or King Crimson growing up. I’d heard things on AOR stations like ROCK104 out of Fort Wayne, IN and 95.3 WAOR out of Niles, MI. Brain Salad Surgery was an album I cherry picked from in my teen years as I thought since I was a Rush fan I should probably like that album as well. Turns out that wasn’t a prerequisite to being a Rush fan, but I still ended up buying a cassette copy of ELPs Pictures At An Exhibition on a whim. The only thing it did was impress my Music Appreciation teacher. King Crimson I only got into after realizing Adrian Belew was in the 80s version of the band and I got pretty heavy into Discipline, Beat, and Three Of A Perfect Pair, as well as their VROOM record in the early 90s.

In the early 2000s I bought an album buy a band called Wondermints. They were this incredibly talented power pop band that backed Brian Wilson on his Smile tour, as well as his reinterpretation of the Smile album in the early 2000s as well. On their album Bali they had a song called “In And Around Greg Lake” which I absolutely loved. It sounded nothing like ELP or King Crimson, but I figured if these guys dug Greg Lake(or at the very least took the time to name a song after the guy) then maybe I should give him another chance. So I went back and revisited all those ELP records and In The Court Of The Crimson King and was pretty floored by them.

I’ve since grown to love Lake’s work on those early pivotal progressive rock albums. His singing and bass work were as important and vital to the bands and albums he was involved with as anything. He helped set the precedent for the guy leading the progressive rock charge by manning these bands front and center. I’m not sure if he knew how important he was, but if he’s reading this on some other existential plain, know that you were indeed important to expanding minds, opening hearts, and bashing open doors to deeper musical consciousness Mr. Lake. Your bass playing was outstanding and your vocal delivery was on par with some of the best. I’m saddened to hear of your lost battle with the big C, so may you find peace in the next stage.

It’s been a pretty miserable year(even before November 8th), but take heed friends and readers. 2017 is just around the corner and it’s a chance to hit the reset button. It’s a chance to look back on 2016 and have that feeling of ease come over us as it sits stagnantly in our rearview mirror. We’ve lost some truly incredible artists and have seen some incredible tragedies(Oakland Warehouse fire the most recent one…at least here in the US.) Let’s brush off the dust, get up from where we’ve fallen down, and begin that trek to the finish line. I know you can do it. We can all do it.

Despite it all….still you turn me on.

 

Dr. Dog : Abandoned Mansion

Like a friend wanting to console you after a great disappointment, Dr. Dog have emerged from the wilderness of the post-election shock and awe to give us something todog ease our worried minds and pained hearts. It seems the Philly folk/soul/rock philistines entered their studio and for two weeks belted out a song a day in order to give the world a calming voice to connect to. Abandoned Mansion is the culmination of that two weeks. It’s a “back to basics” affair, filled with ghostly melodies, beautiful harmonies, gently strummed acoustics, and piano strewn throughout. The band have dubbed this record “easy peasy” listening and I believe this description is apropos. Abandoned Mansion is a gentle arm around your shoulder telling you “Hey, it’s gonna be okay. Really, it is.”

If you’re a follower of the Dr. Dog fellows you know that the songs are put into two categories: McMicken songs and Leaman songs. Guitarist Scott McMicken and bassist Toby Leaman take turns stepping up to lead vocal duties. While there’s a consistency among their songs(the songs are put together as a band), their vocals give a unique presence to the tracks. McMicken’s songs have a fragile nature to them; whimsical vocals and wobbly construction give his vocal-inflected tracks a delicate nature. They’re like an antique ornament you take great care in hanging on the Christmas tree. Toby Leaman on the other hand has powerfully soulful pipes that he’s honed into quite the instrument over the course of 10 years+ of writing, recording, and performing.

“Casual Freefall” opens the record as if you’re walking into some old musty bar in some long lost part of town. The same old ghosts that haunted the joint 30 years ago are still there, some rooted on bar stools and some in spirit hovering over the proceedings in stale, smoke-infused air. The jukebox whispers this track in the background as if it’s subtly trying to tell you something very important. It’s aged to perfection. Leaman’s vocals welcome us in “Ladada” and they envelope us in warm regards and nostalgia. His question within the confines of this beautiful track “Do you need a friend?” is easily answered: of course we need a friend, Toby. Now more than ever. Keep singing. I think that helps. “I Saw Her For The First Time” is almost chamber pop with its exquisitely arranged strings. Scott McMicken’s gently delicate vocals add just the right amount of humble earnestness. It’s a love song of the highest order. “Could’ve Happened To Me” sounds like a cross between Songs From Big Pink and Dylan’s “Wigwam”. It’s got all the drunken sway of the latter with the eloquent raconteuer quality of the former. “Both Sides Of The Line” has a Ray Davies vibe, after the big productions of the early 70s and when Davies got back to basics in the late-70s. Title track “Abandoned Mansion” has all those elements that made you fall in love with Dr. Dog way back in 2007 with We All Belong.

Dr. Dog have made a record of “meat and potatoes” intentions. There are no experimental fancies or over-produced pop/soul declarations. What Abandoned Mansion is, is simply a record of breezy songs with only one goal: to give our tired ears a much needed refrain from the static and squall. Dr. Dog have paroled us from the sentence of anger and disillusionment, even for only an album’s length at a time.

From now until the end of January, all album download proceeds will go to the Southern Poverty Law Center. 

7. 8 out of 10

Dime Store Nihilists

I suppose the fact that I spent the money I did on the Mondo release of the Fight Club S/T would put me in bad graces with the film’s titular angry imaginary best friend Tyler Durden(oops, spoiler. If you haven’t seen the film by now you obviously don’t have internet on the compound in which you live so it doesn’t really matter.) Anyways, I don’t really care what Tyler Durden thinks because I have a vinyl problem and when I saw the nifty unpackaging video Mondo posted I was pretty much a goner. “Here’s my digits. Where’s…my…vinyl?!” If you haven’t seen that exquisite piece of marketing, here you go:

Okay, so I feel like kind of a sucker about this whole thing, but man the Dust Brothers completely went above and beyond for this score. Truth be told, I didn’t even remember the music from Fight Club. In fact I’d pretty much written off the movie altogether after trying to watch it around 5 years ago. It had been years up to that point since I’d last seen the cult-ish hit by auteur David Fincher and on a night when the wife and I didn’t know what to watch I thought I’d throw the two-disc special edition DVD into the player for fun.

I loved the movie the first time I watched it, which was June of 200o. We were newly anointed parents with an itch to spend some money and get out of the house, so we headed to Best Buy and bought two new cameras(one digital and one 35mm film) to document our happy, exhaustive, mentally draining, but ultimately happy first years as new parents. A quick browse through the movies and I found the Fight Club Special Edition DVD so I grabbed that, too. Cause you know, nihilistic violence and a middle finger to consumerism was what I was all about as I was checking out at the Best Buy.

Anyways, this movie knocked me on my ass then. The deadpan gallows humor, the creative cinematography, the middle finger to corporate America, and the overall bloody smirk the film shoved down our throats was just what an overweight, new father and employee of the “machine” needed to see in June of 2000. Fincher had(and still does) a knack for framing a shot and creating something unique for the  big screen. Everything about Fight Club just screamed “This is the future of film, people!” I was already a fan of Fincher prior to Fight Club. Se7en was one of my favorite movies of the 90s, and The Game was another visceral movie experience with Fincher’s unique dark cinema color palate. Fight Club was proof to me that Fincher was bound for great things. Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, Helena Bonham Carter, Jared Leto, Meatloaf, and a slew of other great actors came together and made this movie the monster that it was.

So, back to 5 years ago.

About 30 minutes into Fight Club I shut it off. I’m not sure who I was back in 2000 when I watched it, but that guy and me five years ago would’ve disagreed wholeheartedly on our interpretations of the film. I was kind of appalled at what I was watching five years ago. The gallows humor just seemed tasteless. The middle finger to corporate America just seemed empty and shallow; more like a wink and a smirk than actually raging against the machine. The direction, cinematography, and acting were all still good, but the overall vibe just made me a little sick. The irony of spending the extra cash on a Special Edition verison of a film that extols the virtues of nihilism, chaos, and the complete rejection of consumerism was a little too much for me to bare. I even took a shot at Palahniuk’s book to see if maybe there was something deeper within the pages that the movie could explain. Maybe I’m just not jaded enough to get it anymore. Maybe had there been more of an emphasis of the ridiculousness of it all I could appreciate it more.

Or not.

dsc04992So here I am, five years later with the Fight Club S/T spinning on the turntable and not an ounce of irony is touching me. Why? Because even though this is the score to Fincher’s flick, this is also a hell of a trip hop album by two guys that changed the game in terms of innovative album building and production.

The Dust Brothers(aka Michael Simpson and John King) have helped to create some of the most iconic albums of my youth. Odeley by Beck pretty much told the world that Beck Hansen was more than just a one-album wonder. It really sort of defined Generation X, for better or worse. The record was solid start to finish. It was also a huge success. Or “yuge”, in the Trump age. Anyways, this wasn’t the album that made me a Dust Brothers fanboy. No, that distinction goes to Paul’s Boutique, a record that Time Magazine rated as one of the best records of all time. I really can’t argue with that. It took three Jewish punks from New York and turned them from drunk Frat guys to stoned and trippy harbingers of the new musical frontier. There was still the college humor and sophomoric goofiness that defined them on License To Ill, but the production had turned into this labyrinthine cacophony of dusty samples and enlightened fart jokes that sort of sounded like Yauch, Diamond, and Horovitz having their heads opened up to the universe for the first time in their lives. The work Simpson and King did on that album is this massive patchwork of funk and rock samples carefully sewn together with THC resin, LSD, cheap beer, and a drive to push things to the next level. I don’t think this album could be made today with all of the licensing issues, so it stands as this shining beacon of creativity and an album from simpler era.

dsc04985Having said all of that, why wouldn’t I buy The Dust Brothers’ score to Fight Club? It really seems to be a no-brainer. Who knows, maybe I’ll sit down and watch Fight Club here soon. It’s been 5 years. Maybe seeing it with newer eyes I might not find it as reprehensible. Stranger things have happened.

“The Doodle shall Prevail” : The Art of Frank Louis Allen

 

Artwork by Frank Louis Allen

 

It’s not often we find our main passion in our 30s, yet that is what happened with Fort Wayne by way of the UK artist Frank Louis Allen. After a back injury left him partially disabled back in 2011, Allen began drawing. He began sharing his work on the Facebook page “Artists and Autism”, an online community that promotes autism acceptance through art. This page allowed Allen to connect with other autistic artists and he began hosting weekly videocasts of his drawing. The page also introduced him to the founder of the community, Kara Stewart Allen. In 2013 Allen moved to Fort Wayne to marry Kara and become a full-time Hoosier.

Allen’s work is in-the-moment, spontaneous, and free form. It’s big and busy, with what feels like worlds being created within the pieces. I look at his work and I’m reminded of graffiti and subway art of the 70s and 80s. Work that was featured in documentaries like Style Wars and Kings of Broadway. There’s a certain confidence that comes through his work that pulls you into Allen’s world. I had the opportunity to sit down with Frank Louis Allen and talk to him about his art and what inspires his creativity.


J. Hubner: So where did you grow up?

Frank Louis Allen: I grew up in a county just north of London, England called Bedfordshire.

J. Hubner: What was your childhood like? What sort of kid were you?

Frank Louis Allen:  My childhood was mostly good except for the frustration of having Autism. I would find it very hard to balance my emotional reactions. I was mostly non verbal only talking to my brothers and sisters and absolutely nobody else until about my 3rd year of school.The other kids would always come around me and watch me draw as a kid.

J. Hubner: At what age were you diagnosed with Autism?

Frank Louis Allen: Like millions of people with autism you would not be able to tell we have it just by looking at us. I wasn’t diagnosed until my early thirties when I was tested at one of the worlds top research hospitals for Autism in London. They found that I was measured  in the top 1% of people for Visual Cognition (Visual IQ.) I hadn’t drawn much since I left school as I was overly anxious about needing a reason to draw something which is a shame. Just a few years ago I got over this by discovering that if I thought of myself as listening to music rather then drawing, I could draw without thinking about what I was drawing to good results. I feel my art expresses to me things about my emotions that I may sometimes not be able to put my finger on.

frank-creating-art-insoltion-for-the-coreJ. Hubner: So you had to take that component of intellectualizing your creative process and make it more of a stream-of-consciousness and visceral experience. Drawing to you is like putting on an album and just getting lost in it? 

Frank Louis Allen: Yes totally stream of consciousness. If i try to think about what to draw I’ve got nothing. I think the music distracts my brain enough for me to not think about it. Your subconscious does so many calculations in everyday life. When it comes to art and spacial awareness it has your back. I also have had a genetic eye condition since birth called RP, Retinitis Pigjentosa. I can’t replace eye cells as they die.  This way of drawing gives me hope that I can carry on as my eyesight degenerates.

frank-doing-collaborative-drawingJ. Hubner: So let’s talk about your art. You have such a distinct style. It’s big, colorful, and it seems to carry within it it’s own little universe with each piece. It’s like a microcosm of a million thoughts all coming together at once. Can you tell me about your influences that go into informing what comes out on paper? Growing up what were some things that pushed you to want to create? 

Frank Louis Allen: As a child at school I remember continually doodling during class. When I left school drawing for the most part stopped. I think my style of line is heavily influenced by comic book illustration, not the usual art you see in galleries. I am most comfortable in black and white and create most of my pieces with broad chisel tip Sharpie markers. I really feel out of my depth when it comes to using color. If I do color one of my pieces it is usually using a program on the computer, as I have found that working with paints completely throws hurdles into my whole process of creating. Although, people are generally very happy with the results of my colored work. Mostly the artwork is not consciously influenced by any artists as I know next to nothing about art. I just draw lines with no image or plan in my head and the drawings I create end up resembling whatever people see in them. I use music to keep this process as free as possible. I’ve never been someone with the ability to see an image in his head.

J. Hubner: Can you tell me how you ended up in Fort Wayne, Indiana from London? What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of living in the Midwest as opposed to the UK?

Frank Louis Allen: I met my wife online through her Facebook page Artists and Autism. It is a group that shares anyone’s work who shares with us and has autism. We currently have over 200,000 followers. We co-hosted an autism art show, and spoke to each other a lot, so I came over to America and stayed. Fort Wayne has offered fantastic art opportunities. It is a thriving place for it, it seems. Although I really miss how easily I can travel around near London. I could jump on a bus or a train and travel anywhere. America is the worst place in the world for this. I also miss being able to walk to get food. You are very limited to big chains in the states unless you are blessed with living close to downtown.

Frank Louis Allen drawing during the Flaming Lips' set at Middle Waves Festival, September 2016
Frank Louis Allen drawing during the Flaming Lips’ set at Middle Waves Festival, September 2016

J. Hubner: What was the experience like with the Middle Waves Festival? You were live drawing to the Flaming Lips as they performed their set, is that right? Where were you set up? Did you do that with any of the other performers over that weekend? 

Frank Louis Allen: Middle Waves was fantastic. I got a massive buzz from drawing to the bands there. I set myself up in the VIP area there. I was really thankful for the free pass the organizers set me up with. I also wandered around and created drawings to other acts, my favorite of which being Night Is Electric. They were just phenomenal. In fact all the acts I saw were.

frank-at-event-to-promote-coloring-bookJ. Hubner: Let’s talk about your recently released coloring book, ‘Coloring With Frank Louis Allen : Vol 1’. How did the idea to release a coloring book come about? Where is it available?

Frank Louis Allen: The coloring book is already available from Amazon all around the world. Just put my name in and up it pops. People have been saying to me for the past few years that they would like to color my drawings so I was pleased to fill that demand. I picked out quite a selection of different pieces and I really look forward to seeing what people do with them and where it takes the pieces.

a2-eagleJ. Hubner: Can we also talk about the weekly art show you host(or hosted?) on autismbrainstorm.org? How did this show come about? 

Frank Louis Allen: A friend asked me if I was interested in doing this show a few years ago. I got to draw whilst I talked to people from all around the world about autism and art. It was really great creating alongside people in both Germany and Canada at the same time. Someday I hope to pick it back up again.

J. Hubner: Besides your drawings you also create music under the name of R. Dakota. Is your musical process similar to your drawing process? Is is in-the-moment and spontaneous? ‘The I’ve been thinking about you lately session’ sounds very raw. Who are some musical influences?

Frank Louis Allen: Yes I create music in exactly the same fashion, just hit record and start to play and sing. A lot of the stuff seems to come out almost fully formed, but the downside of this process is I’m not very good at taking the music further. It seems to constantly change and shift. I’m working on this. When I do get the opportunity to play live it is always a very heartfelt experience and people really appreciate it even though the edges are a bit rough sometimes. I would say the biggest influences of the R.Dakota sessions are Frank Black and the Pixies, Bright Eyes and Nick Cave and the Bad seeds. Music and food are probably the two things that excite me the most in the whole world.

isolation-dayJ. Hubner: Are you exhibiting any pieces here in Fort Wayne? Are you showing in any galleries? Where do you direct folks that want to see your work?

Frank Louis Allen: There is a large permanent gallery of my work downstairs in the Academic Center of Indiana Tech University. I was very flattered to get such a gallery with so much of my work in such a cool building It is the best and easiest place to visit to see my work on display.

J. Hubner: What do you have planned for the immediate future? Will there be a volume 2 for the coloring book? Any performance art pieces in the works?

Frank Louis Allen: I’m hoping to do some new exhibitions around Fort Wayne and I am currently getting the right pieces together to accomplish this. I’m also hoping to set up some local signings for my coloring books. I’m looking to release Volume Two in March of 2017. Meanwhile, Volume One is easy to find on Amazon.


Keep up with Frank Louis Allen and his amazing art over at his Facebook page. You can also find out more about Frank here. Pick up his coloring book over at Amazon. And remember, the doodle shall prevail.

 

Time Loves A Hero

I can remember being a kid and watching superhero TV shows and movies. I loved the fantasy and the escape to some other world than mine. I can also remember feeling like I wish those superhero worlds were a little closer to what I imagined in my head. Not the safe worlds of Christopher Reeves’ Clark Kent and Adam West’s Bruce Wayne. Something that felt as if it was happening in the same world I called home. A place where my hometown was pulled into the void of imaginative minds like Stan Lee, Alan Moore, and Frank Miller. Those were worlds I wanted to see when I watched fantasy. It was the “Calgon, take me away” moment, but for a 10-year old. Star Wars acted as that for me through most of my younger years. It was fantasy but it felt real. Tatooine’s harsh deserts, Endor’s Redwood Forest-like atmosphere, and Hoth’s frozen Antarctic-like environment made these strange worlds from a long time ago seem not so foreign to me. I needed something that bridged the gap between my world and those fantasy worlds.

dsc04976Tim Burton’s Batman was the first comic book movie that added that grit of real life into the comic book movie. Burton used Frank Miller’s Dark Knight tale as the foundation for his film adaptation. It may have moved around a bit and took liberties, but the dark and seedy Gotham Miller shined a dim light on shone through. Well a hell of a lot of years later and I think I’ve found the perfect superhero adaptations. Two years ago Netflix premiered the first season of their collaboration with Marvel in Daredevil. It was this beautifully shot piece of TV/cinema hybrid about the Stan Lee-created blind lawyer by day/vigilante by night Matt Murdock. In it Charlie Cox played Murdock, the lucky with the ladies do-gooder lawyer starting up his own law firm with best friend Foggy Nelson, played by the annoyingly lovable Elden Henson. Both as himself and as Daredevil, Murdock takes on sex traffickers, crooks, thugs, crime lords, his own mentor Stick(played by the excellent Scott Glenn), and the Kingpin himself, Wilson Fisk(played with perfection by Vincent D’Onofrio.) It was gritty, violent, well written, acted, shot, and took great care to make you feel for these characters(even the not-so nice ones.)

dsc04974Last November the next Marvel/Netflix creation hit the streaming service. Jessica Jones was about a former superhero-turned-private eye after realizing she wasn’t nearly as super as some of her compatriots in the super hero world. It starred the wonderful Krysten Ritter. Ritter plays Jones as a no-nonsense private dick that mainly finds cheating spouses for spurned partners, staying out till all hours of the night, drinking too much and generally hiding from the rest of society when she can. She finds a flawed kindred spirit in bar owner Luke Cage, aka Powerman. They find partners in themselves of equal strength that works well in both street brawls and in-between the sheets. The main villain on the first season of Jessica Jones is the Purple Man, played by my favorite Dr. Who David Tennant. He can control people just by speaking to them, which is what he did to Jones prior to her becoming a private eye. It’s yet another beautifully crafted series that takes a not-so famous hero from the Marvel world and turns them into something relatable. They take them from the skies and alternate dimensions and put them in the streets where we could pass them as we walked to get a bagel or a cup of coffee.

Finally, just a couple months ago Luke Cage was released. It stars Mike Colter as the Powerman himself, hanging out in Pop’s barbershop trying to just keep to himself and not get involved in anyone’s affairs but his own. Of course that doesn’t last long as he gets pulled into the world of Harlem kingpin Cornell Stokes, aka Cottonmouth(played beautifully by Mahershala Ali), his crooked politician cousin Mariah Dillard(the always great Alfre Woodard), and the deadly and mysterious Willis Stryker, aka Diamondback, played with viciousness by Erik LaRay Harvey. There’s good cops and crooked cops, more bad guys, and a helpful and tough nurse named Claire Temple played by the always great Rosario Dawson(she shows up as Claire in both Daredevil and Jessica Jones, too.)

dsc04977If you ask me, this is the absolute best way to tell stories like these. Instead of shoving all these amazing characters and ideas into a single 2 hour movie that condenses them down to just essence and moments of brilliance, you spread it out into 10 to 12 45-50 minute episodes. This allows time to get to know these characters. You invest in their lives and their struggles. This is true storytelling. When you condense these storylines down to fit into the 2 hour timeframe of a popcorn flick for a Friday night at the local cinema you’re left with a hurried story that leaves you wanting. It leaves you with just some fight scenes and explosions. No real emotional investment. With The Avengers, X-Men, Batman, Superman, and the like we’re all so familiar with these characters that we can just jump right into a film and not miss a beat. 2 1/2 hours at the cinema with these old friends is all the time we need. With these lesser known characters having serialized shows we’re being taken behind the curtains and seeing what it’s like to be “super” among the common folks. This is street level super. Matt Murdock, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage are the common folk superheroes. They came from where we came from. They’re flawed; they drink, they swear, they screw, and their morals can sometimes be questionable.

They’re just like us.

dsc04975And just because these are superhero shows doesn’t mean they’re for kids. Not all superheroes are geared towards kids. These characters were written not with the dreams and fears of children in mind, but of grown men with real-world problems in their minds. Violence, crime, racism, crumbling societies, and bullet-riddled inner city streets. These heroes were created not to battle aliens, super villains, and the Nazis. They were created to battle street thugs, drug dealers, crime lords, and those that want to control our lives in ways we don’t want them to. What we have in Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage is walking the beat superheroes, warts and all.

I love everything about these shows. I’m obsessed with them, really. They’re everything I’ve ever wanted in a superhero show. Violence, humor, tragedy, sex, and perfect casting that all come together to make pivotal entertainment. And yes, the scores for these shows are spot on. So much so that I had to buy the scores when they were recently released by Mondotees. Colorful, beautiful artwork, they sound amazing. Daredevil and Jessica Jones arrived last week. Luke Cage will be here soon, hopefully.

If you havent’ watched these shows yet, what the hell are you waiting on? Get on it. Iron Fist hits in March. Get. On. It.

 

 

 

Conversations With Jack

 

Artwork by Jason Stephenson

It seems like a lifetime, but it was actually 10 years ago that I started a band called Goodbyewave. Well, it was just me at first. Then in 2006 I started playing with a drummer named Jack. Jack had been my neighbor for nearly 10 years prior to that but I’d never actually played with him. I knew who he was. I’ve known him since I was a kid when I’d ride my bike back in the woods behind my parent’s house. Jack and his wife built one of the first houses in the Pines. I remember riding my bike by his house and hearing him playing his drums to Led Zeppelin and being impressed. For a kid who grew up listening to Led Zeppelin with his parents and then hearing some guy playing along perfectly to “Black Dog” out in the woods, well I was pretty floored.

Anyways, one day back in 2006 Jack walked over to the house while I was outside mowing the yard and he introduced himself. He asked if I still played guitar(he had remembered seeing my old band coming over back in the late 90s.) I said yeah but just on my own. He suggested we should get together some time to just jam and I said sure. So he started coming over in the afternoons after work and we began messing around with some riffs and song ideas I had. From the summer of 2006 clear through to the summer of 2007 we would get together and jam and record. We ended up with an album’s worth of material and called it Bright Lights, Strange Nights. One of my oldest friends created the album art and my old guitar teacher mastered the whole thing. I made the CDs at home on my computer and printed off the inserts at home as well. I think it was as DIY as it gets. I think it turned out to be a pretty decent album, and I’m proud of it to this day. A lot of it was pure collaboration, between me and Jack. We’d get an idea and just run with it. It was one of the most fruitful times of my life creatively. I’d played in a band before, but I was still figuring out who I was as a songwriter. By the time Jack came around I was pretty comfortable with my songwriting. I just needed a musical partner to help me bring the songs to life. Jack was my musical partner.

brightlightsFor five years Jack and I would get together in my makeshift studio in my basement and we’d write and record songs together. In those five years we created four albums and one EP. Even though Jack was 16 years older than me, we connected on a musical level. His musical tastes weren’t necessarily my cup of tea, but he dug what I was writing. Other than playing in lousy cover bands that would play gigs at a local strip club, Jack had never played with someone that wrote their own music. And since I’d never played with someone that could play “Tom Sawyer” by Rush really well I think we were the perfect fit for each other. For a time, anyways.

interiorsAs with most people that consider themselves an artist of some sort, I was wanting to go into new territory with my music. I wanted to try more electronic stuff, more garage-y stuff, and Jack was kind of a one-trick pony. He never did much with the high-hat except keep it tight. I wanted the drums to be brasher, louder, and more experimental. Jack just kept things conservative and uniform. I told him I wanted to record an album on my own and he acted like I’d told him to go to Hell. I ended up recording an album under my own name, but by the end of it I was kind of spent(it was an emotional group of songs and I was dealing with some personal stuff), so I was ready to  get back to having a musical partner. I started demoing songs and giving them to him so he could learn them on his own to help save time. What it actually did was show me I didn’t really need the musical partner anymore. At least not Jack. We finished the album called Dog Days and I instantly went back into solo mode and put out a scrappy little album under the name Sunnydaymassacre. It was recorded on a beat up Tascam 4-track cassette recorder in like 3 weeks. I hadn’t had that much fun writing and recording since I first started playing with Jack.

This was the end of Jack and I.

I told him I just didn’t have time to play anymore. With the kids getting older and more school activities the time wasn’t there. He said that’s fine. Take a break. Then when I was ready we could reconvene. Instead, I just began writing and recording on my own. I started this blog and found a whole new voice I could speak with. A whole new virtual crew of like-minded folks. Music wasn’t the be all end all. Music was something fun I could do when I had the time and inclination. Plus, I found that being a dad and hanging out watching cartoons and playing with Star Wars action figures with my kids was kind of fun. Jack was looking like a guy trying to hold onto a youth that had grown up without him. A guy not willing to move on and grow. I just couldn’t relate to him anymore.

So once this break began, Jack would occasionally walk over on summer days and ask how things were; ask about the kids, the job, how nice my yard looked, and then get around to music. He’d ask if I was still playing, and ask if maybe I’d have time to just jam or something. I’d give him the obligatory answers about my life and then tell him I just really didn’t have time to play. Not at that point. Maybe during Christmas break, or when school got less crazy for the kids. He’d say sure, no problem. Just give him a call when time would free up. I’d say sure. He’d walk back over to his house and down another Mike’s Hard Lemonade and go about his odd behavior.

img_2565The thing with Jack is that he has Multiple Sclerosis. He was diagnosed in his 20s and was even paralyzed at first. But this guy started at a point of looking at life in a wheelchair to running 5 miles a day, becoming a 4th degree black belt, and becoming a star R&D guy at one of the world’s premier orthopedic companies. He knew what he had to do to beat the disease and he did it. I’ve always admired Jack for that. Around 2011 he started having problems with his MS. His pain meds he’d been on for years started to fail him. He had to go on short term disability and take a series of tests and other meds to see what could work. MS was back and wasn’t going to leave. He would only come outside when it was extremely hot. One day he came over and told me he was going to go into his backyard and cut some really tall weeds down and wondered if I’d keep an eye on him from our house. Just to make sure he didn’t pass out from the heat. I said sure. About 20 minutes later I looked out the front window and noticed Jack was sitting down on the ground with the weed wacker still running. I ran over and he was mumbling and crying, not making any sense. My wife came running over with ice water and a cool rag. I sat there with him and consoled him till his son arrived home. One other time we were in our kitchen when there was a knock on the garage door. It was Jack. He was talking about people needing to get together and get things going. People needed to get their ideas happening. He acted like he was drunk. He was sweating like crazy. He asked if he could have a cold rag. I tried talking to him and he started crying and not making any sense. Our kids were in the living room and got a little freaked out about the whole thing. He eventually went back home and the next day came by to talk and acted as if it never happened.

This had become the norm.

I started closing the garage door to avoid any Jack visits. Every time I’d see him outside he’d be acting strangely or he’d be inebriated. The other neighbors said they heard a banging on the side of their house one night and it turned out to be Jack kicking a kickball at their house. It was 1 am. It got to the point that I’d avoid going outside if he was out. I knew that his behavior had a lot to do with his MS. The docs throwing him onto new meds when old ones weren’t working. He went from short term disability to long term disability. I know that was emasculating for him, as he was always on the go at work. He traveled the world, only to be grounded in the pines.

jackWhy am I bringing all this up? Well, I was outside Friday afternoon trying to clean up the leaves before our first snowfall. I had my noise-cancelling headphones on when I turned and there was Jack. He was looking at me smiling and waving. I turned off the leaf blower and took off the headphones. We had small talk about the kids, the job, how nice the yard looked. Then of course he asked if I was still playing music. I told him when I had time. It was hard with work, the kids in school, and my writing. I told him I was messing around with a synthesizer lately and this look of sheer disappointment came over his face. He said “You’re so talented, you could do more than that.” I told him they were harder to learn than he thought. He said “Well, I guess that’s alright.” He then said he missed playing with me, and that maybe if I ever had even 30 minutes to just get together and jam that would be great. I’d been down this road with him before, and I know I should’ve laid on the hard reality that I had no interest to ever play with him again, but I told him maybe if I have some time over Christmas break I’d call him. He said “That’s all I ask. That would be great.” He was either already drunk or on some pain meds. He was slurring his words. The thin and fit guy I used to play music with was puffy in the face and had a gut on him. His hair had gone from brown to white and was thinning. He looked old and tired, but the talk of playing music lit up his face. I told him I needed to finish up the yard because I had to leave to pick up my son from school so he said no problem. I put my hand out to shake his and we shook hands. I said “It was good talking to you Jack. Take care.” He said “You too, buddy.” At that point I had this overwhelming feeling of sadness. I didn’t feel sorry for him. It wasn’t that. I just felt a sadness for that musical relationship and the friendship we had for five years and how it was gone. How he never moved on from it. The onset of our musical demise seemed to line up painfully perfect with the return of that monster called Multiple Sclerosis that haunted him all those years ago. I gave Jack a big hug and said I’d talk to him soon. He smiled and said “I can’t wait, Bud!” He left and I put my headphones back on and began blowing leaves once more.

I don’t know if I’ll call Jack or not. The time really isn’t there like it used to be. I wasn’t lying about that. But something in me makes me think time will never be there if you don’t make it yourself. And maybe I should make time for my old drummer friend Jack. What would it hurt?

Nothing I suppose.

Editor’s Note: This is not an ad for my music. This is a tribute to a guy that helped me make some music that was in my head. But for the curious, I’ve included a few highlights of the “Jack” years. Feel free to peruse them. You can check out all of the albums here if you like. There is also a video of the only live Goodbyewave performance, recorded at Wooden Nickel Music in May of 2010. My good friend Shane Darin Page played bass for the show. 

 

 

Call Me A Dog

In the fall of 1990 I picked up a cassette by Mother Love Bone called Apple. I’d heard their song “Stardog Champion” and felt I needed the album. After arriving home from the mall and giving the case a good once over I noticed on the back of the cassette cover it said “In Memory Of Andrew Wood”. “Hmm, who’s that?”, I thought to myself before pulling out the sleeve to read the lyrics and noticed Andrew Wood was the singer.

Oh. Wow. Well that’s a real bummer.

I grew to absolutely love Apple and Mother Love Bone. They were a unique band in a sea of sameness in the music scene of 1990-1991. They were unabashedly open in regards to their love of 70s AOR rock. Wood was a Freddie Mercury fan, and his flamboyant fashion and love of entertaining a crowd of music lovers is what made Mother Love Bone so special. It was a bittersweet thing, to discover a new band and fall in love with their album only to know that you’d never get anything else from them because arguably the heart of the band had tragically stopped beating.

dsc04970Fast forward to April 1991 and the release of Temple of the Dog, a musical therapy session of sorts. Temple of the Dog consisted of Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell and Matt Cameron, Mother Love Bone’s Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament, as well as guitarist Mike McCready(there was this Ed Vedder guy that showed up and sang on a song, too.) It was essentially Seattle friends coming together to mourn the death of their friend, roommate, and band mate Andrew Wood. Cornell was his friend and roommate and took his death from a heroin overdose especially hard. He wrote two songs about his friend, “Say Hello 2 Heaven” and “Reach Down”. He asked Gossard and Ament to help him record them which turned into coffee, jam sessions, and some one-off shows around Seattle. Two songs turned into 10 and Temple of the Dog was born.

As well as being a fan of Mother Love Bone in 1991 I was also a huge Soundgarden fan. I’d bought Louder The Love a year before and was pretty much blown away. Cornell had a voice that burned right through you. He showed a knack for belting out inhuman barks that could shatter longnecks for miles around, but on first listen to the opening track of Temple of the Dog I was floored. “Say Hello 2 Heaven” was this beautiful, soulful track that showed Chris Cornell was much more than a belting heavy metal banshee. “Reach Down” followed it up with over 11 minutes of phase-shifting guitar slow jams. Mike McCready is a disciple of Hendrix and David Gilmour and he shows his love for both on this track. He’ll take that guitar tone to even greater heights with Pearl Jam and Mad Season, but on this record his bluesy riffage is refreshing. “Hunger Strike” was the song that introduced the world to TotD, and the video by the sea showed the perfect mood for the gritty track. We were also introduced to Eddie Vedder(that guy that would go onto sing for that one band.)

dsc04971Elsewhere “Pushin’ Forward Back” is a banger. Riff-heavy track with some of Cornell’s best singing to this point. Matt Cameron has a way of making heavy drums sound more than just “rawk” drums. This song has some great drumming to back the biting guitars. There’s some great soulful moments, like on “Call Me A Dog”, and “All Night Thing”. There’s some real vulnerability, which is quite the juxtaposition to just a few months later when Cornell gets back to redefining metal in the age of generation X with songs like “Jesus Christ Pose” and “Outshined”. “Times Of Trouble” hint at things to come for Ament and Gossard as this track feels a lot like a Pearl Jam song. “Wooden Jesus” breaks new ground for all involved, and may or may not have influenced those Alice In Chains guys to unplug on a couple EPs. “Your Savior” is more crunchy riffage. This could’ve been a Soundgarden track. “Four Walled World” is a bluesy minor key jam that feels like a well worn pair of shoes you can slip right back into, no matter how long its been since you’ve worn them.

dsc04973Over time this album got lost in the mass of music I’ve purchased over the last 25 years, much like most of what I was listening to in high school. Well just a few months ago it was announced Temple of the Dog were getting back together for a few reunion shows to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Temple of the Dog‘s release. As well as a little tour they would be releasing a 25th anniversary edition of the album on double vinyl with a remixing by Brendan O’Brien. This got me thinking about all the car rides and late nights this album soundtracked for me. All the amazing albums this record had preceded. It was before Badmotorfinger, Ten, Nevermind, Dirt, Blood Sugar Sex Magik, and countless others I worshipped clear through 1993. In many ways I think Temple of the Dog upped the game for everyone. Not only that, but they did it with nothing in mind other than to grieve and heal from the loss of a friend. There were no preconceived notions to make a banger of an album. Some songs of healing turned into some incredible songwriting. “Hunger Strike”, “Call Me A Dog”, “Wooden Jesus”, and “Times Of Trouble” are absolute stellar songwriting, regardless of what you’re into. It’s a kind of musical magic that only comes from some great happiness or sadness. The soul longs to rejoice or repent in these moments, and music seems to be the spiritual elixir needed.

dsc04972Of course I had to buy this LP. It’s beautifully packaged and the remixing sounds absolutely amazing. Putting it on the turntable I was taken aback by just how good it sounded. There’s no dated engineering tricks or effects. It’s a timeless record, really. Five friends coming together in the studio and laying down these raw nerve emotions with guitar, bass, drums, and vocals. This is how music is supposed to sound when it means something. It’s an album that can’t be duplicated, replicated, or continued. What’s done is done. A second album under the name Temple of the Dog would be blasphemy in my opinion. It’s lightning in a bottle. A feeling of desperation that turns to joy.

I think Andrew Wood would’ve liked it.