Friday, January 19, 2018

El coronel no tiene quien le escriba

I work for a public school system. The city where that public school system is located is responsible for paying my invoices. I have a contract but no benefits other than the fact that I get to work from wherever I am, so long as I have my computer and an internet connection.

Why am I mentioning this? Because, it takes forever to get paid. Funding for public education on a national level is not the priority it should be. The school system that I work for, saw a freeze in the fall. As I understand it, only some of the funds to pay translators were released to the city due to budgetary restraints. That means that I've been paid only twice since the start of the school year back in August/September.

I have a brutal time saving money because I have a giant cash-flow problem. When I don't get paid on time, I incur debt. I have to take out loans. Then, when I get paid, I have to immediately turn around and cancel out as much of that debt as possible. And what remains, I use to pay taxes, maybe stash a little money in my IRA, keep as much cash on hand but then, what? How long will it be 'til my next paycheck? And the cycle starts up again. It's excrutiatingly frustrating. 


So, it's nearing 5pm on a Friday. I haven't seen a paycheck in about 6 weeks. I'm owed about a quarter of my yearly earnings, I have taxes that I still need to pay. It's my husband's birthday and I can't even go out to buy him a present or invite him to dinner. It is aggravating to say the least, and I no longer feel any satisfaction raising a fuss about my invoices not being processed on time when I call the Accounts Payable department. I feel like a brat for complaining. Then again, bills are due when they're due and I hate borrowing money like I've had to do for the better part of these past five or six months. Maybe the answer is to find another job, or another profession. Music isn't necessarily going to solve my financial woes, but in the past, it has always been that extra pad of income to get me through tough times like this. And for that, I'm really grateful to all the folks who have been following the blog and purchasing albums from the Bandcamp. I really appreciate that. It has helped me keep food in the fridge and I am always conscious of that fact.

Anyway, as I sit here this afternoon, returning emails and messages, and trying to stay organized with stuff, it occurs to me that one of the great Colombian authors, Gabriel García Márquez, has already captured what I'm going through, perfectly; much more profoundly and eloquently. So, this afternoon, I recommend a book that I read shortly after my father died. It's called El coronel no tiene quien le escriba (in English: No One Writes to the Colonel). Here's a link to the Wikipedia entry about the novella.  





From Wikipedia: The novel, written between 1956 and 1957 while living in Paris in the Hôtel des Trois Collèges and first published in 1961, is the story of an impoverished, retired colonel, a veteran of the Thousand Days' War, who still hopes to receive the pension he was promised some fifteen years earlier. The colonel lives with his asthmatic wife in a small village under martial law. The action opens with the colonel preparing to go to the funeral of a town musician whose death is notable because he was the first to die from natural causes in many years. The novel is set during the years of "La Violencia" in Colombia, when martial law and censorship prevail.


Wednesday, January 17, 2018

the routine midnight hike

I spent the past five minutes thinking about what to write about. I confess that I figured this exercise (keeping a blog in 2018) would be easy; that I'd have lots to write about on a regular basis. The point of it, on a personal level, was to do something productive. I wonder if at this point I shouldn't just focus some of the time I spend blogging, on writing and playing music again. I should. I still don't have a space. Here's hoping it'll happen.

Anyway, I remember the period of about 4 or 5 years that I last spent living in Portland, Maine. The place that I rented and took care of for a time was located in a neighborhood that bordered the beautiful back bay just to the west of downtown Portland. I could walk into town in about 40 minutes. The walk was brisk in the fall, freezing in the winter, comfortable in the spring, and delightful in the summer; utterly fantastic.

Life then was a special thing. I was developing a routine. Musically speaking, this period overlapped the last SPOUSE album, Confidence, and the first, self-titled, A SEVERE JOY album. The routine went like this: wake up around 6:30, eat breakfast, work until around 1 or 2pm (I telecommuted), if possible, go play tennis, come home, shower, cook, medi-tate/cate, work on music, record, print a rough mix of whatever I was working on, and take it for a walk. Often, I'd leave the house around midnight. I'd walk as short as a few blocks or as long as a few miles. My favorite walk was from Bryant St. to Back Bay. I'd walk partially around the boulevard and back. I would last about 25-30 minutes, depending on how far I walked. It was safe. I felt safe. When I got home, I slept. Really well.

I made a really wonderful friend then. She was my next door neighbor, Carol. She passed away this past November. I was at her side to say goodbye. I loved her a ton; she was a really amazing woman and a terrific friend. I'll write more about her one of these days. I promise.

Many times, I've wanted to walk around Quito at night, but it's just not advisable. There are muggings here. It's a big city with almost 4 million inhabitants, and it isn't safe. During the day, it can be a bit safer. For instance, on my birthday last year, my sister-in-law and her boyfriend took me for a walk around the old city, which makes me feel such nostalgia, even though it's relatively new to me. I wouldn't mind living in the old historic center, but I doubt we ever will. There's a lot of activity and a lot of traffic. Lots to see and do: old churches laden in gold, cool plazas full of morning doves, little cafés, funky dives, tourist shops, restaurants, and... 


I just remembered something. Last Friday, I took my mom and my father-in-law to a concert in the old city. The event was being presented for free at what was formerly a military hospital and has been remodeled into an art museum and café/salsa venue. What a cool venue. The concert began. It was mobbed. They'd been expecting 50 people and over 400 arrived. Also, it was less 'composed work' and more 'composition of sounds'. It was super arty. One couldn't see anything. It took place in the dark, in a small courtyard, with inadequate amplification. My mother and my father-in-law wanted to leave after about 3 minutes. It was raining like crazy, too. Still, I bet it was a magical event. I wish I'd been able to stay, but we left. :( I remember thinking, "...it's the responsibility of caring for older parents -sigh-".

The city at night here is beautiful. I wish we would go out more.

Back the point of this blog...


The walks in Portland, late at night, were terrific. I think all of the A SEVERE JOY songs are designed to be good for listening to when walking. That's the point. These records are meant to be taken for a walk. The tempos are built for it.

A Severe Joy is here if you're interested.




One thing you should know: it sounds the way it does on purpose. The high-end is cranked. There is a lot of sonic activity in the high end. These songs are tracked in layers. Lots of them. If you get a chance to listen to the album, I hope you will enjoy it. Thanks.

Monday, January 15, 2018

something lost, something found...

Yesterday, we had a lunchtime get-together for my husband. He turns 44 later this week. My in-laws came over along with a few of our nephews and nieces. It's an odd feeling. 11 years ago, I had no nephews or nieces. Now, my spouse and I have nine, plus a grand-nephew. It's an interesting feeling. 

My point, I guess, is that when I was bouncing back-and-forth between Maine and Hawaii about 5 years ago, one of the things I longed for was to have a stronger connection to family. I wasn't particular close with my sister at that point. Let's just say, it was really hard for me to have a conversation with her without veering into politics; a subject that would continuously drive a wedge between us. Years later, I would gain some clarity in realizing that the knowledge she lacks when it comes to current events, she more than makes up for in NFL stats. Maybe my real sister was kidnapped by mad scientists and replaced with an android? Who knows? Whatever the case may be, we're relatively close now. If we lived in New England, we would likely see each other more frequently. 

When I made the decision to move to Ecuador, part of the reason was so I could be closer to my father's family. They are comprised of several cousins and a few remaining aunts and uncles. What I discovered over time is that, while still close to my father's family, I actually see my husband's family more frequently. Part of it, is simply geographical. My in-laws all live within a kilometer or two of our apartment. My cousins live nearby, but with traffic, it can take up to an hour to get to where they live. 

So, yeah. When I left Maine, when I left Hawaii, when I left Western Massachusetts, I lost the family I had (comprised mostly of musicians and close friends), to the degree that I stopped seeing and interacting with everyone as frequently, but what I found in moving to Ecuador is the experience of family that I had yearned for. The concept of family varies from culture to culture. It hasn't always been easy for my husband to get along well with his siblings, but time passes, people change, and here we were, enjoying the day all together, hanging out, playing games, and chatting. It was kind of a perfect day as far as family goes. 

Saturday, January 13, 2018

cancer, guns, holding up, losing patience

Everything that I've been experiencing today ties in directly with why I hate guns. Guns are designed to do one of three things: intimidate, wound, or kill. My father died because he was shot in the head by mugger with a gun. My mother was with him when it happened. She survived it. It was the most tragic thing that has happened to my family. My mother now suffers from dementia. That dementia is made worse by the fact that she never sought psychological therapy after the incident. She dealt with it by trying to pray it away. Just like she tried to "pray away the gay" of her son for many years. She experienced a perpetual cycle of fear, and she never truly got better. She just lost more and more of her memory.

My father, a few months before he was killed, had just survived cancer. He had just retired from his job. They had just moved down to Florida. He was getting ready to enjoy the next stage of his life, with my mom, happily married. It was so short-lived. Why? because some young thief felt he had to respond to my mother's screams by shooting my father in the head with a gun.

I was online looking for a sweatshirt to order for my niece a couple of nights ago. I searched for "young miss hooded sweatshirt, lined, sherpa, with zipper". One of the first hits was a brown sweatshirt fitting each of those search items, but modeled by a young man. The hooded sweatshirt said, "If guns kill people, I guess pencils misspell words, cars drive drunk, and spoons make people fat." I felt sick to my stomach when I read that. GUNS ARE DESIGNED TO INTIMIDATE, WOUND, OR KILL. THAT is the difference. Pencils are designed for writing; cars are designed for transportation; spoons are designed for feeding. The point is not that the person is the problem - that part is obvious. The point is that if someone owns a gun, that gun, in order to be used, will accomplish one of its design goals, meaning, it will either intimidate someone, wound a living being, or kill a living being. Still, these ignorant folks are fed such a bogus argument, and they run with it, mistaking it for legitimate stance, all the while ignoring the safety of the community and the nation and the planet on a much larger scale.

Yeah, so, a gun lead to my father's sudden death, my mother was widowed, and now my husband and/or I spend pretty much every weekend and most every afternoon and evening taking care of my mother. If my father were still around, maybe things would be very different. My parents would be keeping one another company; experiencing things together; maybe enjoying time with their grandkids. Our weekends and weeknights would give my husband and me a chance to enjoy our time together. Maybe I would be playing more music or creating, recording, performing more?

Yesterday, I finally got caught up with work. If I didn't have the responsibility of caring for my mother, I easily would have spent last night and all of today working on music. Instead, I spent the evening supervising my mom in the kitchen, helping her bake a cake, showing her where to put away dry dishes and glasses, and just keeping her company. I know that has value as well. Maybe, one day, I'll really miss those moments with my mom. It's just that when I spoke with my sister over the phone this evening, she asked me, "How are you guys holding up with mom? I know it must be so overwhelming." Honestly, I felt like crying. I'm stressed, I'm overwhelmed. I could tell I was losing my patience with my mom this afternoon. How could I tell, because I've memorized every question, every worry, every concern before she even utters it. 


My mother said to me, (as I was preparing some tea for her and some coffee for me), "You know, I've been thinking..." 

Before she could finish her sentence, I interjected, "I know, you want to go back to your house. You want to live in your own home, which is in another country, to which you want to travel by bus. You want to leave right now. You think you can just call up a friend and have them come stay with you so you can live in your house again. Okay, but the problem is: you cannot live in your home by yourself and there is no one who is in a position to drop everything and look after you 24 hours a day. Plus, your home is in another country. You can't really get there by bus. You can't travel alone, and we tried living in Florida with you, but you hate the day program there and refuse to go. You get depressed when you're there. You only see your friends maybe two times a week. You've almost lit the kitchen on fire twice, and you interrupt us all day long so we can't get any work done."

I look at my mom. She is sad. I feel like a dick, but on the inside, I've just circumvented a 90-minute conversation that I've had about 10 times already just since the end of December.

Dementia is a very challenging disease. Yes, I'm losing patience. I'm holding up, but only because I have no choice. My sister is in no position to take care of my mom; she has three young kids, just recently went back to work, and her mother-in-law is living with her family. My husband and I are in a better position to care for my mom. Problem is, how much longer will we really be able to give her the care and attention that she needs?

When my father died, this is the song I wrote (with my friend and fellow SPOUSE-mate, Dan). Maybe we should have included it on Relocation Tactics? I waited to put it out on Confidence, instead.







Thursday, January 11, 2018

colecusa

One of the things that I love about Maine is that they have wonderful coastline. In 2012, I bought a scooter. It was a Honda Elite 80. I loved it. It broke down on me several times, but I loved riding it around town and I've never told anybody this, but when I, (or the me from a parallel universe), wrote Love in the Summertime, it was envisioned with and inspired by this...



It's not technically "150cc". I think I got it up to 45mph one time (yes, on a downhill slope). Anyway, the rest of the song is what it is. It's a warm, summer feeling that I was going for. It was living out a fantasy in a song.

This is the tune:




I miss singing it. 

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

progress, naps, impending doom, protest, and more progress


I had a productive evening of returning emails and trying to set up some shows for SPOUSE in the near, but not so near future. It reminded me of what my life was like eight years ago or more. I would split my time between music and translation work, occasionally working additional jobs, too. Anyway, it was a neat feeling. Just figured I should point that out to myself. Soon, I may be moving in to a studio space being vacated by my future pseudo brother-in-law. He's moving in to the space next door, which I think is bigger, and I'll, hopefully, finally have a place to set up my recording gear and be able to practice and record. Fingers crossed.


This afternoon, I was sitting at my computer, trying to work. I kept falling asleep (damn 'decaf' coffee). I decided to take a nap. I woke up about 30 or 40 minutes later, with this awful, overwhelming and negative feeling, like something really bad is about to happen in the world. I felt this same sort of 'impending doom' about two weeks before Hurricane Irma. That was such a giant, awful, pain of an experience. My husband was stuck in Ecuador at the time. My mother, our dogs, and I were stuck in Florida. I made a decision to prepare for both scenarios; getting stuck in Florida for several days, assuming the house would withstand the hurricane, or fleeing north. It was such a nerve wracking experience. A lot of responsibility, a lot of indecision; not knowing in which direction the hurricane was going to hit, receiving multiple phone calls and messages from friends and loved ones asking if we'd left yet or if we were going to survive. It was alarm and panic and ultimately, I made the decision to drive north. We almost ran out of gas, traffic was the worst, and we spent 7 days with my Republican uncle in Georgia, whose wife hated our dogs and who seemed genuinely bothered that we had to spend some time there. I don't think my uncle was all too comfortable either. It was really kind of them to host us, but, let's just say, I'm glad that is over. The one positive thing is that I got to see my cousins, whom I love and have always gotten along with and my mom got to spend some time with her brother. It was interesting to hear about my cousin's experiences and perspectives growing up in our extended family. Possibly for the first time in my life, I didn't feel like I was alone in that family.

Anyway, ya, I felt some weird thing this afternoon and I wasn't able to shake it. Something is on the horizon and it scares me. Last week I tweeted about how everyday I wake up and the first thing I do is check the news to make sure the orange demento hasn't initiated a nuclear war with North Korea. It's sad to have to think this way, but it is this sort of stress that has become part of my daily routine. Even several thousand miles south of the US, I'm experiencing traumatic stress.

I remember in 2004 when John Kerry lost the election because Ohio. (I still contend that there were massive voting irregularities that day, and the data seems to back me up.) I was so angry about the wars that had been initiated under false pretenses. I was, and am still certain that Dick Cheney is a man of no moral or ethical conscience. He's truly a sinister human being. I was able to channel my frustration into a track that almost made it onto Relocation Tactics. Alas, it only exists as a bonus track through the SPOUSE bandcamp site. This is the track I'm talking about...




Last year or the year before I remember being approached about contributing to a protest album, given the current administration and all the long-term damage they are perpetuating. I wasn't in a place to contribute because I just couldn't focus on it. Maybe I'll write something in the future, maybe I won't. Who knows.


Of course, talking about protest or political songs. I remember living in Maine while the then-recently passed gay marriage law was overturned in a special election/referendum. The Catholic Church of Maine spent about $4 million dollars lobbying against gay marriage that year. Fuck the arsehole in charge of that decision, and the sad little lambs who ended up voting against love, fairness, and compassion. I wrote about that when I got home from the event where hundreds of us were gathered together, watching the returns. Everyone in the room was devastated. It was just a vicious, cruel thing to experience. Thankfully, progress.



Tuesday, January 9, 2018

FMC = favorite movie in common

Very few people know much about my husband. I don't talk about him much, I don't mention him on Twitter. To the extent that I've been on FB, I don't mention him much there either. I've learned a few things over the years. Keeping one's private life, private, is not easy for me, (as you can probably tell from following along with this blog), but it has its benefits.


That said, tonight, I feel the urge to write about how my spouse and I discovered a favorite movie together, and later, how it turns out we both have another favorite movie in common. 



I don't remember why, but we ended up watching Drive together one night at our old apartment. We'd been married for a little over a year. We were in Quito. Apart from renting a place on the 4th floor of a building, we also rented a small office space on the 2nd floor, with a balcony -we probably rented it FOR the balcony/terrace. We kept a garden out there. I kept the office pretty empty. There was a chair. There was a desk. There was an old futon. It offered me a place to work where I could get away from my mother and her nurse for a few hours and focus on translation work, while still being very close by in case my mom needed something urgently. Late at night, the small office space was where I would go to maybe play guitar, or listen to music, or sit outside and enjoy the neighborhood sounds at night. If you're thinking to yourself, "That sounds cool." Yeah, it was probably cooler than that, even. Not as cool as walking around my old neighborhood in Portland at 2am, like I used to, but almost.



Anyway, Drive. We loved it. Everything about it. And the soundtrack; SOOOO GOOD. That movie stayed with us for several days. We finished watching it and we were both excited about how good it was. We never talked about the soundtrack. A week later, I'm in my office space on the 2nd floor. Sitting on the futon, listening to "Under Your Spell" by Desire. 




It had been a really challenging year, a good one; but, challenging. 

Santiago came downstairs to check on me. It was maybe 11pm and my mom was asleep. I was listening to this track on repeat. He just sat down with me and we listened to the song together at least a few times. We sat outside and listened to it under the stars, or what we could see of them.

That song captured our emotion so well. The blend of the instruments; the way it is sung; even the subject matter...

It's no wonder several months later, while chatting with some friends, we each revealed that we love Pretty in Pink. We were both kind of shocked. It took me by surprise because rarely have I been in a relationship with someone who enjoyed that movie, let alone someone who enjoyed that movie as much as I did. Yup. Turns out we're married.


Monday, January 8, 2018

no such thing as a bad mic

My friend Thom, a pretty well-regarded and very talented record producer, once said to me something along the lines of, "There is no such thing as a bad mic. Every microphone is really good at doing at least one thing. It's an engineer's job to figure out what that one thing is and to know when to use it."

Thom recorded and produced the first SPOUSE full-length, Nozomi, and part of the follow-up, Love Can't Save This Love. He was still fairly new at the whole record-producing thing back then, but everyone knew he was talented and driven. He's worked on a ton of albums since, many of which you've probably heard and enjoyed. I haven't spoken to him in about 4 or 5 years, but hopefully, he's doing well and keeping busy.

Anyway, back to what I was explaining about the microphone... I think people function in the same way. I'm not sure what my one really good thing is. I don't know if it's singing, songwriting, coming up with bass parts; I'm just not sure. If anything, I guess, until I do, I feel like a generic knock-off of an SM58; I'm not popular like a 58, I'm not even part of the cool brand, but I'm dynamic, if not entirely reliable.

Here's one of the tracks that Thom produced. I originally tracked the song on my Fostex X-28 4-track recorder. Thom and my other friend Mark (who co-produced Nozomi) took the 4-track recording and expanded on it. I learned a lot from those guys.



While I was combing through my catalog I came upon a track that was previously only available as a bonus track (and was thus not visible to most folks). I made it visible 'cause I wanted to share it. This is a demo for one of my ASJ songs. I think it captures the energy I hope to aim for the next time I get a chance to write and record.






Sunday, January 7, 2018

back in the day, cassettes

It's no secret I sometimes get compared to a particular, famous Irish blowhard when I sing. I get it. I'm not fond of that fact. A rasp is a rasp. Today I listened to the latest offering from that band, I can't even bring myself to name them. If I could have my 40-odd minutes back, I would spend that time listening to the latest album from Robert Plant called Carry Fire, which was released in October of last year, or maybe I would listen to Iggy Pop's Lust for Life, or -wait for it- Flesh For Lulu's Plastic Fantastic -an album so vastly underrated and ignored that it is living proof there is "no justice in this world". I used to own that album on cassette.

To give you an idea, I've spent the last 8 hours or so, working at the kitchen breakfast bar. 


I spent the first hour of this session returning emails and coordinating what will be a cassette pressing of the new SPOUSE EP, Sell the Silver. Side A is the vocal version, Side B is the instrumental. We're pressing 100 of them and they'll come with a digital download card. I'm sure, when the time comes, I'll mention the pre-sale here, on Twitter, on FB, and to the mailing list subscribers (who haven't heard from me in over 2 or 3 years).

Anyway, I digress. I was thinking about cassettes. I remember the most important piece of music (not my own) I've ever heard on cassette. It is a chunk of the song, "Lost Continent" by Comstat Angels, that I recorded on my boom box while listening to WNEK -Western New England College's radio station- one evening as a young teen in Springfield, MA. I wouldn't find out the title of this song or the artist for twenty years; not because of Google, but because my friend Rob in Portland, OR immediately recognized it when I was relating the song to him and maybe singing the chorus.



All I had for a long time was a piece of this song. As far as the composition goes, it's heavy, heavy 80's alternative production, but the rhythm, the chord changes, and the swimmy reverb are the goddamn Polaroid of my adolescence - growing up gay, depressed, and a victim of sexual abuse, this song created a mood for me that was both warm and calming, and excitingly simple, accepting, and powerful. 

At the time, my mind was corroded by the ginormous amount of strict, Catholic upbringing nonsense that was such a big part of my familial and cultural rearing. There was so much shame and self-hatred brewing, and honestly, music was going to be my way of making something positive with all the negative emotions I was feeling. It may not have been an original realization, but it was, at least, genuine. It didn't help that my mother was in the habit of rummaging through my things while I was out of the house. She stumbled upon my first several sets of lyrics and came across some pretty awful ones; both in composition and in subject matter. She was so worried; and when she confronted me I felt that my privacy had been incredibly violated. I felt twice as bad. I hardly ever communicated with her after that, and now that she has dementia and her mind and memory are severely compromised, I wouldn't even be able to chat with her about this, even if I had the chance. Maybe this is the case for a lot of folks?

Anyway, yeah, cassettes were easy to carry around but annoying to fast-forward and rewind, They were perfect for recording songs being broadcast over the airwaves. 

I heard on a podcast that I listened to over a month ago, that some labels are pressing cassettes again and actually selling them to the young folks. Novelty can be fun. Maybe that's what this is? but part of me thinks, if we're moving away from CDs to return to vinyl, the next step may be to move away from digital streaming and return to portable, inexpensive, analog cassette tapes. So, we're trying it. We're making cassettes. It's also the 20th anniversary of the first SPOUSE release - a self-titled cassette with a number of songs I no longer have access to. Thank goodness for the accompanying digital download.



Saturday, January 6, 2018

sometimes, where you least expect it


This afternoon, my husband, my mom, our two dogs and I went to a city park. It was closing and they wouldn't let us enter. We started driving back to our apartment and we stumbled upon a neighborhood park. Quito has many of them. Parque de México is the one we came across. We got out of the car to walk around and enjoy what was left of the late afternoon. It was a neat little park. Just as we started to head back towards the car, there was a statue there. It was a statue, donated by México to Quito, I believe. (I'm not entirely sure, though). 





It was a statue of José Alfredo Jiménez. Why is this name so familiar? He was the composer/author of one of my favorite Spanish-language songs, Amanecí en tus brazos -a song that I learned to play and sing, many, many years ago. I recorded it when I lived in Northampton, MA circa 1999/2000 for an EP that I released back in 2002 called Cinco Pesos. I recorded the song live to a Sony 2-track reel-to-reel machine that belonged to my father. I ran the vocal and guitar through a 70s era reverb unit that my friend Jeremy had lent me. It had a cool display, super trippy, like an old radio dial display, but with color bands that would shift a little as you adjusted the dial. It was super neat. Here's the track:



Anyway, I remember being so excited that I was taking on a new project. I was inspired to do a solo record, in Spanish. Since then, I have only recorded songs in Spanish as tracks to include on other albums. Maybe I could do a full-length Spanish album, but I'm not sure that's what I really want to do right now. Hmmm... I would, however, like to feel inspired like I did back then, and for that, I need to set up a personal studio space.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

the dream I had 8 years ago in december of 2010

SPOUSE had just returned from a two-week tour straight up the middle of the country... Austin, TX to Minneapolis, MN. We had been getting lots of attention on different radio stations all along the route of our tour. [NOTE to BANDS: Radio Play DOES NOT EQUAL Concert Attendance. We learned the hard way.] It was rough. Our expenses were about three times the amount of our earnings on that tour. My head began messing with my attitude as a result. I think I was probably one of the most unpleasant people to be around in the wake of that experience. I wasn't enjoying playing shows anymore. We, collectively, were wondering why our turnout was so consistently -for lack of a better word- low. The record, Confidence, had been getting really solid reviews; it seemed like folks were digging it. Maybe I hadn't done enough press for the tour. Maybe the promoters we were working with weren't really 'promoting' the shows? Whose to say? All I know is, I finally got back to Portland and it was nice to be home.

I had been back about a week when, one morning, I found myself waking up on the couch at an apartment that I vaguely recognized. I stood up. I could see on the other side of the living room wall what was maybe a dining room, and beyond that, a view of New York City like you wouldn't believe. Apparently, the apartment belonged to me or someone close to me? What I remember was that I was in the middle of a tour. My parents were traveling with me. I could afford it; that's how well things were going. Suddenly, I'm back in the living room, from behind the wall comes my father. He and I stare at each other. He's in shock, because he's just turned the corner and come face to face with me, even though, on the other side of the wall, he had been chatting with another version of me while that version of me was making breakfast. He and I suddenly have a revelation. He can tell that I am me from a parallel universe. In his universe, he's still alive. He was never shot and killed like my father was in my universe. I start crying, he starts crying. I reach out to hug him and... I wake up. I'm in Portland, Maine. It's cold, it's early. I'm bawling. It was so real. The dream was so real.

That very day, it occurs to me that I had been transported to a parallel universe. A month later, mathematicians would announce that they had proven the theoretical existence of parallel universes. I wasn't crazy. I was inspired. Still, even weeks before the news, I began working off my experience. It changed my approach to music. I was going to focus on making music that was purely intended to satisfy me and no one else. I was going to rediscover the joy of making music. I was going to write because I wanted to write; record because I wanted to record, perform and tour because I wanted to perform and tour. It turned into something really unique. I began channeling this 'me' from a parallel universe. He would be uninhibited; an amalgamation of some key things that I love: superheroes, performance art, electronic and dance music. I would bring all of these things together and hopefully create a channel for this alternate version of myself to do his thing.

For years I had been holding the anagram of my name in my back pocket. I figured, this was the chance to use it. The first demo I recorded for this project would eventually be the opening track of the album. Here is that demo...



Wednesday, January 3, 2018

this must be the space

For a couple of years before moving to Hawaii, I found myself living, once again, in one of the most beautiful cities in North America -Portland, Maine.

Portland will always be a special place for me. It's where I've fallen in love time and again, with the views, the people, the music, the nightlife; even the isolation of it. I had been living there off and on for about 20 years. I once lived in rehearsal space that I rented. I couldn't afford both a rehearsal space and an apartment, so I concentrated on the former and found an amazing place. There was no shower. The bathroom, I shared with a dozen mechanics. Next door, my landlords, were a slightly upscale automotive repair shop. The space was 600 sq ft. It was fully carpeted (excellent for sound absorption). It had a water line that the previous tenant had rigged up. It was called Coachworks. Not sure if it's still there. 

I could lose myself in recounting the details of this space, but instead, I'll turn to music -my music- and maybe that will convey the sentiment I'm feeling. Simply, nostalgia.



This 55-second song is a fragment of a recording on an old handheld cassette recorder that I would use to track demos in this space. It was a rare occasion; my bandmates from SPOUSE drove up from NYC and Boston and spent a few days with me writing and rehearsing some tunes that would eventually become the third full-length, Are You Gonna Kiss or Wave Goodbye?

What I love about the track is that we captured a raw, unrehearsed moment. I know a lot of other bands do the same thing, but this series of chords really captures the feel of this transition. It was a huge transition, in fact. I had been living in Northampton, MA. I met a man that would go on to make a huge impression on my life. Though we dated briefly, my experience with him was profound and here I was, moving up to Maine to be close to him.

THIS is one of the recurring themes in my life, I can tell. When I'm in a relationship or when I'm starting one, I tend to relocate. It's easier for me because I telecommute for work. Okay, stumble on...


So, without further ado, I present the Coachworks EP (circa 2002). I recorded it on my Fostex 4-track machine, using an old Radio Shack microphone. Almost all of it was tracked in the space.



And if you're still reading, the same "space" I'm referring to is the subject of this SPOUSE tune...





Tuesday, January 2, 2018

wanderlust


When I left Hawaii in April of 2015, I had so many mixed feelings. I didn't want to leave. 

Oahu, or all of Hawaii for that matter, is a paradise. People spend their entire lives wishing to live in such an incredible place and here I was, reluctantly leaving. I was in a relationship then. The person I was in a relationship with wanted to live somewhere else. It was what he wanted. So many times I thought about finding some roommates and moving in to a place somewhere in Chinatown, Honolulu. I suppose I could have made that happen, but I was straddled with debt and insecurity and I did really care about my partner at the time. I figured, if it was meant to be, I'd get back to Oahu. Three years on, I haven't been back, yet. I dream about it still, but then, there's always reality...

We moved to a different island, off the coast of California. A desire-able place to live for many, but not for me. It was a tiny town of 4000 and as tiny towns go, everyone knows your business and gossip can be the primary source of entertainment. My major gripes were that there were too few, if any, tennis players, and no real music scene to speak of. Sure there were a couple of bar bands, but if I was going to be in California I wanted to be making music there. 

It was nice for a few weeks, but not really. My relationship came to grinding halt. Maybe it was the weight of change and maybe it was that as much as I tried to be present in the moment and enjoy the new surroundings, I didn't feel like I was making decisions for myself. I was making them for someone else. That 'someone else' was dealing with his own stuff and was in a very different space as a result of the stress and the move and the new job. It seemed like more change was on the horizon. 

The details from that stretch of time are crystal clear for me, but I don't care to share them. Instead, there's a song I wrote and recorded while I was living, ever so briefly, on this tiny, undisclosed rock off the coast of California. The song, Wanderlust, just about captures this period of transition for me. And it brings me to what I wanted to write about today...

It's simple. Music for me has always been a sort of personal therapy. I've tended to write about internal and external conflicts and emotions, both good, and not so good. Music is a way for me to channel my frustrations and feelings and create something positive with all of that energy. Yes, it sounds generic, but what I realize now is that it has ultimately been a way for me to record events in my life. This is probably the case for a lot of other musicians. So, maybe starting backwards, with this song -the last thing I released as A Severe Joy (the me from a parallel universe)- is the thing to do.