Something’s Happening Here (But I Don’t Know What It Is)

Bass Line Dada

Bass Line Dada

Something odd has been going on in lacunamusic land over the past few days.  Something that has not occurred in the past several years of its existence.  Something that we have heard happens sometimes… This: a bunch of people all over this little blue planet read the words scribbled herein.  It was a little like those dreams where you suddenly realize that you are at work in your onesies, with those rhino slippers that your spouse got you for your birthday as a gag gift.  Or that feeling when someone opens your bedroom door while you are lip-synching and air-guitaring Born to Run in your underwear… in front of a mirror… with sunglasses.  Getting the picture?  I kind of thought I was doing this thing all by myself.  All of a sudden I look up and there’s 500 people gazing in my window.  Holy Mother of Baby Jesus, I thought, I am an overnight sensation!  I’d better step up my game; why, a Nobel Prize could be just around the corner.  As one of my hero’s uncle was quoted as saying, “With great power there must also come great responsibility.” (Uncle Ben)

So I began to ruminate upon possible topics with which I could solidify my newfound fame.  I tried at one point to write about philosophy but only other philosophers really give a crap and they don’t read blogs.  Climate change is important I think, but what a downer.  Space travel is a catchy subject but it always leads back to climate change. Government torture seems like a fruitful avenue but the last thing I need is the NSA crawling up my ass.  And then there’s the all the fuckin’ profanity I use!  How would I explain that to Oprah? I found myself in a real live bonafide quandary.  I must publish for READERSHIP.  God only knows what could be right around the corner: book deals, articles for People Magazine, spreads for GQ, Hollywood!  Suddenly, just this morning as a matter of fact, I realized – Holy flying fuck!  This is precisely what happened to me when I made a thousand copies of my cd!  Instead of simply being about the thing in itself, it becomes about other people’s reactions to the thing (see: Why I Quit Music). I was going along just fine, writing whatever the hell I wanted, maybe chuckling at my own juvenile sense of humor periodically, but really just writing for me – because I like the act of constructing a nice paragraph, playing around with this fine English language, being kind of flip.  Why? because I was in my underwear rockin’ out to Springsteen.

In my last post I prattled on most vehemently about the state of the music scene.  Apparently a LOT of people feel the same way, but if you are a musician you’d better not talk shit about the music scene or KAPOW! you are out on your skinny little ass.  Since, as I stated earlier, I quit music, I really couldn’t care less what people think.  Of course there was the lone butt-wipe who said something like,”Maybe if he put as much thought into his music and his audience, he wouldn’t be stuck with 800 cd’s.” This guy obviously missed the point completely. But as I said, hundreds of people resonated with the sentiments.  Back in the 90’s I was involved in a couple of different “bands”.  Neither of them could have given a rat’s ass about audience, or marketing, or online music sales, or any of the other crap that has subsumed the world of the present-day artist.

And you know what?  Here was the novel thing about that: it was fun.

One of those bands was called Bass Line Dada.  BLD was a ridiculously endearing little outfit that was a virtual casserole of genres … and an absolute train-wreck live.  I do believe that might have been the reason people so enjoyed our shows.  When I joined the band I played everything from treated recorder to xylophone to hand drums to guitar and banjo (few of which I had the slightest inkling how to play).  We were fronted by the most charmingest of poet/performers (Daniel Ari, who is, as we speak, putting the finishing touches on a brilliant collection of poetry/art: see his blog @ Fights With Poems), and augmented on Flying V Bass by The Reverend Doctor “Blackie” Holzberg.  (I was nicknamed Doctor Dark due to my penchant for penning such radio friendly classics as The Ballad of Lydia ShermanThe Gashleycrumb Tinies {which holds the record for highest body count of any song ever recorded} and The Ballad of the Stalker.)  Daniel donned the moniker of The Fang.  On our second, and unfortunately final, album we recorded his theme song (lyrics by Nervous Norvus):

Now here is the thing:  The thing is this:  Everywhere we played, people came.  We played our cd release concert for our first album Shoulder of a Hungry Man at The Starry plough pub in Berkeley.  We did the unthinkable and opened up for ourselves incognito as The Tony Clifton Experience.  Watch:

The Tony Clifton Experience live @ The Starry Plough

I mentioned a “couple” of “bands”.  The other was likely the most bizarre and neurotically lovable act this here Area of the Bay has ever witnessed: The Hand Shakes.  And, yes, it is supposed to be two words.  Narration cannot adequately convey how hilariously disturbed were these performances.  Thus I insert here a “documentary” on the life and times of The Hand Shakes:

I can hear your desperate implorations:  Please man, get to the fucking point!  You are asking yourselves, out of sheer self preservation, why is he prattling on about his past glories? Is he nothing but a bitter old man, pining on for days of yore?  The answer to that dear reader is no, and yes.  I am not a bitter old man, but I am most definitely pining.  There are a few salient points here that I’d like to bring to the fore.  (Thank God, you are saying to your computer screen.)

Point Number 1: Almost every show we did was packed.

Point Number 2: We did practically no advertising.

Point Number 3: When people said they would come, they came.

Point Number 4: People bought cd’s (when we had them).

Point Number 5: Everyone paid attention, rather than gazing at their hand-held device, or taking pictures with their hand-held device, or telling all of their friends and fans and followers what they were doing on their hand-held device.

Point Number 6:  We had fun.

Now tell me honestly all you artists out there:  how many of you can say the same about your shows?  To all of the above mentioned points? I’m imagining not a whole hell of a lot of you.  Something bad is happening to the human species and I’ll tell you this: it’s not good.  Here’s a theory… Have you noticed the proliferation of zombie-themed entertainment of late?  Now, you don’t have to agree with this theory yet, but later I’ll ask you to agree.  Think to yourself, what are the qualities of a zombie?  Besides the obvious… flesh-munching.  They travel in hordes.  They stare blankly.  They only pay attention to what’s in front of them.  They are in their own little world.  Their world is all about one thing.  Ok.  What does that remind you of?  Of course!  People with their fuckin’ hand-held devices!

We live in a world of lonely fame.  Each and every stupid utterance has the potential to reach millions.  Each and every idiotic antic can be recorded and posted for all the world to see and respond to with something equally as idiotic.  We have become attention zombies. So where does this leave the artist, who actually has something good to say (or not)?  Each and every day I am assaulted with “opportunities” like these:  “Seeking Alternative bands for Label Consideration”, “Skope Radio and TV Looking for New Artists to Fill Slots!”, “Seeking Artist/songwriters looking for a producer or label”, “Reach Over 60 Million Fans with Placements in Hundreds of Apps and Games”, “Radio Exposure on TRS247 Radio to 80,000 Monthly Listeners”….

Get the idea?  Fame.  It’s right there at our fingertips.  When I picture all of the artists spending their hard earned money (yes, all of these “opportunities” cost money) with the click of a paypal button, I can’t but also picture a Las Vegas casino with all of the sad old drunks blindly throwing their cash into a slot machine only to receive, well, nothing.

So what’s my point you ask (again).  To be honest, I have no fucking idea.  But what I do know is this, things have changed since those days with Bass Line Dada and The Hand Shakes.  And it was not so terribly long ago.  I think that, personally, I was happier when I knew who was paying attention to me.  Because they were right there, in the same room, or at the other end of a telephone line.  They were more than a status update or a cheery photo. They were a real human being, with reactions, physicality, a scent, eyes that said more than their mouth…  That world is now becoming a thing of the past. And what have we to show for it but sterilization.

I am trying to find myself as an artist again.  I need to reconfigure my relationship to the music that is inside of me, music that really wants to be in the world.  I am trying to be content with the idea that, possibly, no one will ever hear that music.  I want to relish again in the fact that I have a handful of very close friends with whom I do stuff, like eat.  Making music, for me, began as a deep desire to move others; it had nothing to do with sales or fame or labels or reviews or press releases or any of that other bullshit that eventually takes over.  I want that back.  Here’s an idea:  let’s you and I do a little collaboration.  I’ll post a song and you do whatever the hell you want with it.  Download and re-record it, overdub it, add a freakin’ symphony…Why? because we are all part of the same damn thing.  These songs are not mine.  They belong to the world… ok… to the universe (he says with begrudging embarrassment.) Are you ready?  Here’s the song:

Soon Comes the Morning

This is me letting go of ownership, and allowing you to take it.  It is a gesture toward the kind of world in which I’d like to live.  One that is free of the kind of proprietorship that harnesses creativity to standards set by corporations.  One that allows artists to be artists and not slaves to a system that relishes in perpetual struggle. Here’s my dream: I imagine a world where those who create are supported, valued, and esteemed; I imagine a world where ideas can be freely shared and “taste” is not governed by money mongering ass-wipes; I imagine a world where my song can return to me in a dozen different configurations, each version imbued with a generosity of spirit and good will; I imagine a world where art is placed above commerce; I imagine a world where decisions are made according to the laws of aesthetics and science is aligned with spirit but not blinded (or blindsided) by religion; I imagine a world where human  interaction is based upon mutual respect rather than competition and greed; I imagine a world where philosophy sails through the human imagination rather than circling through the belly of the Ouroboros. What would happen if billions of us imagined this world?

On that note here’s another song I’d like to share with you.  I like it a lot.  I wrote it in the spirit of the paragraph above.  Listen to the message and share it.  It will cost you nothing except about five minutes of your time.  If you like it share it with someone you care about.  Here is the song:

Burden of the Spell

Hopefully soon I’ll be back to a readership of 8.  Then I will no longer have to write such blatantly commercial articles such as this. What a sell-out.