I have been in love again, for the past two days. This time, with music. Again. But, yeah, this whole having-music-blasting-in-my-ears-all-day-at-work thing is really making everything better. It’s reminding me of how fun and easy and important music is. Television, Richard Hell, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Daniel Johnston, Menomena, Minor Threat, Radiohead, The Staple Singers, Lee Moses… all this good shit rolling around in my brain all day. Joanna Newsom too. Loud, soft, doesn’t matter much. Easy, intricate, that doesn’t matter much either. Just music. All of it. So fucking tasty.
I want to start writing again. Songs, I mean. I think last time I was in a slump with songwriting, I went back to basics. I said to myself, “fuck tricky chord progressions, fuck difficult guitar riffs, fuck impossibly high-pitched vocals… just write good, easy songs.” And I did. I wrote a bunch of songs that I ended up loving. And that says a lot. I am an “artist,” right? Which basically means that I make stuff that I never think is good enough. But these easy songs were fun, and I didn’t invest so much into them, so it was easy to like them. They weren’t very personal, and they didn’t contain any of my blood or semen or tears. Easy peasy.
(This is Rob speaking to you from the future. Well, no, but I’ve already gotten to the end of this post. I’ve decided to randomly throw in a few mp3s of my songs. Just to break up the monotony of this massive and ranty post. Just songs, to maybe keep you interested. Or at least they will disgust/offend/shock you enough so that you’ll just HAVE TO keep reading about all of this shit.)
And so that’s where I’m at again, kinda. I have been so fucking devoid of music for so long now. That whole nearly-two-year stint in San Jose was just fucking miserable. I wrote two songs the whole time? One of which got recorded and turned out pretty well (It was about hating myself for being a human, and having sex with ancient trees as a way of atoning for everything. But there were electric guitars buzzing and some pretty epic vocals). But the other one was weird (A fairly vile song about the smells produced by “the abortion pill” and some other things I found disgusting in regards to the human body) and I lost it because I think it offended my girlfriend.
(here’s a song called “A Little Sleep,” and it’s kind of a sleepy instrumental song with some guitars and some percussion I made with my mouth…)
ANYWAY. I need to just shut the fuck up and make some songs. Even if they suck, at least they’ll exist. This blog shit isn’t cutting it. I am a musician. I make music. That’s who I am, and that’s what I do. And all that “I prefer not to label myself as any one thing,” okay, that’s fine. But fuck that. I am a musician. I make music. That’s who I am and that’s what I do. I should gladly label myself as such. I started playing guitar at 9 or 10 years old. I still play it. All the time. There were times when I was either homeless or VERY CLOSE to homeless, and a guitar was my only possession that I still held on to from my fancy life. So OBVIOUSLY,I must LOVE IT WITH ALL MY SOUL or something, right? I’ve never done anything else that consistently for so long. Except jerking off. But I am NOT gonna go around calling myself a Master Masturbator. “I am a masturbator. I masturbate. That’s who I am, and that’s what I do.” No, I’m not that weird. Plus, stroking my cock does nothing for my ego. So… yeah.
(this song is called “Don’t Listen To Evil Dick,” and it’s one of the last things I did before I left Portland last time. It’s not quite an instrumental, but it mostly is. Kinda sleepy again, but I like it. But all the good parts are very very subtle, so you’ll probably hate it or love it; not so much in between.)
Okay, here’s something I’m thinking about. The most productive years of my musical life have been two major periods of time. I will talk about them now. More for my benefit than yours, but I don’t mind if you look too.
So. Victorville, California. Age 22-23. The High Desert. My life was working at a Quizno’s sandwich shop, hanging with my gay aunts and all of their lovely friends, drinking a LOT of whiskey in the desert, and listening to a shitload of music every day. Back then, I was VERY into Modest Mouse, Pavement, Fugazi, Devendra Banhart, John Frusciante and Ataxia, Sonic Youth, Animal Collective, and a bunch of things I don’t remember. I didn’t really go to any shows when I was there, except for that festival thing on my 22nd birthday: I saw The Cure, Duran Duran, Berlin, Echo & The Bunnymen, Bow Wow Wow, Psychedelic Furs, one of the guys from Soft Cell, Interpol, and a few other bands (This was actually a pretty amazing birthday that I will always [sort of] remember). I fell in love with the girl that went on to become “the one that got away,” who, to this day, is still one of my favorite people in the world. Mentally, I was fairly healthy. I rode my bike to and from work every day, which provided me with good exercise and a solid hour every day to listen to good music. And for six or nine months, I got my start with home recording. I churned out maybe 40 or 50 songs, maybe 20 of them were pretty good. I also wrote lyrics to another 10 or 15, lyrics I’d go on to use during my next massive creative burst.
(this song is called “Histry Rpeats,” and I made it when I was a conspiracy theorist. Again, mostly instrumental, except not at all. I found this amazing sample of some Israeli women singing a beautifully creepy thing. And then some guy talking about WWII. Really, there was no thought about what I was trying to make. It was just sonically pleasing to me.)
Which was Portland. Age 24-26 and a half. I had a few jobs during this time: Live music production, another Quizno’s job, a week unloading freight at a pet shop. But. I DJed at a pirate radio station for almost 2 of these years. And for one year, worked at that venue, and so I went to shows there a couple times a week. And also went to a ton of other shows at other venues because when you work at a venue in Portland, usually most other venues will let you in for free as a community/courtesy thing. I would recall the stuff I was listening to a lot of but, I can not. During this time, my taste in music exploded and went into a thousand other directions. My music collection went from about 500 albums to about 2,500 albums in these years. I listened to music constantly. At home, in bars, and in clubs. Also, I drank a lot. I got into blackout drinking, as a sport almost. I was also smoking a ton of pot the whole time. But. I wrote and/or recorded close to 100 songs, most of which were pretty good. I think there was a handful of cover songs that I did well too. Also, I played a few shows. And a lot of open mics. And I had many nights of getting drunk as fuck in bars, and bringing people home to play music at 3am. The “going back to basics” period occured when I was in Portland, in the beginning. It threw me right back into writing a lot of experimental not-so-basic music that I still can’t remember how to play. Thank fuck for the recordings (many of which exist only on the computer that is now in my ex-girlfriend’s possession. Which I will be taking back in October when I return to Portland).
Anyway, what did these two creative periods have in common? I listened to music constantly. I drank constantly, and loved it. I briefly worked at Quizno’s in both places, although I hate to believe this effected my creativity. So I’m blaming it on listening to music constantly, and getting drunk constantly. Also, I guess by default, during both of these periods I had a computer with decent recording software. Which I know helps because most of my songs don’t exist until I record them.
(Here is a jam called “You Mean Nothing.” I wrote it about Shareem, the one that got away… after she got away. I was mad. But, BUT!! I actually do some singing in this one. Kinda. And you get to hear a day in the life of my answering machine. Well, mine and Kali’s answering machine. If you listen closely, you can hear a girl calling from Quizno’s in Portland, asking why I haven’t shown up for work. I didn’t go back after that. Ha!)
So really, right now, I’ve got two out of three. I will now commence the “listen to music all the time, every day” and the “drink myself into a trance” thing. I don’t really have any recording gear. But I can maybe go pick up a cheap 4-track. Do they still sell those Fostex cassette 4-track recorders? I could do that for now. Or I could spring for a refurbished laptop with some kind of software? I don’t know though. Because I live in a house where I know I won’t feel comfortable writing/recording honestly/loudly. So maybe I should do the new thing: playing/noodling/writing on an acoustic guitar and then just recording really bad demos on 4 track? And then I’ll have a shitload of tapes to start with when I get back to Portland. Okay. Good idea.
My main point is that the dry spell needs to end. No. not just that. The dry spell is officially over. Fuck it. I am a musician. I make music. It’s who I am, and it’s what I do.
(I wrote this next/final one during my back-to-basics period. It’s called “Bread and Cheese,” and it’s about cooking for friends, and entertaining them with board games and stuff. It’s a pretty bad recording, as I didn’t accomplish what I had in my mind. But if you use your imagination, you’ll probably grasp where I wanted to go. I hope to re-record this some day, and do it the way I REALLY WANTED to.)
Okay, enough of this post, right? How many of you fell asleep while reading this? I know, for a fact, that I fell asleep four times while writing it. But I don’t care. This is good. This is a declaration.
And how perfect is it that, on my mp3 shuffling device, Daniel Johnston’s “My Life Is Starting Over Again” just came on? How PERFECT?! Guys!! I’m gonna be okay!! And soon, even better, I’ll have new music to share! And it’ll be even better than my last massive creative burst. Because that’s how I work. I really do get better with age. Probably only because I’ve sort of let that be my mantra for the last 5 or 6 years, but it’s true. Oh man. You’re gonna shit your pants when you hear the new tunes!