Tuesday, February 28, 2006


Tack, Thock, Tack, Thock... I'm not sure why my dress shoes make different sounds left from right, but I like it. It's musical. Black and a little pointy in toes, their wooden heels tap out a duple rhythm as fundamental to humanity as death and taxes. It makes me smile as I hurry back after donning my stage duds.

Saturday was the band's first gig since last summer. Well, to call it a gig is stretching things a mite. The P eople's P edal, the bike share co-op I work for, had it's AGM and to entice members to attend we held an after party. The total audience was maybe 10 people, of whom at least half were either sleeping with, or related genetically to, one of the band members. That didn't matter at all.

The band cracked wise and tasteless, the audience laughed and heckled and the women...the women danced. It was fine night.

We didn't play exceptionally well, but there were moments of ferociousness. Moments of drive and energy greater than the sum of our parts. There were even moments of rockdom, where tongues got stuck out and secret devil signs were made.

I'll be 40 in a couple of months. I don't feel it and I don't really look it, but there it is. I'll never be a rock star despite how I acted on stage this weekend.

I had a single moment of clarity during the set, a moment where I could picture how we might look to a disinterested observer. A bunch of never-were's kidding themselves that they're 20 years younger and a whole lot hipper.

Oh, I had a moment of clarity all right and I didn't care one whit. Instead I fell on the first chord of the chorus like an angel robbed of grace, got my head banging and grinned at K as he and I smacked the ever-lovin' shit out of the rhythm. It was glorious.

For that 45 minutes time had stopped being a matter of birth days and hair thinning on top but thickening in orifices. Time was kick and snare, verse, chorus, bridge, the count in and the pregnant pause before the big final chord. Time was ours to play with, to subjugate and subdivide, to throw out into space where it was caught by the feet of women.

I've long since lost count of the number of gigs I've done, but this one was special.

Tack, thock, Tack, thock...time is inexorable, but every now and then, it's beautiful too.

Monday, February 13, 2006

I can tap into my feelings of grief at the drop of a hat, or milk carton for that matter. I've jokingly told people that I can cry on demand, and in truth, I can. All it takes is a little method acting, a conscious decision to think about all the things that hurt and boom, waterworks.

I'm still trying to decide what kind of songs to work on. I had felt that getting all of the angst out would be a good idea, but now I'm not so sure. A while ago I read this, and while some of the arguments in the comments were over my head, the basic gist rang true to me.

The Freudian notion of repression might not be what I'm doing. I feel sad lots, I think about and clearly remember the things that led me to my current mental state. Is that repression? Somehow I don't think so. If it's not repression, what good am I going to do by writing songs about it?

What if expressing the sadness is merely reinforcing it, building up neurons in the areas of my brain devoted to those feelings. What if I'm practicing sad? Wouldn't it be better to practice happy? And how the hell would I do that anyway?

The best argument I have for writing sad songs* is that I can sing them with conviction. Total honesty even. It doesn't take me any effort to inhabit that sort of song. I'm a lousy singer and not having to "fake it till ya make it" on the emotional expression appeals to me. Hell, it might be the only thing I have going for me as a singer.

My musical life is shifting again and making this question relevant. The band is recording again and around the time that finishes our practice space could go away. If that happens and we have a recording that most of us are happy with, well, I suspect the band will fold. There really isn't a lot of motivation in the group anymore. So, it looks like the digital recorder is going to be my primary musical outlet in the near future. Which means writing songs, which means making a decision.

What's it to be: sincere sadness or cartoon joy?

*No, not because they "...say so much." No offense to Mr.'s John and Taupin, but that's got to be the worst lyric in the history of pop.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Who is this Art guy anyway?

I believe in truth.

[Oh, god. Here we go again with the philosophizing.]
{Now, now, give him a chance.}

Unfortunately truth comes in two flavours: relative and concrete.

[Good, it's a binary thing, shouldn't take too long.]

Concrete truth is the province of science. The problem is that most people don't understand how science is supposed to work. Science is all about observing and explaining the natural world. The goal is to build up a testable body of knowledge that we can provisionally accept as fact. All theories in science are open to refutation, if they can't be falsified it isn't part of science. The reality we're observing doesn't change, but our understanding of it does.

[Really? What the hell is he on about, isn't this a music blog?]
{Patience my dear, patience. I'm sure this is relevant, er, somehow.}

Relative truth is the a trickier matter. It includes all the cultural assumptions, rules and customs we live by. Things that are subject to constant change.


For example, killing people isn't permitted in our society. Except in certain situations, like for example, during wartime. The situations in which lethal force is acceptable have changed through the years. Dueling is certainly not allowable today, but as little as 150 years ago it was a fact of life. It was a cultural truth that you could take up arms and kill those who had offended you.

[Killin' people, now we're getting somewhere. Where did I put that scimitar...?]

{That's not nice....and put that letter opener down before you hurt yourself!}

So if concrete truth is the province of science, what is the system for understanding relative truth?

[Rhetorical right? Please tell me he's being rhetorical.]

Religion is one answer. A flawed answer in my opinion. The problem with religion is that it tries to make relative truth into absolute truth. It takes the shifting tides of human interactions and tries to nail them down. With about as much success as trying to nail down a real tidal flow would have.

[Now he's done it. Flames ahoy!]

{Just because he's getting all nautical doesn't mean you have to.}

This isn't to say that most religions don't have something good to offer. Just that their, "We're right and everyone else is wrong.", approach causes more problems than it solves. Also, at it's worse religion stagnates a culture by not allowing it to grow and evolve.

[Evolve! Evolve? Is he
trying to piss people off?]
{I think he's trying to sort something out, you know thinking out loud. Stop interrupting}

For the record, I also think it's a really bad idea when people try and make concrete truths relative. The "new age" folk are often guilty of this. I don't care how much peyote you've ingested, how aligned your chakras are or how much you believe that all reality is a creation of your own mind: when you jump off of something you're going to accelerate at 9.8 meters per second squared. The result of which is very messy if you do it from any real height.

[Ha! He's picking on everyone. A glutton for punishment.]

{If you can't keep quiet I'm going to take away the remote, I mean it!}

So what is the answer? In short: art.


{Shut it!}

Art is the expression of relative truths. It is our way to glimpse into the lives, emotions and realities of other people in a form that can connect at deeper level than daily interactions allow. It is our way of understanding who we are as a group and what matters to people outside of our group.

It's for this reason that you know you're deep in the shit when outside bodies start trying to control artists. It means that that group, be it governmental, religious or what have you, is trying to define the truth for everyone. This never works for long of course. People are just too diverse to be pinned down this way. My evidence of this: if it was possible make the relative truths of our lives concrete then someone would have done it by now. We'd all be believe the same things, live the same way, be in essence the same person. The very thought of such a grey, unvaried world makes my viscera shrink away from my skin.

Art is important. Important in a way that we often fail to realize when we're trying to find something to go on the wall above the couch or are scrolling through the ipod playlists.

[Looks like he's done, can I talk now?]
{I guess.}

[You know why he's on about this?]

{What do you mean, isn't he just giving an opinion? No wait, let me guess: He's trying to piss people off enough to generate some comments.}

[Oh, he's doing that alright, but I think he's got another motive.]

{And that would be....?}

[He's trying to convince himself that the time he's spent learning and playing music has some value over and above filling in time till he dies.]

{Huh, when did you become a brainiac?}

[Shut up.]

{You shut up!}




{Yes dear?}

[I love you.]

{Come here you...}