Friday, November 15, 2013

Sorry Millennials, I'm trying not to be a prick...

"It is not the young people that degenerate; they are not spoiled till those of mature age are already sunk into corruption."  - Charles de Montesquieu 


When I was younger, about 14/15 or so, I got massively into slower, more "metal" hardcore music.  Bands such as Snapcase, 108, Deadguy, Overcast, Converge, For the Love Of, Starkweather and Undertow, among many others, were spearheading a new direction I couldn't have been more excited about.  I truly loved it, it affected me greatly.  The only problem?  All the old bastards around my area were telling me that this music was crap.  

All the local guys (wish I could say women, but sadly, our scene was painfully male and white), would tell me this shit isn't hardcore.  You wanna be real?  You want hardcore?  Listen to Agnostic Front, Cro-Mags, Warzone etc.  These guys even thought Dag Nasty  was "pussy shit." This new music was so offensive to them, they just couldn't let me enjoy what I loved.  

This brings me to the 2008 Warped Tour that Gaslight did an 8 show stretch of.  I, regretfully,  spent the first few days of the tour making fun of bands.  Our friends Against Me and Street Dogs were on the tour, and we had some egotistical idea that we were part of only a small group of legitimate bands on the show.  After a few days of watching Pierce the Veil and Devil Wears Prada and bands of that genre, I decided I will not turn into that old prick that I once hated.    

I decided that even though I'm not enjoying the music, there are obviously thousands of kids who are getting something totally real and legitimate out of it.  Pierce the Veil is their Snapcase, like it or not.  When I mentioned my epiphany to then Tom Gabel, now Laura Jane Grace, I screamed over the noise "I know this isn't my cup of tea, but these kids can play, and people fucking love it"… He looked at me and said very clearly "Nope, they are really just bad."  

He may have been right.  I still can't listen to the new,  A.D.D ridden, singing like Paramore on every chorus hardcore.  But, I can't deny how much younger people love it, and the effect it has on them personally.   So I guess it's not for me to say.  This got me thinking about millennials, and the general perception that Gen X'ers and Baby Boomers have about them.  

Recently I've been hearing and reading and listening to a lot of debate about the Millennial generation.  Apparently humans born between 1981-2000.  Being born in late 1980 makes me a true transition child.  A Reagan baby who was never affected by his policies.  

I've been a part of the switches.  From the rotary dial home phone, to the push pad home phone, to the cordless home phone, to cordless home phone/answering machine packages, to alpha/numeric portable pagers, to car phones, to alpha/numeric portable phones, to data ready flip phones with a camera, to the iPhone, to the chip in my wrist that will contain my life almanac and allow the proper authorities to shut me down like a bad robot in the Jetsons, and so on…

Imagine for a minute, people of my age, that Americans born around 1996-1997 or so, have consciously known nothing of their country but terrorism and war.  Throw in a major depression, and the largest political divide our country has seen potentially since the Civil War.  It took me until 11, after we began to "liberate" Kuwait, to begin my slide into paranoia and fear.  They get to be born with it.  

According to US census data, no generation has suffered more from the financial crisis than millennials.   Median net worth of people under 35 years old fell 37 percent between 2005 and 2010; those over 65 took only a 13 percent reduction.  

Also, according to a 2012 Newsweek piece using analysis by the Pew Research Center, the wealth gap today between younger and older Americans now stands as the widest on record.  The median net worth of households headed by someone 65 or older is $170,494, 42 percent higher than in 1984, while the median net worth for younger-age households is $3,662, down 68 percent from a quarter century ago.  

Add to those facts that they are the "study" generation for the effects that 24 hour news, brevity technology and smart phones have on people.  Just like my generation and prescription drugs.   When I think about it, I'm impressed they don't all have nervous fucking breakdowns.  And no wonder why you'd turn into a bit of a narcissist when every tool used to shape your own identity is one of self-aggrandizing.  For the way they are, how can I blame them?  I'd like to see someone of my parents generation have the capacity and comprehension to tweet, listen to music and write a dub-step song on their phones all at once.  I can't even figure out what happened on Lost, let alone navigate Tumblr.  They can, we can't.   

The people coming out of this generation have a growing cynicism of the "American Dream", and as far as I can gather, they have a right to.  And I assume as the years pass, everything they created will find balance and the next group of young people will talk shit about them.  That's the way of the world.  

But maybe it shouldn't be.  

Friday, June 28, 2013

Dancing with the reaper, in Spain...


"The road to the future leads us smack into the wall. We simply ricochet off the alternatives that destiny offers. Our survival is no more than a question of 25, 50 or perhaps 100 years." Jacques Yves Cousteau
About a month ago, in a 36 hour period of time, I lost somebody I had loved my entire life,  lost somebody else I liked very much and respected, and heard of the passing of someone I had a close, yet fleeting 6 weeks with. 

The older I get, I seem to always lose something while I'm gaining something else. The amount of people I've known who have simply come and gone from my life is extraordinary.  I'm only 32, but through experience, lived and observed, I can safely conclude that getting old is not for sissies. 

Any number of thousands of things can kill you everyday. To be able to escape all these variables and wind up on the better side of luck can only last so long. But with each passing birthday, and fuck, each passing day, I find it remarkable to still be alive.  The general math is that each year of touring subtracts 3 years from your life, I'm in my 60's in rock and roll years.  Mick Jagger is 286 years old. 

I wish it wasn't taboo to tell young children not to look forward to birthdays. But to tell them when they reach these age pinnacles, while celebrating with cake and friends and clowns and bowling that...in reality, it's a celebration for them simply not dying. Well done on avoiding catastrophe for one more year kid.  I'll never utter this to a proper child, but come on....are we really partying in honor of the day of their birth?  I don't think so.  

Many years ago I was at The Fest in Gainesville, Florida.  The morning after we played, I wound up going with friends to the Top, a bar that serves delicious vegan biscuits and gravy on Sundays.  I went for food...but, since I went with members of Fake Problems and Look Mexico, I wound up drunk on whiskey by 1:00 PM.

While walking away to start seeing bands, I stepped off a curb and my face came two inches from a speeding bus. My hazy mind barely recognized the severity or danger. An occurrence where every element involved...my shoes, my hat, the size of my feet, not to mention innumerable variables that went into the bus, its driver and passengers could have changed the outcome.  For some reason, that day, I stayed two inches away from being a "senseless" tragedy. 

But really, it makes perfect sense. The more you live, the worse your odds get. Even with these fucking wheat grass shots my girl makes me drink.   Adding to my already growing sensibility that no day, or no situation should ever be taken for granted.  

Soon enough I'll be broken down to elements. Perhaps my soul will advance in some kind of cosmic or spiritual journey. But more than likely, I'm plant food. Which usually turns into animal food, which people eat. So, ironically...I guess death turns us all into cannibals.  That's fun! 

Friday, March 22, 2013

Blogging, Flogging, Jogging and Logging...

As anyone who checks up on this site periodically already knows, I'm shitty at keeping this updated and consistent.  But, in all honesty, I don't really think I've had much to share lately.  The things happening these days are not for public consumption and I'd be a typical and thoughtless character to just toss any old junk on here for you to waste your time on. 

I do feel that the blogging and social media waves that have happened over the last 10 years or so are absolutely watering down legitimate content.  It wasn't always the case that a random drummer for a band could have access to the same soapbox and platform that the President uses.  I barely passed high school English and could not, with a straight face, break down most commonplace grammatical law. 

And here I sit, on a bus in Bristol, England...wondering what the fuck to talk about. 

Sorry, nothing yet.  Wait...here's a thought. 

I would like to call out to the men of the world to act on a movement of decency and courtesy involving public restroom toilets.  As a man, who by the cruel hand of fate must sit down to tackle my stomach a good 3 times a day, I'd really rather prefer to not sit on a pool of your urine.  It's one of those simple concepts that everyone got yelled at by your mother for, pick up the seat when you pee, put it down when you're done.  If these simple rules are followed, the fabric of human decency and interaction will improve. 

Most men I know who have an issue with this is due to their OCD's and fear that their precious little hands will touch something remotely dirty.  Even though, logically, most public toilets are cleaned once a day.  Even dirty ones get a touch-up every few days.  When is the last time you cleaned your toilet at home everyday?  So I ask you this, frightened Freddies, you're only afraid of touching the remnants of pee from someone you don't know? 

I feel foolish that I need to write this, to call out to humanity to help me.  The time it would save me to pull my pants down and start my business without playing janitor.  Not to mention the serious environmental impact my "barrier" of toilet paper that is most often laid on top has.  I'm sad to say my carbon footprint grows, because you're too lazy or afraid to pick up a seat. 

I'd bet good money that if they did a swab test, your penis is dirtier than the toilet seat.  Maybe you should wash your hands to touch that. 

Ok...hope that was worth your 5 minutes. 

Monday, January 7, 2013

Winter, Darwinism and Natural Disasters...

"What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness." - John Steinbeck

It's cold again, it was bound to happen.  Every year there comes a time when it becomes inescapable.  This will now be my 32nd winter.  It feels impressive saying your age like that, makes me feel like a Game of Thrones character. 

Ned Stark - "How old are you? What say you young squire?"
Me - "This is my 32nd winter, sir."

So my pre-winter "training" is over and I'm in full cold weather mode.  Said "training" consists of subjecting myself to all levels of cold, via ill-suited clothing, leading up to the coldest months.  The logic is that I'm preparing my body for the forthcoming winter, and if Darwin is right, adapting and overcoming the cold. I think it makes sense, who knows if I'm right. 

But, there is something to say for people who have to live through winters.  Part of the reason that the Californian and Floridian "perpetual sun" vibe can begin to irritate cold weather peoples.  Winter is hard.  It's dark, and cold.  The days are short, the foliage is dead.  At night the only life is steam from passing mouths, building rooftops and greasy grill exhaust from the local fry and dies.  There is a solitude.  A bleakness. 

And what I'm trying to get at...an understanding between the people who have to endure them. 

Prior to last year, the upside to dealing with the brutally hot summers and ice cold winters  of New Jersey was the fact that we were mostly exempt from natural disasters.  Tornadoes, Earthquakes, Volcanoes, Tsunamis and Hurricanes are a foreign news piece for Jerseyites. All we have to do is deal with a few blizzards a year, buy some gloves and an ice scraper for your windshield, maybe a blower if you have a big driveway,  and you're mostly set. 

Well, not anymore.  I think one of the reasons some people from here weren't too worried about Sandy is because, historically, the hurricane warnings have been "crying wolf" my entire life.  At least twice every summer, since I was little kid, we've had hurricane warnings.  All with different weird names, all of them decrease in power by the Carolinas, or magically veer east over the Atlantic Ocean before they get to us, leaving merely a thunderstorm that half the populous bought canned food and generators for.  

Apparently things have changed.  The coast is pushing back and some serious re-consideration of where property is built, and more specifically HOW it's built is very much in the for-front. 

I'm off-topic, all I'm trying to say is...winter is cold, people who don't have them are soft, and global heating might be real. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Glaswegian Water...

"Ocean: A body of water occupying two-thirds of a world made for man - who has no gills."  - Ambrose Bierce

Backstage room in Glasgow, Scotland ... the 02 Academy.
5:39 PM, listening to the Blood Red Shoes sound check.
Waiting for Dave Hause to shower so we can go find some food. 

The current question posed to me at the moment:  Should I wipe the top off of the half-drunk "floater" bottle of water on the table in front of me...then drink.  Or, do I set this computer down and lean over to the 2 cases of unopened water bottles on the side of the couch. 

I have a slight ethical objection to opening the new water while there are 3 half-drunk ones with-in my eye sight.  Early in elementary school I participated in a workshop that was designed to terrify me about the worlds fresh water problems.  About how people, specifically Americans, grossly overuse our fresh water supply with things like long hot showers, gigantic washing machines and backyard pools.  Their presentation was profound to my young mind, and with the exception of the occasional long, hot shower...I have become uber conscious of it.   This is why I'm willing to risk contracting an oral disease by sharing a mouthpiece with some member of my band or crew.  Doing my part, just a little. 

But then, the older I get, the more I fear little colds and infections and such.  I've definitely heard of a lot more 32 year olds dying then I did 25 year olds.  Which makes me more reticent of taking that disease leap of faith and just opening the new bottle, ensured of its sterility.  The added environmental benefit is that I can personally guarantee it's completion, knowing that those 16 ounces of precious fresh water have gone to good use.  If Scotland had recycling, I'd certainly do it, but they don't...so that's an environmental impact I must ignore at the moment. 

I also think that making yourself available to a certain level of dirt and disease is positive for the overall functioning of your immune system.  Just saying. 

The most interesting thing to me, personally, about posing this question is...how casual my life must be at the moment to even consider such a quandary.  But on the other hand, maybe it's the little things that a lot of people ignore that could make a difference if said thoughts were collectively active.  Who knows, that leads to a totally new set of questions. 

I drank the floater, by the way...

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Luxembourg Insomnia...

"I have thousands of opinions still - but that is down from millions - and, as always,  I know nothing."   - Harold Brodkey

I'm sitting cross legged at the foot of a bed at 4:50 AM, half drunk, in a hotel room in Luxembourg with our guitar tech Brad sleeping a few feet away from me.  A situation that has somehow become normal for me, even mundane.  When I think about what my perceived adult reality was as a kid, and what it has become, I'm blown away.  It's even further in the future now than the time Marty McFly went to in Back to the Future 2.  As a kid, I thought by now I'd be a college graduate, a working guy with a family and all that. Probably with a flying car and meals in pill form.  After a certain point, 13 or 14 maybe, I thought I'd be exactly what I am.  It's just that I had no idea what becoming what I wanted to be entailed. Something I probably haven't fully realized until recently, over the course of the last few years when the band I created with 3 other people turned into something bigger. 

From the ground to the underground to the outer tinges of soccer mom's stereos.  From booking local shows, to booking east coast dates to spending 9 months a year on the road.  It's seriously a fucking trip, from the advantages, to the troubles, to the scruples and everything in between.  I would not trade it for any other life, but the perception of my life to a lot of people from the outside is starting to get interesting.  It now begins in my late twenties, when random people began digging my band.   People think they know you.  Your history and your baggage and your former pains and accomplishments.  Even the people who I've toured with for years couldn't tell me what my Mom's name is.  The kind of student I was in school.  How much bands like Strength 691, or 108, or CR meant to me.  What weekends with my Grandparents were like.  But to them, by listening to drum parts and reading a Wikipedia page, they think they know exactly who I am, who we are.   

It's this sort of judgement that's obtuse and dangerous and silly, and important to not take too seriously.   I'm an extremely opinionated and judgemental person, it's taken me the bulk of my adult life to let people be themselves without opinion, especially if it has no bearing on my life.  Now I've never been judged more in my life.  Everyone has an opinion, and one that has to mean something because my friends and I have chosen to publicly parade ourselves around and hire gigantic companies to promote our music.  Everything we say and do and write and record is now layed out for the court of public opinion.  And that's OK, it's part of the game.  It's just so much more important, now more than ever, to realize what a giant crock of shit it is. 

It's the most important time in my life to remember myself and where I come from.  To not let the leaking pen of a journalist or the quick fingers of a blogger define me.  They're random people, just like me.  People with their own histories, friends and families and scruples and insecurities to deal with. And I hope they find joy in what they do, malice driven or not.  It's like my Mom always said, "whatever gets you through the night".  The subjective nature of all of this is what keeps my skin thick.  6 years ago I was a pothead, college dropout who had a good job, a litany of past and present bands, and who's prime seemed to have passed when I stopped booking shows at 20 years old.    But I kept working and caught a break and now random people from all over want to pretend to know who I am, what motivates me and my friends and the type of people we are behind closed doors.  Let me lift the veil for you.  A bunch of lunkheads working their way through life, trying to figure it out...just like everybody else. 

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Psychology of the Touring Musician

"I travel not to go anywhere, but to go.  I travel for travel's sake.  The great affair is to move." - Robert Louis Stevenson

What brings us to this?  The lifestyle and the attitude of the touring musician tend to be so unique, there must be some common thread that binds us together, no?  The nomadic nature, travelers and seekers in the romantic, Kerouac sense. Fear of responsibility, listless and an aversion to the "normal" 9-5 grind in the classical, dare I say republican, sense. 

I've noticed some trends among my legions, but nothing that really stands out.  In essence, the bulk of touring relationships are moderately fickle.  Based on good times and music and general mutual interests.  But rarely do they turn into childhood, family dynamic, pain, love, fear and loss.  Typically the things that would drive our sub-conscious into the people we really are, and the decisions that drive our lives. 

The Spinal Tap image that most people perceive of us on the outside, is basically true.  The more I'm opened up into this fantasy land of bus parking lots and back stages and hotel rooms, the more I'm astounded at the mediocrity of its inhabitants.  They are just people.  People with a certain creative talent that are put in a position where people listen to what they have to say.  And are asked, quite often, to say a lot. 

With these questions in place, I'm trying to investigate further. 

Like most members of the advanced human civilization of our time, I googled my questions to see if anyone has thought of it yet, so I can appropriately steal from them and pass it off as my own.  I stumbled upon Micheal Brein, the travel psychologist, who lists many reasons for people, not musicians, need for travel.  The most interesting seemed to be the idea that it improves your self esteem.  He says "Anything people can do to enhance their own images of themselves elevates their estimates of their own sense of self worth in their own eyes as well as in the eyes of others."   This could most likely apply to the psyche of many musicians I know, insecurity and low self esteem and a feeling of being an outsider leads many traveling musicians to their calling.  It's actually amusing when these types of people are put onto pedestals of coolness, because their lack of coolness typically brought them there to a certain extent. 

For the older players, his idea of re-connecting and re-validating our lives holds water.  Saying "Travel enables us to make our current lives 'more real' by re-examining the present in light of the past."  This was best summarized by a T.S. Eliot poem saying.

And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time. 
We shall not cease from exploration

I like this, and like I said before, it can illuminate the more romantic side of the traveling musician.  Using the places and the people and the music to highlight the better parts of the past.  And to further suppress the things we're all running away from in the first place.  I realize this all my sound judgemental, but please know it comes from the most personal and sardonic place.  In essence, all of our perception is based most closely to our own likeness. 

But...I can't help but look at the people and places around me in an anthropological context.  The idea of what drives people, and myself, is fascinating.  With the personalities I'm surrounded with on a daily basis, it's hard not to try and figure it out.  I may be barking up an endless tree, but I'm not done in my quest to figure out the psychology of my people.  The nomads, the wanderers, the seekers...the traveling musician.