Thursday, February 04, 2016

Light Up Ahead

News quickly trickled out on Tuesday afternoon about the passing of Jon Bunch, who had fronted bands like Reason to Believe, Sense Field, Further Seems Forever, War Generation, and most recently, Lucky Scars. People that are very in the know didn't know about it until Jon's family posted something on his personal Facebook page. Since I was Facebook friends with him, I found out this way.

Of course there was denial out of the gate from friends, fans, loved ones, and bandmates. Jon seemed to be happy at 45 and living his life in California. Hearing of his death was a shock, and only now is this shock loosening and the grieving has begun.

I didn't know Jon personally, but like anyone you connect with through music on a deep level, you think you know that person. I had a few brief interactions with him that I shared on Facebook and Twitter, but I wanted to expand on them some more.

In the summer of 1998, I heard about Sense Field through my workplace, Best Buy. One day I saw some guys close to my age holding a Texas is the Reason CD and I figured I should talk to them. Texas is the Reason was like a secret handshake at that time, and I still think they are. In other words, if you dig Texas is the Reason, I probably will talk to you as they are still a revered band for me. These guys spoke highly of Sense Field and I kept them in mind. Not long after, I randomly read a Billboard article about their forthcoming album on Warner Bros. in the break room one day. It seemed like the band had some great momentum behind them, so I was curious.

I moved to Fort Worth that fall and I befriended a guy named Jeremy, someone I stay in touch with to this day. He was all about the Promise Ring and Jimmy Eat World and the whole emo/post-hardcore world that was in the late 1990s. He spoke highly of a new Sense Field EP called Part of the Deal, and at a price that was less than $10, I bought it without hearing a note beforehand.

Right off the bat, "One More Time Around" didn't sound exactly like their contemporaries. Jon had a gentle voice but there was a lot of strength behind it. These five songs weren't enough. I had to hear more. I patiently waited for this Warner Bros. record for months. I picked up their previous records and especially dug Building. These guys played songs that sang about love, friendships, and spirituality, but it wasn't ever cheesy to me. The wait continued. Very little information trickled out about the new record, aside from a possible title of Sense Field or Under the Radar. (I was fortunate to get a CD-R of the album, but I wanted the real thing.)

Eventually Tonight and Forever, which featured a number of songs from the Sense Field/Under the Radar record rearranged with new lyrics and titles, arrived in 2001. Four years was quite a while to wait, and I enjoyed the album quite a bit. I was in some disbelief that I was finally hearing this record. But it was real. (Added bonus: I got to interview their guitarist Chris for my Friday night show on KTCU.)

In 2003, I was a pissed-off 24-year-old trying to understand life after college. I had a major falling out with a close friend, was frustrated with my family and my friends, and I tried to stay afloat in a post-9/11 world. There were a lot of conflicting thoughts and emotions going through me, but music once again was there for me. During this time, I really connected to Sense Field's next record, Living Outside, as well as Hey Mercedes' Loses Control. Jon's lyrics about falling out and reconciling with his father carried a lot of weight for me. I could apply them to the people I thought about everyday.

I was fortunate to see Sense Field with Damone and Hey Mercedes at the Gypsy Tea Room. I was unapologetically That Guy Screaming His Head Off in the front during Hey Mercedes and Sense Field. After the show, Jon walked up to me and I noticed how tall he was. He gave me a very appreciative handshake and we exchanged nods. I felt better and things seemed to sort out in my mind after the show.

A while later, after Sense Field broke up, Jon joined Further Seems Forever and put out a stellar record called Hide Nothing. The opening track, "Light Up Ahead," was in constant rotation as I pondered leaving a job that had turned toxic and I was moving into a new place. Jon's voice always game me hope and that song (as well as that record) gave me so much guidance. Things turned out OK with the job front as I found a new full-time job and wound up living in that new place for nine years.

I saw Jon with Further Seems Forever twice. One was at the original Door and the other was at Trees. After the Door show, randomly, Jon walked up to me and my friend Jeremy. His facial expression looked like he recognized us and thanked us for coming. That was it, but it meant a lot to me.

An important life lesson came out of that: you can mean a lot to somebody just with a handshake and a lot of great music.

This past Tuesday morning, I randomly thought of "Dreams" from Sense Field while I used the bathroom. As I continue to think highly of my girlfriend, I smiled at thinking of the song's lyrics. Only a few hours later, after I heard about Jon's death, it was an eerie coincidence of timing.

Adding to the coincidence pile, I had traded e-mails earlier in the day with a publicist I've worked with throughout the years. We talked about some of her bands that were coming to town in the next few months, and I noticed her agency was now following me on Twitter. After I shared some thoughts about Jon on Twitter, she messaged me to say that she is married to Chris from Sense Field. That's right, the guy I interviewed back in 2001. Small world, but in a good way.

As a music fan tends to grieve, I've listened to Sense Field and Further Seems Forever a lot in the last few days. What Jon had to say and how he said it gave me so much guidance in life, and I will continue to listen to what he gave this world for many years to come. Hearing "One More Time Around" again this morning, there's even more weight to what he said.

Now I think it's safe to say

There's a place that we all stay

There's a time when we all know

It's a place that we all go

It's where we all come from

We play in the warmth of the sun

Laugh so hard we cry

Writing our names across the sky

Thank you, Jon, for all the great music and lyrics.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Spin the Black Circle

It only took me 22 years, but I finally understand why so many music fans prefer the sound of vinyl over any other format.

When I was a teenager, I remember Neil Young proclaim the superiority of the sound of vinyl. I didn't understand what the hell he was talking about. That sounded like an old cranky man who was out of touch with the youth of the day, even though he could still rip some amazing solos when he'd play with Pearl Jam.

Vinyl was the dominant format when I was very young, but by the time I was actively listening to music as a teenager, CDs took its place. Compact discs sounded the best at home while cassettes were the most convenient for the car stereo. (Yeah, I don't miss the days of a CD skipping in a car stereo any time I hit a small bump in the road.)

In response to Young's comment, I wondered, Why in the world would I ever take a listen to something that was bigger and clunkier, and it had snaps, crackles, and pops added in?

Only a few years later, I was a major completist, especially with punk bands. Vinyl might have disappeared from stores like Sam Goody and Sound Warehouse, but locally-owned stores and distros still carried 7-inches, 10-inches, and 12-inches. And punk bands still regularly released singles during that time with songs that were not on CD. Since the singles were cheap and I had to have everything that face to face released, well, a tentative rekindling with vinyl began.

Picking up face to face's split 7-inch with Horace Pinker led me to want everything Horace Pinker ever produced on CD and vinyl. A similar thing happened with bands like NOFX and Dropkick Murphys. I could put up with the pops and crackles as I dubbed all of these songs onto cassette tapes. Again, I had to have everything by a band I loved.

By the time I moved away for college, the 7-inch collecting stalled out. Occasionally I'd grab some LPs from labels who supplied my campus radio station with merch. I didn't plan on listening to Andrew WK or Pete Yorn vinyl LPs as I was very satisfied with the sound of CDs. (I was happy driving around without having to worry about CDs skipping in the car stereo.)

Alas, some friends of mine I made through the campus station liked to listen to vinyl LPs from their parents' collections. Hearing Love's "My Little Red Book" and Buddy Holly's "That'll Be the Day" on old turntables vinyl was fun, but I never thought this was the better way to enjoy music.

Aside from a memorable late-night listening to Tom Waits' Small Change in a Chicago loft one fall, where the beautiful strings and piano on "Tom Traubert's Blues" bounced off the brick walls and wood floor, I remained a CD-only person.

When Matt was my housemate, he started collecting albums by artists he loved as a child. Whether it was Frank Sinatra, Conway Twitty, or Billy Joel, he loved picking up stuff that was not easily-found anywhere else. He had an all-in-one player from Target that could play records, CDs and MP3s, and he frequently spent time in our front room listening to those LPs. Weekly visits to Half Price Books yielded more and more records. When he didn't want a copy of Eric Carmen's first solo record, I decided to pick it up and thus, a new collection was born.

Joining the Pet Shop Boys record I got back in 1987 (as it wasn't available on CD or tape the day I went to Sam Goody) and the 7-inch collection would be more albums that I had never seen digitally remastered for CD. I realized there was much more to explore this way, and I haven't really looked back ever since.

But what remained a mystery was finally solved this past Christmas: the actual sound of vinyl on a good turntable and decent speakers.

I had to upgrade to a better turntable as the portable one I had could not play 180-gram records at the correct speed. Santa Claus brought me an Audio Technica 120 and I hooked it up to my two two-foot bookshelf speakers and subwoofer.

Fittingly, I pulled out my copy of Neil Young's 3-LP Decade compilation, dusted it off, and gently put the needle on. Hearing depth in the sound as it bounced off the walls and wood floor, I believed I finally understood what Neil talked about. It was not like a revelation of the actual music, but a much better understanding of vinyl when it's played this way.

Ever since then, there has yet to be many days when I haven't listened to vinyl. Whether it's Scott Walker, Jawbox, or the Gaslight Anthem, I enjoy putting something on while I clean house or read a book. The experience of letting a record play through is a good one, leading me to hear stuff I had previously skipped over.

So, yes, Neil Young, you were right. It just took many years to agree with you. Now, about that Pono player.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Hope at the Dawn of the Dating Apocalypse

Last summer, I wrote about being single in the age of a possible "dating apocalypse." Basically, I thought there was still a good chance I could find somebody special even though the effects of dating apps, as well as social media, have become so common in the modern dating life. The Vanity Fair article I linked presented a spreading of a culture where people are more drawn to hook up with a lot of people rather than take time and work on a promising (and potentially long-lasting) relationship with one person.

Coupled with what I had seen firsthand through the dating site OK Cupid, along what I've heard and seen in person and what I've seen on social media with people I know, I started to believe the chances of me finding anyone incredibly special seemed like a longshot. But deep down, I held out hope no matter how many times I'd hear something like, "Women only care about how much money you make."

I reached a point where I thought, if I remained single for the rest of my life, then that's what happens. Not very long after I reached a stage of acceptance with that idea, I met Hope.

Through the power of Twitter, Hope found my review of Kevin Smith's appearance at the Texas Theatre. She liked the review and identified with the inspirational words Kevin said over the course of the two-hour appearance. She tweeted the review to Kevin and I tweeted a thank-you note to her in return. When I saw she had a horror-themed podcast based in North Texas, I immediately thought she would be a perfect guest for my podcast. Since my podcast is about people flexing their creative muscles while also holding down a job and other adult responsibilities, I thought I would have an enjoyable hour-long discussion with her.

Something made me think, if she could strongly connect to Kevin's ideas, then we could possibly talk about life and creativity on a similar frequency. I didn't think of this as someone I would date, as I had no idea what her background was. She looked cute on her Twitter pic, but I didn't know if she was single.

Before I asked her to be on my podcast, I listened to the first episode of her podcast and decided to give her some unsolicited feedback. Giving that can be a very easy way to come across as an arrogant asshole, especially when you don't know this person in real life. But I thought my feedback, which praised her uptempo and engaging conversation skills while suggesting some technical adjustments in the sound quality department, would be helpful. She responded in kind and then I asked her to be on my podcast.

The podcast episode went well and we continued to talk after the episode wrapped. I felt a very strong connection to her and wanted to see her again. Turns out, we sat in the same row at the Texas Theatre as we both were near an obnoxious drunk guy with a really bad case of Plumber Butt. We made plans to do another episode, a fan commentary on Student Bodies, but things quickly developed where there would be more conversations without microphones in front of our mouths.

Before we recorded our second episode together, I had been asked at the last minute to cover a Motley Crue/Alice Cooper show and I had a spare ticket. I decided to ask Hope and she responded in such a positive way where I thought, I really, really like this woman's energy and enthusiasm. She's pretty on the outside and on the inside -- and she has all the traits of being a Why Not? person instead of a Why? person, as Kevin Smith described at the Texas Theatre.

After spending more time together over the next few weeks, we decided to be a couple in early November. She has a personality that radiates inspiration and encouragement for me. She inspires me to be more of who I am, and accepts who I am now instead of what she wants me to become. She tries and I try, something that was suggested I strongly focus on in a relationship.

In this age of a forthcoming dating apocalypse, I express gratitude every single day she's in my life. I never would have found her through Tinder or OK Cupid as she's not a fan of those apps. She's more old-fashioned, wanting a quality relationship with one person rather than a string of superficial hook-ups with various people. That's what I wanted, and I believe there are still many people out there who want the same, instead of this supposed norm of hook-up culture.

I encounter a lot of tweets and Facebook posts about frustrations with Tinder and OK Cupid. While I don't think those sites are a waste of time in trying to find a new relationship, I must stress that one should be open to other avenues. Whether it's a book club, a tailgating group, a soccer-watching group, or volunteering at a soup kitchen, go where you want to be. And don't be afraid to open up and share who you are.

Where there's life, there's hope. As convenient as dating apps can be, they don't represent everything out there in this world. You have to be willing to do more and take different approaches if you can't find anybody through that route. We might rely a lot more on technology these days, but there are some parts of life that technology can never reach.

Monday, December 07, 2015

A Year in Music (2015 Edition)

I am very thankful how 2015 turned out to be. Work remains steady and satisfying. Doing a podcast was a great decision, as it's helped me reconnect with friends and make new connections in the process. I wrote a lot of articles about musicians I care about. And I found someone special who makes every aspect of my life better and rewarding. (Thank you, Hope!)

For the first time in many years, I listened to even more music than usual, thanks to a Spotify Premium account. From finding the joys of the Marshall Tucker Band to Frightened Rabbit, the search for music continues to be a rewarding journey. As for the full albums I enjoyed that were released this year, well, that list is rather short compared to the list of songs I really liked (which, you can listen to here). 

So, as 2015 comes to a close, I present my favorite albums of the year, as well as my favorite shows.  


Deafheaven, New Bermuda
To be frank, I was not sure Deafheaven could make another classic. Sunbather was such a revelation, blending dreamy shoegaze with black metal and goblin-like vocals. Yet somehow, despite fearing a Sunbather retread after the first couple of songs were premiered online, when I heard New Bermuda from start to finish, I was in love. No riff overstays its welcome and there are absolutely no filler tracks on it. There is beauty on this record, especially the "Champagne Supernova"-like ending on "Gifts for the Earth," and there is plenty of harshness throughout, yet I find a whole new appreciation of this San Francisco-based quintet.  

Richard Hawley, Hollow Meadows
There are certain songs in Richard Hawley's back catalog that I can listen to over and over again for months at a time. While there are many classic songs on Ladys Bridge and Coles Corner, I've never been too hot about the sequencing of such albums. Too much mellow, meandering stuff mixed with greatness. Coming from his last album, Standing at the Sky's Edge, a long and drawn-out exercise in hypnotic rock, I was not expecting Hollow Meadows to be one of his efforts to date. When I heard "I Still Want You" kick in with its chorus, I thought the magic had returned. Then the next track came and I liked it, and it continued all the way to end. Hawley harkens back to calm and lovely vibe of his earlier work, but with an immediacy that had been absent for a while. 

Spraynard, Mable
It's not often that I openly proclaim my love for a record after only one spin, but that's what happened when I received an advance digital copy of Spraynard's latest record, Mable. Put out on the reactivated label Jade Tree, I was reminded of what I loved about records by the Promise Ring and Lifetime back in the late 1990s. Spraynard doesn't sound like those bands, but the feeling of joy, filtered through a certain amount of self-deprecation, makes this a quick and enjoyable listen.  

Beach Slang, The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us
The hope I had with Beach Slang's first proper album was that it would be as good as their two EPs. Not much was changed between those EPs and this debut LP, but it's totally fine by me. James Alex Snyder is not afraid to say how rewarding it is to be honest and true to yourself. He's a 30-something playing punk rock and driving around in a van, but he and his bandmates put out a sound that is special. Special to the point that goes beyond the punk crowd. Imagine Jawbreaker and the Replacements up for affecting thousands of people in a stadium. 


Night Demon, The Boiler Room, May 6th
Night Demon's material sounds like the original version of the Misfits playing New Wave of British Heavy Metal. There is an intensity to their sound and performance that made me feel so happy and alive back in May. I've known frontman Jarvis Leatherby for many years, but I was not expecting to see my favorite show of 2015 on this night. They followed a grindcore band with Geoff Tate-like vocals and proceeded to make everyone in the venue take note. Smoke machines went off, their merch guy came on the stage for one song dressed a ghoul, and my face was melted off by riff after riff. 

Deafheaven, Trees, November 15th
If you were to tell me ten years ago that Trees, under a new owner, would be one of the best places to see a show, I would have laughed at you. Ever since the venue reopened a handful of years ago, I have had no problems with the venue or its staff. Their sound system made Deafheaven come across as a constant surge of energy, passion, and excitement. It was my third time to see Deafheaven and certainly the best. 

Braid/Beach Slang, Exit In, August 7th

I drove ten hours to see this show, and I didn't regret it one bit. I needed some kind of summer vacation, as my full-time job actually wants its employees to take time off. When I saw that Braid was going on a short tour this summer, I decided to go to a town I had never been to before: Nashville. I spent a lot of time with the Braid guys before the show, even seeing Michael Ian Black do standup, going record store shopping and a trip to Guitar Center. The show was great, as Braid continues to make music that is crucial to my ears and performances that are worth remembering. 

Rahim Quazi, The Kessler, June 18th

Rahim Quazi and I have been in the same room numerous times before, but I didn't understand the power of his music until this show, which sold out the Kessler. Performing his excellent album, Ghost Hunting, in full, along with various songs from his first two solo albums, I came away from the show with a blend of all kinds of thoughts and feelings. Rahim writes about heavy stuff, like falling out of love and recovering from child abuse, but he makes music that is hard to not love. It's rare for a local act to sell out the Kessler, and I was happy to see it. 

face to face, Gas Monkey Bar & Grill, April 23rd, 24th, 25th

face to face became the first national band I have seen nine times. That's right: nine times since 1997. Though I didn't think fondly of their last two records, face to face did a special engagement at Gas Monkey, performing Don't Turn Away, Big Choice, and self-titled over three nights. I met some fellow face to face diehards, spent time talking with some of the members, and was up in front for every night. They never disappointed. 

Mineral, Club Dada, January 10th

If it weren't for this show, I'm pretty sure I would continue to acknowledge the importance of Mineral's music, but be quick to talk about the greatness of Sunny Day Real Estate. After this, I can safely say Mineral deserves all the respect they have. Playing a long set of songs from their two albums and some non-LP material, I had a good time hearing those songs in a new light. 

Swervedriver, Club Dada, March 19th

I saw Swervedriver in the late 1990s, and it was not an enjoyable experience. Opening for Hum, the four-piece looked like they didn't want to be there. Songs devolved into jams that went nowhere and the band acted aloofed. That was not what I saw back in March. With Mick Quinn from Supergrass on bass, the band blazed through many great songs with very little jamming. Slag reunion tours all you want, but this was a redemption show for Swervedriver. 

Frank Turner, House of Blues, October 28th 

The turnaround from hearing Frank Turner's "The Next Storm" to seeing him blow the roof off of the House of Blues was only over a span of weeks. I had heard of Frank's name a few years ago, but everything came together very quickly after hearing Positive Songs for Negative People. There's a tremendous amount of vitality to Frank's songs and I felt that with every song he played that night. Definitely walks a line between Billy Bragg and Bruce Springsteen, and I love what Frank does. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Onward, through the night

It has been a full year since I lost my friend Evan Chronister to an accident. I have written plenty about what he meant to me when he was alive (this piece and this piece sum up everything pretty well) and I have certainly not shied away from talking about him to friends, family, and co-workers during these past twelve months.

This is how I've processed the grief, which I accept is an ongoing matter. And I think a part of this process is sharing what life has been like without him in the physical sense.

When I go to record stores these days and see a vinyl record reissue, I remember the caution he told me, as well as many others: the record label is ripping you off! Many reissues of classic albums simply ported over a CD mastering to vinyl, thus making it not an actual vinyl mastering. He could tell in the sound quality, and while I took his advice seriously, I have yet to do a side-by-side comparison. The guy cared about music listening as much as the music itself.

Only a couple of days after his death, my housemate Joel and I inherited a lot of vinyl LPs from his massive collection. From Ghost to Hawkwind to Saxon to Rainbow to Rush, I have tried to give these records as much love as he did. I identify myself as a music enthusiast, and my vinyl collection continues to show that as I have Goblin next to Andrew Gold, Mastodon next to Johnny Mathis, and Blue Oyster Cult next to the Born Free soundtrack. I don't show my collection to impress people. It's more to show how scatterbrained my taste in music is.

Evan never gave me hell about liking what I liked, which was refreshing. I was so used to being chastised for liking Black Flag, Rush, and ABBA. He recognized the passion to find music you love, no matter how hip or un-hip the artist was. That's an idea I've really tried to stress to impressionable music fans I know.

For many years, I would fear making musical recommendations to people. Too often, I'd praise something that people found to be the opposite of praise-worthy. These days, I'm happy to recommend bands to people that are curious. It's not an invitation to the Cool Kids club; it's an educated guess based on musical preferences.

I have a cousin who's in college now. He's into all kinds of music and is open to recommendations. I decided to make an ongoing Spotify playlist for him that I update weekly. I don't fear him disliking something I put on the mix. I'm simply happy to interact with somebody who likes to seek out things he's never heard before.

Over the summer, I talked to my cousin about seeing concerts. He lives in an isolated college town where a lot of country acts hit, but certainly not a regular stop for any other genre of music. I suggested he ask around with friends who play music if they know of any performances that happen in the smallest, non-traditional places, like coffee shops and garages. Apparently he's all about the local scene now, and I'm happy to hear about how much he loves it.

It's highly doubtful I'd be inclined to roll the dice and make suggestions if it weren't for Evan. Now I find recommendations to be an enjoyable activity.

I learned a lot from Evan and I certainly miss him, but I'm glad I did know him and many people who knew him well. The memories of my time with him will not fade away. I must continue the life I want to live, and I hope those who knew him do, too.

Friday, October 02, 2015


Once again, another band trailer robbery has happened in North Texas. This time, the trailer belonged to Iwrestledabearonce, an emerging schizoid metal band. It was stolen when it was parked in a church parking lot in Denton on North Bell Street just for a night a couple of weeks ago. A drum kit, all of their merchandise, road cases and speaker cabinets were stolen on September 20. It was estimated at a $20,000 loss.

Yesterday, a GoFundMe page was set up to recoup some of the money they lost in the theft, with an initial goal of $7,500. They set their initial goal to fulfill their upcoming U.S. tour dates starting at the end of this month, but additional funds are gladly accepted. (The funds already raised were close to $5,000 by last night.)

The band’s bassist, Michael “Ricky” Martin, lives across the street from the church where the trailer was stolen, and had thought of Denton as a safe place where you don’t have to worry about a theft of this magnitude. After filing the report to police, there have been no leads from police or friends of the band.

This is not the absolute worst thing that has happened to this band, but it is definitely yet another setback. They changed singers a few years ago at a critical period in their career, and when they all lived in a house in Birmingham, all of their personal possessions were stolen while they were on tour. While this loss is big, it certainly is not a reason to cancel any future tour dates or call it quits as a band.

“We’d much rather go into debt ourselves just to keep going, at least to see if we could eventually recoup just from becoming a bigger and better band,” Martin says. “We don’t make much money, but we continue to do what we do because we love doing it. We love playing in front of people and we love to inspire people. We do this because it’s awesome to do. It’s awesome to travel the world and do what you like to do.”

Not only have friends and fans of the band helped out already, the band’s label, Artery, has already extended help with merch and plane tickets. “I’m really surprised with how many people have helped,” he says. “It’s crazy how lots of people are responding and helping us out. It really encourages us to get better and play more.”

The white trailer has a pretty noticeable thing on the back: a smiley-face created out of reflective tape. “It would be ironic to see it now,” Martin says with a laugh.

Here is the list of all the stolen items:
CDs, LPs, hoodies, hats
Two PPC Orange 4x12 cabinets
Two white road cases containing the orange cabs
One Hartke 8x10 hydrive bass cab
Gretsch renown maple 5-piece drum kit with mounting hardware
Gretsch renown maple natural finish custom snare drum
Iron Cobra HH905N kick pedals
Accompanying Gibraltar hardware
Complete set of SKB drum cases/cymbal cases
14" Zildjian new beat hats
2 x 18" A Zildjian custom medium crash
2 x 18" A Zildjian custom crash
19" K Zildjian China
19" hybrid K Zildjian custom crash
2 x 8" K Zildjian splash
8" A Zildjian custom splash
2 x 19" hybrid K Zildjian custom China
2 x 18" Oriental Zildjian China
22" Zildjian K Custom Dark Ride
16" Zildjian A Custom Reso Crash
A wacky waving inflatable arm flailing tube man (production piece)
Band tent

If you see anything or have any leads, contact the band via their Facebook page, Twitter page, or this e-mail address

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Is it me? Is it fear?

A sign you're making progress in life is when rejection doesn't destroy any (or most) of your self-confidence. I got that sign today when I learned a book proposal of mine was not accepted. And while it's disappointing I won't spend the next twelve months of my life committed to that proposed project, I certainly am not taking this like a torpedo hit my sailboat.

Given how internally I process things and how sensitive I am, it's really easy to take things personally. Before I realize what's happening, I'm playing the Victim card. Alas, that didn't happen today. Instead, it was a reminder of how sometimes things work out the way you thought they would, while other times, things work out in ways you never expected. (Sometimes those ways really suck and leave scars, but other times, they work out way better than you could ever imagine.)

I submitted a proposal for a short book defending Metallica's St. Anger, an album that has been the easy dog to kick whenever most fans talk about the band's catalog in person or online. I think the album is very important for the band's legacy, as it helped keep the band together when it almost permanently broke them apart. Master of Puppets and the Black Album are easy to praise based on their sonic merits and longing in the hearts of fans, but I wanted to go further and discuss why a reviled record was the band's most important record to date.

I don't know how else I could have written my multi-page proposal, and I'm not kicking myself, pondering how I could have made something that would have been accepted. (I should add that hundreds of other people submitted proposals on other albums, and hundreds of them got the same news I did today.) 

I haven't abandoned my desire to defend said album, but for the time being, it will be relegated to blog posts, tweets, and Facebook comments. If ever there was another way or chance to get to speak my mind and say what I want to say (be it for an article, a book, or a documentary), I will not turn down the opportunity. Rejection doesn't mean you give up what you want to say; you just have to find another way of expressing it, even if it's like dropping a small pebble in an ocean. You don't cast that pebble for immediate approval. You cast it in hopes there are other people out there who don't think you're crazy and actually agree with you.

What's weird about facing rejection in the eye is this thought that you must have a thick skin. I don't know about you, but I wasn't born with a thick skin. It took me a long time to realize I should enjoy doing what I do, no matter how much people tore down my abilities. Whether it was playing and writing my own music or writing about matters I really cared about, I wasn't going to give up because somebody said I sucked. I don't have a choice: I have to pursue creative passions. If I don't, I wouldn't have much to offer this world.

Certain rejections in the past five years have led to major lulls in my life. Relationships broke up, friendships fell apart, job situations were not entirely stable or promising, and so on. None of those experiences were wastes of time as I believe I learned a lot from them, and most importantly, understood my role in why those didn't work out. I like to think I'm better for going through such grief, as friendships have been repaired, the job situation is more stable, and I'm comfortable with whatever happens next on the relationship front.

It can be easy to let a small rejection like a book proposal pass by when there are many other things on my plate right now. There are articles to write, podcasts and music to record, a novel to work on, concerts to see, sporting events to watch, movies to see, and friends and family to spend time with. I didn't put all of my emotional well-being into the acceptance or rejection of this book idea. I put everything I could into a proposal, but I tried to see a bigger picture of what I would do if it didn't get accepted.

Life can go in crazy directions, and rejection can be a gift. If you were ever tell me I'd be able to relate to Garth Brooks' "The Dance" and "Unanswered Prayers" (songs that I found incredibly corny and silly in my teens and twenties), I'd laugh you off. But I have a better understanding now of what the general messages are: if you don't try to do this, you won't be able to appreciate that. And just because things don't work out the way you wanted them to, that doesn't necessarily meant they're the wrong outcome. They're just what they are: experiences that help you get through the road of life.