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Friday, September 30, 2005

Save the date: October 13th, 2005

Big news that's been brewing for a while: I'll be in Chicago between October 9th and the 16th for vacation and some book stuff. One of the things on tap is a benefit show at Beat Kitchen on Thursday, the 13th with the following line-up:

The City on Film
The Firebird Band
Hirudin
Dogme 95

For those that know the line-ups for the City on Film and the Firebird Band, you know that there are ex-members of Braid in these bands. Well, this ain't no Braid reunion show, but this is a celebration of the now because of a band like Braid, a band that has a full chapter devoted to them in my book.

All of these acts are my friends and they all have an important connection to the book. I've gotten to know Bob from City on Film and Chris from the Firebird Band through my interviews and hanging out with them whether with Braid or City on Film or Firebird Band. Since they both live in or around Chicago, I hoped they would be in town on the same night given their rather busy touring schedules. Luckily, both bands were available that night so it worked out.

As for Hirudin, they help carry the torch of mid-90s post-hardcore-influenced rock with their music. They're Chicago-based too and plus guitarist/vocalist Kyle Ryan is a good friend of mine. A lot of his articles that have appeared in Punk Planet and Alternative Press have been wonderful resources for book research.

Finally with Dogme 95, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to have Nick on the bill. He's been my bro with the ups and downs and everything in-between since college and it makes total sense to have him play. He's been a part of this book since day one so I any help I cab offer him in return is much obliged.

The point of this whole show is to have a good time but also to showcase how a sense of community is still alive even in these times of commercialized emo cheese rock. I think it's important to showcase a sense of harmony even if these guys aren't playing the same style of music. We all came from a different era and we want to celebrate it.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

There's "living" and then there's "making a living"

We need money in our lives. It gets us the shelter we need, the food we need, the transportation we need and so on. Money does not pump blood into our veins nor will a dollar bill kill us, yet we treat money (or the threat of lack of it) like it a life or death matter. I understand its importance but I believe making and having enough money to live on is not the only priority in my life.

I've been fortunate enough to make a living doing what I've wanted to do for a while now. I wanted to work in radio or something related to it, but I never set out to do just one thing. People tell me I have a voice for radio but I don't think my voice is only destined for it. I have the mindset to understand how the field works and what all comes with it. I never would have guessed as to how things were to work out back when I graduated in December of 2001. Going from being a promotions assistant to being a producer to being a producer and a reporter in the following years, each one luckily gravitated towards the other when it was time to move on.

I paid my dues before I could afford to pay for everything in my life with my own money. I definitely paid my dues before I could pay the rent, as Stephen Malkmus put it best in Pavement's "Range Life." There were some rough times after college where I needed my parents to partially help me out financially, so I'm eternally grateful for their support. However, their support was not just from a bank account; it was from their neverending moral support. At times, they believed in me way more than I believed in myself.

It was in these years that I felt I was just working all the time to hide from past unresolved issues. I felt that it was the only way I could mentally deal with my evaporating relationships with people I knew from college. Well, I couldn't get the guilt of those finished or about to be finished relationships out of my head even with a 55-hour work week. Here I was working every day for months straight and rarely having a day off (other than the days where I was so sick that I could not work). I felt I had hit a massive wall in my life. I was making enough money to support 90% of all my expenses and here I was frequently listening to records, on the internet, watching movies and watching late-night TV trying to cover up the holes in my life. Emotionally, I was on life support.

When that pile of shingles hit my head on March 1st, 2004, it was the beginning of finding another path of thinking. By the end of the day I was getting ready to interview Adam Pfahler of Jawbreaker via e-mail. By the end of that week, I had Kim Coletta from DeSoto Records/Jawbox and Bryan Jones from OffTime Records/Horace Pinker onboard for input for my book. More interviews followed, more writing and researching poured out and I realized how profound what these people I was talking to had to say.

One of these profoundities came in the form of a quote from J. Robbins. I asked him something along the lines of how does making/producing music and making a living from it work for him. He responded, "It can't just be about making a living for me." BAM! Another revelation: Playing/writing/producing/critiquing music may be one's primary source of income but it's the necessity of listening/creating/critiquing it sans the thought of making any money doing it stirs the creative side of the soul.

Now that I've realized that I don't have to mentally beat myself up with shame and guilt over things that I can't (or couldn't) control, I know that me being creative is as important as eating, sleeping and breathing. As Ian MacKaye put it best, "It's not an option for me - I have to do this." Whether or not any money can be made doesn't matter in the creative world. I have the free time now, the drive and the understanding to just live and be creative.

There is a misnomer that you should be paid how much you think you're really worth. I'm sorry, but there is no monetary value to my worth in this world. The fact that I can make any money doing something that works in conjunction with my views on hard work, devotion, understanding and being motivated is true success for me. I refuse to say I "barely" make a living as a producer/reporter based on my annual income. It's a living that allows me enough peace of mind to flex my creative muscles.

I don't sit around and think like I used to think back in college with the thought of "Once I reach this certain age, make this certain amount of money and have a solid relationship with someone, then I'll be complete." After realizing that one's happiness comes from what it is in the now and not was in the past or in the future, I truly am empowered to be alive every day.

There's a large distinction between making a living from a job and there's living to one's best abilities. Please don't take this all as bragging. It's taken me four long years to come to this simple point. I look forward to the years ahead to find an even greater sense of purpose and meaning.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Ever

I may be behind the times on this, but it's recently occurred to me that there is a word that is overused by many people my age and younger: ever. Now I don't mean to sound like that professor that claimed that the instances in Alanis Morrissette's "Ironic" ("it's like rain on your wedding day") were technically not ironic, but I think 'ever' is frequently misused. From saying you had the worst tan ever to having the worst day ever to seeing the best show ever, 'ever' seems to end sentences as frequently as periods do.

When I think of the word 'ever,' I associate it with a sense of finality in the grand scheme of things. It's the accumulation of everything that the person has known up until that point, thus hinting that things in the future will not be up to or below that level. Well, what happens when something tops something that was once dubbed "the best ever"? In other words, when I hear someone talk about how a My Chemical Romance show was "the best show ever," I wonder what will happen when that person sees a show that was better than "the best show ever."

There is something about the younger age bracket that thinks more in black and white than the older age bracket. Maybe this has always been the case, but I'm just now coming to realize this at 26 as I'm more in the gray than black or white. Back in college, I never claimed that Ben Folds Five's self-titled debut or Jimmy Eat World's Clarity were some of the greatest records ever released. I thought they were some of my all-time favorite albums, but not the be-all, end-all records for everyone. Many bands, records and shows have come to top others while some remain very high and mighty in my mind. I still cherish Clarity, all of Ben Folds Five's records, face to face's Don't Turn Away, two particular Red Animal War shows, the Promise Ring's gig at Fitzgerald's in 1998, Jimmy Eat World/At the Drive-In's gig at Rubber Gloves in 1999 and Fugazi's gig at the Ridglea Theater in 2002. All of those are hard to top, but I'm sure that there will be others to add to the list in years to come.

VH1 has a show called Best Week Ever, which takes a look at the current week with a lot of wit implied. With its over-the-top narrator's voice, the week in music, movies, TV and world events are recapped in a faux-newsreel style ala World War II propaganda films. The show's producers get the joke that it's not the "best week ever" and I think a lot of people my age get the joke too, but I just find myself thinking about why so many people think that this week (or band or show or day) is better than any other week (or band or show or day). Do we really live in a time where everything is replaced and the former is erased?

I chalk this sense of finality to a youthful look at life in the immediate now and not looking too far down the road. As Paul Weller put it in the Jam's "When You're Young": "Life is a drink and you get drunk when you're young." I echo that statement but I don't think there's an expiration date for youth. It's up to the individual to decide where he/she is in life with his/her maturity and outlook.

For me, I'm one who is all about finding happiness in the now with what I have now (the physical, the mental and everything in between), but I understand that those things may not be with me forever. I'm cautious about the words I use to describe what I enjoy and what annoys me. There are things that I could not fathom doing at 16 that are second nature to me now at 26 like driving a car, having a dog in the house and writing a book.

When you're a teenager, you're often not thinking about paying the rent, paying off student loans or even paying for food. When you reach that point of responsibility, that probably signals the most drastic change from being a kid to an adult. I've seen people become so beaten down by the pressures that come with financial responsibility but I've also seen those same people feel more free and alive than they ever did when they were younger.

Being young may be "the best thing ever," but unfortunately, we don't stay 18 forever. Some may think that when they become 21 then they will start their lives. But as Roger Waters said, life doesn't begin in one spot, it's always going. I doubt that attitude will ever change.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Troubled Hubble RIP

Some rather sad news from Troubled Hubble because they're breaking up:

for reasons, both physical and personal, the band has decided to make next thursday, september 29th at Schuba's the final Troubled Hubble show. it's been an amazing journey for all of us over the last six years, and we're so thankful to all of our friends and family for supporting us along the way, not to mention all the amazing friends and fans we've met all over the country. you have no idea how much we'll miss seeing you!as for the show, happily it's all ages, so anybody willing and able can attend. if you want to be sure to make the show (especially if you're traveling), we suggest you buy tickets ahead of time here.it's going to be a great show, and we're excited for the opportunity to end a career that we're so proud of on a high note. with any luck, we'll see you there.

As to why this is some very sad news for me, please refer to my recent post on TH.

Those times have changed man/and so have I

So says Dave Smalley from one my favorite Dag Nasty tracks, "Never Go Back." Of course we can't go back in time, but I feel there are certain things we should look back and cherish. In the case of a band's story, I choose to focus on the most important factor: friendship through playing and making music together. Since I often talk about other bands, I figured I should talk about some of my old bands.

I have played drums since 1994 and have spent time in five separate bands since then. All of them had their ups and downs but they have made me appreciate the time I have in my current band, Ashburne Glen. I remember the days of being friendly competitors with fellow area bands and all the drama that came out of it. Those were fun ways of passing the time but the most valuable things I learned about friendship through bandmate status came from a band I was in between 2001 and 2003 called the 11:30s.

When the 11:30s started, me, Dave and Nick (two guys I met through KTCU) were really into Sigur Ros, Godspeed! You Black Emperor and Coldplay. Somehow we got away with jamming at a relatively sane volume in Dave's apartment without getting the cops called too much. Though I had my drumset set up in Dave's place, I found myself playing guitar more than drums. Dave would be on guitar and keyboards and Nick would be on my drums. When we realized that we could never pull off these impromptu jams in a live setting and we needed another person to play either bass or guitar, we added Stephen "Goose" Gose and moved into Dave's father's warehouse to practice.

Choosing a name out of a list that Goose had written up, we all liked the sound of "the 11:30s." We felt it was a fitting nod to the late-60s, "Nuggets" era of bands where almost every band had "the" in the name. Plus, our first performance in front of people (intentionally) happened at 11:30pm. We were off to a great start.

While we first started out as a jammy space rock band, we pooled our influences from shoegaze rock (especially Ride and Slowdive) and garage rock (Dandy Warhols, Brian Jonestown Massacre and all those great bands from the '60s) right as garage rock was getting a lot of attention in the hipster, indie rock world. We didn't care about becoming rock stars; we wanted to write good songs and have a good time playing them.

One of our biggest shows was at Ridglea Theater, a renovated movie theater with a huge ballroom. We got to play with Chomsky (one of my favorites), El Gato and the Audiophiles on the same stage that I had once seen the Flaming Lips and Fugazi play on. We had so much fun and had a blast at the following show at the Aardvark (which would end up being Nick's last show with us). Nick had a golden opportunity to intern at Capitol Records in LA so he took a sabbatical from the band with plans to return in the fall.

In the meantime, we got Taylor from fellow friends, Voigt, to fill-in on bass and we gigged around some more (we even played in the bright lights and big city of Dallas). When Voigt's drummer slot was open a few months later, I offered my services and I was now in two bands at once. Though I was planning on being in the band for a short while, I ended up being in Voigt for a full year.

As for the 11:30s, when Nick got another golden opportunity (this time it was living in London for the fall semester and interning at Cherry Red Records) and eventually moved to Chicago, and Taylor's schedule didn't work out for us, we figured we needed a new bass player. We planned to record an EP (maybe an LP if we were lucky) on the cheap but the guy who was going to do it flaked out on us, so the plans were scrapped. Then, Goose decided he had enough of living in Fort Worth because of not being able to find stable work, so he moved back home to San Antonio. I wasn't going to let the 11:30s go without a fight and talked to a few possible bassists. When those possibilities flaked out on us and I realized that Dave and I are two very different people and saw Dave join our old rivals the Audiophiles on keyboards, I went to our practice space and got the rest of my stuff. There was no talk about ending the band; everything just dissolved.

Voigt let me go a few months later in October of 2003. Suddenly I was band-less, something I hadn't been in a few years. I wanted to start a new band from the ground up. I was inspired by how Conor Oberst could find a large revolving cast of backing musicians for Bright Eyes in the small little town of Omaha, Nebraska. I figured I could find some like-minded guys here in Dallas, a town whose population greatly dwarfs Omaha's. Before any of this happened, I got a call from my old bandmate Goose. He told me he had found me my new band. He told me I should call this friend of his named Jason and try out with his band, Ashburne Glen. I got in touch, joined the band, played a couple of shows and have enjoyed the experience immensely. Jason and I are housemates and still play together in Ashburne Glen though our practice schedule is very sporadic. We get together when we can and almost always have a good time playing with Lance and whoever ends up becoming our permanent bassist. All the roads of bands have led me here and I'm grateful for all the experiences I've had before and look forward to more.

I bring all this stuff up because I have been greatly moved by friendship found through of music, whether it's playing in a room together or playing music for one another. Nick has been a very close friend of mine since college and I often forget that we were once bandmates. He's been on board with Post since day one and I truly cherish our friendship and mutual support. There is no price on this kind of stuff and it's hard to live without it.

I hope what I will show with Post are bands whose warts-and-all stories are appreciated by its ex-band members. I think of it as appreciating certain things of one's past in order to appreciate one's sense of self and friendship today. I just hope it will feel less like watching old embarrassing home movies.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Short Cuts

Part of Sunday was spent watching Robert Altman's Short Cuts, a film I heard had many parallels to PT Anderson's Magnolia. Whether or not Anderson was deliberately trying to copy Altman, I highly doubt this. I see similarities between the two films as they are both large ensemble pieces with similar plot devices. Where each one goes from there makes it unique. I can't help but think about my biggest influences on Post and how I try not to copy them.

I've made no secret about my love for Our Band Could Be Your Life, Fargo Rock City and Wilco:Learning How to Die and I strongly feel shades of my interpretations of these books will come through in Post. With Our Band Could Be Your Life, I like the simplicity of breaking up chapters by band simply for clarity sakes. Plus, I enjoy its demystifying look at bands whose stories have become rather big fish stories over the years. Knowing what really happened is way more interesting that what the press said back in the day. With Fargo Rock City, I enjoy its honest account of hair metal from a guy who is still a hair metal fan. Finding deep philosophical meanings in his experiences as a rock fan, Chuck Klosterman nails so many things on the head, even as a fan of the often-mocked hair metal. With Learning How to Die, Greg Kot comes across as a big fan of a band who wants to know everything that a big fan would want to know about his favorite band. The sincerity is there on every page.

Of course there are way more influences involved here, but those are the big three. How inspiration relates to one's own work, that's a very fascinating thing. From a distance, rip-offs look very obvious. However, finding a true copycat is tough.

In the case of Magnolia, I see the structure of Short Cuts mixed in with themes found in Network and in various Scorsese films but I see a lot of stuff that come directly from PT Anderson's own life. Themes of fathers and sons connecting and all kinds of people wanting to find love are some of bigger ones in Magnolia. In Short Cuts, the complicated world of relationships with husbands and wives (with and without kids) are the focal points. Plus, alcohol is a major character in the film even though it doesn't have a speaking part (obviously). Yes, they are both 3-hour epics that end with a major event that ties everyone together, but I strongly feel there are big differences between the two.

I'm sure that some people will draw parallels to the structure of Post to Our Band Could Be Your Life, but I don't mind since it's on purpose. Trying to cover all of these bands, labels and people in one long, straightforward narrative would be insane. Structure aside, Post is written in my own voice with topics you can't find in Our Band Could Your Life, Fargo Rock City or Learning How to Die. Namely, friendships and growing up are some of the biggies. These are topics that are very important to me and I feel they should have the spotlight since they are the ones that give these stories a lot of weight.

I've heard comparisons of all kinds before and some have been way off. When KISS was approached with making a movie, KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park, it was billed as "Star Wars meets A Hard Day's Night." If anyone has been lucky enough to see this flick (due to the fact that it is hard to find on tape), you know that is nothing of the sort. The Vines were dubbed as "The Strokes but with credibility." One listen to the Vines' Highly Evolved and the Strokes' Is This It? show massive differences is all shapes and sizes.

As I said before, pure rip-offs are hard to find. Now I haven't listened to this band in years, but I distinctly remember a band called Ozma sounding 98% like Weezer. From similar keyboard, guitar and drum sounds to the vocalist's voice to the songs themselves, I kept thinking of Weezer when I heard them. Judging by Weezer's Green Album and its follow-ups, maybe a band like Ozma was necessary.

Maybe things like message boards were solely created for name-calling and branding rip-offs but I feel it's best to do and not just sit around and criticize everything.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Planet Houston

As I had blogged about my birthplace eventually getting back to its self as Hurricane Katrina hit, I think about Houston, the place I called home for 14 years, as Hurricane Rita approaches.

My parents still live in Kingwood (a 'burb about 30 miles north of Houston) as my sister and her husband live about 25 minutes away from there. Since they are very high above sea level and about 80 miles away from the shore, they are very wise in staying put. They've boarded up their houses just in case as the prediction is that there may be some power outages, high wind and a few downed trees. The damage may be worse or may be less but I can say is this; I have faith that any damage will be fixable in some form or another. If destruction is really a form of creation, then I won't worry.

Don't think that I'm wishing for mass destruction and shattered and/or lost lives here. Hurricanes happen; just like thunderstorms, flat tires, paper cuts and all other sorts of things that we can never really prepare ourselves for. The importance is to do something and to not blame ourselves for doing what we want to do, consequences and all.

Galveston has been hit by many hurricanes before and I truly believe that the town will regroup following the storm's passing. Yes, this storm, no matter how intense it gets, will pass. I try to explain this philosophy to others but others choose to focus on the frenzy of what might happen. I choose to not drag the waters of despair while others want to bathe in it.

Now it's really easy for me to sit here in Dallas 4.5 hours away from the shoreline and make these observations and act calm. I'm concerned for my family but especially my friends that live closer to shore. Matt works in Galveston and I have no doubt in my mind that he and Kim have evacuated to higher ground. My uncle Bill and aunt Linda have lived in Galveston for a long time and I'm sure they got out OK. Seeing I-45 jammed like sardines from Houston all the way to Ennis (which is 30 miles south of Dallas) is pretty scary to see. Hearing of people driving hours and hours to go a few dozen miles is crazy. Seeing gas stations be out of gas while the ones that have gas be packed is nuts. This is pure panic time, but I choose to stay in an optimistic light while a pessimistic light is on too, but only slightly dimmer.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Don't Turn Away from Ignorance is Bliss

I was talking with Kyle the other night about various things. One of them was on face to face, a band we share much admiration and love for. Turns out he received an advance copy of the forthcoming face to face retrospective, Shoot the Moon: the Essential Collection, and read off the tracklisting to me. After hearing the list of songs, I was taken aback by the fact that there are no songs from the band's fourth proper album, Ignorance is Bliss. I could understand why songs from it were left out because they are much different from their other material, however if they are trying to hide Ignorance is Bliss, I'd be very pissed at them. Here's some backstory:

After their classic debut album, Don't Turn Away, was released on Dr. Strange (and later, Fat Wreck), face to face found themselves in the major label world of Polygram. First they were on Victory Music (no, not the metal/punk/ska/emo label based in Chicago - it was an imprint with such fellow artists as Yes on the label) then they were on A&M (the label that brought us the Carpenters and Herb Alpert) and then they found themselves on Beyond Music (with labelmates such as Motley Crue and Blondie). Ignorance is Bliss, their first album for Beyond, was a drastically different album than any of their past work. More influenced by the Foo Fighters, Catherine Wheel and the Cure than Bad Religion and Social Distortion, face to face was making a bold and brave step away from the confines of the safe-for-your-suburbanite-teen-who-wants-it-fast pop-punk. They drew a lot of criticism for making the album, but they said that the album kept the band going after temporarily breaking up. Their follow-up (which arrived one year later) was called Reactionary, an album more in the vibe of their past material but still showcased some sides of Ignorance is Bliss. After cutting one more album in the vibe their pre-IiB material, How to Ruin Everything, the band called it quits in 2003.

I remember hearing some of the Ignorance is Bliss material on tour before the album came out in stores. I thought the songs were great, but a lot of other people in the crowd gave them relatively lukewarm reactions (no boos, but a lot of mild clapping). This material definitely wasn't the mosh-inducing material that most pop-punk fans wanted to hear, but as someone who was open to change as long as it yielded good results, I was pleased.

Now getting the impression that the band is skipping over Ignorance is Bliss for their "essential" collection, I raise a flag.

Say a married couple has five children. All were conceived out of love and were healthy in the birthing process. However, one of the children in the middle has pretty different traits (but not radically different) than his/her siblings. The child came from the same parents (no black sheep or red-headed stepchild references here) and was raised much like his/her siblings were but just turned out a little different. Now how would it feel to pretend that this child doesn't really exist?

I really don't think face to face's ex-members are embarrassed by Ignorance is Bliss. The album came out during a weird period for the band and it reflects that time very well. I may be jumping to bigger conclusions than what has been implied but I can't help but urge people interested in face to face's music to check out Ignorance is Bliss. The cool thing is that you can find a used copy in almost any used record store in the country. Who knows, maybe one day this will be as highly touted as Weezer's Pinkerton.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Doin' it for the (insert any word but 'kids')

There's a word that I don't feel comfortable using when referring to a younger generation of music fans: kids. To me, the word 'kid' makes me think of two other words: young and naive. We'll always be younger than our elders and we may never know as much our elders do but where is the cutoff point with calling people kids?

I hear about 'kids' all the time. I don't fault the people that call them that but I'm always looking for a word other than 'kid' when describing someone a few years younger than me. I don't understand how a 24-year-old could call a 17-year-old a 'kid'. Would a 55-year-old call a 42-year-old a kid too?

I have a friend who has 4-year-old and a 2-year-old: those are kids in my book. The age, knowledge and experience gap is wide enough to make the distinction. So it's with that labelling caution that I bring up a story about a 17-year-old I met a Firebird Band show a few months ago.

I didn't hear the full story on this guy, but apparently he was involved in a serious car accident about two years ago. It was so serious that doctors feared he may never walk again. He really wanted to see Braid on their reunion tour last summer, so he did his rehabilitation but went to the show in a wheelchair. He was so set on seeing Braid since it would be the only time he could see them live. Though he saw the show in a wheelchair, he had a good time and was fully-committed to walking again.

Well, at this Firebird Band show a few months ago, this guy (now with only a small brace on his leg and slight limp) comes up to Chris Broach (ex-Braid/current Firebird Band singer/guitarist) and tells him his story. The story was so moving and inspiring for us all. I found myself later talking to him about the generation of music fans that came after my generation. I had mentioned how I just couldn't get into bands like New Found Glory because they reeked of being a water-downed pop-punk act. He told me how much bands like New Found Glory and blink-182 meant to him. Essentially those bands were gateways to greater bands like Braid. Things were becoming very full circle with an interview I had done with Jim Ward (from At the Drive-In and Sparta) a few months before.

Before I did my interview with Jim, one of his quotes that really knocked me out was on his feelings on Top 40 pop. He was once asked as At the Drive-In was being touted as the Next Nirvana about his feelings on pop groups like Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears even though those acts weren't really up his alley. He said the principle of getting people excited about music at a young age was great. Making a young person excited about music increases the chances that music will be a major positive influence in that person's life because it came at a young age (often a time considered 'simpler' when one gets older). When I brought this up in our interview about how feels about pop music in general he said this: "It's baby food and then you grow up to steak and potatoes." How right he was.

Around the time I was born, Black Flag was putting out their seminal stuff. Did I ever think that my parents would be grooving to Nervous Breakdown and Damaged while they rocked me to sleep? I don't think so. But, the hours of hearing Neil Diamond, Billy Joel, James Taylor, John Denver and Simon & Garfunkfel (and then later, 80s Top 40) simply exposed me to rock music. It wasn't until I willing to find other, non-everyday/mainstream music out there that I began to understand bands like Fugazi and Mission of Burma.

My point is this, as much as we gripe about how watered-down and crappy a lot of the music that is peddled to younger people is, understand that the ones that really give a hoot will find the "good music" that will always be out there. Younger people may be called kids by others but I can't justify that label as long as I think of them as eternally young and naive.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Mallrats

In honor of the Mallrats 10th Anniversary Extended Edition (which is released today), I think about how this film came into my life.

Clerks, Kevin Smith's first film, was released when I was a freshman in high school. I didn't see it when was out in the theaters, but I was intrigued by the story MTV News ran about how Kevin sold his comic book collection to help fund the film. I thought that was cool but I didn't rush out to see the movie, especially given the fact that I still wasn't of-age to see R-rated movies by myself.

I vaguely remember seeing ads for Mallrats in the few weeks before it came out in theaters. I remember a few print ads, some commercials and some mentions about its soundtrack but that was it. I didn't know anything about the movie and I wasn't really compelled to see it (nevermind the fact that it was another R-rated movie and I was underage). I heard a little bit about how the movie was ripped to shreds by film critics and it bombed at the box office and that was the end of the story.

I eventually saw Clerks when I was a senior in high school and as shocking as it sounds, I didn't get it. I maybe laughed twice upon my first viewing; I felt like I was watching an incredibly dirty art-school film more than a comedy. Not helping matters was that the copy of tape was so worn out that a blue line was on top of the screen the entire time. This line was so distracting that I barely caught any of the jokes (hence the lack of laughs).

A while after I started working at Best Buy, I came back to Clerks, given its look at customer service (or the lack of customer service). With the things I dealt with on a shift-by-shift basis as a media associate, I could now really relate to Dante the loser, Randall the smart-ass voice of reason and the local stoners Jay and Silent Bob. I added Clerks to my movie collection and eventually saw Mallrats over at my friend Marshall's house. I enjoyed the flick, but wasn't drawn to get it. Mallrats was a fun time but not as powerful as Clerks was.

College progressed and I knew about Kevin's following films, Chasing Amy and Dogma, but once again, I wasn't really drawn to see them. These were the days before Netflix. Hell, these were the days before I had my own rental card at Blockbuster. I heard about how "controversial" Dogma was (The Catholic League was raising flags for the sake of raising flags) but after hearing some negative reviews from my friends, I stayed away from it.

In fall of junior year at TCU, one of my roommates suggested I see Dogma. I rented it and fell madly in love with it. It was so right on with my feelings on religion and hypocrisy that I instantly became a fan of Kevin's work. I watched Chasing Amy and was blown away by it, bought it on DVD and also bought Clerks and Mallrats on DVD around the same time. These movies spoke to me, but at this time, Mallrats really hit me hard. Why? Because of its respect for things that are often made light of; namely, comic book geekdom.

With Mallrats, here was a writer/director treating comics (often painted as only for kids and socially-inept adults) with respect and humor. I had a few comics growing up, but I was never a collector like others. I was more into cartoon (and with some, cartoonish) versions of Spider-Man, X-Men, Superman and Batman growing up. Seeing comic fandom translated to my age and not appear to be tragic was a revalation for me. I jumped head into comics soon after.

So as a new cut of Mallrats (along with a new documentary on the legacy of the film) is being released in stores, I interpret what I learned from experience of me as a fan and what Kevin went through making it.

Mallrats was seen as a failure on many fronts, coming off the heels of Clerks. Critics who praised Clerks as groundbreaking were unintentionally becoming a lynch mob for Kevin because of Mallrats. Yes, the film is a lot faster paced, more slapsticky and more low brow than Clerks, but it's hardly a failure by any stretch of imagination. It's hilarious and there's not a bad moment in it. It's one of those 90-minute flicks you can start while you cook dinner and can finish it with dessert. The jokes are pretty spot-on. The characters of TS and Brodie are of the frustrated and the confident (sides that many guys have), thus making them easy to care about. Roger Ebert said that there's nothing to care about with the main characters. I disagree: TS and Brodie are trying to make the most of their post-adolescent life and find some stability with the women in their lives. That's plenty for me to care about.

Like Weezer's Pinkerton and the Jam's This is the Modern World, Mallrats suffered from being the successor to a groundbreaking release, so it was doomed from receiving immediate, widespread acclaim. Seeing that Mallrats still holds up very well, this is more proof to me that the true success of creativity is doing and enjoying what you make. Just completing a film and releasing it is the marker of success for me.

I don't sit around and think about how many copies of Post I should sell to consider it a success. I think the test of its validity is if I feel I successfully get my points across to myself and others.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Revenge of the Indie Rockers

Revenge of the indie rockers
By Greg Kot
Tribune music critic
Published September 18, 2005

After years in which mainstream rock was dominated by burly bands from Limp Bizkit to Creed, drowning in testosterone, the indie kids who speak for the world's video-store clerks, sandwich-shop waitresses and back-packing college students are taking over.

In the last year, bands that were once staples of independent-music connoisseurs and college-radio programmers, such as Modest Mouse, the White Stripes and Franz Ferdinand, released albums that sold more than a million copies. Last month, longtime underground favorite Death Cab for Cutie released its fifth studio album, "Plans," and it debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard 200. Its 90,000 first-week sales "woke everybody up," says the band's A&R representative at Atlantic Records, Sam Riback, 28. "This isn't just the next `priority' at the label; this is the real deal."

In October, Scottish quartet Franz Ferdinand will release its highly anticipated second album, "You Could Have It So Much Better" (Epic), and Tuesday the band launches its North American tour in Chicago at the Aragon. The Arcade Fire, a percussion-heavy Canadian septet that headlines Sept. 28 at the Riviera, has sold more than 200,000 copies of its debut album, "Funeral," on North Carolina indie Merge Records. The band's music has been championed by U2, David Bowie and David Letterman, and in recent months Arcade Fire has carried the day at the Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals with giddily anarchic performances. And Bright Eyes, a vehicle for the songs of Conor Oberst, has been playing sold-out shows in theaters around the world touring behind two albums released simultaneously last January on Omaha-based indie label Saddle Creek, "Digital Ash in a Digital Urn" and "I'm Wide Awake It's Morning."

The indie-rock surge has been ushered in by an Internet community of music connoisseurs who trade MP3 files and gather to talk music and champion favored bands on blogs and Web sites such as Myspace.com, and write for e-zines such as Pitchforkmedia.com.

Role of the Internet
"The Internet's role is important because there aren't as many gatekeepers," says Atlantic's Riback. "You can put the music on a Web Site, or on Myspace or the blogosphere and let the fans find it, talk about it and analyze it before radio or MTV even knows it exists. The fans get it first, and that gives them a sense of ownership."The laptop culture accounts for Death Cab for Cutie's growing audience, says the band's guitarist and producer, Chris Walla. "This is the golden age of the Internet, the place we'll be telling our grandchildren about 25 years from now," he says. "We're halfway through this transition where the Internet has flattened the playing field and put indie bands on an equal plain with major label bands."It also doesn't hurt that a generation of tastemakers raised on the underground rock of the '80s and early '90s has ascended to power in record companies, movie studios, radio stations, magazines and television.

Portland indie-rockers the Shins are a favorite of director Zach Braff, who used the band's music on the soundtrack for his acclaimed 2004 movie "Garden State" and had the character played by actress Natalie Portman give them a shout-out on screen.In the prime-time television teen soap opera "The O.C.," the lead actor is a young music fanatic named Seth Cohen (played by actor Adam Brody). In the show, the charmingly earnest Cohen name-drops bands such as Bright Eyes and has a Death Cab for Cutie poster hanging in his bedroom.

"The idea that an indie-rock kid can be made into a TV idol, a heartthrob, is hilarious and gratifying to people in our world," says Josh Rosenfeld, 32, co-owner of Seattle-based Barsuk Records, which originally signed Death Cab for Cutie to a record deal in 1998.The show's creator, Josh Schwartz, and music supervisor, Alexandra Patsavas, are self-described music nerds and Death Cab fans."I had the bad haircut and saw the English Beat when I was still in junior high," says Patsavas, 37, who grew up in suburban Glen Ellyn. She booked underground shows at rock clubs while attending the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the late '80s, and in 1999 began booking music for shows such as "Roswell" and later "Six Feet Under" and "The O.C."

Meaning of `indie' has changed"The music that fits `The O.C.' the best has an indie sensibility, whether it's `indie indie' or `major-label indie,'" she says. Once indie rock meant just that: rock music released on independent labels outside the mainstream. In today's world, "indie" is rock-speak for "stuff that's innovative, different," Patsavas says. Though bands such as Death Cab, Franz Ferdinand and Modest Mouse have moved from independent to major labels, the music they make is essentially uncompromised.

When Death Cab for Cutie signed with Atlantic last year after recording four albums for Barsuk, it retained Walla as its producer rather than hiring a high-profile outsider. The major-label deal allowed for a more leisurely recording pace and a fatter budget. But the $200,000 spent to make "Plans" is still barely one-tenth of the budget for Kanye West's "Late Registration," which came out the same week and debuted at No. 1."We were absolutely given creative control," Walla says. "When [Atlantic] tried to suggest things, we were ultimately able to say `no.'"

The label initially wanted an engineer who had mixed Matchbox 20's hit albums to work on "Plans," but the band insisted on doing the job itself. It turned over one song mix to Chris Shaw, whose work for the band Sloan impressed them."I'm not interested in manufacturing a record," Walla says. "More and more in the computer age it's the manufacturing factor in records that I hear. For the first time in recorded music history there are people in the process of making a record who are purely technical and don't have any creative skill. You can have a guy who just runs Pro Tools. He may like music, but he doesn't have to know anything about music. He's a computer guy. I think that can go so wrong: Just building songs in perfect little chunks and tuning all the vocals and lining up all [the] drums. That's not what I want when I make a record. I want to be spending time with people and getting performances. I want blood. I want grit. I'm not a gritty producer either, but I want to be able to hear that the sounds came from a voice or a pair of hands."

That passion underlines Death Cab's music, but it's not about blood and grit. It's more akin to a headlong dive into an ocean, a kind of beautiful drowning. The voice of Ben Gibbard has a choirboy's transparency as he shares his most intimate secrets. When Walla peels back the shimmering layers of sound that enfold most of "Plans" to focus on Gibbard's voice and guitar on "I Will Follow You Into the Dark," it's easy to see why the Seth Cohens of the world believe in this band so ardently. "Love of mine, someday you will die," Gibbard sings, "But I'll be close behind and I'll follow you into the dark.""No other band has ever given me chills like Death Cab," writes one believer on the band's Myspace.com site, where the first single from "Plans," "Soul Meets Body," has been played more than 400,000 times in recent weeks. "You make my heart hurt."

Staying power
Walla's deft production downplays the preciousness and amplifies the melodiousness inside Gibbard's songs. The music exudes insularity, a built-in integrity that implies staying power. Death Cab has already had a sturdy career; its previous album, "Transatlanticism," sold more than 350,000 copies for Barsuk. Gibbard's electronic side project on Seattle-based Sub Pop, the Postal Service, sold more than 600,000 copies of its 2003 debut, "Give Up.""I just turned 29, and it seems that people in that general age bracket, people who grew up on college radio when things blew up in the '90s and then imploded again, are starting to end up in places of power in the music industry," Gibbard says. "They'll say, `I don't want to use that awful [rap-metal] song for this part in that movie. I want to use a Shins song.'"

But as in a Death Cab song, the moment may be fleeting. The parallel between the indie-rock surge of the last year and the rise of underground rock in the early '90s when Nirvana briefly stormed the charts is not lost on Barsuk's Rosenfeld. Though he's thrilled to watch Death Cab get a big marketing push from Atlantic, and in turn boost sales for his back catalogue of Death Cab albums, he's skeptical about just how long the mainstream door will be open to indie bands.

"If the pattern holds true, what will happen next is a rash of really terrible bands that are pale imitators of Death Cab and Modest Mouse will get signed by the major labels and be marketed to a mainstream audience," he says.

"But right now we're in a phase where quality is driving popularity, and I'd like to enjoy it while it lasts."

That second-to-last quote, "If the pattern holds true, what will happen next is a rash of really terrible bands that are pale imitators of Death Cab and Modest Mouse will get signed by the major labels and be marketed to a mainstream audience," may very well be true. I've heard about a lot of bands in that vibe getting a lot of attention from major labels, but I just don't understand why they're bothering to look. The Law of Diminishing Returns never works in favor of these bands. These bands will get lumped into the genre as copycats.

In the case of some DFW bands, like Black Tie Dynasty and The Hourly Radio, these bands are doing their own things, however, people may easily be led to believe they're trying to get on this newest "alternative" rock gravy train. Yes, their music is dark, atmospheric and poppy, but I know that these guys are not trying to jump onto trends. Apparently, BTD singer/guitarist Cory Watson just recently got into Echo & the Bunnymen, a band his band is often compared to. That's funny thing about playing music: you think you're making your own music with a variety of influences and then someone comes along and compares your music to some band you've never heard of.

All I can say is this, I'd rather hear a band in the vein of Death Cab for Cutie or Modest Mouse on the radio/TV/film fields rather than nu-metal.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Troubled Hubble

Yes, I often complain that a lot of the modern music that is influenced by mid-90s post-hardcore is only for teenagers and college students. However, when a young band comes along that speaks to my age and I like their music, I take a lot of notes. For me, it's Troubled Hubble.

I hear a lot of reference points in their sound but I think they have a sound of their own. Singer/guitarist Chris Otepka's voice bares a slight resemblance to the Dismemberment Plan's Travis Morrison's conversational singing voice, but I put an emphasis on "slight." Their songs are very four-on-the-floor and the melodies are immediate and catchy, but compared to a lot of other bands out there, TH's sound is very original. I'm not doing a sliding-scale comparison here: they're great and a breath of fresh air.

Then there's the lyrics: some could say they're wacky, but I really dig them. Case in point, this line in "I'm Pretty Sure I Can See Molecules:" "To be young and dumb and innocent/to fear your life and want to live/to sleep and wake naturally/to treat your brain how it's supposed to be." Then there's this line in "To Be Alive and Alone" that says it all: "It's a great time to be alive and alone." This is music by twenty-somethings for twenty-somethings but can be for anyone.

Troubled Hubble as a whole is a much more relatable band for me, a 26-year-old, than a band like Fall Out Boy. Yes, I'm very well aware of the fact that teenagers are a huge influence as to what labels of all sizes cater towards. However, I'm not somebody that's mired in a hipster or mainstream ghetto. I like all kinds of music, but I'm not into soulless garbage glossed over with studio trickery. That's a vague description, but it comes in all forms. I'm not on top of new records months in advance like other so-called hipsters. I don't download new records via sites like Yousendit or Rapidshare or get records to review months in advance, so I'm a little behind on the times. I used to download albums like crazy but when I realized I was spending more time downloading albums than actually listening to the ones I already had downloaded, I stopped (plus my old computer became infected by spyware).

Elvis Costello once said something along the lines of, "Music is for everyone; it's just the record companies that think it's just for kids." I agree. Plus, it's a great time to be alive and alone.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Where do blazers come into the equation?

As a t-shirt and jeans, t-shirt and khakis and button down and khakis kind of guy, I've never understood the whole "vintage" look that people my age and younger have adopted in the last few years. ("Vintage" as in looking like you bought all of your clothes at second-hand thrift stores specializing in stuff from the '70s and '80s.) One of the outfits I see on men and women is a blazer/sportsjacket combination with a shirt and jeans. Yes, a blazer, a coat traditionally synonymous with an outfit consisting of slacks, shirts and ties, with a shirt (usually a t-shirt) and jeans. How in the world did this become fashionable?

I think of a coat as a layer of clothing that adds warmth to the body. Yes, that's a very big "duh!" line, but I bring this up because I see people wearing blazers year-round. This brings major puzzlement into my head, especially in the area that I live.

For the non-Texas-resident readers, Dallas usually gets bone-chillingly cold between November and March. That's only five months, so the other seven months are filled with various stages of warm conditions. "Why the extra warmth?" I ask. It's not that cold indoors, especially at shows and parties.

I've never understood fashion trends. I don't keep an eye out for what's hot and what's not. As soon as something is "in," it's "out." I've never wanted to wear tacky clothing. I've always wanted my clothes to fit (I need space and I don't like clothes that are tight). I've always wanted to wear clothes that I've wanted to wear (I will admit to wearing the trendy HyperColor and Stussy in middle school, but they were designs that wanted to wear). On top of that, I've never wanted to wear more layers than I needed to.

I see this blazer-with-thrift-store-clothes contraption on the bodies of a lot of band members. Here is a pic of Death Cab for Cutie, with frontman Ben Gibbard (second from left) is such attire. What he wears has nothing to do with the quality of music that he makes with his band (which I happen to enjoy), but I roll my eyes every time I read an article with a picture of him in that get-up.

And to think, this kind of look was once in vogue. I may be comparing tractors and motorcycles here, but tacky fashions are gonna come and go. Why I would camouflage myself in one is beyond me.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The Legacy of Sunday Nights part II

In honor of David Sadoff's comments on my post on Sunday night speciality shows, I've been inspired to go down Sunday night's memory lane once again.

I was in 7th grade when Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains and Soundgarden came into my life. For someone who grew up on a lot of soft rock from the 60s/70s and all things considered Top 40 pop in the 1980s, grunge was very new to me. I had never heard music so hard that was so accessible at the same time. I was too young for the Replacements, Husker Du and Mudhoney when they were around and I didn't even know an underground music community even existed. I read about some punk and hard rock bands in Thrasher, but other than looking at the ads for their new albums, that's all I knew about any form of music that wasn't on the radio or MTV.

By the mid-1990s, more "modern rock" stations were popping up (or they were already there but I just realized they were there) to cater to the "alternative nation" that was in place in the mainstream. Houston had the Rocket, but it would soon change its name to the Buzz and that's the name they've stuck with ever since. These were the days of Candlebox, Silverchair, Bush and Pablo Honey-era Radiohead - days that are often described with eye-rolling and groaning, but these bands were very important. Why? They kept me interested in alternative rock.

By spring of junior year of high school, I started looking elsewhere for music. Simply put, the new music I was hearing in regular rotation on radio and MTV were not doing anything for me. Probably the deathnail in my interest in all things considered mainstream modern rock was the constant rotation of groups like Sugar Ray, Smash Mouth, Creed and Matchbox 20 in the late-90s. The "burn" factor (as in, how many times you can listen to a song over and over before you get sick of it) came in after only one listen to these artists. I started reading books (like Rolling Stone's Alt-Rock-A-Rama) and articles in Rolling Stone and Guitar World and read about stuff like California pop-punk, the Clash circa 1977-1980, the Buzzcocks, Mission of Burma and whole slew of other stuff. I stumbled upon a new world of music and I've been walking through that world ever since.

Some people think doing a late-night speciality show is a thankless job. In some ways, it is, but having the freedom to play whatever you want to (sans independent promoters, music directors, program directors, market research and consultants telling you what to play) is awesome. This freedom wouldn't work for regular everyday programming (too scatterbrained for a mass audience) but at least it's there for the selective group of people that are interested. Hearing what I heard on a show like Lunar Rotation and what I saw on 120 Minutes gave me the inspiration to do what I did for three years on KTCU.

I will admit to borrowing certain bits from Lunar Rotation like "Now and Then" (where a new track and an older track by the same artist would be played). For my Modern Rock Show With Meaningless Info, I did "Then and Now," inverting the order of the songs. Then there were the bits that trailed on and on with jumping around topics ala 120 Minutes. You could call it ADD on the radio, but for me, it all made sense in my head.

In regards to Post, Sunday night specialty shows get some major props. I have a section devoted to WHFS (Washington DC's highly influential alternative rock station in the 1980s and 1990s) in the Jawbox chapter. I've been in touch with Dave Marsh, the former host of the WHFS' Now Hear This and he has shared some great stories with me. Also, Jim Ward of At the Drive-In/Sparta told me about how his older sister introduced him to punk rock via a Sunday night specialty show in New Mexico. Hearing him talk about how they taped the show and listened to the tape all week brought a big smile to my face.

Specialty shows were important in not only my life but in plenty of others. I'm glad that they're still around, especially with the audio archives streaming via the internet. I haven't done a specialty show in a long time, but that's OK with me. I'd love to do one again as long as the circumstances worked with schedule and desires. Maybe I should get into podcasting as my uncle Keith has suggested to me before.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The Reissue Treatment

Today I'm expanding on a topic I posted on the Sound Opinions message board: the recent trend of reissuing albums that have been out only for a year or less. I don't know how you feel about this, but I think this is abuse of a niche market.

I come from the school of reissuing that Rhino Records has taught over the years: reissue records/songs that have aged well, give them a better sounding treatment on CD and add bonus tracks to sweeten the deal. Elvis Costello's reissued back catalog with bonus discs of b-sides and rarities was probably one of the best in recent memory. Not only did you get the original album with optimal sound quality but you got a second CD filled with non-album tracks for completists/curious folks at no extra cost.

The original CD versions of albums by the likes of Elvis Costello, Television, the Ramones and the Stooges sounded tinny, flat and weak. After digitally remastering the tracks, you could now hear little parts (like the basslines) so much better on CD than before. Many other classic albums have been given this treatment and it's rather hard to find a back catalog that hasn't been remastered and reissued (the exceptions include the Beatles, U2, Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen).

So what happens when an album that has been out for a year gets the deluxe reissue/remastering treatment? I cry wolf. Here's why:

When I think of albums worthy of a reissue, I think of records that have aged well (like the above listed), not mediocre records that will not hold up over time. Some of the worst offenders of this are with the reissues of Usher's Confessions and Hawthorne Heights' The Silence in Black and White. Puffing up these run-of-the-mill records with even more less-than-desirable stuff isn't the way to go.

Plus, if you were a big fan of the record, chances are you already own the original album. Seeing the record you bought only months before be reissued with supposedly worthwhile bonus material (and zero difference in the CD sound quality) makes you wonder: "Why bother?"

Usually bonus tracks speed up the album buying process for me. However, the turnaround from original release date to reissue is too fast this way. There's not enough time for non-LP tracks to come out, thus not amassing a large amount of material to choose from. Bonus material is usually second-tier material, so what do you rate the bonus material from a second (and in some cases, third or fourth) tier artist?

I'm not alone here on my stances (read some of the customer comments on the special editions of Confessions and The Silence in Black and White here and here), but I think I understand the method to this madness. Labels are desperately trying to milk the most they can out of one record, but as I've brought up before, a dud record is a dud record, no matter how many bonus tracks you put on it.

If Bloc Party's Silent Alarm (one of my favorite albums of the year) was reissued today with a bonus DVD and or bonus tracks, I doubt I would buy the reissue. If iTunes had the bonus tracks, I would spend the $4 on them if I really liked the songs. While a remixed version of Silent Alarm was recently released with a bonus disc, I don't think of this as a rip-off. Silent Alarm Remixed is a completely different, alternate version of the album. It's not the original with some extra tracks tacked on. I don't fancy remixes, so I'm going to pass on Silent Alarm Remixed and just enjoy the hell out of Silent Alarm.

Wilco's last two albums (Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and A Ghost is Born) came with bonus tracks that were obtainable through their website if you bought the original CD. All you had to do was put the CD in your CD-rom drive, enter a special password and bammo! you had four or five bonus tracks. (Oh yeah, they were really good tracks too.)

Reissuing new records is getting out of hand. It would be out of line for me to say not every record should be reissued, but as an old school fuddy-duddy at 26, I lean more towards the traditional, ancient ways of 1999.

Monday, September 12, 2005

A graphic novel? Why not?

I watched Sin City Saturday night and was blown away. So blown away that I was inspired to go back to a comic book store (I hadn't been to one in about a year) and pick up some comics. Well, other than thumbing through Alex Robinson's new book, Tricked, I didn't see anything that really grabbed me. Not to sound arrogant, but I couldn't find anything that was up my alley, so another form of inspiration struck. I know what I want to do after Post: a graphic novel. What's a graphic novel? Well, here's a definition from Dictionary.com:

A novel whose narrative is related through a combination of text and art, often in comic-strip form.

That's a very accurate description of a graphic novel, but don't think my project is some superhero comic or some gritty noir piece filled with anti-heroes. I enjoy those kinds of comics but I want to write something that I would read and really enjoy. Right now I'm leaning towards writing/drawing several vignettes based on conversations that pit observation versus action and perception versus reality. Yes, this is very vague, but better to start broad than be restricted from the get-go.

If I could list my inspirations/influences, I would have to say the films of Richard Linklater, especially Slacker and Waking Life, are on the top of my list. Like those movies, I want to use dense conversations as a starting point, but write in my own voice. I want to throw in my commentaries on life with work, music and movies with philosophy, sociology and observing too. I want action to be an important part of the presentation, but I want to divert from mainstream conventions of storytelling. There will be plot, but I want to stretch outside of the boundaries they teach you in school.

Part of what I enjoy with writing is the challenge of doing something I've never done before. I've never written a comic, but I think it's better to try than to not try at all. I need to express myself in creative ways and a big part of the enjoyment comes with meeting realistically optimistic goals. The only person that decides on whether to write or not write is the person him/herself, so I have no one (or one thing) else to blame for not doing this.

Now I don't want to sound like this guy and make a big hoopla about plans that appear to be definite only to change them, but with my current mindset, this is what I want to do following Post's completion.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Four Years Later

I don't think any of us will forget where we were on September 11th four years ago, but what about September 10th? Sure, we could say it was a "simpler" and "innocent" time, but for me, something very eery still sticks out given what happened the following day.

Here's the setting: it's my last semester at TCU and I have a Monday night class in Media Law and Ethics. Our lecture always met in a classroom on the third floor of the Moudy building but September 10th's lecture was different. We met in the classroom but we were told to go across the street to Ed Landreth hall to hear a guest speaker. Turns out the speaker was a former lawyer who had worked with the ACLU and won several cases against the KKK. One of the biggest points of his speech was how just a different view of America could mean a lot of things. One example he brought up was the Oklahoma City bombing; some people had a different view and executed a horrific tragedy.

For me, hearing about the Oklahoma City bombing again reminded me of when it happened in my sophomore year of high school. So many years had passed since that happened but I still remembered being in history class and hearing the news. I didn't quite understand what was going on at the time: I heard there was an explosion at a government building but that was all I heard. I didn't hear about the fatalities until later that night, but I couldn't gauge how terrible this was until days after. Maybe it's because of shock or just being too young to understand.

So I hear this lecture and think about how many years ago the bombing was. I hate saying, "That was so long ago," but I realized that I wasn't a teenager anymore. I remember the following morning as extra quiet but with hearing a lot of panicked talking in the distance. My one Tuesday morning class was cancelled due to our teacher calling in sick so I went home. Watching TV and seeing every channel (except for a couple of shopping channels) devoted to coverage from New York and Washington DC was sensory overload. I couldn't do anything more than watch. What else could I do?

My roommate had a habit of sleeping until 1pm but on this day, he slept until 4:30 because he had a very late night. I couldn't escape the horror by taking a nap so I chose to do something that I was later accused of being insensitive by doing it: I watched The Evil Dead. I didn't watch it out of insensitivity; I watched it because I once heard that if you think you've had a bad day, watch Evil Dead and you'll see somebody that had an even worse day. I know, I know, it's pure escapism but given the nature of the day, I needed it.

Now it's almost four years later. I haven't forgotten and I don't think anyone has. Of course hindsight makes things seem simpler than they really were but I choose not to think of September 11th in that way.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Tux

Since Sunday, Jason and I have been hosting a refugee from New Orleans: a dog named Tux.

Tux's owner works for the New Orleans police department and he was evacuated before Hurricane Katrina hit the town. One of our landlords is from the area, so with our consent, our house is now Tux's shelter for the next week or so. I don't know what breed he is, but he is tall. His head comes up to my stomach in a standing position and this becomes a tad annoying when I try to eat. He's a curious fella and whenever he smells food (whether it's soup or cereal), he wants at least a smell.

His size may be duanting but he is a very sweet dog. He gets along with Juliet though she likes to roughhouse with him. She's got a thing about trying to bite his ears and he doesn't enjoy it (is there anyone that would?). Yes, they live in relative harmony but the effect it's had on me has been a glimpse of a possible future as a (gasp!) parent.

Bill Cosby onced joked that he and his wife were intellectuals until they had children. I find this line funny but incredibly scary at the same time. No matter how intelligent we think we are as educated adults, we start from square one with teaching a child. I hear parents disciplining and talking down to their kids any time I go out and I get creeped out. (Maybe this is why I like to stay in the house so much.)

Parts of me think becoming a responsibility-filled adult is the equivalent of joining the Dark Side: give up everything that I am (especially my unique personality) to become accountable for someone else. I keep hearing Darth Vader saying, "It is inevitable. It is your destiny." I, like Luke Skywalker, resist such propositions. I think, "Why in the world would I even want to put myself into this position?"

Of course I'm stretching things here (no surprise!), but this is what is going through my mind as I currently have "two kids" in the house. Whenever I get up and walk around, they want to follow me, so I have to seriously think about when I get up. Granted, it's a little more commotion than I'm used to, but in light of recent events, I'll take one for the team as another learning experience.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The Legacy of Sunday Nights

In high school and in college, when a high speed internet connection was not a household item, Sunday nights were my ticket in finding out about new and upcoming bands.

The Buzz, Houston's modern rock station, had a Sunday night line-up consisting of the local Lunar Rotation with David Sadoff and the syndicated Modern Rock Live. Lunar Rotation specialized in new and older tracks with some talk breaks while Modern Rock Live was almost all interviews with some music. I heard a wide variety of stuff and it didn't matter if it was old or new - it was almost always great stuff. Hearing older tracks from Catherine Wheel (like "Judy Staring at the Sun") while hearing new tracks from Pavement's Brighten the Corners (like "Shady Lane") on LR and then hearing stuff like the Foo Fighters be interviewed on MRL made Sundays very special. And that was just on the radio.

After Modern Rock Live was done, I would set my VCR to record or stay up and watch MTV's 120 Minutes, which was hosted by Matt Pinfield at the time. Pinfield, the scratchy-voiced, portly guy with a bald head spilled his musical knowledge and made a huge impact on me. There were so many stories, cross-references between artists and current news coming out of Pinfield's mouth that intrigued me. Combined with David Sadoff's calm on-air personality, these guys came across as smart music fans sans arrogance or loserdom. This was a huge influence on me then and still to this day.

These days, I rarely keep up with Sunday night specialty shows due to my kickball games and an early bedtime. My friends on The Good Show can only really be picked up in Fort Worth, so no dice for me as a Dallas resident. Probably the closest thing I listen to a specialty show is Sound Opinions, which airs on Tuesday nights.

The internet and my friends are my main sources for finding good music, whether it's new, old or really old. However, I won't forget where the inspiration for finding new music came from. Part of it was from my natural curiosity about things that move me and another part was from these guys.

We can talk about how things are totally different with the way music is made and marketed these days, but I think younger people's curiosity with music will never diminish. Whether or not we choose to be the ones open to pass the info along to them in an understandable way is up to us.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Emo, Post-Hardcore - what's the difference?

An important distinction I want to make is that my book's topic is on post-hardcore and not on emo. Why make such a big deal about these names? There are plenty of reasons.

Doing word association, when I hear the word 'post-hardcore,' I think of patience, hard work, thinking for yourself and doing things out of necessity. In other words, concepts and ideas that made 1980s DIY so special and life-changing. When I hear the word 'emo,' I think of melodrama, vulnerability and wimpy. I don't think anyone wants to label his or her's way of life as melodramatic, vulnerable or wimpy.

Maybe I haven't done enough research on younger bands today, but I have yet to find a band that openly embraces the 'emo' tag. I believe it's fans (and non-fans) and writers who call these bands emo and all the other silly variations of the name.

What doesn't help is how intensely the 'emo' genre is marketed to a younger demographic these days. Stickers on CDs that compare a mediocre young band to a well-established, unique band is misleading. "If you love XXX and YYY, then you'll love QQQ!" Hello? Anyone ever heard of the law of diminishing returns? After a while, people get burned out on watering down when you relentlessly push it. Deny it all you want, but this law isn't going away any time soon.

I'll admit, this music moves me in a variety of ways. Yes, it's there when I'm upset and vulnerable but that's temporary. It really helps me (regardless of mood) when I think about hard work, being creative and just doing it.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Random Facts

Here are some random facts that have recently come to my attention:

-Ted Leo (yes, the man) produced Jejune's This Afternoons Malady. I wonder what else he's produced.

-Kickball can be played even with broken-down 12-pack boxes of Coors Light as bases.

-Taking in a second dog doesn't automatically yield to jealousy and fighting with the other dog. Mostly they follow each other around and want to eat each other's food.

-The Cosby Show still makes me laugh out loud even though I've seen it so many times before.

-Chances are good that the next new CD I will buy will be My Morning Jacket's Z (out on the 20th of this month).

-Holiday=day with no obligations

Friday, September 02, 2005

Wrapped Up in Books . . . and Movies

I didn't major in English in college. I majored in Radio-TV-Film with a minor in Advertising/PR. I took a lot of film classes (mostly criticism and script-writing) along with some general media industry-based classes and two internships in radio. The fact was, I was more interested in that stuff (along with my sociology classes) than my required two courses of English.

I didn't really enjoy what I had to read or write about in English 101 as I was often reading stuff that I didn't care about (The Sun Also Rises, Their Eyes Were Watching God and "The Waste Land" stick out especially). I got so sick of reading books where plots were non-existant in the traditional sense. Factoring this in with an intense focus on getting the plot, the themes and everything else in one fail swoop, I swore off of reading books entirely following graduation. So what got me into writing and reading books? Various factors.

One of the last papers I wrote for an RTF class was on Family Guy. I was a huge fan of the show at the time but I had a hard time finding more episodes to review. This was a time when the show was in limbo with Fox, so I had to find older episodes via peer-to-peer networks. I found a handful of them, watched them and wrote my paper. My argument was that the show was not a lame Simpsons clone and gave my reasons for it. Maybe because of the fact that this was a stance that I really believed in, I wrote and revised like crazy. I made my views abundantly clear and I hoped I would be rewarded for all the hard work. After years of getting B's and C's on papers like this, I got an A and I was thrilled. This was the beginning of something.

Two books really got me back into reading again: Michael Azerrad's Our Band Could Be Your Life and Jo Rowling's Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. As I've mentioned before, Our Band Could Be Your Life blew me away by how relatable it was even though the subject was about bands in the '80s. In the case of Harry Potter, I found Rowling's writing so imaginative but incredibly understandable at the same time. There were no boring plot detours or underdeveloped characters, so I thoroughly enjoyed this too.

So why is a music and film buff trying his hand at a book? I'd say the biggest reason is Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 and Francois Truffaut's film adaptation of it. Without going into the exact details of the plot, essentially it's a science fiction piece taking place in a world where books are banned. Bradbury's book is beautifully written but Truffaut's film version makes the material sizzle. The use of color, even pacing and Bernard Herrmann's score are things you can't get in the book. However, considering that the source material is great and the director knew what he was doing, things really worked out in a visual format.

One scene in the film that really got me is the one where a grandparent is reciting a story to his grandson (it may be an uncle to a nephew, I don't remember exactly) in order for the story to survive. I felt this strong sense of understanding as to why we write stuff down, document it and pass it along to younger generations. In so many ways, I feel like I'm the younger one talking to his elders, making sure the story I'm telling is as accurate as possible.

So there you go. This is why a music fan trained in the ways of movies and rock books is trying a hand at writing a book. I don't think I could do enough justice to the material by making a film, so I choose to document it in a way that energizes me. I wouldn't rule out helping with a film adaptation down the road though . . .

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Just a small pile of shingles . . .

Inspiration comes from the strangest places and via the strangest circumstances. In my case, a small pile of shingles hit my head and I came up with the idea to write this book. Here is the tale:

On March 1st, 2004, I awoke to the sound of roofers hammering, tearing and throwing shingles off of my building's roof. Since it was the first of the month, I had to venture out of my apartment in order to drop off my rent check in the leasing office. I slowly walked down the steps and saw piles of shingles and exposed nails all over the sidewalk. I kept looking up and down to make sure I wouldn't either step on a nail or get hit by a pile of shingles. Right as I think I'm the clear as I'm walking away from my building . . .

BAM!

A small pile of shingles with some dirt smacks the right side of my forehead and hits one of my hands. I wasn't scratched up too badly, but I was stung. I drop my keys and look up to see if anybody sees me. I see a handful of roofers just staring at me - not saying anything - just staring. I was a little miffed but I had to turn my check in and leave for my afternoon gig. I wasn't bleeding very much but my head and hand were stinging. Ever the non-complainer, I turned in my check and got into my car.

Now I don't about you, but whenever I'm sick or not feeling well, I try to focus on the time when I'll be better and the "sickness" is a distant memory. As I'm driving down the Dallas North Tollway, I kept thinking about this book called Nothing Feels Good: Punk Rock, Teenagers and Emo. I hadn't read it yet, but I had heard some very unfavorable reviews of it in various places (like the Blackball Records' message board and the user reviews on Amazon.com). Since this book was covering a style of music that meant a lot to me, I was discouraged by what I was hearing and what I had seen when I skimmed through the book at a bookstore. That book's depiction is more about how a younger generation is affected by the name brand, mainstream version of emo, and I couldn't relate to what I was reading. Before, I was sure that some professional journalist would write a better and more serious look at the innerworkings of what became emo for the masses. Dealing with a minor headwound and thinking of when things were going to be "better," an epiphany hit me as I went through the Wycliff toll plaza: I should write a book on this and write it in the vein of the book that inspired me so much, Our Band Could Be Your Life.

From that moment on, I realized that Do It Yourself wasn't just limited to releasing records. Hearing stories about how people just got out and did stuff, regardless of track record or credibilty, it struck me as to how powerful and open-to-interpretation DIY was.

Probably because of the state I was in, I realized I was 30 minutes ahead of the time I usually got to my afternoon gig. Using the extra time I had, I e-mailed my friend Nick and told him I had this crazy book idea. He wrote back and said that it wasn't a crazy idea and that he'd help me out with releasing it.

Ever since that day, I've been writing and researching almost non-stop. And all of this from some scraps of shingles.