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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

When We Were the . . . um, young adults?

I still don't like to refer to teenagers and college students coming out to punk and hardcore shows as "kids." A few years ago, I did a lengthy rant about this, and my opinion still stands. That said, when I encountered a title that fits perfectly for my next book, I made an exception.

My friend Kyle had a band called Hirudin and one of their songs was called "When We Were the Kids." The song was recorded but never released as Hirudin. The band broke up before they put it out. However, since two-thirds of Hirudin were in Snd On Snd and Snd On Snd played the song live, it made sense when they released the song on a split-7-inch with J Church. So, this great song did see the light of day, and I still really, really wanted to use the song's title for my second book. Besides, When We Were the Young Adults just doesn't sound right.

It's been years since I've heard the song, but basically, the lyrics touch on what it's like to be young and getting into music beyond what mainstream outlets play. Kyle and I had different experiences growing up around the Houston area in the '90s (he got to see Jawbreaker and Rancid play in tiny non-venues; I didn't). But just the basic idea of being young and new to the world of local and independent music is enough to justify using the title.

Not to be a teary-eyed, nostalgic thirty-year-old, but something I didn't have a lot of exposure to when I was a teenager was people my age being incredibly snooty about music in general. When you and your friends are just getting into bands you've never heard of, and you're not aware of terms like "hipster" and "scenester" or genres like no wave and grime, things seem new and really exciting. I wanted to revisit a time when you didn't know the difference between Pink Floyd circa Dark Side of the Moon and Pink Floyd circa A Momentary Lapse of Reason or when you didn't think of Stone Temple Pilots as a Pearl Jam knockoff. Basically, you were just forming your identity as a person and a music fan. Now that's interesting to me and worth exploring.

So, my "kid" stance stands. I do not understand why a member of Panic at the Disco would call a member of the band's audience a "kid" when he or she might be only two or three years younger than him. I don't believe that pop-punk, hardcore, post-hardcore, and emo plays only for a "kid" audience. I think of kids as people who have yet to reach adolescence, not people who have yet to know what A Love Supreme, Bowie's Berlin trilogy, and Minor Threat's Salad Days are. But with a great title like When We Were the Kids for a book, I just can't pass this up.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Terrified of telephones and shopping malls and knives

Due to a recent moving around of folders on my hard drives, I had to reload all of the music I had in my iTunes library. Since I had stuff in a number of different folders on each of my drives, not only did I find almost everything that was there before, but I also discovered stuff I had completely forgotten about. And frankly, I'm having a hard time trying to remember how and when I got most of this lost stuff.

I don't think there's an element of surprise that I found a lot of Jimmy Eat World demos, B-sides, and live tracks circa 2000 and 2001. What is surprising is how much material I had. The search for the then-unreleased "Sweetness" led me to Napster, along with other unreleased material by my favorite bands at the time.

At that time, I thought Napster was a haven for people like myself who wanted something beyond just the album: those hard-to-find B-sides, along with live tracks and alternate versions and so on. Of course, as I've written elsewhere, within a few weeks of believing that, a whole bunch of other people around me used Napster for other reasons. (I don't mean that in a snotty way -- it's just that I realized that major record labels might have a problem with the file-sharing of commercially-released albums.)

A lot of these MP3s were downloaded between my college days and my first two years in Dallas. Some of this stuff has not been played in well over five years. Stuff like a not-so-great-sounding-but-great-performance of the Weakerthans' "Aside," a six-song live set from the Doves, Wilco demos that I have no idea what era they're from, songs I downloaded from Can You See the Sunset? and Jefitoblog, and so on.

So, this makes me wonder, is this the digital equivalent of digging in a bin in an old record store? Sort of, but not necessarily. With more CD stores closing, I wonder if this is way things will be from here on out. I don't think this signals the end of the world as a music fan. I just find things being not the same.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Books

I might have spent almost five years working on a book that covers a portion of the DIY underground in the '90s, but I have no problem reading more about the genre. Not only is Brian's book set for a spring release, and Adam's book is still in the works, there's another book in the making that I'd really like to read. Mike McKee, who has written for Punk Planet and Razorcake (among others), has a book in the works called More Than Music.

As I've always said, more books about the different aspects of a particular scene is a great idea. A lot of books covering the same aspects, essentially saying the same things, is a different story. As much research as I did for my book, I always like to hear different takes.

As far as my post-POST book(s), things are still in the research phase. Let's just say that in the case of When We Were the Kids, Chuck Klosterman's first novel, Downtown Owl, has been helpful. His Fargo Rock City was a tremendous inspiration for POST, mainly because he took a highly-derided genre of music and discussed what he learned because of it. With Downtown Owl, I have some ideas about what I'd like to do and what not to do. No release is set for anything, but hopefully these projects will surface before I turn 35.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Certain People I Know

One of the nicer things about all of the bands featured in POST is that most of the band members I interviewed are still active in playing music. I was surprised, but very happy to see Jawbreaker's Blake Schwarzenbach is back with a new band called the Thorns of Life. Now I'm glad to see that Bob and Damon from Braid are in a new band called Certain People I Know. Their first show was exactly one week ago, on my birthday, and on a Friday the 13th. Eric has their first show up on his site, split up into seven YouTube clips.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Saga continues . . .

Maybe it's the combination of recently watching Olivia-era Cosby Show, playing The Force Unleashed on PS3, and reading that interview with Fanboys director Kyle Newman, but I think I've cooked up an understandable metaphorical situation with Star Wars fans. Take the tone of the storyline of The Force Unleashed and compare it with the tone found in Episodes I, II, and III, plus take into consideration what Kyle Newman says about the Saga itself, and consider the fact that Olivia was a step-child.

Imagine this: growing up, you and your two siblings get along pretty well. Together you do things that define your childhood and adolescence. Well, unfortunately, right as you're making the transition from teenager to adult, your parents decide to divorce. A couple years later, your parents choose to remarry people that already have children from a previous marriage or they choose to bear new children with their new respective spouses. For you and the siblings you grew up with, now you have more siblings that are considered family. Growing up, you thought about having other siblings, and might have wished for more. Now you have them.

Where I'm going with this is, the prequels were, for a lot of people my age, like those new siblings. Not everybody hates prequels or new siblings, but you definitely hear from the ones that do. You grew up with the family that you knew, and now you're forced to accept a newer family dynamic. No wonder so many people went so far as saying their childhoods were robbed.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

To feel 30

Last Friday, I turned thirty. Do I feel like I'm thirty? No. Do I look like I'm thirty? Frankly no, because the more weight I lose, the more I look nineteen. But I do wonder what exactly happened to my twenties. It's not like I miss them or anything. I'm just wondering how fast the time went and how that time was spent.

So, here's an inventory:

20 (Feb. 1999 to Feb. 2000) -- Half of my junior year and half of my senior year of college. Spent a lot of time listening to music, watching movies, and working at the campus radio station. Listened to a lot of post-hardcore/emo bands, thanks to the station and going to shows in Denton and Dallas.

With only one week left before I turned twenty-one, I had my first beer. A Corona, no less, and didn't love it or hate it. Yeah, I'm not somebody who wanted to start young with beer.

21 (Feb. 2000 to Feb. 2001) -- Lived in Austin for the summer of '00 so I could intern at a Top 40 station. It was a summer my friends living in Austin very kindly dubbed, "The Summer of Grubbs." This was also the summer I was in my first serious relationship, and in the fall brought my first major break-up. But also around and a little before this time, I was introduced to Red Animal War, a band who changed my life. A picture from this moment is on the cover of POST.

22 (Feb. 2001 to Feb. 2002) -- Wrapping up and graduating from college, I also entered what was probably one of the roughest times in my life. There's not a lot of fun in thinking you're worthless because you don't have a full-time job right out of college and you're having a slow falling out with one of your best friends. That was me then, and while the 11:30s were very active around that time as well, overall, it's not something I long to experience again.

Fall of 2001, I interned at a station I never thought I'd be on its airwaves. Three years later, I would be on it quite a bit.

23 (Feb. 2002 to Feb. 2003) -- Thanks to merging offices with other radio stations in the Infinity Broadcasting family, I got more and more hours. So much so that I had steady hours and a desire to move to Dallas. When I was kicked out of my apartment by my roommate (and best friend) at the time, I figured now was the time. Things were on the proverbial up and up.

24 and 25 (Feb. 2003 to Feb. 2005) -- Lots of working between a producing gig and a traffic reporting gig. I did so much work that I'd spend months working seven days a week. The only time I really took off was when I got sick. I moved closer to downtown and got a full-time gig in September '04. Things were moving really well, and I decided to write a book in March of '04. Also in this time, I also started writing for Punk Planet and started this blog.

26 and 27 (Feb. 2005 to Feb. 2007) -- Fall of '05, my full-time gig was eliminated because of budget cuts, but I still worked part-time on a regular basis. Lots of my time not spent reporting traffic went to writing and researching POST. Whenever an opportunity presented itself for an interview, I went for it. If a band was coming through town or I got in touch with somebody by phone or e-mail, an interview happened. A lot of hours were spent just doing those interviews, but by no means as many hours as other books.

After a lot of worry and wonder about when I would be full-time again and if I'd still work in broadcasting, a great opportunity presented itself. With the retirement of Jennifer Ellis, I was offered her 5am-1pm shift. I started in July of 2007.

28 and 29 (Feb. 2008 to Feb. 2009) -- After working almost five years on POST, it finally comes out in the fall of 2008. Finishing the book and publishing it felt like I had finally finished graduate school. Work has been great, and groundwork began on two new books to be published in the near future.

So, there's the rundown. You can always wonder if you could have done more, but to me, a very important thing about life is to be productive. For me, instead of trying to be somebody I'm not, I really took the time to find the opposite. And it's still going.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The small stuff

I still remember the first time I ever heard the phrase, "don't sweat the small stuff." During one of my night classes at TCU, my sociology professor allowed me to leave class a few minutes early. Something was greatly weighing on my mind and I wanted to deal with it (plus, I was done with the in-class assignment). If I remember correctly, I was convinced that I was about to be fired from the campus radio station. And that was "small stuff"? I begged to differ, but I just nodded, smiled, and left the classroom.

Earlier in the day, I had received a very, very terse voice message from the program director at the time. Her strict rules are something I still think about all these years later, and I hope I never come across as such a hard-ass to my co-workers. She didn't like how I was a regular guest on a show, and that I didn't have "permission" to do that. The deal was, I didn't know I had to ask permission. The hosts wanted me on there, so I thought that was sufficient.

So, for a good twenty-four-hour period, I'm a nervous wreck about this. Here I was having fun working at the very cool campus station and getting some airtime as well. And now I'm convinced that is about quashed. No, this didn't seem like a small little thing in my mind. Not at all. And I'm not supposed to sweat this?

The next day, I happened to drop by the station and the program director happened to be in her office. What transpired was so strange: she was very polite as she explained that she just didn't like being out of the mix with everything. What followed that was even stranger: she offered me a regular DJ shift on Tuesday nights, right in the heart of the modern rock schedule. This was incredible, and definitely not anything I had forecasted happening in the previous twenty-four hours.

My point to this whole story is that you can tell people that what's plaguing them is small, but I think it's very important to explain why this seems small. What's "small" and "large" is all about perspective. At that point in my life, what seemed "small" to someone twenty-five years older than me was not small at all. How could I have seen the smallness of this when it seemed (and felt) so large?

Now at thirty, I try to offer helpful advice to people younger than me on the proverbial small stuff. However, I try to stay clear of minimizing by saying that this is just "small stuff." Again, the perspective and context of a person's life is always subject to change. What was big, unbearable, and seemingly-impossible to take on at twenty seems small, bearable, and possible at thirty. But simply telling people that is not enough. Experience is what teaches us the best, so leave that option open instead of just telling people how it's gonna be.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Editing advice

Time for some more advice on book-writing. Again, this is not The Word. Rather, this is just sharing some lessons I learned while writing POST.

Your name gets top-billing, not your editor's
No matter what all happens behind the scenes, when your book comes out, your name is on the cover. You're the one who has to answer for what you say, so it's best that you stand behind what you wrote. Sounds like a big "duh!" right? Well, it's possible to lose your own voice in the editing process if you have the wrong editor.

I didn't have the funds nor the desire to hire a professional editor for POST. So, any major punctuation errors, run-on sentences, grammatical errors can be directed towards me and my anonymous editor. Frankly, I'd prefer things to be that way. Why? Because at the end of the day, my name is on the manuscript, and I'm proud to say there weren't any ghostwriters involved.

There's a certain author who wrote a certain book that is filled with typos and misspellings. Sure, his book has sold way more copies than mine, but that doesn't change the fact that there are a ton of typos and misspellings in it. (Guess who I'm talking about.) Since I've never talked to him, but know a few people that know him, apparently the misspellings are the blame of his editor. Well, that could definitely be the case, but his name is on the front cover and back cover of his book, not his editor's. In the mind of most of his readers, he has to take the blame, whether he likes it or not.

The point remains: whatever book your name comes attached to, the general public will believe it is your writing and your writing alone. This isn't like a movie or a record where a producer gets more notice, thanking or blaming for the end result. Books are a very solitary reading and writing activity, so stand up for yourself if you think your voice is getting lost in the editing process.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Should never have left the crysal lake

I might not have any interest in seeing (or revisiting) any of the Friday the 13th movies (or its upcoming remake), but I'm quite interested in seeing His Name Was Jason, a recently-released documentary on the entire series and its legacy. To me, the story of the series is way more intriguing than hearing that cheesy music, seeing bimbos get hacked to pieces, and seeing an unkillable killer coming back again and again.

Like the Halloween retrospective, Halloween: 25 Years of Terror, His Name Was Jason looks at the entire series up to a point. As much as I enjoyed the retrospective on all of the Halloween movies up to Resurrection, I was reminded of how crappy most of the sequels are. I don't think I'm missing much by deciding to not watch The Curse of Michael Myers again. I think that will go double for most of the Friday the 13th sequels.

There's something odd about a series that has nearly a dozen sequels and a TV series to its name. Mainly, why there are that many. Sure, there's a fanbase, but what's always struck me about this series is how shamelessly financially-motivated it seems. Yes, I'm very well aware that this is the Movie Industry -- a place where bad ideas can become bad movies and spawn sequels as long as they make money. I just want to know how and why so many Fridays were made. That's enough of a curiosity to watch.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Rolling down the road

It's not like I was waiting for this day to come, but I've decided to let my subscription to Rolling Stone run out. I'm not trying to make some bold political statement here. I just have found my tastes and the magazine's direction on diverging roads. And this decision wasn't solely because of their recently slimmed-down size, but I won't lie, it was a big part of my decision.

In the last year, I've found myself reading less and less of each issue. I can remember a time when I read almost everything in each issue. But that time has passed.

When I was in high school, there wasn't the convenience of the Internet or MP3s. There was a degree of mystery and guess work on whether or not I should check out the Buzzcocks' Singles Going Steady or Series 7. Rolling Stone was incredibly helpful in introducing me to bands not on the mainstream airwaves and movies not playing in big cineplexes. Now, the ways I find about those things aren't solely from the pages of the magazine. It's nothing against the magazine or the quality of its writing. I just have more resources at my disposal.

I will add that I couldn't help notice, that with the reduced size came less in the form of decent content. More superficial fluff and more bold statements are not things that make me want to read more. Not every issue was filled with these, but I couldn't get through them before I put the issue on my coffee table.

Believe me, this was not a really easy decision. I have a handful of large boxes in my house and my parents' house devoted almost completely to older issues of Rolling Stone. Now I have an answer if I need some more boxes.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

It wasn't that bad

I wanted to share a very, very excellent interview with Kyle Newman, the director of Fanboys. If you're not familiar with the movie and the controversy surrounding an edited version of it, that's tackled right away. What's even more compelling is how well-spoken, tactful, and honest this life-long Star Wars fan is about Star Wars. I wish more people sharing these views would have chimed in during the last ten years. (Kevin Smith did a great job, but he seemed to be in a minority.)

Not really since April of 1999 have I come across a Star Wars fan that didn't grimace or groan at the mention of George Lucas or Star Wars. Since May of 1999, I've heard and read enough about people's childhoods being raped by the content in The Phantom Menace and the subsequent prequels. To quote Daisy from a Spaced episode: "It wasn't that bad."

So, read and enjoy.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

What Might Have Been

Though I often worry about what might happen in the future, I'm not someone who really thinks about what might have been. In other words, I don't often wonder or dwell on what might have happened if I stayed in a band longer, if I decided to go to a different college, or if me and this certain girl became a couple. Like how I feel about nostalgia, thinking about what might have been often sheds the context of the past, making things seem more black and white in retrospect. And that's not really a good thing.

The few times that I've thought about the bands I was fired from, I took the firings as a relief from more drama that was to come. All of the bands encountered major drama after I left not because I left, but due to problems that were already there when I was in the band. That stuff really came to a head and I'm thankful I was spared from any more than I already dealt with.

In the case of college selection, just a few days in Lubbock a few years ago made me realize that I made the right choice in going to TCU in Fort Worth. Even though most of my family went to Texas Tech, I found TCU way more appealing. That decision is something that impacts me every single day I live in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, and I do not regret choosing TCU over Texas Tech.

And in the case of possible relationships, I find not really knowing what could have happened much more easier to deal with than the memory of a bad relationship. I know people say experience is experience, but I argue that I cannot deal with the guilt and shame that comes with a relationship that went really awry.

Thinking about all of this now, it's strange how much time I put into thinking about what might happen because I do or don't do this or that. The past can't be changed, so why think that thinking about what might have been is going to make the present any better?

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Sing

Something that I've avoided during most of my time playing music is singing. The reasons why? I can't really sing in a voice that 1) is tuneful to my ear and 2) doesn't rip up my throat. I've never taken singing lessons and am frankly utterly embarrassed by my attempts to properly sing lead. That's probably why I like doing songs in karaoke where I don't have to properly sing. Doing "Copacabana," "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant," and "It's the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)" don't necessarily require pipes; you just have to talk really fast.

Well, something has recently developed where I actually sing harmonies, and I don't feel weird about it.

Playing music with my friend Nick is always something I've enjoyed. We played together in the 11:30s and have jammed for fun many times since then. There's a great degree of comfortability in playing with him, and I don't feel self-conscious about trying different things out. One of those things is backing him up vocally on a number of songs he's been cooking up for the last few years. Since I'm familiar with most of these songs, I figured during one late-night jam to just sing along. Doing that didn't feel weird, so I've kept doing it since then.

I've seen plenty of examples as to why a drummer should not sing. Trying to hold a note in tune is hard when you're craning your neck as you're using your entire body to keep the beat. One very memorable moment I saw firsthand involved a Fort Worth-based band that one of my bands opened for. The drummer had no vocals in his monitor, had his vocal mike pretty high in the mix, and his voice was nowhere close to being in the right key during the entire set. I think I swore off drummer vocal mikes after that, but I've come around.

So, this leads me to where I am now; fine with singing in the background, but really have no interest in singing up in front.