Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Book #2 update

It's been a few months since I've said anything about When We Were the Kids, so here's an update.

Basically, writing, editing, and revising continues almost every day and this will continue until I feel the book is ready. Some days I can come up with a lot of material to build on what I've been working on for the past five years. Other days I merely tinker, adding and subtracting a few words or sentences here and there. I feel productive, no matter how much or how little I do.

All this time, I have done this on my own volition. No book deal, no deadline, no daily questions from people asking when I'm putting out my next book, nothing. Like with POST, working without a deadline can be a good and bad thing. I don't think I could write a book in six weeks, but I didn't imagine taking four years to finish POST or the five-plus for this one.

Life can get in the way of finishing anything, but I think life's obstacles can help the finished product.

When I started writing this book on playing in bands, I wasn't very active in a band situation. I saw more shows than I played, but I was still out and about, talking to people who played in bands. These days, I play in a very active band and I see shows here and there. I think my weekly exposure to rehearsing, writing, and playing live has greatly helped me write about bands who rehearsed, wrote, and played live regularly. Things I hadn't thought of a few years ago came into my mind in the last two years. That's probably why I've been more productive.

Unlike when I wrote POST, I have not posted any samples of works in progress. Hell, I haven't really said what the book is about, other than a basic premise (a fictional teenage rock band scene 1993-1997, told in an oral history format). I'm not aiming for secrecy here. I merely want to present this book in finished form when it is finished.

What has been a major stumbling block for the last year is assembly. Sure, there are a lot of stories and anecdotes, but the proverbial laces needed to be tightened. If I didn't have some connecting tissue between one story to the next, I'd run into a wall. Sometimes I could come up with stuff on the spot. Other times, it would take hours, days, or weeks, pondering things.

As of today, I'm at the halfway point in the narrative, still adding more than subtracting. I know there will be more subtracting in the final editing stage, but it's been so fun to write thse characters. It will be hard to let go. Maybe that's what taking so long.

Stay tuned.

Monday, June 27, 2011

(Shine Your) Light Love Hope

When I heard Bob Mould was releasing an autobiography/memoir called See a Little Light, I wanted to read it the second it came out. Adding to urgency was that Michael Azerrad helped Mould with it. This would be an excellent book, yes?

Reading the 400-page book in only five days, the answer is absolutely yes. (Considering how it took me three months to finish the fourth Dark Tower book -- thanks, High Speech? -- this means I couldn't put the book down.)

Sure, if you've read Azerrad's Our Band Could Be Your Life, you know Mould was interviewed for the Husker Du chapter. And if you read Andrew Earles' book on Husker Du, you know Mould declined to be interviewed, but there were plenty of quotes from old interviews Mould gave.

But would Mould's book be one long story of redundant information? Thankfully, it's not. Not even close.

As someone who's read a lot of interviews with Mould and seen him interviewed multiple times on TV over the years, there is way more information in Mould's book that I've never known. (I don't claim to be an expert on Mould, but I know a lot of things about him than say, my mother does.) Plus, with all the things I already knew, he went much more in-depth.

I say all this as a compliment because many memoir writers take safe routes when talking about former bandmates, lovers, and friends. You see most of the names withheld or changed, and stories about the parting of ways is usually made light of, citing how water metaphorically passed under a bridge. This is not a dirty, gloves-off tell-all. At least to me.

Not to sound like I'm reviewing Super 8, but I don't really want to delve too much into what is talked about in the book beyond what you might have already heard in other reviews. I will say this: when it comes to talking about Husker Du's end and why they will never reunite, Mould doesn't mince words, but he doesn't poo-poo on the time the band was together. Cynicism can spoil a joyous time together if the time ever ends -- and I'm thankful Mould doesn't knock the band's legacy. The same goes for Sugar.

So, if there were any doubts you had with this book, then why are you still reading this blog entry instead of reading his book?

Saturday, June 25, 2011

All things Warped

Dallas had the prestige of kicking off this year's Warped Tour. I covered it and covered a kickoff party the night before. Two Against Me! and Lucero sets in two days greatly overshadows any dehydration and hurt feet.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Keep 'em coming

As I made my list of Warped Tour lineups over the years and my interview with Tom Gabel, I thought a lot about why people my age would prefer to not go this year or in previous years. I even thought about why I didn't go after I moved to the DFW area in 1998.

All trails go back to the heat factor. I know it's the summer and I have yet to experience an all-out mild summer as a Texan. Plus I can't shake the experience of my four years rehearsing in the high school marching band.

Still, when Pete has asked me to cover Warped for the past three years, I have zero hesitation in saying yes. There are parts of me that will always love pop-punk, hardcore, emo, and so on. I still have an appetite for it while many other people my age write it off as an angry version of Radio Disney pop.

I'm not pretending to be a teenager here. These days, I'm a 32-year-old who likes to listen to Suede, Dream Theater, Converge, Cheap Trick, and Z.Z. Hill. But I can still distinctly remember what drew me to the Warped Tour and I keep this in my mind when I cover the show. Teenagers around the world live for the day they see the Warped Tour. I respect that.

Of course, I'm not afraid to tackle bands who clearly turn me off. Yup, I'm talking 3OH!3, Simple Plan, and so many others. And I find matters quite disheartening when rock star attitudes overshadow the bands made up of humble people without eyes on a prize. I don't want to be the old guy who says his generation's version of "Rock n' roll's been goin' downhill since Buddy Holly died." I simply try to point out why a band like the Bouncing Souls means way more in the long run compared to say, Attack Attack!

This Friday will be a long day, but I'm game. I'd rather give Warped some good coverage instead of lying around at home eating sour grapes.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

My first show

This week's edition is with Brian Venable from Lucero, who will be playing the Warped Tour this Friday. I will cover the Dallas date and my review should run next Monday. Until then, also enjoy this little list I did on the various lineups over the years.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Aiming for the center of the Death Star

Over the weekend, Diana posted an update on her condition. The basics of her latest PET scan: doctors hoped the mass would be gone by now, but it is not. Luckily, the mass is half the size of what it originally was and it remains isolated. More chemo is down the line, but stem cell treatment might be too.

These results could have been much, much worse. I don't want to get bogged down in thinking about the cancer spreading or the mass remaining its same size. Rather, I want to focus on what I have seen since my previous update last month.

The ugly stuff first. Yes, there have been some spells of depression here and there. Many factors, including isolation and the starting-to-feel-good-then-more-chemo cycle, put her mind in a place where she seemed to be pushing away almost every good thing in her life.

It hurts to see someone you love start to drown, so I am thankful she was able to come back up for air. And she's stayed afloat.

While we aren't going on three-mile bikerides these days, she has been able to take nice long walks around her house. When she said a few months ago she's been able to breathe better than she has in a long time, I smiled. I still smile when I think of her mentioning it in passing.

In the past few weeks, we've gone out shopping, to the movies, and pleasantly enjoying life when it doesn't feel like a sauna outside. Juggling work schedules and other appointments (and deadlines for me), we get to see each other when we can, which is roughly twice a week.

I have been asked if I'm disappointed we had to put our future plans on hold. I have not. It's been hard to see someone you love be thrown such a curveball in life. Yet I find myself loving this person even more because of how she's dealt with this curveball.

When I had some medical issues back in April, I reminded myself of how Diana handled herself in the hospital. Sure, there were concerns and fears, but at no point was she difficult. I kept that in mind as I had to have some emergency treatment to a hemorrhoid that had ballooned to the size of my thumb. I also kept her professional and mature side intact when I went to the dermatologist last week. While it isn't the most fun treating a doctor and his nurse to a peep show (because moles are all over my body), I didn't let fear of seeing a potential cancerous mole overpower me.

We're not in the clear yet. I'm not declaring a victory or a defeat. Cancer isn't like a pulled muscle or a cold, hence why I like to call it a journey. The journey keeps going and Diana is staying on a path with "Fuck Cancer" signs all along it.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Take the time

I don't think it's ever too late to improve on your basics as a musician. Even if you've been playing for decades and you understand how you cannot function without playing an instrument, the basics should always be put into consideration.

If you have no base, you cannot build on top of it.

When I was in my twenties, I didn't have regular access to a drum kit and I didn't have the desire to practice regularly on a practice pad. My pad was loud -- every hit was an annoyance to neighbors, roommates, and pets. Because of not playing (being convinced drumming was like riding a bike) my skills became very lax. I wondered why I couldn't flow between fills like I used to. I also wondered why I was always stuck playing the same beats and fills.

I cannot pinpoint the exact moment when I decided to do more with my drumming, no matter who I was playing with or not playing with anybody. I thank drummers like Stephen Peck, Jeff Gretz, Chris Pennie, and Gil Sharone for inspiring me to do more as a drummer. I've never aimed to play like those guys -- I just wanted to play better.

This would lead me to make a monumental decision yesterday: I bought my first instructional drumming DVD. The drummer on it? None other than Mike Portnoy, now formerly of Dream Theater.

I'm not about to triple the size of my drum set or suggest the Pull Tabs should play in 13/8 for ten minutes straight. Instead, I'd rather get advice from someone who clearly loves to play drums and is willing to explain his approach to drumming. Sure beats listening to someone who thinks you should erase what you've learned before and disown everything you've thought was good or inspiring.

Taking suggestions and putting your playing under a microscope is a good thing, if you want to improve. I know that might seem counter to the punk rock/purist ethos I tend to lean towards, but I can't see myself spinning my wheels as a player. I love playing to much to let things slip again.

My first show

An actual post of substance is forthcoming. Until then, enjoy my interview with Tony Harper from Slobberbone, the Drams, and American Werewolf Academy.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Lowest Part is Free!

Last night I stayed up really late to watch the Archers of Loaf play. Can't say I regret it. And I have to give credit to Noel's Popless piece for inspiring me to finally check out the band a few years ago.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

My first show

For this week's edition, I interviewed John Congleton once again. This marks my third interview with him and I look forward to seeing the Nighty Nite play live.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Diamond Eyes

It's not often I review two shows back to back on "school" nights, but I couldn't resist seeing Dillinger with the Deftones. Here's my review.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Laugh Now, Laugh Later

I stayed out late last night so I could review the face to face/Strung Out show at the Granada. I'd say it was worth it.

Thursday, June 02, 2011


It's been a while since I did a B-sides feature for the Observer. Hence why my rough draft was a feature's length of 1,000 words. Thankfully Pete was able to make this into a manageable half-page feature. Read the whole thing here.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

You've got to roll with the punches to get to what's real

A few weeks ago, I wrote about receiving some surprising and not-so-welcoming news. As much as I hate to be cryptic, I have to remain cryptic on this topic. Alas, I can talk very openly about how I've dealt (and continue to deal) with this matter.

No proverbial shoes have dropped yet, and if (or when) they drop, I'm trying to focus on whatever comes of it. Rather than thinking about what might come, I'd prefer to roll with the punches that David Lee Roth suggested all those years ago. Live with what has happened rather than what might happen.

As easy as it may sound in a philosophy book or in a pop song, I've found the desire to not worry incredibly liberating. Maybe I have a hard to telling the difference between wondering and worrying. That might be the root of it.

But I think a bigger part of this root stems from hearing about taking too many preventative measures. All of my life, I've heard plenty about being prepared, bracing yourself for the worst, and so on. More often than not, it's over-preparing for a reality that hardly ever comes to pass.

I'm not living with my head in the sand or in the clouds here. If I smoked all of my life, I should not be surprised if I got lung cancer. But in the case of this train I've been on since college, it could derail or it might not. Forecasting might be a good way to pass the time, but you can really miss a lot (or sadly, all) of the present. You can either stay put and cry about the wreckage or you could start walking down the road you want to go down.

Maybe I've listened to talk radio too much or watched network news too much over the years. The always-used questions of "How could have we prevented this?" and "What can we do to make sure this never happens again?" might keep an audience for advertisers to sell their products to, but usually nothing more.

As George Rebelo of Hot Water Music told me once (in the context of dealing with the band slowing down, almost to a halt): life happens. I've kept that in mind for all these years since he told me. Maybe I need daily reminders.