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Alive or Just Breathing

When you put something out there for the public, it's tough to escape it. Be it a record, movie, painting or book, it will stick around. If you're a part of something that inspires people for years, be prepared that you will probably be asked about it for the rest of your life. In the last few days, I've run across a couple of people in print that have two different views on this.

This week's edition of the AV Club features an interview with Pixies frontman/solo artist, Frank Black. Here's the part that really caught my attention:
AVC: Writers often use Pixies as a point of reference for your new albums, instead of discussing them in terms of your other solo work, which seems strange. How do you react to that?

FB: It's not weird, because Pixies are a big reference point, and writers assume they have a stupid audience that isn't going to understand the article unless there's some catchphrase they're going to recognize. And that's okay. It's something I'll probably never escape unless I have a hit record. Until I write my "Walk On The Wild Side," I'm not really going to escape "Here Comes Your Man" or "Monkey Gone To Heaven."

Sounds like a man who understands how big of an impact his old band has made on generations of music fans. As evidenced by his reunion tours with the Pixies and his frank honesty about his past in interviews for magazines, newspapers and books, Black is not trying to force people to stop talking about the Pixies with him. There may have been a time when he didn't talk about the band, but he talked openly about them for a number of years before they reunited. He's still kicking out solo records every year and has no plans to stop.

Now on a different view, I found the following on former Killswitch Engage vocalist Jesse Leach's MySpace page (typos included):
FOR ALL KILLSWITCH QUESTIONS READ THIS BEFORE ASKING ANY QUESTIONS! I have answered the same questions for FOUR years & I am done! So I will put it all to rest: I am where I am in life because I made decisions & I stood my ground with my beliefs. There are no hard feelings I absoultly love those guys & I am very proud of there success, I have no regrets, I do not have children yet & yes my voice is alive & better than ever. Just listen to my new album with SEEMLESS " WHAT HAVE WE BECOME" out in store now...

I can understand the desire to not be asked the same questions about his former band over and over again. Leach has explained himself many times in print and film, but he still gets asked about his departure and its effects on the band. I believe he realizes how strong of an impact his contributions to KSE were and I don't blame him for wanting to move on. Yet no matter how far Seemless goes, Leach will probably be asked about KSE for the rest of his life. Killswitch is one of those life-changing bands and he was a major part of what helped steer the band into what it is well-known for. He admits that it's weird to see his replacement Howard Jones sing his lyrics, but his focus is more on getting his messages out there.

The general nature of asking questions is starting out wide. The deal is, it can be annoying when interviewers only ask about the widest appealing stuff. If they're writing for a publication that has a wide audience, chances are good that the questions are going to be general, frequently asked questions. I don't blame people for going this route, but I love it when something a little deeper-reaching gets asked.

Think about your own life. I'm sure you've heard the same questions/responses when you describe who you are, what you do and where you come from. For me, I'm often asked if I fly in a helicopter when I do traffic reports. Instead of trying to fight the stereotype that all traffic reporters fly in a helicopter, I politely say that I do my reports in an office down a phone line. More often than not, these questions are coming from people I've just met or haven't seen in a long time. I can't blame them for not knowing what I've known for all these years.

Not everybody can write a song like "Debaser" or "My Last Serenade." Not everybody can write a comic book like Watchmen. Not everybody can make a film like Clerks. There's this kind of impact that attracts people to music, books, films and artwork. From passive entertainment to essential brainfood, people have all sorts of reasons to be attached to them. Given the opportunity to talk to the person or persons involved in making it, more people are going to slowly start at the shallow end than jump into the deep end first. Such is life.


My take on it: what a blessing it is to have ever made something that people want to ask about; some people never have that privilege.

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