Monday, February 13, 2012

Rewind, selector.

Do you ever get down?

Look back on your life and wonder what you did all that wasted time?

I've definitely been feeling like that lately- another birthday menacing me from the next month of the calendar. Mortality. Ego. All the good stuff.

I moved here to Australia in 2001. I came here for bigger and better opportunities, as I reached the top of my game in New Zealand, and started to feel like I was suffocating over there. Beautiful place, but my God it's like a village full of gossiping women (except the men are usually worse).

So fuck NZ. I caught the airport shuttle bus to my flight in the dark, and couldn't wait to get out of that place. So much so that I left an amazing girl behind- I was so focused on moving 'forward' I never realised 'til I was long gone just what I had passed over without thinking.

She got me back though, tore my heart right out.

 So I moved to Melbourne, after never having been here before. I heard it was the rock capital of Australia, but all that started to rapidly change as soon as I got over here (I'd like to think it wasn't my fault). I toured pretty much non-stop when I got here, but the band that I came over with (and who were selling out massive shows every night back home) weren't getting recognized here. The record company guys kept saying "We've already got a Superjesus", as if every female fronted rock band could be pigeonholed so easily.

So the tours dried up.

My first week here I worked for Bon Jovi.

I started a band. And usually, I think of it as an abysmal failure, when I think back on it. I don't even usually talk about it. But I had a listen tonight, because I'm not in the music biz any more, I work at a friggin' strip club. And that depresses me.

So I plugged in my old 70's headphones with the unlimited bass response, and played back our old EP, rehearsals, demos, ideas... and I really loved it. I could see the holes in the songs, could hear the work that needed to be done. But I could hear exactly what I was aiming for back then too, and it was alright.

I remembered how I got an email from the managers of one of the highest selling acts in American history, offering us a management deal. How my musical idol (and object of desire) guested on our record (and no-one else's- ever!), how really massive bands would hear our music and get in touch to say they liked it, and how dumbfounded we were when it happened.

And that was just the first 3 years or so.

I started a commercial kitchen in the storage area of a landmark inner city pub (which is still serving hot meals as we speak), just because I saw the potential in it. They used it to stack old chairs in, but I cleaned it, fitted it out, got the stock in, drew up menus, hired the staff, and served the people. Then I moved on to the next thing.

I made guitars for a while. Sponsored everybody who's music I liked in Australia. Worked with artists to create signature models. Even made custom guitars for Ben Harper and the Queens of the Stone Age. Got back on the VIP list for festivals and after parties. Liked it.

Then I left the guitar factory, and was invited to join a band that has since gone on to sell platinum in Australia and Gold in the USA and UK. I never played a note with them, but I was invited, and that's nice.

I also went through a really dark time. I won't get into it here. I probably already have. I lost an ex girlfriend and a best friend to suicide.

When I emerged, I had opened a shop of my own in Melbourne selling custom bicycles- choppers, cruisers, sleds, lowriders, and motorcycles too. The guys from American Chopper visited Australia and put us on the list of places to see. It was called Hellbourne Choppers. I also made custom branded bikes for international companies like Slate Bourbon and El Jimador tequila. I took immense pleasure in turning down any offers from Telstra, Optus, Vodafone, or any of the major banks.

It was ridiculously successful until the Australian Government banned every type of bike that we sold. Our distributors all freaked out and stopped importing, and the only bikes I could sell where the ones I made, or found on the internet secondhand. It crippled the store, and I ran into a wall of $35,000 worth of debt. I paid the last cent owed 1 minute before I was due to appear in court for involuntary bankruptcy. I never bankrupted, I made it out alive. I also moved the business to the internet, where it still happily lives today. I do need someone to help me update the site, but regardless of being 2 years out of date, I'm still getting orders all the time. I'm planning on coming back strong this year. I am #1 in search engine rankings- I have total market dominance.

Somewhere in all of that I started working security quite seriously. I have defended everything from 20 billion dollar nuclear-enabled supersonic bombers for the USAF, 5 star Generals, VIP's, rock stars, more rock stars, the Nation of Israel, private properties, vast amounts of cash, military personnel, lounge bars, one of the biggest music venues in Australia for a summer, and of course, a strip club.

I also sat the police entrance exam for Victoria police. I passed with a 94.2% pass score. The minimum score is 156 out of 244, I got 230. I was invited to attend the police college, then had my invitation withdrawn by the new police commissioner who has a stick up his ass regarding tattoos. Thanks Ken, you douche bag.

But it's still an achievement.

Every time I re qualify for my handgun license I shoot a perfect score (300 out of 300) every year I do it. I get to walk around in public fully armed, which is a nice bit of trust to have from the community. I've been doing that for a few years now, no problems to report.

I got my Black Belt (Unit 10) in Tactical Krav Maga. I've started out in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

I've toured the world (Canada, USA, Asia, Europe, The Middle East, Australia) as a session guitarist for other people (including Anastacia, who was a big deal over here for a while).

I started another band with some of the guys from a stonkingly huge Australian band that broke up, and then got back together afterward. I was kinda like the mistress I guess. We went nowhere, there's no way it could have turned out different. We got a lot of fans though! I never listen to those songs any more.

I passed a first aid course, got a forklift license.

I disappeared a couple of years back to go play music in Dubai. Had a nice apartment, lived at a level of luxury I have never managed to achieve here in Australia. I also got deported from the country, but you know, shit happens.

I worked on a couple of records for very big bands here. Showcased for an artist that got an 18 million dollar offer from a major label on the strength of our performance- acoustic guitar and voice, that's it.

Got flown around here and there, free hotels, ARIA awards, Logies, all that fun stuff.

I've had about 12 words entered into too, which is a dubious distinction at best, but I'm actually really happy about those. I like contributing to culture.

Speaking of which, some of my graffiti made the front page of newspapers all over the world, in more than 20 countries. The Government saw the tourism potential in it and commissioned me to make more, and the National Archive in Canberra did the same.

The blog you're reading right now is the first blog in Australian history to be archived by the National Library in Canberra, in a computer archive called 'Pandora'. They said I am " integral icon in the cultural landscape of Australia". The word "fuck" appears in the National Library's archive 879 times more, thanks to yours truly.

I've had my writing published, drafted policy for the NSW Government, and for the Environmental Defenders Office. I have a secret twitter that no one knows is me. It's very, very dirty.

I've fallen in love with too many models and strippers, and broke up spectacularly with all of them, so if any of you see me out, and I'm with either profession, just kick me in the nuts. Unless I'm at work. because obviously, there are strippers there.

So when I look back, I guess I did fill up the last 10 years pretty well. I'm not slowing down, so by the time I'm 51 (in another decade- OHMYGOD!!!), hopefully I'll have a bunch more stuff to add to the list.

But rather than accumulating external achievements, there are a couple of internal matters I need to wrap my head around. And I'm not sure how. I need to learn to stop being a kid, and live in my skin. Learn how to be 9 years away from 50 years of age, even though there isn't one person on the planet who would pick my age correctly right now.

I am what I am, I need to learn how to be honest about that. To have the courage to leave ego and childishness behind, and be proud of maturity and wisdom and experience. Even though I feel like I'm turning invisible, like one day soon I will cease to exist within the visible spectrum.

And here's a shocker for you- I have no desire whatsoever to live past 60. And if I do so naturally, I will remedy it artificially. I know it's shallow and retarded, but i can't face that, I have no idea why. It's not like I'm a super hot guy who should fear losing my looks- I have always been average at best. But I just can't face the prospect of being fully invisible, overlooked, no longer relevant, in the eyes of the rest of a world whose every other opinion I pay no heed to whatsoever.

Bad and wrong, I know, but there it is.

Let's see what happens...

This is knifey, from 'the internet'.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Lana Del Rey.

There are no pictures for this post, because this post relates to music.

Normally I don't weigh-in with opinions on popular music unless it's to occasionally remind people that Lady Gaga is Madonna, not David Bowie. And the world moves forward, deaf to my protestations, and that is the natural order of things.

But I feel compelled to point out something that all the music industry critics seem to have missed.

I keep reading critics wondering why there is such a huge backlash against Lana Del Rey. They point out that Bob Dylan worked under an assumed name, The Strokes are rich boys, and Elton John is gay. So (they claim) hating Del Rey for using an assumed name/persona and coming from money is hypocritical.

Of course they're right- but they are missing the point.

Music like 'Born to Die' doesn't traditionally make it to such rarified air as Del Rey's team have managed to launch that record into- it doesn't fit the mainstream profile.

But it sold.

Because people are so enchanted by the concept that someone like Del Rey exists out there, weaving such ghostly musical components together, almost as if the music was made of air (which of course, it is). They are enchanted that she could be real, genuine, not manufactured. That someone so ethereal and alternative could exist in a vacuous mirror ball like L.A., and not be corrupted by the trash and filler.

They don't care if her name isn't real, it's part of the art. But when they discovered her vocal style had changed since her initial EP as Lizzy Grant, the authenticity of the dream began to show its edges...and the cracks widened with each closer investigation.

And so the people felt betrayed. Because given the choice, they would choose to crown artists that produced work to a higher standard than the inhabitants of the charts, they just need guidance. But the video for 'Video Games' on You Tube went viral because the people needed to believe someone out there in the world still believed in MUSIC. Believed in bucking the trends. And even though there are beats on the record, contemporary instrumentation, high production, the result is still ethereal. It still takes you "there". At least, we thought it did, while we thought it was genuine.

In a world of ever-accelerated culture, where 15 minutes of fame has narrowed to seconds, the idea of a mainstream anti-hero, a pure, un-auto-tuned, effortlessly talented, and authentic individual who is unaffected by the disposable production line of chart music, is not only desired, it is essential.

The fact Del Rey doesn't try to throw down dance routines and in your face gimmicks is viewed as a positive, not lacking.

Music consumers are strangled by a lack of soulfulness, of unvarnished honesty. This is why Adelle is so universally lauded. The production on her record is irrelvant- it's her voice, her emotion, and the rawness of her experience that connects you to her. It could have been recorded at home and it would still have touched the same nerve. But the people need more...

And America needed its own incarnation, with its own twist, it's own story.

It was Del Rey's calculated betrayal of the music loving public that has led to her downfall, and it is that same betrayal that music critics don't seem to be able to see. They write about it, sure, but they don't equate it with relevance, as they are in the main tired and disappointed with the choices and opinions of the great unwashed.

Musical elitism precludes them from sympathy toward the people who funded the careers of Limp Bizkit or Lil Wayne.

But souls need nutrition, and given better options, people make better choices. This applies to music too. And for a moment in time, it appeared as if the people had a saviour.

And when they saw that she was a false prophet, the crucifixion commenced...

Addendum: 18th August 2013.

I wrote "In a world of ever-accelerated culture, where 15 minutes of fame has narrowed to seconds, the idea of a mainstream anti-hero, a pure, un-auto-tuned, effortlessly talented, and authentic individual who is unaffected by the disposable production line of chart music, is not only desired, it is essential."

Her name is Lorde, from New Zealand.