Head like a hole / Black as your soul: I am a thirty year old fourteen year old

Posted in music by clamour on September 1, 2009

Headless T-Rex

I relate to teenage poetry.  I get the chainsaw subtlety of the metaphor and the darkness of the darkness.  It’s been about fifteen years since the last time I felt the urge to write something that sounded like Nine Inch Nails lyrics but I feel that way quite a bit of the time.  I’m a grown ass woman with, for good or bad, enough shame to keep most of those feelings to myself but I still feel like a hysterical, morbid, teenager almost any time I have something to be upset about like getting kicked out a band.

I don’t think I even knew that not everyone feels all their feelings (and some of other peoples’ feelings too) as if they were roaring, 200 foot waves rolling over and surrounding them until I got sober.  Then two things happened: one, I started feeling things even more acutely and with more awareness because I couldn’t just drink eight beers and cry about how much my mom hates me or how I was going to die before I was 25 or any of the other things I used to trip out on when I was drunk.  Two, I started going to meetings and hearing about how sensitive everyone is.  I feel like less of a freak knowing that other people share my emotional makeup.  Most of the time I don’t mind being an emotional outlier.  Lots of the people I love most are hyperfeelers.  I appreciate their sensitivity and awareness and the compassion it gives them for others’ struggles.  But today my own hyperfeeling made it really hard to get out of bed.

If I had gotten kicked out a band three years ago I would be drunk and crying right now.  Instead I’m feeling every one of my lurid, oversized emotions.  At the moment they kind of remind me of those ads you see on skeezy websites with the flashing lights that leave traces on your retina even after you close your eyes, the ones that you try to click to close and they take you to the site that’s made up of more hyperactive blinking trying to sell you viagra or pirated software.  My feelings of shame and regret and fear are like those stealth porn spammer links that open themselves and take over the whole browser, flashing things I don’t want to think about AGAIN across my eyeballs when I’m happily thinking about something else.

Because I am a big sensitive obsessive baby who takes everything personally, because shame and fear and inadequacy and panic are eating me up, today I had to write a fuck you song to jazz.  It’s 4/4 time with no swing whatsoever, key of C, lots of thirds and fifths and other vanilla intervals, no accidentals, NO SWING, dead easy chord progression.  I kind of like it.  It’s surprisingly pretty for a song born out of resentment.

I played a little guitar.  I read a little of my book about home recording.

I remembered just now, while writing this, having a very intense and serious (and hilarious in retrospect because we were so serious about WHAT IS ART and WHAT IS TRUTH) conversation with my friend Tom in tenth grade about whether Trent Reznor could be considered an authentic artist.  The problem, as we saw it, was that he wrote songs about being depressed and disenfranchised while living what sounded to us like a pretty fucking awesome life of making music and money.  From the perspective of two depressed teenagers having crazy bad times at home, being an adult with limitless social mobility and income meant you could never feel anything again except ecstasy and gratitude. Therefore NIN was inauthentic therefore NOT ART.  We solved the philosophical question of art and authenticity once and for all.

I had no idea when I was a teenager how small you can make your own world using nothing but your own head.  It’s one of the anti-miracles of human consciousness how badly you can fuck yourself up.



Posted in guitar, Uncategorized by clamour on August 29, 2009

So after less than a week in a band I’m not in a band any more.

Jazz got me again, just like in the 11th grade when my music friends, guys who I had known since elementary school, turned into jazz snobs and didn’t want to play fun stuff together any more.  Today (and Wednesday, when I was crying in the bathroom) I knew I was in trouble when the other guitarist wanted to play jazz standards and hear me improvise over a 12 chord blues that he was playing with the jazziest of jazzy altered chords.  I hate blues.  I haven’t soloed over a 12 chord blues since I was 16 or 17 because as far as I’m concerned there’s no reason to unless someone is making you do it.  I didn’t think that this band, which I have seen play live, was a straight up jazz band since out of the eight or nine songs I’ve heard them do only two sounded restless, dissonant, and hypercomplex.  The rest of the songs are pop/rock I can play easily.  It turns out they really are a jazz band, if not completely in music than in ideology.  That means that my competent rhythm guitar and bass and pretty good lyric writing skills aren’t enough.

I don’t swing.  I groove feebly.  I failed the virtuoso test I didn’t know I was taking.  I played a straight minor chord when I should have played a Ebm7+9.  I am innately not a jazzist.

It hurts like a breakup.  I feel humiliated even though the “this isn’t working” conversation happened in the calmest, most respectful way possible.  I took myself out for vegan Japanese food to cure my broken heart with miso soup.  I cried a little more in the restaurant bathroom.  The lucky cat watched me from the back of the toilet.  I hope it’s the last bathroom I cry in for a while.

But like a breakup this also means I’m free to do whatever I want.  Like not try to scramble songs I’ve already written to make them fit the band I’m not playing with any more or scramble my brain learning dissonant, 100% 16th note bass runs.   Like start my own band (East Bay music-making ladies, where are you?)  Also to crawl around Craigslist at 2 am fantasizing about finding women to make music with but finding dude after dude who RAWKS.

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Opening up

Posted in guitar, music by clamour on August 27, 2009

Every time the universe tased me today I took it personally.

Today was a good day because powerful, scary stuff happened and a bad day because powerful, scary stuff happened.  None of the bad things that happened to me personally seem very important now that I’m in bed with the lamp on, overhead light off, glass of water on the dresser next to the bed and an increasingly warm comforter around me.  My ego took some damage from an encounter with a guitar nerd, I dropped my keys six or seven times, I missed a train, I took the wrong way off the freeway and ended up in East Oakland when I wanted to be in Lake Merritt, I walked around San Francisco in a zombie fugue state because I only got four hours of sleep, I skipped lunch and crashed, my gums hurt for some reason, my head hurts from fatigue.  Except for the ego thing I can attribute all of those to inadequate self care and clumsiness.

Scary and powerful thing number one:

I feel silly thinking about the bad parts of my day when my partner’s mom had surgery for lung cancer today.  B is down there with her.  She’s recovering.  She has tubes sticking out of her.  I can’t imagine her without her glittery sunglasses and lipstick and puffed hair and matching tracksuits.  I am worried for her, obviously.

Scary and powerful thing number two:

I played for the first time with the really awesome and talented composer and guitarist in the band I’m joining and I could tell he was disappointed with my playing and even though he was very tactful it hurt.  I was nervous and playing stiffly and fucked up a few things I know well.  I was so nervous that when he asked me what song I wanted to play all I could think about was a silly four chord song that wasn’t even mine (I couldn’t think of a single lyric or melody line to a single one of my songs even though I’ve been working on them for hours every day.)  The song I finally played sounded so jangly next to the twenty chord multiple key jazz crazies we had been practicing that I knew it was wrong thing to have played half way through and wanted to disappear.  Even if I had been playing at my best I play on a much more basic level than he does.  He’s a ridiculously talented jazz player, so much so that I don’t know why they were looking for another guitarist when he is clearly more than enough for one band.  I’m not particularly competitive and I don’t feel crushed when I’m not the best at something but it’s really hard to work with someone far above my level who’s trying balance collaboration with teaching and being so nice about it but probably a little bored and judgmental. I did cry a little in the bathroom of his lovely Mission hallway-centric apartment with Crimethinc posters and hippie tablecloths and cast iron skillets hung on the wall, and a little more on the street walking home.

I felt a lot better once I switched to bass and learned some of those parts.  I love the bigness of the sound, the one-note-at-a-time zen of it, the lack of glamour.  I’m pretty certain I will play more bass than guitar in this band.

I have a friend a while back who, when we lived in the same place and I would call her on the phone fraught with some anxiety about some person judging me or hating me or being angry with me or choosing me (or not) for something, would tell me in a relaxed and peaceful voice, “your job is to be the person you are right now.”  There is so much truth in that.  It is also true that I am choosing to open myself to collaboration, to judgment, to creative energy and to criticism in playing with other people and that I can’t separate the parts of that openness I want from the parts I don’t.

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