Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Sting of the Feet

This is a tangent to our regularly scheduled story time, but I figured I would post an update for my legion of fan- I had been a quarter finalist in the ABNA contest (check amazon.com for details- and while you're there buy my book, you cheap bastards). The grand prize? A publishing contract with Penguin books and a 15K advance. You could buy a lot of chaps with that money . . . Anyway, from an initial field of 10,000 wide eyed entrants, I had survived all obstacles set in my way and lasted until the final 250. I did not make the latest round of cuts (narrowed down to 50), but did get a scathing review in Publisher's Weekly. Here 'tis:

"In this simplistic and unimaginative coming-of-age tale, 19-year-old Gidion will do anything to avoid returning to his uncle’s mushroom farm. He is a talented apprentice at Tain Pek Academy of Magic and Advanced Gardening, a wizards’ school in the land of Nud, but his lazy, inattentive behavior and bad grades result in an expulsion for one year. He is sent to the squalid town of Squid where he is expected to mature and prove himself in some way in order to gain reentry to the school. Almost immediately, as a result of his careless use of spells, he finds himself in jail. There he befriends Skuld, a troll, and gets drafted into the Lacrenian Royal Army whose evil aim is to destroy Tain Pek. Gidion takes this opportunity to save the day and his future. This derivative and shapeless novel is full of stereotypical characters. The jarringly inauthentic dialogue and clumsily spelled out morals frequently remove the reader from the story."

Sounds pretty bad, but it isn't the first time- when I ran for the school board back in 95 (hell, there's a good story to that one) I had tens of thousands of people not vote for me. And in the spirit of rejection, I wanted to share a quick story with you, my beloved audience of six or seven:

It was 1993- I was playing in some seedy bar somewhere (in Long Branch, I think it was) with my equally seedy band. We had one person in the audience. ONE. After the third song, they walked out, and the for the rest of the night (hell yeah we kept rocking) we played for the bartender. When we finished, he booed us.

So, things could be worse- at least now I don't have that bad Cliff Burton mustache anymore :)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

When Censorship is Awesome, Part II

Note: This picture has nothing to do with the story- but seriously, look at this frikkin thing.

The first few riffs poured through the headphones. It was time for my vokillz, and when the song hit the first verse, I belted out my dulcet tones, my voice a tuneful mixture of Lemmy, that mummy from Bubba Ho-Tep, clogged drains, and a coffee grinder. I was rolling along, starting to get into it (it had been years since I used my gurglie growlie skills) when there was a commotion around my crotch area, not for the first time of course (hee hee).

The army dude jumped off of his stool, ran out of the studio, and up the stairs. His gun toting companion followed him out leisurely. I looked through the window at the engineer- he shrugged and stopped the music. Since I could not record without the army censor present, we waited around for a few minutes of awkward man on man silence. It became all too obvious that the man wasn't coming back. I shrugged and walked upstairs.

Outside was interesting. The army guy was yelling into a cell phone in Burmese while a small crowd of people gathered in front of the studio and pointed at me, talking quietly among themselves. The gun holder stood apart, against a wall- it seems like a prerequisite for that kind of career is the ability to look disinterested no matter what sort of madness unfolds in front of you. Kind of like when I have recess duty.

The censor looked up and saw me standing at the doorway. He pointed a finger and yelled. "No! No! You are demon!"

To be concluded in Part III: I fought the law, and the law stole my tapes.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

When censorship is awesome, part 1

My second year living in Myanmar (where the above pic was taken) I decided to record some music, for the first time in years. Normally this would be a very boring story, even with groupies involved, because recording is always tedious when you get down to it. Buttons are pressed, things are flicked off and on, and little fiddly lights twinkle away to themselves. Very exciting if you have OCD, but not so great for the rest of us.

It is a different beast entirely, however, when you are trying to record a Death Metal album while under the thumb of the number 2 most oppressive regime in the world (but working hard at advancing up the ladder). This was the first Death Metal album ever recorded there, I found out, and one of the first albums recorded by a Westerner. Naturally, just getting permission to do this led to mind numbing levels of discussions, paperwork, and betel spit- most of the latter expelled during epic read throughs of my lyrics. Having to explain what the word "Cuddlebubba baby" means to a middle aged army officer in a dark room takes the edge off the music, I think. I will spare the details, but suffice to say I was given "advice" to do such things as add more cymbals because without them the music was "too angry." And that conversation led directly to the events I will unfold before you.

I was in a tiny recording booth, getting ready to rock my vocals (or vokillz, depending on your fratboy rating). It was rather cramped, and not just because of my overpowering front man presence. The one man rock machine had become a three way dance: I was hovering over the mic stand with a small burmese army man hunched up on a stool right next to me (his nose, incidentally, rather close to my crotch- thank God I left the chaps at home that day). Behind him a soldier held a tattered M-16. He was leaning against the wall, carrying the gun in that casual "resting across the left wrist" type of way, which has to be the most relaxed threatening pose ever. Due to the size of the room the business end of the weapon was about four feet from my head. Between that and the audible sniffling going on in the crotch zone I was going to need all the powers of Rock to get through the session.

The music came through my headphones, the little man on the stool started taking notes, the trigger finger finged, and my lungs filled with the heavy metal thunder. It was time . . .

Continued in Part 2- Demon Inside

Friday, April 1, 2011

Winds of Change (without that awesome Teutonic whistling)

So after 21 years, I shaved my head, to the confusion of many. It's a weird feeling- I keep reaching back to release the ponytail which is no longer there. Sometimes it's like I have ghost hair. Like phantom limb syndrome (look it up!) but without the depressing ramifications. On the other hand, Allison and Jeremiah did a good job in keeping me respectable, and I found out to my relief I don't have floppy ears, so that's good. And the money I will save on conditioner . . .