Wednesday, September 10, 2008

My town and Peace'd Out

I grew up in a place called Santa Rosa, CA, and it is in this small city approx. 55.2 miles north of San Francisco where I made the transition from a kid who only knew classical music to hearing "Paradise City" by Guns 'n Roses which thrust me into a rock music tailspin. The only tapes I really had before that were Paula Abdul 'Forever your Girl' and Bobby Brown 'My Prerogative', which I listened to heavily. The rest of the scenery on my musical path is just far too dense to even try and write about here, otherwise you'd be getting a 5000 word essay on all the bands which carried me to where I am now composing music and being jaded and bitter about the rest of the generic crap that is out there today while I play in RXB. But in order to get a slightly better understanding of my musical roots just know these things: 1 - I had an older sister who was 7 years my senior, and beginning at the age of 7 I began listening to all of her records which mainly consisted of Goth-Industrial bands like Skinny puppy, Dead Can Dance (which was one of my first concerts my sister took me to), Nine inch nails, Clan of Xymox, Big Black, and Meat Beat Manifesto. 2 - Nirvana changed my life. 3 - Green Day changed my life again and punk, especially bay area punk became super important to me. 4 - By the age of fifteen I forgot about genres and loved everything from Wu-Tang to Neutral Milk Hotel and Braid. So why am I telling you all this? Well, because I recently had the great opportunity of reconnecting with my musical past AND the place I grew up where I discovered these bands and a whole special suburban sub-culture which was the Santa Rosa punk scene. (sorry for the words 'punk' and 'scene' put together..I just don't know what else to call it). Being a teen in Santa Rosa, there were those venues we hung out at every weekend.. and there were those bands. I'll spare naming all of them because none of you will probably know or care who they are (ahem phoenix theater ahem).. but for the record there were many amazing bands and a lot of notable musicians to come out of Sonoma County (which Santa Rosa is in).


SO.. I'm drying off backstage at Slim's in SF after our show and I get a call from an old friend named Dave, who was in the local band I played drums in during high school called The Blockheads. I was basically totally lucky because I was the only one in high school and the rest of the guys were older and in college and I got to be the young buck in a notable local band with the cool older kids. We sounded like a indie-power-pop version of a bay area punk band at the time.. uh yea. So Dave tells me about how this local music magazine is getting a handful of bands back together for this reunion show and gives me the details. I must admit that I normally wouldn't have had much interest in doing this if i wasn't too busy already, but the cosmos rigged the deck because after I hung up with Dave, my sister called to tell that she'd be coming back for a visit from The Gambia (a small nation in Africa where she's working for two years) right around the same time of the show. I told my sister I'd be flying up there, and I called Dave to tell him I was was in the cards. So a week after we played our last note of the tour in Phoenix, Arizona with all of Portugal the man and Kay Kay dancing onstage with us, I went home and began learning all these Blockheads songs which I played hundreds of times...over ten years ago. Surprisingly, the songs came back to me quite easy but I could definitely see how the musically amped 16 year old had left my body and I was thinking about how I was gonna play all those 8th notes on the hi-hat. Oh drums, how you humble me. So we practiced once, the night before the show and I must say that we all were pretty amazed at how easy it came back to us after not having played together for over 10 years now. We played the show, and the whole experience starting from getting together and until the end of the night went about the best it possibly could. I got to see all my Santa Rosa homies that I do a bad job of staying in touch with and all the randoms I haven't seen in years which basically put into perspective who I am and where I am now.. whoever and wherever that is.


What is keeping it real? A few of my friends from back home had asked me what exactly my perspective on coming back to play with my band from high school was. They asked if it was sort of a novel thing, seeing if I was amused by the amateur nature of the whole thing along with the drum set I was using from the junior high school Dave teaches at as they only saw as me being used to doing legitimate tours and playing shows with production and staff and such. I told them no, but rather going into it I was of the mind-set that I must do these things for fun, but also to remember not to take myself too seriously..My band (rx) is lucky to have such devoted fans, and to be able to support us all but we are by no means a big or very popular band so I enjoy all musical experiences whether it be playing with RX in front of 24,000 people at Bonnaroo or coming home to Santa Rosa to rock an outdoor bbq reunion show in the backyard of a hair salon. We love the little corner we inhabit in the musical world. But while onstage behind the drum set in a setting that looked like the most righteous backyard-bash right out of a movie, with a handful of people singing all the words to these songs from years ago I realized that this was much more than just novel nostalgia; these were my roots. All of those people, all of those experiences, and all of that music didn't just influence me but rather MADE me do what I do today. Had it not been for my first bands to empower me and facilitate making music, I would not have the confidence and vision to continue making music in a non-structured environment such as orchestra and symphonies. So much of self growth is not even developing skills as much as it is REALizing abilities we already have which we are not confident enough to explore and further strengthen. So, as I was looking around at all these people while playing, my mind began to wander (which is a bad thing when drumming and needing to remember song structures) and I began to see our 28-33 year old asses onstage workin it while my mind made its way into the middle of the audience perspective and who I saw onstage behind the drums wasn't the jaded, disillusioned musician in his late 20's.. It was the 16 year old korean kid who was so enthralled to be involved in something that broke him free from his conservative and structured up-bringing, it was the person who was excited all week at school for the show at The Phoenix on friday night, it was the kid who dreamed of being able to go on tour one day and just be a musician who got to write completely original music any time he wanted, and seeing myself in that way not only put into perspective my hidden arrogance, but was a wonderful reminder as to where I've ended up and how lucky I feel to being doing what I do. This was for me, for lack of a better term my pilgrimage. I'm not Malcom X returning to Africa, I'm not on some religious pursuit or trying to reconnect with my ethnicity, but I did return to where my musical roots still live and take away many things from it as it put into context who I am now.. and the last I checked that is a large part of the point of making a pilgrimage. I know this all sounds sooo cheesy and sentimental but fuck it, aren't we all just trying to 'keep it real'? Well this is the way I know how.

Fri- Sept 19th - Roger and I left for the studio yesterday morning at about 7 am to work on a new project I'm doing with Vinnie and Mike from the IATA. I was playing down drum tracks and scratch guitar for these two songs and I am sore as hell, but today I get to chill so its all good. I'm pretty much gonna be hiding out in my house until we have to go play at Cal Poly Pomona next week working on music and more new RX stuff. Sorry its been so long between blogs, but when you come home from tour it takes about a week in the mental decompression chamber to get your thoughts together. And on that note, I'm gonna peace out to the farmer's market right now to get some veggies.


Anonymous said...

Its nice to know how it all starts.

Anonymous said...

Being from Nor Cal myself (now living in Long Beach) I can envision the boredom brought on from living in Santa Rosa. I guess thank God for the Phoenix Theater in Petaluma right?

It's good to return to your roots because it makes you humble in realizing that you were once here, now you are out in the world doing your own thing.

Thanks for sharing the story!

Anonymous said...

Wonderful story, its awesome to see how you evolved as a musician and where your musical foundation began. Good luck with the new music, can't wait to hear it! peace

darby said...

I can't stop smiling...