Oct 30, 2012

Taking Inventory (An Open Letter To Sandy)

What's really important?

I remember when I used to be worried because a little water leaked onto my bathroom tile after a shower.  I remember it just like it was yesterday because it was yesterday.  "Gotta caulk that up," Dad would say.

Today I am homeless.  My basement and back yard are still under water.  I'm all out of caulk, Dad.

Anyone wanna go for a swim?  Water's a lil' brown....

What's really important?

I bought a house in the Dongan Hills area of Staten Island in October of 2009.  I was married and looking to expand, a Brooklyn native and Manhattan commuter looking to start a new, quieter life with my new wife and crazy Westie dog.  In March of 2011, I asked my wife to leave.  It was the same day I had to take my father to his soon-to-be-surprise 60th birthday party at Gargiulo's in Coney Island.  I asked for a divorce and celebrated my Dad's six decades on the planet all on the same day.

I've never really talked about my divorce outside of my inner circle, but that was back when I lived in a house.  Things change on a dime.

Anyone will tell you that a divorce is not an easy thing.  I was 35.  My marriage lasted 2+ years.  It was a rocky time.  After the 'we're getting married' high wears off, no high can truly mask the problems that exist - and will always exist - between two people.  I loved her, I tried.  It was un-fixable.  So I asked her to leave.  I kept the house and the dog, she took my savings.  As one friend aptly put it, "You're buying your life back."

I bought my life back, but at more than I bargained for.  Three months later, my central air unit fried out for 11 days during the middle of a heat wave.  "Gotta get that fixed," Dad would say.  Karma or coincidence?  Last August, Hurricane Irene did battle with my sump pump and I bailed dirty sewer water from one side of my house to the other through the entire night to prevent my basement from flooding.  My power never went out, and I beat that bitch.  I saw this as a sign of my resurgence.  That was last year.

I wanted the house and I would keep it, warts and all.  Fees were paid, changes were made.  I got back on my feet slowly.

What's really important?

I kept Bald Freak Music, my barely-functioning indie record label, open for business, as this was another reason I bought a house - to make music in my own space, to run a business and sell merch from my basement.  Y'know, the one that's under water now.

I continued to try to convince myself that I could make a living out of music making.  I rewired my entire studio.  I started archiving audio, learning the software.  I was making more time for it, finally, long hours and late nights in front of the mixing board.  I was going to make one last album, on my own, in my house.  Y'know, the one that's under water now.

R.I.P.
What's really important?

I dated.  Poorly.  Predictably poorly.  I divorced a few friends and band mates.  When in Rome...

I met someone late last year who seemed very special.  We had both taken our lumps, so we took it slow.  It was a nice change of pace.  There was something there, something that made me believe again.  I had certainly lost faith, not only in women, but in the choices I've made in women.  But you have to believe, you have to want it, and this one felt different.  It wasn't just the great sex or her gorgeous eyes or how she looked in a dress.  It was hope.  If you don't have hope, you have nothing.  But you can fall harder.  And hope and I have often had our differences. 

My Westie and I evacuated last night to my almost-invalid uncle's house two miles north of my home.  All my radio co-workers were bonding in TriBeCa hotel rooms, my friends were with their wives and kids, my parents were in Pennsylvania, my sister and brother-in-law in Long Island, and I'm hearing all kinds of horror stories about my neighborhood via text and online while my dog slept on my chest, my uncle dozed off, and the surge hit.  People were together and everyone would have their stories to tell.

Laying there in the dark, all I could think of was her.  But she was with someone else.  And I was alone.

What's really important?

Dozens of people wished me well today thru social networks, a good amount sent a text.  Of course, few of these people would have known about the destruction of my home if not for social networking in the first place.  My parents called often, my sister, a friend or two.  That was it.  All most of us cared about before this storm hit were power, Internet, and a charged iPhone.  Myself included.  What would we be without them?  It felt insane to me to feel compelled to report to the world that my house was destroyed while others were posting about politics, their kids, football scores, and rock concerts.  What a fucked up world of communication we have ushered in for our children and beyond.

What's really important?

"Nothing else matters as long as you're safe."

Heard that a lot today.  Does it?  It feels like everything else matters.  I was taken in by a woman I haven't seen in 10 years and a man I've never met.  That matters.  My insurance company kicked into high gear to start what will be a long and ridiculously hard recovery.  That matters.  My traumatized dog has been by my side through all this.  He's finally asleep and soon I will be too.  That matters.

I fought to keep this house, I put my life savings into buying and upgrading it, then gave up what was left of that savings to keep it for myself and maintain it.  I could have left, I could have sold it.  Today, I lost computers, synths, flat screens, microphones, Blu Ray players, a massive vinyl record collection, toys, comic books, video games, baseball cards, important documents, furniture, food, photos, artwork, recording equipment.  I still haven't buried any of it.  I can't even get to it yet.  Bald Freak Music's entire physical existence has been obliterated.  None of that matters.

Love matters.
Companionship matters.
Communication matters.
Hope matters.

If you've found love, keep it close.  Nurture it, value it.  Anyone who gets lazy on love should be drowned in my basement.  Be true to your family and your friends.  Don't just offer to help them.  HELP them.  Talk to people.  With your mouth.  Have hope.  For me and for you.

Since my divorce, I have felt disconnected from the world.  But I've used that time to better myself, to learn to love again, and to take inventory of what matters.  Do you truly feel compassion for me?  Invite me into your lives.  Write a song with me.  Play a show with me.  Come visit my new place, wherever that will be.  Find me a girlfriend, I'm ready again.  Laugh with me, cry with me, have a beer with me, smoke a joint with me.  This is my one and only personal request to any of you who know me in real life.  Be there for me.  I need you now more than ever.

That's what's important.  Take inventory of your life, it is still your most precious asset.

Before today, I was a lost soul only in spirit.  Now I am truly without an address.  And maybe - just maybe - that's the way it was meant to be.

I WILL FUCKING SURVIVE THIS 

Oct 1, 2012

The Last Q*Ball Album: FOCUS

I'm working on my last album.

This week - in between horror movie watching and marathon training - I will begin mixing and tweaking the songs I've recorded over the past 2+ years.

Q*Ball was born right after the turn of the century, an intended solo project I started with my friend Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal, who was gracious enough to contribute not only as a guitarist but also as an engineering and producing mentor.  We did three albums together, and Ron's expertise and patience behind the mixing board are something I have never been able to match as an independent electronic musician.  And while Q*Ball has never achieved mainstream success, I was always encouraged by Ron's (mostly) positive response to the songs we were working on.


As a non-touring, barely-show-playing artist over the last decade, I certainly didn't have a ton of fans, but enough to validate the project's existence.  I made some surprisingly decent money thru various licensing deals and used that money to start a record label so I could put myself in charge of the destiny of my own musical adventures.

A decade later, my life has changed tremendously.  The music industry has imploded.  Most attempts to put a live show together have fallen flat, and the ones that did come together were almost always underwhelming.  Bumblefoot joined Guns N' Roses, effectively downsizing his commitment to the project.

It's been tough.  I don't lament any of that.  Shit happens, you learn and grow.  My big regret is not getting infinitely better at recording the music myself - I can point fingers at other people or circumstances that prevented that from happening.  Pointing fingers is pointless.  Instead, I'm learning how to be self-sufficient as an artist and as a producer.  I still have a lot of work to do.

The time is now, the past is the past, and it's time to FOCUS.

So I need a focus group.  What's a focus group?  A select group of people who tell you what's good and what's shite.
 
It's difficult to trust my own instincts after a decade of frustrating mediocrity and with no band mates, so I welcome the guidance - I'm not sure how good these new tunes are, or if they're any good at all.  Maybe they're all in the key of D minor and I haven't even noticed.  Maybe they sound like they're all about the same girl (they're not).  Maybe some need more cowbell.

These are the songs currently in contention for inclusion on the new album, and there are about a dozen more in demo form, another half dozen still being worked on.  It will be refreshing to, for once, be selective about what songs to include and save the rest for the B-side bin (or perhaps the trash bin).
I feel a strong urge to put these new songs out there, but in today's musical Wild West show, I'm not even sure what format to release them in.  CDs are relics, vinyl is awesome but super expensive and restrictive as far as content, and digital is an invitation for a speedy burnout.  These songs tell the story of my life over the past few years - my struggles to maintain and then escape a shitty marriage, my struggles to find myself again as a single thirtysomething guy, my struggles to trust my own deceptive heart and deal with the deceptions of the alluring females who have entered and exited my new existence.  Some Q*Ball songs may be intentionally goofy, but most of the rest are about women.  Fact is, before I started Q*Ball, I was romantically as happy as I've ever been; afterwards, not so much.

Q*Ball may have once been my destiny, but now it's my therapy.  I need a few musical shrinks to work out the kinks - so far I have secured two spots, including my friend JJ Kincaid, talented afternoon drive jock at Z100 whose musical tastes I greatly respect (along with his often inappropriate sense of humor).  It would be great to add 3-4 more people into the mix, preferably a female fan, an industry female, and two fellow musicians.  Focus groups have rules, apparently, but I'll take what I can get.  If you're interested, please contact me via Facebook or Twitter, or thru this blog.

Basically, I'll send works-in-progress, demos, final mixes thru SoundCloud on a weekly (or so) basis and ask for honest critiques and answers to specific questions.  It's as simple as that.  In exchange, a big THANK YOU in my liner notes, a free copy of the finished product, and my eternal gratitude.  If that's not enough, we can always talk sexual favors or free drugs.

Regular album updates and videos will appear here and at www.baldfreak.com over the next few months.  Thank you for listening.