Sunday, June 12, 2011

Daily Dose #16 & #17 (06/12-13/11)


Author's Note: Many readers of "The Daily Dose" have asked that I continue to tell stories of my experiences as a working musician in Central New York, instead of some of the other subject matter I've been tackling.

I suppose that those requests have been made in part due to my thread contributions in the facebook group CNY Music Archives administered by Mike Donahue (do a search on it: It's a pretty cool site). I had somewhat an insiders view (or at least a unique perspective), and I can communicate it through the written word.

The reasons for my personal decision to initiate "The Dose" project (365 consecutive blogs in 365 consecutive days) are many. The main one is to just share what little I know and have learned in my fifty one years on the planet with people that might have use for that limited pool of knowledge.

But there are other agenda points as well. I want to improve as a writer. Diving into the craft of writing prose is a new found love, and I want to get better at it. Imposing the parameter of a daily deadline on myself forces me to write everyday, and as the old adage goes, "A writer writes". So yes, not all endeavors are solely altruistic, folks. I fess up on that point.

The blog platform is unique, however. It affords readers the opportunity to feedback through commentary, and because its the digital age, through metrics in some degree. Social network platforms are compelling to me. It's not just content driven, but driven by, in this case, the readers themselves. when you stand in front of an audience for a living, you know where you stand in real time. Writing and publishing blogs is slightly different, but not such a different dynamic that I'm totally alien to the process.

In the end however, it all boils down to this: I can bake the bread, and people can tear off a piece to eat.

But can you inspire people to pass the loaves down the line as they tear a piece off for themselves? That a question that at this point, remains to be seen.

I will say this however. 365 days is a long time, and although some parts of my life may be interesting to me, and may be interesting to you, there is no way it will be interesting to all of us for an entire year. That's unsustainable.

I fully expect that as I tell war stories centered on my personal adventures in musician land, that the well will run dry eventually... and I'm aiming to tell other people's stories as well, albeit through my eyes and perspective.

That's my invitation to all of my friends, fellow peers and even my detractors alike. Maybe through that, there may be a possibility of elevation, levitation, and participation through community unity. If you build a tribe of like minded individuals, this will happen. I know this for fact. I've seen it happen.

I try to frame these remembrances and run them through the final filter in the form of a question: "Where's The Gratitude?"

If you can answer that one, then you can more clearly identify the things of value that you harvested for taking the trouble of living through the experience. And at this stage of the game, those are the types of discoveries that I want to share openly with you. Maybe I can save you some time, maybe alleviate some kind of present turmoil, or at least give you something to chew on so you can chart your own course for yourself and avoid a few trees and potholes in the process.

"The Daily Dose" is a form of of snake oil. It could either cure what ails ya, or it could be just a bottle of valueless, repulsive bamboozlement. That's up to you to decide for yourself.

I would like to remind everyone that takes the time to read these essays that not only are you not required to pay for it, but that I am not monetizing this blog in anyway: It's important to note that when the snake oil salesman comes to town, he doesn't give the product away for free.

But yeah...if people start throwing away their crutches and miraculously start walking, you might want to greet that with a skeptical eyebrow arched over one eye.

I wouldn't blame you in the least.

So with that out of the way, let me introduce you to a new sub-heading of "The Daily Dose" called "The General Malarkey"; one that revolves around my adventures with a band called "The Bogeymen", which was the first time I experienced being involved in a group that had a legitimate record deal.

My experiences with this brain child of Tim Harrington's represented many critical turning points in my professional and personal life. There were many lessons learned, and there are plenty of opportunities to express gratitude openly for having the chance to learn those lessons. We have 365 days, so there's time enough for the complete backstory. Today's installment is just a snapshot of a singular one of many experiences.

But for those in the CNY Music Community that want a real look under that particular hood: Hopefully this will satisfy At least a small part your curiosity jones.


General Malarkey Directs His Troops

Looking back at my tenure of serving as a soldier in General Malarkey's army, my hitch was punctuated by significant battles and events that occurred singularly, with great periods of waiting in between. Interminable waiting. Waiting to be called upon, in service of the band, and Tim Harrington's artistic vision.

Shooting this video was one of those moments. This one? This was one that not only did you not mind waiting for, this one signified that all the work that you had done for your first ten years of pursuing a career as a professional musician might work out as planned (albeit slightly behind schedule). All the training you went through: Countless gigs,years of exhaustion, the soaking up of real time knowledge like a hungry sponge, law suits and process servers, draconian agents, mind altering substances and booze in amounts too copious to cop to, epic failures, poverty, and mind crushing disappointment all lined up behind this moment. This moment was real and very tangible.

In the middle of a wheat field somewhere outside of Rochester NY, in the middle of a heatwave where the temperature was pushing toward 110 degrees, in the middle of the Irish whiskey fueled maelstrom known as The Bogeymen, we were making a film. A little short five minute clip, back then a critical piece of any international marketing campaign. Success or failure of your first realeased single hinged upon it. MTV ruled the roost back in 1991.

You didn't get too many shots like this, especially from the staging theater known as Syracuse, NY. How many other of your peers or mentors, present or past, had found themselves in this position? Not many. There wasn't a vast communal knowledge base of wisdom to cull upon.

Greg "Creamo" Liss, the bassist of the band, had been there before through his work with 805, Tim and Vinnie had been to the big show rodeo with The Masters Of Reality as well. It probably would have helped to talk with them to get some kind of perspective, but The Bogeymen weren't that type of band where nurturing was up front. There was plenty of nurturing going on in back channels, but at the surface it took the shape of "Fighting, Fucking and Shoving Sore-Assed Ducks In Salt Water".

You either sank or swum. You either emerged from the fires of The General's Gauntlet steeled as a man, or you got crushed in the process. End of story. No one was going to appear to hold your hand. The fact that I was being guarded, and nurtured, was hidden from me at the time.

My role in the Bogeymen had pretty much been defined by that point. The record had been recorded after a year of stasis via the legal wrangling to avoid being signed to Delicious Vinyl, but that battle had been lost. The actual recording and mixing of "No Such Thing As" was an epic battle as well, but one that was survived.... barely.

After recording, we went out to LA to throw some shapes basically, but ostensibly to mix the record. But when the final mixing sessions were completed, marketing campaigns, manufacturing of the record, art design decisions, and tour plans were being developed, as a sideman, it was more limbo. Be patient, and wait for the next trick. I did get to sit in on the mastering session during that period, and that was a thrill of a lifetime to watch Bob Ludwig at Master Disc master a record in real time.

Those type of experiential teaching moments were worth all the time you sat with your thumb up your ass.

Tim didn't have to include me in those types of activities, and yet he did. He was always teaching me; pushing me to meet my potential and dragging me across the benchmarks of his own incredibly high standards, even if most times he didn't want me to see a visible hand on the puppet string.

I was infantry. A soldier that followed orders on a need-to-know basis. A sideman, and the lowest guy on the totem pole, and the food chain. But I was there. I was on the ride, but I had no aspect of control of the ride. I pulled up in that wheat field pretty much clueless.

I was not part of any preproduction or conceptualization meetings. I'm sure they occurred, but my functions didn't include the need or want of any creative input from me. You just got in the car when your name was called, and showed up, ready to go to play your parts, and play your part, as written.

But I was in the hands of the most capable "playwrite" I had ever had the chance to work with. You don't get the opportunity to rub shoulders with genius everyday, and with The Bogeymen and especially Tim Harrington, rubbing shoulders with genius was my day job.

My personal agenda? Hoping that some of that genius would rub off on me permanently.

In retrospect, it did.

We walked out of the car that afternoon into Satan's Tropical Vacation climate: A brutal blast furnace of mind melting 110 degree heat with the added bonus of a 100% humidity index.

But this was the real deal. Trucks, trailers,looming grips, production assistants, and crew, little kid actors, a lighting rig, Arriflex Cameras, and Craft Services. Lights, Camera, Action! I felt like a space alien, but it was all very exciting.

The video was being directed by a guy by the soon to be ironically prophetic name of Markus Blunder, at least as far as the future of the band was concerned.

Blunder had directed a Slayer video ("Seasons of The Abyss") that evidently passed Tim's. Management's, and Delicious Vinyl's muster. It was shot in Egypt amongst the Pyramids, also partially in black and white... there was a brief confab with Markus about some sort of "Children Of The Corn" concept of which I didn't understand 75% of what he was saying due to his special combo of thick Teutonic accent and broken English beyond repair. He was an enthusiastic, junior birdman, blond haired blue-eyed, Aryan Eric Von Stroheim in overalls.

The basic narrative of the video was that there were to be four Mini-Us doppelgangers running around a wheat field that were attacked by nightmare crows, kept by a "bogeyman" in some sort of Adirondack bentwood style cart, interspersed with footage of the band rocking out. My role was not to question creative decisions, and certainly at the point where we're in the middle of a wheat field with a full crew would not be the time to make a "WTF?" peep.

Most of the "kid" footage had been shot by the time we got there, but they were still milling about for a few more scenes. I think the chubby one in the crew cut was supposed to be me, and compared against the physique of my childhood, not a wholly inaccurate portrayal.

We were greeted by Andy Gould, our manager, who had been slowly stewing in that crock pot of a location all day and looked it. Concrete Management was responsible for breaking Pantera, and Andy went on to post Bogeymen success with White Zombie, and I believe still manages Rob Zombie to this day.

Gould was quite a character. From across the pond with a thick British accent, Andy was always afflicted with some kind of massive upper respiratory infection. There was not a moment where he was either coughing, wheezing, hacking, or drowning in a sea of phlegm and mucous. In fact, we nick-named him "Mukey". So although he spoke The King's English, between his accent and the fact that his speech was always filtered through gallons of free-flowing sputum, you couldn't understand 75% of what he said either.

So the two responsible adults in charge of this bloody circus were basically unintelligible to an American ear.

My best friend Bob Acquaviva was with us too, but he was anything but my best friend at the time.

Throughout the period of recording "No Such Thing As", Bob had become the "fifth Bogeyman". We recorded at Acqrok Studios in Utica, and he eventually assumed the role of savior of the record (probably the best engineer/producer I've ever been in a studio with), and Tim's consiglierre/facilitator. He was right there next to all us for the rest of the ride.

Bob and I unloaded the van, and set the gear up in the middle of the field. Blunder threw Tim up on top of a 15 foot ladder, "Killing Ground" blasted out of the PA System... and away we went.

Throughout the day, we shot take after take, with Blunder shouting direction in his Germanic mangle. "GAY-OR-GEE! MORE OR-JENN!!!"

Or-jenn? What the hell is an or-jenn?

Many "Blunderisms" became part of the band's vernacular and secret language, and vestiges of that language still linger. Organ will always be Or-jenn for me and Bob.

And so with industrial sized fans blowing Satan's hot fetid breath at us with great velocity and force, we melted in the Summer's sweltering heat. The heat of the sun, the heat of the battle, and the heat of the significance of the moment.

By the time night fell and the swarm of locusts came out to devour our dehydrated, sun stroked, heat prostrated bodies, you could have carved four better men out of bananas.

The only thing missing were frogs raining down upon or heads.

It was most definitely, a "wrap".

There was nothing to do but go back to Andy's hotel and get stinking drunk.

Which is what we did, and wasn't an abnormal occurrence for this crew of Salt City Madmen.


That spring and summer, I was dealing with many personal as well as professional issues. I finally confronted the insane philandery of my wife that had been going on behind my back for over a year. I was the last to know of my whole entire social network.

That's not entirely accurate. I felt it in my bones all along, but a marriage should be based on trust. For that entire period, I intentionally insisted that I get the truth from her and only her. I wasn't going to violate her privacy and go out into the field playing secret squirrel. As long as she didn't admit to anything, that provided cover for the affairs, and that whole year was a war of wills, and a waste of time, Mexican Standoff. What should have been the best year of my life was one of intense psychic turmoil instead.

So I was the last to have verification. Almost twenty years later I found out who engineered that verification and how.

It was by the unseen hand of The General, who always had my back, but didn't want me to know it. A huge lump of gratitude found and harvested in the pile of wreckage, although very much delayed.

But at that time I was feeling betrayed by all, not just my wife. Every single one of my friends had let me down, and I was feeling very much alone in the world. There was no apparent "Band Of Brothers" dynamic in my life to fall back upon.

It was a loss of innocence. I had gone through life never thinking that someone I loved would intentionally hurt me, with great will and determination. It was a hard lesson to learn, but a necessary one. Wisdom doesn't come cheap.

These blogs are snapshots, however. What I know now is not what I knew then.

As I sat alone in my former happy home on Russel Place, watching the premiere of "Killing Ground" on "Headbanger's Ball", it should have been a moment of triumph.

It was anything but that. The person I wanted to share those moments the most with not only didn't want to share them with me, she had declared open warfare on my very soul, and had been waging it for quite sometime.

So... I did what any red blooded American Boy would do. I would re-dedicate myself to the band of brothers with a vengeance. I would meet those benchmarks, and exceed them. There would be no more "dragging me across the goal line of greatness". I would make it by myself and on my own initiative. I would be a man, one of my own design, and on my own terms.

There would be no question in anyone's mind that I wouldn't be ready for the next upcoming battle. There would be no more waiting. Only "doing", in the form of training and preparation.

Those vows were made sitting alone in the dark, watching "Killing Ground" debut on MTV.

That swift kick in the ass was just what I needed, even though it wasn't asked for. It set me on the course of being a real musician, and a real man.

So in closing, and in all sincerest gratitude and with a forgiving heart, I'd like to openly express thanks to my Ex-Wife; for charting my course, providing the fuel, lighting my fuse, and launching my spaceship that would take me all the way to New Orleans.

I couldn't have done it without you, baby.

"You may shoot for the stars and end up in a back alley behind Pluto, beaten and bloodied, but at least I dare to dream, and that’s better than being Earthbound.

I judge my forward progress and success by the crushingly epic nature of my failures.

The more epic the crash, the more I’m convinced I must be doing something right"





Cathy VanPatten said...

"It was a loss of innocence. I had gone through life never thinking that someone I loved would intentionally hurt me, with great will and determination. It was a hard lesson to learn, but a necessary one. Wisdom doesn't come cheap."

Whoo boy. Ain't THAT the truth!

Loree said...

You never fail to provide a good read that just flows with words that leave you waiting for the next sentence to view the next picture in your imagination that the story is painting. That along with a plethora of soul searching, and introspective reflections make this a daily fix...Thanks!