"Phew, for a minute there, I lost myself."-- Thom Yorke
I was a heavy drinker for a time. I would advise any artist against this because developing a drinking habit takes a shocking amount of effort and concentration, not least in the matter of curating an alter ego to justify the condition. Early NOHA shows were typically run-of-the-mill booze-ups that infrequently involved delirious explosions of acoustic anarchy. Thus, it was inevitable that the songwriting took a backseat to the imbibing. As your tolerance for marinating in misery increases, so too does the thirst of the beast within. I named mine "Gordon the Pig" out of deference for the namesake's fine affordable gin.
In my last year under Gordon's submission, it was a small miracle I wasn't blacklisted, let alone able to stagger onstage while antagonizing Bushwick's INGSOC healing crystal marketplaces instead of playing coherent, coordinated sets. I've always been steadfast in my dedication to my art, but unfortunately, the art of alcoholism was rapidly eroding my sanity. I learned throughout my extensive studies with an anonymous 12-step organization that hitting rock bottom is the moment you stop digging. I was merely lucky that I gained the good sense to stop digging before committing my first felony. That was 2 1/2 years ago and I haven't looked back.
Initially, I wanted to record music out of spite. I was a dry drunk hellbent on showing the elusive them, featured prominently in my IMAX projections, that I was worth something. I needed a newer, healthier outlet for my sanctimonious misanthropy -- some kind of justification for a decade of gin-soaked self-destruction. That justification was Scenes from a Breakdown, an acoustic album written and performed by a frustrated and unplugged procurer of extremely loud psychedelic rock.
Most of the songs on Breakdown were written in my drinking days. It took relative sobriety to realize how many of those songs were covert cries for help. One doesn't write the lyric "everybody knows I ain't a violent man / I'm the only pretty face that gets the palm of my hand" out of feelings of happiness or hope. Playing through the album again on a recent celebratory livestream, I found myself straining through the early funny ones. After all, I can only play the songs I feel, and feeling too good to sing about two weeks of attempted-suicide-by-vodka is a pleasant problem to have.
Thankfully, Scenes from a Breakdown is half-decent, though admittedly I haven't listened to it since I released it. Throughout every step of making the album, I was beset by a parasitic depression that threatened to derail my enthusiasm for continuing, hence my distance today. My favorite tracks are the closing two numbers. "Mrs. Burroughs" was hastily scribbled on a notebook as a grief-stricken attempt to translate a fresh trauma into artistic catharsis, and "Zen Garden," written days before bitterly celebrating my first year as an ex-boozer, was a sonic flare. I had to believe I would feel happy again one day. In the album's final movement, I allowed a little bit of light to creep into my art at long last. "Mrs. Burroughs" ends with a paraphrase from the man himself regarding the accidental killing of his wife Joan Vollmer: "I have had no choice except to write my way out." I'm still writing...
My new live EP Suffering Bastard, recorded from a last-minute Long Island show three weeks before the quarantine eclipsed everything, marks an entirely new chapter. The best of Breakdown is there, reinterpreted for a neopsychedelic soundscape. But it's three new songs -- "Cold Black Heart," "The Temple," and "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead" -- that I'm proudest of, and I'm chomping at the bit for the vaccine so I can bring them to life in a studio as soon as possible. Till then, these will do.
Amongst the new material is the one single, "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead." This one is a first, as it is something I never could've conceived as a cynical drunken troubadour: a romantic ballad. It finally occurred to me that falling in love is best commemorated in song. It is not only a musical love letter but also a time capsule I'll always treasure.
Faith, however it manifests within you, is an action and a choice. My faith is currently taking the form of Suffering Bastard: available where'er your content is streamed this Friday. It is also available now on the website wherein all proceeds are going to Food Bank for New York City. This will remain the case until the quarantine is lifted. As of this moment of writing, your generous contributions have raised enough money to provide 470 meals to families struggling to put food on the table as a result of COVID-19. I consider this repayment of the positive energy I cruelly robbed from the universe for my narcissistic Insta-gratification.
I have faith in a return to the world of live music. I have faith in the return to the studio to push the music forward. I have faith in our collective emergence from this darkness a wiser and kinder people. In other words, George Michael was right.
Anyway, it's better than drowning in a bath of Gordon's...