I would never consider myself a manly man. From outward appearances I think it seemed as if maybe I might’ve become one. I was always a big guy, even when I was a little guy. “Stocky” was used to describe me as a kid. “Big-boned” was another. Because of this it was assumed I’d be a coveted player on the football team. Relatives would say “Say, you planning on going out for the football team? You’d be great as a defensive linemen or running back, John.” I didn’t know what either of those meant. I knew the rebel forces tried to defend their base on Hoth against the Imperial attack. And I saw The Running Man. Was that the same as a running back?
I grew up amongst manly men. My dad’s dad was a boxer in Chicago back in the 30s. My mom’s dad liberated concentration camps at the end of World War II. Two of my uncles fought in Vietnam(one was a gunner on a chopper, even.) My dad excelled at three different sports in high school and joined the reserves. He worked on cars and built actual working model engines for fun. My brother was a top notch baseball pitcher, partied like a God on Asgard, and has been a lifelong fan of Manchester United.
Me? I had an extensive toy gun collection and set up elaborate battles between the GI Joe forces and the Cobra army in the basement. There would be elaborate lip syncing sessions with a tennis racket in place of a Fender Strat where various Van Halen and hair metal-affiliated songs were performed for an audience of one(a miniature schnauzer named Klaus.) I loved sports. Well, Van Damme’s Bloodsport, anyways. And sports movies were great. The Bad News Bears, Bull Durham, White Men Can’t Jump, North Dallas Forty, and the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue was always a good workout.
Guns seem to be a big part of my family(immediate and extended.) While I have nothing personal against a gun as a tool, I’m not too sure about the idea of owning an arsenal. In the early 90s when the Clinton Thought Police were going door-to-door forcibly taking American citizens’ personal weapons(wait, that never happened) my uncle and cousin began buying up Chinese assault rifles before they were completely banned. You know, because it should be every guy’s right to own semi-automatic weapons made by a Communist country that armed a Communist regime. I even went to a gun show with my cousin once. If there ever was a time to realize I’m NOT a manly man, it was at that sh*t show.
There’s also lots of hunters in my family. Both my cousins owned shotguns and would often head out at the crack of dawn hunting things small and furry. I was invited to go along but declined the offer. My uncle hunted deer with a bow and arrow(just like Oliver Queen.) My dad owned a .22 rifle and pistol, and even bought my mom a small .25 caliber pistol for protection(against what, I don’t know.) My dad’s hunting experience extended to just noisy crows that would wake him up at 4:30am and squirrels that would destroy his bird feeder(he once ran a dead squirrel through our chain link fence as a warning to other squirrels looking to snag Mr. Bluebird’s seeds.) My brother has recently gotten the Dirty Harry itch and currently owns 5 firearms. 5. Firearms.
Me? I’ve got a couple pocket knives and a boot knife I bought with lunch money when I was 14. I’ve also got a vintage Return Of The Jedi Han Solo laser pistol(batteries not included.) There’s a 3 inch diameter dowel rod that’s been cut down to a 2ft length that could leave some nasty welts if needed for home protection.
I can’t fix much, whereas my dad’s dad built an extra room on his house with nothing but a “How-To” book and lots of swearing. My dad built two rooms in their basement, and helped me finish off our basement as well. I’m what you’d call “helpless help”. I stand there and wait for instruction and/or emergency, with 911 at the ready. I can build things like album cabinets and simple boxes that my kids can store books and display action figures in. I built an entertainment center where my stereo equipment and turntable live. I can do a reasonably good job with yard work, but nothing fancy. You want lines mowed straight in the yard? I can do it. You want pretty flowers and a garden? Ehh, I’m not sure about that. I can get by as a homeowner. I’m slightly above functional. The local handyman and/or heating and plumbing guys and gals love me. I’ve got no problem asking for help(definitely not a manly man.)
Wanna talk arthouse films? Frank Miller vs Jeph Loeb vs Scott Snyder Batman? Would you like a thesis on why Electric Miles is better than Hard Bop Miles? Maybe we could discuss John Irving or Kurt Vonnegut? Hard science fiction or soft science fiction? I’m happy to sit and listen to you while you tell me what’s bugging you. Maybe I can help you work through it? I’m a good listener, or so I’m told. I’m totally down for watching Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, Shane Carruth’s Upstream Color, Terence Malick’s Days of Heaven or Tarkovsky’s Solaris and sit and discuss them all over a couple pints. My son and I will be hitting Chimp’s Comix later, you’re welcome to come and browse with us. Let’s go album diving at the local brick ‘n mortar then grab some sandwiches. I know a great place. I’m not terrible at painting, if you need some help. I can detail a car halfway decent, too(thanks dad.) And if you prefer to eat in, I’m pretty decent in the kitchen. I keep a clean house as well(thanks mom.) We could go downstairs to the studio(that my dad helped me build) and we could just plug in to some amps and see what happens. We could jam or improvise, whatever you prefer to call it.
So yeah, I’m no manly man. I don’t hunt or play sports or work on cars or put roofs on houses or build rooms with my own two hands or fight behind enemy lines or ride a motorcycle or know the score to last night’s game. I can’t fix the toilet or the kitchen sink, and hooking up the water heater is out of my wheelhouse. I can set the timer on the VCR(do people still have those?), or set up your home stereo system. I can tell you which Wilco or Coltrane album to start with. Or the best record shop in a 40 mile radius. That’s the kind of man I am. I’ll cop to my feelings and maybe we can talk it out or something.
When my oldest was 2 years old we used to get in the car – my wife, daughter, and myself- and we would drive. No real destiny other than a bit of sanity. My wife at the time was pregnant with our second child and we were more than ready for her to get that baby out of her. In order to calm down a bit we’d take our 2-year old, load her up in our 1994 Nissan Maxima, and hit the road for the Kosciusko County royal tour. Country roads, local lakes, parks, thru town, and long passages on various highways was a means of setting the timer back to zero. As good a toddler as our Claire was, she was indeed a 2-year old. Only so many games of Hi-Ho Cherry-O, Baby Einstein videos, and daddy’s old Star Wars action figures would suffice. Claire wasn’t much of a napper, either.
The car ride was a moment of zen for all of us.
During these rides I might occasionally get to slip in some music that I liked, but for the most part it was various children’s song collections. But as a bit of compromise we had a few collections that were artists covering kid’s songs. One of those collections was called For The Kids. I think out of all of the CDs we had for Claire this was my favorite. It had Sarah McLachlan covering “The Rainbow Connection”, Cake covering “Mahna Mahna”, Barenaked Ladies’ covering “La La La La Lemon”, and even Tom Waits singing “Bend Down The Branches”.
As far as compromises go, this was a pretty decent one.
But the song that still stands out to me is the Sesame Street song “Sing”. Not because of the artist that covered it(Ivy), or the connection that I had with it when I was a little kid, but because it was the one song on that whole CD that my oldest would sing along to in the backseat as we put miles on that Maxima. Just as the song instructs, “Sing, Sing a song, Make it simple,To last your whole life long, Don’t worry that it’s not good enough, For anyone else to hear, Sing, Sing a song” Claire would sit in her car seat and sing this ancient song as if her life depended on it. Not a care in the world. It was shower singing. You know, the kind of singing one does when for that bit of time there’s not a care in the world. She wouldn’t get all the words right, but that didn’t matter. I mean, she was 2. What does one expect from a 2-year old? But in those little moments in the car, with her tangled head of red hair and light up slip-on shoes, Claire had zero cares in the world. And in turn neither did we.
Yesterday Claire turned 18 years old. In less than two weeks she will be graduating high school and in August she’ll be moving 3 hours away to attend a very prestigious liberal arts college. Her mom and I are proud of her beyond words. And we’re proud of ourselves for raising such a kind, thoughtful, and smart young woman. I’m honestly not sure how we did it. I mean, we went from two desperate adults in their late 20s driving around aimlessly on a Saturday night attempting to find some semblance of normalcy with a 2-year old in the backseat singing her heart out, to sending invitations out to that 2-year old’s high school graduation in the blink of any eye.
We somehow went from 0 to 18 just like that(insert finger snap.) Scrapes and bruises along the way, for sure. Missteps and mistakes strewn throughout, yes. But despite some bush league moments, we got that little red head with the big smile that loved to sing in the car(as well as occasionally along with the munchkins in The Wizard Of Oz) to a point in her life where the skies the limit, the world is her oyster, and the bull is firmly grabbed by the horns.
You do the best you can, you try to make the right choices for your kids, and you just pray to Jebus that they remember all those happy times over the stupid ones. Like the time you took them to the zoo, or the first time you saw a movie at the cinema, or that trip you took to the shores of Lake Michigan; as opposed to you drinking too much and acting like a dolt, or getting stupidly mad over something ridiculous, or not making good on that promise to go to Disney World(sorry.)
18 years in and I’m still the doting proud dad that I was at 26-years old. And with the gift of hindsight I’d say I wouldn’t change a thing. Despite by insecurities and imperfections as a parent Claire still turned out quite alright. Even when she’s out of the house, out of college, and with a life of her own we’ll always still have those car rides. And maybe when she’s needing a break from her own daily grind, I’ll gift her a CD that might help.
I’ll still catch myself checking old conversations and emails between my friend Mark and I. They weren’t as often as I wished they’d been, but what we had were insightful, funny, and I looked forward to them as if they were conversations with a long lost brother. Mark was six years older than me, the same age difference between my biological older brother and I. We would often talk about politics(the ridiculousness of it all), music, books, our kids, and writing songs.
Mark was the first person outside family and friends to show genuine interest in the songs I’d write alone in my basement. It was way back when people used to share music on this dark web site called Myspace. He sent me a message saying he loved my songs. Turned out Mark had been familiar with my writing well before that first message. Mark had been writing local record reviews for years at a Fort Wayne arts and entertainment magazine and had reviewed everything I’d ever sent in there for consideration. He wrote under the nom de plume DM Jones. His words of praise and encouragement, as well as comparisons to Wilco, The Beatles, and Paul McCartney when describing my “style”, meant the world to me. I’d ride on a serious high for days after reading those reviews. Years later he reached out, not as DM, but as Mark Hutchins. He was a local music legend. Grace Engine, Vandolah, New Pale Swimmers, and as he was contacting me he was writing songs for an album under his own name.
We began emailing and talking back and forth about our mutual love of Wilco and the Beatles, and he hipped me to bands like Sparklehorse, The Pernice Brothers, and Vic Chesnutt. He eventually asked me if I’d ever want to contribute to his songs, adding piano and whatever nonsense I could come up with. I was over the moon, and the first song I did contribute to was something called “First Off The Moon”, coincidentally. I nervously sat at the piano in the dining room and picked out some chords on the Wurlitzer console with his demo track playing on my daughter’s little boom box and eventually came up with some half decent parts. He dug what I came up with and that began a working relationship that would last until 2016.
From 2009 to 2016 I would send music files via email to Mark and he would plug them in tunes as he saw fit. Even though our relationship started out as music buds, as time went on I feel it turned to a more personal friendship. Well, as personal as it got with Mark. He could be quite open and affable when he wanted, but he was also a very isolated soul. He could deflect with a self-deprecating barb when it felt things might be getting too close to something that resembled sharing. We’d talk about families, our kids, parenting, work junk, and attempting to find that musical muse when she’d seem to leave town to make some other frustrated songwriter happy. Still, it never got too heavy.
There are people in your life that show up out of nowhere and have an impact on you that is immeasurable, yet you never really get to know them. You think you know, but you only know as much as they want you to. Mark was one of those people for me. He arrived in my life and gave what I called my art legitimacy. He had nothing to gain by reaching out and saying “I like what you do.” It was also Mark who encouraged me to start writing for myself, after he’d read a little piece I’d written about Wilco’s A Ghost Is Born. Because of what he said I decided to start writing regularly and I haven’t looked back since. That encouragement to turn to writing has given me an outlet I so desperately needed. A place to lay things out and express my love for music and life has freed me from a lot of angst I was carrying around. It’s given me a way to express the good, the bad, and the sad.
I don’t know if I was anything like that for my friend Mark. I hope our conversations were helpful to him. I hope our friendship, however long distant it may have been, was a bright spot for him in some way. I never got a chance to let him know what he’d done for me, and for that I’ll always be sad about that.
My friend Mark has been gone for just over a year now and I miss our conversations, collaborations, and the camaraderie we shared as fellow Vonnegut worshipers and humans trying to make the most of it. He was a good soul who couldn’t see the good he possessed in himself. He was a great songwriter, a great friend, and one of the funniest guys I knew. He was also quietly sad and lost, and eventually couldn’t do it anymore.
Do me a favor, head over to Mark’s Bandcamp page and have a listen. I think Sleepy Furnace is one of the best album’s I’ve heard by anyone in years. It’s truly a work of greatness, and his shining moment. I know Mark would love that.
And so on.
Below is the one and only appearance of my band Goodbyewave playing at Wooden Nickel Records in May of 2010. Mark runs into the video late to help out on background vocals. He was always there to lend a hand, or a harmony.
If you happen by here often(or semi-often), then you’ll notice something is different about the place. Sure, the WordPress theme looks different(that may change again), but where is the affable Jhubner73.com, you’re probably wondering?(if you’re not, then you should pay closer attention.)
Well, I have indeed re-christened the Good Ship Blog Spot. Jhubner73.com has been bought out by Complexdistractions.blog. Okay, it hasn’t been bought out. I, J Hubner, the sole owner, writer, mover and shaker of the blog formerly known as Jhubner73 has decided the walls around here need a fresh coat of paint, so to speak.
I’ve been here writing and bellowing into the digital wilderness for well over 7 years now. It started out as a place for me to have a conversation about music and life(my life, in-particular) with what I referred to as my imaginary friend. A friend that was happy to sit and read about my love for Adrian Belew, horror movies, songwriting, and listen to stories about me growing up in the Midwest. As soon as I started this place up I felt this huge weight come off me. These were internal conversations I’d been wanting to have for a long time but really didn’t want to burden others around me with them. Here was a platform for my ramblings, and they were ramblings for just me and my imaginary friend.
Funny thing is that my imaginary friend turned out to not be imaginary. That friend is you. You, my blogging compatriots. And you, fellow information super highway travelers that needed a place to stop and rest on your journey. Fellow music lovers who enjoy a fellow music lover’s ramblings about music(and his usually weekly love fest regarding El Paraiso Records.) And even the curious window shopper that stops along on their journey to nowhere in-particular. Maybe you find a story from my childhood funny, or you can relate to my phobia of public restrooms and leave a like before you hit the road. All of you are my friends. My fellow writers and curious seekers and storytellers and music nerds and film buffs and comic book fanboys(and fangirls) and just my fellow human beings looking for a place to stop and feel welcomed. This blog has become just as much yours as it is mine(but it is still mine, okay?)
So with that in mind, I wanted to change things a bit here. I’m not changing a damn thing in regards to what I write or why I write about it. This will always be where I, J Hubner, wax ecstatic about music. This was the reason I began this blog in the first place and that will never change. But with complexdistractions.blog, I want it to also be a place where there are more stories about life. I’ve got a hell of a lot of stories to tell and here is where I want to keep telling them. There will also be more discussions in regards to film and books. And a hell of a lot more interviews. That’s another area I really want to concentrate on here.
You see, I think we need as much of this sort of thing as we can get these days. Distractions. Music, film, books, and hearing other people’s stories. There’s a wide pool of negativity out there that I think we’ve all been wading in for a long time now. Letting ignorance and stupidity seep into our brains and hearts and allowing it to inform how we go thru the day. I’m not saying being informed is a bad thing. Being informed and knowing the truth might’ve averted the current state of insanity we are now in. But soaking in the hot, acidic truth 24/7 will also burn you out. Sometimes diving into an album can heal those psychic pains. Same with reading about someone and their life and what made them passionate about art. Or even cracking open a graphic novel(or even the non-graphic kind…you know, the ones without pictures.)
The re-branding of Jhubner73.com to complexdistractions.blog is merely me refocusing. I want to do this writing thing better and more often. I want expand my reach and make more imaginary friends not so imaginary. I have no delusions of grandeur in regards to how big this will become. This will always be a one-man operation, with that one man(me) covering things he loves and people he’s passionate about. Complex distractions are the distractions we need right now.
I’d never realized I wanted to be a roadie for a Christian rock band. That is, until I was one.
At the age of 12 going on 13 I started taking guitar lessons. It was something I’d wanted to do for at least three years prior. Well, I’d wanted a guitar, just not take lessons. You see, thanks to anxiousness and a general paranoia I was convinced any person I’d go to for lessons would be a child abductor or murderer and I’d never even get to “Every Good Boy Does Fine” before I was in a chest freezer. So until I would agree to take lessons there was no guitar in my future. But listening to Aerosmith’s Greatest Hits in the family car over and over again and hearing the searing groove of “Last Child” convinced me to take a chance on a creepy guy in an apartment over on Argonne Road. Turned out he wasn’t creepy at all. More of a folksy guy. He was an accountant named Jim by day and by night a divorced guy with a daughter living in another state. He wasn’t into AC/DC like me, but he loved the Beatles and bluegrass, so he taught me the basics for a couple years, until my freshman year when he told me he couldn’t show me anymore. He hooked me up with a redneck with a mullet named Terry that gave lessons in a small room at Loy’s Music Shop. Not sure how Jim knew Terry, but this was the creepy dude I’d feared back when I was 9. At the 2nd lesson I asked Terry if he played slide guitar and his response was “Yeah! With my dick! Ha!” This would be my last lesson with Terry(though before it was all said and done he did show me how to play “Tequila Sunrise”, so there’s that.) So it seemed I had hit a roadblock in my journey to be the next Yngwie Malmsteen, Joe Perry, or Joe Satriani. Then, like the hand of the rock and roll God anointed me personally, my mom got a call from my uncle John. He asked if we were still looking for a guitar teacher, as he knew a guy named Tim taking on new students.
My uncle John was a local rock and roll legend around northeast Indiana. He was in a band back in the mid-70s called Magi. They were a 5-pc outfit that was out of Nappanee, Indiana(google it…Amish country.) My uncle was the lead singer and one of the songwriters. The band modeled themselves after Boston’s own Aerosmith, with touches of early Foghat and Steppenwolf thrown in. My future guitar teacher Tim knew my uncle through a Magi reunion that had transpired a few years earlier, as Tim himself was a local rock legend. He was in the Midwest metal outfit Rox Sedan(and Victrola before that.) Where Magi took their queues from early 70s cock rock, Tim was influenced by the NWOBHM, as well as grittier, early 70s blues bands and ZZ Top. Rox Sedan wore the metal gear; leather vests, studded wristbands, and used power chords effectively and efficiently. But in the mid-80s a friend of Tim’s was murdered in a drug deal gone bad(Tim may have been the one to find him), so while he’d always been a believer this incident convinced him to become a reborn Christian. He stopped rock and roll, stopped drugs, cut his hair, and pretty much crawled inside of a bible for a couple years. Eventually he eased up on the Christian restrictions and started listening to old Steely Dan and ZZ Top records again, grew his hair out, and picked up his guitar. He became even better of a player out of the rock band game, honing his skills to rival even those pinheaded guitar noodlers signed to various record labels. To make extra money while his wife worked full-time at a local grocery store, Tim began giving guitar lessons in the late 80s. Mainly to wannabe guitar noodlers with aspirations of being the next Jimmy Page, Steve Vai, or Eddie Van Winkle.
Enter my brother and I.
After it was established that we were in fact looking for a new guitar teacher a meeting was set at Tim’s rural rock and roll headquarters. It was a trailer in the middle of several acres surrounded by corn fields and woods. My uncle John picked up myself and my brother Chris on a cold winter Thursday night and drove us to what felt like a future murder scene as we took the secluded dirt drive to this dimly lit aluminum can in the middle of nowhere. All my trepidation melted away when Tim answered the door. Outgoing, welcoming, and funny as hell, Tim made the Hubner boys feel right at home. My uncle and Tim talked for a bit about “the old days”, which Tim had no problem talking about. He even pulled out an old cassette tape with his old band Rox Sedan playing live in some dive bar around 1987. They were covering Georgia Satellites’ hit song about telling lies and keep your hands to yourself. Tim was on guitar and singing and he reminded me of Axl Rose. Not long after we brought up Guns n Roses and Tim said he couldn’t stand Rose’s voice.
Anyways, after all the chit chat we headed back to Tim’s practice room so he could play a little for us(you know, so we knew he could really play.) Boy oh boy, could he play. From the moment he hit the strings on this white St. Blues electric guitar my jaw hit the floor. All I listened to at this point was guys playing at lightning speed, so I sorta knew when I heard good playing. Between the speed picking, hammer-ons, and whammy work I thought I’d walked into the practice room of a genius. With a great sense of humor and what seemed like a pretty intellectually bright guy I sort of wanted to be adopted by the guy.
After a few minutes of blowing our minds with a beat up Marshall and an off-brand electric, it was quickly decided that my brother and I would become Tim’s newest guitar students. Every Thursday night at 6:40pm we would show up at Tim’s place and for 25-30 minutes each we’d go back to the little practice room and learn about scales, modes, reading guitar transcriptions, and Tim would teach us songs we’d want to learn. We’d also laugh continuously as Tim was a funny, jovial guy. Religion would come up now and then, but I never felt like he was trying to push it on me. We’d record our lessons on cassette, and occasionally I’d ask Tim to play something and do some whammy bar work(I had a Fender Squier Strat with a fixed tremolo, where Tim had the Floyd Rose-licensed locking trem.) I loved dive bombs and the weird string abuse you could do with the locking trem, and Tim knew all the tricks. He’d comply and I’d go home and listen to the tape and be in awe that this guy was MY guitar teacher.
How I went from a guy that played his guitar with his penis to a dude that rivaled some of the guys signed to Shrapnel Records was beyond me. Within a year, one of my best friends began taking bass lessons from Tim. Friday night sleepovers in 10th grade would lead to Saturday morning drives to the wilds of Syracuse, Indiana for guitar lessons from Tim. Whatever we brought him he was eager to learn and teach us. He’d tell us about Steely Dan, 70s soul, the beauty of Billy Gibbons’ guitar tone, and the genius of early Woody Allen and Federico Fellini(Tim even gave us a copy of Fellini Satyricon and La Dolce Vita to borrow.) My younger cousin joined the ranks of the Tim student club as well and he began coming over(lessons had changed from Thursdays to Saturday mornings.) We’d gone from the tiny practice room in his trailer to Tim’s mom and dad’s basement(who lived right behind Tim on the other side of the woods)while Tim was renovating the trailer and adding a studio space, to an abandoned church down the road from him.
All through this Tim started writing songs again. His constant playing as a teacher had gotten him to a pretty stellar level as musician. His Christian belief put a fire in him that pushed him to want to talk about issues that meant a lot to his belief and to him as a human being. This led to Tim starting Lovewar, his first post-reborn band that would launch Tim into the upper echelon of Christian metal(he toured the world with Lovewar, so I guess that would be upper echelon.)
As time went on I became more like a friend/little brother to Tim. I can remember him coming by the house one summer night in his little beater hatchback with a demo tape of some songs he wanted to share with me. We sat out in the car and he played me these pretty rocking tunes he’d recorded on a 4-track cassette recorder with a drum machine, bass, and guitar. His voice got better, too. It was still a little gravelly, but it worked. He had better pitch control. And the guitar was stellar. He soon added a guy to play bass with him, which meant that he could take the songs on the road. As far as drums were concerned, he had those programmed into an Alesis drum machine, so for live settings they could run the Alesis right into the house PA and they were good to go. Tim had already recorded a cassette EP(which I had actually drawn and designed the cover for, thank you very much.) He was getting back into the game.
In the summer of 1990 myself and my pal Jason(who was the bass student of Tim’s) were hanging out playing badminton, watching Degrassi Junior High, and listening to lots of Rush, King’s X, and of course practicing our instruments diligently. One day I get a call from Tim asking if Jason and I would like to come along for one of Lovewar’s first shows and help set up and tear down equipment. This sounded like a completely awesome thing to do as there were no job prospects and no girlfriends at the time, so Jason and I said sure. I think there was a value meal thrown in to sweeten the deal as well.
We made our way to Fort Wayne in Tim’s beat up truck with amps, guitar, lighting, and God knows what else to a Christian rock club. Now, it’s been nearly 30 years so the name of this club eludes me, as does its exact location in the Fort. I can say there was a Sunbeam bread plant near its location, and a block away was a strip club called Deja vu. Behind it was a gay night club called The Other Side. The name of this club we went to was something like “Alternative” or “Alternatives”. So apparently the owner was trying to prove a point, save souls, or generally “make a difference” to the lost souls of Fort Wayne. We arrived and the owner met us outside. He had perfectly coiffed rock hair; long, curly, vainly messed with. He looked like Steve Perry trying to hang with the cool kids of the 80s hair metal scene. It all felt like he was trying too hard to relate to the rock and roll life. We quickly began to huff speakers, pedalboards, and light cans into this dark and dank club. I don’t remember when Tim’s bass player showed, but he eventually did. The setup was pretty simple, as the drummer came in a small box and ran on a power strip. Jason and I quickly took a backseat as the show began and the coiffed club owner ran the lights.
As far as the crowd went, I don’t recall there being a huge one. Tim and his bass player put on a great show. Messages of love and the Lord’s dominance were delivered in a slurry of funky riffs, thumping bass, and biker shorts and sweaty tees. By this point, though, I had begun to hear more about the Christian message and less about cool movie references and the greatness of Billy Gibbons. I was getting older and I was seeing a lot of hypocrisy in the message of the pro lifers who were also pro gunners and pro capital punishment. Even at 16 I knew some moralistic wires were being crossed, but Christ I was a roadie and there was the promise of a Quarter Pounder at stake here. I was in.
I don’t recall how long Lovewar played, but with only a 5 or 6 song cassette EP under their belt it must not have been that long. The show on the stage ended, the little crowd dispersed, it was time to hump some gear back out to Tim’s pick up. As we loaded stuff up and Tim was discussing something with the owner(payment maybe?), an African American man wandered into the club. He came from the gay club behind the Christian club. He was a bit drunk, a bit upset, and he was bleeding. He was asking the owner if he could help him. Tim walked away from the discussion and began helping Jason and I finish up the load up. The conversation between the bleeding man and the Steve Perry wannabe was getting more heated as the man asked the owner to call an ambulance or the police. The owner refused and told the man he couldn’t help him. You know, the Christian guy that opened a Christian club near a strip bar and a gay bar, couldn’t help the bleeding black man for whatever reason. The owner told the man to leave, which he did begrudgingly, wondering out loud why he couldn’t get someone to care about him.
As soon as the man walked out of the club the owner closed the door behind him and immediately locked the door. I was 16 and still a little wet behind the ears, but I knew a hypocrite when I saw one. What I didn’t see was my buddy Jason. Apparently he was at the truck loading stuff when the club door was locked. After I’d realized where he was I told the owner “My friend is still out there. Unlock the door.” He did and when we stepped out my friend Jason was sitting on the pick up truck gate with the bleeding man, talking to him like a human being. The man said something to Jason like “Thanks” and walked away when he saw us walk out. A 16-year old kid from nowhere could open his ears and heart up to talk to a stranger in distress, but the Christian club owner couldn’t and wouldn’t. We loaded in the pick up and drove away from the club. We stopped and got the as-promised Quarter Pounders and made our way back to home.
That was my only time as a roadie for a Christian rock band, but I did keep getting lessons from Tim for a couple more years. That is until one day Tim told me he couldn’t show me anything more. He said it had gotten to the point where his wife couldn’t tell who was playing what during our lessons. He was basically taking money from my parents so that we could just jam. I understood and we said our adieus.
I kept in touch with Tim for a few years afterwards. He became a big deal in the Christian rock world, like I said earlier. Lovewar played Cornerstone Festival, toured Europe and Brazil, and played with some of the best Christian musicians and bands around. Tim later went on to form the Channelsurfers, which was another successful band. He got out of the band game and became a full-time studio owner, which he still does today(as well as being head pastor at a local church.)
I don’t speak to Tim anymore. I’m happy that he’s happy in his life. He seems like he’s found his calling as a studio guru/Bible scholar, but my stance as a “non-believer” seems to get in the way of just a normal conversation. I think leaving things somewhere in the past is the best course of action. Despite our disagreements and diametrically opposite moral compasses, Tim still is a central figure in my formative years. He opened my brain up to new musical and cinematic avenues, as well as completely blowing my teenage mind with his stellar six-string skills. He taught me about tone, amps, classic guitar gear, and how to properly appreciate Steely Dan.
It’s that 2-day event every year where on a Friday Christians(as well as other applicable faiths) celebrate the crucifixion and slow death of their savior Jesus Christ. Then two days later they celebrate Jesus rolling the rock away from his tomb and heading back to heaven, like a kid going home on an extended college break. This celebration is done by attending church, then afterwards having a nice ham dinner with family and friends whilst not speaking of or even making reference to Jesus Christ or the serious nerve damage in his hands.
I grew up not going to church and not discussing religion at all in our house, yet my parents counted themselves as believers. We were lax Presbyterians, living next door to both southern Baptists and sketchy Lutherans. Everybody seemed to have chosen a winning team in the big religious game, so how could there ever be losers?(as we all know, everyone’s a loser unless you get on bended knee for the other guy’s deity.)
Despite not going to church and not praying before every meal, my parents believed in God. They did their time growing up with butts planted in pews and listening to a sweaty pastor talk about loving thy neighbor, casting the first stone, and even a word or two about a fiery lake somewhere in Hell(I think that’s located in Georgia.) We may not have gone to any house of worship(though we did hit a house of pancakes on trips now and then), my mom and dad loved putting the fear of God in me. But my dad would get to a point with Christianity where he seemed to have had enough. The earliest sign of that was when I came home from vacation bible school with the southern Baptist neighbors and told my dad the lady said if we didn’t go to church we’d go to Hell. “She said what?? Who the hell does she think she is?! You’re done going to that shit!”
And that was that.
My dad was of the belief that you could worship your own way, whether you were getting splinters from a shady pew on a Sunday morning or you were washing your car in the driveway listening to John Fogerty’s Centerfield on the garage boombox. God’s love wasn’t limited to specific, designated, tax-free buildings where true believers and hypocrites alike would gather to make themselves feel better(or at least better than you.) Now I’m not saying everyone that would attend church services on a regular basis were hypocrites. There was a steady mix of lifelong believers and insurance policy believers. You know, those types that live outside the realm of Christian doctrine but show up every Sunday morning for the warm and fuzzy feelings they got from the feeling that they were clearing the filling slate of sins they’ve accumulated through the week. Plus, it was a great way to be seen in some social situation. My dad didn’t buy the whole “organized” aspect of organized religion. Once religion gets organized, it tends to get less about religion and more about “things”. And yet, we’d still have ham every Easter Sunday. Like a muscle memory, or involuntary reflex, the grandparents would show up and we’d have a spread of ham, scalloped potatoes, corn pudding, deviled eggs(ironic), and a pie of some sort. My dad may have had an issue with organized religion, but a quality organized meal is never anything to turn your nose up to.
My mom, like my dad, saw the hypocrisy in the religious sect as well, but still held onto her belief in God and power of prayer. She also could put together a mean looking Easter basket. Chocolate bunnies, Reeses’ Peanut Butter eggs, those gross malted Easter eggs, and some toy of some sort(started out with coloring books, then worked up to GI Joe figures and cassette tapes.) The Saturday before she would buy the easter egg dye kits and I’d get to dye some hard-boiled eggs. This whole tradition was completely lost on me, but I did it because I liked hard-boiled eggs. On Easter Sunday morning I’d rise from my tomb and head out to the living room and check out what was in that wicker basket, then quickly turn on WNDU Channel 16 and tune into their crucifixion/rise from the dead coverage. It was the same program they’d play every year and every year I’d tune into this macabre oil painting they’d display of Christ on the cross. It was like tuning into The Charlie Brown Christmas Special in December, or The Charlie Brown Halloween Special in October. It was a tradition I kept up for several years until the Catholics at WNDU stopped showing it and went to various Easter Day parades.
I’ve grown up with the same mindset as my dad’s in regards to religion in general. I think I might be slightly more pessimistic in my view of religion. I see far more problems than solutions in the organization of religion, yet I think something like faith is a good thing. If your belief in God can get you through some earth-bound problems, I’m all for it. Just don’t judge others that don’t believe what you believe. Don’t ostracize others because their faith lies elsewhere. Love God in any language, country, continent, and faith as you like. Worship him in church, washing the car, making toast in the morning, or on a long afternoon walk. If faith and worship in God gives you peace of mind and completes you on some metaphysical level, keeping doing what you do.
I think if James Murphy and I hung out we’d get along great. Or at the very least I’d feel great about the conversation while James might walk away from it feeling uncomfortable and weird. Either way, I’m drawn to this bear of a guy that makes electronic disco punk music that is, essentially, about feeling irrelevant in a sea of younger, cooler people. His songs aren’t all “Losing My Edge”, but they possess that spirit of “do people really care anymore?” The earlier stuff had this line of razor-sharp sarcasm that made LCDs work extremely self-aware. Murphy was practically saying “Yeah, I know I’m older than all of you and more tired than all of you…but I’ve got years of living under my belt little buckaroos.”
Sound of Silver is essentially the middle-aged album. It both laments and rejoices growing up and becoming an adult. “All My Friends” will forever be an anthem for those still trying to hold onto our youthful selves and those that made that youth so important to us. That was the record that brought me to LCD Soundsystem, actually. I hadn’t heard anything prior to that album. December 2007. James Murphy had completely avoided my radar. I’d heard rumblings about DFA Records, some guy named Murphy, and Daft Punk. But not until my birthday 2007 and spending a gift certificate at Sam Goody did I really start to know LCD Soundsystem. From Sound of Silver I worked my way back to the self-titled. The library had a copy of it that was a deluxe 2-disc version that had the album plus another disc with “Losing My Edge”, “Disco Infiltrator”, and a few other extended dance tracks. Once I’d heard “Losing My Edge” I knew Murphy was a brother from another mother. The conversation in the song about selling guitars for turntables and CD mixes of all the greatest songs of the 60s landed in just the right spot in my brain. The older DJ battling it out with the younger generation of DJs and musicians, trying to one up each other I just thought it was amazing. Plus it really opened my head to checking out some of the artists he mentions in the song. Gil Scot Heron, Can, and Yaz were all artists I’d heard of but never really delved into. Thanks to James Murphy and “Losing My Edge” I became a fan of all three.
Another thing about “Losing My Edge” is that build up in the song. Murphy’s sound ability really shows itself early in this song. He wanted to make electronic dance music, but with a real band. Sure he had stacks of synths everywhere, but he also had this top notch band with him helping him build these musical worlds tipping their hats to Bowie, Can, Yaz, Suicide, Velvet Underground, and countless other artists that had a stake in James Murphy’s brain. Watching them do this live is unbelievable. I mean, I haven’t seen them live except in Shut Up And Play The Hits, but I was impressed regardless.
James Murphy was 32 years old when he released “Losing My Edge”. He’d been the toast of the DJ world in New York and had seen some serious success. He’d also witnessed a major shift in the musical tide, which I think is where “Losing My Edge” culminated from. Feelings of being left behind by a younger generation and watching as his deep cuts became the norm in the clubs. Without those feelings of his relevancy slipping away and getting the impression that he was becoming the “old guy in the room” we may never have gotten LCD Soundsystem, and most certainly not “Losing My Edge”.
What a sad world that would be. Without LCD Soundsystem and James Murphy, middle-aged guys like me wouldn’t have that glimmer of hope that success in creativity doesn’t have an expiration date. Or that creativity itself doesn’t end when you prefer a cup of coffee to a glass of scotch. I feel that Murphy has gotten better with each successive record. LCD Soundsystem, Sound of Silver, This Is Happening, and now American Dream, he’s proven time and time again that with age does come wisdom. Or at least a well-trained ear that knows how to turn knobs and write a melody really well.
But still, fucking “Losing My Edge” man. It never gets old.