Thursday, January 31, 2008

Random Music Writing #4

Lesson #4: Don't ask for autographs, CDs or anything with someone's name on it.

Famous people can be famous by the stupid virtue of being famous. They don't even have to be any good at what they're famous for. Paris Hilton, for instance, is famous because of a sex tape, not because she was particularly amazing in it. I haven't seen the tape, but friends of mine have described it as "old people sex," which makes you wonder why she bothered to bring a camera. Where was the rawness, the heat, the excitement? Where was the monkey?

Anyway, in meeting semi-celebrated peoples, I take another line from my occasional mentor Andy Ridenour who said, "Don't ask for an autograph when you're there for the interview. You just look like a douchebag."

He's right. I've watched other writers, reporters and newsy types show up to ask questions and made a comfortable conversation suddenly awkward by asking for something that wasn't on the menu.

If you need a CD or tickets, get them from the publicist or agent. They get paid to handle the business details and the finer points. They get paid a lot. It's ok to make them earn it.

You want the person you're talking with to have their guard reasonably down. Sometimes there is nothing you can do to help them get their guard down and feel comfortable. Few musicians enjoy sitting down with strangers to go on the record about anything. Potentially having his or her life put out in front of them for judgement or dissection is not pleasant.

Sometimes there is no way to make the other person feel comfortable. I've seen people literally twist themselves into knots in front of me because their nerves were so frayed. You can establish some kind of rapport most of the time by sharing a little bit of who you are. I take my time setting up for the interview and just chat, ask about their kids or if they've read anything cool lately. With Greg Brown, we talked about gardening. I even got some gardening tips. Odetta and I talked politics. Buckwheat Zydeco told me about how he hated driving, but why he had to fire his bus driver.

You let them know early that you're not really there to go for some kind of kill. You're not hunting them. It's not a quiz show. It's not oral boards or a performance for an audience of one. It's a conversation. Don't ask them for an autograph, but if they want yours, I guess that would be okay.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Random Music Writing #3

Lesson #3: Nobody has as much money as you think they do.

The biggest joke to date in the music industry is about the level of wealth the big league guys are supposed to have. I've met a bunch of musicians and a bunch of millionaires. They are usually not the same people.

On the lower end, the guys on their way up are still spending like there is no tomorrow, but most of them aren't getting that island oasis. Most of them are thinking of getting a nice house in Jersey or maybe having a car that's not going to have a hundred thousand miles on it by the end of the year. They're mostly buying better gear and trying to hire people who will keep other people from screwing them in the shower.

On the higher end, the guys on their way out or down, they're just trying to hold on to a reasonable level of income to keep whatever middle class lifestyle they've adopted. Few of these people live with a horde of security people and hangers on. It just costs too much money and uses up what you have too soon. If they're still performing, they still have to come up with equipment, hire staff (managers, roadies, other musicians), pay all the usual travel bills and possibly manage a household.

In the center are the people who've made it, but who are at a career plateau of one sort or another. The smart ones are storing up for the long winter ahead, which comes to almost everyone. The dumb ones will end up playing Tuesday nights at a bar in New York, be glad to get it and reunite with guys they hated back when they had some money to play rural clubs within driving distance.

I've talked to people with Grammy nominations and solid selling albums who bragged about paying off their student loans, not early but just on time. I met a blues legend dying of cancer who couldn't quit working. I've hung out with performers who got upset when they misplaced minor articles of clothing, like socks and underwear, because they were going to have to buy them again. I've been around when the checks have been handed out for a show and watched how relieved some of these people look.

Not all of the stories about musicians getting screwed on their pay are true. Just most of them.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Random Music Writing #2

Lesson #2: Try not to talk to the hippy.

I've spoken to a lot of different people. I've found that the bass player and the drummer are often the best for getting past the bullshit and into what the band is like. Drummers and bass players apparently use different drugs than guitarists, singers and keyboard players. They're also backbone players. They're usually saner than the rest of the crew they travel with and will speak the truth. Example: Sully Erna says his band Godsmack was named after some trivial incident that relates to something he said. His bass player says, "Um, not really. There was that song by Alice in Chains..."

The downside is they are often less articulate and the members most often replaced when a band has an internal squabble or shakeup. Getting tossed the bass player can make the interview more difficult if they've only been on board for a month.

The hippy is usually the crispy-fried guitarist or front man. He's the guy who will microwave oatmeal, then eat the oatmeal as he gibbers nonsensically about how things were back in the day. He's the singer/songwriter who thinks his lyrics about the contributions of President Taft are remotely interesting. The hippy doesn't give interviews, he grants the opportunity for communion.

You will learn little of value speaking with the hippy.

The only good thing about talking to the hippy is he'll probably have forgotten to read the bio his record label provided him. If you let him, he'll trip up, praise the eugenics practices of the Third Reich or tell you about his problem saying no to blowjobs from fifteen year-olds.

This would be fine if you work for Rolling Stone or Spin or MAXIM, but it's not so hot if you work for a small paper in rural America that really just wants to give somebody another reason to go to a bar and spend a little money locally.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Random music writing post #1

Lesson number one: You're probably be better off doing something else. The business of music is a very affable sort of business. People are friendly, but they aren't always friends.

It's complicated. Musicians, promoters, producers all need music writers to encourage people to buy their records, come to their shows and eventually steal their music off the Internet. Music writers need musicians, promoters and producers in order to have things to write about besides the weather.

While this sounds simple, it isn't. It's a very personal kind of business. You will tend to know more about the people you write about than you want to know and almost always more than they want you to know. It is a false intimacy that is acquired from PR bios, from coffee in a green room or a couple of beers after the second set at one o'clock in the morning. You'll empathize with their plight and their battles.

From time to time, you will tend to forget there are lines and sides. You will want to believe we are all one and the same, but that's not really true. It's easy to want to believe that, because this is a very friendly business.

It's OK. When the time comes, someone will remind you.

Friday, January 25, 2008


The flashbacks have stopped, but the flash drive has died. At some point yesterday, my flash drive fell out of my pocket right in front of my house and was eventually driven over by the entire neighborhood.
The crusty stuff is road salt. I found it in a shallow puddle of water. When it dried, it came apart.
I was carrying the novel on it. Of course, I did print the sucker out and there are some backups, but maybe not every edit.
This may or may not be a setback, but certainly it is a pain in the ass.
On the home front, things are fine.
Tomorrow, I do the polar plunge for the Special Olympics. Thanks to the help of the news room and a blogger friend (who I'm not certain about thanking publicly for his generosity), I've raised 96 bucks for the charity. Hopefully, I will not die. That would sort of suck.



Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Jesus and the Joker

Per their website, the Westboro Baptist Church is planning on picketing Heath Ledger's funeral. Heath Ledger starred as a gay cowboy in Ang Lee's movie about cowpokes, which I haven't seen because it hasn't been available at the library. I did read the novella, "Brokeback Mountain,"which isn't the same thing and marvel at how they managed to drag that out into two hours. I thought the book was crap by the way.

Ledger also starred in the new Batman movie, which I'm itching to see because I'm a huge Joker fan. Anyway, the antics of the Westboro Baptist Church are pretty standard. They protest anything having to do with death and homosexuality. It's pretty fucked up, actually, but they always manage to stay in the right as far as the law. If memory serves, the church is primarily made up of one guy and his extended family. A bunch of them are lawyers, who do little more than keep the one guy out of jail.

Man... you got to wonder what Sunday morning services are like at this place. I'd put five bucks in the collection plate just to hear them sing their anti-sodomy songs of faith and renewal.

It's fringe nutjobs like this who make it so difficult for most people to embrace any kind of organized religion.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

More in reverse

The stroll down memory lane continues. Today, I heard from the first person who identified me as a writer, Krista Baker.

In 7th grade English, the entire class was told to keep a journal. I don't recall if we had writing assignments every day, but they were frequent and we had to read them aloud. Mostly, if memory serves, they were minor essays about stories we read in class or book reports. As a kid with a pretty inconvenient stammer and quickly diminishing sense of self-worth, I looked forward to reading my work then about as much as I look forward to a prostate exam now. I liked to write, but never considered I might be any good at it.

Around Halloween, however, we were asked to try our hand at a ghost story. As might be expected, I was already into Stephen King books and slasher movies. I dove into it.

I don't remember what the story was about except it was disturbingly violent. Friends of mine told me they thought it was cool, but we all moved on. Some time later, Krista (a girl, even) wrote in something she had to read to the whole class that I wrote really scary stories. She sounded impressed and other people agreed with her.

I was stunned. I did something right. So, I kept doing it. I sent her an email telling her I finished the rough draft of a novel. I wonder if she remembers.

So, anyway, I heard from her today. On my time line, I'm back to middle school. I'm going to be really disappointed if it turns out at the end of the week, I get hit by a bus or something.

Strange days, indeed...

Monday, January 21, 2008

Still in playback

I'm certain this is because I've been having conversations with an old friend about where we both used to live, but now I'm dreaming about Bluefield. So far, it's been about driving the roads and the one gourmet food store in town, but not about any of the people.

After I left Mercer County, I did what I could to forget about the place. A friend of mine had an art showing at Concord College five years ago and I stopped by on my way to Virginia. That was about it. I've passed through Mercer County a couple of times a year, but never visited. I've never made that right turn that would lead me back to Bluefield.

Leaving Bluefield was like every other bad break-up I've had. It's all dark. I have a hard time remembering much good about the town. Much of my feelings about the place are tied to a doomed and damned romance, another case of the nice guy with no sense and the sweet girl who couldn't tell the truth.

The short version is right after my first marriage ended, I fell for a co-worker. It was very intense for me and I doggedly pursued the thing, but I really wasn't her type. While she and I had some similar interests and we had some laughs, it never really worked on her end of things. I wasn't rugged enough or pretty enough or whatever. I just wasn't, but she probably could have mentioned that earlier. In stead, she strung me along for almost two years, sent me mixed messages, encouraged me in little ways, but never really owned up to the truth. The usual line given was she needed time to sort things out, to find time for something to really get started with us.

I was a lunkhead, an unattractive lunkhead apparently.

The story sucks, particularly the ending, but I moved on and while I don't think a lot about what happened between her and me, I still have problems with portions of it, even though all that is left of my feelings is an empty bitterness. This may explain why I'm not dreaming about anybody particular from down that way. The best I can still manage is to think about where I used to get a pretty decent sandwich.

The sandwich was rare roast beef with baby Swiss and a sweet vidalia relish. I got it with creamy horse radish sauce. It was amazing.

Anyway, this relates to a theme of me remembering things lately. It's really starting to feel like my life is flashing before my eyes. It may only be coincidence, but as I was even thinking about writing all of this, I got "a getting to know you" quiz from an old high school friend.

It's all very strange to me.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Money Grubbing

Oh, just because there is a monetary portion to this thing I'm doing next weekend (jumping into a pool of cold, cold water), I thought I'd post the address and details for how you can support the cause.
Send all checks to:
Bill Lynch
c/o The Charleston Gazette
1001 Virginia St E
Charleston, WV 25301.

Write out the check to: Special Olympics, West Virginia.
Do not send cash or naked pictures of your dog, unless you feel strongly that I should have cash to spend on lunch or if your dog is inhumanly attractive.
You know who you are...

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Live Rust

I'm not sure if it's the revisions on the novel, the increase of caffeine (which is now up to roughly 8 cups of Mexican Organic coffee per day-- minimum) or some other undefined something, but I've been thinking about people I haven't thought of in years.

I remember sitting up half the night with Amanda McCoy, smoking cigarettes and making love. We took a break to watch Mike Patton and Faith No More play Saturday Night Live. I want to talk to Patton just because I remember the night as being nearly perfect. I wonder what he did after the show. I know what I did.

She dropped out of school at the end of the semester. I never saw her after Christmas and spent almost a year trying to drink her away.

I remember a 20 year-old redhead named Rachel I barely knew, who walked out of a crowded room upset after she heard I was getting married. We'd been co-workers at a rotten job neither of us liked. She was pretty, but had a tough life. She didn't love her boyfriend, felt trapped and I held her during a cigarette break while she cried. She left in tears.

I think she wanted me save her. I couldn't even save myself at the time.

I remember a kid named Jason, who was my first friend when I moved to Pearisburg, Virginia. I remember how horrible it felt when he moved away less than a year later.

I remember my cousin Johnny from Michigan, whom I only met once. My uncle Jack and my grandparents had some sort of a long term spat that centered around him. Jack didn't come to the house that one week I hung out with Johnny, but would drop Johnny off at the golf course across the road. Johnny and I hit golf balls with a beat up club and he told me every dirty joke he knew. He was afraid to swear.

It probably means nothing, but it's felt like the moments they were in my life weren't twenty or twenty-five years ago, but a week ago. It's a strange distraction.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Dumb things.

I am working out the details, but I've decided to get involved with the Polar Plunge thing over at Appalachian Power Park. Basically, I'm going to jump in an icy cold pool and flail around. This is all for a good cause, to help raise money for the Special Olympics.

Those of you who made it through the "puzzle piece" blog posts back in October know I have a daughter with Autism. She has taken part in the Olympics several times and I like the overall program. For those of you who didn't get through the puzzle piece blog posts before they were reduced to digital ash, my daughter has autism and she takes part in the Special Olympics.

Really, all this pretend do-goodery aside, the Polar Plunge is just another opportunity for me to legitimately make an ass of myself with both the blessing and encouragement of my employer. My peeps who read this will know I do not need much encouragement. Jumping into freezing cold water in the middle of winter sounds just like my kind of fun. There might be a t-shirt in this for me and if I'm lucky, a case of pneumonia.

To the best of my knowledge, I am the only Charleston area blogger willing to do this. This statement is not meant so much as a challenge to the rest of my keyboard jockey brethren, but as a simple nyah, nyah, nu-nyah-nyah. There's a link through my other blog, which if you follow the link will eventually get you there to register if you want. It will also jack up my hit count over at the Gazz, which will make my editor touch his nipples and smile.

If you are interested in supporting my run to freeze by balls off and raise money for special needs kids, send me an email and I'll send you an address, plus who to make the check out to.

Some might be wondering if I'm going to go the full Nature Boy Ric Flair and wear a speedo. Due to the dimensions of the speedo, the level of my personal furriness and the very likelihood temporary shrinkage, um... no. I will not be wearing a speedo. Probably. Probably, I will not be wearing a speedo.

More zeros and ones

In the course of another 24 hours, my wife was accepted into a graduate program and I've alienated portions of the Mountain Stage crew. I'm also may be taking on a few new duties at work for an unspecified length of time. Meanwhile, I'm again communicating with a music magazine about doing a little freelance work for them and it looks encouraging, which is funny given the timing.

In order for me to do the work, I'll actually need the good graces of Mountain Stage. I doubt that I've substantially damaged my relationship, just irritated them.

Man, here we go 'round the mulberry bush and I can't tell if I'm the monkey or the weasel. I might be both.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

zeros and ones

"There has been something of a lull lately..."
That was what I wrote a little over an hour ago when I wanted to do a blog post, but really couldn't think of anything to say. I wanted to speak, but couldn't find anything worth mentioning.
It is an annoying habit I have. Sometimes, I just like to rattle.
In that hour or so, my wife's car decided it didn't want to work any more. I don't know if it's taking a sabbatical or simply on vacation. Either way, for a while, the schedules of six people get balanced in one vehicle.
On the surface, that sounds okay. Gas prices will soon make it too expensive to drive for all but Internet millionaires whose Uncles in Uganda really did wire that check.
I should not find the time to be bored.
You end up getting the thing you wished for, but never in the way you wanted it.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

long, long ago...

There was a time when I didn't know anyone my age who'd died. I didn't know anyone who'd drank themselves to death or put a bullet in their own head. I didn't know anyone who'd been raped or been arrested for anything more troubling than vandalism.

All of that's changed over the last thirty years. I've known a few career alcoholics and suicide victims. I know a couple of women who've been raped. I've known people who've done time for selling drugs, getting into fights in bars and for stealing cars.

Now I know someone who's lost her mind.

I got home during the holidays, if only for less than a day to see my Mother, my sister Susan and her horde of daughters. A childhood friend who lost her father last summer, who may have been in the process of losing her husband for some time, was seeing signs and symbols from God.

I remember in the beginning, as Susan told me the story, I didn't think much of it. I am prone to some pretty odd ideas myself. I have a slightly quirky sense of synergy, where it will feel like I'm noticing something outside the usual -like a number of bicycles on a given day or a certain color. It's all trivial stuff. I've even felt on occasion like things were lining up, like luck, fate, karma or the great spaghetti monster was making things go my way. I pay attention to those occasional flashes of deja vu, but I don't live around any of it.

My friend, however, maybe was. She was seeing more out of the ordinary, connecting things together that didn't make any sense at all. She was taking it all very seriously.

According to my sister, our friend's family had her put in a hospital after she started talking about being followed. She was also using tin foil to block out something from coming through the front door.

While I was home visiting and Susan told me about the strange things going on over at the other house. She told me the only time our friend calmed down was when they talked about when we were all children living on our little block, riding bicycles and getting sunburns by the pool in someones backyard.

That seems so far to have to go to feel safe and sane again.

Saturday, January 5, 2008


I've been a fan of George Orwell since high school, since being assigned the novel 1984 in a Junior English class. Every few years, I go back and read the book. I just finished it again this weekend. I was taken aback by the man's foresight and how I completely missed the point.

The subject of the government watching us all, monitoring our every move gets mentioned as being some kind of nod to Orwell's vision of the police state. I used to think about Big Brother when I heard the mayor of Charleston wanted to install more video cameras in the city or when I first heard the words "Patriot Act."

True, the government of the 21st century is all about control. Everything is legislated, but selectively policed. It is sometimes safer than others to kick your dog, smoke dope or steal millions. It is sometimes more likely to lead to incarceration when you shoplift, drive drunk or commit murder.

But Big Brother isn't the government. It isn't the police. Big Brother isn't some imposing authority watching over us. We live in a time when many carry camera phones, where the pictures of the naked breasts of a drunken 17 year-old are posted to the net before she has time to sober up, maybe before she throws up her last before collapsing on a couch after a party. We live in a time when we know the minutiae of the lives and proclivities of public figures, but have a hard time getting past the creepy fact they like to blow strange men in public bathrooms or upload video of themselves getting laid.

We don't need government to legislate morality, not when we have public humiliation on a global scale, not when the actions of any misstep or miscommunication can be used as ammunition on a blog or on Fark.

Government becomes an afterthought -just something to keep the lower classes in line, something to maintain our climate and temperature, something to allow us to maintain our power.

We police ourselves quite nicely -at least about the things we care about. We care about who is fucking who and how they're spending their money. We have become obsessed with ruin. We root for self-destruction. Watching people implode or explode has become a national past-time. We wait for it. We encourage it with our checkbooks. This is not the government. This is not the media. They are but arms of the monster we have built from our collective perversion.

We have become the apparatus. We are Big Brother.

Anyway, cool book...

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The old guy.

We exchanged stories of Christmas like late presents between friends. I told him about a two year-old opening a cowboy hat and a rocking horse, then refusing to open anything else until everyone else was finished.

"We had scrambled eggs on toast for dinner," he told me. "It was quiet. Just my wife and me."

No presents. No family. No tree. Just a wreath on the front door and nowhere to go beyond it.

He shrugged it off without much sentimentality. In his eighties and battling cancer, the old man's expectations for tomorrow were diminished. It wasn't depression so much as awareness that things are winding down.

"Let me tell you, Bill. You don't want to get old. "