12/05/2006

Why It's Called "The Orchestra Of Sweet Regret".


I was going through all my boxes of stage cable and kits and organizing the studio and live rigs last spring and I pulled out a little Fender 1/4" cable with elbow ends and threw it in the "test" pile.

Later when I plugged it in it was deader than fuck and the solder looked fine on th' business ends; it was weird. Then I noticed that a staple had been driven into it, shorting it. A staple gun staple, not a li'l paper job.

And I realized what had happened on that July night in 2001 at Irvine Meadows in front of 20,000 people when my boss, Martyne Le Noble, bassist for Jane's Addiction, lost his signal on stage. I always hated every time I had to add cable to his rig because that shit is so gremlin-prone, and he had this little Boss stompbox tuner/mute out front on stage where I couldn't get at it with two 20 foot cables that used to make my skin crawl. You can travel with as much backup as you want, and you do, man. Three of everything that there isn't four of. Dozens and dozens of sets of strings. But you can't reverse a problem, man. You can only correct it.

Martyne used to say, "every time I pick up my bass I want new strings on it". Dude, these guys do not pay for strings. Or amps, or instruments, or anything. Manufacturers beg them to use their rigs. Anything they want. The SWR rep used to follow me around, which was weird because SWR is what I like. These big rock guys are all Ampeg/SVT all the time.

After this experience I didn't have to buy bass strings for two years. I had like a trillion sets of Martyne's once-played GHS Boomers.

Perry Farrell was always pressuring me to get Martyne to be super-deep, super-subbed and I'd be like dude I'm not going to go tell Martyne how to sound. I'd tell Martyne about what he'd said because my loyalty was to him and I wanted him to know th' chatter upstairs but he'd be like they can just crank the lows front-of-house. Which isn't really how you want to do it. You want a watermelon, you know? You don't want a cherry under a magnifying glass. You want to start with a cumquat.

See, we didn't even know that he'd cut out at the time, he or I, because we were running three concurrent SVT Pro heads and three Ampeg 8 10's, and only one of them cut out. But it was the one that was mic'd and there was no DI, not even a safety, because it was a festival gig with a million bands each playing twenty minutes, and there was a huge, HUGE revolving stage and it was a mess. And there were no walkie-talkies like there would have been on a regular three- or four- act shed gig so someone could have just told me to move the mic to another cab and the problem would have been over in 8 seconds.

Later I learned th' rumor was that Courtney Love had come up onstage and unplugged him just to fuck with him. Courtney was known for doing shit like that, apparently. I was like, Martyne, nothing would please me more than to just say yeah, that's what happened, but your cable shorted.

So what happened was there was this union stage guy who'd worked for Martyne on a South American tour he did with The Cult and he was fucking with me from the minute the gear trucks rolled in. I had to literally go looking for my 8X10 speaker cases three fucking times because he'd roll them off somewhere to fuck with me. He wanted my gig. It's like that, man. It's fucking like that. Our tour manager carried a fucking gun, you know?

So, last time I told him off. I told him to stay the fuck away from my gear or I'd fucking work him. And I fucking meant it. I was right up on him, looking down. He looked like a San Diego dude, tats everywhere, backward cap, "evil" facial hair, all that shit. I didn't want him to think I would just attempt to roll him there. I just wanted him to know I meant business enough that I'd do whatever I had to do and that's worse. I had cashed in every polesmoking chit by this time- I really, really wanted this fucking gig. 2,000 a week, man. Hanging out with Flea and Navarro and th' Dileo brothers and Eric Kretz and shit. Sounded fucking good to me. And I knew if I wasn't an asshole I'd eventually get an audition on bass for somebody real. And I would fucking nail it to the floor and my career would fucking begin after an epic, epic motherfucking apprenticeship. And if anybody got in the way of that I'd fucking kill them and cut them into little pieces and mail them home, god damn it.

See, I'm a fucking musician, dig? Whenever the party would split into musicians and crew I looked weird stepping over to the crew side, you know? And not just to me. And in '01 I was a fucking rock star, all bleached and black-clad and still in love with myself. Actually, I'm still the first two, but the other thing takes a toll on your face, man. But the biggest thing is how much I wanted it. Oh, I challenge you, I fucking challenge you to want something as much as I wanted in to that world, man. I challenge you to close your eyes and picture that aching, aching high school unrequited crush going down on her knees in front of you tits-out in slomo and I wanted it 10 times more than that, man. Every minute of every day for twenty, long, boring, aching motherfucking years. Of being a fucking SCHLUMP. A fuckin' waste of area and knowing. Having The Knowing is the biggest, biggest hurt, soldier.

The worst thing though, even worse than having The Knowing, is losing The Knowing, man. You know what I'm talking about. Pick any song of mine. They're all about th' Loss Of The Knowing. The Knowing that Something Polesmokin' Great is coming because you're Special. And the deal then was that I'd hit like four or five crossroads in my life where I had to really step the fuck up and the first couple times I'd sort've bunted and then when I had the taste of fucking dirt in my mouth and I was rounding 30 I fuckin' lunged at those crossroads and marked them like a fucking tree.

Oh, this was the one. This was the Big Red Fucking One. I'd been scared shitless when I managed to get the gig but I had just willed it away and said fuck, yeah, fuck yeah, fuck, yeah.

So, yeah- I told Navarro's tech about the fucking thing with the union guy and he was like dude, you just fucked up hard. You'd better watch your shit and also your back, come to think about it.

See, this is a high-stakes fucking gig. In a high-stakes business. It can open up a fucking world to you. This tech, Jason, worked for STP and Jane's and Cheryl Crow and he was making half a million a fucking YEAR. What, he had to travel year-'round? Dude, half a million a year is put-up-with-it-for-six-years-and-retire-to-fuckin'-MAUI money.

Man, a lot of things went wrong that night- it was a messy gig, but that's how it is. It was messy for everybody. I got a rack tuner stolen and had to borrow Coldplay's. Stealing, stealing, stealing. All of Martyne's picks got lifted right off his amp and I had to fucking think fast. The monitor mix was bad, Perry's vocal, all this shit. Shit that happens all the fuckin' time, but people don't freak and they pull it together and no one knows up front.

I guess a head had to roll on this one, though. I think they thought it was that bad. And I was th' newest member of the crew. I'd already had problems with fucking Stedtler, that fucking weasel tour manager. He bitched at me over nothing and then asked me if I was O.K. and I told him I'd been yelled at worse by scarier people than him. Yeah, I should have kept my mouth shut. I just hate that fake tough shit, though. Fucking walk up to me with a gun in your rig and you better fucking plan on having it in plain sight. God damn it.

But yeah, see- I pulled out this little Fender cable last spring and there was a staple in it. The staple and the stage hand.

The Staple Of Destiny, man.

See what happened? See how it all comes together? Do you see how all the little variables sort of bounce around and then find each other like they're magnetic, dog? There are all these things you don't know and that's what makes the first half of your life interesting. I used to just sit in my apartment and say what the fuck crazy, cool-ass thing is going to happen next? You can live your life like it's a boat going fuck-knows where. Fuck-knows where.

I still don't know what's going to happen one day to the polesmoking next. Like, I had no idea I'd write my best post ever tonight. Or that I'd cry like this and then grow some fucking stones and repair the cable like a big boy. I can't afford to throw fucking cables away like some rock star. Some crazy bleached and black-clad rock star in fuckin' LA. Writing a hit at th' Chateaux Marmont. Sitting on my fucking bed. In my fucking room.

19 Comments:

Blogger Kevin Wolf said...

I never wanted anything that bad, which is it's own special kind of hell.

Just an observation.

9:49 AM  
Blogger XTCfan said...

The Staple and the Stage Hand

Well, if nothing else, you've got a killer title for your autobiography.

Great post, Bobby -- the commercial rock-music industry, all wrapped up in a neat little 1649-word package. Believe it or not, posts like this help others (like me) who didn't even get as close as you to grabbing the Brass Ring, but still have their own burden of regret to carry. You help lighten the load a bit. Thanks.

10:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm trying to recall if I've ever been truly fucked like that in my life. Probably not...

...which is a good thing, I think, because I'm probably a little unstable when it comes to that kind of thing. I mean, don't get me wrong... I'm extremely laid back. Kind of like my old dog, Christabel. She was a Doberman. Great fucking dog, you know? Wouldn't even think of biting anyone. But, if someone REALLY fucked with her, she'd have sunk those canine fangs into some flesh. She'd have hated doing it, but she'd have done it.

I read shit like your post & I realize thet I'm too easily empathetic. I'm not sure if that's a good quality, but it's true. I'd have made that fucker my project, even if it was years too late -- because in my warped rationale, making someone's life miserable (who clearly deserves it) isn't "bad" per se; it's simply becoming the instrument of the karmic retribution that's due.

I had a post about this back on March 3 (had to scour the ol' blog). If you care to look, look on the right side of my blog under "Tales of the Midwest" for a link called "Cinder Block Karma."

10:19 AM  
Blogger Bobby Lightfoot said...

Oh, I'll dig that. Yeh, I'm a great believer in Black Retribution.

I did sound once for Mikey Dread, a fourth-stringer Rasta shit head who was on "Sandinista" and he stopped the show and berated me in front of 400 people for a mix that _he_ set up.

I followed the touring party to the hotel and slashed every tire on the tour bus. It took most of the night. See, you have to hit one tire and then the matching one on the other side or you'll tip the bus.

Hmmm. That actually sounds O.K. Next time I'll tip the fucking bus.

Black Retribution is the right way when you hate evil.

6:15 PM  
Blogger Neddie said...

Jesus, that was fucking beautiful, Bobby.

10:38 PM  
Blogger mdhatter said...

I too have been shafted like that before, though for significantly smaller stakes, and without the firearms.


When i was in 7th grade we read Macbeth. I learned then, thanks Will.

3:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This was fucking pathetic.

You sound like a reject from "The Fast and the Furious," what with the "dog" and all the wanna-be toughguy attitude bullshit.

I bet you listen to Killswitch Engage and Pantera. Don't cha?

Get a fucking associate's degree and a middle management job at an office supply chain. It's where you're headed anyway. Bro.

8:20 PM  
Blogger Bobby Lightfoot said...

Ummm...O.K.

Let me get this straight- just so I understand.

1. I write daily with profound self-deprecation about the many courageous and often ill-advised risks I've taken to try to live the life I want.

2. Am I supposed to be in any way phased or hurt by an anonymous poster who, through being irony-other-abled, completely misses the point? And am I not writing essentially about experiencing a horrible failure in front of thousands and thousands of people? I mean, right?

3. I'm reminded of a guy who recently and rudely interrupted a story I was telling some musician buddies about some session work I did for an extremely famous artist to inform us all that he knew a guy who worked for that artist.

"Hey, you win," I told him, "I guess _knowing_ someone who worked with the guy trumps actually having worked with the guy, huh?" See what I mean?

4. If your story isn't worth telling you need to do something about that. Don't come around trying to make me feel bad because I really don't. At least don't do it anonymously. It's really cowardly. You have no idea what an asshole you're making yourself look like.

5. If I'm supposed to feel bad or inauthentic about being a tough person I just can't do that for you. I write as many posts about being a foolish person or a sad person or a failure. Idiot. Like many people I know who have had a debilitating illness or have been abused or whatever, I've had to be tough at times because I chose an exceedingly difficult career.

5. I know a lot of hard-thinking, courageous and worthwhile people who work for office supply companies or broker insurance or build houses or sell car parts. My talent happens to lie in music so that's how I make my way and always will. Go to Amazon or Barnes and Noble and buy my record.

6. Your dissatisfaction with me and my post reeks of projection. Read it back. You'll see what I mean.

Get to work on yourself. You can do it.

And for heaven's sake stop believing all that stuff you read about drinking urine being good for you. You've had enough. Dog.

Now off with you. Flit away on a gentle breeze.

1:09 AM  
Blogger mdhatter said...

ha ha

3:15 AM  
Blogger Bobby Lightfoot said...

P.S. Look back at what you wrote to a total stranger under cover of anonymity. What kind of a fucking cuntweasel are you anyway to come off to me about faux toughness?

Middle management. Jesus Christ. Fucking hypocrite. I double-triple dare you to come back and tell us all what amazingly worthwhile thing you do. Amaze us all with your anonymous amazingness.

And what the fuck is "Killswitch Engage"? I'd like to engage your killswitch, that's for sure.

3:18 AM  
Blogger roxtar said...

Mr. Anonymous obviously lacks The Knowing. Well, testicles and empathy and common sense and manners, too. But there is definitely a lack of
The Knowing. And a lack of ever having The Knowing. And (I daresay) an inability to recognize The Knowing if it sidled up to him in a cloud of Paco Rabanne and invited him to Le Dome to talk contract.

Feh.

5:24 AM  
Blogger The Viscount LaCarte said...

Thanks for sharing that Bobby.

I had to drive my two daughter's (15, 17) to work this morning. About 30 minutes because they work in their Mom's neighborhood. It was right after I read this, so I ran upstairs and grabbed my copy of "Matinee" and we put it on for the ride. They both are hip to our music but the younger one sings in chorus and plays the piano. She was saying how "he sounds like Paul McCartney but different." We all dug the CD. I hadn't listened to "Like Dying" in a couple months and it brought a tear to my eye in context. Great song and a beautiful record.

I have no words of wisdom to share - no clever comment to put it in perspective and make it all make sense, because it doesn't. I will say that your music and words (and your blog) have enriched my life, and I'm glad I've gotten to know you.

3:10 PM  
Blogger Bobby Lightfoot said...

Thanks, man. Back at you.

"Like Dying" is all this wrapped up in a bow. I reckon there's three stages of life- thinking it's great, thinking it sucks, and thinking that it's great that it sucks. I'm trying to slip into that last phase and it helps to try to map it all out and examine it.

That's why it's so tawdry and cheapening to have to be confronted with accusations of false bravado by people who are in no position.

Glad the youngsters enjoy it. Thanks for spinning it and all.

3:38 PM  
Blogger The Viscount LaCarte said...

That's why it's so tawdry and cheapening to have to be confronted with accusations of false bravado by people who are in no position.

Stupid people don't get people like you. They get GWB.

7:36 PM  
Blogger XTCfan said...

I reckon there's three stages of life- thinking it's great, thinking it sucks, and thinking that it's great that it sucks.

Guess which stage Andy Partridge was in, right before he finally decided to step away from the Music Machine:
"And birds might fall from black skies
And bullies might give you black eyes
And busses might skid on black ice
But to me it's very, very beautiful"

You're in good company, Bob.

Oh, and anyone who flames anonymously is a bitch. It's kind of a given.

9:04 AM  
Blogger Handsome said...

I want to be a published author EXACTLY that bad. Not published. Any asshole can be 'published' these days, and in fact I am. Look it up. Universal Maintenance by D.A. Madigan. Publish America. Order your own copy. Big fucking deal.

No, what I want is for some ACTUAL FUCKING PUBLISHER to read something I've written and submitted and say "Yeah, this guy has the shit, let's pay him some money and get his shit out there and make more money for ourselves off of it".

I don't want to be Stephen King, man. I don't need it. If 60,000 people out there liked my books and bought them as soon as they came out, I'd be happy. I wouldn't even need to be a hardcover guy. I'd happily be a paperback writer the rest of my life, if it just paid me regular. $30,000 a year, man. It's all I want. And people who like my writing enough to pay for it.

4:46 PM  
Blogger Handsome said...

Oh, yes, and I suspect 'anonymous' is deeply, deeply, I mean, hellishly, abysmally, chasmatically, jealous of the success you've attained to date, not to mention your verbal skills.

However, you resisted the urge to empty your silos at him in truly righteous fury, and instead gave him the Jesus treatment. I admire that.

Jesus was 2000 years ahead of his time; his philosophy is only of practical application on the Internet, but for those who have the discipline, it works beautifully here, where the trolls cannot simply start screaming incoherently while swinging blunt instruments. It gives them no traction, it crosses their eyes, it makes them dizzy. Nice work. Well played.

6:17 AM  
Blogger Bobby Lightfoot said...

Handsome- welcome to th' fold.

I'll check you out and all like that next time I'm not swingin' the bluehair set with hits of th' sixties.

Hey, you wanna get published you know the score. It's like wanting to get your music heard. Step 1: Stop equating quality, worthwhileness, talent and soul with commercial viability. Step 2: Um, I'm still coming to terms with step one.

I don't know, I guess just stop wanting it. That's what I'm trying to do. It's Buddhist or some shit. I'm at the point where I just resent the talent. What the fuck am I supposed to do with it? Can I make a mortgage payment or two if I pass it on to some 18-year old blonde girl with big fake yams? I'm in.

Ha ha- if referring to someone as a urine-drinking hypocritical cuntweasel and expressing a desire to kill them is "Christlike" then baby, I'm bound fo' the Pearly Gates. I know what you're saying, though.

2:56 PM  
Blogger Handsome said...

Bobby,

I've posted here before, I have many names. I'm like that.

I don't by any means confuse talent with marketability. I have no idea if I have any literary talent. I just know I can write a clean prose stick, tell an exciting story, gin up some mean ass dialogue, and while I'll never be Norman Mailer, I can't even remotely regard that as a bad thing. I'll never be Robert A. Heinlein or Roger Zelazny either, and that is something I do deeply feel, trust me, but, I believe I can be a bad ass Keith Laumer, and I sure as shit write better than Dean R. Koontz. Those chops I got.

I'm analytical enough to know very well what sells and what doesn't, and I am absolutely certain that if I could get someone to put my shit on some shelves, it would sell. It might not sell great, but there's an audience out there for it, and some publisher would make some money off me, and I'd let them. I wouldn't even bitch. Just walking into a Border's, cruising over to the SF section, running my finger down the shelf, and BANG! -- there it is... ENDGAME, or ZAP FORCE, or WARREN'S WORLD, or something I ain't even frickin' written yet.

That, and $40,000 a year. All I need, baby. All I need.

Actually, I wrote all about this here, if you've a mind to read something truly tedious and long winded.

Here's the thing, though -- I've written seven novels and a military memoir and they are all out there at one of my many websites and several years ago, the woman I am going to marry this April came across that site and read one of those novels and, well, now my life is larger and richer and fuller and lovelier and more laden with wonder than even you or Neddie Jingo could presume to describe, and, well, I guess it doesn't really matter if any goddam publisher ever sees anything I've written. Because it just doesn't get any better than that, and I could not possibly be paid any more than I have been for my writing already.

Still... I know what you mean when you say you want it. I do.

10:05 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home