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
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