Thank You Sir May I Have Another

Hey, that was fun with th' space rock opera. Glad it was enjoyed and appreciated. That's all a record wants, you know? To be listened to. To have its opinion respected. To get to choose th' position every now and then if you know what I mean.

I, and the record, appreciate very much the interest and the many downloads. Tell your friends! Scare your mom!

TJ always opined that this record would be an underground thing.

TJ also opined that sequencing songs by ascending key would have a psychoacoustic effect on the listener. This is the one time I let him have his way with this ridiculous concept. Nickelback's last record was not sequenced in ascending keys. Nor was Abbey Road. Space Rock Opera was. I leave it to the listener to untangle this profoundly complex notion (which is by no means to imply that exquisite attention was not paid to keys and key motion on Side 2 of Abbey Road; the beautifully stately, steady rhythm of switches between A major and C major is characteristically virtuosic -ed.)

Songs have always been my children. Artists know what I mean. When you leave one horking in a incubator it's never good. An unreleased album is a roomful of preemies and it makes a fella sad.

That said, let's do another! What th' fuck! Let th' children breath!

'kay, we're going back to the beginning of Grunge with this collection. Back to the Halcyon (capital mine) days with the Mr. Sherwood album. "Mr. Sherwood" is a rainy day record if there ever was one. At least it is for me. It always takes me back to that beautiful, waterlogged spring of '92. The grey, rainsoaked streets of beloved little old Northampton live in these grooves as does a ridiculous amount of hope and optimism and faith in the human creature and the human creature's earholes. All that is pretty much gone but I can reexperience it briefly in the dense, ambitious, uncompromising songs from this era and the bittersweet cameraderie of the whole thing.

Illustrated with pics of the same instruments used on th' sessions.

"Mr. Sherwood"

The password is "children".

Wow, what a feat this record was. What a triumph of youthful ambition. Let's paint the picture.

I left neopsych punk road dogs The Malarians in '88 and by '90-'91 I had four-tracked up a pretty vast library of solo stuff. It was interesting stuff. I had sort of combined my love of good, guitar-based early '80's rock (Pretenders, XTC, Police, etc.) with ambitious '60's pop into a pretty irresistible stew. When the first Jellyfish album came out I knew I was on the right track.

I had a lot of labels and publishers calling me back on this material. Island, PolyGram, Capitol, Famous Music, Hit And Run, all these guys. This is back when there used to be record labels that you could talk to if you could work up the moxie. What these people all wanted was to see a shitass good live band. People like Joey Gmerek at Hit And Run (Genesis, Peter Gabriel and Cheap Trick's publisher) would say, "hey, if you can do this live I want to sign it".

I was here in Northampton at this point. Made a few trips to LA and NYC with this stuff and banged on some doors. Looked good, man. Looked good. Got a manager in LA to sign me. In early '91 I had the lineup of Mr. Sherwood together. It was going to be my Beatles- a lean, classic two-guitar bass drums thing with everyone singing. See, that was the hook. We'd have these really impressive, "Pet Sounds" quality four-part harmonies going on over this '60's/new wave hybrid that would be pretty fresh. More wiry than Jellyfish, more chrome polished live than XTC. Counterpoint. A cappella bits. Ambition.

I played fretted and fretless bass and sang lead. Nelson Bragg, the guy who plays percussion for Brian Wilson now was on drums and vocals. New buddy Paul Rocha was on rhythm guitars and vocals and Malarian colleague John Lebhar played lead and sang. We picked 15 songs from my catalog, stuff that would translate on stage with a hell of a lot of work, and got to work in Paul's bedroom in his old house on Gothic Street. Nelson used chopsticks on the kit to keep the neighbors at bay.

We worked, worked, worked. Christ, did we work. We worked for the better part of a year. In the meantime I set up showcases for th' labels and gigs to get us oiled. I cancelled them and we worked some more, realizing we could just get PERFECTER. In the bitter winter of '91-'92 we took a break one afternoon and saw "Smells Like Teen Spirit" for the first time on MTV.

We strongly suspected that we were fucked.

We did all our gigs and showcases and sounded pretty fucking impressive. Everyone took a pass. We weren't remotely Nirvanaesque. Timing is everything, baby. '92 was not the year for the whole Slick thing.

In th' spring of '92 I sold enough belongings and borrowed enough money to record live backing tracks at Longview Farms in MA with the awesome Peter Keppler engineering. I really, really wanted this on tape and I had a feeling people would start defecting soon. We did all the backing tracks in one afternoon at Longview- we were tighter than fuck. We had to be- we didn't have a budget that would accomodate overdubbing and mixing in a world-famous 24 -track studio. Nelson especially was a fuckin' riot. Pete had trouble with him because he played sort of quiet on this stuff and it was hard to separate the drums, but I thought he exhibited unusual sensitivity and championed his approach. We didn't end up with a super-muscular drum sound but it has a definite distinctiveness of approach.

I did some sessions for Keppler with a band he was engineering for Sire- Riverside was their name. Young guys from Pennsylvania who did this sort of dreamy protobritpop. Like male Harriet Wheelers with some Cocteau Twins sprinkled in. This was barter for him to engineer us and to do front-of-house for our NYC showcases.

Both John and Paul (ha) had those great TASCAM eight-track machines. I can't remember the model but at the time they were home-studio heaven. They ran 7" reels of 1/4" tape and were basically oversized portastudios that sounded fuckin' awesome. Nice 10-channel mixer on that thing with two auxes and inserts which are always invaluable. Over the next couple of months or so I ran back and forth between their studios and we recorded all our huge-ass harmony vocals live, often doubling or tripling. Then I tracked John and Paul's various guitar solos, overdubbed some tambourine and percussion and finally all my lead vocals. John did awesome pedal steel on "Don't Cry". Paul also overdubbed acoustic and acoustic twelve-string guitar to lovely effect. His 12-string solo on "Blue All Over" lives on for me.

Not one note of keyboard anywhere. We didn't really do Keyboard back then, aside from the Malarian's Voxes and Farfisas. Everyone was tired of that '80's keyboard thing then and no one was pulling out Wurlitzers or Rhodeses yet.

My drummer pal Dave Barrett has an innate hatred of keyboards. I love it. I understand it to a great extent too. Keyboards are always lame live because people insist on standing at those two-tiered syntho things and making plastic sounds that are awful. Dave hates coats too. Fucking hates them.

Paul had quit by now but kindly let me mix the project at his place, which I did in a few marathon sessions in the summer. It really sounded good. Keppler helped me master to DAT and to hi-speed dbx'ed cassette.

The end result was a beautiful, nuanced, virtuosic rock album that captured Mr. Sherwood in all its pointillistic loveliness.

The whole Northampton musical community hated us and our fucking clever record. What a bunch of tossers. The preferred term for insulting the music was that it was "busy". What a stupid fucking adjective for music. Fucking stupid and backward-looking.

It was devastating to listen to the sheer vitriol that was heaped on our lovely effort but it didn't bug me until the band got in on the action. Fuck, was I unimpressed. Nelson was steadfast, I have to say. That's why I love him so much and why I'm so glad he's fuckin' blown us all away with his awesome career. Look him up on myspace. Nelson Bragg. He's probably onstage at the Greek Theater or Glastonbury as we speak.

John, a consummate song guy and engineer, eventually came around to how good this album was. The mix I'm posting is actually his mastering job, done on one of them new-fangled computers a couple of years ago.

I guess I was about 26 when this thing was finished. It was the first of many experiences of taking 2 years of work and putting it in a drawer. It bugged me a lot but I figured it was one of those things. I still had my management deal. I was still moving to LA and doing it while all the Northampton ladies were off to their authentic open mics.

What a fuckin' album this is. Check it. Chockful of youthful ambition, virtuosic arranging, Beach Boys-caliber harmony and more pathos than you can shake I don't know what all at.

Here's the tracks:

1. "Requiem": Written in '89 as I recovered from a pretty serious two-month bout of mono complicated by hepatitis C. Oh, man I was road-rashed. Road-rashed from The Malarian years and exhausted and sick.

This song rips the riff from The Pretender's "Time The Avenger" pretty good, but takes it to a whole new place. "Requiem" is a pretty good indicator of what is to come: it's chock-full of shit, all the harmonies, all the painstaking arrangement, but always, always rock. All guitars all th' time.

2. "Caroline": yeah, I don't know how this one is ageing with me. It's pretty, it's jangly, it's all that Crenshawish kind of stuff. I'd never write a song like this anymore. I don't have enough time left to just write really-good-on-paper guitar pop songs. But hey, it's pretty. I think the last minute or so is pretty much redundant.

That's Nelson stealing the tastiest scrap at the top of the chorus. I couldn't hit that high note dependably back then.

Jangle, jangle, end.

3. "Blue All Over": Now that's more like it. What a hip, tight little pop song. Very fun live. Of course this was copped from XTC's "Blue Overall". Amazing deduction there, sparky. I'm impressed with the construction and arrangement of this after all these years. God, I wouldn't have the energy for this anymore. Just the sheer eight million run throughs required. I do love how each subsequent chorus packs on more sweet gooey candy harmonies.

This contains Paul's earthy acoustic 12-string solo. One is put in mind of someone just stepping closer to the mic. It has that sort of unstudiedness.

Check the "Ticket To Ride" quote on the end. Yeah, this would have sat perfectly next to "Come As You Are" on the WSUX top ten.

4. "Change In The Weather": Yeah, someone loves the Byrds and XTC, huh? Love this- played loud is best. It's totally inspired by "Senses Working Overtime". Listen to the breaks on the chorus. This song has so many twelve-strings.

Yes, some of us were already freaking out about global warming in '92. "Can't you see the autumn leaves come tumbling/A bit too late?/Can't you see the ocean rising in the bay...?"

Masterful harmonies abound. Boy, John gives us a lovely doubled guitar solo at the end. Kind of busy, though, dude.

5. "Children": The soul of the Mr. Sherwood album. Another treehugger song. I still feel this way, man. I just try to use less gas and buy local instead of writing songs about it. See, I don't believe in rock 'n' roll anymore, unfortunately.

"Children" is one of my best, simplest songs of all time. It's far more radio-friendly than just about anything else. It's really flirting with that 80's U2 thing. Remember how huge REM was back then? They were completely ubiquitous. This is certainly an REM chorus. Nelson's beautiful, stumbling drum fills that usher in the choruses are actionably Bill Berry.

Wow, listen to the end coda. Three Chords And Th' Truth, baby. It's hard to listen to the pre-despair me. John's guitar choir at the end is affecting.

6. "Running In Place": More XTC poisoning here. I like the relentlessness of this and how it echoes the lyrical sentiment which is an XTC hallmark. Listen to the cleverly deployed triangle of Nelson Bragg.

This song was an utter bitch for the guitarists- it's carpal tunnel waiting to happen. Listen to how cool the middle eight is. The original arrangement called for the drums to continually break open into back beat and pull back teasingly. I held my ground on this and I like how it worked on the song.

7. "Time Goes By": Paul used to call this "Tim Goes Bi" which continues to amuse me. This song is just so flat-out packed with ideas that you could get a whole album out of it. I'm not necessarily complimenting it. I really love "Time Goes By" but it may be one of the few songs to which I would concede the "busyness" argument.

It's really sort of charming, though. Ridiculously poppy- the chorus is nice, aside from the fact that the lyric "They call it love- I don't know why" is utterly, utterly, laughably meaningless. And it has that "Please Please Me" end. But with a tricky four-part vocal thing that ascends into a reverb wash.

8. "Why Say Anything": This certainly owes a debt to 80's guitar pop with a healthy dose of Beatles and REM. Paul has this one out-of-tune open B string that keeps singing out on the right side in the verses that always raises the hair on the back of my neck. He's still an awesome kisser.

I really rode Nelson to be "Copelandish" on the chorus of this and he didn't disappoint with the whole syncopated-ride thing. Man, he really keeps rising to the top on this affair, doesn't he? Interesting. I like the almost-comical degree of tightness of construction of this recording. Very satisfying to play live, with those bottomless harmonies. Some of the lyrics, I'm afraid, suffer from a George Harrison Rubber Soul-era level of charming banality.

Does this modulate on the last chorus? Woah. I guess not. My pretty-damn-cool original demo of this did and it was explosive. It's fine, it's fine.

9. "Don't Cry": We close this admittedly dense collection of pop Shakerism with the lush, alien, evocative sobber "Don't Cry". Listen to John's pretty pedal steel and the swells into the chorus. The chorus is fully copped from the "if I fell in love with you..." tag at the end of "If I Fell". Dig it. It's pretty unapologetic.

John plays another one of his patented, beautiful doubled guitar solos in here. My demo had backwards guitar and I remember him going for a "backwards" sound.

Well, that's the Mr. Sherwood album from way back in the analog days. Well, analog for us.

What these records make me think of is how long we've operated without the "go into a big studio and pay a lot of money" blueprint. I've made maybe three records like that in my life and I've made a lot of records. I never even really considered it. A lot of us have experiences early on that teach us that big studios and big mixing boards and big monitors don't really help without the time to really let something develop. To go down a few roads with ideas. I'm a total blueprint guy in the studio- I know what I want from the second tape rolls. But even I have to concede that the greatest recordings take on their own life big-time. You can't strangle something with clock-watching. It keeps A from getting to B sometimes.


Today Is My Very Special Day

For having my chestnut "Like Dying" as Track O' The Day at Garageband.com.

I'd like to thank Th' Academy as well as all my family and friends. Friend.

I'd really like to thank my family.

And I want everyone to know that I feel so close to all of you right now. It's been a long, hard journey to reach this summit. As much as I'd like to just stop and savor th' moment, I have to realize that this is really just teh beginning of th' struggle. The long nights, the cold open road. Diners and stages and that blurry two-lane blacktop in the rain.

I have to go change th' answering machine message now for when David Geffen calls.


Space Rock Opera!

Here's an album that fiction did in '00.

The password to access the folder is "sparrow". All tracks are in sequence and are downloadable 320 MP3s.

This was the band's swansong when we wrapped it in the summer of 2000. It was one of those records that can break up a band and does.

I was sad but still had it edited, sequenced and mastered and did up a whole package prototype for it just so it would exist for me and the fellows. I never planned to release it. There's nothing sadder than a posthumous release.

It's called Space Rock Opera. It is, in fact, a space rock opera. It's meant to be sort of a Day In The Life of the universe, a series of vignettes about some wack space shit that actually very much have to do with goings-on in our lives here on Earth. That's the conceit of the thing at any rate. It was born from a running interview joke we had where we would always refer to the "space rock opera" we were working on and how brilliant it would be. We were playing at Spinal Tap and it was always great to see fiction's upcoming Space Rock Opera referred to in print by an irony-other-abled rock writer.

TJ, the guitarist, actually left me some coded messages in some of the lyrics that he wrote, which is so conceptual it's beyond brilliant. I didn't start picking up on them until much later. It sounds a little narcissistic but it isn't. The things aren't generally all that flattering. They're classy and oblique, though. I have to credit him for that.

TJ, a self-professed alien abductee and intellectually-inclined Christian, also worked in a lot of neat conceptual stuff about religion under deep and not so deep metaphoric cover. The whole "Sparrow" thing is an interesting little manifesto. It's from some scifi book from back when but he subsequently insisted he'd made it up.

The other thing about Space Rock Opera was that it was recorded at a point when we'd been fired from our label and our manager and our entire sort of machine had packed up and fucked off. We were left with our gear and my old breaking four track Tascam 246.

We began the project as a "fuck you" to any of the powers that seemed to be conspiring to keep us from making records. We used what we had on hand- a nice big P.A., some dynamic mics, and a rambling rehearsal complex in La Mesa CA. We positioned the P.A. speakers in different rooms and sent signals through them at huge volume, micing them from a few feet away or a few rooms away to create a sense of space without any digital jiggery-pokery.

We didn't shy away from "crappy" sounds or off-kilter mixes. We didn't have to anymore. The one thing we had going for us was that we could make exactly the record we wanted to make without interference. The only time constraint was that we had to finish it before we couldn't stand being in the same room together. Creatively we were fine; personally was a different story. Paul Cortois the drummer left when we started vocal overdubs. TJ and I made it until the mixes were done and I just stopped returning his phone calls.

I did the editing and mastering at a studio in San Diego where we had all worked and made sure they'd have access to copies.

Space Rock Opera is cool, weird, ironically claustrophobic. Ironically everything. We joked about actually taking it to the stage and doing an intentionally cheesy stage production with tinfoil space ships on strings flying across the stage and shit. That would have rocked.

Enjoy. It's an exclusive.

Here's a quick minilibretto so you're not completely in the dark:

1. "Citizen Of The Galaxy": With a quick transmission from Planet Xenon we're off with this galloping prog rock narration from a blaster-packing space cowboy who implores us to "keep the plasma dry, for God's sake". I'm talking about national borders and national identities in this song, and how arbitrary, outdated and elastic they are. The last minute of this is pretty insanely blazing. I love the drums and bass on this album. And the guitar. And the mic'ed up japanese windup toys. "...so many worlds arrayed like jewels on jet-black velvet/It's a big old sky..."

2. "Live Today For The Sparrow" Suite: Weird, man. The new Space Messiah arrives, announced by a chorus of Buddhist Monks from the Nebula of Langerhans. He prepares the gathering for The Word, introducing them to "The Sparrow", a galactic deity. Then, in a haze of rocket exhaust, he's gone.

3. "Purple Majesty": The first of TJ's little forays into hidden meanings. Or not-so-hidden-meanings if you have a dirty enough mind to get a little tingle from the title. In short, this is a great, funky little song about fucking in space. Great rhythm track. Yours truly is very proud of this bass performance and the drums are so real and tight. Zibba-dibba-zibba-dibba- zum-sum.

This guy is a bona fide genius crazy guy. He'd be the first to tell you. Fuck it, he'll probably google this shit and read this. Hey, dude- nice fucking album. Look at his picture. This guy has to add a large flourish to every power chord. Even in rehearsal. But listen to what he plays.

TJ was mastering a sort of non-music with his guitar when we did this album. He had this thing where he'd play something really sort of hopeless-sounding and machine-ish and he'd say "that's the kind of thing that my mother would ask me to stop playing". And we tried to let that "non-music" approach influence this stuff. It's pretty spiky. We set up a lot of these drones that stretch with little overdubs and never sort of resolve harmonically. And TJ comes in on top with these hopeless, astringent, galactic sounding lines.

4. "Perfectly Lovely Planets": Another TJ number that didn't make any sense to me at all. But in a good way. I had learned by now that this guy was coming from another galaxy entirely and I sort of sat back for a lot of his input and just did what I was told. I knew it would be weirder than anything I could come up with and that refreshed me. TJ puts his vocal through a really fucked-up robotizer and delivers a chilling story of a race of space females who decimate planets, kill all males and establish themselves. I love the jackbooting imperialism of the chorus and the "Lost In Space" countermelodies he works in at the end.

TJ found a Goth chick in a band in another rehearsal room and got her to record the part of the galactic woman explaining the agenda of the X5-17. Freaky. She was hot.

TJ was always bringing people in from other bands to loop their voices or have them do some random percussion on a track.

5. "The Future's In Space": this was my song about being brave wrapped in an interesting tale about a crazy guy imagining he's spacebound in his Buick Skylark. But is he crazy? "I ease the throttle to overdrive/The G's kick in and I feel alive..."

We did the Space Rock Opera live in its entirety at the Mint Supper Club in Hollywood one summer night in 2000 and this one was the funnest for me to play, along with "Purple Majesty" and "Sugar". It was the only time we did the whole thing live. It went over a storm.

Nice rhythm track on this. Obviously copping "Walking On The Moon". I wanted to get that effect: a rhythm that is super-empty but totally infectious. It's like "space soul". There's a lot of weird distant guitar in this in various states of mangling. Slowed down in places to give a sense of distance and heaviness.

6. "Free From Denial": This one is TJ's letter to me. I'm referred to as "sister B": "Sister B/This mission lately doesn't mean too much to me.../Sister B?I'll telegraph when I get where I'm going..." See, it's a sort of disgusted goodbye. You have to understand- TJ is the kind of person who would do this.

He goes on to say "We've seen each moon three times/Each constellation twice/It seems to me the galaxy is shrinking all the time.../But you don't seem to mind..." which I assume means "I'm moving on to other crazy shit".

This whole song is about becoming disenchanted with a once-crucial mission. Like, say, being in a band. The "free from denial" refrain sort of drives it home. Some very fine guitar here.

7. "Iapetus IV": Ever since Andy Summer's "Mother" I've loved fucked-up songs about men's terror of women. This song couches the whole thing in a galactic ghost story about a guy who has a thing with a female alien ("...she looked at me as if I was a five-course meal/with her blank eyes nictitating/And her six bare breasts like something from a dream...") and is subsequently eaten by her as their space ship barrels into a galactic docking station.

This one was quite a production. It's the "A Day In The Life" of this record. All manner of found sounds were incorporated, sounds from other records, all manner of distorted power tools. I put the sound of a spinning bike wheel through a series of sonic alterations and set up a compressor so the vocal triggered it. That's the sound over on the right that sounds like my voice is being reprocessed for transmission to Nebula XJ-1584355. Ha- I love the lyric "I will never tell them how she came to me/With her pretty blue probiscis and her pheromone sac soft and smooth and cool..."

The ending involved a three-page script that we had to learn and enact. TJ is the docking computer on the right and I'm the pilot over on the left. The pilot mis-hears the docking coordinates and that's when all hell breaks loose.

In a beautiful little moment of completism, the docking computer says, "almighty Sparrow...she's on top of us...", I really love this. It sums up the intent of the whole record- the idea of a masterpiece held together with tin foil and clothes hangers. Space Rock Opera is about that exactly- it's not so much a space rock opera as it is a record about a space rock opera.

Listen to the breaking-up transmissions at the end. They're really disconnected and beautiful like they're coming from another star cluster. We figured that's what you'd hear, you know? You wouldn't hear some huge explosion like fuckin' Star Wars. You'd hear the radio go dead. Bzzt.

And with that, a pretty and otherworldly bass/drum/guitar ensemble ushers in the spacious, stately "Sugar".

8. "Sugar" is my favorite. I love this deeply as a piece of music because it's such a triumph of economy. Here we have the zenith of the "non-music" from the intro to the last note. It's as simple an arrangement as a song can have and still be flat-out majestic. Everyone plays to their strength here- Paul is stentorian and powerful on the kit, I do the playing-about-four- notes- in-the-entire-song-Zen thing that I developed from long years of being a lead-singing bass player. TJ shows off his incredible knack for arranging off-kilter guitar and elevates this whole song. This is TJ's record as far as I'm concerned. I told him when we were working on it that I thought he should just run with it, that I'd take his arranging cues because the stuff he was coming up with was so interesting and original and had such integrity sonically. And it was innovative.

I love the little bass section where the fuzz bass is about eight times too loud for the track.

"Sugar" on the surface is a song about a space drug that takes you "farther than you've ever gone...faster than you've ever been..." The backstory has to do with a mythic civilization that use the drug as a time-retardant that allows them to have million-year orgasms:

The Mercury-Neptune shuttle
Leaves the spaceport on the hour
I'll meet you in that milk bar on Ganymede
I've got an ounce of Plasma Powder

I know you're gonna love it
It's like starlight on your pale and perfect skin
Faster than you've ever gone...farther than you've ever been...

I've heard of a place in the Pleiades
There's more sexes than fish in the sea
And they mate only twice in their thousand-year life
I know it's crazy, but it's real...so real...

And I know you're gonna dig it
It's like oceans waxing blissful in the moon
Faster than you've ever gone...sweeter than you might assume....

Change your life
Change your life
Change your life
Change your life...

Here, in the last refrain of the album, we are at last clued in to the larger intent of Space Rock Opera. The jacket that I designed had a big red planet with that lyric emblazoned across the equator to drive the point home. The whole record was conceived as a blow from the depths of hell, the ultimate fuck-you to the idea of Going Quietly. It was by a factor of 10 the best thing the band ever did and my memories of recording it are rich, hard and bittersweet. We were in this sun-drenched complex in the San Diego desert and it felt like the end of the world out there. And we'd meet every day and work as we lived out the last days of our rock 'n' roll unemployment and the money went away.

And it was cool because we knew it was just for us. It was just for sake of making a really, really original statement. I love how the record manages to be about so many things by virtue of its threadbare, ironic hubris. It really is a finger up Death's ass. Check it out.


Check It

The biggest problem with losing a dream that has sustained you for 20 years isn't what you might think.

But maybe you already know this. The odds are excellent, however, that I know it more. This is a little problem. Well, it's big to me. Beyond th' national boundary constituted by my skin it ain't shit. If I have a little wisdom to impart, especially to the youthful amongst us, it lies in this area.

I haven't got a clue how to live. Skipped the lessons, baby. Didn't need them. Figured they was all for straight pussies. I got trickdosed with Welbutrin last year and I didn't have a fucking inkling what to do with all that hope. I found it profoundly disquieting and disorienting. I couldn't get off that shit fast enough and reengage in my comfortable, familiar state of profound, elegant, artistically invaluable depression.

Jesus fuckin' Christ, do you know how lucky we are to even be drawing breath? Woah. It's coming to me, man. It's getting through. I just turned 42 and I'm starting to lose a friend here and there, you know? Man, the first girl that wanted to marry me is in the fucking ground. The fucking ground. All alone in the fucking ground. Fuck has that got to be lonely.

Me, I've got all the pieces. I mean, for the following week, you know? Next week has potential. Next month has potential. But I haven't got the faintest whiff of a concept about how to put them all together.

I haven't got my dream anymore and I never will and it makes the thought of living sort of threadbare and cruddy but man the thought of not living is light years fucking worse. I'm not ready to be that lonely, all in the ground and shit. All in the dark with those muffled footsteps above you and you can't move or get to them.

I'm going to go ahead and give in and start learning how to live this year. This week. This day. Whatever it takes. Maybe what it takes is a new, improved dream. I can't do the death trip anymore. I keep doing the death trip and it keeps not coming and taking me. I have this little inner joke about how I think of death every three minutes instead of sex. Every song I write is a different take on letting go and falling into the fucking abyss.

And the reason is that I have died in a way. It's like I'm in a living purgatory because I lack the imagination or the strength of character or just the skills to rock the future. The future's big, man. Not easy- big. And it just keeps coming. And I just keep staying. There's a lot of shit to get on top of, man. I just had a moment in '01 or '02 where I was like yeah, it's never, ever happening and I had some of the coolest parts of my life after that but it's like I can't sink my feet into anything. Nothing's going to come along and magically sweep me into significance or give me purpose. Tragedy is sort of what does that for the common man. It's usually tragedy.

I wrote an insane song cycle for voice, string quartet and piano in 2002 called The Song Of Days. It's a 35-page score, sort of a neoclassical Side 2 of Abbey Road thing that is held together in a series of movements that are each based on a day of the week. Fuck me, it's really cool. It has really rich jazz sections and insane transitions and a miniconcerto for quartet and piano. It has a section where the strings play these endless, Phillip Glassish staccato offset triplets, slipping in and out of different keys while the piano explores this nightmarish theme that sounds like Rhapsody In Blue played by demons.

It has an eastern-modality based section that's really jumpy and celebratory. It has a hopeless love story set to a series of polychordal I-IV movements that alternately mock and celebrate the lyric. And it's all stuck together through a series of transitions that are almost the heart of the thing. And each movement or day of the week echoes through the others. But it still has the dreamy, hallucinatory quality of sort of meandering, of sort of just puking out prettiness or tension as it moves along.

This year I'm going to record The Song Of Days, I'm going to learn how to look forward to things, and I'm going to learn how to live. I like that thing in people, you know? That looking forward to things thing. People are always like yeah we're going fucking sailing next week or yeah we're going to fuckin' Sheboygen for th' Comicon. They aren't like yeah I'm going to smoke dope and try to redefine music in my basement studio for a week without sleeping and then I'm going on the fucking road for three months.

My family was fuckin' awesome. My folks are ambitious, imaginative people who had been cloistered in small-town America for their childhoods and when the reins were in their hands they were just fucking out, you know? Warm wine in Madrid, baby. Th' altiplano of Bolivia. Fuckin' arctic winters. Trips to Moscow. They were in a choir in Chile that toured down to the tip of the fucking world. And until we were a certain age they dragged us to crazy-ass places every weekend. Museums and galleries and castles. They knew how to live. They weren't overwhelmed by their Responsibilities To The Safe And Healthy Upbringing Of Their Children. You know what they did? They chucked us in the back of the car and made sure we had food and a place to sleep and piss. Well, two places.

Genius. Pure fucking genius. An unrivalled triumph of the imagination. An utter victory.

Something to cause a faint smile to flutter across your dying lips. That's what life is, my dears. Life is a thing to comfort you when you die. Dying is going to suck and you're going to want something when a Life Saver won't do the trick. A chuckle. A memory or two of things like tangerine orchards that stretch to the horizon or an old abandoned tunnel of love or seeing Th' Louvre or Montmarte in th' twilight.

Life is a way to stick your finger up Death's ass. I want to be the guy who sticks his finger the furthest up Death's ass. After all this time. If I have to think about death all th' time I want to think about Death with my finger up its ass. Twisting. Hooking around to worry and discomfit th' prostate now and then. The odd ragged fingernail getting stuck in sensitive colon flesh. Oh, don't be such a fucking whinge. It's Death's ass, man.

I'm going to learn how to sit down and organize my life in a way that doesn't just consist of a bunch of dotted lines that point to a circle in red that says SUCCESS. I'm fucking serious, man. It's like I got visited by the Ghost Of Don't Be A Fucking Knob, you know?

After everything I've seen and everywhere I've been. To have walked along the beach at night after a show in Redondo in '92 and to have said yes I'll take a fucking shot. Who gets that, man? Who gets that?

Did maybe just a little rub off on me? A little understanding of the mystery and the majesty? Surely I'm not so bereft of imagination after all I've created from sweat and pencil? Dude, if I can write "The Song Of Days" with a fucking bubbler and a couple candles and a number two, surely, surely, surely I can compose th' beginnings of a new life.

To be such a knob. What a thing that is. Being a disgraceful, cosmic little knob. It ends tonight.

It ends th' fuck tonight.

Cue th' music, motherfucker.