Music has been my best friend for my entire life.
It all started with my fascination about what was going on when my uncle’s band, The Sounder, was rehearsing at my grandmother’s house. I would sit behind the drummer and watch while wearing headphones. When the band took a break, I would go outdoors and engage in my own drumming.
I was 18 months old.
But it wasn’t all about positivity. There was a stretch of time, from early grade school until the end of 1980, when I got my drivers license, where I spent a great deal of time isolated.
It was during these times that I would use music as a way of keeping myself engaged with life.
I’d sit and play drums for a while, then switch to guitar, then switch to bass, then switch to keyboard. The first full album where I sat and learned all of the instruments was Permanent Waves by Rush.
Living in the middle of nowhere in the Midwest, getting my license and saving up to buy a car was what gave me social freedom and social choices. No longer was I confined to the small-minded people of my small town; a group of people who dismissed me and demonized me for not being like them.
Now I could venture out. But I would still use music as my main social tool. I would often times meet girls from other schools who were also in band, and build connections that way.
Sometimes my socialization choices were controversial with others in the school. One example was when I dated a woman who was a mascot for one of our major sports rivals.
I did absolutely nothing to keep that a secret, and people would talk and talk. Some would get mad at me.
But the only reason this was happening was because my small town didn’t afford me any dating opportunities at all. It’s the down-side of being a “Heathen” in a highly-religious Midwestern state.
Music continued to morph from being a way to combat loneliness, to a major social tool, as I went into college. I engaged in Marching Band the first year, and joined a pop/rock/punk band the second year.
HOW I APPROACHED MY INSTRUMENTS CHANGED
Before I get too far from high school, I should note how my approach to music changed once I got my drivers license and car.
Before this tool of freedom became something within my reach, the majority of my musical aspirations were solo. This included competing every year with ISSMA [Indiana State School Music Association] as a snare drum soloist.
I won many awards during that time, all First Place except for one Second Place, which I value. That was given to me by Dr. Maxine Lefever, because she felt that I needed to keep my ego in check.
She would later ask me to join her group, American Musical Ambassadors, and go tour Europe with her for 28 days. I declined.
Back to the topic.
I was soloing for years, up until the end of 1980, when I got my car. Once I got my car and experienced some freedom and new, previously unavailable social experiences, my attitude about music changed.
I decided that I had spent enough time being alone, and that included soloing. To become a strong solo performer, one must place their focus in specific areas. As a musician who is primarily a drummer, I could have chosen to continue isolating and becoming a masterful drum set soloist.
But I didn’t see much of a future in that. After all, my goal was to become a valuable member to a band. So, instead of working on how to be a strong drum soloist, I began to work on other talents.
These talents included doing other things while drumming. Singing, running samplers and sequencers, and performing and recording with a click track were “value added” skills that I would bring to my musicianship.
This also involved continuing to learn songs, so that I could be on-the-ready when a band needed a player who was ready to go.
My second year of college found me being asked to join a band as a bassist. I agreed, even though I owned no gear. My grandmother had always wanted me to be a bass player, and was so excited to hear that I would be playing bass in a band that she gave me her bass rig.
I met a great number of people as a result of playing bass in that band. Some of those connections remain to this day.
It continued into adulthood, when I moved to Los Angeles. Many of the first people I met were musicians. I had no money or instruments, but would show up and play whatever was available. So if there were drums, a guitar, bass, or keyboards, it didn’t matter. I could jump in and be instantly productive.
During those decades, I met many people. There were some positive connections, as well as some that were horrible or even destructive. You never know what you will get with human beings.
Meeting other musicians at gigs was awesome, as was meeting some of the fascinating women who would come out to catch performances.
In a way, the whole thing felt too good to be true, for a very long time.
That’s not to say there were no struggles, for I would have to spend my daytime hours sweating about the everyday concerns that we all have, including work.
But at night, everything changed.
At one time, I was drumming in three bands at the same time, at least. For a brief period, it was four. On top of that, I would be attending weekly open jam sessions, which were live performances set up at a club called The Crest Sports Bar & Grill in Torrance, CA with “Weird Al” Yankovic drummer Jon “Bermuda” Schwartz.
These were public performances where drummers would sign up and take their turn performing with the band. You never knew what song they would play, or the style they might want to attempt. There was always an element of surprise. I did this as a drummer, but also performed a few times on fretless bass.
I’d even fill in with other bands on occasion, when their drummers would have schedule conflicts.
Through the 2000s, I was very busy with music, and therefore also very social.
This would end up changing for me, slowly over time. My main band, WHIPLADS, broke up around 2007. My stint with Falling Moon ended at the exact same time. Noodle Muffin stopped performing live in 2009.
I would find a few other bands to perform with, including The Andrea Ballard band, Delta 9, Karma McCartney, Casanova Jones, The Aveage Joes, and more.
Of course, bands fall apart or change over time. Andrea’s band fell apart, thanks to her boyfriend guitarist [NOT pictured above] having unchecked mental health issues. I left Karma after the fact that I was 20 years older than everyone else was starting to become a big deal. Delta 9 fell apart because Andrea’s crazy boyfriend was also in that band. I left Casanova Jones after what amounted to religious differences, for the singer believed himself to be god, and I humbly disagreed.
And I left The Average Joes, a cover band gig, after playing a marathon 8-hour gig, only to be paid $12. The parking cost $20.
Before too long, I had only one live performance band in The Wrong Dots, which was headed by child acting star Robbie Rist. That gig came to an end in late 2013, which I was in the middle of being taken for a ride by a “friend” who turned out to be a cancer scammer.
After that incident, I decided to abruptly end all social activities as they relate to music.
REVERTING TO ISOLATION
Before the pandemic hit in early 2020, I had gone through a few life changes, including being downsized in 2016 and not being able to find gainful employment for a long time.
My live performance bands had all dried up by the end of 2013, and I’d not found anything new.
Between these two events, I found myself being very isolated. After losing my job in 2016 and my little sister dying in mid-2017, I reverted back to utilizing music in isolation mode. One of the things I did during this time was spend one year taking guitar lessons from legendary guitarist Zoot Horn Rollo, of Captain Beefheart Fame.
It was one thing when I was a kid and played in isolation out of necessity. It was another when I turned social with music. But it was a completely weird beast when I took these guitar lessons, because I was playing guitar merely for the sake of playing guitar.
I felt no love for music at all. None.
Your teacher can have a big influence on you. Zoot has never had the most positive outlook on life, or music. It seemed to me that he hated music, and I was beginning to feel that way as well.
I was learning how to play guitar better, but was also learning to hate music. This was very dangerous territory for me.
So I started taking local lessons with a classical player named Rogerio Peixoto. Rogerio’s approach was more positive and uplifting. He introduced music into the lessons.
Rogerio, to his credit, tried to get me involved with social situations that were music-oriented. I attended a few, but most of the time I would decline because I had become afraid of people.
The situation had become dire.
A CHANGE OF SCENERY
After my favorite cat, LP passed away on President’s Day 2019, I felt need to make a change. In spite of my agoraphobia and severe depression, I plotted a move for us to get out of Los Angeles, and into a town in the middle of nowhere, Oregon.
By the end of May 2019, we were situated, and once again I was left to deal with my agoraphobia and severe depression.
By the time I was finally ready to get out and be social, the pandemic hit. I had just found a cover band and was talking with them about setting up an audition when it all hit hard.
I was also feeling ready to get out and take on the world again, when word came that I would have to revert back to how I was living for the past four years. The fifth year of isolation was rough.
IN THE END
To recap, music started as a way for me to survive isolation when I was young. It later turned into my primary vehicle for social interaction and activity, only to revert back to a coping mechanism for isolation for the past 8 years.
My hope is that this will change in the near future.
The best scenario I can see involves joining a local jam group or cover band and doing this for fun and social interaction. Without music, I have no idea how to engage humans in a social sense.
Sometimes I miss those days of drumming and playing other instruments in Hollywood. The people I met were interesting, fascinating, and varied. There were always new people, which I found to be interesting.
But this is no different from drumming in high school marching band, or my college band, or any bands that I had in the past. All of it is a case of “been there, done that,” and it is time to focus on acquiring new bands, new experiences, and new people.
I still think of the past from time to time. It’s okay to look back on it all. Just don’t stare.