If there is just one thing that I’ve learned in recent years about self-hatred, it’s that you don’t realize how much self-hatred you have until you meet someone who hates themselves even more.
There are many sources of self-hatred. In our formative years, it can come from things our parents might say. In school, it gets fed by other kids. In adulthood, your boss or co-workers can help ensure that your tank of self-hatred always remains topped off.
I could go into detail of situations, scenarios, and people who contributed to my self-hatred. However, I think that I’d prefer to jump right into the point in the story where my self-hatred was at its worst, and was made even worse before it got better.
INTO THE PIT
By the end of 2013, I figured out that I had been taken for a ride for the previous four years by a “friend” with whom I was building a recording studio. He was a Malignant Narcissist who had the idea that he’d lost control of me and my money to another Malignant Narcissist. He was correct.
This was swiftly followed by being let go from my only live performance band in early 2014. I would have been forced to quit anyway, thanks to a labrum tear in late March of that year.
The “studio narc” was correct in his assessment, at least to a degree, as I was currently helping yet another “friend” who said she had cancer. She turned out to be yet another Malignant Narcissist who was lying about having cancer to get drug money.
And in late March 2016, LinkedIn decided to downsize me, along with everyone else who was over 45 and not in management. This was the last substantial job that I’d had.
2017’s contributions came in the form of my then-girlfriend’s brother dying from complications associated with Type 2 Diabetes in April, and then my little sister dying at the end of June, right after her birthday.
I had gotten my own Type 2 Diabetes diagnosis shortly before his death.
AN ATTEMPT TO GET OUT
After my sister’s death, I got into therapy, onl to find out before the end of the year that I have Level 1 Autism and Major Depressive Disorder. Therapy was fine, even though my therapist was not really all that compassionate or empathetic.
I still felt as if I needed to do something in order to boost my self-esteem. For me, learning can aid in achieving this goal. What would I learn? I couldn’t really afford to go to college, and there weren’t any classes that were appealing to me.
So I decided to take guitar lessons from a true legend: Zoot Horn Rollo from Captain Beefheart.
At first, I hit it off with Zoot, to a big degree. He was the Master, and I was the Grasshopper, eager to learn things from his perspective. Even if I knew it already, I wanted to learn it again from his point of view.
I wanted to get inside the head of Zoot Horn Rollo. To a big degree, I succeeded. At the time, I kind of wish that I hadn’t.
SOME BRIEF ZOOT HISTORY
He was rarely happy. Even his expression seemed permanently fixed in an angry position. I could understand it. He was a musician who got screwed over in the music industry. He had been at a point in his life where he had a handful of successful albums and world tours under his belt, and yet he was still standing in line for food stamps and hoping his mother’s check to pay his rent showed up on time.
He ended up leaving Captain Beefheart in the mid-70s, taking the band with him and forming Mallard. The released two albums that flew completely under the radar. That band fell apart.
In a final attempt, some investors wanted to get the Trout Mask Replica band together for a tour. He was all in, until he got wind of some investors having some problems.
After that, he quit the music business, at least on the official level. He was a manager of a record store for a while before he started teaching guitar lessons. He would release some of his own stuff from time to time.
Even though he’s listed in Rolling Stone Top 100 Guitarists of All Time, he never truly got anywhere in the music business. If he couldn’t do it, then I’d have to wonder why I ever believed that I could do it.
I should add that I am not writing this to crap on him. Also, I am not saying anything that hasn’t been published in articles. My suspicion is that some of those stories are heavily influenced by his immense self-hatred.
Below is a screenshot from an interview that he had.
THE EMOTIONAL IMPACT
I was so lost in my own depression, low self-esteem, and self-hatred that I did not really notice much of an impact at first. But over time, it would become more obvious, dark, and desperate.
Zoot would ask me about artist influences, and whose style I’d like to learn more about.
I had heard that you NEVER ask him to teach you anything from Captain Beefheart. According to some sources, he had noted that he had no reason to remember how to play any of those songs.
So, on the spot in our Skype call, I struggled to think of someone I might want to emulate. I considered Zoot to be a strong Blues player, as well as a Master of the Abstract. I wanted to have a good name to throw out there.
My first thought was John Mayer, and I don’t really know why. Maybe it was his appearances on Chappelle’s Show, or maybe it was a live performance with The Grateful Dead that I caught online. It most certainly wasn’t any of his commercial stuff, which I do not care for at all.
So I just blurt it out. “John Mayer.”
He replies, “Oh, so you like THAT asshole?”
I could tell that bringing up these names was not going to help. I continued anyway.
“That loser only plays scales. He is practicing in front of his audience.”
“Okay… Jimmy Page.”
“You don’t want to EVER play like that. NEVER pick every note. He’s sloppy.”
The more relevant the guitarist was to Zoot’s particular moment in music history, the more he hated them. They “made it” and he did not. That’s my guess.
I continue on. “David Gilmour.”
Zoot relents. “Okay, we’ll do that, then.”
The following week, he kicks off the lesson. “So, last week you said that you liked the playing of old so-and-so…”
Old so-and-so? That’s how you reference David Gilmour? Okay, then. I guess I’m supposed to hate him as much as Jimmy Page and Jerry Garcia now. Fine.
Over time, my head began viewing every musician as being a horrible failure. And if they were horrible, then how much worse was I?
HOW BAD DID IT GET?
After a while, I started hating myself even more. Adding to that, I began to hate music.
I hated music so much that I felt like I was learning guitar, not so I could improve my musical abilities, but merely for the sake of learning guitar, and nothing more.
Play guitar to play guitar. Just don’t make music with it.
I countered this mindset by forcing myself to record as many songs as I could in 2017. Those songs are in a collection called “The Year of My Birth .” These songs also served as ways of dealing with the people who caused me harm in recent years, before 2017.
I am not writing this to paint Zoot as some kind of horrific monster. He’s has always been in a terrible place, like me, except he flew closer to the sun and sunk deeper into the mire.
After I had started taking my lessons with him, I got tested and received my diagnosis for Level 1 Autism. I told Zoot about it. He said that his wife had worked with special needs kids, and he had some understanding of how to approach it. He talked about his own personal issues, which I won’t write about since I cannot find any articles on them.
We brought our conversation on Autism to a close. He said, “Everyone has rocks in their backpack.” That is to say, everyone has their challenges.
When Zoot gave me an assignment, I would often want to build a song around the assignment. I did this in 2017 with the song “Finger Nine.”
In his critique of my solo work in this song, he said that one of my biggest strengths was in creating motifs. A motif is the smallest musical passage a person can create. It has to have rhythmic qualities, as well as pitch intervals.
A great example is the start of “Beethoven’s Fifth.” That motif appears throughout the entire song.
That was a positive critique. But there would be negative critiques along the way.
On one assignment in particular, I wrote a Blues song. I also made a video of me driving up to the house where Captain Beefheart and the band wrote and recorded “Trout Mask Replica.”
The song included lyrical references that were relevant to our guitar lessons. One example is near the end when I sing, “An old jug of rum is my only friend.” Zoot told me that my vibrato was too fast, and that I needed to slow it down, as if I’d just drank a whole bottle of rum.
He had fair critiques of the solo work, and gave some praise for my composition. But when I asked about the song, he replied, “It’s okay, I mean, if that’s the direction you want to go with music.”
I told him that it’s not necessarily the direction I want to go, but to me it was something I’d have to pass through, to come out the other side to get where I wanted to go.
THE BIG FALLING OUT
By this point, I had been taking lessons from Zoot for 30-50 minutes per week, every other week, for a full year, at $75 per half hour. While I was seeing some progress in my guitar playing, my interest in music was dying out. Still, I kept on with my lessons.
At the same time, I was still looking for work. In this process, I got a rare nibble that ended up amounting to nothing. It got me thinking: If I get a job, then I would not be able to take lessons anymore!
I had to do something about this, so I decided to bring it up with Zoot during my next lesson.
Most of the work I was pursuing involved the typical Monday-Friday business hours schedule. So I asked Zoot about the possibility of moving my lessons over to a weekend slot.
He balked at the idea, stating, “I reserve the weekend slots for my really good students.”
We had our lesson, but his comment about his “really good students” bothered me. I wasn’t a good student? This was clearly a back-handed comment on my abilities.
With my Major Depressive Disorder in full swing, and my self-hatred at an all-time low, I did what nobody in this position should ever do.
I wrote him an email.
In that email, I apologized for not being a good student. Overall, it was an expression of self-hatred.
He responded by telling me that I was wrong in my assessment, and that he had thought that I was a good student. The rest of the email berated me, and ended with, “Stop believing that you have the ability to read other people’s minds.”
I didn’t believe that I had the ability to read minds at all. He probably didn’t even remember what he had said.
And with that, my lessons with Zoot came to an abrupt end. I got dumped via email.
The self-hatred that I had before, which was previously contained to just me, got expanded to include the music I had listened to, as well as my own music that I wrote and recorded myself.
I had the same attitude as him, that my music wasn’t any good because I’m a better musician now than I was a year prior.
Music was no longer my escape, and he had taken that away from me. It made my situation more desperate, and my depression worse. It got bad enough that I sought out medication in an attempt to level myself off.
It worked, to a degree.
Even worse, I could not listen to ANY old music that I had ever recorded. It took me THREE years after the end of my lessons to have the ability to listen to my own music again.
I was hating everything that I had ever done in my past, just like Zoot hates all of his own music. This was not a good thing.
A BIG LIFE CHANGE
I had experienced a major life change on President’s Day 2019 [February 18], when my beloved buddy of 16 years passed away.
When LP died, it lit a fire beneath my feet. My fear of leaving the house got tested when I loaded a van with Ronnie Wood artwork and drove it from Simi Valley all the way to San Francisco and back in one day.
It was proof of concept that I could leave the house. We made plans to move to Oregon, and did so by late May of 2019.
AN ATTEMPT TO RECONNECT
With all of that negativity, I tried to reconnect with Zoot after moving to Oregon. He also lives in Oregon, a few hours away from where I moved.
I’d had only written two times. He finally responded to an email with, “I assume this is my ex-student.” He could have said “former student,” but he wanted to drive home the fact that I was in the past, and would not be re-visiting lessons any time soon.
In working to get a handle on my own depression, I came to the conclusion that Zoot’s depression will rule him for the remainder of his days, and that he will not change. I got as much as I would be able to get out of these lessons.
I also concluded that his depression and self-hatred was having a big negative impact on me. It’s amazing what an hour or two per month with someone this depressed can do.
It gave me an understanding of the friends who have left me behind. It gets exhausting. I understand this. My own depression has always been exhausting for me.
Today, I’m in a relatively better place with regard to my depression. It still makes things difficult, but it’s not ruling every single second of my life. If it were, then I’d not be able to write this, or do much of anything online at all.
For a while, I sincerely hated Zoot for being so negative, for implying that I wasn’t a “really good student,” and dumping me for referencing his negative words. I was angry that he would effectively slap me down when I was at my lowest.
But I realized that he couldn’t ever help it. It’s a part of who he is, and a part of his personality. He doesn’t like himself, so I can’t expect him to like me, or anyone else.
Alone in my room, I verbally gave Zoot a proper goodbye.
It was done.
IN THE END
When a person has a high level of self-hatred, it can be made worse if they associate with anyone who has it worse off. Before meeting Zoot, I was the most depressed person I had ever known, and it stayed that way until 2017, when I met Zoot.
This was a story of my self-hatred, how it got worse, and how it got better. The purpose of telling this story is NOT to bag on Zoot Horn Rollo. I do think that he can be a decent person. He’s got a good heart, generally, and is a talented guitar teacher.
I just couldn’t effectively tell my story without including the story of my interaction with him. Since his depression and self-hatred is known publicly via older publications, I feel that bringing them up here is not a case of speaking out of turn.
But I want to be clear that it was not all bad.
Of course, I learned a great deal about guitar and music. I also learned how my depression impacts me and others. I learned more about my own learning style as an Autistic adult.
I learned that I have a physical playing style on guitar that is “similar and comparable to Django Reinhardt,” and that I should study Robben Ford’s guitar playing style for future improvement endeavours.
It is imperative that I end this entry on a positive note, and that is precisely what I will do.
We would always do a soundcheck before my lesson. I would play something on my guitar so he could see if he could hear me properly.
One day, I struck an F#minor chord. Zoot says, “That’s a majestic chord.” I agree and tell him that it’s how a song that I’m learning starts out. I then start playing the intro to a song that he wrote while he was in Mallard called “Mama Squeeze.”
Zoot instantly recognizes the song, declares, “Oh, shit!” and proceeds to play it along with me. After the short jam, he said that he didn’t realize that we had the bandwidth to play at the same time.
It was the only time that I saw him happy on video. It was a truly golden moment.
There was one other time where the names of some old players from his circles came up. He hadn’t talked to Winged Eel Fingerling [Elliot Ingber] in forever.
Since it’s a small world, I told him that I was friends with Elliot’s younger brother, Ira, who ended up joining Captain Beefheart AFTER Zoot quit, playing bass on Bluejeans and Moonbeams.
So I put Zoot in touch with Ira, and he was able to catch up with Elliot. I do think he was grateful for my successful efforts at reuniting them.
Finally, I must end with a note to Zoot, in the event that he ends up finding this and reading it.
For the longest time, when we would start my lesson, you would always says that you were hearing some reverb from my amp. My understanding was that you didn’t want any reverb cluttering up my sound.
Every time you brought that up, I’d look to my amp knobs, and I would see the reverb knob turned all the way down.
After I moved to Oregon, I took a look at my amp’s settings for the various patches that I have. The patch that I used in my lessons is the same one I use with my pedal board. It was supposed to be a clean setting with no effects.
The physical knob for reverb was all the way down. However, there is also a virtual knob that can be seen in the screen display on top of the amp.
The virtual knob showed that my reverb was set at 0.1, which is the setting right above 0. It’s the smallest amount of reverb I can get on this amp.
It was that small, and yet you heard it, when I could not.
You were right. I wish you well.
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