Between Worlds

When I was young, through the 70s and part of the 80s, the world was relatively simple to digest. America was a world leader, at least according to other more experienced adults around me. The USSR was America’s enemy, as godless Commie heathens. And everybody loved the guitar solo in a song.

Today, we’re somewhere completely different.

America is no longer the world leader. We could be world leaders. It’s just that our leadership is more about their own wealth building and culture war issues than actually doing ANYTHING, including helping American citizens, who are struggling.

The USSR is gone, although Russia is now lead by a former KGB member. Instead of viewing them as “godless Commie heathens,” we have American Republican Christians who LOVE Putin and Russia. They wear shirts that say, “I’d rather be a Russian than a Democrat,” with the back saying, “Trump for President.”

Clearly, they don’t realize that Democrats are Americans, and that Russians are up to no good. Ol’ Putin got what he paid for with ex-government employee Donald. But I digress.

And the guitar solo is essentially dead within the context of mainstream “music.” Many users on streaming services like Spotify will listen to a song, and then skip to the next song the minute a guitar solo shows up.

With all of this, I feel as if I am trapped between worlds. The world I used to be in sucked in many ways, and the world I see now is such utter garbage that I can’t believe ANYONE would think that ANY of this is a good idea, even if they’re getting super-mega-ultra-fucking-filthy rich from it all.

One big reason why I write is because I really have no idea what I can or should be doing at all. Yes, I can continue to play my archaic instruments and create for myself, and make myself happy.

But what about the external? The world? I used to go out and perform with other musicians. Now it seems like those days are gone. I had a conversation with someone last night, and they said, “I hope that you get to perform in front of an audience again. I’m not so certain that you ever will.”

Boy, I hear ya. I haven’t played drums in almost three years. I live in a small town, having left Los Angeles behind because the scene was dying out.

I mean, THE VIPER ROOM is getting torn down, and is being replaced by a 12-story apartment building. When I first moved to LA, it was called The Central, and hosted primarily jazz bands. Mine was one of the early rock bands to play there shortly before they became The Viper Room in 1993. That was really cool to play there, and I got to meet Johnny Depp as well.

The Viper Room, Hollywood [RIP]

There was a scene happening.

You can imagine me at The Rainbow Room in 1986, walking in and seeing Lemmy at his booth, and Mick Fleetwood, and Gene Simmons, among others. All of these heavy hitters, just hanging out. At this time, the club was only 12-13 years old. Today, it is 50 years old. I was there for the majority of its hey-day.

Now, all of that is gone. It has become a place where people go to talk about the past. That’s not to say that the past wasn’t in play back then. In 1986, clubs like The Whisky a-Go Go had murals painted on the side, bragging about how The Doors or Buffalo Springfield played there.

Now you can go see kids play there, and none of them have traditional instruments. They all have laptops and MIDI controllers. I have nothing against those things. They just don’t get a visceral response from me.

A really strong synth player, on the other hand, can really bring the house down. But with these “musicians,” they often times have pre-produced loops, where they just push a button and the loop starts playing. And all of the rigs are in sync, meaning the computer keeps time, so they don’t have to.

There is no human effort; no drama. There’s no risk. It’s safe and sanitized, and the laptops never make a mistake.

November 2009: Tearing up the drums at The Whisky a-Go Go as a last-minute fill-in drummer for a band I’d met a few days earlier.

I remember talking to Lemmy at The Rainbow Room about how he had sat and watched my band recently, and how much I really appreciated it.

He asks, “Ah, yea. And what did I say about you guys?”

I told him that he said we were “pretty good.”

He then tells me, “From here on out, I’m gonna call you Mr. Pretty Good.” And every time I’d go in The Rainbow Room, at least for a while, I’d see Lemmy at his booth. I’d feel like Norm on Cheers whenever he’d call out, “Hey! There’s Mr. Pretty Good!” We’d shake hands.

This is why, to this day, “pretty good” is the highest compliment that I ever give anything.

Another time, one of my bands played at The Joint in Hollywood, and I noticed Jimmy Page sitting in the audience. He was there to see his great-niece perform at this songwriter showcase. He gave me some constructive words about what we were doing, and it was awesome.

All of this is gone.

Everything that lives ultimately dies. I suppose that’s what brings some of the magic to it all; to be able to say that you were there way back when. That is, if anyone cares to listen.

Cities, clubs, eras, styles, sounds… they all die eventually. And some of the people die as well. It’s sometimes upsetting to realize that many of my music heroes are no longer alive. It’s weird to see news stories where they talk about selling their catalogs. Led Zeppelin, selling ownership of their music? Danzig, declaring himself to be “done” because he’s “too old,” and the same with David Crosby. Bon Jovi having vocal problems. Keith Emerson, taking his own life because hand neuropathy kept him from playing his best.

It kind of puts me in a very weird position. I’m not physically dead, but so far as society is concerned, I’m the walking dead. That doesn’t mean I have to lie down.

I need to reinvent myself. Writing has played a major role in this journey to figure out who I am now, and what I will want to be next. It’s difficult and sometimes scary. Six years ago, I tried to reinvent myself as an employee, and that failed miserably. This means no job. But if I fail at reinventing my self, then what happens? Do I merely exist?

These are the big questions that appear on the horizon as we get older.

To pare it down to one question would be to ask, “Must I actually BE something; anything?” Can I just exist? Can I just.. be?

Is this an acceptable place to be? I do not ask this on behalf of society, for society can shove it. I ask for myself.

Truth be told, it’s time that I care about myself and focus on myself. For most of my life, I’ve focused on others. It was focusing on school work or the various school bands I was in. I’d later focus on work, with focus on raising my son. For a while I focused on a potential career and spent 15 years building that, only to be shown the door because I’m old.

For the longest time, I thought that caring about myself and focusing on myself was narcissitic. Only recently did I learn that Narcissists DO NOT love themselves. They just only think of themselves.

In my situation, the challenge is to love myself, and then to think of myself. I’ve spent too much time putting myself on the backburner for the benefit of others.

This is my time. These last few years that are left are dedicated to me and those around me who care. And as I watch the world that I once knew slowly disappear into a land of obsolescence and forgotten memories, as I become progressively more culturally irrelevant, I watch it all with mixed feelings. Part of me wants those old days to stick around, yet another part of me wonders what will happen next.

Maybe it’s time to just kick back and try to enjoy the show.

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Published by DrumWild

Writing about drums, music, and philosophy.

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