Today’s entry was inspired by a piece written by Johnny L Brewer. Click his name to read.
My dream of being a musician started before I was 2 years old. I would sit in my own seat behind the drummer of my uncle’s band, The Sounder. They played around Indiana, and had bands open for them, like Johnny Cougar.
In first grade, we had to go up to the front of the class and tell the class something about ourselves. I took the teacher’s pointer and pointed at Hollywood, California, on the global map that spanned across the wall, above the blackboard. I told the class, “When I grow up, I’m going to move to Hollywood and play drums.” They all laughed, of course. That changed nothing for me.
School was a place where they did their best to crush any dreams or creativity that I had. They gave it their best go. I must admit, it’s what they do best. Teaching certainly isn’t on that list. Fortunately for me, they failed miserably. Thanks, yet-to-be-diagnosed Autism!
What was called “just a phase” persisted throughout my entire life. After high school ended, my dedication to marching band shifted to the dream of a standard rock band.
I had gotten a taste of what that was like in the winter of 1982, when I put together a rag-tag three-piece band to play just one song.
It wouldn’t be until the fall of 1984 that I would join my first real band in college. The Beertonez was a band that had a great deal of potential as a house party band, and I did what I could to see that potential through. On our last gig, we made enough money that I paid off my student loans for that year. It would end up being the period in music where I would make the most money.
I had big plans for the band, which included taking the act to LA to give it our best shot. Yes, this was somewhat naive. This was 1985, and I would later learn that Metallica had gone to LA at that time, and then ran back to San Francisco, crying about how nobody liked them because Glam was starting to take over. I had no idea.
Unfortunately, I was the only one who was up for tackling this idea. When the school year ended in the summer of 1985, pretty much everyone in the band just went back home. To me, the band was everything. But to them, it was just something to do.
There were other factors that lead to my decision, but my drive to be a musician was too great. So I quit college and decided that I’d work while staying with my grandparents and see what happens.
I joined a band called The Switch in late summer of 1985, as their guitarist. We would play some big gigs. The band had promise.
And then, my mother invited me to move to California. But before this move, I had an important discussion with my grandfather. He was a man who played something like 14 instruments. He played so many that I lost count.
He had also been really rough on me about my music pursuits. He would say, “That’s nice and all, but how will you pay your bills?” He was this super-practical guy who always did what he needed to do, and saw no use for such folly.
I told him that mom had invited me to move to California, and that this was my chance to pursue my dream of being a musician.
This was his cue to give me the hard talk about how I was wasting my time “chasing such nonsense” as music. He pushed me far enough that I barked back at him. “What do YOU know! You’ve never had a dream to pursue.”
Things suddenly got hauntingly calm and quiet. He told me that when he was young, he wanted to be a race car driver. He learned how to fix cars when he was a kid [and cars were a relatively new thing back then]. He knew cars inside and out, and wanted to be a race car driver. He really wanted to go for it.
But then he met my grandmother, they fell in love and got married. When my mother was born, he decided that it was time to put his dream aside and start working. He joined the Army, fought in World War II, and later worked in an auto factory [Delco Remy] for about 40 years.
As he told me this story, he fought back tears. There is something unique about a WWII veteran. They cry only when they truly mean it. This was the first time I had witnessed it. Heck, this was the first time I’d witnessed an emotion coming from him that wasn’t a chuckle at a dirty joke.
They were tears of regret. It was unmistakable.
That’s when I knew that I had no choice but to move to California and give it a go.
I would call him a few years after I got there and tell him about some of my adventures. Of course, he asked what I was doing to make ends meet, and I told him that I worked days and played out nights.
His responses to my stories sounded somewhat proud. He was glad that I set out to pursue my dream. Without saying it outright, he admitted that he was wrong to be so rough.
Just a few years after that, my grandmother would have a stroke, and grandpa would end up in a hospital for the last two years of his life.
One night, I was playing with one of my bands at The Rainbow on The Sunset Strip, when I thought back to my first grade class, and how they all laughed at my dream. Now, here I was, in Hollywood, on The Sunset Strip, playing drums in a rock band, and I actually got paid.
I was actually doing what I said I would be doing. Who’s laughing now?
I never forget.
I spent 33 years in California, pursuing my dream of becoming a professional musician. Of course, it didn’t pan out, as is the case for most musicians and artists in general.
Now, I’m an old man. I’ll be 57 this December. I left California two years ago, which was bittersweet in its own sort of way. I don’t have any fame or fortune. No top 10 hits. No big record sales. No popularity.
I also don’t have any regret.
Sure, I could find some regret if I tried. If I had stayed in college for two more years, I might have been active in some other bands. I might have been there for the heyday of a club called No Bar & Grill, owned by record store owner and fellow musician Jon Rans. I could have been there to perform with bands like Big Black and Modern Vending.
That would have been cool.
I also could have stuck around in Indiana after college. The Switch was a solid band, and it could have lead to a situation where I would have been a big fish in a little pond, like Faith Band, or Buccaneer, or Henry Lee Summer, or Roadmaster. I might still be gigging in Indiana today as some kind of legacy act.
When I was 15, I wanted to quit school and go audition for Henry Lee Summer [he was looking for a drummer]. I assumed that I’d get the gig, and then I’d be all set from there. I let that idea go, since I didn’t even have my drivers license yet.
There are lots of “could have” scenarios that I can cook up to generate regret. Who knows, those might have been some good times. I have no doubt about it.
However, what all of those potential scenarios are lacking is the act of going to Hollywood to give a big career a shot. Had I taken any of those other paths, then I would have been left wondering, “What if?”
I don’t wonder that today, and I’m grateful for that. With those other scenarios, I don’t have the “what if” issue because I have a good idea of how that would have gone down. And all of those situations would have left me in Indiana, which was the last place I’d ever want to be.
I could have bet half on the future. Instead, I bet it all. Everything. Went for broke.
All I have to show for it is a few recordings, a few videos, a few photographs, and a ton of stories about gigs, bands, venues, musicians, rock stars, and wild nights.
Whether people believe the stories or not is none of my concern. I have these experiences under my belt, and they serve to repel regret. For anyone who is open to hearing them, I think some of them are fun stories.
I have no regret. I knew what I wanted to do, and I set out and did it.
And how I made money is nothing more than a series of boring stories about horrible situations, mostly terrible people, and sheer ugliness that served no other purpose than to make someone else rich while I struggled, just like everyone else.
The money paid rent, bought food, and other things. It’s gone, like the breeze that was blowing last night.
In many ways, my life is ordinary. The only exception is that I actually set out to pursue my dreams. It doesn’t matter if I caught them or not. I got close to the sun and felt the heat melting feathers from my wings.
I gave it a shot, instead of letting everyone destroy the dream and subsequently giving up.
And it feels good to be writing about these stories. For the longest time, I feared writing about these stories because I had not gathered up enough evidence along the way to back up these stories. As a result, I felt that people would dismiss them as made-up fantasies.
Over time, I came to realize that I don’t care if people believe the stories or not. I’ll tell them, if for nobody else, then for myself. It’s a way to remind myself that I knew what I wanted, worked hard, and went for it.
Hard work does not always pay off, at least not in the ways one might want. I expected my hard work to bring me some results, like a living. Instead, I have the few things that I mentioned earlier; the recordings, videos, images, and stories.
At least I don’t have regret.
Some might read this and feel inspired to go for their own dreams. Other might read it and feel some regret of their own, believing that maybe they chose the wrong path.
The problem with that idea is that there is no right or wrong path. Every path leads to the same place.
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I’ve been a musician my entire life, and I spent 33 years in Los Angeles making music. These are two topics that go hand-in-hand for a variety of reasons.
The thing that these two topics have in common with everyone is that people have different attitudes about them. Sometimes those attitudes can be toxic or destructive.
In this entry, I’ll write about my experiences, approaches, and ultimate decisions regarding these two items
SOCIETY AND CELEBRITIES For as long as our modern media has been around, the average person has put celebrities upon a pedestal. Some even engage in worship. Many would call themselves a “fan,” which is short for “fanatic.”
Before media, this may have happened with royalty. I don’t know for certain. I’ve not concerned myself with royalty since 1776.
But I’ve met LOTS of famous people. I have gotten some autographs and some photographs.
When I first moved to LA in 1986, my internal dialogue about celebrities was “be cool” and “don’t be a crazy fan.” This was because I almost immediately met people who were friends with celebrities.
This is because celebrities are regular people and they will hang out with their friends and do things. They go to the store to buy their own groceries at times. They go to clubs and bars. They go to Starbucks. They are pretty much everywhere.
Fortunately for me, the early celebrities I met were mostly NOT musicians. This bought me some time to fine-tune my approach.
TREAT FAMOUS MUSICIANS LIKE ASSOCIATES, NOT CELEBRITIES This approach involved talking about music and music-related items in a way where mutual concern existed. We would converse for a while, hang out, whatever.
Maybe later I’d ask for an autograph or a photo, one or the other. For every autograph or photo I have, there are dozens upon dozens of meetings and time spent where I have NO photo, no autograph, and no evidence of anything. All I have is my memories.
Like in 1989, when the owner of Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles in Hollywood saw me waiting in line to get in one Saturday night. He had hired me as a Pee-Wee Herman impersonator recently, and wanted to get me in the restaurant quickly.
He treated me like a celebrity. It was cool.
He asked if I minded sharing a table, and I said that was fine. We ended up sharing a table with Stevie Wonder and his family. I learned that he has a brother who is also blind.
We talked about music. Stevie said that he had a songwriting project coming up, where he had to write and record something for a homeless children’s charity event that was to be sponsored by HBO. I told Stevie that I could write lyrics.
So there I was, in a major restaurant in Hollywood, sharing a table with Stevie Wonder and his family, writing lyrics to a song that he was going to record.
Ultimately, the deal fell through. All the same, I got to have dinner and write a song with Stevie Wonder. It happened because I was open to new experience, and because I had the capacity to treat him like an associate instead of a fan.
This was exciting to me, not because Stevie Wonder is famous, but because he is a successful musician. Any time I can interact with a successful musician, I stand to gain some knowledge along the way.
There is a danger for celebrities of all types, where a “parasocial relationship” develops. This is where a person invests a great deal of time and emotional energy into a “relationship” with someone [typically a celebrity], while the other party has no idea that this is happening, at all.
I’m nowhere close to famous, and I’ve experienced the bad side of a parasocial relationship, where a woman believed that I was famous, and that I was just downplaying it so that she wouldn’t feel intimidated. She had an entire scenario playing in her head that wasn’t playing out anywhere else.
I have many, many celebrity-related stories to tell, that are part of my life experience. I tell them if they are interesting. But for me, I have very rarely been star-struck. Yes, it happened a few times during my first year. I found that being star-struck lands you in the same camp as everyone else, including those who build parasocial relationships.
Not every story is positive.
I once went to a drum clinic that was a drum-off of sorts. It was the college-educated drummer [Terri Lyne Carrington], vs. the street-educated drummer [Sheila E].
Their “drum-off” performances were almost like a staged rap battle. There was no real animosity or “better than” attitude on the stage.
When the performance ended, manager Glenn Noyes said that everyone could go into the store, take pictures, get autographs, and get deals on gear. That last part was why they did these things.
I go in and get into a line relatively quickly. I’m not sure where this line leads. After a short while, I figure out that it leads to Sheila E, signing headshots.
My attitude about drummers was that I would ask for a photo because I wanted to document the drummers that I’ve met. For every photo I have, there are dozens that I do not.
When I got to the front of the line, Shelia E signed a head shot. I asked her for a photo. She said that she wasn’t taking photos. I noted that Glenn said otherwise. She pushed the headshot to me and said, “Here you go. Take it or leave it.”
By this point, the whole thing left a bad taste in my mouth, so I left the autographed photo behind and walked away.
As I was looking around, I saw Terri Lyne Carrington, just hanging out. Nobody was talking to her or asking for an autograph. This is because Carrington isn’t a celebrity like Sheila E. Realizing that I had Terri Lynne Carrington to myself, we spent almost 90 minutes talking about drumming, completely uninterrupted.
I didn’t ask her for a photo, because I had already gotten turned off by the idea of taking any photos that night. All the same, I had a pleasant interaction.
Most drummers I meet understand it when I tell them that I’m a drummer and would like to have a photo.
Sometimes it would be at a drum clinic, where they would expect to take photos or sign autographs. In other cases, there was a show and we would be hanging out afterward.
The bottom line on this topic is that celebrities are people, too. They just have a job that pays a great deal, and that job also makes them highly visible. It’s someone you recognize.
ATTITUDES ABOUT MUSIC When you’re a musician, you have to be aware of your attitude about music and make sure that it’s contextually sound.
When I was a young drummer in high school, my focus would be on things like solo competitions. My goal was to compete and win.
By the time I got to college, my focus shifted away from solo performance to performing within the context of a band. In my college band, my focus was to find big parties, play at them, and make a few bucks along the way. It would end up being the most money that I would ever make with music.
When I moved to Los Angeles in 1986, my focus was to find a band on its way to success and get involved on any instrument they needed. I’d play drums, guitar, bass, keyboards, or whatever. My goal was to be involved with a band that was signed by a major label, and to have a career. I cared nothing for fame.
In the mid-90s, my focus was on songwriting and recording, with the hopes of building an industry-focused recording project that would attract top-notch musicians.
By the late 90s, my focus shifted from industry-driven projects to doing things that I loved. I would find a band, and if I liked what they were doing, then I would work toward joining that band.
This phase would last from 1998 until late 2013. During this time, I would not only join bands, but I would also fill in for bands that were having temporary drummer issues.
Around 2005, I was drumming in 3 bands, but also playing at an open jam night, put together by my good friend and fellow drummer Jon “Bermuda” Schwartz.
The end of 2013 saw the end of my live drumming with bands. A few months later, in late March 2014, I experienced a labrum tear that would keep me off the drums for a few years. So my focus changed from drumming live in bands, and live performance in general, to taking guitar lessons.
Sometimes life gets in the way. I had gotten downsized at work and was having trouble finding a new job. Sensing that I’d never get hired for another good paying job again, I decided to move to Oregon, where I could slow down and do other things.
A DEFINING MOMENT Before I get into what’s happening now, there was one experience that I had around 2012-2013 that influenced what I am doing right now.
From late 2010 to late 2013, I had been working on building a recording studio with a “friend” who turned out to be a Malignant Narcissist who ripped me off for everything I had contributed to the construction and implementation efforts.
When this project was almost completed, I went up to San Francisco to jam with a friend who was a former MySpace co-worker, named Aaron.
Aaron is one of those guys who methodically considers everything that he does in life. Aaron picked me up at the airport, and I was telling him all about the recording studio that we were building.
He said that it sounded “cool and all,” but he also said that “music isn’t about recording.”
I had been recording my music since I was 13 years old, when I had my first session at an 8-track studio. I would use a tape deck to record live shows, either through the air or off the board. My GOAL was to be able to record. When home recording became achievable and affordable, I set out to make a decent home recording studio. And then, I was helping to build an actual physical stand-alone studio.
And now you’re going to tell me that it’s NOT all about recording?
As he explained it, “Recording music isn’t the future. We will soon be entering a time when people will not purchase music like they did in the past. Recordings will exist merely for the sake of posterity, but recording is not the point.”
We got to his 3-bedroom apartment, and he showed me his live jam set-up. He had four stations set up for four instruments. Each station had its own “Jam Hub,” robotic desk that moves up and down, 32-inch touch screen, and headphones.
In this set-up, each person could control how much they hear of whomever else was playing. They could raise or lower their own levels going out. Everyone had their own mix.
Everyone involved would have a different experience.
We jammed for a bit. When we were done, Arron continued sharing with me his wisdom.
“There. That was fun. It was an experience. No recording, because a recording doesn’t matter. The moment happened, and now it is gone. We can return to this later and have a different experience.”
This got me thinking back to all of the times when I wasn’t recording. I didn’t record any of my ISSMA competitions. I had many jam sessions where I didn’t record anything. I was playing at the open jams every Thursday night with Bermuda, and most of the time I didn’t record, although I did get some video.
In those situations, recording was not the point. Being perfect was not the point. Getting a record deal was not the point. Being a rock star was not the point. Being the best in the room was not the point. Getting a medal or award was not the point.
So what was the point?
The point of it all was utilizing music as a form of social interaction, as well as a vehicle for personal wellness. There was a point, an instance, a need. This need ranged from keeping myself occupied while learning, as I did in school, all the way up to engaging others within the social context of a group performing music.
It was about the moment. A moment that would happen and then fade, turning into a memory. In these moments, recording is acceptable, but it’s not the primary goal.
Recording is not important. Perfection is not important. Even the idea of having a song is not important.
The importance comes from the interaction and how the experience feels to me.
WHAT I AM DOING NOW After I quit taking guitar lessons from Zoot Horn Rollo in 2018, I spent a few years working on myself. The situation was such that I had to mostly set music aside.
The pandemic knocked things back by a year, after it interrupted an audition that I was going to have with a cover band that plays out and makes money. I might do something like this down the road. But this is about what I am doing right now.
Catherine has a co-worker who plays drums. He has been playing with this guitar player for quite a while, and they’ve always wanted to have a bass player. They had even considered bringing in a friend who knows nothing about music to teach them how to play bass.
Yesterday, I met up with them in a garage for a jam session. It’s my first musical interaction with other people in years.
The drummer records the sessions and puts them online on YouTube.
I think the other guys were concerned about me being a seasoned musician. “Whatever,” as I so eloquently put it.
I went into the encounter with no judgments or expectations.
As it goes in these situations, someone plays a riff and everyone else joins in. People find their place in the jam, and a groove can sometimes develop. Then, there’s the “feel,” in that moment. It serves the moment before it goes away.
The recordings aren’t about how “awesome” we might or might not be. It’s more of a photograph for posterity.
When I was in Hollywood trying to build a band for commercial success, you can bet that I focused on things like solid musicianship, presence, and so on. There were too many things to think about and it got exhausting.
But in this situation, none of that applies because it doesn’t matter. This situation is all about hanging out, jamming, coming up with ideas, and enjoying the entire thing.
The context is fun, and the goal is to make that happen.
I have played with musicians who are better than me, equal to me, and worse than me. None of it matters. What matters is what they’ve got to say with their instruments and how effectively they can say it. Our ability to communicate is a deciding factor on how it all goes down.
If it’s fun, then I do it. If it’s not, then I don’t.
For me, this gathering is based solely on the social elements, some live jam musical elements, and how much I enjoy the experience.
So far as that goes, we’re jamming again this afternoon. As it turns out, they had something to say with their instruments, and I enjoyed the “conversation.”
I might keep doing this for a few years, or maybe just a few weeks. Who knows. Anything can happen. I may end up with a work schedule that conflicts and prevents me from participating. Anything can happen, so I don’t worry myself with any of it.
What can happen right now is what is important.
The moments happen. They exist. And then they go away forever, leaving nothing but memories, and sometimes a few pictures or a recording. Anything left behind only serves to stimulate the memory. It’s not for sale, not to impress, and not really for anyone else.
Did you enjoy your life? Did you enjoy the ride? Did you take on the adventures and chill moments that you wanted?
Those are the important life questions for me. They are the kind of questions where you cannot lie to yourself, because you’ll know that you’re lying.
Whether it’s writing song lyrics with Stevie Wonder at a famous restaurant in Hollywood, or jamming with new friends in a garage that is used as a garage, enjoying the time and building a new memory is what counts.
To give my opinions some context, a little background is in order.
In 1992, I got a job with a company, as people looking for work often do. The accountant was a woman named Rose Menza. She told me that she heard I was a drummer, and she told me that her son was also a drummer.
Rose looked very young at the time. I didn’t yet put the names together, and had no way of realizing that she had a son who was six months older than me. So I asked if he was in marching band, or what.
She says, in her Long Island accent, “He plays drums in a little band called Megadeth.”
She introduced me to Nick shortly after that, and we became fast friends. I’d always get backstage passes for any performance within a 500-mile radius of Los Angeles, and many after-party was at his house. I’d often wake up on his couch after a wild night of sushi, with too much Sake and Asahi.
I didn’t take many pictures from those times, except for when I went to a few invitation-only Megadeth after-parties or pre-parties. These photos were taken after their concert in Las Vegas to promote their Cryptic Writings release.
Above are pictures I took with Dave Mustaine, Marty Friedman, and of course, Nick Menza. If feels like someone is missing. Who could it be.
Oh yea! DAVID ELLEFSON.
Do you know why I don’t have a photo with David Ellefson? It’s because he consistently told me to “fuck off” every single time I had asked for a picture with him. Truth be told, so far as I was concerned, the Menza/Friedman line-up was THE quintessential Megadeth configuration.
Those were the only two words Ellefson had ever said to me.
To give that more context, one time I had asked for a photo, and two times I just said hello. I attended many more events and hang-outs beyond the three that I mentioned. After a while, I learned my lesson and just stayed away from Ellefson.
At all of these events, everyone was consistent. Mustaine was consistently friendly, yet seemingly on edge. Friedman was consistently chill. Menza was consistently cool and energetic.
And Ellefson was consistently a jerk.
ELLEFSON FIRED FROM MEGADETH Here’s a video of the news release, from about two days ago:
So far as I’m concerned, it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.
MY PROBLEMS WITH MEGADETH When you get close to the sun, you can feel the heat. When you get close to Megadeth, you can taste the dysfunction.
During the Friedman/Menza years, I always got the vibe that both Marty and Nick were treated like second-class citizens, or outsiders. Mustaine presented himself like the boss, and Ellefson [the band’s co-founder] was the guy who acts they way he thinks a boss would act.
Mustaine, to a big degree, has always treated Megadeth like it’s The Dave Mustaine Show, with a constantly revolving door of players. These players have talent, but it’s not the band anymore.
I’m sure there are Megadeth fans who say it’s not the same without Gar Samuelson. Fair enough. It’s all a matter of subjective opinion, and those opinions will differ. They’re all valid opinions, in their own rite. Mine is that the Friedman/Menza era was THE top era for Megadeth writing, recording, and performance.
Yes, I may have some bias. I accept that. Again, it’s subjective.
MUSTAINE BECOMES INSUFFERABLE Before I met Nick in the early 90s, it is no secret that Mustaine had a serious drug problem. This is a life-long problem for him, so it seems, as addiction is a big and unfortunate part of his human chemistry.
Mustaine fired Nick after Nick had surgery to remove a benign tumor from behind one of his knees. To be more specific, Mustaine called Nick and fired him while Nick was STILL in the hospital recovering from surgery.
Mustaine had his grievances with Nick. He accused Nick of not wanting to be a drummer, just because Nick was playing guitar and had some guitar picks made. Mustaine said, “I want a drummer who is actually interested in playing drums.”
Mustaine also accused Nick of “lying about having cancer.” I never heard Nick say the “c word,” not even once. He always said that it was a “benign tumor.”
This leads me to conclude that Mustaine had other reasons, most likely petty and punitive. All I will say is that I suspect that it came to a head when they were playing in Helsinki. Nick made a minor mistake on stage and Mustaine shot him a look. After the show, Nick said, “Don’t you EVER shoot me a look on stage in front of the fans.”
I think that’s what it was all about. Mustaine took it as a challenge to his power and authority, and he decided to give Nick the boot.
Long after Nick was out of the band, Mustaine became a hard-core Christian. he says that he’s not going to play certain songs anymore. He responds in interviews when asked about gay marriage with, “I said I’m Christian.”
Ellefson became a Christian minister as well, possibly to get on the same page as Mustaine. Who knows, but that’s my suspicion, based on 5 years of a first-hand understanding of personal dynamics.
Mustaine went from being an intolerable junkie on heroin to an intolerable junkie on Jesus. The only difference is that one will kill him, and the other will not, but both make him difficult to be around.
So my hypothesis is that Mustaine fired Ellefson, primarily out of self-righteous disgust. If there is a secondary reason, it’s concern that this will detract and distract from the band’s activities and image.
WHY I AM TELLING THESE STORIES I do have some good memories from all of those concerts and parties. None of them involve Ellefson. In the past, I’ve written mostly positive stories about my experiences, but would shy away from writing about Ellefson. The way I saw it, he was such a jerk that I didn’t want to waste time writing about him.
When this news hit, I decided that I would write and tell my story about my experiences with Ellefson.
And now he’s facing consequences. If he was engaged in sexual activity with an underaged girl, then the law will deal with that. The rest will be dealt with by his wife of 27 years. That’s all his business, and I don’t really care too much about what happens.
As I say in situations like this, if he really believed all of the religious things he claims to believe, then he never would have stepped out on his wife. Then again, misbehavior like this is easy for people who have a perpetual get-out-of-hell-free card that is eternal forgiveness. Just get forgiven, do it again, and get forgiven again. Wash, rinse, repeat.
Those are the concerns for the moralists. I only point at hypocrisy.
I would say the main reason I’m telling this story is to get the past off my chest. The past has been a big topic for me lately, and I am finding that writing about it tends to help me let things go.
IN THE END Maybe Ellefson is nice to very selective people. I don’t know. I never knew why he was always so negative and stand-offish with me. At this point, I don’t care to know. It was what it was, and that’s how it sits.
When a person carries themselves in this highly negative way, they may end up thinking they’re above others, or better than others. This can lead to poor decisions being made.
I know this first-hand, as there was a time when I believed that I was way too smart to be taken by a scam artist. It took me getting taken by a scam artist to wake up.
What I learned was that when one believes they are above it, they are actually below it and at great risk.
For this reason, I suspect Ellefson saw himself as being a bullet-proof co-founder of a big band, whose position was secure and would never be under threat. He may very well have believed himself to be invincible, flying at 40,000 feet, looking down on the rest of Humanity.
I’m sure there are people reading this who disagree and like him. To that, I would only say that chances are good that you weren’t too close with the band in general. But it’s possible that you were. If that’s the case, then we’re just in the same theater watching two different movies.
All I can write about is my experience. If you had a good experience, then I’m glad that was the case for you, and I’m sure you have a different Ellefson story to tell. Go for it. I won’t say you’re wrong, and I won’t assert it, even if you may assert this of mine.
There really is no good way to end this, so I may as well end it with something funny from that day in Las Vegas 1997.
My now ex-wife was getting kind of cozy with Mustaine during the day. This ended when Mrs. Mustaine showed up. Oops! Of course, she was fine with her own coziness.
But I take just ONE picture [not even hanging out or talking] with the first-ever Miss Megadeth Arizona, and I get the evil eye. This picture is a classic, and tells you everything you need to know about how I was treated in that marriage.
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INTRODUCTION, This is more the story of how I met Ruby Cassidy, aka “Mystica,” from the Philippines, but I will also be including info on the recording of our album, with main focus on one of the 8 tracks that we wrote and recorded, titled, “The World Will Need You.”
While I am using Ruby’s real name, some other names will be either changed or omitted to protect others; some innocent, some not.
MEETING For all of my struggles, my life was seemingly going not only nowhere, but maybe swirling down the drain. I had failed at leaving my girlfriend. She poked holes in my condoms, she ended up pregnant, and I was forced into fatherhood against my will.
At the time, I was also going through a great deal of abuse from my main boss, Mark, at Watson Wyatt Worldwide, where I worked as an Administrative Assistant. Most of it was comments about how, “a REAL man would not be doing a woman’s job.” Real class act.
So after work, on my way home to West LA from Sherman Oaks, I would stop at the fringes of Santa Monica to a little club known as Fantasy Island. This club served alcohol and had exotic dancers. Because alcohol was being served, the dancers had to remain clothed.
The club was dark, the music was good, and it was nice to get attention from a pretty lady, even if I had to pay for it, before going home to the yelling and violence that became a mainstay of my future ex-wife’s life.
For anyone wondering, yes I eventually got out of there and away from her in late 1998. But I digress.
THAT FATEFUL NIGHT I was there one night, just having a drink and watching dancers. At one point, I had looked down and saw the man who plays the magical dwarf of Twin Peaks, hanging out and having a good time. I considered it an omen of sorts, but good or bad have yet to be seen.
That’s when a young, 28 year old woman named Ruby approached me and asked me if I wanted a dance. I agreed, so we went to the benches where the guys would sit down, and the ladies dance in front of them. There is a clear NO TOUCHING policy, so nothing wacky was going on.
She seemed nice enough. But I was there to forget my horrible life, so I didn’t put much thought into anything.
After the first dance, she offered me a free second one, so I took it. Money was tight, and I had a very small budget that was just enough for a beer or two, or a dance or two. I wasn’t going broke.
When that dance ended, she sat down and decided that she wanted to talk to me. Okay, fine.
“So, what do you do?”
This is a horrible question for a man to hear, when he’s working as an Administrative Assistant. I didn’t want to talk bout that, and I was really uninterested in allowing the hard reality of my life into this fantasy world.
“I’m a musician.”
She got excited and asked me what I played. I rattled off all the instruments and noted that I’m a songwriter as well.
She told me that she was looking for a musician to write for her album, and asked me for my number. I wrote down my name and number for her before leaving.
Outside the club’s front door, I told myself that it was just another bullshit thing, and nobody is calling me to write music.
THE NEXT DAY I had barely been awake for a few short hours, when I got a phone call. It was Ruby, asking if she could come over to talk about her music project.
I agreed that we could talk and that we could get together any time in the morning. I didn’t want my whole day tied up waiting for someone.
She came over immediately and brought her lawyer along with her. His name was Rob* and he was a big-shot politician in Canada. They both were asking me questions about my past and current musical endeavours.
At one point, Ruby perked up and asked me a question after I told them that I played guitar. “Do you play electric, or acoustic?” Except, she couldn’t pronounce “acoustic” properly, so it instead sounded like “aqua stick.”
I thought that pronunciation was cute and we moved on. Remember this rather innocuous detail for way later.
While there was no contract signing, we agreed to work together and we got started right away. This would not be the first or last time that I made the mistake of starting work based on nothing more than a handshake.
THE WORLD WILL NEED YOU I was in my upstairs home studio, playing chords on my home-made guitar and looking for something. Instead of thinking of chord names, I focused on patterns on the neck.
Suddenly, I came up with something that was interesting, at least to me.
Most pop/rock songs will have things in sets of 4. The verse may have four measures, or TWO sets of four measures.
With this song, I had two sets of THREE measures. This gave it an odd feel that was different from having a time signature that is not 4/4.
The verse and intro wrote themselves right there. The chorus was inspired by music I had been listening to while driving somewhere earlier that morning, which was “Women in Love”by Van Halen. That song inspired the overall feel of the song as well.
I called Ruby and told her that I would have a song ready for her to hear in about 20 minutes. She started writing lyrics, and I began recording the drum machine, bass, and a rhythm track on the 4-track. I left the fourth track open to record our rehearsal run-through.
Just as I finished up work on the 4-track, she ran upstairs with paper and pen. I played the tape for her once, and she made some notes on her paper.
After that, I set up the video camera, hit RECORD on the 4-track, and we ran through the song for the first time. She put her lyric sheet on my hi-hats and we ran through the song for the first time.
The above clip demonstrates a comparison between the first run-through and the final product. In this video, when I am visible, you can see my home-made guitar.
It was an exciting moment, for we felt that we had worked up our flagship song.
We laid back on a futon and played the song again on the speaker system. She said, “That song is so beautiful, I could make love to it right now.”
I replied, “Yea, it’s pretty good.” Her pass at me went completely over my head. So she had me drive her Corvette and instructed me to park at a seedy motel. There, she proceed to clunk me over the head with what she meant earlier. I will leave it at that.
THE RECORDING STUDIO Once we had 8 songs together, Ruby found a studio in Hollywood, where we would end up going to record. It was Cazador in Hollywood, run by producer and drummer Jimmy Hunter.
We sat with him as he listened to our demos. He said, “That sounds too much like Lita Ford. You can’t get arrested as Lita Ford these days.” He basically told us that our demos were dated. He would later produce it to have a very 80s sound, so his critiques were odd.
Ruby was paying for everything. She would usually make good money at Fantasy Island. Her boyfriend, Rob*, would give her an allowance of about $30,000 per month. He also provided the Corvette. But she was also seeing the CEO of a company at this time, and he was paying her $40,000 per month to pay him a visit on occasion.
Money was no issue, and this album was going to sound great!
MY FAVORITE MOMENT Two studio musicians were hired to perform on the album. We had the late Bobby Birch, of Elton John fame, on bass. This was not too long after his tragic accident that ended up destroying him. He was a trooper.
We also had Steve Caton, of Tori Amos fame, taking on the lead guitar duties, as well as some rhythm. If you need a primer on Steve’s past work, here’s the song where he shows his more abstract lead guitar work.
We were about to record another song, “It Must Have Been Good,” when Steve told Jimmy, “I know that Dan is the songwriter and all, but I think he should be represented as a player on the album.”
Jimmy fought the idea and eventually agreed, saying, “Okay, but he has to play your guitar. His home-made guitar looks like shit.” Steve fought back, noting that if we used different guitars, then we’d sound more like a band.
It was Steve’s thinking that got my home-made guitar on the album, and his thoughtful argument that I be represented as a player. He was a paid performer and had NO obligation or duty, and he stood up for me.
I am forever grateful for Steve’s defense.
You can hear my guitar in the intro of the song.
As you can tell, my guitar sounded just fine.
A WEIRD TURN OF EVENTS Once the album mastering was done, Ruby asked Jimmy if she could “borrow” the master tape. He agreed and let her take it, which is something he would not normally do. My only guess is that she clunked him over the head in the same way as me, if you get my drift.
She then decided that she would NOT be crediting him as the producer on the album. He had said something about her “reneging” on their deal. She would list him on the album as “The Mystic Renegade.”
She also chose a really tacky picture of herself to serve as the album cover. To be completely frank, I felt that it was a horrible choice and most uncalled for as front-facing public artwork. I’m no prude, but even I had the understanding that this might alienate some potential listeners.
She had the CDs and tapes produced, and they looked VERY professional, other than the art work. She had also purchased a list of all of the record labels out there where we could send these.
We spent the entire night packing up Overnight Fed Ex envelopes with CDs, photos, and a cover letter. She probably spent $20,000 doing this.
We called all of the labels after the packages had been delivered, and they all said the same thing. They do not accept unsolicited materials, and all unsolicited materials get thrown in the trash.
A BIRTHDAY GIFT Ruby decided that she wanted to do something special for my birthday, so we went to a photographer and had some photos taken together.
I really don’t know what is more cheesy, between her genie outfit and my ponytail. There is nothing more 90s to me than these photos.
My son’s mother wasn’t too happy about these photos. But her unhappiness was about to be turned into eyes full of greed.
AN INDECENT PROPOSAL Ruby and Rob* told us that they wanted to become US citizens. They were both Canadian citizens. She had achieved her Canadian citizenship by marrying a wealthy man in Canada.
Their offer, to the point, was that Rob* would marry my son’s mother, and I would marry Ruby. We would have houses next to one another, which he would pay for. He would also give us a monthly salary of $6,000 each.
Free rent and money?
This got my son’s mother very excited. However, I was terrified of the idea, because this is basically defrauding the government. I told my son’s mother that there was no way in hell that we could do this. She eventually gave in.
TOP OF THE WORLD, BOTTOM OF THE BARREL I had gone back to Fantasy Island, and found that the DJ was playing one of the songs from our album, aptly titled, “Fantasy Island.”
The club owner, Dennis Morgan, loved the song! When he found out that I wrote the music, he was giving me all kinds of “Fantasy Bucks” to spend at the club. I could basically say whatever I wanted, and it would be given to me.
There was even one time where this dancer broke down crying during our dance. She told me that she hated dancing, that she couldn’t do it, and she had to get high to go to work. So I went and talked to Dennis about the idea of having her be one of a team of “cocktail girls” who go around bringing drinks to people.
He loved the idea and took her off the dance floor immediately. The next time I saw her, she was dressed in a half-tuxedo feminine outfit. She was sober, smiling, and very happy. She thanked me, declaring that I not only saved her job, but also saved her life.
This was the kind of power that I had, having written a song that was being played in the club, as well as late-night television commercials.
The world was my oyster. But the oyster was about to get pearl-jacked.
Her boyfriend, Rob*, called me to say that he was bummed that we wouldn’t be able to do their marriage/citizenship thing. I told him that I was really sorry that we couldn’t do that, but that their offer would certainly be able to attract someone who could do this for them.
He changed the subject to talk about Ruby. I told him that I liked working with her. He asked me if there were any moments that stood out as an example of why I liked her.
I told him about the day that she and he came over to my apartment. I said that I found it very endearing how she pronounced “acoustic” as “aqua stick.”
He suddenly said that he had to go, and we hung up. 20 second later, the phone rang again. It was Ruby.
“I heard what you said about me. The ‘aqua stick’ thing. You think I’m stupid? YOU THINK I’M STUPID? I’m NOT stupid! This is the end. We are DONE!”
She hung up the phone.
I was shocked. What just happened? I didn’t say anything mean, and I wasn’t talking down about her.
I had to sit and accept the harsh reality that these people are Narcissistic criminals who only care about themselves and who take whatever they want. Ruby and Rob* weren’t really my friends. They didn’t care about me or my situation.
Had my son’s mother and I taken the up on their marriage/citizenship deal, they would have thrown us under a bus factory. They would have blamed us. And they had money for lawyers. I barely had money for anything beyond home expenses and a few beers at a club.
Needless to say, but I never went back to Fantasy Island again after that remark.
SHOPPING THE CD I gave it to several people to listen, including music producer Max Norman. I even took it to a music industry event that attendees called “The Concrete Convention.” It normally cost something like $475 to attend, but Megadeth drummer Nick Menza got me in for free. He was a true bro.
I went to this one room, where demos would be evaluated by a panel. There were three people on the panel, and one of them was Simon Cowell. He was using this venue to do a test run to fine-tune his idea for American Idol.
People threw their CDs into a pile. They played the first CD for under ten seconds before stopping it. “Who is responsible for this? A man stood up, and they proceeded to grill him in front of everyone.
At this point, I didn’t want mine to be picked. But eventually, it happened. They listened for almost a full minute before stopping it and asking for the creator to stand. I stood.
Simon said, “Money is obviously no object for you, because this is the most well-produced thing that I’ve heard in this setting.”
He asked me about the band, and I told him that we didn’t have a full band yet; that it was just me, the singer, and some studio musicians.
Then, given the context of American Idol, which is singers with no band, he said the strangest thing to me.
“If there is no band, then what’s the point?” I argued that we made a pro recording so that we could attract and retain top-notch talent for the band. This was a quick and acceptable answer, but I was smart in avoiding telling him the truth about the drama.
Besides, I didn’t care about anything more than getting professional evaluations and opinions. And I got one.
I ran into Simon in the parking lot, and he apologized for being so aggressive. We shook hands and went about our separate ways.
The day, so far as I was concerned, was a success.
THE AFTERMATH Once I got my professional critique and validation, I considered the project closed. Done. Finished. There would be no more. It would be years before I could listen to the songs again.
Ruby would go back to the Philippines with the master tape and all of her money, to start building her entertainment/drama empire. She would re-work the songs to be more club-themed. Basically, using the vocal track over a weird beat with sirens in the background. It sounded like shit.
I would be left with a professional reel of my work, along with some hard feelings and horrible lessons learned.
I spent the longest time wondering why Ruby would rip me off like that and hurt me in the process. Over time, I came to realize that this is just the kind of person she is, and there is no way to change any of it. There would be no making up or fixing anything.
I never got paid any cash. Maybe she thought that sex was payment enough, but it really wasn’t.
These days, she’s still an “entertainer,” although more along the lines of someone you might see as a guest on Jerry Springer. In some of her latest videos, she begs for money and cries. Her videos get massive down-votes. It seems that being young and pathetic fools people way more than being old and still pathetic.
The above video was posted just two hours ago. I picked it because it is new and it has no crying. It says in Tagalog, “WE THANK FACEMASK BECAUSE WE ALL LOOK THE SAME AND THE SAME BEAUTIFUL! HAHAHA!”
She is very self-conscious about her looks and the damage caused by aging.
IN THE END Once we had started working together, I felt that we could have been a good music writing team. It could have turned into a solid enterprise.
However, she wasn’t in it for the long haul, and abhors the work that it takes to record an album. So she took the easy way out.
If she is reading this, then she might not be too happy about this and may even ask me to take it down. One of the things that I write about is my own experiences. If she doesn’t like that she looks bad in my story, then she should have thought of that before belittling me and ripping me off.
I would delete this if she paid me for my work, but only after that. I would say that my work on that album was worth US$20,000 at the time, and I would accept that amount today, without interest or inflation.
So if you don’t like this, Ruby, then pay me and I’ll remove the ugly details from the story. Until then, I will never omit the truth about how I was treated. And, for the record, I thought that she was better than all of this. In this regard, I hate being wrong.
Chances are VERY slim that she won’t read this, so it’s mostly a non-issue.
Still, I have a professional reel of my work, and a few lessons learned.
As far as lessons go, I have an old acoustic guitar that I have named “Aqua Stick,” as a reminder that there are horrible people out there who will cause harm to anyone if it works in their favor.
I also happened across a tape that is still wrapped in plastic. It’s the only physical piece of media that I have left from this project from 1997.
Beyond that, I have what I thought were good memories, sullied by the horrific nature of the reality of the situation.
It’s the kind of memory where I am glad it happened, and I also regret that it happened. I suppose this conundrum would prompt a smile from Kierkegaard.
I have TWO more things to end this, for you. The album is available on SoundCloud for free streaming, and you can do that HERE.
The last thing is this video, which is bittersweet. The video is from the first time we ran through the song, recording it to the 4-track. However, the audio is from the album; the final product.
It was kind of easy to sync up, since we kept the same tempo. There was one part in the middle that was written in-studio, so you’ll notice that there is no proper video to sync up with that part.
In the end, even though I got taken for a ride, as is usually the case in the life of an Autistic person, I am still very proud of the work I put into this, as the songwriter, guitarist, and production supervisor.
This entry is to showcase a song from a collection of songs that I wrote and recorded in 2017. The name of the album was The Year of My Birth . I had almost called it The Year of My Death  to represent the death of my old self. Good thing I didn’t go that route, as two people close to me died shortly after I started working on it.
There will be a link to stream the entire album for free at the end of this blog entry.
As things go with a collection of songs, some are better than others, and I most definitely have my favorites. Today, I’ll be writing about my favorite track on the album, Finger Nine.
ORIGINS In late 2009, I was hired to fill in last-minute for a band that had a gig at The Whisky on the Sunset Strip. They had paid $600 for the privilege of playing a 25-minute set on the stage, and would have to pay extra fees if they could not perform.
I had originally agreed to do the work for pay. But I liked the songs, and the band had some monthly gigs lined up on their Facebook page, so I decided to forego the pay for this one gig if I could get in on the money for those monthly gigs.
Of course, I would later find out that those gigs listed on Facebook were not real gigs, and were only there to make the band look busy so they could get more gigs. By this point, I had moved into an apartment that the band leader’s parents owned, so I was pretty much “in” the project.
That promise was replaced by another promise, which was joint ownership of a recording studio. I invested money for years, paying half of most supplies and 100% of other supplies, as well as installing my own gear. I would later be told that I “contributed nothing,” and would lose my investment and all of my gear.
That is another story unto itself. Today, I’m writing about the singer, Aaron. I will not use his last name, or the last name of anyone else, to protect the guilty.
ABOUT AARON He was the “singer” of the band, and I use that term loosely. He was unable to improve as a performer, and rejected anything resembling help, since he viewed it as criticism. The owner of the band would taunt and criticize him a lot, so he was conditioned to be weak.
He would proudly refer to himself as “The Nine-Fingered Singer,” as if the number of fingers you have has anything at all to do with singing. Last I heard, he’s now the six-fingered construction worker, but I digress.
He actually quit the band shortly after announcing to all of us that he’s an alcoholic. This was after he was severely late for a rehearsal and had to get a beer first before starting. His announcement went something like this:
“Hey, guys. So, like, I just figured out that I’m an alcoholic so I need you guys to help me out. I decided that I have a three beer limit. I’m warning you ahead of time that I will try to drink more than three. If I go for another beer, you guys have to stand up and fight me.”
Ah, personal responsibility.
After he quit, the band and studio owner, Chester, said horrible things about him. Some of them were homophobic slurs. He accused Aaron’s wife of being a transsexual woman, so there’s also transphobia. Chester had absolutely NOTHING good or nice to say about Aaron.
This makes it all the more curious and funny that Aaron would email me to defend Chester for the song, “Peppered in Salt,” which is also on this album. “Peppered in Salt” was about Chester the studio scammer, and a woman named Kristen who was a cancer scammer who took me for a bunch of money. This album truly pivoted around these two people, who effectively destroyed my life.
In his email, Aaron wrote about how he wanted to “hug” me around the throat until I died.
His death threat was forwarded to the local police at the time, and were also given to the police where I live now. So if anything happens to me, my family, or anyone in my life, Aaron is their primary suspect, and he will be automatically arrested by default.
INSPIRATION FOR THE SONG After Aaron threatened my life for that song, I felt inspired to write a song specifically about him. It’s amazing what can come out of a weak death threat. Of course, he would never say that to anyone’s face.
So with a wimpy-yet-fresh death threat in my mind, I decided to start writing and recording at the same time.
The entire process to write and record this song took about 25 minutes.
The music was inspired by a track that I had heard the night before called “Mexico” by Billy Momo. They’re fantastic. In particular, it was the running bass line that moved me.
The lyrics were inspired by my dealings with Aaron, especially since he was the one who called me to ask if I could fill in for their drummer, who was supposedly flaking out. I would later learn that I was brought in just to mess with him.
A link for the album will be at the end. But here, you can listen to the song “Finger Nine” right now, and then read the lyrics and the story behind them below.
LYRICS, EXPLAINED “Finger Nine” by DrumWild The Year of My Birth 
You hit me up in your time of need I filled your cup so casually Cracked a Coors and ditched the wine All for you, Finger Nine
This is in reference to him contacting me in desperation, because they were supposedly running out of time to find a replacement for drums. I was able to step into their situation very easily and quickly. “Ditch the wine” is a reference to me foregoing payment for the emergency fill-in gig.
Later that week, we did the show Packin’ ’em deep at The Whisky a Go-Go Just sign me up, don’t pay the fine My brother in arms, Finger Nine
This references the venue where we performed, and the band had a decent enough crowd show up, which at the time confirmed to me that I was making a good decision. I would be wrong. Again, referencing that he doesn’t have to pay me. “Brother in arms” is reference to the fact that I was a band member and we were in it together.
After this section, I give the song a “Two Tickets to Paradise” style guitar solo.
The weakest one was the first to go You couldn’t handle the Bastard Code We tried to help, but you just stopped tryin’ You shit on us, Finger Nine
As noted previously, Aaron was the weakest member of the band, and he was the first one to quit. He whined a lot about Jesus and some other things, which was odd. I hadn’t pegged him for a whiner, but I should have guessed. The “Bastard Code” was a name Chester had for the “code of ethics” that the band members needed to have in order to be involved. We all tried to help Aaron, but he wussied out. After that, Chester talked shit about him for two months solid.
You couldn’t hold your drink, threw hissy fits You talked a big game and then you quit The game is over, you’re out of time Go fuck yourself, Finger Nine
As noted earlier, Aaron self-diagnosed as an alcoholic. After that, he was a consistent whiner about everything. He would talk about how he was going to improve, and how we were going to do some big shows, but he ended up quitting. I think the rest speaks for itself.
After this, the main guitar solo kicks in. I had to write and record a solo for my guitar lessons with Zoot Horn Rollo, so why not fit it in a song? I got high marks for the solo, and an extra pat on the back for the motif at the end.
IN THE END I suppose that this is some kind of silver lining for all the crap I had to endure with these people. There are many things that I can say about this experience, but I’d most definitely not call it boring.
I don’t know if I’ll write about any other songs from this collection/album in the future. But it could happen. In the meanwhile, you can stream the entire album for free on SoundCloud. Thanks for reading, and see you soon.
By the end of 1988, I had mostly given up on the pursuit of an industry-focused music project. I did get pulled back into it in 1996 by a Filipina artist who went by Ruby Cassidy and is now known as “Mystica.”
This attempt ended with her ripping me off. Plus, she is a Malignant Narcissist and compulsive liar, so I went through the three phases of a Narcissistic relationship: Love-bombing, Devalue, and Discard. It was ugly.
Over time, I learned that anyone who wants to be a “star” must have an excessively huge ego. Speaking of being a star, I’d like to invite you to pick up my book, The PDF, on Amazon today, for only one dollar. I promise to spend the 28 cents that I get to keep in a very responsible manner.
Back to the topic.
When I stopped trying to cater to a corrupt industry, I found that I began to enjoy music a great deal more. Certainly, there must be a connection between the two.
It’s kind of like how I one day realized that the further away from Los Angeles I would perform, the more the audiences loved the music. Sure, they would buy shirts and CDs. That was enough to cover the gas and hotel, so it wasn’t a big money-making thing.
For the longest time, I struggled with how I should approach music and what I should do with it or about it. Getting away from the idea of trying to get industry recognition and signing a deal was obviously a health move.
There were three specific life events that got me to change my attitude about music.
1 of 3: NOODLE MUFFIN  When I joined Noodle Muffin in 2002, I was thrilled because they had professional packaging of their music, the production was solid, and they would actually get played on the radio. Dr. Demento absolutely loves the band.
During the first band meeting, one of the band leaders told us about an opportunity where we’d fly to Canada, play a few songs on a radio show, and then come back.
Bands travel, so this is no big deal. However, I wasn’t quite clear on my status in the band, so I didn’t yet know how the trip expenses were going to be handled.
So I asked one of the band’s leaders, Dan, about this. He said that every band member would be responsible for their own airline tickets, passports, hotel room, and other expenses. My mind began reeling about the idea of shipping a stripped-down drum kit to Canada and back.
We hadn’t even really discussed pay yet, so I had no idea about any of the business aspects. So I asked him a straight-up question.
“Okay, so best case scenario: We go to Canada and do this radio show. People get interested and 20,000 units get sold. What’s in it for me?”
It was a fair question, but also a reasonable question, given the fact that I didn’t know where I stood.
His response spoke volumes about the situation.
“If that were to happen, then you’d not get paid anything, because we need to recoup all of the expenses that we’ve incurred since we formed the band in 1988.”
I wasn’t a hired gun, because I wasn’t getting paid. At the same time, I was also not a full-on band member because I would not see a cut from any profits. This lead me to an existential inquiry about why I was involved with this band in the first place.
I had a decision to make, so I asked myself realistic questions and attempted to give myself realistic ansers.
Would they actually make any money from this? No, they would not. Not only would this project not make money because of industry corruption, but also because the brothers who own the band were and are more invested in their careers as energy executives.
That was just one of many questions. Once I had my answers, I took my response to the band the next time we got together. I told them that I could not go to Canada because I wasn’t working at the time. That said, I told them that I would be their drummer, and would not require any payment, so long as they do not require me to invest any money myself.
They agreed. This was the best deal for me, because I could just show up, be creative, and participate in that creative process, without being involved in any business aspects of the band. Outside of making a few flyers, and the one time I was paid to make phone calls, this deal stuck.
One might ask why I would make such a horrible business deal. The answer to this would be that it wasn’t a business deal, so much as it was a musical or creative deal.
2 of 3: The Fishing Trip  It was an early morning, as most fishing trips go. The purpose of the trip was to just get away from it all for a weekend.
We had barely gotten the boat onto the water, when we saw this other boat. It was a professional bass fisherman’s boat. The person I was fishing with knew a good deal about it.
The guy was focusing intently on his equipment, fish radar, and other things. But he didn’t seem to be enjoying what he was doing at all. The expression on his face lead me to conclude that he was working.
Without thinking about my words, I said to the guy I was fishing with, “Wow, looks like he took something he truly loved and turned it into a 9-5 grind.”
That’s when it hit me: This is what I was doing with my music. I was going to turn it into something I hated. Not only that, but in the past I had been actively looking forward to it.
3 of 3: A GROOVY JAM MASTER  The thing about the guy I was fishing with was that we were building a recording studio together. We started in late 2010, and by mid-2013 it was ready for full use.
I spent a good deal of time either working on the studio or talking about the studio. I would dream about the music that I could record in the facility.
Of course, this dream came crashing down in late 2013, when the guy who owned the property told me to my face that I never contributed anything. He changed the locks and spread lies about me on Facebook, so that he could hang on to my $5,000 cash investment, as well as the physical work that I put into it, AND all of the gear I had contributed. The total came up to at least $10,000.
But that’s another story.
We’ll go back to 2012, when I was still raving about the studio and telling everyone I knew about it.
I took an extended weekend off from working on the studio to go up to San Francisco to hang out and jam with my friend, Aaron. He and I had worked at MySpace together. I consider him to be an actual genius with a life view and intelligence that far exceeds that of the average human being.
He told me, in so many words, that he didn’t like the recording studio idea, because he didn’t like the idea of recording music!
When we got back to his place from the airport, we went upstairs so that he could show me his jam set-up.
There were a series of 4 or 5 stations. Each station had a mechanical desk that would rise up and down, a touch-screen monitor, and a JamHub. This gave every musician in the jam session full control over their sound, the mix, and their experience.
It enabled every musician to have their own individual experience, as well as maintain the group experience.
We both pick instruments, choose a station, and get settled in. Before too long, we are jamming, as I figure out certain aspects of this new system along the way.
He asked what I thought of the system after we finished our session. Of course, I was blown away by the intricacy and control of the network. After I told him that I was truly impressed, he decided to land another nail in the coffin of the recording studio.
“Did we make some music? Yes! Did we have fun? Most definitely. Did we make some mistakes? Probably, but do they matter? No!”
He went on to pontificate about a near future, where people will not pay for music, but rather exclusively for streaming services, which will not compensate musicians in a way that honest or meaningful. As I write this in 2021, I can only say that he was correct. Then again, I also suspect him of being the Architect for this type of business model. That’s another story.
He also noted that the future of music will be tribal. There will be digital tribes on the internet, as well as analog tribes in one’s own local community. The musician and listeners will have a shared goal of fun and community. Maintaining music as a product for sale is quickly becoming a failed idea.
He concluded, “The future of music has nothing to do with recordings, being good or perfect, and instead are about the moment, the experience, and the exchange of data between the musicians and their audiences.
Basically, get some musicians together, go play somewhere, abandon the idea of putting on a perfect show, and even forget about forcing the concept of songs.
Play, create, enjoy.
MY ATTITUDE ABOUT MUSIC TODAY For the longest time, I’ve loved and enjoyed music writing, recording, and performing, within the context of songs, or even having a collection of songs as an album.
As the landscape of music and art change within the context of the internet, I am finding that songs are becoming an old idea, and that recording is almost rendered meaningless. Today, people are recording at home and doing some interesting things. And many who make music aren’t even musicians.
Or, maybe they are musicians, just not in the traditional sense.
As I write this, I am reminded of a time in the mid-2000s, when my band WHIPLADS played at The Gig in Hollywood, on Melrose. On one particular night, this Emo band opened for us.
The drum set was very small, and partially electronic. The guitar, bass, and keyboard players all sat on the ground. They would mess with their tunings, pedal settings, and more, as they droned on for a full half hour.
Someone who came out to see my band asked, “What the hell is this?” I told them, “It’s a vibe, man; an aura.” At the time, I considered this a throw-away answer because I wanted to get back into what they were doing.
Now that I look back on it, I consider this response to be accurate. It was a vibe. The thing about a vibe, as a musician friend recently said, is that sometimes it works, and sometimes it does not.
I would add that even if it does work, it will probably not work for everyone. I see no difference between this and a band performing their songs. Not everyone will like every song. Not everyone will enjoy the show.
The SINGLE most important thing in all of this is that I enjoy what I am doing, that I feel the energy of having the creative outlet, and the idea that some people will connect with it.
Music is my social vehicle, and connection is essential.
IN THE END None of this is to say that I am attempting to gatekeep anything. This entry isn’t about telling people what to do. It is merely to share my perspective on it all, and write a bit about how I am approaching things in the future.
Bands will still form, write songs, perform songs, and record songs. That’s fine for them. Meanwhile, there will be the jammers, the experimentalists, the tech-savvy programmers, the multimedia artists, pedal doodlers, string frackers, head crackers, outsiders, and more, doing their thing. And the world is better for all of it to exist.
When I would think about my past with music, I would often times lament the fact that, in some cases I don’t have any photographs or recordings. All I have is my memories and some anecdotes. Telling a story is sometimes met by someone who says, “Pics, or it didn’t happen.”
I really have no time for people who are this needy. But what I do have time for is people who want to be creative. As things begin to open up, I can see myself doing something that is live performance and stream-of-consciousness. Maybe solo, maybe a duo, or may as many who want to show up. There are no limits or expectations, beyond being creative and enjoying it.
And if I don’t enjoy it, then I won’t waste another minute.
So if you’re creative and would like to make make some music on-the-fly, do feel free to message me at email@example.com. More and more, I’m feeling that it’s time to do something.
It won’t be perfect. It won’t be a top-notch produced recording. At best, it will be a live jam, possibly with video. It can also be something that is not recorded and just lives in that moment. Who knows. I’m open to just about anything.
The best way I can think to close this entry is with a video of a live performance of a duo known as Beat Debris. I’ve known the guy on guitar [Tom] since forever, and his words got me thinking in a way that inspired this entry. To me, this is very inspiring when it comes to thinking about what I’d like to do next.
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.
The scene is that of a man knocking on the door of an enlightened Zen Master. He had heard of this man and his abilities from the villagers he had encountered.
He knocks again.
The Zen Master answers the door.
“My apologies for disturbing you. I have heard great things about your teachings, and I am in need of help.”
The Zen Master pauses and looks him over. “I understand your concerns. My concern is that we barely have enough rice for all of the students who are currently studying here. Check back in a few years and maybe the situation will have improved.” He closes the door.
The frustrated man, who had traveled a long way, felt that he was too close to getting what he wanted, so he knocks again.
“Master, I apologize for not being clear and up-front. Life has started to get the better of me, and from what I have been told, you are my only hope.”
The Zen Master looks at the man, turns to the room to look at his students, and then turns back and looks down through his glasses at the man.
The man interjects, “I will bring you all of the rice that you require. I need to study under your guidance.”
Realizing that this man had just painted himself into a corner, and knowing that the man cannot back out now, the Zen Master says, “Fine. You must bring me 1,000 pounds of rice, or the financial equivalent before you will be allowed to enter this door. Once you have gained entry, you will stay for a minimum of one year. During this time, you will be in charge of scrubbing the floors and will be tasked with helping my students with the duties essential to our Temple.”
The man opens a brief case full of cash. The Zen Master studies the contents carefully, and tells the man, “You may enter our sacred Temple. We will sit for rice and tea, before you start cleaning the floors.”
Within an hour, the man has handed over everything, he has consumed his rice and tea, and he is on his knees scrubbing the floor.
Once his duties were completed, the man asked the Zen Master if he could submit his Question of Life. The Zen Master informed him that the evening was for rest, and that they would be talking in the morning after breakfast and group exercises.
The next morning, the man is anxiously awaiting his moment with the Zen Master. He almost cannot contain himself as he sees his moment coming.
“Master, I desire to be happy. I desire to be free.”
The Zen Master pauses, strikes a thoughtful pose, and slowly replies to the man, “Ah, I now see your dilemma. A most serious one, at that. What you need to do is desire less.”
The man thanked him, and thought to himself, “Okay. Desire less. I’ve got this. I can do it. Just desire less.”
The man continues his daily practice and work. At the end of the week, the Zen Master asks him how his efforts are going. The man replies, “I have struggled so hard to desire less, but I don’t feel like it’s really working at all.”
The Zen Master pondered the dilemma. “Hmmmm. Your desire to desire less is very strong. In fact, you desire to desire less way too much. You must have less of a desire to desire less.”
That story is roughly based on a story that I heard in an Alan Watts talk long ago.
My first impression was that the guy who wanted the guidance painted himself into a corner and became a sucker. Don’t ever do that. It’s a fair enough of an evaluation of the story, although it hangs on the beginning and goes no further.
There is a depth to the story, as well as an ultimate Truth.
THE DEPTH OF WANTING I entered into a relationship in late 2019 with a woman whom I had dated back in 1982. We were teenagers and spent a few months during the summer going out, hanging out, and having a great time.
It all came to a rather abrupt end when her father tried to kill me with a wrench. As it turns out, she had never told him that we were dating, and he found out the hard way when I showed up.
We re-connected on Facebook after 37 years of no contact at all, and it seemed that there were some sparks. However, the sparks were part of an illusion, and I must take partial responsibility for allowing that illusion to exist.
Over time, some strong feelings began to develop. There were warning signs all along, and I failed to heed any and all of them.
The reason why it happened, and the cause of my failure, was that I really, truly wanted it to happen. I was so invested in wanting it to happen that I viewed the entire situation through rose-colored lenses.
And when you view a situation through rose-colored lenses, every red flag looks like nothing more than a regular flag.
When we ended up together, it felt good enough. I had effectively fooled myself into believing that the red flags had faded away because we were together and we were both better for it. That’s a foolish thought.
What we had felt so real. I didn’t want it to ever end. Acknowledging these problems would kill off what we had.
So we both pretended and carried on as if there were no problems at all.
Over time, these red flags caught up with us. They started to beat us up. They were trying to kill us.
We are both imperfect people. Everyone is imperfect. That’s not the problem. The real problem was that she had a great number of issues, and she had done absolutely nothing in the way of self-work to resolve those issues. This meant that the issues still existed, in spite of her efforts to tell the world that everyone she had ever known had abused her, and that she was merely a victim looking for true love.
In other words, she did not take responsibility for her personal issues that would impact any attempts at a relationship.
What made this worse is that I have taken responsibility for my personal issues, and I have been actively working on coping and dealing with those issues for a very long time.
When one person strives to be healthy, and the other does nothing but point fingers and declare OTHERS to be unhealthy, there’s a problem.
The truth of her story was eye-opening. Without getting into too much detail, she and her younger brother suffered abuse from their parents, mainly because she and her younger brother were “accidents” and the family couldn’t afford to care for them.
An older sister was watching her when she was three years old. There is a high possibility that her older sister threw the ball into the street in front of an oncoming car, on purpose.
She claimed that her dad and at least one of her brothers did bad things to her regularly.
Most telling was that all five of her marriages were abusive. She was married five times to four different men. The one who supposedly abused her the most viciously was the one she divorced and then married a second time.
But one of the biggest red flags that I totally ignored was when we were talking on the phone. We were talking about something that was so unimportant that I cannot remember the topic. All I can recall was that it was a case of us having a VERY minor disagreement.
While I cannot remember the details, the disagreement was about as small as her telling me that she loved pizza with everything on it, and I said that I can do without the onions.
Oh no! A disagreement! An imperfection!
I could hear the recoil in her panicked voice as she screamed, “Please don’t hit me!!!”
Even if I were the type of man who would hit someone, there were a few problems here. One problem is that I’d not hit anyone [except in self-defense] over such a minor disagreement.
The other problem was that we were on the phone, 2,000 miles apart. I have long arms, but not that long.
Some say that this is where I should have drawn the line. But, as one friend wisely told me, the big red flag was back in 1982 when her father tried to kill me with a wrench, because that’s a sign of the type of upbringing she had.
I am not one to write off people for a past that they cannot control. However, I have an actual duty to myself to generate great distance between myself and people who have done nothing to work on their issues. Responsibility is essential.
THE LESSON AND THE ULTIMATE TRUTH We’ve gone through the story of the man and the Zen Master, and we just went through a personal anecdote that provided additional depth.
The lesson is that, when we really want something, we may engage in hyper-focus on that something, and this leaves us blinded to the warnings and dangers.
Just as the man in the Zen Master story desires to desire less, I want to want less.
So maybe, just don’t?
It’s a position that I am trying out.
With that relationship over, I neither want a new relationship, nor want to remain alone. By not wanting either situation, I am free to actually be in either. I can be me alone, or be me with someone else. It doesn’t matter.
Without wanting, I am free to be.
As for the “Ultimate Truth” of the story, the man is seeking guidance from the Zen Master. In this regard, he is searching outward to find an answer.
Whether it’s a friend, a lover, a therapist, or even a Zen Master, what they all have in common is that they are external sources of reflection. They don’t live inside of you.
Even a lover who lives with you for an extended period of time may not have a full picture of your inside story. Most definitely, your own parents have absolutely NO idea of your inner workings.
That’s all you. Only YOU have access to your own depths. If you do not access your own depths out of fear, then it is unreasonable to expect anyone else to have any inkling of what is going on.
But if you are honest with yourself and refuse to fear the darkness, the depth, the ugliness, and the act of learning who you truly are, then you will be on your way to healing, at the very least.
No matter how broken you may appear based on your life’s story, being in touch with your own darkness and taking responsibility for your own issues can help you to feel a sense of being whole.
This is what opens the door for all kinds of relationships and connections.
The outward “source” that is sought by most people is merely a reflecting pool. This reflecting pool will give the viewer the wrong impression, especially if that person is ignorant to their own issues, rejects self-exploration, and puts the blame solely upon others.
In our failed relationship, she pointed her finger at everyone else and took no responsibility for her role in any of her situations. Meanwhile, I am willing to accept my role completely, learning from it, and hoping to become a better person as a result of this work.
IN THE END But the Ultimate Truth is that Zen Masters are full of shit. Alan Watts admitted it to the faces of his followers. They laughed and continued on.
That is not to say that he wasn’t helping them, for he was a very reliable sounding board. His job is one that was typically filled by people called “friends.” Today, we also have therapists, who are actually trained in the art of being a reflective sounding board, so that you can figure out yourself.
Anyone who was born in the 60s or was a kid in the 70s knows about The Brady Bunch. It was a sitcom about a mixed family, which was controversial at the time. Divorce was an ugly thing to attempt to put on television at that time. This might be why it was so popular and influential on American pop culture.
There was one episode in particular titled, Adios, Johnny Bravo. In this episode, the six Brady kids have their music group. I don’t recall any of the playing a musical instrument, which was a problem for me.
The oldest brother, Greg, is singled out by an agent or other type of player in the music industry. At first, he’s concerned that his siblings are being left out, because they only want him. They massage his ego and encourage him.
He brings them some of his music at one point, and there was no possible way that they could have cared less about his creation.
In the end, they play a track that he sang on, and he doesn’t recognize his own voice because they’ve done “a little electronic sleight of hand.” Then they break it to him that the only reason he got the gig was because he had the physique to fit into the outfit they had. They told him that his name would be “Johnny Bravo.”
Of course, Greg does the right thing, as you can see in this clip.
Yes, Greg Brady walks out on what might have been a lucrative gig for himself, because it wasn’t authentic and Greg valued his creativity enough that he wanted to keep it.
MY JOHNNY BRAVO MOMENT Well, I once found myself in a somewhat similar situation. I’m leaving out names and other specifics, even though the record company in question no longer exists, just to keep myself out of any potential legal trouble.
I had formed a band in 1987, shortly after The Robin Baxter Band broke up. Things came together quickly, because the players I found were serious about their industry pursuit, and worked really hard to build their talents and creativity.
One night, we were playing at The Whisky a Go-Go on the Sunset Strip, when a guy handed me a business card and told me that he was scouting for new talent for the record label where he worked.
He handed me his card and asked me to call him within the next few days, because he wanted to meet with the band and talk about our future. I told the guys about it, and they were really pumped up to go in and find out what would happen.
I called him and we scheduled a meeting a few days out.
THE BIG MEETING We go to his office and are treated with imported bottled water, beer, and finger foods. He had a spacious and luxurious office that appeared very expensive, so he must have been a big deal.
After some general greetings for a few minutes, we have a seat and he starts talking to us. He tells us that “his nephew really loves the band.” We all thought that was cool at first.
Throughout his talk, he keeps referencing his nephew, to the point that it’s starting to get a little weird. My mental state is at full attention and I am wondering where all of this is going.
He makes sure that we’re clear on where he is going.
“You see, guys, my nephew really loves the band. He’s the one who told me that you guys even exist. Without him, you might not be sitting here.”
I’m starting to get a bit nervous about this. He continues.
“My nephew is a drummer…”
Oh shit. I can tell where we are going.
“…and he is so much of a fan of what you do, in fact, that he would love to be your drummer.”
It seems like he’s cutting me out of the picture, mainly because that’s what he is doing.
“I’d love to sign you guys, and I’ve got contracts right here, and I’m ready to do it. But I want just ONE little change. My nephew has to be your drummer if you want to be signed.”
I KNEW IT! I just knew it. Here we go.
He ended his little speech by telling us that we had a few minutes to discuss it. He left the room momentarily, so we started talking. He wasn’t gone very long, however, and returned while we were in a heated debate.
The problem was that the rest of the band seemed to be okay with having me thrown out of my own band, if it meant getting signed. They were eager.
I told them that changing the drummer would change the sound, and besides, he might not be all that good. They said that the kid MUST be good, otherwise his uncle wouldn’t want him to play. Why would he sabotage a project that was supposed to make everyone money?
THE OUSTER By this point, my entire band had turned against me, all for the promise of money and potential fame. So I came up with a speech of my own.
“Look, I know that you guys really want to sign. I think it’s a bad idea and you’re messing up. You don’t know how good this nephew might be. But the bottom line is that this was my band, and my style was an integral part of this project.”
“If nothing else, then know this: He is screwing me over RIGHT NOW, before your eyes. He’s kicking me out of my own band and screwing me.”
“I’m going to turn around and walk out of this office right now. If you can see that he’s going to screw you over, then you can walk out with me. But if you somehow believe that he’ll be good with you, for some reason, then you can stay.”
I walked out of the office. The door closed behind me. I turned around.
Nobody followed me out.
I could hear them celebrating in the room. I did have an ace up my sleeve, in that I held all of the copyright paperwork, as well as the publishing, so they’d have to either talk to me or pay me if they recorded and released any of the songs.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. And really, we’d not get that far.
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE BAND I would later learn what happened with the band. This agent immediately scheduled a meeting and jam session between the band and the nephew. Their opinion of him was that he seemed to be an asshole, but they wrote it off as confidence.
As one of the guys put it, “He couldn’t play. He just couldn’t fucking do it. It was like a kid who had never played before sitting down for the first time. He couldn’t play a rhythm or keep time. But he was good at posing like a rock star.”
The band struggled for a few weeks to get anything productive out of him. It was going nowhere quickly, and they were starting to regret their decision.
My three former bandmates went to this agent and told them that the nephew wasn’t working out. He told them that “they had to make it work, because they have a contract.”
They protested, declaring the nephew to be unfit as a player. The three of them banded together in solidarity against him. But he had the legally-binding contract.
So he told them to have a seat. He went to a clause in the contract, which indicated they had to make this work. However, in the event that it would not work, they would remain under contract for five years.
During these five years, they were prohibited from writing, recording, or performing with any other bands, as well as solo.
In other words, they would have to sit on their asses and do NOTHING with music for five years.
One of the guys packed up and flew back home to his family.
I would like to say that the others had a similar ending like this, but they did not. The remaining two got deeply engrossed in alcohol and drugs. One of them got really wasted one night and decided to go on a bicycle ride. He ended up getting hit and killed by a truck.
The other one, without getting into too much detail, took his own life. He and I actually talked the night that he died. He told me, “I’m 23 years old. By the time I get out of this contract, I’ll be cold, irrelevant, and 28 years old. I’ll be ancient by industry standards.”
I did my best to talk him down, but he was right. These days, 23 is old in our culture that worships youth in a very unreasonable and unhealthy way. There was talk about how Avril Lavigne was “long-in-the-tooth” when she turned 17.
IN THE END The band got destroyed. Two of my friends were dead. And there I was, still having some weird feelings about it all. It was the only “chance” that I was being given, and that chance was a pile of rubbish.
I would encounter a handful of slime balls like him in the future. Maybe I’ll write about more of them one day.
Obviously, since the contract was all about cutting me out of the picture, I dodged a bullet. Sometimes I wonder, however, how it would have been if the nephew had played another instrument. It is easy for me to say that I’d be walking out no matter what, since I have the benefit of hindsight.
But what would have happened to me if I had signed?
I worked, struggled, pushed, and kept on from 1986 to 1988. When things finally fell apart for me, I ended up moving from LA back with family in Bakersfield.
I would later go back to LA to make music, just for the fun of it, and with the possibility of a few bucks here and there. My initial goal of getting signed by a record label [which is all there really was at the time] got thrown out and replaced by a new attitude, where I’d just make music because I love to do it, and nothing more.
This was the attitude that I took with future acts, like Noodle Muffin. I’ll write more about that in a separate entry.
If I had to offer any advice for the kids of today, it would be to get your own lawyer and have them review any contracts that are presented to you. And if it’s a “360 deal,” save your time and money and RUN as fast as you can away from that. NEVER sign a 360 deal, because they take everything.
I’m 56 years old, and anyone my age can relate to the frustrration I felt whenever I would re-purchase music. There are some albums that I owned on 8-track [yes, I had an 8-track player in my car in 1981], then on vinyl, then on cassette tape, and then on CD. In some cases, I would buy them yet again as an MP3 download, should the media have worn out.
To me, it sounded like a very expensive proposition to keep up with the latest formats. But it was also essential to keep up in many cases. I do own some vinyl albums, but do not currently have a record player. It can be expensive to keep various players in-house and maintained, not to mention the space they take up.
But for as much money as I seem to think that I “wasted” on this upkeep, I look at what the kids are doing today and consider myself fortunate to have lived in a relatively inexpensive time of transition.
They pay something like $10 per month to just RENT music. And in some cases, it’s nothing more than background for them. Now, if they want to spend the money on this, then more power to them. It harms the music business greatly, which is just one of the problems that I have with this.
I cannot imaging spending $120 on music, where at the end of the year, I own NONE of it. As a kid, if I spent $120, then I had roughly one dozen records that I could listen to again and again.
Maybe I have Autistic listening habits. I’m certain that I do, because I can listen to the same album over and over again. For me, variety doesn’t matter so much as my mood.
But I digress.
SOME ONLINE PURCHASES AND THEIR FATE I remember buying music on iTunes, and being unhappy with the DRM, which is a form of copy protection on the files.
Knowing how DRM works, it got me wondering what happens to my music that I purchased on iTunes if the DRM verification servers go down.
The answer is that the files become useless. I do recall someone from Apple saying that online media purchases are basically rentals, but I cannot find that source as I write this.
So I stopped purchasing things in iTunes and would go to the record store. As the record stores began to fade, I would find myself purchasing audio files that were DRM-free and downloadable.
Digital properties that cannot be downloaded are another problem. More on that later.
THE NETFLIX DILEMMA I do have Netflix, and think that I get my $13.99 per month value out of it. Most of what I watch are things that I will never watch again.
During my time working on social networking websites, I would often times have to work at night. So I would pull up Netflix on the flat screen and put on “The Big Lebowski” while I spent two hours testing a fresly-uploaded iteration of the website.
One night, as I prepared for work, I realized that Lebowski was no longer on Netflix! This made my work evening feel a bit drab, so I went out and bought two copies. One to use and one as a backup.
During this time, Lebowski would return for a little while on Netflix, before disappearing.
Netflix is too unreliable when it comes to films that I love, so I always purchase hard copies of those.
WHEN A SERVICE GOES AWAY In the early months of the pandemic, I was splitting my focus on entertainment between my existing collection, going to the movie rental store, and purchasing or renting online.
Renting online is more expensive than going to the movie store. The up-side is there is nothing to return. I’m okay with renting online sometimes.
My collection is somewhat limited, although I do have copies of some movies that I have yet to watch.
I only recently watched Inception, and have yet to watch Avatar. I bought these titles, as well as others, as an impulse buy at a closing Blockbuster in LA, for $1 each.
I also have some Criterion Collection releases, such as the Blu-Ray of Eraserhead. These releases typically have high-quality artwork, as well as detailed booklets, photos, commentary tracks, and more.
The video store is the best for me, as they have both rentals AND used releases that are available for purchase. And the store owner, Terry, is always willing to find and acquire those really crappy horror movies for me. They’re totally niche and difficult to find in the wild.
VIDEO STORE = COMMUNITY I used to go to a video store in Santa Monica, California in the late 80s called 20/20 Video. They also did film developing. They had a girl working there named Magdalena. She was 22 years old and had 18 siblings, yet NO TV show. She would always have movie posters waiting for me. They were either extras or were outdated and supposed to be thrown out.
I’d also go to another in town called VIDIOTS. They had a great collection of films. I rented Eraserhead there, and asked the person working there where I could buy a copy. He said that David Lynch had put a moratorium on releasing the film for purchase.
At the time, I owned a LASER DISK of Eraserhead, as a motivator to one day buy the equipment. It became outdated by the time I was half-way there.
The guy at the store rented me the movie, but also let me take a VCP, or Video Cassette Player, so that I could make myself a bootlet copy. I kept that bootleg VHS copy that I made, and watched it until I found out that Criterion Collection had released it on Blu-Ray.
My latest video store is Mr. Video. It’s a great place and worth the drive. I don’t go there as much as I used to, since funds are tighter than ever. But I still show support however I can, whenever I can. They appreciate their customers and it shows in how they run and maintain their facility.
A RUDE AWAKENING When I moved from California to Oregon in late May 2019, I was excited to get things going. My girlfriend had gone ahead of me and found a place, so I was bringing the moving truck.
One of her jobs was to get the cable installed, so that we would have internet access when I got there. I haven’t had actual cable television in about 15 years, but internet has always been a necessity for me.
She was having trouble with this. Seems the order was being placed, but then nothing was happening. I didn’t believe it, until I went through her same headache on three different occasions.
The problem was that our brand-new building had faulty cable installed! The rental management company was slow to act, even when I told them that I was losing great work-from-home opportunities that were costing me $300 per day. They didn’t care. Fortunately, I wasn’t really working, but that’s what I would have lost, based on past performoance.
By the time I had internet access,two months had gone by! No Netflix, no YouTube, no Google Play. NOTHING!
This meant that I had to rely heavily on my physical collection and Mr. Video.
CLOUD STORAGE This makes me VERY hesitant to rely on cloud storage for ALL of my media. I don’t want my music collection on a server. I want it here, right now, accessible by me at any time, without the need for internet access, a subscription, or any other fees or hub-bub.
Hub-bub. I am officially old, just for using that phrase.
The new Samsung phones do not accomodate an SD card for memory expansion, which is why I will not be upgrading. As I write this, I am considering stand-alone options for music, including making my own with Raspberry Pi. We shall see.
YET ANOTHER RUDE AWAKENING The unreliable nature of The Big Lebowski on Netflix is one thing. Shoddy construction and sub-standard cable is another.
My latest rude awakening is a combination of TWO things.
The first is the death of Google Play. My television still has the Google Play app on it. I had purchased many things on Google Play, including the first four seasons ofRick & Morty, as well as some other television shows and movies. It’s not a huge investment, but enough to get me thinking.
The app feels abandoned. What will happen if those services shut down? Will I get a refund? No. All of these purchases are not really purchases, but are actually rentals.
This first part of my double-platinum rude awakening rides piggy-back style on a story that I read recently about how Terraria’s Stadia Port is Canceled after the main developer got ghosted by Google.
What happened was his Google account got shut down for no apparent reason. This killed his access to ALL GOOGLE PRODUCTS, including Gmail, YouTube, and whatever Google Play is called now.
Essentially, he had all of his eggs in one Google basket, and the basket just got crushed for no reason at all. He still cannot figure out why.
For everything I have on Google Play, as well as how much I rely on YouTube and Gmail, it got me thinking how precarious my own online access is right now.
And the scary thing is that I don’t have to do ANYTHING wrong at all. All it takes is one mistake on their part, or a false flag put forth by a social engineer who hates me, and my life is over.
Should I spend any more money on Google?
I think not.
And this goes for other services like VUDU, where I have purchased a few movies. What happens when their website and service goes away? I lose everything that I purchased, for it’s not really a purchase and is merely a rental. This is the case for EVERYTHING that you cannot download!
HOW DID WE GET HERE? My guess is that we ended up here because our society has no respect for masterful artwork. I have written in the past about how music has been devalued. The same is true for most movies.
I’m old enough to remember when purchasing a VHS tape was the only option to get a movie at home, and these would cost as much as $100! Not many people were buying at the time, so I suppose that made sense.
Now, we live in an opposite world where there are too many options out there, so everyone has to go cheap. It doesn’t help matters that American Capitalism is broken and corrupt, but that’s another entry for another day.
In this photo, I am holding a triple-release Blu-Ray featuring three masterpieces by Stanlely Kubrick.
I found this in a bargain bin at Walmart for $9.99. Three complete classics — masterpieces for the ages — and this is how little they are valued by society.
Good for me, with regard to price. However, I think that society is paying a far larger price by devaluing movies, music, and other art forms.
Society’s shame is my gain, I suppose.
MY GENERAL RULE The general rule is that you do NOT own it if it is not in your hands or on your local drive.
This guides my new online media philosophy, where anything I cannot download and keep for myself MUST be treated like a rental.
COUNTER-ARGUMENT: THE JERRY MAGUIRE VIDEO STORE In early 2017, a company called Everything Is Terrible had an art display in Los Angeles. It was a Jerry Maguire video store.
You could not rent anything in the store. While I was there, I did see 14 copies of Jerry Maguire arrive in the store, in varying levels of condition.
Their presentation housed everything Jerry Maguire, as well as over 14,000 copies of the movie.
Why would they do this? They had spent years collecting these donated movies. After the video store, they planned on building a pyramid of this collection, to stand as a monument to “American consumption.”
Ironically, I purchased a few items they were selling, including a Jerry Maguire t-shirt.
I get their point, which harkens back to my purchase of used VHS tapes at the second-hand store for 25 cents.
People buy movies, watch them a few times, and then don’t watch them anymore. What this means is that the physical production of products is generating a great deal of waste on the planet, and something must be done about it.
I do agree with them on this point. Does that make me a hypocrite? Since I don’t throw away movies or take them to the second-hand store, I don’t think so. All the same, if I died tomorrow, one might safely bet that most of my stuff will end up in the dump.
As I am writing this, I am thinking back to the Kubrick triple-release set for $9.99. As low as the price might be, this move could be nothing more than a cash grab from Walmart. I would be okay with getting rid of things like this.
I would gladly pay $40 if there were a Criterion Collection style release of just one of these movies. Doing this would reduce waste, and lower the likelihood that the release will end up in a landfill.
I am also just now remembering that I have TWO copies of Jerry Maguire. One is a physical DVD, and the other is on Google Play. So far as I am concerned, I have only one, for the Google Play purchase is nothing more than an over-priced rental that will one day just disappear without fanfare or explanation.
Basically, the Google Play purchase is money wasted.
IN THE END If I can have a hard copy for the shelf, then that’s great. But if I can only get a download of it, then that’s fine too. My main problem is online purchases that are actually over-priced rentals.
The only way that I can appropriately end this entry is with a video tour of the long-gone Jerry Maguire Video Store. This is my video, taken with my phone, and my narration.
The environment is important. So is not getting ripped off. My approach to this is simple.
With movies, I buy the ones that I know I want to keep, and rent the ones that I’m curious about. Buying used is also an option. With music, I will buy used CDs or purchase DRM-free downloads online.
Is there anything that I missed? Please do let me know your thoughts on music and movies, as it applies to online purchases that cannot be downloaded.