F**k that noise.

So the Chancellor of the Exchequer over in the UK said this morning that “struggling musicians and others in arts should retrain and get new jobs” because of the pandemic.

I mean, putting aside the most obvious response of “Hmm, oh that’s right, it’s a global pandemic and every country’s having mass unemployment issues and THERE CURRENTLY AREN’T ENOUGH DAMN JOBS YOU TWIT”, there’s the more insidious meaning to the man’s words that every creative person hears and hates: your creativity is a useless endeavor.

I tend to hear this kind of thing at least a few times a year, almost always from some conservative and/or businessman who does nothing but look at numbers for a living. Hell, I even got it from a school guidance counselor or two: are you sure you want to be a writer? It doesn’t pay much. Don’t you want to go into business or something more stable and make more money?

Let me tell you about what it feels like to have to push your creativity into the margins because people like this see creativity as frivolous.

There’s frustration: the fact that you have to spend eight or more hours a day using a completely different part of the brain problem-solving or processing or what have you at a paying job you don’t necessarily enjoy but have out of necessity, plus additional brain time navigating a commute, doing this five or six days a week. Plus some downtime with family so you’re not completely ignoring everyone in your life. This gives you, at most, about an hour and half to two hours a day attempting to shift your brain into creative mode to write a few hundred words. Or sneaking in those words during your lunch or coffee break at the Day job.

There’s exhaustion: the fact that you might work at a company that demands a high level of production all day long. Or maybe you work in a warehouse that demands overtime during the fourth quarter. Or maybe you have kids to care for in addition to this job. This is why creatives wish they could afford to be full-timers: not because they wish they could sleep late and fuck around online and maybe get a few words in before deadline. They want to be able to be able to sit down at the desk or at their easel or with their instrument and take as much needed time as possible, without outside stress, to create the best work they can.

There’s emotional distress: the fact that, after so many months or years, even despite possible creative success, you fear that you’re still stuck in the same place, barely scraping by and running out of energy. You start to question whether it’s worth it to keep this up or just give up and become a faceless chartered accountant. I’ve felt this a number of times throughout the years, and it’s disheartening to be in my forties and wonder if I’d wasted three decades pretending I was a decent writer. It’s not a fun feeling, let me tell you that.

And there’s anger: “You’re a writer? That’s nice. What’s your real job? I mean, the one that pays your bills?” Really? Fucking really? You think so little of what hard work actually goes into writing or art or music?

People like Sunak never understand that the creative world — the world of writers, artists, musicians, animators, filmmakers, photographers, and so on — is just as valid as any other career out there. They only see the end result, that shiny book or the flashy Netflix series or that pop song, and discount it as a waste of capitalist time. [I’ll be honest, whenever I see this, I always wonder how the hell this same person somehow sees a bunch of guys tossing or kicking a ball around a field as more financially acceptable.]

It’s really fucking tiring to have some idiot turn to me, when I’ve been working on my creative craft for almost their entire life, and say “well, maybe you can go and train to be, I dunno, a sales person or something?”

It’s goddamn demeaning is what it is.

Back to the old fairgrounds

Oh, change of the season
I’ve found a reason to stay

Hey there! After far too long, I’m returning to a twice-weekly blogging schedule. It’s been a long hiatus — a much needed one — but I’m glad to be back. I missed riffing on all the new music I’ve been listening to, and talking about the older sounds I’m still fond of. And I’ve been such a hardcore listener of a certain PNW non-profit radio station (KEXP) over the last year that I now have a bit of a backlog on new and recently-discovered stuff to obsess over!

Amusingly enough, I didn’t even realize until I started writing this post that today is the first day of autumn! And we all know that autumn is my favorite time of year. Fourth quarter releases, foliage change, and all that fun stuff. I start thinking about what’s gone on over the past year, what I’ve achieved so far and what I still need to do. And of course there are the year-end lists!

So — as before, I’ll be here on Tuesdays and Thursdays again from here on in, talking about tunes as always. Thanks for sticking around!

Fly-By: Still Here

It’s been two months since I last posted here, and a ton of things have happened in the world since I went silent. Not all of it good. Not at all.

Me? I’m doing okay. I’m in the process of job searching. We’re strapping on our locally made masks and going out for walks in the afternoons. We’re streaming all the TV shows and rewatching Time Team. We’re processing what’s going on locally and nationally. We’re doing what we can, how we can.

I haven’t written a damn thing other than one or two poems and some personal journal entries. And I’m okay with that. I needed the break.

Not sure when I’ll back, but I’ll let you know.

You either stretch, or you get stiff

It didn’t take me long to lose the excitement of having left the Day Job. I figured I’d give myself the remainder of that week to get used to the freedom, goof off, do whatever I felt like doing, and start the next week fresh.

Which means exercises. The local YMCA has posted exercise videos that I may work with here in Spare Oom. I’ve made a list of stretches and exercises I should hit daily (I’d started doing most of these in the last few months of my remote-work status, so it’ll be good to do those again).

I already miss not going to the Y after work, so once this pandemic is over and done, I’d love to return. A suggests I really should try working on the elliptical, but to this day I have not been able to coordinate my body to use it correctly. Either I start cycling backwards, or my hips and knees respond with what the hell do you think you’re doing?? I’ll try doing it again, but we shall see.

So why is this here on the music blog? Because A and I went for a short walk around the neighborhood the other day and pick up some take-out at the Mexican restaurant we always walk by on the way to the gym. We also passed a few people on a side street in their garage, listening to some kind of Jock Jams mix while working out. It all reminded me of the gym, especially my choosiness in mp3 tunage while working out. Right now I’m not using any of the players so I should probably clear them out again, but I’m looking forward to having my own workout soundtrack that may not exactly make sense to anyone, but certainly works for me.

In the meantime, I should probably get off my butt, listen to some upbeat sounds, and get in shape again, yeah?

Played it ’til my fingers bled

Now that I temporarily find myself with all the time in the world until further notice, I’m bound and determined to make the most of it. As much as I’d love to futz around with my mp3 collection and watch cat videos all day long, I know I’ve been given this time to do what needs doing.

In other words: remember all those times I’ve said “I’d love to do (x) if I only had time?” Well, NOW is that time. Let’s get crackin’.

One thing that’s been on my mind as of late is the fact that I have been woefully stuck at “amateur who knows some neat chords and solos but still plays the same damn songs over and over” level of guitar playing. I’ve been stuck at that level for years. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with that if I want to stay at that level, but I want to be better. I want to get to the point where, if I felt like dropping some tunes on Bandcamp for sale, I could do so and be proud of the results. Sort of like how I’ve worked on my novels over the years.

I’ve heard all the stories about guitarists like George Harrison who would practice on their guitar until their fingers literally bled. Bryan Adams sings about it in the first verse of “Summer of ’69”. I’ve read so many music bios and memoirs about building up those fingertip calluses and strengthening those fingers and working on dexterity.

I think, now that I have the time, I really should start doing exactly that. I no longer want to just noodle around for ten minutes playing the same chords. I want to explore this avenue. I want to see and hear where it goes. I want to find my own true style and not just imitate my influences. I have the equipment for it, so there’s nothing to stop me right now.

I saw the decade in…

[A little something from my daily words that I wrote the other day…]

I’ve been listening to more music from 1990-1992 again, because why not? I’m still a bit fascinated by this era, where the sounds have grown larger than (and out of?) the college rock scene, but before the giant wave of Britpop and grunge. The music is lighter, less moody, even kind of positive in a way. It’s sort of like the early Beatles, or the early hippie scene, where it’s working from its surface, or perhaps from a more honest core, before the moods and the darker drugs and the hyped-up scenes came in.

I was on the back end of my freshman year at Emerson and just starting sophomore year, torn between the escape of my small town and being tied to it. It’s the era of the happier times and looking optimistically into the future. The end of the Cold War and the start of the Middle East wars — the first war televised In Real Time that Generation X could watch, bringing a lingering horror that we could possibly be dragged kicking and screaming into it whether we wanted it or not. We had Bush I in office which was essentially Reagan II, more of the same conservative bullshit. But we knew better…we could go further.

We were fighting with our blood and our emotions to break out of the old bigotries and passive ignorance. But it was also the era of great creativity: the new independent movie directors. It was an era of our generation deciding we were sick of the exhausted tropes and music-by-numbers and took a page from what we knew: our own takes on REM and The B-52s and French New Wave and so on. We were nerdy artists and we were having fun riffing on our own creations, knowing full well that we could now get away with it. In short: we were coming of age and we realized we’d had voices of our own. We were irreverent. We were saying fuck the world, let’s do it ourselves if they won’t help us. We were a generation that was seen as an amusing sideline

Out of the mire of my freshman year (and that frustratingly slow last summer working for the town barn) came a much healthier and more positive outlook. I’d grown past my attempts to fit in with the alternahipsters (I was just too square for them, I guess?) and relearned how to gravitate towards the people who would become close, if temporary, friends. There was a positive vibe coming across, despite the situations we often found ourselves in. I wrote some of my best songs to date, created Murph, worked on multiple screenplays for classes. And I listened to even more music than before, because I had so much more access to it: I had WFNX and WBCN and all the college stations (including my own) and I had all the record stores I could shop at.

It was a strange time, as I was indeed seeing the decade when it seemed the world could change in the blink of an eye. And it often did, slipping into so many different subspaces and subgenres before we could even notice it happening. I stayed within this positivity because it was so much needed at the time. I let myself open up to a lot more people. I started opening up my mind a bit, let myself experiment with different ideas and thoughts because I could trust myself now. What I started thinking about, feeling, doing at that point in time, that was when I first let myself go further. Let myself find out who I might be underneath all of this, without all the barriers and without having to put everyone else’s needs before mine.

That was when I chose to stay in the city the coming summer. I knew that going back would have been going in the wrong direction. I had to go forward, live a different life. I was poor as fuck and I spent most of the summer eating bad foods and barely scraping by, but I was bound and determined to break out of my old shell. I’d crash and burn (and spectacularly at that) just a few years later, but it at least gave me a direction when I could start over again.

Fly-By: Blogs on hiatus until further notice

I hate that it’s gotten to this level, but I’m putting both Walk in Silence and Welcome to Bridgetown on temporary hiatus until further notice. There are just too many frustrating IRL things going on right now and I have no idea when I’ll be able to return to them.

(All is well mentally and healthwise, if you’re concerned…the issue here is wholly related to Day Job Things that I’m not going to go into right now.)

I may pop in and post something now and again, but don’t expect it to be on any schedule. Sorry about that.

Hopefully things will be a bit more…sane, in the near future.