meanwhile, at another band’s practice

I’m sitting in a Houma furniture shop’s office and a band a lot of my friends are in, Blackwater Burial, is practicing across the hall. Because we’re all friends, we’ve heard each others’ songs a hundred times before. The official beer of Blackwater Burial, a lukewarm Natural Light, is in front of me, daring me to put more of it in my stomach. I already know it’s going to win this dare because it’s raining cold and hard outside and I’ll be here for at least another few hours. Because it’s the 21st century, I pull out my iPhone before I have a chance to start thinking about things. I halfheartedly check my feeds and whatever I’d been browsing on Safari a couple weeks back which turns out to be yet another strange winding journey through Wikipedia.

“The internet is boring tonight,” I say, out loud to myself because I feel like it’s okay to do that in situations where even I can’t hear it. I shut the phone off and drink my disgusting beer and my mind starts to wander like it used to before I got this phone. I realize I just said ‘The internet is boring tonight’, as though every single aspect of the internet has nothing going on. “Now, there’s a concept,” I say — when was the last time there was an absence of internet activity for even a microsecond, a complete lack of any upload, download, email, messaging or any other conceivable kind of data transfer-in-progress happening worldwide? A finite point has to exist where–then my sister interrupts this thought by texting me.

“Hi”, the text says.

When we were growing up in the 90’s, she used email and browsers while I was still dialing onto BBS’s and Telix messaging with my friends so I learned most of the fundamentals of using the modern internet from her. And here in the future, I’m sitting there, bored with the entirety of the internet that’s instantly accessible in my 2013 hand, forgetting again that signing on to the internet used to be a whole *thing*, a commitment of time and preventing people from using the phone or calling the house. Switches had to flipped, things had to be typed, boxes had to be clicked, noisy digital handshakes had to be sat through just to be able to see who put something in your Juno box. If you were going to go online, it was going to be for something that was worth the effort — or maybe it was going to be worth the effort by default because of the effort. Hmm. With no warning the words “wiracocha1@juno.com” pop into my head, a string I haven’t thought about for more than a decade.

“No way,” I say, out loud of course, “there’s no way.” I go to Juno.com and at the top it says “Juno Email Sign In”. I’m kind of shocked that it’s still around. I enter “wiracocha1” into the username blank and then type in the password I used to use in the 90’s because I have a great memory for completely useless data like that. I’m waiting for the inevitable “No Such User” or whatever to show up, when my inbox pops up for the first time in eons.

“No fuckin’ way!” I shout.

“What?” comes a voice across the hall. The band was taking a break from playing and I hadn’t even noticed.

“Nothing, I just signed into an email account that’s old enough to vote,” I call back.

“Oh, wow,” comes the reply. He sounds genuinely impressed and, yeah, he should be. I certainly am. All my emails from back then were long gone of course. I had met a girl from Texas when I was in Hammond at some “Here’s why you should go to Southeastern University” thing that failed to convince me I should go there. I wonder if she ended up going there. Anyway, we had traded email addresses and we’d casually flirt with each other once a week for a few months before we just sort of found better things to do. All that was gone now. A shame, I wanted to see what sort of game I had as a teenager. You know what, maybe it’s better that I can’t.

Once again, that email address is wiracocha1@juno.com if you want to email 90’s Jak, who will reply to you if you do with 90’s teenage Jak flavored advice because I don’t have enough aimless projects already. If it’s fun enough, maybe I’ll put them on a blog page or something like that.

“Hello”, I text my sister back.

She lets me know she just made a Twitter account. “Welcome aboard,” I text back. “Enjoy spambots.”

“Enjoy what?” she asks.

I read that a few times to make sure I’m parsing it correctly. “You’ve been on the internet longer than me and you don’t know what a spambot is?” I wait an extra few seconds before I send it, trying to simulate a disbelieving stare. That’s a tough thing to pull off over text.

“No, I know what a spambot is. How does that affect my Twitter unless I follow one?” I try to explain. I’m not very good at it. She understands it enough to move on though. “I expect I’ll be a pretty boring Twit.”

“Angelle says it’s kind of like a giant chat room or something.” I try to explain. I’m not very good at it.

“Tell me what you think of what I have and maybe you can help me make it better,” she says. I look at her page and there’s all of one tweet. It’s about bread.

“Oh wow,” I say out loud, not just because the band has started playing again. “Oh wow”, I text, “bread, huh”.

“How can I make it better?”

“Twitter posts or bread?”

“Twitter posts.”

I try to explain that I’m not very good at it. “When I’m not talking to people on it, I just post whatever stupid things I temporarily think are clever or entertaining. Half the time I think ‘Maybe I shouldn’t have posted that’, and in all cases I’ve forgotten about it a half hour later. I’m probably not using it right either.”

“Ah.” And the conversation ends there. So many text and chat conversations end with “Ah” that when I see it, it’s a reflex for me now to close the window or lock the phone. I lock the phone and listen to the music and drink more awful beer. It tastes like morning mouth and old keys. Seriously, I hate this stuff. It’s this or water from the sink though.

***

A few hours later it’s two in the morning and I’m driving back to New Orleans from Houma in outrageous rain. I’ve been up all day and I’m starting to get dangerously tired so when I get to a red light I start scrolling through my phone contacts for people who would still be awake. I call Amanda because her name starts with A so it’s the first one I come to. I bet people with names that start with A get these kind of calls a lot more than anyone else. Good thing to keep in mind for your kids, future parents.

“Hey Jak,” she answers.

“You at work?”

“No, I’m at home.”

“Congratulations, you’ve been chosen in the Exhaustion Lottery. You get to keep me from falling asleep at the wheel for the next half hour.”

“I’m so honored.”

“I’m so tired.”

We talk for a while, mostly about shitty beer. Then out of nowhere she asks me “Do you have Netflix?”

“Half my friends do so I have access to it enough to say yes.”

“You need to watch an episode of the A-Team called ‘Cowboy George’.”

“‘Cowboy George’.” I chuckle and decide to go for the obvious joke. “Where Boy George guest stars on the A-Team.”

“Oh, so you’ve seen it. Wasn’t that crazy?!” Wait, she isn’t joking.

“Hold up,” I say, “Boy George guest stars on the A-Team? This is a thing?” Over the next minute she details the entire setup of the plot for the episode to me and it’s even sillier than the one I had in my head. See for yourself. The next day I watched the episode with Angelle and the execution is even sillier than the setup. I recommend you watch it too if you can.

***

Because obsolesence should never get in the way of execution, and because I just really like tapes and miss working with them, I’m putting out “Jak Is A Four Letter Word” as a double cassette release with a brand new extra EP included, “Side D”. The last cassette release I did was in early 2003 — wow, almost exactly ten years ago, I just realized that — and it’s been really neat recalling all these things about the whole process. I’d gotten so used to 74 minute CDs and unmetered internet releases that I forgot how strict the time limitations can be per tape and per side, enough that it can influence track order and necessitate shaving parts off of songs to make them fit. The dubbing is time consuming, the equipment is old and loud and clunky, the j-cards and labels are a mess of cutting and folding and sticking, and I’ve loved every single inefficient outmoded minute of all of it. By its nature, I have to put a lot more into each copy than I ever could just uploading a batch of MP3s and a PNG file to Bandcamp, and there’s something I like about that. If you want one, I’ll bring a copy to every show I do until they’re all sold out. Give me a bit though, I’m still finishing them up.

Oh and hey, pictures from live shows are back again for like the seventh time or so! Instead of having thousands of badly composed dark pictures like I had the last time live pictures were up on this site (2009 I think?), I’ve only put up a few of the best shots from each year. Maybe I’ll put some more up. Or maybe it’ll disappear yet again. It’s just one thrilling mystery after another here isn’t it?

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catching

Once again it’s January and once again I’m thinking about putting together a tour, this time for the Rock Show. Of course I say that like you knew this was a regular thing for me — I never mention it online because I know that nobody wants to hear about something that’s only an idea unless they’re part of the process. And yet like some kind of flagrant idiot, here I am doing just that. Well there’s more than just an idea here, this is bigger than all of us — this happens to be a quest! I bet you feel foolish now!

If you listened to Side A of Jak Is A Four Letter Word (and of course you did, because it costs you zero dollars to stream and download), you heard a track that consisted entirely of someone talking about flipping the tape when it stops at the end. That was a recording of my friend Amanda from twelve years ago, and I hadn’t talked to her much in about ten years.

When people start talking to someone again after a very long time of falling out of touch, they usually use the term “catch up”. I’ve never liked that, even when I’ve used it myself. The semantics really do make a difference here because to “catch up” with someone requires that there be a finite end to the process, and I think that’s why the term has always bothered me: once you’re caught up, you’re done. In most cases it’s maybe a few weeks of small talk and eventually you’re “catching up” again another span of years later. And really, social media has kind of obsoleted “catching up” anyway. Thanks to Facebook, I didn’t have to talk to her to already know she owns a place called Zog’s in Chapel Hill, NC and that she’s just ordered herself a lime green melodica from Amazon. Thanks to Facebook, she didn’t have to talk to me to know whatever it is I’ve been up to that I post or that gets posted about me and linked on my wall there.

When I emailed her to let her know “Hey, I made this really noisy album and, oh hey, you’re on it, here’s the track” she took that as a good reason to pick up where we left off rather than “catch up”. And yeah, it pretty much is. Here is the email she sent me back:

“What’s been going on with you lately? In an effort to bring that question away from the mire of small talk, please list three bulleted points about your life. Thank you.”

24 hours of bullet points and chat later we have a co-authored weblog thing called Three Bullet Pointz (I swear we’re not 14, it’s only because Three Bullet Points with an S was already taken on WordPress) where we write three related bullet points(z) per post on whatever topic we feel like to each other as if the internet’s not looking and then let the internet look at it. Theoretically, anyway — how much of the internet would want to look at something like that is a mystery to me. On the other hand, the internet looks at some really bizarre things sometimes so I have no idea. I just put things on it.

Though honestly, no, you really should look at it. How else will you learn about the dangerous game of Breadsy? You didn’t even know you were curious about Breadsy until just now. Just think of what else you might be missing out on…!…?… .

It was around this time that I put together an ambient drone track called “Fever Dream” for a Flaccid Plastic floppy disk split release with Spacings (coming soon). I based it off when I had pneumonia a couple of years ago and I’d get stuck in these horrible repeating dreams where I was sitting in a chair at a table playing chess with the personification of Mathematics who insisted on discussing philosophy with me instead of ever making his move. We were submerged in some murky fluid, floating about lazily. I could never follow a word of what he was saying, and he was relentless. For a few days until my fever broke, whenever I would start to sleep, it was always the same progression: a few moments of blissful rest and golden warmth, followed soon by forceful philosophy with that jerk Mathematics, and it would drag on mercilessly until I’d inevitably wake up with a pounding headache.

A couple days after writing “Fever Dream”, I got a fever that would reach a high of 102.8. My next song is going to be called “One Billion Tax Free Dollars In My Bank Account (And I’ll Stay Young And Healthy Until I get Tired Of It)”. Let me know if you want in on this action, I think I’m magical.

Anyway

I’m chatting with Amanda, and at this point I’ve only hit 100.6 degrees and trying desperately to convince myself that I don’t have a temperature that’s rising one degree per hour, that it’s all just some fluke with the air conditioning, the way I’m sitting, what I ate most recently, and my imagination, in that order. It makes perfect sense at the time, and don’t expect me to remember any aspect of why anymore. I hate being sick so much that I’ll do some serious gymnastics of logic to convince myself that I’m not really sick. At some point in talking to her, the melodica gets brought up. It’s funny to me because whenever I’m talking to somebody who I’m friended to on Facebook and something comes up that I already know about via their feed, it reminds me of when I watch a movie based on a book I’ve read and see something straight from the book on the movie screen. It’s a very 21st century feeling.

Anyway, the melodica comes up and I remember that I’ve forgotten I wanted a melodica twice now — once in 2008 when Adam Rouse brought his over to a practice to see if it could sub for the accordion part in “Battle Hymn” for the acoustic tour we ended up taking in December (it totally could! He didn’t end up coming with us on that tour though); and again last September when Dr. Sick played all of three notes on one at a Freaksheaux To Geaux revue (there’s no follow-up parenthetical anecdote here — I just put them here to balance it with the other one). I tell her this.

“I’ll make a deal with you,” she says.

“I’m listening.”

“I will purchase another melodica and have it mailed to you.”

“The lime green melodica.”

“The same.”

“That isn’t ‘a deal’. There’s more to this.”

“Yes. I will purchase the melodica and have it mailed to you if you promise to play Zog’s at some point in 2013. No show, no melodica.” She’s sent this all as one block of text, and for some reason I insist on reading it in my head with dramatic pauses and imagining sinister music swelling underneath it all. It’s the fever. I try to ignore it — I’m having a conversation here! I fail: the music I’m hearing in my head is just too good at creating the mood. For a moment, I keep reading it over and over again with various villainous deliveries, completely forgetting that someone’s actually waiting for a response from me.

Finally I snap out of it and read it properly. I decide I don’t like it. It feels too much like getting paid in advance for a job — the effort-to-reward flow is all backwards and wrong. “Here is an amended proposal,” I say.

“Okay.”

“Go ahead and get the melodica.”

“Okay.”

“And have it delivered to YOUR house.”

“O…kay?”

“And I will come to pick it up when I play Zog’s this summer.”

“Done. And if you never, ever come play Zog’s, I will burn the melodica on a funeral pyre and post pictures of its lime green guts on your Facebook page every day.” And knowing her like I do, I absolutely do not doubt for a second that this would happen.

“Now *that* is a deal,” I say.

I’m right, and I’m also wrong. It’s a deal and it’s so much more than a deal. We call it “MELODICA QUEST: It Probably Resembles An Adventure” and it’s going to be around seven or eight days in July or August. Exciting! It could be your town we play in! It will more likely be your town that we drive right past the exit of. It will most likely be that we won’t even be in the vicinity of your town!

***

There are days when nothing seems to go right. In no-budget filmmaking, those days are called “every shooting day”.

In October we did the first shoot for the Targeted project, the brothel scene. Angelle and I got to the set at 6:30 in the morning with a list of tasks and how long they should take. The list was adorable in how wrong it was. The wall construction was estimated at thirty minutes; it took an hour and a half. The light setup was figured at five minutes — HA, closer to twenty-five, courtesy of not threading the bulbs into the sockets properly because I’m trying to make up lost time and being too hasty. I don’t think there was a single item on the list that didn’t take at least three times as long as the estimate, and each delay just made us prone to making more mistakes and more delays.

I’d call crew members to see if they were close to arriving only to have them tell me they were just now waking up. One of our actresses dropped out and another one went to the emergency room that morning so we had to find two willing replacements within a couple of hours — it didn’t help recruiting efforts that the roles were “Whore #2” and “Whore #3”. Somehow our casting wizard Melia was able to find two who were willing and available.

Even with the cast and crew all there, diner customers kept wandering onto the set in the middle of shots. Every time a truck would pass on the highway next to the building, the walls would rumble and ruin the audio of any takes in progress. Video poker machines and sink faucets added anachronistic sounds that we had to wait out.

“There’s this image I have in my head for situations like this,” I say to Angelle while we’re waiting for the camera battery to recharge for the second time.

“Yeah?”

“I’ve never tried to verbalize it to anyone before, so bear with me.”

“Okay.”

“There’s these four walls all in front of each other, each with small square holes cut in them. All four of these walls are moving left-to-right and right-to-left against each other at different speeds, so VERY rarely, the four square holes will be lined up. On one side of these walls is a man with a bow and arrow and on the other side is a target. Each take is the man shooting an arrow and trying to hit the target.”

“Trying to get it through all four holes when they’re lined up,” she nods.

“Except he’s blindfolded.”

Somehow we got enough good takes to finish the scene. I remember being completely drained and wondering if I was cut out for this kind of thing at the end of the day. This was nothing like the short subject films and music videos I was accustomed to putting together up to this point.

“It’s no wonder most of my filmmaker friends are going bald,” I said.

“This is just the first day,” Angelle reminded me.

“Just, wow.”

3 months and a number of shoots later was the Pinkerton Agency scene that we did this Sunday. I wake up at 6:45 in the morning to day six of being sick. I check my phone, thinking “Okay, let’s see what crises happened overnight.” Sure enough, the actor playing the reporter in this scene dislocated his shoulder and is still in the emergency room — he won’t be able to make it.

“The guy playing the photographer is now playing the reporter,” I text to Melia. “And the backup actor who was on standby is now the photographer.” I go find something to eat. Later, on set, we find out the actor playing the photographer decided not to show up.

“How about our backup?” I ask.

“He’s not answering his phone either,” because of course he’s not, why would he?

“For the next ten minutes, everyone contact anyone you know that wants to be in an ultra low budget underground western with us for a couple of hours.” I then get back to screwing light bulbs into the softboxes and figuring out what wardrobe would look best on me as the photographer, glancing at the storyboard to determine if we can shoot the angles that character is in without catching his face since I’m already playing one of the main characters too (we can). I stop for a moment because I realize that the sudden vacancies of two important roles in today’s shoot elicits the same reaction from me as having to screw in light bulb #8. “Well, that needs to be done next, then. Okay.” The contrast of how we handled October’s shoot comes to mind and I smile, even in the midst of all this chaos with my head and lungs full of virus. This must be progress of some sort.

This is good.

We did find two fine replacement actors and the shoot ended up going great. Somehow it always does. Pictures from it are up at the Targeted project’s Images page, with more to come soon.

***

Two days prior to that was my performance as Jareth the Goblin King with Kali for the Dirty Dime Peep Show. If you want to hear me sing with one-sixteenth of a voice and a fever while Kali spins fire inches from my face, you’ll probably want to click on this video link, you sadist.