Wednesday, December 07, 2005

pump up the volume

it's four in the morning, and i'm not tired.
i feel like i'm in that middle place, that nice and safe place, where nothing bad is happening. i am busy enough to not have time to reflect, but i have the feeling that what i would reflect on wouldn't be that bad. not at all. i tend to only write when i'm feeling down. i'm feeling up to flat to peaceful to ... i'm just steady. i'm just getting things done.

i shut the lid of my computer tonight at around 2. i never feel finished, but at a certain point i try to make a rational decision to get some sleep. but i wasn't tired. things are going well enough, i said to myself. i had spent the night boiling pot after pot of tea, sitting there at my kitchen table, formulating endless emails about the album artwork, the This and the That, the captions for the dozens of photos to the sheet music, proofing the lyrics, making plans with my family for christmas. the things that thread themselves together and never unravel and never end. Shit To Do.

i laugh at the idea of anybody thinking my life is all that interesting. i come back to boston from tour and spend time in my apartment, glued to my computer, making occasional trips to the store for nourishment. getting things done, like anybody else. we all know the pile. boring running around and feeding my mouth and resting my mortal coil on a space pillow.

but i didn't go straight to bed, as i thought i would. if you had asked me, my best guess would have been that i would floss, brush, wash my face and apply two kinds of moisturizer, and crawl into bed. i would read the next installment in the julie doucet comic book that lies there spread face-down next to my pillow, set my alarm, read for ten minutes, whack off and fall asleep like every other night.

instead, for reasons unkown, i took a walk down memory lane and treated myself to a movie in bed. movies in bed are great. laptops are awesome. this is rare, i don't usually allow myself to spend two hours that could be spent on sleep or making more beautiful album artwork on a movie. but i'm glad i watched this movie. i fucking missed this movie. i bought this movie on an impulse buy from about two weeks ago, because it came into my head, and it was cheap. then it arrived and it sat there on my stove for a while, knowing it wouldn't be watched.

pump up the volume. it was like the breakfast club for the nineties. i was liminal.i didn't belong anywhere, i was right on the threshold. not really belonging to the eightie sor the nineties. my older brother and sisters were in the car when we came back from the breakfast club when i was about 9. i remember i was still timgling from seeing judd nelson's fist raise into the air as the credits rolled and the sun went down on the triumph of the teenage spirit. i remember resolving to be a cool teenager. i was so jealous of my older siblings, they got to live this. they were IN high school, that mysitcal world of detentions and smoking corners and heavy bookbags.

but once pump up the volume came out, i barley related as if i was watching my own generation on that screen - which technically, i was. it was 1990, i was 14, and i felt like the entire world understood something i didn't, that everybody was in on the joke but me. however, i had my fantasy, and i held onto my fantasy when i saw movies like this. somehwere, i kept telling myself, somewhere THERE IS A PLACE where teenagers riot in high school parking lots because a pirate radio DJ plays sonic youth and leonard cohen and muses about existence. just like i'd believed at 9 that there was some mythical high school where five kids from different socio-economic backgrounds and cliques could show up for a saturday detention and smoke pot and forgive each other. i spent most of high school fantasising that college would finally prove to be the PLACE since high school was definitely Not the PLACE where these incredible things happened. lo and behold, i was totally fucking stunned when college turned out to feel exactly the same. i felt like i was in high school except everybody slept over. it's taken me years to sort through this shit, and i'm not even close. pump up the volume. i had almost forgotten how fucking great it was. it propelled my straight back to high school and all of a sudden, there i was, in the bathroom applying black eyeliner, calculating exactly which route to take to english so i would pass by andrew thompson's locker. feeling inherently fucking confused, with absolutely no way out. feeling like i understood everything totally clearly while simultaneously feeling i had no idea why things anything was happening.

i pressed pause half-way through the movie, in a daze, and went to the bathroom stuck in high school. i couldn't believe i had my own apartment. it was like i was on acid. i was just looking around going "how on earth did i get here?" i felt like i had to be up at 7:30 so i could eat cereal, put on tights and skirts and combat boots and walk to school in the freezing cold, smoking ginseng cigarettes on the way with my walkman blasting strangeways here we come on one side and meat is murder on the other and flipping the tape over and over and over again, morrissey's providing the soundtrack for a life that i could find tolerable when the music was loud enough and every step i took and every tree i saw and every passing suburban car was just a planted perfect prop while the credits rolled by. walking to school with the music blasting was always opening credits. i never did closing credits. not that i remember. in-between classes, headphones on, volume dial jammed, my fellow students were perfectly-cast extras walking through the hall for those establishing scenes where the director is trying to set a mood for a Cool High School movie. What happened? What happened to John Hughes? Do the kids of this generation, the ones who are 16, do they really, really see Mean Girls and relate? Do they leave the theater wanting to run home and throw all their sports pendants and strings of pearls and soccer trophies in the mircowave?

Happy Harry Hard-On is my new personal hero. I don't need reality. That's my new answer. So Be It. I bought my rebellion at the blockbuster mall just like everybody else but at least it makes my stomach stir. i cry at weddings.

i stand at the kitchen sink, filling a glass with water, and i look to my left and see a bottle of dish soap. i'm still can't shake it. i can't believe i OWN this bottle of dish soap. i can't believe it's MINE. i can barely turn around becaue i know what's in the rest of my apartment and i know i'll be completely overwhelmed. a COUCH? where did these things COME FROM? who the hell am i to OWN a couch and a bottle of dishsoap? i mean, i OWN it, i'm not just using it because it's there. I OWN it the way I own my clock and my towels and my books and my dictionary. it's mine forever. if the house caught fire and i fled in my boxers and t-shirt and stood out on the street, the sympathetic passers-by would shake their heads. I'm So Sorry, they would say. I Know What It Feels Like To Lose Everything. No, I would say, clutching my small bottle of fluorescent orange Dawn, I still have this. It's mine forever and nobody can take it away from me, ever.

high school is never over. it just morphs into something more subtle. i had an experience last week in new york which proves this. i've been a curious fan of bright eyes for about a year, ever since i discovered the fever and mirrors record. naturally, since conor oberst (the singer and basically the band itself) represents adolescent pain better than anyone in the universe, i developed a class A adolescent crush on him. i don't get these anymore. i miss them. i prefer sleeping alone nowadays. i barely think about love. i have plenty. i haven't had a boyfriend in so long i've forgotten what it's like. honestly. i have these vague memories of romancing and cuddling and planning and fucking and calling and the whole nine yards and it seems like a blurry fiction, something that i just wouldn't do nowadays, because....well, why would i? i'm happy. i'm rarely lonely. i have close friends and people i can talk to, i don't feel isolated. i certainly don't miss the heartbreak and the drama. but old conor pulled it out of me. he literally screams that you Must Develop a High School Crush on him. so i hauled my ass down to new york because i wanted to pass his locker. now, any girl (or boy, i suppose) knows that this locker-passing technique is ridiculous. if the person doesn't have any interest in you, they are not going to give a fuck if you walk by their locker five to six times a day for an entire school year. if anything, they'll be irritated. andrew thompson probably was. so, in Rock Land, when you're in a band that's Making It you can have your manager call their promoter or/and manager friends to get tickets and passes for shows. Sometimes they can, sometimes they can't. my manager is a Good Manager. he almost always can. so i emailed him and got a ticket and a pass for the bright eyes show in jersey city, and there i was all of a sudden, sitting in a seat in a theater with my coat on my lap and my journal in my hands. to my left was the cooler-hair guiter player from the yeah yeah yeahs, and to my right were conor oberts parents. now, i don't know what kind of cruel and surreal trick god was playing on me by doing this. i can only imagine. while talking to mr and mrs oberst i find of course that (could it be any other way?) they were the sweetest, kindest smiling rock parents you could imagine. so proud of their son, just beaming. conor was drinking coca-colas on the stage and giving a decent performance, but he seemed bored. maybe he's always like that.

my few words exchanged with him backstage before the show were trite and forgettable. he remembered me as the drunk girl who streaked onto his stage glastonbury and we joked. he was nice but not interested in talking to me. his tour manager was not so nice, however, and sort of gave me that full-body scan and sneer and told me that they'd had a great tour and that he didn't want me fucking up the show. what? i said. no, no, no. i am not a crazy person, please believe me. i thought that glastonbury was like las vegas...what happens at glastonbury stays in glastonbury....? apparently not. my one attempt at crazy rock star behavior had been met with steely witch-burning rancor. i looked the guy straight in the eye. please, sir, don't worry. i am not going to ruin your rock show. i am a sane person. i don't do crazy things. in fact, i am a grave disappointment to all the fans out there who want me to be a lunatic. i'm really not. he was half-satisfied, but that feeling shot through me again....what was it? what was it? oh, i remember. it was That High School feeling. i've been so surrounded by people who like me lately that i've forgotten how it feels to walk down a hall of people who all stare at you as if you're a freak and a loser. which is exactly how i felt after the show, surrounded by pretty girls with quilted dresses, stylish shoes with the weird heels in the middle of the foot (i don't GET those at ALL) long hair and bangs. i bet i would like every one of these people, i said to myself, if i could be alone in a room with them, they play music, we have a lot of things in common SMACK why do you feel so out of place? are these people really looking at you so strangely? or are you just telescoping yourself back into tenth grade? i'm inclined to think that after the conor-rejection and the you-dirty-whore treatment from the tour manager that it was the latter. i had a nice talk with mr yeah yeah yeah and i had a nice talk with ms feist, the opener. it struck me that i had invited myself into somebody else's party and why on earth should i expect them to be kind to me? would i be kind to them if they showed up in my backstage after a dresden dolls show? of course. but were they being unkind? what was i expecting, the PLACE? the magical PLACE where bottles are clinking and everyone is everyone's friend in Rock Love and our cups runneth over and music and love bring us all together and it's All Good? this doesn't exist either. i learned this lesson over the summer at the rock fesitvals, where the magazines were pumping the public with stories of the Rock and Roll Life while backstage was usually a bunch of cold and tired musicians standing in line for catering, trying not to offend one another. maybe i just wasn't invited to the right trailers. maybe i don't really want to go anyway. maybe i think too much and they can smell it on me.

pump up the volume made me want to blog. it's the practical equivalent of having a pirate radio station, but quieter. but that's all i'm doing, vomiting out my head periodically like this.

people leave comments. these posts are re-sent over to our myspace page, where people leave comments. i read them all, in case you guys have been wondering. it's the most satisfying thing in the world to hold a one-sided conversation with an imaginary audience and then hear the reverberations, the echo delay on a random thought. it makes me feel less alone. in fact, i blame you, Yes You, for the fact that i don't want to go boyfriend-hunting (in case you're wondering how the conor story ended, we said goodnight and i left the show but i ran into him at a bar the night after. he saw the error of his ways and asked me back to his apartment, where we stayed up all night, drinking red wine and reading passages form oscar wilde fairy-tales aloud to each other while crying and holding onto each other for dear life and kissing for hours without ever taking our clothes off. just kidding. we said goodnight and i left the show but ran into him at a bar the next night where i decided that tenth grade was over and i didn't say hello, which probably relieved him). i blame you because i think this may be enough for me at the moment, to scream/sing at a crowd, to cry on a stage, to send my blather into the internet and hear the echo. i think it's all i need right now. i think it is. this does not mean that if Christian Slater at age 23 waltzed into my kitchen i would not try to Trap Him and Cage Him and keep him forever. i would set up a little pirate radio station in my bedroom that would broadcast into the kitchen and the bathroom only. every night at 10:00 pm sharp he would dj and rant and play the pixies and bad brains and i would dance wildy, naked, flailing and out of control in the next room, with an umbrella in one hand and a bottle of salad dressing in the other, stuffing string after string of pearl necklaces and sports pedants (which i would procure daily at ever-more-distant salvation army stores) into a mircowave i would purchase at best buy for that purpose. then we would fall into bed, exhausted, complaining about how difficult it is to be in high school and how nobody understands us and how we can't wait to grow up and get the fuck out of this town.

it's 5:30. i could've watched a whole nother movie.

Sunday, November 20, 2005


How to spend time when there's never enough time. there's no way.

Up in the cloud club, behind the old spinet, since the grand is at the studio, trying to remember how music is played. the sheet music needs to be finished, the sheets are staring at me, the ink is wet and everything i do is an accident, but some accidents are good. at seven o'clock, i decide that life is worth living outside of my life so i go out to see casy dienel at the lizard lounge. brian has my volvo down in new jersey, so i take the subway. people on the subway don't talk to each other, unless they're drunk.

getting out in harvard square, in a terribly weird mood, neither here nor there, i start to think about all the people i know who are getting divorced. three years, ten years, twenty years, it seems to make no difference. when will the world shift the paradigm and realize that alone-ness with sporadic moments of togetherness is better? everything i love to do, lately, is alone. but maybe that's because my life has become such a warped context.

walking to the lizard lounge, our old haunt where we played many a many a show, i descend the stairs into dark red. heroin by VU is playing. there are eight people there. in the story, it sounds like paradise, but in reality, it feels superficial. none of these scenes ever feel authentic. still, i order my beer and sit at a table, feeling like this moment is a worthwhile one, a rare moment worth enjoying. casey plays her piano and sings. she's wonderful. her new shirt keeps slipping off her shoulders. she seems lonely, so her music is good. she wants to move to brooklyn.

you held me
like a tundra
shifting blocks of ice....

i stay longer than i should and leave for the subway, sitting on the bench letting my thoughts spin and not paying too much attention. i decide to get off at park street and walk home. it's a long way, a few miles. all the bars are closed. boston is a bleak pre-pre-holiday wasteland. the lights are on, but no one's home. fall blow-out sale. everything must go.

i walk through the public garden and casey's words are still echoing.

you held me....
like a tundra....
shifting blocks of ice

everything is still picture-perfect, even though it's almost bare. the rose bushes and the swan boats.
i wonder how long into the winter they manicure the bushes. do they stop when it snows? do they never stop?
for the tourists.

i walk over the littel foot-bridge, singing my song to myself.
there's a couple kissing and they don't stop kissing, they pretend not to notice me. they hold a long moment while i pass.
it's not uncomfortable for me. i wonder if either of them is married.

i double-back after the footbridge to stay off the main garden path, so i can walk along the pond.
the pond isn't frozen, but there's no sign of life. all the fallen leaves have gathered to the banks, magnetism.
the whole park is desolate, just expanses of gray in the night, different shades of nothingness.
the pond is stillborn, even more man-made depressing in the fluorescent lights that must stay on at all hours. never lit by the moon.
the trees are clinging to their last few dried-looking white tea leaves. everything must go.

in the pond. by the edge. something's there.

it stands out like a bright green radio-active mistake of nature, bobbing there, magnetized with the rest of them to the bank, like some summer leaf that didn't get the memo.
it's a small bottle, a very small bottle, a definitely non-industrial sized bottle, a bottle about the size of a salad dressing. an empty bottle.

an empty bottle of miracle-gro.

floating there, comically dwarfed by the bigger miracle of death, fall and everything must go.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Jesus Christ Supercop

we've finished the record....we're close, we're close. last night, after over 20 days of mixing, we took home a CD with what we think is the finished product (minus the mastering, which is the Ultimate Final Step). the last few weeks have been weird and detached. I barely got a chance to recover from Tour Plague and was back in the studio for ten hours a kitchen still covered with unopened mail and unpacked bags. every time I would come home at the end of the night I was just too wasted to get my life back together, i would just collapse. it felt like a completely uphill battle for about two weeks straight. I finally feel almost caught up. There's no music making, noen at all, can't even remember what that's like. With no piano in my apartment (it's still in the studio, so it could be used for a total of 67 seconds worth of overdubs) i feel freed from the terror of inspirationlessness. sort of like that happy haze you enter into when you check into a hospital for a certified broken bone or illness and you happily allow yourself to be 100% unproductive. the few days off i've had have been typically mundane. i've spent time here and there with long-lost friends, but mostly just puttered around my apartment, trying to make sense of the mess, trying to keep up and trying to answer the endless emails.

the record was originally supposed to be Finished on october 12, the day we left for tour. instead, it's going to be finished on november 21st. i had been begging, for the past six months, to hget november and december off so that i could clear my head and write music. instead, i've gotten no time off and a pile of stress that will not diminish...the album artwork demands attention i couldn't give it since i needed to work on the record, the sheet music is going to be delayed once again since i've had no time to edit, the new years shows need to be's just endless. i feel like i can't win. i would ask to delay the release of the album but i'm told the timing is too important. at what cost, i keep asking myself. is it more important to sell records by releasing at the ideal time, or should i just tell everyone to hang on a bloody minute while i enjoy myself for a few months after all this craziness. i do not thrive on stress. it weakens me, and slowly over time, i feel like my creative, song-writing mind is turning to mush. i haven't felt like a musician in a long time. i barely even remember what it feels like to write. it's laughable, really. but that is neither here nor there. some time will come, eventually. or it won't. i will have put out two decent records and i'll fade into obscurity, occasionally letting the public wheel my dusty aging corpse out for a toothless and wheezing performance of "coin-operated boy" at a veteran's day community picnic somewhere near the City of Boston.

now that i've gotten my typical whine out of the day, there have been good things in life. one was the bauhaus concert the other night (they still got it, in a weird way), after which david j and daniel ash came over to my place and we had a wonderful party in the cloud club with some of the other folsk in my house....getting silly and dancing and talking about touring and death and antony and terrible beatles songs. danile ash announced there was a song he HAd to HEar and i, prepared for anything, was tickled when he said he would die unless i managed to find a copy of billie jean by michael jackson. i honed new talents as an iTunes dj, downloading requests onto my mac and blasting over the speakers. there was an awesome group zombie dance to "thriller".

i also went to see NIN come back through boston on their arena tour, which was totally bizarre. after seeing them 25 times in different theaters and other 2000-seat venues, seeing them play to 10,000 people felt creepy and discombobulating. the show was still good, but the entire band and crew looked like death had warmed over them. they'd been keeping an inhumane touring schedule and given up their few days of time off to audition new drummers, since jerome left. we said hello to everyone (except, of course, trent, who passed on his greetings to us but was characteristically Whisked right after the show) and chatted with the very tall red-headed man from queens of the stone age, mr. josh homme (doesn't that mean Man in french?), who was very friendly and funny. i think i should go and buy a record because i don't know a single song of theirs except the one we covered with NIN in europe.

after finishing in the studio last night, i invited brian over and he and pope and i all sat in my kitchen and listened to the whole fucker from start to finish. i think i am 89% happy with it. i think that's good...and typical and i think i may work all my life to achieve a 95%. i spent countless hours in the past two weeks sitting on a couch in a studio, pacing around, listening, fixing, losing focus, going to pee and losing myself in the poster for "the big sleep" that sean and paul have hung in the bathroom. getting too familiar with the patterns on the throw pillows in the control room. showing up at the studio and leaving and never, ever feeling that any of it is real. just not even capable of feeling the reality of it. here i am, in a Recording Studio again, making a record. i know what i'm doing, and nothing feels foreign, but it doesn't feel familiar either. like, this is it? when did i decide to do This With My Life? i don't rememebr ever making that decision. i just remember, vaguely, when i was about 12, dancing to cyndi lauper in the living and thinking that a rock star career seemed pretty much inevitable. i didn't know what that career choice meant back then, and i still feel just as clueless. it's only when i look around, realize that everybody else i see is faking their lives and trying to figure it out moment by moment, that i remember. there is nothing normal. there is only what you get used to and even then, perspective changes.

we went into the studio on an off-day and there was a local community group called Girl Authority laying down vocals for a record of cover songs ranging from pink to madonna to joan jett. picture nine 8-13 year-old girls in a recording studio for the first time, running around like maniacs. they had given themselves Girl Names a la the spice girls....there was Fashion Girl, Rock n roll Girl and Bohemian Girl (my personal favorite) to name but three. i was in complete heaven watching this spectacle. they didn't know about the band (except rock n' roll girl, who was familiar with, surprise, coin-operated boy), but they were fascinated by me and brian ("are you Real Rock Stars? are you Rich? do you Travel the World?") and i saw myself through my own eyes at age 12. it was beautiful and heartbreaking. i wish i knew now whatever i knew back then. according to paul and sean, after we left the studio there was a mild uproar of dresden-dolls mania as they all fought for use of the computer to get on our site and download the videos. apparently, they downloaded the Halloween Strip-tease Skit and they all decided that they Loved Brian (and i assume, Wanted To Marry Him). Sometimes I think I'd like to skip the rock circuit altogether and just visit grade schools.

coming up with the final song order and selection last night was agonizing....we didn't have to go through that on Record One because we used (nearly) everything we recorded. this time around we recorded more than we knew we could use but cutting songs felt like drowning children. i just couldn't let a single one of them go. we finally cut three and i have a timid hope that they won't fade into b-side obscurity but will instead get put in the band for Record Three. record three......threeeeeeee

other good things i have discovered:

-green tea treated with coconut. sounds kind of gross, but it grows on you

-casey dienel, a boston based piano songstress:

-the movie Dig (feat. the dandy warhols and brian jonestown massacre), which i finally watched after 5 separate recommendations. i now pass on the recommendation. if you have any interest in band dynamics or the music industry, this film is a's painfully human and really well done

and last but definitely not least:

-Jesus Christ Supercop, episodes 1-6.
this is SO AWESOME.,
just search for "jesus" and they'll all pop up.
go, go, go!

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

What Would Perry Do

the tour has left me in a sorry mess, coughing up interesting things as i lay in state among a pile of tissue and phlegm.

last night we finished in boston. today i was supposed to go into the studio and keep working on the record....doing vocal fixes, mixes, nixes....instead i stayed home, played Stumble Through The Luggage in my kitchen, making tea and dragging myself out to dinner with my family, where i assumed the role of humanoid for a while. On the drive back i listened (i was in lee's car, there's a tape deck) to an old mix tape from college and my mind went into a kind of dream state. oh, my mind went. the pink dots, tones on tail, philip glass, laurie anderson, morphine.....i sank into reverie.....old tapes....the jane's addiction song made me pull over at a record store, which was luckily still open, and i made an impulse purchase of "three days", their recent tour dvd. i don't know why, but i needed an injection of perry farrell like medicine. i think it worked. i think he healed me. i think if i had to pick a single man in the universe for something tonight, it'd be him. for what, i don't know. i just know he'd be it. i've decided tonight that all concerts should aspire to the condition of jane's addiction. if perry wouldn't come, then maybe flea would. i think i love flea. if i could pick a brother, it would be flea.

the bus was stuffed with bodies. half of us ended up getting sick at one point or another. along with our regular crew came some extras....jessica foxxx, who filmed and documented....jonas and krin, who organized the brigade and did circus for the masses....and wonderful dawn the faun, our opener in her lonesome, faun fables. we were 11 on the bus. the back lounge was filled with suitcases and boxes, there wasn't room for everyone to sit when the bus was moving. we moved horizontally. the back lounge and the front lounge would often splinter into two camps. wander to the front and watch the "trailer park boys" DVDs and talk about soundgear or wander to the back and talk about love and the naturalists. craig, our merch guy, was flown in as an import and met us on the first day of tour. nice guy, clean cut, bleached-haired, leather-jacketed, earringed and well-spoken. he's been on a lot of tours with a lot of bands, but i swear i've never seen a man look so confused by his surroundings. it was like they mixed up animals in the zoo. one night he sat there watching jonas and dawn screaming out of a harold pinter play (dawn held it steady) while brian washed his lace tights and hung them from the window to dry and i walked through in my underwear with my electric toothbrush to grab my vitamins with jessica filming the whole circus and i just saw the "does not compute" look flashing in his eyes. beer, yes, girls, yes, pot, yes, cocaine, sure, but plays? what fucking band reads plays? by the end he got into it. we did get really pissed that he secretly sprayed febreeze on everybody's stuff the night before he left. i saw that as a passive-aggressive move.

i caught the flu somewhere around detroit and was sick for about half of the tour. i assumed it would be the typical 2-day cold, but it sank it's claws and stayed attached like a yippiyuc. some shows were worse than others but the last half of the tour is just a blur of tissue and toilet paper. for a few days i rolled from my bus-pod to soundcheck, back to bed, then stage, then bed. left the phone off. pretended i didn't exist. after i while i just stopped fighting and relegated myself to the fact that i was plagued. being sick on the road is about the least fucking fun thing i can imagine. i was well enough to gather my energy every night and get on stage, but barely. i almost passed out in buffalo, NY. i wonder how these things work. i just close my eyes, pray and walk on stage. i assume it will work. when it doesn't i fake it. i skip songs. i change octaves. i adjust and pray for the end to come. and a few minutes into the set i forget about the end and forget about being ill and forget about the bullshit emails and negotiations with the label and the deadlines for the album artwork and the fuck fuck fuck and just see brian. he saves me just by existing, by being there, his fragile self, the two of us just trying to stay afloat and not collapse, like two drowning people hanging onto to each other for dear life. this may sound dramatic. when two people with the flu have to play to a sold-out house, it feels fucking dramatic. we only lost it once, in pittsburgh.

the brigade was beautiful and bright and as uneven as some cities there was literally nobody to perform and on boston and new york things were chaos. in chicago we found mucca pazza, who were a free-roaming marching band, all punk rock delight. they took over every space in the club at one point or another. emily's story of "we're the noise artists" coming in with their jackets and dark glasses and expecting rock-star treatment was classic. they set up in the lobby and sounded delightful, but most people wanted to strangle me (or them). there were statues, winged girls chained to poles, magicians, burlesque dancers, lots of lovely cigarette girls and's beginnning to take on a life of it's own, it's a beautiful site. having krin and jonas, who are trained circus performers, was a fucking relief....i could finally focus on soundcheck without having to rally the brigade. krin did an aerial act in the cities that would permit....she hung material up to 60 feet in the air, tied herself into it for aerial stunts (most people are familiar with this sort of act through cirque de soleil) and performed a rocking piece to "gravity"; jonas played the bashful coin-operated boy (a gift from lovely krin every night). volunteer brigadiers were rounded up every night to act as brides with krin during "perfect fit"....secretly low-lit, flower-bearing, they moved through the balconies, backstage and audience, barely noticable and then threw their angry petals at the crowd and onto the stage during the last chorus. "girl anachronism" used the same cast dressed as wounded and confused cheerleaders with various neck braces and bandages. all the guys in DeVotchKa and dawn the faun joined us every night (well, almost every night, it took us four cities to learn it) for "The Flesh Failures" from the musica Hair. we threw ourselves into that every night as the last gasp and tried to coerce the audience to join in. they usually did and we left stage feeling covered in love. perry'd have been proud.

i tried to find quiet. i tried to read. in the first week or so, the schedule was less erratic and there were mass yoga exoduses. we piled in cabs and went to bikram we found on the internet. the strange world. krin and jonas put us all to shame with their circus-bodies. time disappears on tour. any writing i thought i would get done, any catching up....a joke. once i got sick it was a survival game. the most exciting and creative part of the day was making oatmel on the bus with extra ingredients from last nights rider. ooooh, peanut granola bars. put it in the oatmeal. we bought a turkey candle and a santa candle at a salvation army somewhere in the midwest, in order to bring cheer to tge bus environment . they ended up being art film porn stars. jessica filmed willingly.

the show would end. we've stopped going out after every show to's gotten too much. i would abscond to the bus, change and shower if the venue had a shower, hoark several times for everyone's benfit, and crawl into my pod. sometimes i would sleep for 11 or 12 hours. wake up in another city and get my shit together for soundcheck so i didn't blow my voice just testing mic levels. a drag. a routine. a sick blur. pull the curtain shit, listen to the blur of conversation coming from the lounge, the clinking, the re-cap, the talk talk tallllking....pick up my copy of berlin stories and read a half a page before crashing dead asleep. i barely had the energy to whack off. i was sick sick sick.
waking up in a bus is disorienting. it's black. there are no windows to tell time. try to locate phone. phone lost in pile of clothes. shuffle to the bus kitchen. bleary look at clock. if before 10, shuffle back to pod and repeat. if after ten, put on water for tea. watch other shufflers. dawn was a morning person. we would sit there alone, sometimes, drinking tea and watching america. i came to love that woman. i still think of her as she-ra, princess of power with a guitar. i also fell hard for all the guys (and gal) in DeVotchKa. truly great people. lance and his whole tattooed body made me melt. for a while everyday i would provide him with a fake mustache using my eyebrow pen. he then took on the character of "phillipe". i rode with the whole DeVotchKa van to madison, since the bus went on ahead of me so i could take a day off in chicago. i Remember The Van. it wasn't long ago. it's a shit way to travel but you gotta do it. my theory was confirmed Yet Again.....every touring band, whether it's NIN or punk or Salsa or whatever the fuck, ends up making poop and fart jokes after a few hours on the road. it's like a law of nature. DeVotchKa had a wonderful ongoing list of poop band names written with sharpie on the inside of the van. Steppenpoop and Coldpoop were the two best ones. Runners up, the red hot chili poopers and queens of the stone poop. the road does this to everyone.

i am wrapped in my quilt. the heat is up full blast. i cannot sleep but i also haven't really tried. i'm not into the upcoming days, i don't want to work on the record, i don't want to catch up, i don't want to answer everything i've ignored. i just want to sleep and read and disappear. a few things i keep knocking into remind me where i just came from. the mug i bought in iowa city. the humidifier i took from the bus. i am unpacking one item at a time. a few objects every hour. in a weeks' time i'll be finished.

as the new york show approached i started to get really worried about the flu. we had an early load, radio to do, press to do, and a full orchestra to rehearse for three numbers. but it wasn;t just that, new york always has this icky sticky You Better Not Fuck This Show Up, Amanda, You're Selling Out Webster Hall and Everybody's Watching To See If You Are Hip feeling that will not leave. the label comes, the publishers come, the famous people come, the blaaaaaaa. it doesn't matter of the rest of your tour has been stellar. if this show is shit, one gets the impression that that is the impression the world will get and then go impress on everybody else. most of it is in our heads. go figure. it was a fantastic show. my flu fled for a few hours and the orchestra (, those in NYC go see them this month at galapagos and say hello from amanda) kicked ass. we covered "one" by three dog night and i got to do my impersonation of a lead singer sans piano. then we pulled out a really old song, "have to drive", and the conductor had done an incredible job orchestrating with strings and horns pounding heartbreak in every direction. we finished up with "girl anachronism" which i fucked up. i got so distracted by the beauty of the conductor throwing the used-up pages of sheet music in the air i totally forgot where i was. it was a close save, but if you listen carefully to the recording, you'll hear me basically pounding on the piano with my fists and saying "and you can teff fron they ther geeyy ffffeeer ste fer the des akk" for about 12 seconds.

providence goes down in history as most insane We Should Have Slept Longer show ever. I retained my Girl A braincramp from the night before and had the stop the song and restart. radio interference in the monitors. the club was was 55 degrees. it started to rain. i was so sick i could barely talk coherently. we got on stage and just kind of oozed loudly all over the audience. we had a day off in boston during which i slept, slept, checked my email, slept, made tea and slept. then we played the boston show, also sold out (about 2000 people) and i just went for broke, reminding myself that i wouldn't be onstage for months to come. i screamed my voice away and used the last reserves. it worked. the show was brilliant. i collapsed. i remain collapsed.

i don't care about the new record right now. i could give a fuck. i have come to terms with the fact that certain things cannot be multitasked. i will start caring when i am able. right now i care about my poor lungs, which hurt when i cough, and my nose, which is blistering over with a very attractive cold sore that i must resist picking. this was supposed to be a month off and i can already see what has happened. as i predicted - and nobody listened, or cared, rather - the time that was supposed to be sacred time off is getting swallowed by the record. we'll be finished with the record by the middle of the month. thanksgiving will come. time will disappear. nothing will come out of me. i won't even catch up. i'll keep dying this sad artistic death that i deny is happening even though every fact proved otherwise. i haven't written a song i'm really proud of in over two years. i was supposed to spend this whole month in new york, writing. i just cancelled the sublet. i've nobody to blame but myself, i let other people make bad decisions for me....and when left to my own devices i make my own bad ones that don't prioritize any free time. then i suffer.

when i stopped at the record store tonight i asked the store manager, who i chat with sometimes, if they had any jane's addiction DVDs....actually, if they had it, a compilation of their videos. i've only seen snippets here and there and i wanted to see the full collection to inspire some of our own work. they had "three days" in stock, but that had no videos...only documentary and live footage.....he said he'd dig around and he came back with a weird 90's collection of videos and documentary that had about 16 bands, including jane's addiction. if i wanted, he'd unwrap it and throw it on the display player. sure, thank you. they were closing up anyway. so he cued it up and there i saw footage of perry farrell, circa 1991 or so, cut together with a beautiful hand-held video of them playing live somewhere outside on venice beach. between swaths of pure rock love energy and beautiful bare chests and guitars and glitter and skirts and dreadlocks and tattoos and chains and nail polish, comes this face looking at me, this face like death warmed over it (he must have been on something, either that or he was Damn Tired), the face looked at me in it's three-foot hi-definition dispair and started talking to me: I don't know anything anymore, it said....i used to think i had advice for everybody, but now i know nothing....i thought when we signed with warner brothers i was the shit, that we'd made it....that everything was going to be easier....i haven't written a song in months....i used to write three or four songs a i'm having fights with people twice my age, people who have screwed everybody to get where they are....and i just wanted to make art, man, to create something beautiful...they've been talking about banning the cover and it just makes no sense, i'm not hurting anybody, i'm not trying to hurt anybody at all....i just want to think that when people see us play they'll be transported, they'll lose themselves....they'll forget about their lives and their problems and this world, because this world is so sad and terrible, it's so's so (and here his eyes glazed over and he slowed down and choked up)...i don't know....

...and with that i found myself crying, like a baby, in the middle of newbury comics in boston.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Count Down From Seven

it's been a long time since I diaried. i am still struggling with the idea of Living To Blog. i hate the nagging voice that says, as I live me life day-to-day, "Blog ME! I'm an Interesting Event!"
fuck that. it can't be healthy. anyway. here I am, to Update.

the time in the studio was hard, to say the least. now that i have some perspective on it, i can see what happened more clearly. we pulled up to the bottom of The Mountain on Sept 10th and were booked to live and record there until Sept 20th. i felt something odd right away, the minute we started driving up the zig-zaggity road. cue the music. it was JUST like the opening scene of the Shining. and the place, though it was beautiful, had a definite shining/agatha christie vibe. my head started to spoin a little. i couldn't put my finger on it. the next morning i felt bizarre. here we were, in the lap of luxury with a private studio and ten days to record and make music, and all i wanted to do was escape. i just didn't want to be there. the guys needed to get drums sounds and i had most of the day off, so instead of hanging out and getting myself acquainted with the facility and checking out the swimming pool and the woods and the fridge and the blah blah blah, i left. i just drove away. i drove the volvo down that mountain feeling like a bat out of hell. the nearest town was Woodstock, so there i went, found a yoga studio online, took a class and asked around for a cafe. and I got some tea and sat down and wrote and tried to figure out what the fuck was wrong with me, why i was so afraid. i still couldn't put my finger on it. i drove back to the studio later that day and called a friend, and tried to figure it out. "Are you PMSing?" No, there's no way, "What, what is it?" The best I could come up with was that I was just anxious and felt the pressure on my head, the pressure was too much to be contained within this superficial idyllic setting, and I hated the idea of being in close quarters with brian and these few other people with little contact to the outside world. that plus the fact that I felt weird about all the songs we were about to record they all seem too impersonal, and why are we up here at Major Label's expense in the bajillion-dollar it necessary? do we need to be here? when the fuck did THIS happen? it felt strange, foreign, Not Right. i tried to sleep it off and Calm Myself. As the days went by and we worked and worked and recorded, i tried to shake it but I couldn't fully. the days were packed, i would wake up and drive dwon to woodstock and do yoga and tea and then get back and we'd record from 2 til around 11 at night. work felt like a distraction, it was completly backwards. in good moments i could lose myself in some music-making, but not often. i felt like an alien in a strange land. the silence up there was deafening. i felt everything i wasn't. not a Rock Star, not a Person Who Loves Nature and loves Getting Away, not a Musician who loves immersing myself in music and music all the time. i just felt like a mistake, mis-cast in some surreal play. the days wore on and i adjusted and tolerated but never felt at home, and i was glad to leave. i felt guilty for feeling that, for sure. ach, poor little major label recording artiste.

coming home, i faced the longest stretch of time off we've had in a while. piles of Shit To Do towered on my desk and i attacked them with a viscous fervor, cleaning and organizing like the OCD person i never was, or never had the luxury to be. it's been nice to let myself off the songwriting hook, since i'm piano-less. there is a grand-sized space in my bedroom where the piano once stood, since it got shipped off to the various studios where we've been recording. we eased ourselves back into a rehearsal schedule, barely playing with each other and instead tending to our Real Lives and our relationships. everything is moving sort of slowly, but the future is barreling in. it's a strange feeling. did i mention that i've been feeling really strange? we go into the studio about every other day now, recording vocals and polishing the tracks at sean and paul's studio in cambridge. it feels like a job. it's so much different form the first record when everything felt so do-or-die and immediate. this is so relaxed and easy and non-immediate. i wonder if it's good or bad. it's so odd to be going through this process sand simultaneously trying to write the introduction and notes to the sheet music for our last record. chronicling this whole experience from three years ago. the differences between then and my life now are so glaring and refuse to make any real sense of themselves. i just sat in the middle of my bare bedroom with the grand-sized hole and listened to the first 8 rough mixes of songs on my stereo. they sounded empty. is it me? the songs? the recording? my speakers? am i losing it? i hope i'm losing it. that way there's a much better chance that that songs sound Brilliant and i'm just not noticing.

but music. i've been to some great shows in my few nights off. i went to see the white stripes, which was educational, and MIA, which was radical, and Antony and the Johnsons, which was above all...genius. he sings and my heart needs a chiropractor. that....and i went to see jaggery play ( and i am reminded again and again how the human voice can just transport you. it all makes me excited to tour again in october. the tour is going to be amazing, all of our friends on a bus together and an easy schedule with only 16 could it be that i've changed this much? i'm actually looking forward to going on tour, to get back to the grind. but the grind doesn't seem like a grind, it seems like an opportunity, an escape from this, a chance to connect with the world again. the strangeness i'm feeling, it;s kind of a loneliness, i think. i have found some excellent new teas. white tea with blueberry. green tea with pear. it's the Shit.

last night i made a major mistake and watched the movie "Seven". i stayed up all night shaking and couldn't get the images out of my head and finally asked my date to drive me home, where i didn't get to sleep til four in the morning and awoke with waking nightmares in my head. i tried to remedy this by motivating to the store this afternoon and buying DVDs of "Pretty in Pink" and "The Dark Crystal", which will hopefully sooth me and erase all traces of evil-knife-bondage-dildos and baptist serial killers from my sensitive brain. what the fuck? i experienced this same sort of trauma when i watched "requiem for a dream" about four years ago at my sister's house over thanksgiving. i couldn't talk to anyone normally for a day or two. it makes me think about how much we're at the mercy of the incoming. what do i see, hear, experience just riding my bicycle to the store and back and how much garbage is in my head, the sirens, the poverty, the city and it's callousness....wreaking havoc?

the woods are obviously not the answer. so?


p.s. book time
this is the book i've been reading lately, and it's Amazing: "The Inner Game of Tennis" by W. Timothy Gallwey. It's basically a Zen and the Art of Tennis book, applicable to anything in life but using tennis as a springboard to explain how our bodies instinctively learn and will perform at peak levels when left alone and not judged. don't worry, the irony is not lost on me.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Out of the Closet and into the Studio

we leave boston tomorrow for new york state, where we're going to record Album Two. in the woods. it's a far cry from the urban wasteland of brooklyn where we recorded the first record. for weeks the only wildlife i saw were ferrel cats and pigeons and the only green was the poor, abused park (the size of a large postage stamp) a few blocks from martin's....and occasional weeds straining out from under their sidewalk oppressors. typical city shit. this will be the polar opposite...the studio is On A Mountain and there is nothing but woods and deer. i may go into shock.

i've been easing into it, however. i spent the weekend in the country and now is where i have to fully come out of the closet. first of all i must state for the record that i am NOT A HIPPIE. ok i've said it. i do not like the dead, i don't believe in crystals or astrology, i generally hate tie-dye, i DO own a pair of birkenstocks but I find them very UNCOMFORTABLE so I never fucking wear them (they always fall off my feet...what's up with that?), i cannot hackey sack, and I do not smoke weed or play frisbee. i am not a hippie. i'm also not a goth, or a punk, or anything else very categorizable. i'm......a slob? that works. that's just fine. but not a hippie. godammit, the guys on NIN called us hippies and i supposed everything's relative. they never went around barefoot and they spent more time on their hair than we did. and probably collectively shaved more of their bodies than i did. but i am Not A Hippie. OK. enough. i do, however, do lots of yoga (this we know) and I meditate almost every morning. i've had a growing interest in zen buddhism and meditation for many years and every so often I will go to western massachusetts for a retreat. people always wonder and ask what I do there.

so here goes. i am coming out of the zen closet. the retreats last from anywhere from 3 to 8 days and basically you practice sitting meditation, walking meditation, mindfulness, and that's it. you eat. and sleep. the retreats are conducted in complete silence. you don't read, or write, or discuss, or do ANYTHING, you just clear your mind, pay attention to every little breath and detail, and it's incredibly difficult but also wonderful. to explain is hard. the place itself is beautiful...a transformed turn-of-the-century monastery that was bought in the 70's and has been a functioning vipassana (insight) meditation center since then. (you can go to the site: it's buried in the woods near a small town, the grounds are gorgeous and the building itself has tons of character. This was my fourth retreat. i found myself in tears the morning i left, reading about new orleans and the government and the people dying and the general mess. our country is sad. so sad. what to do? go to the woods and sit in a zen center.

So, without going into painful detail (and believe me, i could....Details upon Details about the pattern of the floor in the meditation hall...which i, I spent three days in silence, sitting on a cushion or walking on wooden floorboards staring at my slow-moving socks, watching inside, watching what was most apt to creep into my mind. it's a fascinating experience. to try to know yourself, to watch your mind, to allow quiet to enter a place usually so noisy that even in an empty room the volume of your brian chatters so endlessly with nonsense that you barely even notice that you're alive. especially lately, with all that's been going on, I was interested to see what would come up. We just went through personnel changes in the band and i think i've decided that the most unfun part of this job is hiring and firing crew. It just plain sucks. We're leaving to record the next album and I figured my mind would be filled with ideas, worries, anticipations and changes but actually, i didn't think about it at all. I think I'm Ready. We've been playing the material so much that I could record this album with my eyes glued shut. No, what crept into my head most was relationships, past and present, and occasional movies and songs. going to see avril recently proved a major disaster, as "Sk8r Boi" (which I'm not that fond of) and "Complicated" (definitely better) both bounced around in my brian relentlessly. this was so hilarious to me that I don't know where to begin. buddhism and avril. do they mix? zen would say so. zen would say: "the tree is green. the sky is blue. avril bleaches her hair."

I also found my brain wandering to the scenes from the DVD footage, which was sealed and delivered the night before i left. I feel strange about it. It is certainly not at all what I expected it to be, yet it's not bad. It's just very different than what I'd planned, and the day and the footage seems foreign. I was in a serious mood that day, so I look serious. That's the way it works. Is that who I've become? Some serious person? Maybe I have. On days of shows I tend to talk less, play less and take everything a bit more seriously. it was a stressful day...brian's drums were MIA on a plane somewhere, the power on the block went out, the problems piled up higher and higher....but unlike hollywood or reality TV, there was little drama. Just shrugs and "whatever. shit like this happens all the time. we'll figure it out." certainly the best life approach, but not such gripping cinema. my mind wandered over the scenes I had seen, replaying them in my head...wondering how it will look to other people. to make myself feel better I think of it as a snapshot rather than a portrait. a snapshot taken with a disposable camera in a drunken stupor...when you capture the spirit even though the lighting ain't quite right. the DVD tugged at my brain. think about me. think about me. fucking. i would often get caught up and then snap back to reality ten minutes later. back on the cushion. back with the sound of my own breath and 80 other people all quietly watching their own little dramas, their own mind-movies, gently pulling themselves back. practicing together. important.

There were about 80 folks on this retreat; the average age maybe 40 or so. there were a few incredibly old people and it was so inspiring to watch them moving through this rigorous schedule...with the pain in their bodies and the natural slowness in their step. in total silence everyone ate together in a large dining hall, wonderful vegetarian food prepared lovingly by the cooks, in total silence everyone sat and meditated in the hall. everyone stays in small dorm-type rooms with a bed, a chair, a sink and a mirror. the schedule is the same every day. every time period is announced by a bell-ringer (volunteers from the retreat, I rang for work period at 7:50 am) and it's a gorgeous sound, a thai bell struck with a rubber mallet. i would walk through the halls and grounds feeling like paul revere not in a rush. hey. you. wake up. the british aren't coming. i love ringing the bell. listening to it reverberate for bill hicks would say, it squeegeed my third eye. without mushrooms! back to the schedule....wake at 5:30, in the dark, and sit from 6 to 7. breakfast from 7-8. then work period, in which everyone had a different job to help the upkeep of the center, mostly cleaning and cooking (i scrubbed pots...mindfully and slowly). another sit from 9-10, then walking meditation (basically just walking in a ten foot space back and forth as slowly as possible while focusing on one point and keeping your mind's very funny to watch people doing this en masse's looks sort of like Night of the Living Dead, except pretty). then back to the meditation hall for a talk from the teacher (who was a wise and wonderful 83-year old german woman...just amazing, though somewhat senile), then lunch, then a brief break (I usually grabbed a nap or went for a walk in the woods). 2:30 more walking meditation, 3-4 sitting, 4-5 walking, then more sitting, 6-7 dinner, another talk, then more walking, then a late sitting and then bed. then wake up and do it all again. It's fantastic. It's monastic. It's....a meditation retreat, what the fuck? I don't know, this is really hard to explain. before I dig myself into a hole i will leave it be.

i've spent the last few days just taking time to myself, drinking tea, catching up, going to lots of voice lessons and rehearsing with brian and sean (our Esteemed Producer). we've narrowed it down the 16 tracks and we'll probably end up ditching two so that the record ends up with a total of 14. in the morning i'll pack my bags and drive to the woods, where we will make a record. wish me luck. i will be pretty much offline for the few weeks there, but i'll check in occasionally to make sure nobody's dying and that new orleans hasn't been secretly transformed overnight into a giant army base.



p.s. a final note for some reading: all i will say is that i would recommend meditation to anyone even remotely interested. i've never seen meditation NOT help anyone with anything in their life be it stress, scatterbrained-ness, depression, existential crisis, whatever. know thyself. it all starts there and then everything else slowly changes for the better. it's important to point out (since some people know Nothing about meditation or buddhism) that meditation is not religious, or even spiritual. it's practical. it's literally just the practice of sitting and sharpening your awareness. that's it. there are no rules, no rituals. you do not need to believe in anything. all of the trappings of religion and chanting and mantras are secondary and useless. it's pretty foolproof. one of the early books that hooked me was "Dropping ashes on the buddha"by seung sahn. he is a korean teacher with an amazing no-bullshit writing style....i read that back in 2000 and it cemented my desire to practice regularly:
another great book for the curious is "Buddhism Plain and Simple" by Steve Hagen. awesome writer, direct and a good quick read:

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

avril at the man center

last night, avril played in town at the summer shed venue (it used to be called Great Woods but emily named it The Man Center since it is owned, booked and run by The Man) and i was giddy as a school girl. i got there during the second opener (gavin degraw, wins Most Wholesome Boy Ever award), found my seat, released my judgement and waited to have an Avril Experience. alas...poor avril, she looks pretty bored up there. but she's certainly giving more than she was on the DVD, where she looked kind of like a punked-out wind-up doll who barely left the microphone, myabe due to the newness, maybe due to nerves, maybe due to just what she was....but last night she smiled more, addressed the crowd, clapped her hands and seemed to be more comfy. she's grown. despite this, the show was still pretty repetitive and i spent the majority of my time looking at the audience, which was fascinating. there were huge numbers of girls under ten (yikes) and the two standing on the seats to my left knew EVERY SINGLE WORD of EVERY SINGLE SONG. there is something surreal, terrifying and yet deeply satisfying about seeing two blond 9-year-old girls singing "I CAN'T HANDLE THIS CONFUSION" at the top of their lungs. i was instantly transported to the whipping nostalgia of my first concert, seeing Cyndi Lauper at the Worcester Centrum when I was 12. I went with four 12-year-old friends of mine (my kindly step-father escorted us and sat pretty motionless beside us, observing the whole affair with a kind of athropological query on his brow and his hand under his chin a la "the thinker" statue...what a trooper). we were so far back that cyndi was about the size of a little ant but i'll never forget the pound-pound in my heart and the rush of adrenaline being part of the Concert Expereince.
so i watched these girls and felt my heart go pound-pound because i knew their hearts were going pound-pound and i think that's maybe why i went to the Man Canter. not to See Avril so much as to See People Seeing Avril. i am jealous. i want my pop childhood back, i guess. i will continue to work on it. but i will not put out any terrible 80's-nostsalgic solo records. i promise. i promise.

avril played the piano (a steinway grand) for a few songs and for the encore she sat in on drums while her band covered blur's "song 2" (the WHOO-HOO song). she's a renaissance girl. nobody truly understands my feelings about avril. i wonder who she is, i wonder how she is able to handle never having had a real adolescence, i wonder what this touring and recording life does to you when it hits you at 16 and not 25, when it hit me, i wonder whether she actually has an original musical voice under there that actually feels heard beneath the veneer of pop and celebrity culture that surrounds her like a toxic moat. i was unable to personally give her my "together" DVD ( because my request to get backstage was strangely rejected from her management (theory: we think she's actually aware of the video i made and thinks it's Mocking Her, which it's NOT,'s a Heartfelt Work Of Art). i went to bed feeling very empty. i wanted more. i wanted to feel.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

C'mon Do the Vegetarian Haggis

So off i went, in the company of only Emily "Wizzle" White, tour managress deluxxxe, crew-less, brian-less, bold and ready to play three solo shows in the land of my kin, bonnie Scotland. The flight over to europe was very auspicious, we were seated in front of 23 members of The Young Ambassadors Brass Band, an almost all-male, definitely all-british crew of brass-playing hooligans who had just finished a tour of their own in the states. They immediately asked us about the band (after Emily accidentlaly spilled 45 Dresden Dolls "bad habit/girl anachronism" sampler CDs out of her bag) and asked if we were "like taTu". taTu is a russian teeny-bopper band of two underage girls who make out with each other. We said no, and informed them that emily wasn't actually in the band, but that we would make out with each other if they gave us fifty dollars (each). They declined but one of the dudes behind us grabbed the samplers and asked if it was OK to try to sell them to everyone on the plane for a dollar. Fine with us. So he went from the front of the back of the plane trying to sell our samplers like an unstoppable drunken force, pausing only once to run back to our seats and ask us what the music sounded like. He then resumed his enterprise and earned us $21. Awesome! The rest of the flight involved him and his friends throwing shoes at us and sneaking up behind me to put clothespins in my hair.

The first few days in Edinburgh were vacation days, and I wandered around in ecstasy, soaking up the the marvels of the fringe fesitval. For those unaware, the Edinburgh fringe is the largest fringe theater festival in the spans the month of august with over 200 venues, thousands of plays and events and endless activity.... it's basically disneyland for actors and artists. Everywhere you go and everywhere you look there is something happening, street performers everywhere, theater at all hours, music seeping out the cracks of the sidewalks. I almost wept when I started reading through the fringe schedule and realized that I would probably have time to see two or three out of the 26,478 plays being put up. That first night we went to a stand-up show of my wonderful old friend Eugene Mirman (he's opened up for us in Boston, and has toured with Modest Mouse and other rock acts around the world....and he's VERY FUNNY: The most hilarious yet disturbing part of his act was a found magazine that he presented called "Revolve": it was The Bible in "people magazine" format to make it palatable to teen girls. Even the inside layout was the same as teen people or elle girl magazine (including pix of hottt teen boys and girls!)....but it was The Bible. THE BIBLE. I won't even go into it. He also played some wonderful tape-recordings of a phonecall he received from a Christian Phone Company that was trying to get him to switch away from ATT and MCI because "ATT and MCI support Gay Marriage". Eugene asked politely if he switched, would gays Just Go Away? The woman held it together pretty well, seemed to empathize with Eugene who went on a theatrical rant about how Gays Should All go Away, and the conversation that ensued was priceless. We almost peed our pants. After the show, Eugene took us to the Library Bar, which is an old university library (with old wooden and glass-door shelves and books and chandeliers and the Whole Deal) but during the fringe it's converted into a VIP bar for the comedians. I was Good and did not drink. The next day we pitpatttered around and I went to rehearse my piano parts at a friend-of-a-friends apartment. Confronted with the friend-of-a-friend, it turned out that he was a musician named Mr. Andy and he started blowing wonderful music out of his trumpet. I met a few of his housemates and one was a beautiful girl named Ms. Ruby who could tap-dance and within a few minutes it was determined that we had to do a trumpet/tap-dancing version of "Coin-Operated Boy". We rehearsed. Then at night we met up with Eugene again to see Daniel Kitson (, an insanely funny comedian whose whole fringe run was sold out. Highlight of his show: his description of the terrible feeling you get when you find out that someone you hate loves the same band you do. Equally great: his description of sitting in a train car with a swarthy teenager playing annoying techno music off of his new-fangled phone for his girlfriend and the triumphant mutiny of the rest of the passengers. I can't do it justice, you have to go see for yourself. Tell him amanda says hi.

The next day was a train trip to Aberdeen for the first show and I savored the Scottish countryside and the clickityclacking train sound that I love so much. I love trains. I love airplanes, but I love trains more, because you can move around in them more and there's more things outside to watch. But I love both. Testaments to what's left of a civilized society. The Show Itself was nerve-wracking but I played well and people, who came out in good numbers, seemed totally into it. There is a part of me that feels amputated without brian, even though there is a sense of freedom. I wasn't a solo player for long enough to really have the right perspective, and playing solo has always felt like it's somehow not legitimate. I think this trip pretty much erradicated that feeling. I attacked the piano with a ferocious determination and ignored the fact that my left hand was unsupported by the thump of the bass drum and that I had no-one on stage to communicate with. I communicated directly to the audience instead and it felt even more personal than usual...sonically and emotionally naked. I fell asleep thrilled and exhausted and we caught a train back to Edinburgh the next morning.

I ran straight over to Mr Andy's for a final rehearsal of trumpet and tap-dancing and when I got there found more friend-of-friends, so what was once to be a tap-dancing a trumpet version of Coin-Operated boy turned into a full schedule of collaborations that included "amsterdam" with Mr Andy on upright bass and new friend-of-friend-of-friend Mr Nathaniel on guitar and what the hell we arranged a whole new song from scratch that Mr. Nathaniel had written, called "Hold Me". It was a sort of old-timey ditty a la "honey pie" by the beatles and the lyrics were written from the point of view of the last man on earth who has survived the Apocolytic Reign Of Fire to find that he is the only survivor, except for one monkey and an all-girls choir. We added a breakdown in the middle that involved me playing the piano with my left hand and strumming the guitar with my right, while Mr. Nathaniel played the frets with his left hand and used his free hand to slap Ms Ruby's ass in time with the music (while she tap-danced wildy, of course), and she in turn played the strings of the Upright Bass with her right hand while Mr. Andy used his free hand to take a trumpet solo. If it sounds confusing, it was. But it was beautiful.

We had been offered a slot at the all-night Bongo Club cabaret by a friend of an ex-girlfriend of a friend of a friend of a friend, so we decided to meet there later that night. I told them I would try to bring Regina (The Ms. Regina Spektor), who had a show scheduled that night. She and I met up for lunch before her soundcheck and I brought her to the forest cafe, which i had discovered a few nights earlier (on recommendation from a great band i met called terrafolk - - who played super-tight gypsy covers of beethoven and van halen). it was a classic anarcho-punk co-op cafe with a big leaf-and-branch-filled room for sitting and the most delicious vegetarian food. we ate and got good green tea and shared stories and woes and then went to her soundcheck and tried a little song together, which we played that night at her show which was, of course, fucking brilliant. regina spektor is a piano-playin-poety-from-another-planet-singin-bad-ass motherfucker. i watched her in complete awe and was bolstered in my opinion that a piano can indeed stand on it's own three legs.

I took Regina over to the bongo club and we stuffed into the overpacked dressing room surrounded by sequined girls and flaming gay MCs before heading down to play. It was very reminiscent of the Old Dolls Days when the PA never worked and the sound was always horrible, but we managed to pull of a pretty good impromptu show. I played a few songs on my own, Regina and I did a reprise of the song that I has sang with her at her show (titled "UH-merica" and a beautiful song it is....) and then my new band took stage and all hell broke loose. After a bit of celebrating and meeting many new people (a bunch of regina's fans came over from her show and were also headed to my show the next day) i called it an early night before I got myself into Beer Related Trouble (i did not have such luck the next night). Goodbye, Regina....i always wish we could be friends all the time, but we're always in different places. That's what this is like.

The next day was Show Day in Edinburgh and I skipped soundcheck (how rock and roll) go to the circus. But This was not just any circus. This was the circus that puts them all to shame. This show makes Cirque du Soleil seems like complete pussies. They had their own tent and the show was a cross between Cirque Du Soleil, de le Guarda, beetlejuice, city of lost children, the dresden dolls and amadeus. There was no fixed seating, and the crowd (about 300) was directed to move around the tent floor, and the show took place at every concievable place at all any given moment there might be a girl in a victorian nightgown flying on a trapeze above you while a woman ran flying by you pushing an old baby-carriage filled with apples and soap and ribbons and two men on the other side of you played along with the house band on beer bottles that they would then toast with and drink with maniacal laughter. Meanwhile, the lights were stunning and the atmosphere was just completely electric and twisted and beautiful and tragic and....just epic. I resolved then and there to drag them to the states with every ounce of energy and every penny i could muster to tour with us next year. a complete pipe dream, but who wouldn't want to come see the dresden dolls in a circus tent with the best show on earth as a double bill? c'mon. the website of the company is and the show is called "Immortal2". if you're at the fringe, get tickets now and go see it. they also tour, so check out the dates. send them my regards. I left them a love-letter on the reverse-side of a letter that had fallen from the roof of the tent (with hundred of others, in a snowy letterfall) during the show.

Inspired by my orgasmic circus experience I played an even more maniacal set than the one before, and the crowd was wild and the club sold out. There was a wonderful pair dressed as bloody surgeons with a beautiful doll (they were supposed to be part of a larger "Mandy Goes To Med School" - inspired living installation, but i think the rest of their cast chickened out). The opener (Lapsus Linguae - i can't find a site for them but they opened all three shows) also tore it up. I kept these sets very album-oriented, unlike my solo shows in boston which are usually used as a testing ground for new material. This is sort of a frankenstein of the set i played all three nights, with all the songs smusched together:

Manner of Speaking (by TuxedoMoon)
Modern Moonlight
Missed Me
Bad Habit
Perfect Fit
Coin-Operated Boy (with Ms Ruby on tap-dancing and Mr Andy on trumpet at all three edinburgh shows)
Me & The Minibar
Bad Habit
I want you, but I don't need you (by Momus)
Sex Changes
Such Great Heights (by The Postal Service)
First Orgasm
Lua (by Bright Eyes)
Half Jack
Girl Anachronism
Amsterdam (with Mr. Andy and Mr. Nathaniel)
Hold Me (ditto - written by Mr. than)
Ampersand (yes, the very one)
Hallelujah (by Leonard Cohen)

To top off the night, i got a last-minute invitation to haul my self and the whole impromptu band over the Spiegeltent for a late night show starting at 2 am.

The Spiegeltent deserves a few words. It is a magic place. I saw my first Spiegeltent (which means "mirrortent" in german) when I was at the Adelaide fringe festival in Australia in 2000, shortly before I met brian. I was over there to See The World and try to make some money as The Bride. The business was bad there that year (at least according to all the other street performers, and I barley covered the cost of my ticket) but I saw some great World things and one was the Spiegeltent. There are actually about 20 of these tents in existence, and they travel around parking themselves at festivals and bringing cabaret joy to the people. They are so indescribably beautiful that one should just go look at (there's a really cool 360-degree virtual tour photo up there), but suffice it to say it is a 1920's-era wooden dance-hall tent bedecked with velvet and mirrors and stained glass. Pretty Much Heaven. There is one top company called The Famous Spiegeltent that book the entertainment and it's always a late-night destination for racy cabaret and amazing music at any theater festival. The staff and bartenders wear gorgeous weimar-cabaret inspired clothes and the whole thing is pretty much an amanda-palmer-wet-dream. so to be invited to play there was a wonderful treat, and i sat down at that shiny black grand piano at 2:15 am with a feeling of bursting joy I can't describe. The tent was full of late-night, drunken, tired, sparkling hazy applause and beauty. People sat down on the dance floor and with my broken and tired voice, I played a few songs and attempted a "Mrs. O", which always sounds better on a Real Piano, and then my impromptu band (by this time someone - at the Bongo Club, i think - had dubbed us "The Cabaret All-Stars") played our numbers and we were finally caned off stage by the management. This is the point where I started to get into Beer Trouble (and Wine Trouble, and a little bit of Cigarette Trouble) and in retrospect, I should have eaten more than just lunch that day. Skipping dinner proved to have been an unwise decision as my little yogacised body was not so Into the idea of all of these liquids, and even though I only drank about 4 drinks over the course of the night it was probably about 3 too many.

Suffice to say the next morning was a little rough but I actually felt pretty good as we caught a ride to our last show in Glasgow and I ate a sandwich to absorb the small trace of Hangover. Evil Sandwich! It made an appearance in my hotel bathroom toilet much later that night, after the show. I think playing a show is a bad antidote for a hangover, I stirred up many emotions (and the sandwich). But playing in the face of adversity, loathe as I am to admit it, always makes for the best shows. Without fail. Facing my guilt about Being Stupid and Not Taking Better Care of Myself gave birth to an Amanda vs. Amanda show and I threw myself into the songs with every little bit of anything I could muster. And it worked just fine. The house was sold out, again, the crowd was fucking incredible, and I left stage and collapsed immediately on a couch and Wizzle needed to pry me off with a spatula to get in a cab back to hotel, where i briefly re-visted my sandwich (evil!) and fell into a sweet slumber. I felt much better in the morning and the flight home was uneventful, save for running into the Bravery at Heathrow. They are the omnipresent Band who we run into No Matter Where We Are. I mean, it's uncanny. They were on their way to Florida and I was on my way to the Tie Rack where I had left my boarding pass like an idiot while buying a scarf.

Brian, like a true friend, picked me up at the airport and we drove straight to Whole Foods (which is like Mecca in the world of the Dresden Dolls, every day at lunch we chant and prostrate ourselves towards the Whole Foods in Austin, TX which is like the mothership that will take us all away when the Man finally takes over the World). He tried on the vintage kilt and jacket I got for him (wicked sexy and no underwear to be authentic, but then again brian would look sexy wearing a dropcloth) and then we went to our old haunt The Lizard Lounge where a great local band that Brian recently discovered, Humanwine, was putting on an acoustic show. I was almost passing out from jetlag but it was perfect music to sit and be exhausted to...a gorgeous combo of guitars and haunting singing (go see: Brian seems to be much happier now that he's Had A Rest.

All in all I give this trip an A. it would have gotten an A+ if not for the Evil Sandwich and the Beer Trouble.

I am so happy to be home and have re-established by relationship with my yoga mat and kettle. no more Beer Trouble until after the record is recorded. she said.

Oh, and for anyone who has ever travelled, ever, or for anyone who hasn't, i highly highly recommend "The Art Of Travel" by Alain de Botton. His previous book, "How Proust Can Change Your Life" is also brilliant. They are both quick reads and sort of humorous yet deeply profound pop-philosophical wanderings that make your soul go "yes! yes! fuck! yes!"

I would also like to publicly state how awesome Dan Savage is for giving us a shout-out in his sex-advice column "Savage Love" (,savage,67087,24.html). I've been a huge admirer of his ever since seeing him speak in 1997 and now he's helping us take over the world! I love him. Return the favor and read all of his sex advice, because He Knows.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Breaking and Making

Such a strange mix of feelings.

We've never cancelled a single show, and now three days before the flight we're pulling out of an entire tour.
Brian doesn't want to go, is going through his own thing, and I am very supportive of him....while also going through my own understandable frustration about it. I know, deep down, that we've made the right decision and that things could be no other way, but then I find myself plagued with haunting visions of a girl from FInland showing up at a Festival that she's spent a years allowance on a ticket, defied her parents orders and driven 23 hours with her best friend who is dying of leukemia only to arrive there and find, a la the Wally World scene in "Vacation", a tattered sign scotch-taped to a chainlink fence, blowing in the wind: "Sorry, Dresdin Dolls show is Cancell". She the bursts into tears and forthwith curses my name every night before she goes to bed until she dies. fine fine. maybe it won't be that bad.

We've done a complete 180, Brian and I. I remember back when my nickname for him used to be Mr. Get In The Van because he was so gung-ho about touring. I, on the other hand, was always dragging my feet and really reluctant to leave. Now I've acclimated and Brian is feeling the reverse. It just goes to show, nothing's ever the way you think it will be. I am still going to go play the shows we were scheduled to do in Scotland, alone, which is slightly terrifying but should be fun. Emily is coming with me and it's fringe-festival time in Edinburgh, which I've dreamed about going to see I was a Wee Bairn. I'm bracing myself for a flood of emails about Why The Tour Is Cancelled and Are You Ok and Is Brian Ok and general What The Fuck and am deeply considering coming up with some kind of auto-reply to spare myself typing the same email 148 times. Meanwhile....I spent the last three days just keeping body and soul together, drinking tea and staring at the wall a lot, while everybody hustled and bustled this way and that and tried to come to the right decision. I stepped back. I took long bicycle rides. I did no work. I sat by the phone. I went to the movies. I finished two songs. I met with old friends. I tried to remember myself. I tried to find some love. I tried to get my mind off of everything. The movies really do help you do that, I noticed, after I left the theater. I didn't think about my problems at all for two hours. No wonder ticket sales for movies skyrocketed during the depression. So I went back to the movies again. I highly recommend "Me and You and Everyone We Know". ))<>(( Miranda July is a woman I think I would marry if I were the lesbian type and the marrying type.

The Recording is supposed to start in a few weeks and I'm feeling cautious but also looking forward to it. We recorded 19 songs in Sean and Paul's new studio in Revere (nicknamed "Severe" around these parts; not the savoryest part of Boston but certainly has it's charm). They've jsut moved in there and nothing has been touched (or cleaned?) since 1957. The control room looks like the Brady Den, replete with wood and fake-stone paneled walls, like a ski lodge. There was an old mason and hamlin piano in the corner but after cutting a few tracks with it it was just impossible to play, and sounded icky, so we ended up cutting all of the tracks with the Kurtweill. Another 180: I used to abhor playing a keyboard, now I'm pretty much committed to the conclusion that I am not a piano player but a kurtweill player and it's possible that the album will be tracked with keyboard And Piano and that's just fien with me. You couldn't have gotten me to agree to that a few years ago if you'd held a paintball gun to my head. The material sound really, really good. My relationship to this new batch is a weird one. These songs are, generally, a lot less personal than the batch on Record#1 and for some reason that makes me feel very funny inside. I'm just not as attached. On the last record, every song was The Song and had been The Song for some perdiod of my life. Bad Habit was The Song for a few years and so was Slide and so was Half Jack. But on this record....none of these songs have rooted themselves inside me and festered. So they feel.....well, not Not As Good but maybe Not As Real. I think this will be the case for every record I make from now on. I think the first record is like the first true love, or losing your virginity. For better or for worse, i don't think you ever feel that way again, ever.

Still, I am taking care of myself, meditating every morning, doing yoga every day and drinking my greens. My voice is getting stronger and I'm laying off coffee and cigarettes and alcohol and yes of course all that crack cocaine I usually smoke, and it's sounding pretty good. Pope and Z are away in vermont and Lee is back from the hospital (he's fine), so things here are quiet and peaceful. The rain has been bashing down and I got caught in it yesterday while riding my bicycle and it felt really good to be poured on and I got home sopping wet and put my bathrobe on and there's nothing like that feeling of walking around in your warn apartment wet from the rain with your bathrobe on and the sky dark and your wet clothes hanging on the shower rod.

yesterday i read a new set of lyrics to a friend and he liked everything except the part where i mention an ampersand. he said nobody knows what an ampersand is. i found that impossible to believe. so my activity today is to ask everybody if they know. and if i get at least a 50% positive response, the ampersand stays. if not, i'm fucked and need to find another word for ampersand, which there ISN'T, so i'm just fucked, plain and simple.



Saturday, August 06, 2005

japan - day 6, billy corgan & home

I ended up skipping tink tink (dammit) in favor of going to see billy corgan at a tokyo club. my interest was especially piqued because he had been quoted in some magazine or other saying that the dresden dolls had influenced his last record. what? ok, maybe. stranger things have happened. i know very little about the man and his music, other than seeing the smashing pumpkins open up for the chili peppers in 1991 (along with pearl jam, also then pretty much unknown - i touched eddie vedder's leg when he crowd surfed!! whoo!). one interesting thing about my musical history was the aparent bubble i unwittingly lived in during the nineties. i didn't really learn about nirvana until kurt cobain was dead and i never listened to the radio or watched MTV so i was (and still am, for the most part) completely clueless about most of the rock icons of the nineties. i see this as an advantage most of the time. at least i can still discover the best of it (when i finally bought Nevermind in 1999 i was like "holy shit! nobody told me this was GOOD!"). i continue to astound brian (and emily, especially, the true child of the nineties) with my ignorance. Stone Temple Pilots....they were a rap band, right?

no-one else was interested in coming, so emily and i arranged tickets and went off to see what Billy Corgan Solo looks like. and it looks very beautiful, turns out. the light show was a genius set of folding screens behind the minimal keyboard and drumpad band, whose instruments were encased in flowery, hand-welded art nouveau sculptures. for better or worse, the music blew my mind: it was as if someone had taken me and transported me to a random nightclub in 1983. it was not was more like being in a sound museum. very mid-tempo, very joy division, very intense. every time mr. corgan looked in our direction, i felt bullet eyes piercing my brain. whatever kind of music he was playing, the guy had an unbelievable stage presence. afterwards we said hello and hung out for a minute or two, talking about japan and japanese culture. mr. billy corgan seems very deliberate, that's the best word i could come up with. a guy who has spent a lot of time thinking and working through and measuring carefully. turns out he had found out about the dolls through an agent we know who passed our disc along. things happen. they keep happening.

our last morning in tokyo i woke up early and wanted nothing more than to just be alone and soak up the last few moments. i took a long walk around our neighborhood and paid a visit to a nearby temple, where i sat in a chair for a while, half meditating and half watching the monks going through their rituals, and then took a walk through the cemetery. there were lilies in the garbage. i took one that wasn't too wilted.

13 hours on a flight to new york and then a 3 hour layover and 2 hour delayed flight to boston.
i watched the wizard of oz (cried four times, mostly towards the beginning) and million dollar baby for the second time this month (cried twice). flying means there are a lot of movies. i never used to see any of them, now i am in touch with the culture.

there are no lights on in my apartment. the power is out. go downstairs, where pope and zea are still up working. do you know why the power is out? lightning? ok., fair enough. go back upstairs, head for bed. there are british people in my bed. go back downstairs. do you guys know why there are british people in my bed? houseguests of lee (our benevolent landlord). ok. where's lee? in the hospital, with a terrible flu. ok. is there beer? yes. time to drink some. i try to explain, sitting on the stoop drinking beer, the double mindfuck feeling of not only seeing your apartment in the complete darkness when your'e not used to it, but also being able to vaguely make out the foreign-shaped belongings of strange surprise british houseguests. i see something on my kitchen table that doesn't live there, but i can't really see what it is. foreign amorphous objects in the bathroom. all will be revealed tomorrow, when the sun comes up. for now i am camping out in lee's bed upstairs and finding comfort in the familiar glow of my mac, which is one of the only sources of stability in my life lately. i awoke the strange birtish couple. no, no! stay in bed, you look very comfortable. we'll meet tomorrow and in the meantime, keep sleeping. good night.

i am home again. i am happy. already i have drank three cups of tea and played the piano and gone to my yoga studio and sweated my brains out. the piano is like an anti-magnet but i did finish one song that's been bouncing around in my head for the better part of a year now, and it represents a real milestone for me because i actually finished the lyrics On The Airplane, which means On Tour, which means Away From Home which I can traditionally Never Do. So maybe now i can creep out of my nasty habit shell and actually start writing a little more on the road. i can only finish writing lyrics when the song is more or less finished in my head and i just need words combined together and filling in blanks, but it's a start. music is all in my head, it's not in my fingers and i need to remember that i can do whatever i want. i'm honestly like fucking rainman when it comes to songwriting. i need to cure myself.

currently listening to spiritualized (ladies and gentleman we are floating in space), i forgot how brilliant that music is for calming nerves, and it's starting to feel a little tiny bit like fall, so i put on my Nad Navillus CD (iron night) which is one my favorite fall CDs of all time, to, like, kind of prepare for fall coming. so i'm not surprised. fall always scares me a little. because then comes the winter. anyway.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

japan - days 2 3 4 and 5

a little background is necessary here, so please bear with me. i have an old friend, david franklin (aka manta), who i met back in 2000 through pope who was, at the time, shooting neovoxer ( and i was acting in the film and being part of the general mayhem. manta is a performance artist and a martial arts instructor for an esoteric japanese style called shintaido, and after being invited to attend some of his boston classes (which were often held outside in random parks) i was really turned on to the practice. i went to one weekend-long shintaido retreat back in 2000, where i found the whole shintaido community very tight-knit and welcoming. there are probably less than 1000 folks in the united states into shintaido. there are other small communities all over the world, but japan is where the style originated and where the largest number of folks practice. a brief history is difficult, but you can go to and get a basic idea. it was founded in the 1960s as a reaction against the violent and careless direction that karate and other japanese martial arts were taking, and was more or less developed by a bunch of artists through a long workshop process. watching someone practice it looks like a combination of karate, tai chi, primal scream therapy, and modern dance improvisation. on our second european tour, we invited manta to travel with us on the tour bus for the purpose of videotaping (it was on that fateful journey that the avril lavigne "karaoke verite" video was born) and kicking our asses awake in the morning to practice shintaido. some of my fondest memories of that tour were of running "Eiko" across a field in blackheath, england at dawn, screaming "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAEEEEE" at the top of my lungs at the rising cloudy sun. anyway, as soon as we realized we were coming to japan i wrote manta straightaway to see if he could hook us up with some shintaido folks over here, and indeed he shot right back that his friend, jet, lived right near tokyo and would probably love to come to the festival and do some practicing. as fate would have it, there was a "waterfall training" already scheduled in a nearby town right after the festival, and jet invited us to come along. i knew little about this but figured it could only be interesting and probably wonderful, so i said fuck yes. everybody else but brian bailed out (emily wanted to stay at fujirock and see bands; sean slade, joel and robert preferred to have nothing to do with a potentially freezing cold waterfall and their potential submersion Into It and instead chose to go to tokyo and look at girls and temples) so we got on the train the next morning with jet and his friend mr. oi and began our journey.

jet spoke some english, but communication was limited to the basics. we took two trains, buildings disappearing and rice paddies growing, and then took a taxi from the last train stop to the mountain, which has been a holy buddhist place for centuries. there was a large shrine across from our small inn (which was run by a kindly old buddhist monk) and a path along a rocky stream leading up to the waterfall. during the day, it was an obvious tourist destination for japanese and there was a handful of families with kidlets bathing in the stream. our inn was very spartan and beautiful; each room was in the old japanese style, with only woven straw mats on the floor and one low table, otherwise no furniture, no beds. we slept on thin futons that were folded in the closet along with the quilts and pillows. after we arrived, we met the other shintaido folks who had made the trek to the mountain for the training. there were five other men besides jet and mr. oi and two women, everyone mostly in their 30s or 40s. we met goro, a beautiful long-haired guy who was the waterfall training leader, and we headed out to a beautiful clearing in front of the shrine to practice shintaido for about an hour in preparation for going up the mountain. mr. oi was the sensei (the teacher/leader) for the shintaido practice and gave his instruction in gorgeous broken english for our benefit, which was very kind, since my shintaido was fucking rusty and i'd forgotten a lot.

then we went to the waterfall. this is where things started to get very interesting. one woman who spoke excellent english interpreted everything that goro told us as we prepared, one by one, to go through this process which apparently has roots stretching back ages in the buddhist, shinto and japanese warrior traditions. all eleven of us walked the paths and stairs up to the base of the waterfall, which was about 20 stories high and loud as hell. on the way up we bowed at the small shrines built into the sides of the mountain and purified our hands and mouths (via swishing) with the water from the shrine, which was trickling directly, they said, from mount fuji. above the waterfall itself was built a wooden balcony on a gorge that overlooked the place where the crashing waterfall met the earth, and this is where we prepared and left our belongings. the trees and flora on the mountain were thick and rainforesty and there were luminescent black butterflies and spiders flitting about everywhere. goro passed out sandals made of rope that we tied to our feet for traction while walking in the slick, rocky white-water; then he determined an order in which people would enter the waterfall - basically from most to least experienced....there were men there who had done this training 100 times and a few total novices like us. a small wooden box of sea salt was passed around and we rubbed the dry salt on our bodies for purification ("private parts" area - very important). there was a short meditation and then we descended altogether into the rocks and water and goro took his place at a large rock that faced the waterfall (whose base was probably about ten feet wide). as we stood there, deafening waterfall bits bursting in our faces, goro began the ceremony with what i assume was a kind of blessing of the waterfall, though it appeared more like a exorcism. hands clapping powerfully together, japanese words shouted and muttered, the rest of the sea-salt scattered, a bottle of water from the mountain shrine splashed into the spray, and then mr. oi entered the water (fully dressed - we were the only ones not wearing a full "gi" - the traditional white martial arts uniform).

i don't know if you've ever tried to stay erect under a massive waterfall, but it's fucking near impossible. even the masters like mr. oi would get violently punched over by the sheer velocity of the water and have to re-find their footing. most stayed under for less than a few minutes; the hardcore would remain there, locked to the earth like human edifices, for what seemed like ages. it wasn't a question of man vs. nature with man emerging triumphant, it was more a vivid display of man triumphing over the division between man and nature itself. a teeny woman before me was knocked down four or five times and finally made it through a few moments in the waterfall without tumbling. my turn came, i waded through water and rocks trying to completely clear my mind, and i stood in a very light part of the waterfall (i knew we'd be returning the next morning and i figured it wold be ok to be a pussy the first time around). the water hit my head and i raised my hands. it all made perfect sense.

when everyone was finished we convened back up on the platform and bowed to each other and the water a final time. then we descended back to the inn, where we had strict orders from goro to spend fifteen minutes in the baths. so i was alone in the women's communal bath with the two japanese shintaido women (whose names i never knew), and we soaked there, naked in the big tiled tub. i talked to them a little about how grateful i was to be, finally, around people who were taking care of themselves. they listened and asked questions. i told them about Rock World and the many self-destructive and harmful people we encounter. then i went up to our room and fell asleep. everybody left except jet and goro, who spent the night in the inn with us. we all ate a late dinner together in the inn dining-room....the best food i've eaten here by far. the kindly monk prepared it for us and it was a lavish spread of sashimi, soup, tempura, salad and tofu. a smorgasbord of orgasmic food, eaten with jet and goro who were now my two favorite japanese people in the world, talking about Everything and laughing. after dinner the monk cut up a watermelon for us and proudly showed us the pictures of the sumo wrestler who got filmed by CNN doing waterfall training outside his inn. then we all adjourned to jet and goro's room, practiced sitting meditation for a half hour, and then went to sleep like logs (i was a log, at least. i think brian may have been more like a quaking aspen).

the next morning we awoke and ate a similarly incredible breakfast, then went to the temple clearing to prepare for waterfall training: day two. jet showed us a few good exercises to do before stage (they really liked our show by the way - "very strong. very powerful energy. yes. you two - very important - stay soft and connected") and then i sat and watched the two of them do some symbolic sword-fighting using long wooden staffs. the two of them would occasionally get locked together, each facing the sky with swords pointed heavenwards and clashing upwards like two coital birds.

then back up to the waterfall we went....rope shoes, meditation and preparations, salt, excorcism. this time it was only the four of us. i resolved to become a human rock and i entered the water (which was colder than the day before) and after getting knocked over multiple times i managed to stand my ground for a few minutes. your mind has no choice but to clear. maybe a stray thought to keep your balance, but there is just you and your body getting eaten and reborn by thousands of gallons of water pummeling your meaningless self. i knew it was time to go when it was, and i let myself get spit out back into the world.

we were exhausted by all this and went to rest again in the inn, we left a dresden dolls CD with the monk and thanked everyone there for taking good care of us, then started to head back towards tokyo with jet.
we talked about japan and america and europe. it's a small world while being very big. japan has been wonderful for me because it has forced me at every turn to be so humble. everybody here is very quiet and
respectful and i am overly self-conscious about seeming like the Ugly American. this has increased my general mindfulness about everything i do, from the volume at which i speak to the way i eat to the way i sit
down in a chair. this is good, this is very good.

after returning briefly to tokyo we went to kyoto by train, with robert and sean, to visit my friend zach. he's an ex-pat i went to college with briefly, now married to a japanese doctor named maki and fathering a gorgeous one-year old boy named gen. we were welcomed warmly into zach's house and got to commune with the youth a little bit (gen was pretty freaked by us strangers) and listen to zach play his shakuhachi, a traditional japanese bamboo flute that he's been studying on and off for more than ten years. then we spent a quiet night in a veggie-centric kyoto restaurant in a converted traditional townhouse, where we shared our large low table (completely coincidentally) with a band from okinawa called tink tink (pronounced "tinku tinku", a double reference to "twinkle twinkle little star" and the sound a shamisen makes when you pluck it). they were hyper and adorable and we took pictures and traded CDs and promised to try to make it to their show a few days later in tokyo. we spent the next day in kyoto staggering through the heat getting awestruck by temples and shrines and beautiful things. i bought some socks. we ate some sushi. i love this country.

back in tokyo now, everyone seems to be in great spirits, especially sean slade (our esteemed producer). it's been wonderful to combine the journey with a few scattered conversations here and there about the upcoming recording (we start september 10th) and choices we may make about this and that. but generally i haven't been giving a fucking thought to music. the only thing i've listened to over here is my "the best of fad gadget" cd, which is all i may ever need for the rest of my life. i love fad gadget. i do i do i do.

i have seen the collision of goth and disney and it is harajuku.