Thursday, June 30, 2011

Submitting for Peer Review


The longer my unemployment drags on, the more i will need my #1 cheerleader Liz to keep my self-confidence at a healthy level.

Every time i apply for a copywriting job, i find myself fighting a healthy degree of self-doubt fueled by lists of qualifications i feel i can't meet, experience requirements i don't match. Every non-response or rejection email just becomes justification for my lack of confidence.

Today Liz totally called me out during a text message conversation and scolded me for not being more positive. She pointed out that my cover letters will likely suffer if i keep this pessimism routine up, and insisted that the more i stay positive, the more energy i'll have to job search.

Amusingly, she brought up something that my friend Lisa in Oakland has reminded me of time and again--that i should be marketing myself and my writing the way i market my bands (ignoring for the moment that i have lots more confidence in IfIHadAHiFi than i have my ability to get hired to write words). "Think about it. You wrote the guy from Archers on a whim. And are you opening for them next week or not?"

Dammit, she's right.

Time to start approaching my cover letters with the cheerful whimsy of an annoyingly assertive self-promoter posting Facebook nonsense about his band on a daily basis. I think i'm going to hit my cheerleader up for pep-texts before every one i write, and which point i will likely be able to upgrade that hypothesis to the Theory of Awesome Girlfriend Advocacy (AGA).

Elliott awoke from his coma yesterday and ever since, has been making strides toward recovery. Updates from the Waxeater Facebook page:




And tonight, the El posted on his Facebook!

"Thank you so much for well wishin (aluminum beardo band) you are all best people in the world. I truely love you all."

From now on, whenever i get injured on stage, the phrase that pays is going to be "Where's by bourbon?"

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Why We Do

I question many of the paths i've taken in life on a regular basis; i'm about as self-critical as Nyjer Morgan is delightfully batshit. That criticism has been cranked to Code Orange levels in recent weeks due to my current unemployment. Is my 1997 BS degree in radio-tv-film worth anything? What if i had studied something more marketable and not concentrated so much on rock 'n' roll? Would i be flailing about looking for writing jobs that i'm not even confident i'm qualified for? Have i failed in my attempts to balance band and job?

The grass is always greener, right? My sister and her husband have put together a steady, stable family with a house they'll have paid off in no time, awesome kids, and what i can only assume is more financial security than i have. I have, to this point, traded that in for tours and nights spent on floors in remote American cities.

And then there's the stereotype of "band guy" that i always imagine that i'm fighting against (which may be one of those self-imposed standards that this article warned me about not long ago). Whenever a friend has made a joke about old dudes in bands, as if someone over 30 who still plays music is automatically clinging to some sort of childish dream of fame and fortune, i bristle, because that's not me. On the other hand, i've spent enough hours promoting us and trying to get as many people as possible to hear us, that i can't deny that it's thrown my life out of balance on several occasions.

The response to Elliott's accident, however, has served to remind me that i'm still on the right path. In the last day and a half i've seen an emotional outpouring for him that includes friends that he's met in all corners of the country and across the pond. I defy anyone who hates on social media to dispute the impact of dozens of get-well wishes, spanning pages upon pages of a Facebook wall and an EA Forum discussion thread. If it doesn't thrill Elliott upon his awakening (and it will), it has comforted his family and friends while he sits in an induced coma in an Austin ICU.

I touched on this briefly during the NAP JUSTICE recap, but this is what this silly indie rock thing is all about: community and family. We don't tour the country playing our music in front of indifferent drunks in Denver in order to get famous. We do it because the quest to find like-minded souls is its own reward in so many ways. That Elliott has so many brothers and sisters spread across the world who love him is proof that he's on the right path as well--even if that path is what led him to his accident. If there's one positive thing i can take away from this goddamn tragedy, it's a reminder that community is everything. It doesn't matter if it's indie rock, indie wrestling, Dungeons and Dragons groups, midnight basketball clubs, or even furry conventions; whatever crew you run with, that crew will be all you have left when everything else goes away.

Much of Elliott's circle of family and friends overlaps with mine, and knowing that we all are behind him on this one gives me a lot of solace in his current situation, as well as my considerably less significant trials. I know that there are a lot of people out there who love me too, and that means more than anything record sales could ever provide.

Tomorrow, Elliott wakes and we find out what he's going to need next. I am confident that we, in some configuration, will see that he gets it.

We've got your back, brother.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The World's Biggest Heart Can't be Stopped

My plan for today was to blog about the awesome weekend IfIHadAHiFi just spent in Louisville, and maybe i'll be able to get composed enough to do that later. For now, i ask everyone i know to send positive vibes, prayers, and well-wishes to my brother in rock, Elliott Turton from Waxeater and Trophy Wives.

Elliott was on stage with Waxeater last night in Austin, TX when he received a severe electric shock and was functionally electrocuted. As i understand it, he was lying on stage with no pulse or breathing when my friend Ashlee (a nurse and wife of my friend Cody, whose new band, Bad Chapters, was playing the show last night) and a fellow nurse rushed to the stage and worked to revive him until the EMTs arrived not two minutes later.

The text message i just received from Waxeater's guitarist, Rob, said that he's in critical but stable condition, and will remain sedated for 48 hours while tests are run. There has been no problem with his heart since he was taken to the ICU, where he remains, and his parents and girlfriend are with him.

I've been fighting bursts of tears all morning. Hopefully i can pull it together to function on some level today.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Nap Justice! The Story of NAP JUSTICE

Once upon a time, my goals for playing music were fairly ambitious, and not in any way matched by the amount of work necessary to meet that goal: 1) get as many people as possible to hear my band; 2) get signed to large indie label (dream destination: Touch & Go); 3) maybe get to a point where i could make a living playing in my band. Real life and a desire to not live in abject squalor during the 4-5 months i wouldn't be on the road per year doing the necessary touring in order to achieve those goals soon forced a harsh, severe re-evaluation (not to mention the fact that our music is in no way marketable. At all). Today, when it comes to playing the rocks and rolls musics, i have modest goals: 1) write and record the best music possible; 2) get it heard by as many people as possible who would enjoy it; 3) make as many like-minded friends around the country as possible. That new #3 is a goal that i always had but didn't realize until, well, i had achieved it. Now, i understand that the most rewarding part of playing in an independent rock band is realizing that it's a fantastic excuse to meet and visit an incredible network of like-minded fools across the nation, if not the world.

Two bands that qualify as "unstoppably crucial pals" are also our labelmates on Latest Flame Records: Seattle, WA's Police Teeth and Kentuckiana's Waxeater. Along with our other LFR pals Trophy Wives, we've formed the unofficial nucleus of what we consider "less of a label and more of a street gang." That street gang's name, other than "Latest Flame Records," is NAP JUSTICE, and NAP JUSTICE laid down some amplified law on Saturday, while Police Teeth and Waxeater were in town.

After a wildly entertaining Friday night show at the Cactus Club (which included local noisemakers Absolutely, a band you should probably get on board with right now), we prepared for a basement show at the HiFi home base, the Church of Murray (a makeup for a scheduled Madison show with Zebras that was canceled due to Madison cops being lame, which is hard to say in the wake of their overall awesome behavior during the WiUnion protests), by spending the day consuming heroic levels of alcohol and meat, occasionally taking a break to walk down to the street fest on North Ave. to see Scarring Party and Call Me Lightning. By Liz's estimation, the party consumed:

1 bottle of Everclear (mixed into "doom punch")
2 bottles of cheap bourbon
2 30 packs of PBR
1 30 pack of High Life
Assorted other sixers of higher quality beer
Many, many meats

which sounds about right. Later in the afternoon, a couple Waxeaters and Police Teethers crashed into mid-afternoon nap mode to recharge for the actual show, only to be eventually stirred from their slumber by the Church of Murray's across-the-street neighbors--an Axe* of dudebros who had decided to let a hippie jam cover band set up on their porch. As we tried to enjoy the outdoors, The 311 Matthews Traveler laid down the most "mellow" of jams, harshing ours with atrocious renditions of the usual hippie nonsense - Dave, Sublime, and countless blasphemous renditions of CCR tunes.

Slowly but surely, our patience wore thin. Each rendition of a watered-down lite rocker was punctuated with a "YOU SUCK!" or a "STOP PLAYING!" from one of us (usually Yale), or a "BONNAROO!" volleyed at a wasted hippie staggering away from the dudeporch. When Bronaked Ladies dared to sully "Folsom Prison Blues" with their inoffensively offensive hemp-rock, it was decided that a retaliatory strike was needed--nay, mandatory. (EDIT: Yale has sagely reminded me that it was actually a mashup of "Folsom Prison Blues" and the "Beer Barrel Polka." Information presented without comment.)

The Wizard fetched a practice amp and Police Teeth drummer Richy (derisively referred to by his bassist Chris as "the best guitarist in our band") plugged in just in time to join Hurl Jam on a run through "Mary Jane's Last Dance" by Tom Petty, easily outshredding the acoustic guitarist across the street. When the Petty waned, Richy launched immediately into the opening riff to "Paranoid," inspiring a full Church of Murray balcony singalong. NAP JUSTICE was on, and into their third tune, a gut-busting rip through the opening strains of Slayer's "Raining Blood." By this time there wasn't a dry eye or upright torso in the house, as everyone was doubled over in pain from abdominal-toning laughter.

Once Richy was done, PT guitarist James took over for some AC/DC and some other classic punk i can't remember. Waxeater's guitarist (and one of our most essential band pals) Rob Montage began to assist on snare drum as Richy dangled a grill lid for use as a cymbal/cowbell. Our friend George, who had made a trip away from the house, returned with the following report: "you can't hear anything but your guitar anywhere except directly in front of their house. It's pretty impressive."

Eventually, the band across the street cracked and responded with their take on Cee-Lo's "Fuck You," which James simply played along to. After that, they were done, and NAP JUSTICE had prevailed. Latest Flame Records: less of a label, more of a street gang.


Chris and i lose our collective shit while Richy lays it down (not pictured: [B.]O.A.R.)

James and Rob take over

Grill Cymbal!

Moral: Do not mess with Latest Flame bands. Because we're fucking assholes.

After the NAP JUSTICE set, the proper basement show was on, which was totally fine, save that part where HiFi only played two songs because the Wizard stormed off the stage for some reason. Eh, whatever, at least we got that out of the way before tour.

*yes, an "Axe" is the proper collective noun for dudebros. Just ask Neil Hamburger.

It's a clean sweep/Baby, yeah

OK. Got the mail. Did my daily sweep of job postings. Cleaned the cat boxes. My mind is relatively clear. Let's do this.

This blog is a continuation of the personal journal i started on LiveJournal way back in 2002, not long after i moved to Milwaukee from the Fox Valley of Northeast Wisconsin (a journal which was also a continuation of one i started on Diaryland way back when, which, holy shit--Diaryland still exists). In the past year or so i've fallen out of a routine of personal journaling for a number of reasons: concentrating more on writing for AV Club Milwaukee and ThirdCoastDigest; a girlfriend who was insecure about showing up in my writing; general laziness and reliance on the Facebook/Twitter brevity model. This blog is my attempt to shake all that and get back into a routine of writing for myself. (It's also a bit of a naked employment search gambit as well, as i keep hearing that all the hep, with-it writer types have their own blogs that they use as a hub for their online presence and their portfolio business, so here it is. HIRE ME, FOOLS.)

Those of you who read me over on the LJ know what to expect--random personal business; political ranting (especially in these oh-so-charged turbulent times in the Homeland); gnashing of teeth about the awful musical taste that most living, breathing humans exhibit; and just about whatever else is pissing me off. No, but seriously, i'm actually quite the ray of sunshine most of the time. Promise.

So! For those of you who know me, how's about we get started with a little State of DJ Update:

The Job:
Not one to speak of, currently. I'm on the lookout for anything in the writerly world of writing, which isn't in any way competitive and should, in a white-hot hub of the creative industry such as Milwaukee, take me mere weeks to find. Right?

Right. Sending my resume and portfolio out has been quite the struggle. My last job--which i adored and miss--was content production/project management and copywriting for a virtual world gaming website aimed at kids aged 8-14. Not the easiest thing to spin into your standard copywriting gig. A friend asked me recently, "have you been writing amazing cover letters?" My response: "Um, i can confidently say that i have written cover letters."

The Bands:
Plural! IfIHadAHiFi and Zebras both exist, to the shock and consternation of many. HiFi's putting a new record out in September. You can listen to some tracks here. Both bands are touring together in August. I will die from exhaustion.

The Girl:

Are we adorable or are we?

One drawback of me not posting in my LJ anymore has been the lack of necessary gushing about Liz. We've been pals for about three years now, and started dating in, well, i guess we decided that our anniversary date is March 19 (NOTE: saving date in post to ensure future memorization). Most of the time we've known each other, she was in another long-term relationship and thus, was not a dating option, and so i directed my attention elsewhere. But one fateful day it became known that we were both single at the same time, and a switch was flipped.

The relationship has moved at a natural pace--ridiculously fast. In most of my other relationships, planning to move in together in September (a mere six months into the relationship! What in the bejesus?) would have been an unthinkable option, as that way normally lies madness. Heck, i can point to two other instances where i lived with a girlfriend: a long-term relationship where we didn't live together until we had already been dating for two and a half years; and a relationship where she moved in at the nine-month mark and broke up with me one month later. Buuuuuuuut, say it with me...this one's different. We've been friends for three years already, so we already know and get each other to a degree that most early-stage couples don't. We've confided in each other about past relationships while they were going on, so we know each other's weaknesses already. And most importantly, we don't feed into them. We've both been in unbalanced relationships where we did most of the emotional lifting and support, and now we're in one where it's on even footing, and it feels...perfect.

And of course, there are the perks: she's cute as all hell, she shares my uncontrollable love for cute animals (we're getting a baby kitty when i move in so Radar has a new friend and isn't lonely), she loves baseball and indie wrestling, and perhaps most amazingly, she gets the whole "band dude" thing, understands my relationship with it, and supports it wholeheartedly, even if our musical tastes don't exactly line up (which isn't even an issue at all). It's only been three months (wtf, really?), but it already feels like pretty much the best relationship i've had in...well, let's just say a long damn time. To say i'm jazzed would be to say that Greg Jennings was reservedly content after winning the Super Bowl.

Next post is going to be way more entertaining, i promise. Why? Two words--NAP JUSTICE.