Thursday, April 26, 2012

Pete's Eulogy

My uncle (and confirmation sponsor) Pete wrote and delivered this beautiful eulogy at Grandpa's funeral. I just wanted to post it here for posterity.

* * *

Good morning. Welcome to the celebration of the life of Raymond P. Mueller Sr. For those of you that don’t know me, I am Peter, the youngest of the Mueller children. Dad was born on September 1st,
1917. He was born again to eternal life on April 16th, 2012.

Dad was born and raised on a dairy farm near Sherwood, which is a small town not far from here. He wasn’t able to attend school as long as he allowed his children to, due to other obligations, but you wouldn’t know it by his ability to be successful during his lifetime. When Dad was in his early twenties, he began to court a young lady from nearby St. John, Rita Mary Kees. Dad would drive his car a couple
of miles to visit Mom. Mom’s younger siblings would see him coming up the driveway and sing a song to Mom that started with, Ray-Ray come, Ray-Ray come. The courtship lasted until May 3rd, 1944 when Mom and Dad were married at St. John the Baptist church in St. John. That is when the fun started.

Mom and Dad bought a dairy farm about 5 miles out of Chilton, where they farmed for 52 years. They have 11 children. Raymond Jr., Richard, Ann Marie, Ronald, Theresa, Glenn, Gail, Carl, Karen, Connie
and me. From those 11 children, we have 30 grandchildren, 24 great-grandchildren, and still counting. Dad was busy.

We lived on a small farm, so Dad had to work outside jobs along with farming. Dad was a hard worker.

It was during one of these jobs, driving a milk truck, when Dad came across a tractor rolling in a field with nobody in the seat. He jumped out of his truck and stopped the tractor shortly before it was about to run over the driver that had been thrown from the seat. Dad was a hero.

It wasn’t all work for Dad. He enjoyed Sheepshead, dancing, putting puzzles together and bean bagging. They played in a number of card clubs over the years and we as children, would watch and learn. I apologize in advance if some of you don’t understand the sheepshead terms I am about to use. It was just a few short weeks ago, when his grand-daughter Christine was having her baby shower that Mom attended, some of the brothers and I joined Dad for some sheepshead. Though he couldn’t see or hear that well, his mind was still as sharp as ever. He was sitting to my left, which means he was behind me when playing, and he would get a little grin on his face as he kept trumping me and taking tricks. Don’t know who won or lost money that day, don’t care. It was a great day playing cards with him. Dad was a card shark.

The other game Dad enjoyed was bean bags. He played for a number of years for Brant Inn in a local league. Growing up, we would go along and pick up the bags for the players to earn some spending money. A few years ago, some of my brothers and I thought of playing in a bean bag tournament that the Stockbridge Lions club sponsors every year. We thought it would be great if Dad would play with us and he agreed. The team name we thought of was “Everybody Loves Raymond.” Now some of you might think we used the name because of a popular TV show. However, it was more because everybody loved Dad. I mean, what’s not to love? We had some success in the tournament, but I won’t rub it in. For today, we will consider bean bag a sport. If NASCAR is a sport, we can call bean bag a sport. Dad was an athlete.

The Mueller family isn’t big on public showing of emotion. When we gather, we aren’t big on hugs like some families. But in no way does that mean the love isn’t there. I think we learned this quiet respect
and assumed love from Dad. Dad was a man of few words, but when he spoke, people generally listened. Dad was very busy when we were growing up, but he would still take the time occasionally to take a couple of swings at the softball at night after milking. But for me, the love Dad had, really came out toward the grandchildren. After he was retired, he was able to spend time with them playing games and doing whatever they wanted. He would also give them hugs and kisses when it was time for them to go home. As far as respect, Dad was well respected in the community. I was often asked by people around Chilton who my parents were. After I would tell them, they would comment what nice people they are. My brother in law summed up community respect in this way, “respect for a man in the community is sometimes based on how he treats his wife.” Dad cherished the life he had with Mom, as evidenced by the many years they spent together. On May 3rd, they will be married 68 years. What great role models they both are for us. It was also a short time ago when Mom attended a funeral for a sibling, Sr. Anacile. She returned home after their normal bed time. Dad was still waiting in his chair until Mom returned home safely. Dad was a gentleman.

So as you can see, Dad was many things during his 94 years on earth. Among those was a great husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather. He often stated how he would live to be 100, close
enough Dad, we’ll round up on this one.

We have a distinct advantage with our faith. That is we believe in everlasting life. We can all rest assured that Dad is up in heaven, sitting in a chair, Ronny on one side and Timmy on the other. Dad, have fun
reuniting with them and the rest of your family. Save us a spot up there so that we may be with you again some day. We will miss you and we love you.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Remembering Grandpa Mueller in Five Senses

In my mind's eye, I'm eight or nine years old, and Grandpa Mueller is letting me follow him while he makes the rounds on the farm. I see a coop of chickens scatter as eggs are collected; a line of cows regard me with ambivalence as Grandpa hooks them up for milking. In a small room in the front of the barn, a chilled machine mixes and churns a huge tub of fresh, raw milk. On the side of the barn, piles of hay bales are stacked as farm kitties get comfortable and corn waves in the breeze in the background.

But mostly, what i see and remember is Grandpa's overalls, his determined gait, and the twinkle in his eye. What i don't remember ever seeing is Grandpa not smiling.

Back at the house, i hear laughter--not an unusual sound in the dining room, or the front yard around a volleyball net. Grandma and Grandpa had ten kids (eleven, actually, but one died long before i was born), including my mom, and it was more likely that another branch of the family was visiting at the same time we were than not. When multiple family members gathered at the house, that meant outdoor volleyball or football on the lawn, or basketball as tennis shoes and knees skidded along the gravel driveway. Inside, it meant Sheepshead, with Grandma and Grandpa passing nickels and dimes back and forth with their kids, kids-in-law, grandkids, and whoever else happened to be along and understood whatever the hell "Schneider" meant (i thought it was a dude in a white t-shirt with cigarettes rolled into his sleeve and had no idea what he had to do with cards). One night when i was three or four, i sat on Grandpa's lap, excitedly showing off my reading skills. "Q! 8! 7! J!" I wasn't on his lap for long that night. I don't actually remember that story, but my dad loves to tell it. I may have actually been on Grandma's lap, now that i think about it. Either way, i know exactly what the laughter sounded like around the dining room table. It was warm, and loud, and gregarious. It sounded like family. It sounded like the Muellers.

Elsewhere in the house, i feel the temperature drop as my cousins and i go upstairs (the heat's not on upstairs. Why would it be? When you farm for a living you don't pay to heat parts of the house that are usually empty) to play with our aunts' and uncles' old toys--darts and dolls and tic-tac-toe boards and beanbag toss. In the living room i remember feeling the smooth plastic pegs of Grandma and Grandpa's Master Mind code-breaking game as i matched wits with my cousins Jeff and Wendy with 60 Minutes on in the background. Oft times we'd break out the kids' old Monopoly set, which i loved playing because its 1960s design looked so dated and quaint compared to our version at home.

This one? I think?

If i wasn't playing games with my cousins, i was back in the living room, holding the viewmaster up to the light and reading the Snoopy and the Red Baron story through its 3D viewfinder for the 82nd time. It only ever showed the Red Baron in silhouette, which i found crazy mysterious.

Snoopy never did get him, no matter how many times i read it

But mostly, when i think about Grandpa and Grandma, I remember the taste of fresh homemade bread; of the richest, creamiest, ice-cold raw milk i've ever put in my face. My god, milk has never tasted that good since. Apples have never been as sweet as the ones on the trees in the yard. No wedding cakes have ever tasted like the ones Grandma spent decades baking for her kids and her friends' kids. And of course, i remember all those farm smells. Hay and chickens and manure, all sweet and pungent and omnipresent. And at the end of the day, i'd remember a different kind of sweet smell--the sweet cherry tobacco of Grandpa's pipe as he relaxed in his favorite chair or dealt another hand to his kids at the dining room table.

My grandpa, Ray Mueller Sr., died this week after 94 years of hard work, deep faith, and tireless devotion to his family. He's the only grandpa i've ever known (my paternal grandfather got the hell out of dodge after helping conceive my dad), but he was twice the grandparent of most mortal men. He kept the same hours as the sun, milking cows, baling hay, gathering eggs, all with that same smile and twinkle in his eye that, for the life of me, i can't picture him without. As absent as my other biological grandfather was, Grandpa Mueller was even more present, through his laughter, his deeds, and through the ten children he raised and the dozens upon dozens of grandkids his children gave him.

The Muellers are a fabulously tight-knit family. For decades my parents, aunts and uncles have gathered on holidays, weddings, and summertime weekends, and adhere to family traditions of communion with a near-religious commitment, and it's all because their parents--my grandparents--raised them to treasure family before all else. I suppose it's hard to not be close-knit when ten kids are getting crammed into one station wagon to get to Church on Sunday, but hey.

This Sunday and Monday the family will convene again to remember the patriarch of this modest farming family from Chilton, Wisconsin. I know there will be plenty of tears, but i for one feel far more grateful than sad. After all, 94 years is a hell of a run. I prefer to spend my time remembering the sights, the sounds, and god, the incredible, time-stopping smells that the memories of my grandfather infuse me with. Thanks to Grandma and Grandpa Mueller, my childhood was richer and fuller than it would have been without them, and that's what i plan to focus on this weekend.

I am going to miss my grandpa, yes. But if the soul is in any way immortal, he lives on. And i'm not even talking about Heaven (although my grandparents' faith defined so much of how they lived their lives and how they raised their family). Whenever i hear an uncle or aunt or cousin of mine laugh, i hear grandpa's laugh, and i see that smile, and that twinkle in his eye.

Thanks for the memories, Ray.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Boo Hoo, Broke Writer: You May Hate Kickstarter, But You're Part of the Problem, or: Jesus, THIS Again?

True Confessions from DJ's Brain Dept.: Today I spent some time hanging out on United Record Pressing's 10" vinyl quote generator, out of a bit of masochistic curiosity. See, part of me is a little bummed that my band's most recent collection of songs, a digital-only EP that includes what i consider to be some of our best material to date, isn't going to get a physical release, because we are poor working-class schmucks who have to work day jobs and don't have moneyed parents to bankroll our foolish rock 'n' roll fantasies (which, really, for a bunch of dudes in our 30s would be more flat-out embarrassing than it is for 20-somethings). So out of curiosity, i ran the numbers:

10" Records (300): $270
Music Source (Sending a CD): $330
Plating (Standard Two-Step Plating): $225
How many (if any) do you want colored? (Eh, 300, why not?)
Which color other than black (translucent green would be pretty sweet): $120
Setup Charge: $80
Test Pressing: $95
Labels (eh, let's be frugal here--one color ink on one color paper): $110
Inner Sleeves (plain white paper dust sleeves): $0 (yay!)
Jackets (Standard Single Pocket CMYK Custom Jacket): $895 (printing costs, man, i tells ya)
Are we inserting your records into jackets? (Yes, because we're lazy and it's only an extra) $18
Offer free Downloads (We use Bandcamp, so no): $0
Are we putting download cards into jackets? (Yes, because we're using Bandcamp) $18
Shrink Wrap (Yes, because we're not savages): $36
Generic download sticker on shrink wrap? (Nah) $0
Estimated Total (excluding shipping): $2197

And man, let's not even think about the G.D. shipping.

Here's where we get to the shameful confession: looking at that figure, and thinking about the recently successful Kickstarter campaign by Zebras, that band i'm still sort of in kind of, that raised $2500 to get the new record pressed, it briefly occurred to me that maybe that wouldn't be a difficult record for us to fund...through Kickstarter! The service that i have previously questioned and criticized in this very blog! As everyone knows, once you share an opinion on the internet, that's your opinion forever, and it's set in stone, and you aren't allowed to change your mind without dozens of commenters calling you out for being a dirty hypocrite ass-bastard. So obviously we won't be doing that.

Besides, why would we want to run the risk of incurring the wrath of Michael Mann of, Vancouver's Online Source (which, wtf kind of name is that for a website? What's their sister site,

I'm assuming this isn't the Michael Mann that writes for, but i needed some sort of image for this post, dammit

Stop trying to get me to fund your fucking album with a Kickstarter campaign. Same goes for getting your merch produced, your motel rooms paid for, and your bar tab settled. It makes you and your bandmates come across as a bunch of shameless and entitled pricks. You don’t see me aggressively asking people to pony up for my summer-long, cross-country cocaine and drunken slut–boning binge. So why is it okay when musicians do this?

Oh, hey! One of those blatantly provocative internet comment-magnet share-bait columns that plays the asshole in order to make a point--one i more or less agree with! This could be fun!

Instead of panhandling online, here’s a novel idea: crowdsource a little business acumen and produce something people actually want to give you money for. At least the homeless guy on the corner has the decency to make a funny sign and do 50 one-armed pushups if I toss him a few shekels. What are you offering, some MP3s and a shout-out on Twitter? Christ, if your album’s any good I’ll be able to cop it for free off the Pirate Bay.

Oh, jeez, so this guy's making his point by casting himself as contrarian as possible and casting himself as a cheap-ass downloading prick who doesn't support bands. OK, i'm sure dude's just playing a role here, but that's fairly Part of the Problem of him, no?

You want a handout? Release some halfway decent music you recorded in your apartment and give it away for free. I’ll come check you out and pay the $10 cover. (I’m speaking as a metaphorical everyman here. I don’t actually pay cover, ever.)

Ooooo-kay. Now dude's just trollin'.

As anyone who's been paying attention to me (read: nobody) knows, i'm not a big fan of the whole Kickstarter thing. I don't hate it, per se--after all, it's a tool, like any other, and like a hammer, it can be used to build something cool or to give everyone around you a headache. I guess what i'm really not a fan of is the removal of risk from creativity. Frankly, if my band's going to go on tour, we should be mentally prepared to lose our asses, money-wise. Why? Because if you love doing something, you should be willing to risk valuable things to make that something happen. Because if a bunch of "patrons" pay for our tour before we've driven a mile or played a note, we have no incentive to actually promote and try to get people out to the shows. This is DIY punk rock, not a vanity project.

I really want to get behind this dude's desire to own Facebook feeds across North America for an entire Thursday, because that Paper Lions band looks like douchebaggery at its most invasive and vinegar-fueled. (Seriously, i haven't heard a note, but those sweaters and pennants make them look like Vampire Weekend without the ethnic credibility.) But when he drops turds like "if your record's good, I'll just download it off Piratebay" or "I never pay cover," he's just coming off as an asshole for the sake of being an asshole. Dude, that attitude is exactly why so many musicians are tempted to pre-fund and crowdsource everything they do--because they know there are cheapskate asshats out there who don't think even good music is worth their money. Who's the "entitled prick" now? Is it really "panhandling" when you're just trying to find a way to make thieves pay a fair price for your product?

Hey, i get that this dude is likely just role-playing in print, but i didn't get this far in life without learning that role-playing is for desperate couples with atrophying sexual prowess and nerds that never had any. So, ok, let's have our fun publicly shaming Kickstarter's abusers (because holy crap, is it ever fun), but howsabout we start valuing physical music again and make the abuse less tempting? (And yes, part of the music/music consumer contract involves us musicians making music that is good enough to warrant value, but if you think good music is given a dollar value these days, i'll eat my next paycheck. [Ha! Joke's on you, jackass-it's direct deposit!])

I'll be honest--the idea of trying a campaign to see if we could get a Sexy Results physical release funded is awfully tempting. But at the end of the day, i'd rather we sell home-dubbed cassette tapes in plastic bags with download codes (which we totally did) and not annoy the piss out of everyone for a month while begging for money. Frankly, we annoy the piss out of everyone just enough as it is.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Quarters Rock 'n' Roll Palace Will Save Us!

Whenever i get a message from an out-of-town musician friend looking for help getting a Milwaukee show on a Monday or Tuesday, i break out into hives, my teeth itch and i feel a dull ache and nausea not unlike 30 seconds after a solid punch in the nuts. I've spent enough Monday and Tuesday nights apologizing for our town's generally weak showings on those nights (not that it's anyone's fault, as day jobs are, in the common parlance, a bitch) to finally be fed up with the whole endeavor. It's the same on the other side of the fence as well; if i'm booking a tour and we're not heading somewhere with solid Monday night potential (see: the old Uncle Festers' Punk Rock Nights in Bloomington, IN; New Brunswick, NJ basement shows), my instinct now is to say "screw it" and schedule a day off of chilling out in a hotel watching wrestling.

I hoped that when my friend James' band Male Bondage stopped by Quarters Rock 'n' Roll Palace on Tuesday night while on tour from Indianapolis, there would at least be fifteen or twenty stragglers wandering in to see them sandwiched between Absolutely and Lord Brain. Instead, Male Bondage completely threw down their top-volume combination of overpowering post-hardcore Jehu drive and pseudo-psych Meat Puppets licks in front of a jazzed and packed room...on a Tuesday night. What in the samhell?

Dear Milwaukee: something is brewing at Quarters, and it is exciting. Aaron Skufca's busted his damn fool hump making the humble dive on the corner of Center and Bremen a nearly sure bet for a night of drinking and punk rock, and if stuffing 40-50 people into the Rock 'n' Roll Palace's itty bitty bar on a Tuesday night is any indication, it's working. (Sure, it doesn't hurt that Absolutely is a killer band and can probably draw 50 people by themselves on a good night, but since when does heady Unwound-inspired noise consider a Tuesday a good night?)

So what's working in Quarters' favor? This is all speculation, but it feels like a perfect storm of positives:

1) It's small, but not Circle A small. Get 20 people through the door at Quarters, and it feels like a party inside already, unlike larger mid-sized venues like Stonefly and Mad Planet, where 20 people feels like a bummer. Combine this with the large bay windows in the front of the bar, and the odd stray is likely to glance in through the window, see something interesting's happening, and wander in. And that's likely to happen a lot, because of

2) Location, Location, Location. The second most important group of three words in Real Estate (behind "Indian Burial Ground"), Quarters is smack dab in the middle of Riverwest foot traffic, surrounded on all sides by Foundations and Fuels and That Hookah Bar I Still Have Never Wandered Into. Ever since Quarters re-opened after that whole unfortunate "dude getting shot outside" thing, it's seemed to evolve into a place where everyone within a four-block radius between the ages of 21 and let'ssay40becausei'mold is likely to gravitate if they want a beer after work. And if there happens to be a band playing, what the hell? May as well check it out, because

3) The shows are cheap. Because Quarters doesn't take anything out of the door for sound (which, by the way, is pretty darn good for a tiny room), it's easy to get touring bands good money while keeping the door low, which encourages people to wander in and give new bands a try. Heck, just last night my friend Zach wandering in to the Absolutely/Male Bondage/Lord Brain show because he had nothing else going on and what's five bucks for some live tunes? IfIHadAHiFi played there on Friday with Police Teeth, Strange Matter and Like Like The The The Death, and thanks to the karmic "local bands don't take any money when touring bands are playing" rule, Police Teeth managed to pocket $244 from a door that got sassy and bumped it up to $6 since it was a Friday. Are you as old as i am, and remember when $6 was seen as outrageous for a punk show? Yeah, that was 1990 dollars, gang. A movie is ten bucks these days! Seeing a show at Quarters is cheaper than going to see Wrath of the Titans, and the loud noises are less obnoxious!

Sometimes a venue manages to exist in a perfect storm of circumstance and smart planning. Sure, none of it's rocket science, but not every bar can pull it off. Quarters, having re-opened in a neighborhood that has some musical open-mindedness with a plan that focuses on cheap fun while keeping the needs of touring bands in the forefront, seems to be onto something. It's a little early to proclaim it the Savior of the Scene or anything like that, but man, am i jazzed it exists right now.

By the way, i'm totally not kidding about Male Bondage. Get on this. (Upon listening to the recordings, they have way more of a Double Dagger thing going than what i picked out live. Volume!)