Tuesday, November 18, 2008

After much technical ballyhoo...

The Christmas Song is finally up and available. The internet is a wonderful thing when it works, but when it all doesn't go the way we'd like, it's like one of your appendages fell off. Suddenly, things we never dreamed we could do 10 years ago, now we expect to be able to do in seconds and become enraged if we cannot- Ahh, progress!

But enough expostulating, here's the song!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

"I think I Finally Understand the Sudden Paradox of Self-Control" ~Coming Down


Well, I know it's been a long time.

But, as my mother often says, 'the best laid plans of mice and MIllie Mintzer do often go astray'. As it stands, it seems mine do, too.

However, we're back in the saddle, and with a new cowhand in the stable. (Do I like a metaphor or what?). Claudio Tomasello from Rome, Italy, is now playing lead guitar, and that sound you heard was my sigh of contentment, which dropped 4 years and 200 pounds of stress off my shoulders.


Don't get me wrong- it was a very taxing month; I HATE replacing players. HATE. It's frought with wasted time, high emotion, and a sense of limbo that really doesn't sit well with me. But the good of the music is paramount.

So we settled in to audition guitarists.This time, I knew exactly what I did and didn't want. I need my band to be pleasant, loyal, positive and hear me- REALLY hear me; these songs are about a mood, an emotion, what was in my head when they were being born.

Claudio was far and away the best of the pack. Skilled on acoustic as well as electric, he is like the Kenny Rogers of guitarists, he knows when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em. He's knowledgeable and friendly, and he makes us all work harder.

So, with our new crew, we set off to debut at Genghis Cohen. It was a test of sorts, because the venue is so largely acoustic. This meant that Jake had to tone it WAAAAYYYY down, and Claudio had to learn all the songs that he'd just learned on electric for auditions in an acoustic format.

When we got on stage, I suddenly realized I was completely calm. I felt confident we'd worked out every kink, and were entirely prepared. We had the most fun we've ever had on stage, and even broke out a brand new song, Sunday, which will be on the new CD.


Change is constant. Change is inevitable. I always learn from it, much as I resist it, and it always turns out that God has something in mind that I didn't even think about.

We've spent this week in the studio, recording my first original Christmas song, "Salvation in The Skies". We're pretty excited about it, and it will be available in time for the holidays. After Claudio recorded his solo Tuesday night, the engineer said "OK- I need a cup of cocoa and a peppermint stick, stat!"

I said, "Yeah, Claudio, that was really Christmas-y."

And he replied, "Well, I was just picturing in my head the falling snow..."

I smiled. Now THAT's my language.....

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Band on the Beach


So I've deviated a bit the last few posts. But today I get back to the band.

This past weekend we had a marathon day; first the Freedom Festival in Long Beach, then the beach, then the OC GoGirls Showcase in Huntington Beach.

It was our first foray into all-day band territory, and we were all pretty excited at the prospect.

It was easily 104 degrees onstage Sunday afternoon, as the 5th Annual Freedom Festival, celebrating sobriety and recovery, got underway. The recovery theme was prominent, evinced by the MC who at one point bellowed into her mic: "Where are the convicted felons? Let's see hands!!! OK, multiple convictions!!!" The staff just couldn't have been nicer; they made sure we had food, drinks and assistance with our gear, which was key in the sweltering heat. The crowd was Sunday-mellow, and definitely seemed like they'd be game for my music, and when security arrived, in the form of a biker gang, I was in my element. Tattoos and hair everywhere.

Sound check was at 10, and I had worn high-heeled sandals, thinking that it was too hot for boots and I'd just ditch my shoes altogether to sing. By 10:30, the black stage was SCALDING, and there was no way I could play without shoes. So- heels it was.

We opened with 'Stop Kicking My Heart Around' and the crowd was instantly receptive. The sun settled in right over us, and Joe was steadily sweating onto his pedal board as we worked through the set. At one point, Rem was visibly sweating directly through his shirt, as if it wasn't even there, but he shook his head fiercely and powered through.

We sold a bunch of CD's, and folks came up to ask me to sign them, which was very cool. Jake, adorable in Panama hat, walked through the crowd with me to the Take 12 Radio tent, where I did a quick interview with Monty Myers. The crowd was absolutely awesome- we were invited back next year, and we're already looking forward to it- the set really could not have gone better. I should have some video clips up soon; several people were taping.

Then we headed to the beach- however, upon arriving, we realized parking was a nightmare. So we parked at Harpoon Harry's (No, I'm not kidding) and went in for a drink. We all were cooked to the bone and just wanted to sit for a minute. Jake, Christie and I sat at the bar and instantly, this Alt rock-looking cat made a beeline for Jake and started chatting him up. I assumed that this was someone he knew from another band or something. Nope. Jake was polite, but confused.

Sean smooth talked the hostess into letting us take up a table to just drink, so we all moved into an incredibly dark room with an exaggerated nautical theme. Lo and behold, Alt boy followed us, and then Jake went into the buffet room, and he followed him there. I didn't like the looks of it- I couldn't tell if he wanted to fight him or frisk him, so I went in the back and said "Come on honey" and pulled Jake back to the table. By this time he was completely freiked out.

"Do I give off a vibe like I'm trying to pick up a dude!!!??"

There was much discussion about exactly what message his skinny jeans and tank top were sending, but the verdict was that Alt boy was probably just drunk. But still creepy.

We headed to the beach, and I was torn between really wanting to go into the water and really not wanting my hair to curl up like Carole King for the late show. So I settled for wading in up to my knees and chatting with Christie.

Jake announced that there was nothing wrong with him swimming in his boxer briefs- thousands would disagree- but there is no shame in young Mr. Hayden's game, so he, Sean and Rem flung themselves into the ocean with a Nerf football (Only Jake would have a Nerf football just hanging around his van), and played contentedly for the next 2 hours.

We arrived at the Blue Cafe sticky, salty, tired and starving; the Mexican restaurant next door was the closest food, so we got a table and realized there was NO AIR CONDITIONING.

The booker popped in from next door to tell me that there was package for me. Wha..?? She said that it arrived 2 days ago, and she'd accidentally opened it, but 'here it is!'. It turns out it was from a fan who'd tracked down where I'd be that day, and mailed me a letter and some custom-made picks with my name and silhouette on them. Pretty schnazzy. While we were still passing them around, the booker popped in again and said the first band was a no-show; we're up next.

The show was sleepy and uneventful for the most part, and we were very grateful to climb into our cars and go home. Poor Jake looked like he was going to curl up and fall asleep on the parking lot, and Rem had been so sweaty for so long, I think he was actually shriveling up. Sean was a candidate for sainthood, driving both up and back, and staying chipper, upbeat and attentive through all of it.

Overall, it was a long day, but it was also an indicator of what life on the road might be like for this group of people. And as I looked around the table at dinner, I realized- these are my dearest friends. I wouldn't want to be doing this with any others. Who else would: 1. approach a stranger in the park, who may or may not be a convicted felon, because I wanted to look at his puppy, 2. try to plan a trip for the band to Brazil to get my music to more people, and 3. talk with me in a dingy restaurant about James Joyce- brilliant or drunk? Only my boys.

Distinctly different, yet closely connected, Rem made the point that it's amazing we gel so well, 4 people who would hate each other if forced to listen to each other's music collections.

So bring on the East Coast. Bring on the Netherlands. Bring on the Germany, Norway, Sweden and Brazil excursions in all kinds of weather.

Have Nerf, will travel.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The best artist you've never heard...

I love words. Anyone who knows me knows that; I love to talk, to write, to read- words can be beautiful, and, as I tell my students, a broad vocabulary is the key to effective expression- why color with red, blue and yellow when you can use magenta, saffron and jade?

This makes me a scrutinizing listener. When I hear a song, I am listening to the key changes, the riffs, the clever time changes, but first and foremost I'm listening to the lyrics. You don't sing the bassline in the shower.

A few years ago I sat at Masquers' Cabaret, eating a salad. I had just finished my set, and I was absently watching the other acts. I had not really been impressed by many artists I'd seen up to that point, so when Joni got up with her husband/guitarist and said hello in her quiet Texas drawl, I settled in to chat with my husband.

And then she began to sing and I shut my fat mouth. Clear and sincere, she talked about things that I had thought only I considered. She was intelligent and gentle, unapologetic and piercing. I couldn't take my eyes off her. Then she softly said "One, two.." and began singing a song so heartbreakingly beautiful that was afraid to breathe, afraid to break the fragile ornate spell she cast. When she sang the last line, I felt physical pain.

When she finished, I walked up to her and said "Great set." She said "You, too!" We just stood there, staring ...it was like we knew each other, somehow were already connected. Suddenly we said "Switch?" And without explanation, we each pulled out a CD and handed it to the other. Then we said goodbye.

That weekend was Thanksgiving. Sean and I were driving to Visalia to spend the weekend with my friend James- to be honest, we really just wanted to get the hell out of town for a while. Sean had just lost his job, and we didn't really know what was going to happen from there. Sean grabbed Joni's CD as we got into the car, and the whole way up the 101 we listened and talked about how much of what she was saying we were going through as well. We grew silent during 'I Rose', and I stared out the window, amazed at this feeling of connection.

By the time we got back to LA, I decided I was going to go out on a limb and see if she wanted to grab lunch. I went to find her on MySpace, and lo and behold, there was an e-mail from her waiting for me. She'd been doing the same thing.

She told me how 'Leaving the Life' had moved her and wondered if I'd like to get together sometime? We decided to meet for lunch a few days later. The day came, and I was running around, trying to get out the door, and Sean called;
"You're going to be late!"
"I know- I'm going!!"

I got to Robbie Mac's on Ventura and looked around. Just then the door flew open and Joni raced in:

"I'm so sorry- my husband was just yelling at me that I was going to be late!"

And with that it began. Our parallel journey. We talked for 3 hours that day. About music, teaching, faith- we had so much in common, it seemed absurd we hadn't met before. She taught English, I tutor English, we both hope to make our music OUR way, and find a way to live true to our faith in a business that often wants to homogenize our beliefs for secular consumption or pigeonhole us as "Christian rock". We realized the afternoon was gone, and agreed to 'do this again'.

Over the next few months, we would get together whenever possible to eat, chat, work on songs- always for hours at a time. It was as if we were trying to catch up on the lifetime before we'd known each other. We'd get on the phone and commiserate over where our journeys were headed, our fears and victories. It was a wonderful time.

Then one day we were at Joni's apartment working on a song I'd written that she was playing piano for, and she told me that she and Zach, her husband, were moving to Nashville. They had signed on with a manager there, and she felt that the Lord was leading them to go. I was happy for her, but inside I ached- She had become so dear to me, how would I manage without her?

The time came very quickly for them to leave, and we agreed to have one last lunch the day before they set off. We promised to keep in touch, that this wasn't goodbye, just an adjustment in distance. We both kept very brave faces, and when it came time to drop her off, she said "Now, y'all better give me a hug."

I got out of the car and hugged her and wished her good luck. She started to walk off down her alley and I got in and started to drive away. I was holding it together pretty well, then I looked in the rearview mirror, just as she turned and looked back. We both raised a hand, and I lost it. Somehow, this woman I'd known for only a few short months had become like a sister to me and just as I'd found her, she was gone.

Whenever I miss Joni, I put that CD on....and she's there, with her words, her wisdom, her kindness. We keep in touch via e-mail and phone calls, and she just had her first baby- an event I so wish I could have been there for, to rejoice with her, support her, babysit for her! When we do talk, it's like no time has passed; we still are living that parallel existence, (even though there's no baby in my immediate future), and her friendship is still there for me in difficult times. Her encouragement has helped me through my recent health crisis, and I thank God for her.

Do yourself a favor- go to Joni's MySpaceThe song she played that tore my heart out was 'If I Hold You'
In fact, I'm listening to it now.:)

I miss you, Joni.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

"You say all that you believe is a state of mind.... "(Rain Parade, Monogroove)


I've met some colorful characters in my time, but there is no one like Rin.

Rin Lennon is the first musician I met when I moved to LA. I got to Van Nuys in June, and in July, I was on stage at Paladino's with Monogroove.


Psychedelic and a little bit crazy, Monogroove has gone through time and band members without flinching. Forget Cher and cockroaches, when the world ends, Rin's still gonna be there with her pink Jay Turner singing 'No use in Lyin'.


Rin believed in me from jump, probably more than I did. I was nervous about my guitar skills, and the first gig out, she had me playing rhythm, singing, shaking a tambourine, and doing an impromptu harmonica line- and I don't play harmonica. She not only allowed my songs to be part of the set list, she insisted on it, and we classically opened with an old song of mine, Defend.


Her life story is amazing. I won't describe it here, because it is hers to tell, when and if she decides to, and I hope it makes her tons of money someday. But she's had it hard, and she's come out on the other side like NOBODY I've ever heard of or seen. Suffice it to say she has been an inspiration to me and anyone who has been on the receiving end of her gruff and fierce love.

Rin lives in South Central because she can. 5'0", if she's a foot, her wild red hair giving her maybe an extra half inch, she bounds bravely down the streets as if she's on the yellow brick road to Oz. With biceps the size of eggplants from drumming and lifting heavy animals, she is the first person I'd want with me in a bar fight. And I'd rather have a fist fight with ANY man I know rather than take on Rin.

It can be daunting- and off-putting- when you first meet this bullet of energy and grossly inappropriate humor. But talk to her for 10 minutes. Look past the vulgarity and the chain-smoking and the bravado, and there is one of the most loyal, loving, humble people I've ever been blessed to know.

She works during the day as a vet tech, and her house is always bursting with an often comic menagerie of convalescing critters. When I met her, 9 cats and 2 dogs appeared and disappeared into every room. Over the years, there has been innumerably more.

She takes in the animals that need more care than their owners can provide or abandoned animals who are left at the hospital. She feeds them, gives them medicines, loves them, names them, and treats them like family.

I think Rin always saw me as a big kitten. She taught me, watched over me, fought with me, and ultimately let me go to forge my own path, even when it was hard for her to watch me leave.

But of all the people that I've hard to part ways with professionally, no one has stood by me like Rin. We've stayed in touch, and it always makes me happy to see her face and hear her uniquely Rin greeting: "Top of the food chain, motherfucker!"

She is truly someone who knows what it means to be a friend. Some night, if you're feeling groovy, you might catch her and Monogroove belting out Rain Parade or Chloe somewhere in Hollywood. As long as there's a peace sign stitched to her purple corduroy pants, Rin Lennon will be on the scene.

Photobucket

Rin's VIP House (very important pets)

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Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Beverly Hills, The Thrill of Film and Ma soeur...


Well, we're gearing up for next week's show, and I gotta tell you; if you're in town, don't miss it. Not only is it in Beverly Hills, on a block where you can cook and eat your eggs right off the sidewalk, it's so friekin' clean, but we've got a healthy set length AND the show is going to be shot for an upcoming edition of the music webisode "Liner Notes". Should be a fabulous night all round- not to mention, and I may be biased, but the boys are sounding pretty stinkin' incredible these days. Last week's rehearsal just about terrified all of us, it was so solid.
The guys seem to be losing weight in solidarity with me:)- Jake announces his body fat percentage at the start of every rehearsal it seems, and Rem, while still taking up impressive vertical space, is horizontally demanding less of the time space continuum. On my end, I'm trying to maintain, although Rem has designated my "Little Caesar's Weight". He says if I drop to it, I go directly to Little Caesar's and eat a whole pizza immediately, no questions asked. I hover about 3 pounds above it, so away from me PIZZA PIZZA!

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The video for Trading on 15 is still in production, I went to watch some shooting Monday night, and ended up helping out, and before I knew it, it was 2:30 a.m. I was bleary and crotchety the next day, but the video is going to be great. I'll let you know as soon as it's up and ready for the masses!

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My baby sister graduates from college this Saturday. She sent me an invitation; inside there is a little card where the students can write down their names and degrees. In her true "Bean" style, hers reads:

NAME: Kelly Mintzer
DEGREE: Verbal Espionage

My sister is the smartest person I know. And I know some smart people (have I told you about Rem..?) But Kelly will blow up the world one day- I've said that since she was sitting in a corner, glaring at said world over a copy of King Lear- at 9 years old.
They say twins have a special bond- Kell and I could be twins if my mother had been giving birth for 10 years. By the time Kellybean (as she became known, and has since been shortened to "Bean") was 8, I was gone. I left my house at 18, as fast and as far as my truck could take me. My brother was only 2 years older than her, so they became close. Oh sure, I blew in for Christmas and funerals and weddings, but I missed their proms and their birthdays and- to some degree- their lives.
As we get older, the years don't mean as much, but the miles are brutal. We e-mail and call, but some days I wish I had those years back when they were babies, and I was feeding them, reading them bedtime stories, singing them to sleep.
I was moving so fast, trying to get OUT, those things just became a blur on the sidelines.
But for Kell- add insult to injury, she had a sister who left behind her FACE. Teachers called her "Viki" right up until the end of high school. I was in PA for Christmas one year, and went to her choir concert. As we were walking out, I noticed a guy I'd been friends with in high school- I thought I could sneak by unnoticed, after all, I had changed a lot in ___ years. We walked by, and I heard him say "Viki!" I kept walking. Then I heard "Victoria Lynne" and he reached out and grabbed Kelly's arm. She turned to him hotly and said "I'm NOT Viki." He looked puzzled, and I realized I couldn't stay quiet any more. So I walked over and said "I am." His eyes got huge as he looked back and forth at us. "Then who is..?" "This is my sister."
Carving out a 'Kelly' from a block that looked like 'Viki' hasn't been easy. But I'm so deeply proud of who she has become; she is fiercely her own woman: intelligent, clever, talented, compassionate, pragmatic and beautiful.
She is a budding novelist, waiting in the wings, and sometimes I feel like I am the opening act for the main attraction.
When she hits the world's stage...I wouldn't want to try to follow her.
Saturday she gets one step closer- One more milestone I'll miss.
The show must go on.

Friday, April 11, 2008

"We can't kill plastic roses"


Wednesday night we returned to the Derby, where the audience was confused by the couches.
One woman said "I want to rock out and throw my panties...but somehow- I feel I'm SUPPOSED to sit on the couch because it's...THERE."
It's true- somehow the presence of a couch or chair seems to say- "We are EXPECTING you to sit- Now plant your ass."

Regardless of the hostile furniture, the crowd was vocal from their leather thrones, and I can only call the return of Plastic Roses to the set a remarkable success. Plastic Roses is one of those songs that truly sums up my 'sound', if you will, bluesy and salty, with a little bit of 'poignancy' (I'm pronouncing the 'G' just for you, baby).

So it's not that I don't like the song. Shit, I wrote it. The problem is that it builds almost TOO much to the chorus; and by the time we get there, the guys are in high gear; and there's so much testosterone flying around that chest hair is growing on Jake's kick drum. With that kind of machismo momentum, the words get buried.
And that is the pitchfork I will carry through the streets like a peasant woman chasing Frankenstein's monster; THE LYRICS. I lived 'em, wrote 'em, sweated through singing 'em out in the open for all the world, and damn it, you WILL hear them.

Joe has been pulling for the song for weeks now, and giving me the evil eye every time I pass it up on a set list, but this time I thought, "Oh, hell, let's just have a run at it". But we worked it first- a lot. And I stopped them every time I felt like I was screaming into oblivion, to ask them to keep it under CONTROL, louder is not better- it's just LOUDER.

Well, it all paid off, because The Ladies (2 supercool fans that come out to nearly every show, and shall henceforth be referred to as- The Ladies) were very pleased, and commented that they hadn't seen it since Molly Malones, and they'd liked it so much, and then it just...went away.

Kinda like our rehearsal space! (Nice segue, huh?). We've moved yet again, and I think we may have finally found our niche. Jake's place was nice; it felt cozy to have something 'our own', but in the end we had to set up and take down the P.A. every rehearsal; and this new place is just easier.

And in other exciting news (yeah, I don't know that the rehearsal space was 'exciting', but it's news) we've got a new intern!! Everyone, say hello to Judson McKinney! Judson's MySpace Page
Judson is a musician in his own right, and is a thoroughly lovely human being- He's running the 'business' at the shows, and soon will be bustling about he label office. Please go to his MySpace and show him some love!!!!

We're booking busily for the summer, so we hope to see you at a show soon! Keep watching the MySpace calendar!

***Update from 'The Truth"***:

I want to thank everybody who has sent me such kind messages and has been supportive while I recover- My doctor wants me to SLEEP as much as possible over the next few months, stick to my Whole Foods diet of vegetarian proportions and take my supplements.
The last two are easy, the first is hard:) So much to do- and I want you to know, I'm still rockin'- I just sleep all day first before a show!!!:)
Our target date is July 4th- my birthday! -That's the day we're hoping I get the all-clear from my doctor that I am FIRMLY back in the saddle!!!! Keep prayin' for me, and know- I'm always prayin' for y'all!!!!

Love, VK

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Truth


"...and the truth shall make you free." John 8:32


It's been nearly 3 weeks since I blogged, and as I sat down tonight, I thought about the excuses I could make to you, my loyal readers, that would seem plausible. And they came easily- "I was busy with the band", "the holiday took up all of my time", "I've been working extra hours". And while all of those things are true, none of them are the truth of why I haven't written.
I've avoided going down this road for a few reasons. One is to avoid the 'helpful suggestions' of the few passerby readers who haven't been here from the beginning and who want to make a judgement about 'what I should do'. Another is...I feel kinda stupid.

However, after a lot of thought, I realized that the importance of being open outweighs my own discomfort. I write songs so that hopefully someone else can gain something (empathy, clarity, solace) from my experiences. And so now I write this blog in the same hope.

A year ago I decided to lose weight. I thought, "I am ___ years old, and if I don't have the body that I want this year, well, then I might never". So I set about getting it. I cut back on calories. Way back. At the same time I added caffeine in larger amounts, to keep my energy up. I felt good. I said yes to every project and person that needed me. I started working out more. Added more caffeine. Stayed up later. Got up earlier. Cut calories again.

Eventually, I was drinking 90-120 ounces of caffeinated diet soda per day, and eating barely 1000 calories. I lost 16 pounds and nearly my life.

I started feeling my sore throat pretty early on, about 10 months ago. Then the mood swings. Then the exhaustion. To the point of falling asleep driving on the 101.

By the time I got to my present doctor, I had been through 6 doctors, approximately 17 blood tests and an MRI. She looked at all of them and slowly explained what I'd done. I'd basically pushed my body into an extreme state of organ exhaustion, with the result being that if things didn't change, and change soon, I would die.

And so I changed. No more caffeine. No more stress, as much as possible. A very restrictive diet that put good things in and kept bad things out. And a better mindset.

I'm recovering, and each day gets better. It's hard, though, not to be angry at myself for doing something so incredibly foolish and selfish.

I have an extreme personality. I never do anything halfway; I just go hellbent at 150 mph, and sometimes that's good, but a lot of times it's not. I'm smart- and I'm not saying this out of hubris, but I'm one of the smarter folks I know-and I did this.

So what have I learned?

Empathy. Not to be judgmental of the junkie huddled in the ladies room, because I'm really no better. So my drug comes in a 20-ounce bottle you can get at 7-11, that only makes it cheaper. The alcoholic may do crazy things drunk; when I was 'on the sauce', I wasn't myself, either. How much more when the bottle's glass?

Moderation. Everything, every person, every idea has a place in your life. Once you let a thing, a desire, a person go beyond the confines of that space and start taking over other spaces, you edge out good things, check and balances, colors and varieties. Life becomes grey.

My band has been supportive and sweet, and last Tuesday we had the best rehearsal we have had, maybe ever. The sound is dialed in, the connection is there between us all, and my head is clear. Rem told me I seem 1,000X better.

One day at a time, one week at a time, one month at a time.

My incredible husband has been a rock. When I was told I had to rest I said "Rest? I can't rest! I've got 30 students!!"
And he said "Yes, you have 30 students- but you don't have 30 students TODAY. Do what you have to do today, and take it piece by piece."

So will I live? Decidedly so.
Am I wiser, better, healthier for it? Resoundingly so.
Would I do it again?
I would like to think not.

I've always believed there is something to be said for learning from others' mistakes and not necessarily needing to make them yourself. So if I convey nothing else tonight- be good to your body.
For your sake- and the sake of those around you.:)

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Tesla, Drugs, Rock n' Roll- and Spring.



Tesla
_______________________

You have to expect the occasional snafu. Take, for example, our upcoming Monday night show.

It's at the Derby (nice place), being promoted by Bob Leggett (great guy) at 9:30 (perfect time slot). However- Jake can't get off of work.

So we kick it acoustic, with me, Joe and Rem. I'm not paying for rehearsal space for that kind of hootenanny night, so I tell the guys to just come to my house and we'll gather ourselves.

I approached with a certain amount of trepidation-we have nitpicked these songs to get them where I like them, and taking Jakeypoo out of the equation was a Matzo ball I didn't want to chew. However, when Joe & Rem arrived, Joe said "I have some ideas".

Touche. Joe breathes ideas; now it's actually going to be a pretty kickass show; Joe plays acoustic with a level of authority that says "We don't need no stinking drums". And since I've been taking guitar lessons, I don't feel as exposed in this kind of milieu.

Don't misunderstand, though- I don't want to do this often. I like Jake behind me, banging away. (That didn't come out right.)

But it's reassuring to know that we CAN do it.

As we were leaving, the quote of the night occurred.

Somehow the discussion of a certain artist came up and the fact that she has no butt. Rem said he didn't really mind that, being a breast man. Joe said,

" I can take or leave breasts, but the ass...."

Rem replied- "Ha! Bring me the mammaries!"

There's nothing more that I can add to that.


Drugs
_____________________________

Appropriately enough, as I type this I'm listening to the amazing, the dirty, the badass, Steve Earle.

"..seems like I've always been in prison...like I've always been alone."

Wednesday morning I did an interview with Monty Myer at Take 12 Radio- it's the only all-recovery radio station. Me and the guys are playing this summer's Freedom Festival that celebrates folks who've gotten clean and sober.


As we talked, I thought about all the people in my life who've struggled with substance issues- some outgrew it, some overcame it, some went in and out of jail, some still drift through the days - and some died. The reasons they got there were varied- but usually they were rooted in pain- physical, mental, spiritual. An ache that won't subside, a past that won't be forgotten, a life that isn't what it was supposed to be. And I wonder how in the hell I dodged the bullet.

Maybe it was ma's deep fear of alcohol as I was growing up. Maybe it's my distrust of my own mind that keeps me from putting more confusion in it. Maybe it's hubris.

Regardless, for all those people in my life, I was suddenly intensely glad that we're doing this show. It was a moment when I remembered why I'm making music- to make the world better, if I can.


Rock n' Roll - (fun tidbit)
_________________________________

I'm getting a new guitar. I have an endorsement with Stagg/EMD music, and they gave me the sassy black acoustic I bang around with now. The new one is a hollow-bodied jazz style electric. I'll be bustin' it out at the Derby April 9th.

Between now and then, my guitar teacher is going to help me to not make an ass of myself with the thing. He says it shouldn't be that much different than playing what I have now, but I want to be on top of my game!


Spring
_______________________________

( And now, even more appropriately, I have on Jet City Woman)

As I headed out the Wednesday afternoon, I was delighted by the weather- about 79 degrees in the Valley and sunny. I got in the car and put the windows down. Maybe because I spend A LOT of time in the car (I am The Road Warrior- I drive no fewer than 2 hours to and from my kids every day, and thanks to my years in Philly, I can parallel park a stick shift pickup truck in a space the size of an ordinary household sponge) or maybe because I am getting to a certain 'age', but I talk to myself in the car sometimes- that is when I'm not screaming some song out the windows like a banshee. This particular afternoon, I laughed out loud as I drove with one hand and put my other hand under the passenger side seat to pull out an ancient cassette case (YES, I SAID CASSETTE!) and flip it open. The arm of my sunglasses was gripped between my teeth as I grinned and said, "You know what time it is-Shtick it to ya!" I popped the tape in and cranked the volume, as all around me, passing cars heard:

"UP ALL NIGHT! SLEEP ALL DAY!"

So in that spirit, I came home tonight and downloaded some Queensryche, Steve Earle- and Blue Rodeo. The changes in seasons always make me nostalgic.

(iTunes shuffles- "My dark angel, she gave me diamonds for eyes..")

For example- if you've never heard Dark Angel by Blue Rodeo, do yourself a favor and check it out. It's one of the most beautiful songs ever, and it always puts me back...Christmas Eve 1995.

It was Douglassville, PA, around 7:30 p.m., and I was in the parking lot of a tiny country inn where we'd just eaten dinner. I was sitting in an old Mustang looking at my hand and the new diamond ring on it. He turned the ignition to get the heat going and Dark Angel came on. He pulled the car out, and we drove down the dark rural road in silence. As the song played, it began to snow, and I saw my whole life passing through the headlights like the soft, white flakes.

"Sometimes I feel I'm living in someone else's dream.."

My whole life has always been turned on a riff, changed by a bridge, or saved by a lyric. Music is my weakness, my strength,
my soul and my reason. And strange as it may seem, spring and Slaughter always remind me of that:)

I thought today, in my reminiscences, of all the people who've been disappointed by the decisions I've made in loyalty to the music. Childhood friends, family, boyfriends and musicians. It seems I'm always leaving someone behind in pursuit of this intangible thing. First it was to make the music, then it was to make the music BETTER.

When people tell me what one of my songs has meant to them, I know 2 things:
1. That it didn't come from me. To do all that this person has said, it must have come from a much larger, more loving force than me.
2. The responsibility I then have to that. If God is going to entrust this to me, then I better do everything in my power to make it as good as it can be.

And that often entails making unpopular decisions. Decisions that are hard even for me. But I know they are necessary.

Life is fluid- people change, situations change...just like the weather. But for every end, there is rebirth.

It's spring.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Too much reality?


I'm starting blank tonight. Last night I posted a blog that was kind of a departure for me; you see I took a little poetic license and detailed what each band member does/goes through every Tuesday in the lead-up to rehearsal at 8:30.

However, upon re-reading it, it DID seem...invasive? In my attempt to be honest, was I exposing more of the guys- and myself- than anyone needs? Was it- too much reality?

Sean says that part of the fun of this blog is that, for the most part, it's fun. I write about the quirks of this off-beat group of people as we struggle to make our living in one of the hardest ways possible, but nothing's ever too serious or irreparable.

I thought about it all day, and after measured consideration, I stand behind my original thought- truth. In my songwriting I've always been honest, consequences be damned, because I felt that it was the only way to make art worth hearing. Leaving the Life, for example. I didn't expect the backlash that I got from my family when that one surfaced, but I'd do it again for all the people who've e-mailed me to say that it helped them deal with their own pain. Isn't that what music should do?

So in a parallel fashion, maybe somebody needs to hear this...'blog truth'. But, in fairness, I can only speak for me- the boys.. this isn't their truth crusade.:)

So on my end- it isn't always fun or easy, and I'm not always confident or clever, and some days I'm just damn tired and discouraged. I did a radio interview with a college station in Massachusetts a few months ago, and the DJ said "So where are you right now, VK, sitting in the hot tub in the Hollywood Hills?" And I said "No, I'm in my pickup truck, pulled over in the Rite-Aid parking lot, getting ready to go in and pick up my husband's medicine." He thought this was hilarious, and said "See folks? Even rockstars have to run errands sometimes!"

Sometimes? How about ALL the time, my friend. Especially on the way up, you've still got bills to pay and bathrooms to clean and dishes to do.

And how do I pay those bills? I'm a private SAT/English composition tutor for 16-17 year-olds. Is it the best job I've ever had? Damn right. Am I good at it? One of the best. Do I always love it? Hell no.

For the most part, I love my kids. They are fun and responsive, and I try to make grammar go down as easily as possible. But there are days when- like EVERYBODY ELSE- I just want to stay in bed. Particularly when I'm coming off a 'rockstar moment' when I feel like I'm on my way, and I have to plunge from that directly into prepositional phrases.

Case in point- about a week or two ago, as you regular blog lurkers know, I signed papers with Broken Halo Records. We had a kickass show at the Derby, and I was feeling the momentum. When you've been banging away at this for a long time, it's sometimes hard to keep pushing when it seems like nothing's moving. (But I'm feeling the rock start to give, and once it's rolling, look out!) So I cheerily arrived at a student's house the next day, and he was sulky about his homework.

"Well, I did it- you should be happy- I gave up my time to do it."
"It makes no difference to me- YOU'RE the one who's taking the test. I've already been to college."
"Yeah, and look at what you do- you're a TUTOR."

Now I know deep down that boy did not mean to upset me. But driving home that night, I couldn't get those words out of my mind. It threw into rather sharp relief the fact that as far as these wealthy kids are concerned, I'm a failure. A sharp-witted woman with a knack for grammar who couldn't seem to do "better" than tutoring them. They often say "Why didn't you become a REAL teacher? You're good at it." (These kinds of left-handed compliments are awesome!:)

I said to Ma, "It's hard enough some days to convince MYSELF that my life is going somewhere without these kids on my case".
She said, "Oh, sweet pea- you're so close to everything you want. Don't let this get to you. He's just a spoiled rotten kid."

(Ma. She listens without much comment when she thinks I'm wrong and lets me figure it out, but is vocal about agreeing when I'm right. Last year she'd been very quiet...but now...? She has lots to say:)

And I need to hear it. I'm missing her 50's and 60's while I'm chasing this dream; the boys in this band are putting stock in it; Sean's moved 2,000 miles across the country with me based on a belief that this voice needed to be heard; and bunches of fans are giving of their time and talents because they believe. And this voice in my head says I can't let them down. And I feel overwhelmed. And I eat a huge bowl of frozen yogurt with cinnamon, chocolate chips and raisins (It's delicious- I promise!:) and feel helpless...and chubby.


Then Sean comes home and says that it's not my responsibility to take care of everyone. Just like in the "honesty blog", I can only account for myself..everyone else makes their own choices. Just be glad they've made the choice to be with me.

So- I rally. I pragmatically realize that teenagers are the cruelest people on earth, and that HE doesn't know who I am when I'm not a tutor (I go into a phone booth and out comes- VK LYNNE!:) I write out the bills and reassure myself that the day will come when I'm not just making a minimum payment, but I'm paying off the whole thing with a flourish of the pen. I get up and drag myself to spinning class because I'll be going on the road soon, and I need to be in shape for it. And I sit down with my 21-year-old guitar teacher to learn theory I wish I'd had years ago, but am cramming into my brain now, because there's so many songs in there waiting to come out, and they need the right colors to wear before they face the world.

I look forward into no guarantees, no hard-and-fasts, no 401K and no concrete idea of what the future looks like.
It is the life that I've chosen. And whether they are my responsibility or not, for all the people in that life, I'm giving it everything.

They deserve no less. And neither do all of you.

So here's who I am. Warts and all.:)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Rehearsal, The Rainbow, and The Meeting

It's another double edition (I promise to try to not make this a habit). I decided when I started this to give as accurate a presentation of this journey as possible, warts and all...there may be some warts in this one. So here's how it all happened....


The Rehearsal
________________________________________

Last Tuesday I signed the final paperwork with Broken Halo Records, yay! I felt good about the whole day; I wanted to go out and have a celebratory drink, but I did have rehearsal- and who better to share the day with than my band?

I got to rehearsal, and told the guys that all was final, and that we'd be recording in March!

Not the eager responses I expected.

Pragmatic responses about song choices, tracks, schedules, and a barrage of other particulars issued forth- and totally killed my buzz. I sighed, and re-adjusted my thinking to take in a whole new list of concerns/issues to be decided on...But I guess that's life. Nothing is ever an end in itself; each stage breeds its own litany of details that demands its own attention.

However, that night, for that moment, I just wanted everyone to be happy. And a beer. Yes, I really wanted a damn beer.:)



The Rainbow
_________________________________________

Saturday night I returned to the scene of my earlier-in-2007 ignominy ( read- me barfing in the bathroom) to play an acoustic set. The Rainbow is a funny place for me- it's the only place I've found in the area that plays music I can dance to- I'm a funny girl, and I can only dance if I FEEL it, and I only FEEL it if it's Motley Crue, Poison, Skid Row, Cinderella, Queensryche, Slaughter, etc. When we first moved to CA, we spent a night upstairs, quietly sipping drinks, until the DJ called to me:

"Hey, Blondie- what's it gonna take to get you to dance?"

"Alice in Chains!!!"

He responded by putting on Man in the Box. Well, the gauntlet was thrown, and before I knew it, I was being approached by a man who asked me if I was a professional pole dancer.

My mother would be so proud.

Well, this Saturday I took Sean, Christie and my guitar and busted out some songs that I don't play that often theses days- My Emily, Coming Down, Crystal Ball, and the newest one, Carnal Crucifixion. It was fun, and afterwards I talked with Lacy Younger, an artist that I keep crossing paths with, while our little threesome munched on a pepperoni pizza and beer.

I had had 2 glasses of Almond Champagne and 2 beers when the DJ put on Joan Jett, "I Hate Myself for Loving You".

Well.

That was pretty much the end of my serenity, and I danced like a stripper the night before rent day until I had side stitches. At the end of the night we went to find Christie, who had esconced herself at a booth with several venerable gentlemen, and came home filled with delicious.

We stood in the kitchen and ate frozen yogurt while Christie sobered up (rather admirably), then called it a night. The last thing I thought of before bed, ( with apprehension) was....


The Meeting
______________________________________________

Joe had mentioned that "We should have a business meeting".

In terms of a band, that's like saying to your significant other "We need to talk". I was nervous about what on earth the boys would have to say, but decided the best course of action was to have the meeting, feed them, fill 'em with beer, and let the chips fall where they may.

I worried too much. I have made great strides in getting over the concern that they will find greener pastures, but wasn't sure if my pasture still held the amenities they required. The danger, in my experience, has always been that as soon as a success comes, someone becomes a rockstar- and it's never me. However, I held out hope that all would go well.

It did- the guys are truly lovely people; and they each have proved themselves more than once.

Rem is the Rock. He has been there since the day I walked into his kitchen and said:
"Hey- you wanna play bass in my band?"
"I absolutely do", he said while taking a turkey out of his oven. No long thought process. No questions. Just IN.

Two incarnations later, he's still here, holding it down.

Jake. My Dear. Since the day he sent me an e-mail asking if he could audition on a different day from EVERYONE ELSE because he was doing a demo for a company that he endorses, he's been the sweet pain in my neck that I couldn't do without. Whenever I've really needed Jake, he's been there.

And now Joe- the missing piece we didn't know was missing. He's sharp, he's edgy, he keeps the rest on our toes, and makes all of us want to be better- or at least learn our pentatonic scales :).


Together, they create the net that catches my melody when it's falling, guards it when it's teetering, covers it when it's vulnerable, or sinks behind it when it's secure.

I know that very few things in this life are permanent.
I have made the mistake of putting all my eggs in a basket that couldn't hold, more than once. But at this time, this group of people- I couldn't ask for more.
(Except for an investor with $5,000 he/she wants to sink into this CD:).

I've never ascribed to the "hired gun" theory- a lot of solo artists do, and I understand why. But for me, to feel safe on stage, I need to know the people on it, and love them. And know that they love me- and that together, we give a damn what happens to the others...and to that end, they need to know that their tails are covered when we make this new record.

This business is mercurial, and even though I put out the biggest risk, it's because I stand to receive the biggest gain. They are my friends, yes. But they are also professionals.
They need to get paid for their time. That's how music is made (Rem- I wink to you:).
On my end, I'm friekin' broke because I'm a singer/songwriter with an actor for a husband.

I don't know what I'm going to pay them. I don't know HOW I'm going to pay them. I don't know how the public is going to receive his record. But right before I started writing this, a MySpace friend sent me this quote:

"You are never given a wish,without being given the power to make it come true".

And on that note, I am reminded that we've come this far, God is good, and I will sleep securely tonight.:)

Red Carpet, Destruction, and the Derby


Well, I have three band things to blog on this week, so grab a cup of coffee and settle in!

Red Carpet

________________________________

Tuesday night I did my first 'red carpet event'. There was a pre-Grammy showcase at the Viper Room, organized by Brent Harvey, and he graciously extended an invitation to me. I thought it would be a good opportunity to network, and so I accepted. However, Sean had to work and so I asked Remington to go as band representative.
Perhaps at this point it might be a good time to give a little information about Remington. He is by far the most educated member of the band, if not the most dignified. He is incredibly tall, roughly 6'7" in his cowboy boots, and he has a refined wine palate and a fine sense of diplomacy. Not your typical bassist, if such a thing exists.
We arrive at the Viper Room, and there is, indeed, a red carpet, and a bank of photographers with glaringly bright lights illuminating the entire block. We park and walk up to the end of the short line of attendees.
I dressed for the occasion, which in my case means ridiculously high heels, fishnets, and a skirt that bears that moniker loosely. So I am freezing. And standing on a San Francisco-worthy incline wondering: What do we do?
I turn to Rem:

"You always know what the proper thing to do is in any occasion- What do we do?"

"This is the one time in my life, I can honestly say- I have no idea!"

We look around helplessly; do we approach someone, do we bypass the carpet altogether and slip quietly inside? Finally, an official looking woman approaches and extends her hand, she introduces herself as 'Monica', and ushers us to the next place in line. She asks my name, and looks perplexed as I say " V-K- Lynne" as clearly as I can without appearing condescending.

Now, I am fully prepared to step onto this carpet and have no one give a damn and just wait patiently for me to pass through and get to someone more prominent. I step on to the edge of the red shag, and flashbulbs blind me. I smile instinctively, and photographers call "This way honey- look over here!" I smile, and try to look skinny (Tyra says chin forward and FIERCE!) and then I start to walk ahead.

"Wait!!! Hey sweetie- don't forget about us!"

I thought all the photographers were taking shots at the same time, but some further down wanted more dead-on shots I guess, so I stopped and let them snap away, and once again explained "V-K-Lynne. You know, like kd lang…or KT Tunstall."

They finished and I walked directly into a tall blond with a microphone who asked: "Would you do an interview for our channel?"

(Why wouldn't I?)

So I chatted with her for a few minutes, then as I passed her, another woman stopped me, and asked if I would answer some questions for her channel directed to children.

"So keep it clean, you're saying?"

She laughed and asked me about the band, then asked how I thought the music would appeal to children.

"Well, I don't know that it will, but I do know that I have a MySpace friend who says her 3-year-old little boy dances around the room every time she plays my music, so maybe that demographic is out there for me!"

We finished up, and then went inside. Rem was astonished.

"You pulled that one out! I would have had no idea what to say- and you remembered that story right off the top of your head!!!"

"Well- I'm quick on my feet!"

We went into the bar where there were appetizers and alcohol and discussed how long we could stay, because we had to get to rehearsal- Tuesday night is Tuesday night, after all……


Destruction
____________________________________________

Rem and I got back to my house to pick up his bass, my guitar, and run to rehearsal. I threw off my clothes and tossed on some jeans and a sweatshirt, and away we went. Joe was at the gate when we arrived. Rem speculated that Joe had some sort of powers that allowed him to get in the gate every week, and began a Dungeons and Dragons explanation that revealed his true geekery, while Jake let us in.
Jakeypoo had already set up the PA, so we were pretty much ready to go. Rem regaled the others with the red carpet story, and we discussed how these are the types of things awaiting us this year!
We got settled in, and Jake said:
"How long of a set do we have- Cause we should time it".

"30 minutes- and it should be fine, because I have it all planned out, and we all have a set list; everyone knows what we're doing, so it's not like someone's going to look at me onstage and say 'What's next?' because I'll break their balls off if they do."

At this, three sets of eyes scanned the floor for their set lists and dignity, and we launched into the first tune.

We got to Whiskey, and Jake started it at a brisk 79, which nearly cost him his manhood, but we ironed it out quickly, and moved on.

Joe, looking very Cheshire cat, announced that he would be playing in stereo at The Derby. Everyone looked up:

"Oooooohhh."

(Yup. We're getting' fancy now. Transitional music. Stereo lead guitar. Costume changed. Bring on the pyro.)

We took a break for Joe's Coke and Jake's cigarette, and talked about the folks we knew who were coming out to the show. Jake came toddling back in:

"So- no backline?"

"No backline."

"I mean it's fine, I just don't like to lug my drums around."

"Well, that's something you should have thought about when you were 5 years old and said, "Mommy, I want to be a drummer", not today."

"I'll do it, I'll do it!"

We launched into the second run of the set, and then we got to Black Halo, This is the song that puts the Funk in the Sexifunk Magic. It's really a great opportunity for Joe and Jake to go nuts and do wacky fusion things that I don't understand, but damn it's fun.

We were in the second verse, when Joe did this crazy thing, and Jake countered with an equally crazy fill, when I noticed they were all looking at me- because I wasn't singing, I was listening to them. I realized that I was just standing there with my mouth open, and just burst out laughing. I tried to regain it, but dissolved into helpless laughter almost immediately. I just couldn't pull it together. Remington punches the air and says:

"Hell to the yeah! THAT'S what the Sexifunk Magic does to the ladies! We destroy! DESTROY!!!"

Now everyone is shrieking with laughter- Jake manages to get out:

"That's…that's…nicest guy in the world yelling, "that's what we do to the ladies- destroy!"

It seems we have no hope of getting though the song at this point, but somehow we rally, because the next night is-


The Derby


____________________________________________

Sean and I get to the Derby, and the guy at the door sends us around to the front of the place. At the front of the place they send us through to the back (where we just came from). The girl at the top of the stairs says, "Artists have to come in at the back", pointing to the doorman who just sent us to the front. (Who's on first?)
Finally, we get in and settled, and the guys arrive. There are acoustic acts playing in the very chill, very dark VIP lounge where we are about to be LOUD and SWEATY. I get a bag of Gummi Bears out of my bag.

"OK- I brought us some band juju for the night, everybody take one."

Joe wrinkles his nose:

"Ahhh, gummi bears, I don't like…"

"Joe, at least it's not a bag of cocaine, eat the fucking gummi bear!"

He takes a bear and puts in it his mouth like it's a turd. But he eats it, and we all partake of the Show Juju- wives and Sean, too.

By 9:30, the place was pretty darn full. The band before us cancelled, so we had ample time to set up. Jake comes over to me and gives me a hug:

"I forgot my high hat stand."

"Funny."

"No, I really did."

"I will fucking kill you."

"No, it's going to be fine, see, I can make it work."

I can never stay mad at Jake, so I just tell him he'd better, and get back to digging out set lists. I tell Joe and Rem to spread out- damn it, we need some room to swing a cat, as Brando would say. So Jake is on the riser, and so am I, but Joe and Brad are on the floor- this is going to work brilliantly…
Christie comes sashaying in all her sassy glory, and we are ready. (She is the fifth honorary band member, in charge of good vibes?

We launch into Mess Like You and the walls collapse. Not literally of course, but the all-wood room is suddenly shell shocked. Fortunately, it was an easy fix; Joe amiably fiddled with his amps, and suddenly, we had the best mix we've ever had. The crowd was amazing- they cheered for everything, they rocked along with us, and they fed us on their energy. By the time we got to Black Halo, we had firmly left our mark.


People swarmed us as we left the stage. They grabbed me and said they would never miss a show again, and would bring all their friends next time. The promoter pressed my hand, said "Amazing!", and invited us back next month. My friend Robert picked me up and screamed. Christie said "You've hit your stride- music, persona, everything."

It was the beginning of a new era. We finally have found our sound, our place, our stage.
And now that we have-

We're here to stay.

All the news that's fit to print.


During rehearsal Tuesday, several times things occurred, and someone said "THAT'S gotta go in the blog!!!" However, I am trying not to work in blue here, so some of it will be edited to keep our PG-13 rating:)


Tuesday was a lot of fun- everyone arrived in a pretty nice humor. Joe was very cat-that-ate-the-canary over a contact he has that might cause me to have to bake for him for THE REST OF MY LIFE, Remington was excited about his new plan for microphone placement to see if we could get some decent rehearsal recordings, and Jake was pretty in his little headband (his hair length has reached such floppy proportions that he has to hold it back with a little black band). I was built for comfort in my husband's ancient St. Jos'. sweatshirt and the jeans that owe me nothing. Thus we began our rehearsal journey:)

Joe: "I've been thinking about Plastic Roses. And I think we had it- I mean it needs tightening, but I think we had it. I asked a friend of mine, whose opinion I respect, and he said all the elements are there."

VK: "Quite possibly- I may have just been crabby the other night, or my throat hurt, or what have you- we can give it another go."

Joe: "I'm not trying to be nosey- if I am, just tell me."

VK: "That's not nosey- nosey would be 'Hey, I think you should switch to a diaphragm from condoms'. That would be nosey."

This little exchange set the tone for the evening, with salacious comments flying about at random times.

I handed out set lists, because dammit, I'm good, and I remembered that I wanted them all to have the set for the Derby to start getting the framework of the show into their brains. We are working out some "interlude" type things to make the show more cohesive, so with Jake's ineffable "au, au, au" count off, we jumped into the set.

Almost immediately, Joe broke a string on Mess Like You, which was a good sign...we were all playing like we meant it:)

We got to Whiskey or Water, and Jake fiddled with the click, and we set into it. As soon as the vocals came in, I knew something was not right. However, I kept on, because I assumed it was me. But oy vey it felt fast. And I need to feel that song. And if I'm rushing....

We finished it and I said "Was that fast?"
Jake said "That was 74- that's what we've played it at the last 3 times."
I was puzzled- it seemed so much faster. I said "Am I crazy?"
The other two looked at me as if to say, "Is that rhetorical?"
I said "Well, look, I'm trying to, like, EMOTE here, if I ain't feeling it...OK- well, maybe drop it down to 72."
Jake grinned, "It was 79- I was kidding".

"Jake if I come back there!!!!"

I tried to look menacing over his toms, but my 5'3" stature is only so sinister.

We went into the next song, Find Me, which has really become the song that exemplifies what we call "The Joe DeSa Magick". He just puts this beautiful AURA around my melody, and it's heavenly. Really, there's no other word for it.

The rest of the set was cake, and we finally took 5 so that Joe could run to the pilfering soda machine, and Rem fiddled with the laptop. Jake was telling a story, when suddenly he said, "Wait! I could be smoking!"

He jumped up and went outside to blacken his little lungs, while Joe walked in guiltily with a Coke.

"I never drink this stuff- only on Tuesdays."

Rehearsal day, day of dietary sins:)

Jake came back and said, " I think I'm getting sloppy. Or tired. Or sloppy because I'm tired. But I think we should run it at least 2 more times."

Our little contradiction:)

On the last set, we were starting to drag- then we hit Black Halo. Suddenly, it was like a gust of happy air came into the room, and we played as if it was the last song we'd ever play.

Jake: "How did the whole fuckin' set blow- then that tune.."?

Joe: "We're super polite, then.."

Jake: "Then RUDE, and then RUDE"

Rem: "Kick over the amps.."

VK: "Exactly."

So that's what you can expect on Wednesday, folks:
We start out string- breaking rockin',
move into stuff I gotta FEEL,
then we're Magick,
super polite,
and then RUDE.

We'll always have lll Sides...

I think everyone has that band or artist that your friends don't get and that you love with all of your guts anyway. As I type this, I'm playing my GPB (guilty pleasure band) on repeat, because after many dry years THEY ARE PUTTING OUT A NEW CD!!! To be supported by a TOUR!!!! I am SOOOOOOOOOO unapologetically there, screaming at the top of my lungs, as I did in Philly back in '95: "NUNO!!! Father my children!!!"

My musician friends have a lot of fun with my Extreme fixation, and even though it is a lot about Nuno- the best guitarist EVER...(You wanna go outside? I'll go down swingin')- it's mostly about the epic music of lll Sides to Every Story that takes me back and wrings my heart out every time. Gary Cherone is a rare vocalist/lyricist, and if anyone has seen them live- well, Nuno is only half the show. Gary is an amazing frontman.

So what happened? This music that took chances artistically, (do yourself a favor and pick up lll Sides- it's incredible) and made some poignant statements about life and even Christianity, that could still rock at the same time (Suzy Wants her All Day Sucker, anybody?), somehow evaporated. In a way it makes them more dear to me, a part of my past that's sacred; I don't turn on the radio and hear them crassly exposed to the undiscerning masses all the time, so I can keep them where they belong. In a red Mustang on a dirt road with a girl I'll never be again.....

When I met T.J. we were 16. He was the baddest ass I could find in my small town, and he was dark, in a Navajo kind of way, with long hair in a ponytail under a do-rag. He drove that '76 in the most irresponsible way possible, and he always had Metallica or Steve Earle throbbing out of the windows. When we met, he opened a whole new world of music to me- a world of Queensryche, Dream Theater, Blue Rodeo- and Extreme.

We didn't talk a lot in those days, he wasn't a talker, but we did a lot of driving around the dusty county roads, trying to find something to occupy our time out in the sticks where we grew up. I wanted to be anywhere but my house then, so his house was just as good. He had an ancient black electric guitar that he was always half learning to play, and we'd sit in his room and listen to our music while his brothers fought and his sisters tried to get me to loan them my clothes.

By the next year, I had broken it off; I needed 'space', and I was dating a completely dead-end guy 5 years my senior. We were on our way to a Valentines' Day party, and we stopped at the mall to pick up a toy for the gift exchange they were having (I know- how weird). While we were there, the radio station that was playing over the intercom suddenly caught my ear, the DJ was saying, "Here's the new song from Extreme's upcoming record", and Stop the World came on. I was frozen, yet excited- I grabbed S.'s arm and said, "Do you hear that?" He looked at me puzzled, and at that moment I knew I was going back to T.J.

I fought it for a few more months, but on a warm day in April I was folding laundry in my room, when I turned on my radio, and instantly More than Words came on. I put down my laundry and picked up the phone.

We got back together, which we probably shouldn't have done, but we agreed that when I left for college we'd break it off again. That didn't happen. We danced to More than Words at the prom, and before long he was driving the hour and a half to Allentown to see me every week, with Seven Sundays on the stereo.

My sophomore year was rough- I met Sean, my future husband, and was just blown away by how I connected with my new 'best friend'. T.J. was difficult- he was moody, and we hit all of each other's buttons. We brought out the worst in each other. But on Valentines' Day (again!) he showed up with a black heart-shaped music box (the way to my heart) and 2 tickets to see Extreme at the Troc in Philly.

We had a great time- it was always the one thing we agreed on, the only thing that we really had in common, music. Music is such a huge part of me; I just thought it was enough. That night was freezing, but when Nuno came out on stage with blond hair, T.J. grabbed my hand and said "Baby! THAT'S Nuno!!! He pointed, and my jaw dropped. We sang and screamed all night.

The closeness we felt that night sustained us for several months. Then my favorite uncle was diagnosed with AIDS. At about the same time, Sean stopped talking to me- his on-again/ off-again girlfriend was apparently ON, and jealous, and he couldn't hang out with me anymore. T.J. wasn't good with empathy. I suddenly felt incredibly alone.

T.J. had been pushing for marriage for years now. He said he'd officially propose when I said it was OK. But I kept putting him off; we fought so much, and I knew that relationships were work, but how much is too much? He wasn't talking, but in usual fashion he gave me a mix tape (yes, we still did that back then:) and at the end of it was little-known Extreme ballad "Don't Leave Me Alone". It's gut wrenching, and somehow, every time I thought about doing it, I'd listen to that song- and I couldn't.
Then that summer my mother was in a near fatal car accident. I needed some stability. I told him that Christmas would be OK.

Over the summer, I took comfort in Waiting for the Punchline, as usual, T.J. showed his love by giving me music, and he gave me Punchlilne after the Extreme concert. I took Unconditionally to be my mantra, and when Christmas came, I walked out the door on Christmas Eve with T.J. and walked back in that night with a diamond.

In a funny way, Extreme stopped making music about the same time we stopped trying to make something work that was never meant to. 6 months later I broke it off, this time for good, and we went our separate ways. Sean and I stopped trying to fight the inevitable, and I found out that relationships are work, but it's work worth doing, if it's in the right direction, and it's easy lifting when you're both pulling the same way. He's my soulmate. He embraced Extreme, and learned to appreciate them and respect my feelings for them.

T.J. was angry for a long time, but as the years passed, we sorted through, a piece at a time, a Christmas visit here, an Easter break there, all the things that went wrong. And, over the years, he became the man I always believed he could be, but that he would have never become, if I'd stayed with him. We became less and less entangled in each other's lives. Our common past was 3,000 miles between- and a decade behind- us. As it needed to be.

But it's funny the things that don't go away. 3 years ago, I went to NAMM with my guitarist at the time, and we walked into Nuno. I became a huge GIRL, and my guitarist actually was friends from years ago with Nuno's manager, so they stood there and chatted, while Nuno and I stood there looking at each other, so finally I said "Sorry- he knows everybody." To my surprise, Nuno said, "I know, him too!" We started chatting, and it was one of the highlights of my life. On my way home I called Sean. He said, "You are coming home- right?" (He's so cool, has such a great sense of humor about the whole thing!)
I called my friends. They were all like "Who? Oh, that's great."

I was disappointed- when you're that excited, you want someone to be excited with you- to be as excited as you are. I hesitated for a few minutes, but then I picked up my phone:

"T.J.?....Guess who I just met?"
"Nuno?!"
He knew right away only one person would bring on a phone call out of the blue, with an opening question like that, and I screamed "YES!!!"
He screamed back "NO WAY!!!"
We laughed and flipped out on the phone together, until we were laughing so hard we were crying.

Stop the World.

Sometimes you can.

2 week edition!


Working

_________________________

So last Tuesday was rough. But it didn't start out that way.
We arrived, and everyone was in a good mood, and we were sounding great right off the bat. But then we moved into rougher waters....Plastic Roses.
I get an idea in my head, a way that I'd like a song to sound...actually, a color.

I see a color in my head, which I suppose sounds ludicrous, but ac olor all the same, and then I try to find a way to express that to the band so they can paint it. (I love a metaphor)

On a side note, colors are very important to me. They affect my mood in a huge way, so much so that each season I spend at least 2 hours picking a new screen saver because if it's shitty, my mood will be, too. And ask anyone who went to college with me and remembers the bloody cavern that was my dorm room- everything I owned was red. Red sheets, towels, clothes, pens, knick knacks. I LOVED red (still do). Then my friend James, the costume designer told me:
"Sweetie, red isn't the best color on you- makes you sallow. Let's see some lovely blues".

Sigh.

However, here we are now, I'm wearing red when I can, and Plastic Roses is not it. It's a sort of faded pink with browned edges, like an old carnation pressed between the pages of a yearbook. It's musty, it's rusty, but it still makes you smile. (Yeah- don't you wish you were in my band and had to decipher THAT?)
I'm struggling with a way to make that musical, and I can tell Joe wants to hold me under water until the bubbles stop. Finally I say "Aha! I know! OK, here's a musical parallel to the feel that I want. Maggie May."

I am delighted. I look around, and I see general distress. Joe says "That's just boring strumming!".

"Yes!"

Jake says, "Hey, what do you think of this?" He begins to play the song double time, ala Tom Petty, and I snarl at him. We finally decide to move on, because everyone is getting fed up. But it's unfortunate; the mood was so good, and I feel that I've ruined it by being too demanding.

But I have to- I finally have a solid idea of what I want these songs to sound like, feel like, smell like, and damn it, I'm like a dog with a bone now, don't you dare try to take it from me.

We move onto another song, and we're all recovering a little from the previous one, when Joe stops to ask a question. While he is asking, Jake starts banging (Jake's ALWAYS banging), but tonight I lose my temper, and yell "JAKE!" in the microphone. He stops, and I turn back to Joe. We sort out what he was saying, and I hear Jake say "Everyone else is allowed to work out their parts- when I do it, I get yelled at!". I turn to him and say "That's because you always are working out your parts when SOMEBODY ELSE IS TALKING!!!!"

He sulks. I sigh. Remington adjusts the laptop and Joe tweaks his tuning.

It ain't always fun. It ain't always glamorous. But it's rock n' roll.


Working Part ll

__________________________

So after last week's snippy VK rehearsal, I felt guilty the entire week, and resolved that this week would be better. Not that I would expect less, but perhaps I could smile more while I expected it:).

We arrived and Joe was already there, leaning against the doorway. Rem and I have decided he's Magick (yes- with a K...it's his own adjective) because every week we get there and wait for Jake to open the gate and somehow Joe is already inside and mostly set up. We get in and start hooking up the PA (Jake has it down to a science...he's really a very clever little devil), and we discuss our NAMM adventures.

This was Rem's first foray into NAMM, and he was great. Asked pertinent questions, was as patient as could be dealing with Sick VK ( my infection was still hanging on over the weekend- PAIN......) Joe was working his JDS Magick, he walked out of there with God knows how much stuff that people seemed to just give to him, and Jake stayed out of trouble this year. I put in a visit to EMD Music, the kind folks who sponsor my guitar, and overall, it was successful. The only thing that chapped my hide was that I was too sick to go down Friday, and Joe said

"Hey, I almost called you Friday- I walked in and ran right into Nuno."

"Son. of a BITCH!"

I love Nuno. Extreme is releasing a new record this year and it's about the best damn news I've heard since they broke up. And I make no apologies for it, so don't judge me. Extreme is the soundtrack of my teen years. I discovered hair metal with "Decadence Dance". I danced at the prom to "More than Words". I took my old boyfriend back to "Stop the World" (OK, not my most brilliant moment, but it wasn't Nuno's fault). And I got engaged the first time with "Unconditionally" in my head. So who knows what this new record will bring. Sigh.

OK, I'm back. Anywho, NAMM was a modest success, and we start talking about recording, which we are doing very soon. Our 3 favorite songs finally committed to digital brilliance, and that's all Jake needs to hear. He becomes very serious with the click, and Joe is doing something important looking with his Son of Hyde box ( I have no IDEA what it does), and Rem is adjusting mics abut the room so that we can have some good practice tracks to work on.

"It's business- it's business time!" ( Insert Flight of the Conchords guitar)

We start with Mess LIke You, and play it over and over, working kinks here and there. I am amazed at the enthusiasm that these guys are putting into my song, that came into being because my guitar teacher wanted me to practice keeping my wrist loose, so I was sitting around doing muted strumming and suddenly....

But that's songwriting; it's a mercurial craft, at least for me. I don't sit down in the same chair at the same time every day and say, "OK, now I'm going to write." That works for some people; I'm just not one of them. I work very organically; the songs comes when it comes, and it's done when it's done. It's a moment in time, a snapshot, as Rem observed, of an emotion.

(But I can't seem to stick to the rehearsal tonight! I hope you all don't mind. I keep waxing contemplative; I shall try to stay on task.)

Jake is a champ; I don't think I've ever seen him so intent. He says he's had an epiphany; that he feels he hasn't really been fitting INTO the musical soundscape this year, and he's ready to do it now.

"I don't think I really even understood what it was to have a 'SOUND'- and we do now!"

We all agree- it is a very cool thing- it's like finally seeing the Matrix:)

We move on to the other 2 songs ( You thought I was going to tell you, didn't you? HAHAHAHA!!!! What kind of a surprise would that be?) and work them to exhaustion; we are all happy, and I say "I was feeling so guilty all week; I thought you were all mad at me because I was such a fascist last Tuesday." They all look at me, puzzled. Joe says "What?"

And this is when I have the realization that I've had a few times, but need to keep reminding myself of, that these are GUYS. They don't get all bent out of shape when someone yells, or they are criticized, and even if they do, they get over it pretty quickly. All that other histrionic nonsense?- That's what I do.

We take a break, and then return to work Drives on By and Dust Between the Dirt until we can't go anymore- so we pack up the PA and roll by midnight.

Rem and I decide it was a thoroughly productive night- it wasn't flashy, or dramatic, or stereotypically "rock and roll", but just good 'ol fashioned WORK, that left everyone exhausted and satisfied.

I'll take it.:)

Cookies, Quarters, and The Man-va


(Some of the language in these rehearsals may be inappropriate for children under 13. Parental discretion is advised.)

_________________________________

Tuesday night Remington and I roll up to the rehearsal space where the gate is shut and mocking us. Jake has the clicker, as it is his space, so I call him. He's munching some fast food monstrosity

"Yeah. I'm running late. 5 minutes."

Rem and I settle in and discuss who we like for the presidential primary. (Remington is one of the only people that I can have a conversation with who has a compelling opinion on ANY topic.)
Jake and Joe pull in, and we're off.

Rem begins setting up his ProTools laptop, and Jake and Joe futz with the PA. Jake is ranting about some sort of text message drama, and I pull out the box of home-baked cookies my mom mailed to us. They are a little broken from the journey cross country, but they are RIDICULOUSLY tasty. Rem is never one to turn down a cookie, and he contentedly chews 4 while Jake pulls the Hershey Kisses out of the Kissie Cookies and pops them in his gob.

I clear my throat:

"A round of applause for Joe DeSa, playing what Sean likes to call "Heads-up ball".

Everyone gamely claps for Joe, and then looks at me quizzically. I explain that Joe got a line on a summer festival, which he passed on to me. I followed up and, long story short, it panned out. We are playing on the main stage for the 5th Annual Freedom Festival in Long Beach June 22nd, and it's going to be a lot of fun. General rejoicing.

Jake is still surly from the personal drama that is hovering around his head, but he goes behind his kit and starts tapping and fiddling with his drums, while Rem gets his bass situated. I lean down to plug in my guitar, when Joe says:

"Hey Vik, can you stick this in your ear a minute?"

I straighten up and turn around, grateful to see Joe holding out his iPod. I pop the buds in my ears

"What am I listening to?"

"That's just it, I don't know. I can't remember who sings this song; it's been driving me crazy all day."

I listen intently to a song that sounds just familiar enough to drive ME crazy, while Joe answers his cell phone, and Jake, with a snort of rage, realizes his click is missing.

Finally we're ready to go, so we have a run at Plastic Roses, a new-ish song of mine that we're hoping to do something with.... It sounds like shite.

I can tell the guys now think I'm a head case because I can't put my finger on WHY it's shite, I just know that something isn't...right. It's always been this way; either this song is dead on or it's just...dead.

Joe saves the moment:

"If this one's not coming, we should warm up."

There is general agreement; we count into Whiskey or Water, which is like sinking into a hot bath- it's always good. I say:

"Well, now that we're all happy...."

"Are we? I'm not! I'm totally annoyed."

Jake yanks his orange trucker hat petulantly to the side and crosses his arms heavily.

"Jakeypoo.....Mess Like You?"

Like giving a dog a milk bone. Jake's tail immediately wags, and we all attack the song with gusto. We love the song. I could say "Hey guys, let's play Mess Like You over and over again all night," and they would, happily.

We finish. Jake is grinning now, he says breathlessly:

"That was cool, I just put all my frustration into my playing, and like, hate-fucked my drums."

After that eloquent speech, we moved on to Her End of the Phone and I've got to say, when we finally play this re-vamped version out, it will bring new life to this one.
Rem pauses to check the laptop; Jake chirps:

"5 minutes?"

"Sure".

He leaps over the drums and out the door holding his cell like a severed hand, and Joe heads for the soda machine. I try to see if I can justify another cookie, when I hear Joe making frustrated little noises in the hall

"Damn machine- it ate my quarter!"

Sure enough, the machine was religiously taking 3 of Joe's quarters, then spitting out 1, then none, then 1 again in rotation.

"Argh- I'm really thirsty!!"

Joe has a slight Portuguese accent that becomes more pronounced when he's tired or pissed. He's sounding vaguely like Inigo Montoya by this point.

Rem saves the day; he has change on him, and the problem is solved.

We repair to the rehearsal room to wait for Jake, and discuss how we REALLY need to get to Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, etc. where chicks like me (i.e. Beth Hart!) do really well.
Joe makes a case for why Fight is not going to work, which Rem takes like a champ, (even though I know he'll ride this one out and when we finally get this song up and running it will KILL. It's one of my more cathartic lyrical moments, so I'm down!)

20 minutes later, Jake returns. He's smiling, but he says:

"OK- so I just have to get this out."

He proceeds into a complex tale of he said/she said proportions, which at this hour I can't begin to follow, and finally I say:

"This is some old high school bullshit."

"I KNOW!! And you know me, do I carry myself like some high school motherfucker?"

"Tonight? Yes. I'm sorry, but, yes."

Jake's eyes nearly fall out of his head, but I want to move on, so he huffs behind his set, and we attack Everything We Wanted, a song that I would love to see arranged properly before I die, and we come up with several funky, rocking, completely inappropriate versions of it for the next 45 minutes. We're humming pretty good, everyone's having fun, and Jake and I have silently made up over his crash cymbal.

"Hey guys, it's midnight, you wanna call it?"

We're all shocked that it's that late, but we got some good work done, so we're all satisfied...even Jake.

"Glad to see you're back to normal, handsome" (Rem has an upsetting way of calling Jake 'handsome' or 'pretty'. More on this later.)

"I know, I had a moment back there, it was crazy."

"Yeah, you're definitely the diva of the band. You're like a.....man-va."

No one could dispute it.

"When Are We Going on Tour?"


We all got back from our respective homelands for the holidays last week, and judging from the e-mails, phone calls and texts I was getting, the guys were ready to get rehearsing again. So we set a time for Wednesday night, and on Wednesday afternoon, Jake, the drummer, calls me.

"We can't use the PA anymore"

We've recently moved our rehearsals to Jake's rental space due to work schedule time conflicts, and we really like the new room- good vibe, no pressure. But...

"Yeah, so can you bring yours?"

It just so happens that Sean and I have an ancient PA that we bought for a whole other reason, that's a whole other story, and we've been trying to unload it on Craigslist for months, but perhaps we were unsuccessful in that endeavor just for this moment.

"Sure- Sean's coming to rehearsal tonight anyway, and he knows how to hook this monster up, so it's all good".

So we all get there, and it's amazing how easy it is to get a ton of audio crap out of your car and into a room when you have four hulking guys doing all the lifting. In my defense- I supervised.

Sean begins running wires, and Jake comes over to me:

"So when are we going on tour?"

Jake asks me this about every three seconds, so it is endearing, at this moment, that he's picked up exactly where he left off before we all left for Christmas.

" As soon as Mommy gets some money, darlin'. Now get behind your set."

We talk a little about our rollicking show at the Cat Club before the break, and about Joe's MAJESTIC save, which earned him the new nickname Shot Glass DeSa:

The night of the show Joe forgot his slide- I wigged. He said he'd fix it. The second song, Whiskey or Water, opens with a dirty slide intro. I was putting my guitar down from the first song, when I heard the filthiest slide sound coming out of Joe...it was gorgeous.

The audience was cheering.

He was playing the guitar with a shot glass.
It shall go down in Sexifunk Magic history.

Back to rehearsal, where Jake LEAPS over his kit saying:

"That's it, we're playing with a click from now on- The click creates trust."

Jake is energetic. And that is the HEIGHTH of meiosis when I say that. Try drinking a case of Red Bull, a gallon of Mountain Dew and then eating 10 bags of Skittles, and now you're in the BALLPARK of what it's like to be Jake.

He hooks up the click, which does bring everyone into the pocket, but it also makes Jake deaf to everything we're saying because he has these cans on his ears and he's yelling all his comments to us like we're in Tibet.

Remington points out that we STILL need to iron out Fight, the new blues song that he and I wrote together.
It is blues. I mean really blues. Like so blues that he may have to change his name to something bluesy like Soggy Drawers or something.

The other two balk; Jake likes to know what he's doing before we learn a song (I know...I know), and Joe hates an Ab chord that Remington slid into the chorus.

Remington turns to me and says:

"The irony is we're going to have to Fight to get this song done!"

Remington loves irony. He's delighted.

We take a break which entails us all sitting around for 10 minutes talking about ProTools and the PA, which is working 50 times better than we expected, and why the hell can't we make our own ultra-indie tracks to post to our good folks on MySpace? We decide to put that in the 2008 plan.

Sean leaves, and I say:

"OK- back to work"

"When are we touring?"

I sigh.

"Because my itinerary skills are really sharp right now."

I look at Joe, Joe looks at Remington, Remington looks at me.

We all look at Jake.

I dig in my pocket for my pick.

"From the top, gentlemen- Mess Like You"

Jake grins and counts it off.