A few days ago I was reminded of what it’s like to meet your idols. I was chatting on a thread about the definition of shoegaze and Jeremy True mentioned how some bands make sad music to be sad to. I came back with American Music Club and their beautifully sad music. Here’s what Jeremy related to me:
“Bret, one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen was when I worked at this cafe, and Mark Kozelek used to come in and get tea. One winter it was really mellow, the place was empty and I was listening to American Music Club. Mark said hi and sat down at a table. so he’s sitting in this cafe all by himself, so he starts singing along to the music. I don’t know if I can hear the song Last Harbor without hearing Mark in my head singing harmony parts along to it. And when he left he stopped back at the counter and said ‘”f****** great album, man…”‘
This got me to thinking about all the musicians I’ve talked to either face-to-face or on the phone or by email and how they’ve influenced my life. Whether they understood the significance or not. In the overall scope of my life meeting and communicating with these musicians, whose output I’ve enjoyed and whose escapades I’ve followed in the press, whose live shows I’ve paid to see or reviewed for free or just went to as a fan after conducting an interview, have inspired my life in ways I haven’t even considered.
To first be a fan of music, then in the early 90’s to become a writer about these bands and in the 00’s to be a music publicist for a short time has made me a better person, though I’m not sure how. But I’ve been lucky enough to speak with in person, on the phone or in writing with some exceptional and amazing people. These people create. They travel. They make the effort to get out of their comfort zones and perform on stages all over the world and they share their lives to thousands and millions of people on a regular basis.
Neil Peart is a bookish private person that also happens to play drums for Rush, one of the best and best-selling bands in the world. Yet he’s an introvert, someone that is uncomfortable around strangers, who doesn’t seek out large groups of people. The lyrics for Limelight speak to me, in that once the band had reached a level of stardom, people wanted a piece of him. In the song he wrote, Geddy Lee sings:
Living on a lighted stage
Approaches the unreal
For those who think and feel
In touch with some reality
Beyond the gilded cageCast in this unlikely role
Ill-equipped to act
With insufficient tact
One must put up barriers
To keep oneself intact[Chorus:]
Living in the limelight
The universal dream
For those who wish to seem
Those who wish to be
Must put aside the alienation
Get on with the fascination
The real relation
The underlying theme
Living in a fish eye lens
Caught in the camera eye
I have no heart to lie
I can’t pretend a stranger
Is a long-awaited friend
All the world’s indeed a stage
And we are merely players
Performers and portrayers
Each another’s audience
Outside the gilded cage
Now imagine the person that wrote these words playing drums for millions of people around the world since 1975.
I’ve been reading a little about what it means to be an introvert and I realize it’s true that I am the sole source for all the energy I put out towards the world. The lines ring true: “I can’t pretend a stranger/ Is a long-awaited friend.” I happen to work in public selling items for a particular food company and that puts me in the position to be near strangers constantly. Yet when certain people see me they remember me. Or I see people I’ve seen many times before and am comfortable around them. Peart has written in his books about situations where he’s been so uncomfortable he’s left the room. I don’t have that choice and there is often a toll. I’m exhausted and keep to myself more often than not. This doesn’t mean I don’t like going out, it does mean I have few friends and prefer to do things with them I’m comfortable doing, usually dinner, concerts and movies.
After Peart’s daughter and wife passed away in the late 90’s he took a break from the band and even after they reconvened he left Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson to conduct the interviews in fear of the journalists bringing up his personal life. I’m glad he’s since returned to doing interviews. I remember seeing Lee and Lifeson getting some award or other during a convention and they were feet away from me, as I was in the front row of the room of writers and fans. I only wish I had those pictures, but I do remember how normal they looked and how surreal it was for me to be that close to them without them being up on a stage performing. During one of their tours afterwards I again was only a few feet from them and I was a thirteen year-old kid again getting Exit Stage Left for Christmas and then a few years later seeing them live for the first time for their Power Windows tour in 1985.
Another band I’ve been following since a teen is Megadeth. I got to talk with then guitarist Marty Friedman a few times and then sat down with Dave Mustaine at a hotel restaurant table while the rest of the band had a meeting with label or business types. He was such a gentleman and considered all of his answers kindly towards me. I must have been so nervous! We talked for subsequent albums over the phone and he was always friendly and personable.
I had a few years where I didn’t work a traditional job and during that time I worked and interned as a music publicist. I started Myspace pages for Swervedriver and Supersuckers. These two bands couldn’t be more different other than they both rocked and I loved their music.
While running Swervedriver‘s page I got to interact with singer Adam Franklin as he guided me a little towards what he wanted out in the public. I got to meet via the page many interesting and passionate people, many of them talented musicians in their own right and got to write about their bands as well. I got to spread the word about Swervedriver’s 2008 reunion tour and give away tickets to their Los Angeles and San Diego shows. I’d already been a fan of the band since Raise and had conducted several interviews in person and not over the years and seen them live on their tours. I’d also got to see Franklin on his many solo ventures through the area and wrote and interviewed him for his albums. I’ve met and chatted with several of the other members as well and they’re all lovely. Swervedriver have a new album coming in 2015 and you know I’ll be spreading the word!
Supersuckers I’ve been following since the turn of the century and had heard them even before. They started their own label Lo-Fi Records and had hired another publicist who I was working for. So to sit across the table with singer-bassist Eddie Spaghetti was a real treat as was talking with him and the band on many more occasions. I was often in contact with their then label-runner and we shared our passion of the band and music.
These are just some of my experiences in the past two and more decades that have enriched my life. I thank my good friend and Highwire Daze editor Ken Morton for the opportunity to continue to write about music and meet these incredible musicians. Here’s to many more memories to come!
(by Bret Miller)