No more pop. Freeeeesh Air. Pop Music Critics Traumatized by Ian Anderson. Gucci Gang. Lady MacBeth. Detox. Gino Vanelli. Classic Rock Detox. Halibut.
JCHI was just thinking the same thing. It’s time to get back to the PROGRESSIVE ROCK.
JCHNo shit. I’ve told you. It’s been building for a while. Like year. I’ve mentioned it a bunch of time.
RCYeah, but it was usually just came off as procrastination (laughs). It didn’t really sound like you were working on new material so I didn’t take it too seriously.
JCHYou were very correct. I wasn’t disciplined enough to write down my ideas in a serious way. I’d get angry with myself for not focusing so I’d intentionally only write stuff down in a half-assed way.
RCYou’d self-sabotage the prog? (laughs)
JCHWell put. How sick is that, right? I’d self-sabotage the prog to punish myself for not being diligent enough on The Boats. BAD OPERA MAN! BAD OPERA MAN!
RCMan that’s just so…
JCHFUCKING IRISH (laughs).
JCHI lost sooooooo many cool ideas.
RCHow do you know if you’ve forgotten them?
JCHOh you know, right? I mean, haven’t we all had fucking great ideas at night at then forgotten them. We know they were great. It wasn’t an illusion. Somehow, you can remember that they were great. They’re like fantastic flavors. Or smells. We can’t quite put our fingers on them. But if we tasted them again? Smelled them again? Even years later we’d know if it was the real deal. That’s how memory works: we seem to log the authenticity of the real thing more than the details of the thing itself.
RCSo…. what you’re telling me with all that bull is that you’re pretty much starting from scratch (laughs).
JCHPretty much. I tell ya I’m almost starting from below scratch right now because I’ve kinda gotta detox.
RCDetox? How do you mean?
JCHWell my car got stolen a couple of months ago.
JCHSo I had no car stereo for a while so I started listening to all these podcasts on my phone.
RCRight, like that Obama thing you mentioned last time.
JCHWell the same guy also did this interview of Terry Gross, the woman who hosts that NPR show ‘Fresh Air’. MAN, I love to hate her (laughs).
RCI won’t even ask.
JCHAnyhoo, there’s this bit at the end where she has on her extremely pretentious, mincy little faggoty Brooklyn music critic. The kind who always turns my stomach going on about “Americana” and how Leonard Cohen is a god.
RCAre you done?
JCHNot yet. And he says, “This new album by Lizzo is great. It even has a flute solo I like. Which is amazing because (wait for it) I’ve been TRAUMATIZED by the flute since hearing Ian Anderson when I was a teenager.”
JCHSee THAT is what made me stop playing the banjo, dude (laughs)!
JCHSTOP! You know the answer! All these jackass so-called ‘rock’ critics. Don’t pretend you don’t hate them too.
RCI do hate them. I just enjoy watching your face turn that shade of red.
JCHYou promised you weren’t going to wind me up anymore.
RCI never promised that.
JCHWell, you should have promised that. After all this shit I’ve been through.
RCWell, when you write operas, you have to expect an operatic life, son (laughs).
JCHTouché. But we’re done with that. Now it’s back to the progressive rock, baby.
JCHOh yeah, just as soon as I think of something to play (laughs).
RCSo we were talking about detox.
JCHRight. So you listen to all the pop music critics, who are really just literature majors in college who enjoy writing ‘seriously’ about ‘pop music’ as if it were really some serious shit, right? And I learned something: If you listen to enough of this stuff?
JCHIt really does rot yer brain. It’s just like junk food.
JCHNo I’m serious. You know all that bullshit about how you strap a speaker to a pregnant lady’s stomach and pipe Mozart onto her belly and the kid comes out smarter?
RCYeah? I thought that was all horse-stuff.
JCHIt is–although I still find the image pretty hilarious, but I’m pretty sure that if you listen to enough Gucci Gang and Katy Perry it does begin to affect your brain in a way that is not great and not so easy to let go of.
JCHWell at the risk of sounding old fogie, I was listening to this old record today and I realized how much I just loved their arrangements. Especially the drums. It’s like what I was saying above about just feeling something being right. I’m pretty sure I try to play drums like that guy–without even realizing it, because his fills just feel like the correct way to play. Ringo’s and Bonhams too in certain contexts. At certain times you just feel a certain thing is the thing. And maybe it’s some memory from a 70’s college dorm room (laughs).
RCMaybe. So you’re listening to music like this to give yourself a ‘cleanse’?
JCHThat’s a good way to put it. I think of it like Lady MacBeth. “Out Damned Pop!” (laughs). Not just this. But the shit I haven’t actually listened to in years. For example, I haven’t actually listened to any Led Zeppelin in a looooong time. I mean, I used to have a regular excuse to listen to all that stuff when I had students but now I have to make a decision, which is kinda weird.
RCTo have to intend to listen to classic rock (laughs).
JCHTimes have changed, right?
RCRight. But I get it. Now with Sirius I don’t hear that stuff either. It became such a running joke for a while that I think people avoid it intentionally.
JCHWell anyhoo, I think it will take me some time, but I can already feel that if I don’t do this I don’t think with an open mind.
RCAn open mind?
JCHYeah. When you listen to only EDM or rap or other really constricted structures, your brain, or at least my brain, just stops thinking in terms of broader possibilities. But as soon as I started listening more to wider ranges of harmony and melody and so on, I started being more imaginative in those realms.
JCHThe thing for me now is just to be patient. The one thing I finally figured out is that creativity always comes back. Like those dreams I mentioned before?
RCWhat about them?
JCHI used to lose so much sleep (get it?)
RCI got it.
JCH…that when I didn’t remember those melodies from the night before I was really screwed. I was always thinking I might never get some good ideas again. I can’t say I’m any less neurotic than I was twenty years ago about any number of things except this: I am now certain that new ideas are always coming around the corner. If I lose one, another one will show up sooner or later to take its place.
RCThat must make you calmer.
JCHIronically no. While I’m noodling, if nothing is happening, it’s totally frustrating. I hate sitting there going la la la la la. After all these years I still haven’t been able to give myself permission to just be STUPID. I’m still super self-conscious. Even though I know no one is around I hate myself after each session when nothing good happens. And nothing good ever comes out of them.
RCI don’t get it. So why do them?
JCHThey seem necessary. I dunno.
RCWe gotta run, but how do the ideas happen then. In twenty five words or less (laughs).
JCHI actually can do that. Some night, I’ll be watching TV or putting the dog out or whatever and I’ll get a catch in my throat. Maybe a sad thought that I can’t put a name to. And immediately I run to the guitar or the piano or whatever is handy. And at that point I don’t have a melody or chords, but I know something is about to happen. It’s like the mental equivalent of feeling like you have to take a shit.
RCNow there’s an image.
JCHAnd I grab the guitar and blaaaaahhhhhh, a musical phrase just comes out. It’s really rough and it’s vague. In fact, it’s so vague that I only get two or three shots at playing it or writing it down. If I don’t get it right, it evaporates. It literally goes away and I lose it forever. But if I catch it, the feeling of satisfaction is so wonderful I may literally cry. And then the feeling rewards me giving me a follow up of the next phrase. And again, if I get that phrase right? That in turn gives me the next bit. And so on. And after I’ve got 32 or 48 bars, I have enough to make something real. That’s it.
RCWow. This is a whole conversation unto itself but let’s stop and reconvene after you’ve ‘cleansed’ and got some stuff going.
JCHIt’s halibut season, buddy. That’s part of the detox. After two years of opera, I’ve earned some fishing time, buddy. Have a great summer.