Thursday, July 23, 2009

How Being A Musician Kills Natural Circadian Rhythms, or "The One Rhythm I'm Not Good At"

It's 8:15am as I start to type this.

I should be sleeping. I should be off in la-la-land with (insert famous hottie(s) of your choice here) somewhere in the mountains, but sheer nerves are killing me right about now. We're in the middle of packing up and moving out, for reasons I shall not make public (though I'll tell you privately). And it's making getting any sleep a whole lot worse. I joke that being a working musician tends to screw your natural sleep patterns, a/k/a 'the circadian rhythm'. Add on to it working a night job and a wife whose fibromyalgia screws her body clock up worse than mine, and I like to tell a joke:

"Have you ever seen that one Salvador Dali painting, you know, the ones with the clocks melting and shit? (it's actually called "The Persistence Of Memory" up there) Well, it's actually a portrait of mine and Joy's body clocks!"

And it really feels that way some times - limp, melted and lifeless. Add in the heat of your typical Reno mid-summer, and it's pretty fucking hard to get a decent night's sleep without spending a small fortune in air-conditioning. And we're nervous as all get-out about getting everything out of the house, into storage or the trailer, cleaning the house, getting the trailer and my poor Ranger over to the RV park we've chosen, all the while settling bills, trying to learn Dre's raps for Steppen Stonz's gigs starting next week.

And for some fun little side-quests, I'm pushing Joy to get her driver's license back - lost seven months ago due to a seizure - while she's pushing the State of Washington to release the remainder of her retirement monies, all while filling out her re-adjudication papers for a second try (and last before we bring in the lawyers) to get approved for SS/D. The hope is that should these monies be released to us, we can try to buy an RV. She's decided that she's done with the concept of a stationary home, and this would also allow us to finally see Eddie and Melissa and their two sons for the first time in years, by driving out to North Carolina to see them. And given the shitty current state of the economy, good-sized RVs that the two of us could live in are in good supply and priced anywhere from reasonable to pretty fucking cheap if we're willing to buy one that has a few years on it. I'm just trying to remain positive. Good times are right around the corner, we just have to hold on for dear life for just a little while longer.......

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Putting The Work In Network

Knowing what's going on in your work environment is critical to success. And it's no different for me. When my friend Tracy Bing suggested to me that I start hitting the jam nights her friend Dean put on in the area, I figured I'd give it a try. I'll trust her on pretty much anything, and even Joy trusts her. Well, it has provided work for me. Dean and I have played together for a gig or two, though a full-time band isn't really coming to fruition like I thought it would. But between jam nights and my courier route, work offers are coming in.

First was gigging with Dean, then came the temp gig with Steppen Stonz that may become permanent, depending on what happens with Dre's family issue. I only say that because Mike and Arthur have no clue what's going to happen with Dre. From what little I've heard, Dre has no idea what's going to happen with Dre, and I can't blame him either. I need to call his ass one of these days.

And my latest offer is coming from the person who got this whole ball rolling, Tracy Bing. I'll be subbing for her drummer Fletch (he's going to some sort of music festival, something that's been in the works for a while, apparently) at the end of September at a gig at the Desert Rose Casino in Alturas, CA, or as I like to call it, "The Town That Makes Me Glad I Have Satellite Radio" - drive through there, you'll understand! I used to drive through Alturas, a town of just under 3,000 in the extreme north-eastern part of California, on a regular basis when Powerlight was playing exclusively in Reno while Joy and I were still living in Olympia, and I swear to (insert the deity of your choice here) that whenever I drove through that town, the only radio station I could ever pick up was a scratchy AM station that only seemed to play Patsy Cline songs. If I liked her music, that wouldn't be a problem. But if you know me, you know my musical tastes, so there's where that lengthy nickname comes from. It's just for a weekend, but it's money in my account, so who am I to complain? There might even be more gigs than just the one in Alturas, from what Tracy was telling me the other night at Indigo. But let's just take this one weekend at a time, shall we?

I'm not terribly sure which incarnation of her band I'll be playing with. The basic version is simply known as "The Tracy Bing Band", and it has three alter egos, depending on what the situation calls for: a Fifties-and-Sixties band called "Tracy & The Kingpins" a Seventies-and-Eighties band called "Big Bad Boogie Rock", and a country and oldies band called "Ricky and The Redstreaks", which adds a male singer named John Jackman (and his 'sister' Jacqueline Zucchini as well) to the band. The Redstreaks seem to get the best gigs of the lot, playing regularly during the major rodeo events in Reno as well as gigs in Vegas during the National Finals Rodeo in December (this year they'll be playing at Mandalay Bay, no less!), though Tracy and her guys play all year long. But I really don't care, I guess. I've heard the music they play, and it shouldn't take for Tracy to round me into shape with her band. And after that gig has come and gone, having a well-rehearsed understudy is always a good thing, isn't it?

It just goes to show that having a good network of friends and colleagues is pretty good thing to have.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Love-Life Patterns of Marilyn Manson

I was reading a review of the RockStar Mayhem Tour over at the blog of my friend Jamie ( yesterday, and she was talking about Marilyn Manson, the tour's headliner this year, and she mentioned seeing what she thought was MM's new girlfriend, alt-porn star Stoya. This got me to thinking about the love life of one Brian Hugh Warner, and I noticed two emergent patterns:

1.) He prefers thin, pale, presumably damaged brunette goth-girls.

2.) His pattern has been (so far) ingenue - adult entertainer - ingenue - adult entertainer

Let's explore this further, shall we? First on the docket is actress Rose McGowan, who was engaged to MM, but they never married, and their relationship only lasted about two years and change. According to various reports, McGowan was the inspiration for the song/character "Coma White" from the MM album Mechanical Animals, and the breakup of this relationship is rumored to be the inspiration of the song "(s)AINT" from the Golden Age of Grotesque album a few years later. McGowan was still a relative newcomer to acting at this time, and was only 24 or so when she and MM hooked up. So that definitely would make her an ingenue.

According to MM's Wikipedia profile there was a girlfriend between McGowan and our next subject, burlesque perfomer Dita von Teese (born Heather Sweet), but Wikipedia had nothing of note on one Michelle Greenberg. von Teese would wind up being MM's only wife, and their engagement lasted longer than the wedding, with a factor towards its demise being MM's extramarital affair with subject number three..... a then nineteen-year-old Evan Rachel Wood. According to various media outlets, the two dated for almost two years. Wood = ingenue actress, and damn near jailbait. And now we have Stoya, an outright, unashamed alt-porn star. A quick search of IMDb and its adult-film counterpart AMDb didn't reveal much, not even Stoya's real name. "Stoya" is her childhood nickname, a shortening of her last name, likely Stoyanovic or something like that, given that her father - presumably - is of Serbian descent. That's all I could really find out. That, and that Stoya is currently twenty-three.

Given his personal preferences, and the average length of his relationships, the Scientific Method says that a hot young ingenue should be hitting his radar in about two years or so. A potential candidate could be Emma Watson (Hermione from the Harry Potter films), though she'd need a good gothing-up first, and may already be way too smart for him. A similar ingenue, though a singer instead of an actress, would be Paramore singer Hayley Williams, but her being a Christian would likely bother Manson too much. And neither of them seem damaged to me. I'd suggest Chyler Leigh, the Grey's Anatomy actress that got cozy in a hot tub with Manson in the video for his cover of the 80's chestnut "Tainted Love" (for the soundtrack of Not Another Teen Movie, which she starred in), but she's been married since 2002 and has three kids with her husband. Certainly not Manson's speed there. Megan Fox is a possibility, but she'd need to lose that tan tout-suite, and may be too old by then (she's 23 as of this writing). If MM was to be looking for a cute but already slightly creepy ingenue who'd probably love to dye her hair black, he'll just have to wait about two-and-a-half years, until February 23, 2012.

That's Dakota Fanning's eighteenth birthday.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Ston'd Again

I just got an email today, one I'd been expecting for a few days, from Mike from Steppen Stonz. He was letting me know that he and Arthur were in need of my services again, starting at the end of the month and playing for most of August. I'd gone by to visit them at the Carson Station last week, and let them know that I was available if they needed me, that Dean had informed me recently that the gigs in Topaz that he'd gotten had for the beginning of August been rescinded by the club and given to another band. That was all I said, nothing more. I didn't politick for the gig, it something I just wouldn't do, no matter how desperate I was for the gig. There are lines I just won't cross, no matter what.

Therefore I was a bit surprised when Mike told me that Dee just wasn't working out for them, and that he and Arthur would be more than happy to have me fill in with them again. I actually defended Dee for a bit, and told them that he was doing a good job for them. They didn't try to refute me, but said that they would prefer me over Dee. I feel kinda bad, but not that much, since Dee already has another gig, playing with the various permutations of Escalade around the Reno-Tahoe area. But Dee isn't a drummer much any more, and by his own admission wants more to be a frontman and percussionist than the guy in the back of the stage playing drums. In my own opinion he's qualified for that gig - I've heard him sing, he's a damn good singer - but he's spent less and less time purely as a drummer, and Mike and Arthur have noticed that. I'm a damn good singer in my own right, but I have no aspirations to front a band. I remember all too well what my old friend Dan Hoyer of The Boinkers ( told me once a long time ago back in Washington state:

"Joe, a stable drummer is worth his weight in gold. A stable drummer that can sing is worth a hundred times his weight in gold."

So what does it mean for your favorite asshole drummer? Four more weeks of work, and right when Joy and I could use it the most - just as we've finished moving into the pop-up trailer. The run starts on July 29 or 30, with two weeks at John Ascuaga's Nugget in Sparks, followed by two weeks at the Carson Station, the Stonz' de facto home base. and running my courier route all the while. So the bucks will flow quite heavily for a few weeks. This should allow me to get my truck repaired in that time frame, and also put some money away for trips to Sonoma in September and home to Washington in late October for Joy's birthday.

And as the TV pitchman says, but wait - there's more. I'm not going to say that there's an eight-hundred-pound gorilla in the room, but the deuce-and-a-half drummer not in the room is the only real variable in the equation. Y'see, Mike and Arthur still don't know what's going to happen with Dre. They're not sure if he'll ever come back to Nevada. I would sincerely hope that he does. Not that I don't need the work - boy, do I need it - but Dre's worked with Mike and Arthur for seventeen years now, and no matter how comfortable I could get playing with them, I'd always feel like I'm just keeping his chair warm for him.

And in a Twilight Zone moment to beat 'em all, the bass player I worked with at Toad's with Dean called me about an hour after I read Mike's email, telling me he had a gig at the Churchill County Fairgrounds set up for the weekend that would be my first with the Stonz at the Nugget in Sparks. I didn't actually take the call, didn't even hear the phone ring, so I heard the voicemail. This could be a bit difficult......

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

In Step with Steppen Stonz

To me, traveling out of your local area for a gig is usually fun. To me, traveling to a new gig in a place I've never been to before is always fun. And the July 4th weekend was no different. This was my gig filling in for my boy Dre with casino-circuit vets (and veterans of the same circuit that Powerlight came from) Steppen Stonz. Dre's father is seriously ill - that's all I'll say, out of respect to the family - and he's taken a leave of absence to head home to Omaha to be with his father. The Stonz' original choice to fill in was unavailable this particular weekend, so I was more than happy to take over. After carefully listening to their material (kudos to Mike for giving me their sets on CD!), I transported my happy ass over to Oroville, CA, along with Cliff Smith, the band's keyboard player. The only glitch to getting over there was that Mike and Arthur (the band's singers - hell, the band) took the longest possible route to get there, driving all the way in to Sacramento before heading north to Oroville and the Tyme-Maidu Nation's Gold Country Casino and Hotel.

Being a sequenced band, Steppen Stonz' material was fairly easy for me to pick up. The downside of this was that Dre sings several songs a night, and I just didn't have enough time to learn lyrics. But being the old pros they are, Mike and Arthur adapted to the situation (and to the maniac on the drums) with ease. There were a few minor flubs, at least in my opinion, but they disappeared by the final night of the three-night stand on July fourth itself. And Mike and Arthur were most effusive in their praise of me.

I really didn't get around much while I was there. Only on Sunday did I venture out from my hotel room to have lunch at a Casa Ramos (better known to Northwest natives like myself as Azteca) in Chico. I really didn't have much cause to. I spent most of my time quietly listening to the CD's Mike gave me on the PlayStation 2 I brought with me, with sessions of Dragon Quest VIII to break up the monotony. The casino gave me more free comps to the buffet than I actually used, and shortly after arriving in Oroville, Cliff and I went grocery shopping, and I bought plenty of Coke, snacks, and stuff for sandwiches that all went in my hotel room's fridge. The hotel room itself was excellent, and had the biggest bathroom I'd ever seen in any hotel. While the bathtub didn't have the jacuzzi I'd been led to expect, it was deep enough that Cody and Ellie could've swum in it. The separate shower stall was big enough to hold a caucus in, and there was plenty of space in between. The buffet at the casino was fine, and the comps I'd been given allowed me to go to any of the casino's restaurants, but I never did try out their cafe or steakhouse.

I'd like to go back, but I doubt that'll happen anytime soon. Y'see, this gig was the last week that casino used out-of-area bands for. Whether it's a money issue, a contractual issue, I have no idea. But it's something that's beyond me, so why bother? There's the possibility of playing in Oroville's other casino (Feather Falls), but I shall merely wait and see. I say that because Mike and Arthur haven't ruled out the possibility of Dre not coming back from Nebraska, and their original replacement (local pro Dee Marnier) not working out. Those circumstances would have them looking my way again, and while it's not necessarily the gig I'd wanted in previous posts, well..... beggars can't be choosers.

But there's always a consequence when you take one gig - another one disappears. Dean called me the day before I was set to leave for Oroville with the opportunity to gig with him for a three-night run up in Topaz. He'd forgotten that I'd taken this gig long before I hooked up with him, and he sounded like he was more than a little disappointed at the situation. But I told him that I was going to Oroville only because Steppen Stonz had asked me first, and that it was only for that particular weekend. I'll see him on Thursday at Indigo in Minden, and I hope he's not too pissed at me.