The Bottle Was Dusty; But, the Liquor Was Clean.

With this new Web/Dead debacle, I’m remembering this time I heard John Perry Barlow speak.

We were both on this conference at Harvard, on digital media, about a year ago. I didn’t meet the guy, but I would’ve liked to. He once said, brilliantly, “The Web sees censorship as damage, and routes around it.”
At the end of his talk, he spoke about how people in the Dead camp were having misgivings about trying to sell recordings of shows on their website, when people could download them for free. It was startling to hear him speak so honestly about his mixed feelings.
Of course, this week, the Dead camp asked to stop letting people download their shows. (see this NYTimes piece, “Deadheads Outraged Over Web Crackdown”, for more)
The host of The Grateful Dead Hour is quoted as saying, “…the idea that they could stop people from trading these files is absurd. It’s no longer under anyone’s control. People have gigabytes of this stuff.”
Which is so true. I used to resent file-sharing, but then the resurrection of Skittish by Napster turned me around. (though what got onto Napster was experimental mixes with other instruments, which still kind of cheeses me) Maybe, though, I can afford to be cavalier; I’m still recording, while John Perry Barlow is not.


I got an email from Portugal this morning.

Some Portuguese woman, who had seen Soul Coughing in the mid-90s. She wrote:
i think for the “good sanity” of the history of worl music … you never had stop, even agaisn’t your wish, yes it should be an obrigation … ok, don’t keep furious with me, i’m concious that i should not say that, but i have it, sorry!!!
I think all artists resent being saddled with their old work. The classic example being Picasso abandoning his blue period. (and I don’t rate myself on his level, believe me) Shouldn’t I just let it go? Let the nostalgists have their nostalgia? Shrug it off and just make the best records I can?
I’m so weary of Soul Coughing. I listen to it, and I just don’t like it. I think: Fuck, I could’ve done this so much better, really served the songs. (it would probably have sounded a lot more like the Beasties’ Check Your Head, or G. Love, or Beck) And I find my vocal style, and many of the lyrics, cringe-worthy. To bite her line: I’m conscious that I should not say that, but I have it, sorry.
Sometimes I think I should just give in and get the fucking band back together. Despite the misery of that relationship. What a funhouse mirror version of a sellout move that would be: to go back to this more avant-garde band, and give up this thing which is so much closer to classic rock tradition (not that I still don’t have my weird voice and lyrics; I don’t envision myself ever singing at the Super Bowl). And it really would be a sellout move: abandoning that which enthralls me as an artist, in favor of what some people expect.
I might even make more money in a reunion. Pixies-style. Fucking hell.
I listen to Haughty, and I think: I love this. In every way. It’s very, very rare in my life as a recording artist, both within the old band and without, for me to listen to a two-year-old record and still feel proud of it. I think: this is what I’ve been trying to do for years. Here I am at last!
I love the guys in my new band; Scrap, McNeal, Chen.I love the way they play. The way they surprise me onstage. I love being with them on a bus, having coffee with them, joking, being a gang.
I love the freedom of this second life that the universe has so bafflingly chosen to bless me with.
I love being alive for the first time in a very, very long time. What an unusal development, that I should actually be happy and comfortable in my own skin!
I am so, so grateful.
Why should I have to justify this to myself? How strange.
Stick to your guns, stick to your guns, stick to your guns.

The People in my Mind.

I was reading BT’s blog this morning. I’m not sure if he’d want me to link to it. It was really emotional and personal; very moving. I’m not able to blog like that. There’s a part of me that wishes I could.

Judgement Prior to Investigation = Bad.

I saw Rent.

My friend Aimee and I used to mock it–“I gotta pay my reeeeeeeeeeennnt!” we sang. Though neither of us had heard a note.
We should’ve checked it out before making fun of it. Cheesy, for sure, but I was enthralled in spite of myself.
I went with somebody who was absolutely galvanized by it as a teenager. So it was a moving experience just in that regard, to be in on someone’s nostalgia, her long-dormant teen feelings being stirred up. But the movie was so fucking corny, it was difficult to keep a straight face and be respectful of her reverie.
I basically spent the whole film unable to suspend my disbelief–The actors playing fresh-young-things were in their mid-to-late 30s? The junkies and HIV postives looked like they just stepped out of a spa? If these people are broke-ass squatters, how do they afford AZT? And what the fuck–in the East Village of Cop Shoot Cop, Missing Foundation, and the Reverb Motherfuckers–are these people doing, singing this corny Broadway music?
And the drug stuff. So the recovering addict is drinking vodka? (Big product placements for Bombay Sapphire and Stoli) And his friends encourage him to date a girl who’s still getting fucked up? There were other details that bummed me out as a guy who did drugs in the East Village in 1990: heroin comes in little glassine bags, not tiny ziplocs. The heroin was really strong and pure at the time, us youngsters didn’t use needles but sniffed it. (What better signifier for somebody on Bad Drugs–as opposed to weed and vodka–than needles and tourniquets?) Not that the filmmakers would touch this with a ten-foot pole, but the drug dealers were Latino kids named Flaco and black guys in Cross Colors suits, not some dude in a leather jacket from central casting.
(I realize that’s hair-splitting, that no artist is beholden to anybody’s memories, or bound to the absolute details and facts. I was one of those kids in the E.V. They’re kind of telling my story–at least, the tale of my milieu–but they don’t owe me anything.)
OK. And yet. I was totally moved by the music and the movie. I spent much of it on the verge of tears. The arrangements were so corny, but those big soaring notes sucked my heart out through my nose.

Steve Keene’s New Steez.

I went to S.K.’s Williamsburg store this past weekend and loaded up on art.

I’ve been a fan of Steve Keene’s for years; I had him paint Soul Coughing’s road cases, which made a psychedelic/folk-art stage set that I loved. He’s done a bunch of stuff with me, posters, t-shirts, all kinds of stuff. And I’m not the only guy; he did a Pavement album cover, an Apples in Stereo video, an Irvine Welsh book jacket.
He’s so extremely well known for the painting, but he’s got a new thing happening; this cut out stuff. I went over to his store and bought armloads of it.
I urge you to go and see for yourself. A big part of his aesthetic is the inexpensiveness of his art; I bought all this stuff for TWENTY THREE BUCKS–?!