May 31, 05 10:55 AM
This morning I found drunk skaters doing blow on my roof.
My building has this awesome roof with a panoramic view of Manhattan, both uptown and downtown skylines. You can see the peaks of all three bridges to Brooklyn. The building itself is relatively modest, but it's right in the heart of the exploding Lower East Side; my neighborhood is where the bars are, where the whole city comes to get wasted. It's kind of like a New York version of Downtown Disney in Orlando.
There aren't any bars on my block, so it's not a drag to live there, bar the occasional girl in a black dress puking on the curb. And like I said, the views are fantastic. One other benefit: all my immediate neighbors work in the morning. I get up early to write, and--hilariously for this area, once the junkie/indigent artist nexus of the city--once I hear all my neighbors' doors shut, as they head out to gainful employment, I turn on the amplifier and start playing.
I was up at 8:30 today. I got coffee and went up on the roof to drink it in the sun. There were two shirtless kids there, with tattoos on their bellies and beers in their hands.
I said good morning. They clearly had been up all night.
"Hey man," one of them said. "Do you live in this buiding? We're pro skaters--I'm from L.A. He's from Hawaii. Is that pointy skyscaper up there the Empire State Building? Hey, can you tell me where 'upstate' is? My sister lives there. My name's Bob Gnarly."
They were soon joined by two girls--my fellow tenants who Bob Gnarly and friend were crashing with. The girls brought a yoga mat, laid it in the shade, and lay down. They were groaning, achy; that up all night doing coke feeling. The pleasure's all gone; now it's about maintenance.
"What time is it?" asked a girl. "No, wait--I don't want to know."
I told Bob Gnarly that I had just been out in L.A., and had played a sold out show at the Troubadour. It blew his mind. I went downstairs and got a copy of Haughty Melodic to give to him.
"Bro! You're a rockstar!" cried an astonished Bob Gnarly. "You're stoked!"
My neighbor apologized for making noise all night. I said No problem, I didn't hear you 'til I got up today. "Oh I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry," she said. No, no; no problem. I smiled at her. It's funny. Having been a drug addict, I look at drug users and think: my people.
They organized a beer run, and asked me if I wanted anything. No thanks, I've got coffee, that's enough for me.
Bob Gnarly's parting words to me: "Dude, I'm gonna tell something that's gonna blow your mind, I mean you're gonna roll in your grave. The Get Up Kids broke up! And you know the one guy? You know what he's doing now? He's the keyboard player in Simple Plan!"
Here's the weird postscript. As I walked back into my apartment again, I realized I felt kind of shaky. I got somewhat of a contact high (well, at this point in an all-night blow party, it would be more like a contact skeeze). Maybe I'm kind of Zelig-like when I encounter drugs. It's an innate reaction.
Posted by Mike at 10:55 AM
May 30, 05 12:01 AM
"I'm Going Back to New York City; I Do Believe I've Had Enough."
And now I'm laying down on my very own couch with the laptop propped up on my knees.
(The photo above by Todd Roeth)
We drove out of Aspen, CO at 9 am Mountain Time, Saturday morning--we pulled in front of my building on the Lower East Side at 9 pm Eastern Standard, Sunday night. Other than three individual stops at three individual Cracker Barrels--in Lincoln, Toledo, and somewhere in Pennsylvania--and a couple of fill-ups, the van ran straight for 34 hours. Chuck took the long night shift--from the Nebraska Cracker Barrel to breakfast at the one in Ohio--and Dan and I divided up the daytime shifts.
Aspen show was weird. It's a rich town--like a miniaturized Boulder, but with Prada and Ralph Lauren stores--and it's the off-season. There was almost nobody there. This after a pretty triumphant tour in which all the shows bar three sold out--what a weird note to end it on.
There were a couple of blaring drunks jabbering up front, so Handsome Dan and I threw out the set list, I picked up the electric guitar--Greeny--and we blasted through twenty tunes at top volume and breakneck speed.
It was fun--we made the best of it. There was a girl in a blue dress dancing on the near-empty dance floor, and I tried to focus on her sway and not the inebriated rich kids that yelled patronizing compliments at us.
Anyhow. I'm back. It's really strange. Sitting in that van as we passed from Pennsylvania into Jersey--and as anybody who's driven I-80 East to NYC knows, there is a SHITLOAD of Pennsylvania--I was exhilarated, captivated by thoughts of my clean sheets and the soy yogurts in my fridge. And how amazing to see that New York skyline when it first appears on the horizon.
But there's always this sense of dread; just barely a trace of mysterious dread. When I'm off the road, I dread going on tour; when I come back, I dread coming home.Posted by Mike at 12:01 AM
May 27, 05 10:58 PM
En Route to the Gig in Aspen, We Stopped On the Continental Divide.
I bought this guitarron, a massive bass instrument they use in Mariachi music, in Tucson.
I'd seen the many guitarrons they keep in stock at Chicago Music in Tucson when I played the Hotel Congress there a couple years before, and always regretted not buying one. I think I slightly blew the store guy's mind when I rushed in, between radio appearances in Tucson (we flew in that day and out that night, there was no gig, only the radio stuff), and said "Gimme that instrument! How much? Oh, do you have spare strings? What's the thing tuned to?" And slapped down the credit card and rushed back out.
The road up through Independance Pass was so high up that we felt like we had weights on our chests. It was intense. We contemplated dividing up our 18-song set into 6-song minisets with intermissions, as I couldn't fathom being able to take a single deep breath at this altitude, much less sing 18 songs in a row. Thankfully Aspen is 4,000 feet lower than the continental divide, and now I only feel as if there is a mere paint can atop my lungs.
I'm at the club in Aspen as I type this--doors just opened--onstage in--an hour? Something like that.
Posted by Mike at 10:58 PM
Denverites: The Penultimate.
Tonight's show in Aspen is the last of this tour. Smokey Chuck Chuckstein has talked me into doing the drive back from Colorado in THIRTY HOURS STRAIGHT.
I met a girl last night, in the autograph line, named Merlot. How you like them apples? And what will she do if ever she should meet Paul Giamatti?
I met a guy who got kicked out of West Point (I grew up at West Point; my Dad teaches history there). He's now going for an M.F.A. in poetry.
Also: the photo below stands as proof that one can not touch a drop of booze and still indulge in maniac behavior. Which for me, last night, involved going out with a bunch of good, crazy drunk people and taking pictures of them.
Posted by Mike at 12:03 PM
May 26, 05 12:56 PM
"Looks" off Skittish was originally performed by a late-70s New York band called The Student Teachers. Click the link for a site that documents their brief career, with MP3s--including the original version of "Looks."Posted by Mike at 12:56 PM
May 25, 05 12:41 PM
Behold the Jones.
An appearance, the other day in LA, on Steve Jones' radio show, "Jonesy's Jukebox." Had you told me as a 15 year old that one day I'd be hanging out playing my tunes for a Sex Pistol on the radio in Hollywood, I'd have cried because you shouldn't tell such terrible lies to an impressionable teenager.
JONESY: What's that one Soul Coughing song I like? That I play all the time?
MIKE: I don't know..."Circles."
MIKE: "Super Bon Bon?"
JONESY: Yeah. Can you gonna play that one for us, then?
JONESY: You must hate all us in LA, then. Think we're a bunch of phonies, then, innit?
MIKE: Who am I, Biggie Smalls?
Later Dan and I played "The Gambler" for him, and broke a string, and Steve happened to have an acoustic guitar sitting there. "You're gonna keep on, right?" he said, and handed me the guitar, and we finished out the last choruses.Posted by Mike at 12:41 PM
People of Los Angeles: Cellphone Owners!
Posted by Mike at 12:35 PM
People of San Francisco: Cellphone Owners!
Posted by Mike at 12:32 PM
May 20, 05 02:04 PM
Michael Rubenstein Took This Picture of Me Having My Picture Taken by London Suicide Backstage in Portland.
Posted by Mike at 2:04 PM
May 19, 05 01:18 PM
Portland: or, the Curious Frisson of Regrettable Behavior.
The Pacific Northwest continues to rock me. I do my best to rock them back.
Mike McGonigal, above, who is beloved to me, DJed the gig, spinning Gospel, tweaky hip-hop, and other rocking and apocryphal shit. The man is a master.
Look. I'm never leaving the Jupiter Hotel, here in Portland, where I stayed last night. The Doug Fir where Handsome Dan and I played is in the Jupiter Hotel. The grilled cheese with impossibly good thick-cut bacon that I devoured with tomato soup? Yes, the Doug Fir as well. The joint is cheap and cheerful--a converted motel--but impeccably fresh in its design.
I think my next tour will be a two-week stand here; if they want to see me play, they can fly to Oregon. And I'll wake up every day in my chic room, with the breeze and the smell of the pine trees wafting in, and those astounding Oregon clouds--what is it with the clouds in this part of the country? So beautiful, like, Wagnerian or something--visible through the gauzy curtain.
Posted by Mike at 1:18 PM
I Was in the Lens of a Suicide Girl.
One of my favorite SuicideGirls, the indomitable London Suicide, came last night and took a bunch of photos; some before the gig, some after, and many during the show, in the midst of which she was crawling all over the stage and the monitors and the front row snapping away.
Posted by Mike at 1:03 PM
May 18, 05 10:29 PM
At the Seattle Show Last Night, I Went Outside and Played a Few Songs for the People Waiting in Line to Get In.
ATO asked me to put together a little live EP to put up online; I had this idea of something that might be more fun than just a straight live recording. Chuck and I went out right before the doors opened; he held an Edirol R-1 MP3 recorder, standing right in front of me as I sang. The crowd was slightly mindblown! It was so fun.
The recording sounds fabulous, too; rough and ambient, with the crowd's laughter and chatter, and cars passing by. Right at the end of the final tune, a Harley rumbles past, growling across the stereo field as the tune winds down. Heavenly.
When I was a kid, maybe in 1990, I tried busking in the subway--in the long tunnel between the L train and the 1/9 train at 14th Street. Nobody gave a fuck, I was spooked and scared and out of there in under 15 minutes. My conclusion: I do not busk. Perhaps I should reconsider this long-held belief.
Posted by Mike at 10:29 PM
Packed, hot, sweaty, sexy, glorious.
Posted by Mike at 9:15 PM
We Took Pictures of Each Other Standing in Front of a Map of the World Holding a Picture of Robert Plant.
Above: Handsome Dan. Below: Chuck, Myself, John B. from ATO (infamous purveyor of fine meats), and the internationally renowned Shawn Stewart, formerly of REV 105, Mpls.
Posted by Mike at 9:06 PM
May 17, 05 01:44 PM
Bauhaus Vs. Vivace, Who Wins?
KEXP was rocking rocking today. Handsome Dan and I are really getting that mind-meld down. I was beaming as we walked out of the studio. Recorded some mystery covers, too, for a possible online EP.Posted by Mike at 1:44 PM
May 16, 05 12:56 PM
A Delicate Balance of Flesh, Starch, and Butter.
I'm in Seattle. The indomitable John B. from ATO flew up here to walk me through a bunch of radio stations and record stores--and he took me, Handsome Dan, and Smokey Chuck the Sound Guy out for a steak dinner that was positively barbaric in its manly proportions of blood and potatoes.
Cute vegan girls, please disregard this post.Posted by Mike at 12:56 PM
May 15, 05 01:54 PM
Like comin' home.
I had the jitters before this one; I always want to rock good for the Twin Cities. I managed to shake 'em in the first few tunes.
Almost everybody that played on the album was there; Munson, Ken, Andy, Brad Kern, Dan, Eric F. So moving to see them all backstage at the show. Full circle stylee!
Posted by Mike at 1:54 PM
A lovely, relaxed show; and, as always, a gut-punishing trip to the Wiener's Circle.
I managed to get to the Wiener's Circle just in time; during the day, they're severe and haughty, and scornful if you don't order right; at night, they turn cruel and excoriate the drunken post-bar crowd. One time I walked in after the gig and the girl yelled, "Yo, ROGAINE! What the FUCK do you WANT?!"
This time I ordered a char-dog with everything but pickles, tomatoes, and hot peppers. The girl said: "So you want it with grilled onions, mustard, relish, and celery salt?" Yes. "Hm. Order it like that next time, OK?" Yes, ma'am.
I did the show stoned on their cheese fries. So delicious, but afterward my gut cried: What did we do to you? After all those protein shakes, I thought we had patched up our relationship?!
Show was fun, too; lots of good heckling which led to improvised mic patter. One guy yelled out, "Paint your guitar! It's Packers colored!" Which led to a long discourse about my entire discography being actually a concept album about Brett Favre.
Posted by Mike at 1:50 PM
May 13, 05 09:43 AM
Free Cake in Cleveland.
The good people at the Odeon bought me the above cake, which I found in the dressing room. Nice! Though my inner fat man begged to eat the whole thing, instead Chuck sliced it up and we gave out slices of cake to those who came up in the CD autographing line after the show.
PS--Handsome Dan was killing last night. Oh, man! The solo on "Unsingable" was fierce, fabulous. And there was a moment where I inadvertantly held onto a chord in "Sunken-Eyed" and Dan was right on top of it--we let it ring out for a dramatic moment. I love that musicians' inter-mind-connect thing that happens.
Posted by Mike at 9:43 AM
May 11, 05 08:15 PM
I love Toronto--I wish I played here more often. Homeland of Dan Chen; atmospheric city of brick houses and streetcar wires. Good hot dogs and pho, too.
Posted by Mike at 8:15 PM
May 9, 05 11:55 PM
My Hectic Week in Rock, or, Man! Am I Tired.
I guess the record's doing good--I've been working like a maniac, barely coming up for air.
I've got the night off in Toronto, so Chuck the sound guy and I went out and ate ridiculous steak and cheese bread and sour cream and bacon and other things that New Skinny Mike generally avoids. Oh, man.
Handsome Dan, being Canadian, is staying at his parents'.
Anyway. Shows have been really wonderful. Switched a lot of stuff up for this tour. Cut back on the Soul C's tunes--only doing three a night. Opening and closing the shows with tunes from Haughty, not Soul C's songs--that's a big change. And I've added a couple of tunes I haven't played before--"40 Grand," "Ossining," and "Misfortune," which I played for the first time ever, other than the day we recorded it, in DC.
Dan is awesome. As we play more shows, we're heating up as a duo--those rave-ups we do mid-song are getting hotter. Nice feeling.
Been doing in-stores and signing sessions and stuff, which is also fun, but they've blown up the pic from the back of the CD for posters, and in that huge size I've discovered that I have really dirty fingernails in that shot. Manly workmanlike or slobby? I have a good excuse: I spent the whole day getting photographed around New York, the photographer all "Put your hand on that sooty pole and look at me with that belligerent sexy glare," and etc. Unnerving to see my dirty nails that large nonetheless.
I've turned the photo of the crowd holding their phones up into a nightly feature. A beautiful sight. Below, in descending order: Philly, Boston, Boston, Rochester.
Posted by Mike at 11:55 PM
May 6, 05 07:29 AM
Last Night in NYC at the Bowery Ballroom, Right Before Dan and I Played the Encore, I Asked Everybody to Hold Up their Phones So I Could Snap a Pic.
The girl I lost my virginity to in 1987 came to the show last night. !!! I joked onstage that I'd sign titties after the gig. She had me sign hers. I wrote my email address there. Yep.
Posted by Mike at 7:29 AM
May 3, 05 08:44 AM
Oh Lord, It's May 3rd.
Here it is. Super Tuesday. I feel kind of lightheaded--in both good and bad ways.
And I wake up to find they've changed the site's look at last.
Here we are. Here we are.Posted by Mike at 8:44 AM
May 2, 05 08:51 AM
Life Here in the Future.
A guy named Borzou that I went to Lang with is at this moment speaking on Marc Maron's Air America show. Which is cool in and of itself. He's a journalist in Iraq now, and he says that Iraqi internet dudes have to pay off warlords to get their wireless routers shipped to them.Posted by Mike at 8:51 AM
May 1, 05 10:39 AM
Au Revoir the Biscuit; Hello the New Biscuit.
So I went to the Apple Store and picked up one of those ridiculous 60 gig photo iPods. Now I sit on the F train, en route to rehearsal, watching my pix scroll past as Captain Beefheart plays. I intend to slip the bill in among the tour reciepts and justify it to my accountant as a tour expense.
I am currently experiencing Retail Rush; still, I lost a bunch of tunes that were on my old iPod--now sadly in an irreversible vegetative state--mostly pirated off others' iPods--the Doveman's in particular--perhaps it serves me right.
Posted by Mike at 10:39 AM