Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Or Die-Hard?

It's so interesting for me to see how people hold things like music in their lives over time. I'm back in touch with some of my old musical cohorts from the 70's and 80's through facebook. Many of them are still doing music at various levels. I hang out at and host open mikes around here, and I wonder sometimes, How many of you people, so committed and so psyched about your music now, will even own a guitar in 10 years...or 20?

I guess in any epoch, there are experimenters and diehards. Just like the hippie thing. Some people grew their hair, dabbled in art, smoked weed, espoused the values, and then moved right on with the next wave of cultural change. Others felt something there and stayed with it. I have no judgment about which way people go, but I do find it interesting to speculate on who's experimenting and who's a die-hard, really committed to what they're doing right now.

I think I've always been pretty eccentric and naturally sort of a Bohemian. When it was cool in the 70's, I was in my element. But when the tides shifted, I didn't. I used to have this crazy room on the third floor of my mom's house when I was younger. I had all these animals: lizards, snakes, birds, fish tanks, gerbils, you name it. And I had all things of things that were fun to do or look at while stoned.

Well, almost every place I've lived in since has been similar, though not as balls out nuts! I've gone through a few purging phases where I'd get rid of almost everything I owned, but the last time I did this I realized that I was collecting "space" with the same obsessive zeal that I ever collected anything, and it was, by far, my most boring and pleasureless collection! So I finally just said Fuck it. I'm going to collect whatever I want to and give this crazy thing some space to freely express itself. All I did was temper it a bit by saying this: I'll only collect things that give me ongoing pleasure, and I'll only collect things that I can keep organized and are not in my way. My wife is similar. She's always been a Bohemian too. Our place is colorful and full of all kinds of pleasurable, artful, and more or less organized stuff. And only a couple of fish tanks...

In the early 80's I went to NYC, ostensibly to pursue music, but soon got sidetracked into this therapy cult group called Direct Centering. I learned a lot of good stuff there but the lessons were costly and I eventually jumped ship. I realized too in NYC that I couldn't stand the business of music and can stand it even less now. I was hanging out with the New Folk scene there and rubbing elbows with Suzanne Vega and the other New York folkies. I liked some of the musicians but that was it. I couldn't stand anything or anyone else in the biz. So after a particularly revelatory mushroom experience, I decided to quit music and leave the city. It was in Seattle that I got back into it, forming a duo with my friend Victor Cummings. We played together for about 10 years and made some nice music. 2 of our best albums are posted on my site. It was sort of a serious hobby. Eventually my wife and I got tired of city life and moved to rural Iowa. While there, I tried "selling songs" and what little affection I might have harbored for the business was quickly shot in the head and buried in a fittingly shallow grave.

It was only after we moved to Ashland,OR in 1999, that I finally found a way to do music on my own terms and have some fun at it. Only 30 years after I wrote my first song! So it's really been a journey. I've been a more or less broke artist of one kind or another, since I was a kid! For me that whole 70's time was just the beginning. I've changed for sure, but not really! In many ways I am the same guy I was back then. I don't fault anyone's choices though, especially as I get older with no health insurance and no retirement money aside from what we'll inherit when Samarra's dad and my mom finally die, and who knows what money will even mean or be worth at that point. I figure the best insurance is a bunch of friends anyway and I do have that.

I guess some people went for the money because that's what they wanted, some went for more "straight" lives because that was really their karma and desire anyway. But for me, when it comes to art, music and the artist's life: I'm a die-hard.

1 comment:

  1. Gene, you really think about what you want in life, and then you create your life around that. Most people don't get that far.