Tuesday, November 04, 2008

An Addict Writes...

It seems a veritable age since I sat down to a keyboard to write about anything other than the new album.

“Toothpick Bridge” has, of course, been a consuming passion, with all the nervous anticipation and desperate attempts at organisation that such a pursuit entails. We put pretty much everything we had into this one, so you’ll have to excuse us if we become, on occasion, evangelical in our pursuit of your aural compliance.

That being said, those of you who have already purchased your limited edition copies have been very kind in your comments, for which I thank you. Please feel free to encourage others to do the same. “A song’s not a song,” as Neil Hannon once sung, “until it’s listened to.”

But, for the moment, on to other things:

For the last few weeks, to a greater or lesser degree, my poor addled Canadian brain has been whirling and hissing like a bad CGI tornado. Frustration is the drunken, womanising brother-in-law of ambition, after all. The closer you get to realising a life-long dream, the more irritating and ire-inducing the inevitable set-backs, delays and idiocies can become.

Part of the problem is that people like me - who, for reasons best known to leaders in the psychiatric field, choose to pursue artistic expression of any kind as a career - are as temperamentally ill-suited to the business end of their endeavour as they are suited to the creative.

Take a for instance. No, please. In fact, take two. They’re small.

Somewhere in a bedroom, hunched over an acoustic guitar and fresh from a bout of frenzied, tearful masturbation, is a young aspiring songwriter. The curtains are drawn and a mournful sound that may, or may not, be singing is leaking from lips, pock-marked with newly squeezed pimples. The words are simple and concern a boy and/or girl who has torn our protagonist’s heart from their metaphorical chest and stomped merrily upon it, whilst wearing a pair of steel-capped work boots. The music is clearly “Tears in Heaven” played backwards and badly.

Nonetheless, in that moment, something happens. The ability to turn their private aches and hormonal surges into something approaching art (albeit by a circuitous route, where there is little or no parking) forever alters the path of this person’s life. Whether they succeed or fail in the pursuit of the rock and roll dream – or, in fact, even pursue it – they have just tapped into a well of emotion down which puppies and small, moronic children have been tumbling since the dawn of time.

Flash-forward a few years and you may find that this feeling was, on the surface, fleeting. They are now working in a bank, their hair slicked-back in a grotesque parody of responsible adulthood and their eyes empty of all love, awareness or hope. Waiting at home - in the arms of an inordinately over-priced child-minder with lamentable views on race relations – is a small child conceived 18 months previously under a pile of coats at a party thrown by friends. Its mother, whose penchant for screaming hissy fits is matched only by her inability to stop screwing motorcycle policeman, is at her own job, waxing the eyebrows of middle-aged women whose one goal in life is to die before they are stricken with an original thought.

Somewhere in the back of his mind, there may be a lingering feeling that something has gone wrong, somewhere – that there was another way, a better way. But it is subsumed by the hard-wired fear of not living up to their responsibilities, of not being a useful member of society. And so they drink themselves into a stupor at the weekends, and learn to switch off the screaming voice at the back of their minds which is begging to die.

Some of us, however, can’t switch it off.

It’s an illness. No matter how dire circumstances have ever become in my life, no matter how foolish and unlikely the dreams of success have seemed, I’ve never seriously considered quitting for more than one pint at a time. Money has not been so much thin on the ground, as bulimic six feet under it. Relationships have been complicated, to say the least. Responsibilities have grown. I’ve aged, put on weight, lost weight, lost my mind, inflicted pepperings of grey upon the natural colour of my hair and still sometimes find myself sleeping in train stations in shoes that I appear to have stolen from a transient’s corpse.

I’ve considered, and in my younger years attempted, suicide. But I’ve never, ever wanted not to be a songwriter. Never ever wanted to give up that feeling you get when something you’ve written punches a listener in their solar plexus, moistens their loins, drags a howl of pent-up sorrow from the depths of their being or even just sets their well-shod feet to dancing.

That’s mad, isn’t it? It makes Sarah Palin look like a poster child for the intellectually acute. It’s nuttier than the swapped-for sandwich that made Little Jimmy’s glands swell to the size of barrage balloons.

And yet, there you have it. I’m a lifer. I see band after band drop out of the race because it gets too hard, because it didn’t work out, because they never made it. And everyone, quite sensibly, says to them, “We completely understand. Shame, but there you have it. At least you have your priorities straight.”

I do not have my priorities straight, and I probably never will, whatever happens next. If all of these irons in various fires start a conflagration of achievement hitherto unrecorded in the annals of history, I will be somewhere working on new songs. If I continue to be miserable and poverty-stricken, wearing my charity shop wardrobe and cutting my own hair, I will be somewhere working on new songs. And I will, in my heart of hearts, continue to believe that it’s worth it.

I know I’m not the only one who feels this way either. I think a support group may be in order. My name is Kenton and I am a music addict.

Goddamn it. That sucks. I wonder if David Duchovny will swap with me.


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