My Drummer Is A Very Philosophical Guy: The Paradox Of Competence And Generosity.

07/08/2009

My new drummer is a very philosophical guy.

A couple months ago we had our annual drummer-juggling week, which is nowhere near as fun as it sounds. Over the lifetime of the Parkdale Revolutionary Orchestra (three years now?) we’ve had three solid drummers and more fill-ins than I can remember. And each new drummer and I quickly fall into a unique and strangely-intense relationship. This doesn’t happen with the violin and cello players who’ve been in the band. With them, it’s always been a gradually-evolving relationship: professional awkwardness develops to mutual respect and, over the course of many months, slips into a comfortable friendship.

For example, Alex Cheung (our violinist of two years) and I have always liked working together but only became what I’d call “friends” through a year long series of chess-like maneuvers. Alex McMaster (Ms.Cello) and I are still, I think, just a bit shy and cautious with each other. I’m not saying this slow way of learning to enjoy the people who share my creative life is a bad thing – in fact I prefer it in a lot of ways.

But that’s never been an option with our drummers. I’m not sure if it’s something ingrained in the personality of people who become drummers; or if it’s ingrained in the subset of drummers interested in making the sort of music we make; or whether it has to do with my approach to working with drummers… but with each drummer it seems that our relationship is carved in stone by the second rehearsal.

And it’s always different: Rosie was a demon-cupid Mercury of sarcasm, wild creativity, and dissoluteness; Chris Patheiger was a Jupiter, a true gentleman. Very kind, slightly reserved, self-regulating his orbit around the project to exert a solid gravitational pull without committing to a stable trajectory. But our new drummer, David MacDougall, is from Neptune – by far my most troubling planet-archetype.

This discovery came as a shock to me. By nature (and by practice) I’m very pessimistic. I do my best to predict catastrophes as early as possible, and on the most preliminary evidence. So, from the moment that David contacted me out-of-the-blue with “I hear you’re looking for a drummer. I play drums.” I was trying to figure him out by my special (and absurd) process of psycho-statistical analysis.

You must recognize the obvious dilemma: this strange character was immediately and unabashedly enthusiastic about this music; very generous with committing himself to rehearsals; incredibly competent and in-demand as a musician, and yet borderline-diffident in rehearsal. He asks questions about texture and structure. By the second rehearsal it was obvious that he understood the functional language of this music better than anyone else in the band, often including myself.

He’s a balanced professional on stage: he plays hard but never overplays. I’ve yet to see him lose his cool when a performance brushes up against the definite possibility of falling completely apart. Off-stage he’s always been relaxed, with a detached ironical sense of humour, and displays a marked absence of self-indulgence combined with a philosophical sympathy for my own not-infrequent displays of that lousy trait.

So you must see now that bringing David into the band was a shattering concession:

Is it worth abandoning thirty-three years’ worth of hard-earned pessimism – and the insulation against disappointment that comes with it and has sustained me through the past three years – in order to work with a drummer who contributes so much to every aspect of the band’s existence while causing no problems at all?

It’s a catch-22; a paradox; a no-win scenario.

Old Lady Want-to-be Singer/Poets Can Kiss My Ass.

06/08/2009

Somehow, despite the no sleep and no prep., last night’s show was good. After doing this for a couple years, it seems to have suddenly become something that everyone’s comfortable with. Being intensely focused on every moment isn’t sustainable and definitely not much fun. I’m glad we’re figuring this out.

Now here’s the real post:

Old ladies suck. Old lady poets suck. Old lady want-to-be-singer/poets suck. And people without the self-awareness to understand the implicit boundaries between performers and audience suck.

Summary: Old lady want-to-be-singer/poets without the self-awareness to understand the implicit boundaries between performers and audience suck. And they suck a lot.

What am I talking about? Well I was obligated to tell one such Old Lady off last night. Here’s the deal:

We’re soundchecking.

Old Lady near the “stage” (if you’ve ever been to the Tranzac you know why it’s “stage” and not stage).

We play a bit of music to check the levels.

Kristin to audience: “How’s that sound?”

Old Lady: “You’re too loud.”

K: “um, ok.”

OL: “You’ve got to listen while you sing.”

K: “….?”

OL: “I know. I am a singer. That’s what you do when you’re a singer.”

Me: “And what do you do if you’re an obnoxious audience member?”

OL: “boo-hoo.”

Seriously people: whatever you’re doing; wherever you are; whoever you may be: Before you speak, take a moment to check in all your pockets for a clue. If you don’t find one – if you realize that maybe you don’t have a clue, then just shut the fuck up.

A friend of mine told me that this OL is a lousy poet too.

…I Want To Say A Prayer.

05/08/2009

Does it get much crazier than this? Probably not in real life:

That’s from about 2/3rds of the way through the show this past Saturday. About an hour-and-a-half after the stage monitors exploded and twenty seconds before Karl narrowly misses smashing Ian in the head with the mic stand he starts swinging about his head. Or did that happen before this bit?

It’s all a blur.

Karl Mohr Insanity in Burk’s Falls; the Torture Memos Record is Done.

05/08/2009

Insane days. Catastrophic show with Karl Mohr in Burk’s Falls over the weekend, balanced by beautiful nightswimming. Wary of developing the specialization “plays only with weirdass bands”. Not that wouldn’t be true, but I’m wary of it becoming recognized. Planning a three-act opera based on Karl’s on-stage auto de fe.

The Torture Memo record’s done. Fourteen hours at the studio yesterday with James Paul. Gallons of coffee and massive failure in the recent “stop smoking” policy. But excellent results!

And using a rational process for recording and producing was a very important idea. It’s been a past mistake trying to get a complete thing done in a closed time period. This record is done but still malleable, which makes our mistakes less tragic.

Show tonight = will be under-rehearsed.

Torture Memos Cover