So 4 months have passed between posts. That’s the entirety of fucking winter! Naturally, a lot of stuff has happened. Been some highs and some lows, some learning experiences and some fun times. Here’s a bit of an update.
As I said at the end of my last post, I joined a band, SectApe. I was a bit nervous about my first gig coming up and also the EP we were going to record.
Since then, I’ve played 4 more gigs, one of them being the EP launch. It’s kind of crazy. Sure, 5 gigs in 4 months might not sound like a lot, but I’ve never played that much in my life. It’s been a bit of a turbulent journey for me, as I approached them cocky as all fuck, and then realised I don’t actually know what to play. The first gig I played a theremin and a fretless guitar, through a bass amp. The second gig, I played a theremin and a normal guitar, through an orange amp. By the third gig, I’d bailed on the fretless completely, but had also added a synth, which I played through the monitors and the guitar through the amp. The fourth gig saw me playing the synth, guitar and theremin, but I also sang for one song. By the last gig, the EP launch, I had figured my shit out. I knew when I was singing, I knew when I was playing the keys or the theremin, I knew when I wanted screaming guitar.
I think it was a few days after that gig that I had a really big night and bought a 7 string semi-hollow body guitar online whilst drunk. Why would I want to get a 7 string semi-hollow bodied guitar you ask? I wanted to get it as a prototype for the fuzzy scaled guitar I still want to get built.
Essentially, the fuzzy scaled guitar is a Charlie Hunter type thing. Here’s a photo of the man himself, with his crazy instrument.
You can check him out here. An amazing musician, he plays jazz/blues type music and plays the guitar and the bass at once on this instrument.
I could order one of these guitars. Well, I think Novax make an 8 string version, and I could tweak it a bit. But they don’t come up that often, and by the time I buy it and get it shipped here, it’s going to cost me the same as making a custom one locally. So what would I want on a custom guitar?
(Be prepared for a bit of a geek out, skip ahead to the photos if it’s too much)
7 strings. 2 bass strings, 5 guitar strings, fanned frets, tuned E B G D A (guitar) then A E (bass). I want to have 2 outputs but also the option to select mono so that I can run it all through the one amp if I have to. Also, a roller instead of a knob for volume, placed roughly in line with the bass pick up but below the strings in the picture above, so that I can do swells easily. I don’t care if people say it’s easy to do it with your pinky, you’re fucking wrong, this makes more sense. Scale length? I want it long enough to actually sound like a bass and a guitar, and not have to order special strings in every time I need to restring it. As for the body shape, I don’t care too much. Something “smooth” or “rounded”. I prefer a jag to a tele, a les paul to a strat. Paintwork? Fuck it. Wood. Stained dark wood. I don’t care what it’s made out of, as long as it works and is reliable. I’m not saying balsa wood, but I am saying that you can go get fucked with your tone woods and all that bullshit. I’m a pedal head.
So yes, I kind of know what I want, I kind of don’t, but I know what functionality I want. I’ve been dreaming about this thing since 2012, have saved up the money for it (and then spent it a few times) and have been in touch with 2 builders talking about it. I’ve made 3 prototypes so far.
The first one was a mini red kids guitar with 2 bass strings & 4 guitar strings. I called this one ‘Lil beast. It’s no longer alive as I took the bass tuners off of it and put them onto the machine below.
This is a guitar I found in a second hand music shop. Someone had de-fretted it and kind of fucked the guitar in the process. The electronics were scratchy. Because it has no frets, it’s lost so much sustain and it sounds muted. It was perfect for what I wanted.
I put two bass strings on it and had a new prototype to play with, one that was full sized too. I think it’s currently tuned to BGDA (guitar) and AB (bass) but to be honest it doesn’t stay in tune that well. There’s so much tension on the neck that I’m hesitant to tune it to standard tuning as I’ll snap the strings.
Another second hand shop find, this one is quite shit too, the headstock is heavier than the body and the screws that hold the strap in are pretty fucked and fall out. It used to have a piece of wood glued onto it to rest your hand on but I use a pick so I ripped it off. I put 2 piccolo bass strings on this and tuned them an octave up so it’s DAAD. It’s fantastic for drones.
I also took the heavy gauge E off of my guitar in an attempt to learn my songs using only 5 strings, as that is what I’ll be having once I get the custom.
And so recently, I’ve been considering trying another prototype. A semi-hollow body to create feedback with easily, but with 7 strings instead of 6 so I can actually see how it feels string wise. I want to see what it’s like to play chords with 5 strings but also have 2 bass strings to try not hit while I’m playing. Plus, something with frets, as I realised I don’t like fretless and I now own two.
So when I got drunk, I must have lost enough inhibitions to order it. I got it off someone in ‘Murica, but they refunded me a day or two later and said they don’t ship internationally. So really, the deal fell through, this entire paragraph was pointless, and I’m back to square one, dreaming of an instrument.
All in all though, at this time in my life about 4 months ago, things were going well.
I woke up on the 12th of May in a state of bliss.
Bec had slept over. She headed to work and I found myself with the day free to do whatever I wanted. I felt inspired from being visited by my muse, so I plugged some pedals in, started messing around with a drum beat, and I was fucking feeling it! I was dancing around the room to the beat, as I’d ran it through some pedals and it had a great sound to it. I then picked up the fretless guitar I have, and began looping the bass line and playing guitar on top. Slowly though, I began to get incredibly frustrated at the fretless guitar I was using. It’s kind of nifty, but it is also kind of shit. It doesn’t stay in tune. I can’t play any chords. The drones don’t work that great because of the short scale length.
I began to think about this fuzzy scaled guitar I want. How everything would just “work” if I had this one thing. I began rationalising it, about how you need quality tools to make a quality product. How I was using sub-par instruments and expecting magic. I realised that this feeling, where I put such a high value on an object, is bullshit. I’m unfortunately a product of a materialistic world, and sometimes I get stuck thinking in this way.
I was confusing my potential abilities with my potential dreams. I had the ability to create a song. But when I began to get frustrated, the vibe I was running on, the catalyst for the song, began to wane. This was leading to more frustration, and I was placing even more value onto the dream instrument I want. I’ve experienced this before, and it can turn into a defeatist attitude. What’s the point of doing something now, when it won’t be very good and will become obsolete in a short matter of time when I get (insert new object). I then dwell on this and lose the initial spark of creativity, which is the whole reason for playing music in the first place. I chase that spark; it makes hours pass in moments.
Having a new item won’t change the way I am. It just means I can express myself more fluently, and chase that creative feeling more effectively. In essence, I’ll have a better tool for the job, but that’s not to say I haven’t got more than one tool available to me now.
I took stock of where I was at and looked around my bedroom. Within seconds I had spotted the fretless bass sitting there just begging to be taken out for a whirl. Frustrations block me but limitations often help. I was going from a 6 stringed instrument to a 4, but I felt such immense joy as soon as I started playing, that the spark immediately came back.
I kept chasing the feeling, finished the song and made a video too.
Here’s a link to This Feeling is Ancient.
It’s in some ways an ode to that moment, and maybe that’s why I just love the song. This is me. This is me, in my bedroom, in a state of happiness and joy. I’m not happy because I have a job or a car or some object. I’m happy because I’ve met a girl who makes me feel safe and content. I’m happy because I’m alive. This song wouldn’t have been possible to create with any other guitar, in any other moment.
My Pa died on the 10th of June.
That’s life isn’t it? If things are running smoothly, it’s only a matter of time before something comes up that’s out of your control. It didn’t even take a month for life to kick me in the dick. I’m a nurse, and so I was there with one of my aunties looking after him almost the moment he died. I’m one of the last things he saw on earth. He began to Cheyne-Stokes and so we left the room and my father and uncle came in and he died maybe 5 breaths later. But when someone has had their eyes closed for hours, practically unconscious, and you roll them towards you, jolting them awake, and you make eye contact with those blue eyes you’ve known since you were a child, well it’s kind of full on to say the least.
I still haven’t managed to shed a tear over it though.
I like to think that when we moved him, as we lifted him off his hip that was getting sore, he relaxed. He looked at me and must have on some level felt safe. He then drifted away on that relief and died. I like to think that.
In the back of my mind there’s something about lungs, drowning, and fluid movement but it’s not worth dwelling on.
Breaking the news to my cousins was hard. Seeing the news of the death hit them, their faces dropping, burying themselves in hugs, it was sad but I felt distanced from it. For me, it just reminded me of my old job, and I’d cut off feeling anything in those moments. Calling my grandpa’s older brother and telling him that my pa had died, well that one was a bit tougher.
It didn’t really hit me for another couple of days. I drove back home and had the house to myself. I went and bought fallout 3, organised a bunch of shit food, and stayed indoors for 2 days. Well 2 days and nights really, as I was going to bed around 5 AM, numbed out from the video game.
I wrote this back then, and never had anywhere to put it. To set the scene, I went up the week preceding his death to spend some time with him. I knew he was sick, but I didn’t realise how sick. I thought we still had a couple of months. So while I was sitting there in the hospital with him, not saying much just being in his company, with him dozing now and then, I wrote this:
I sit here
But I’m sure you will see 2 o’clock
But you might not see it again tomorrow.
Or you will, it’s hard to say.
You know what’s happening
You smile and grab my hand.
Your eyes still have the same light in them
But the drugs are slowly drawing the strength away
Whilst making you comfortable and sleepy.
I sit here with dry eyes
But when your older brother came to visit
That almost changed.
Time’s now passed.
I think you will see 3 o’clock today
But I don’t know about tomorrow.
Or you will, it’s hard to say.
You cough up brown gunk
I pass you a tissue
You wipe it off.
I throw the tissue out
Some moments pass and we repeat this process
Like a well oiled machine.
Neither of us need to speak
And if we did speak
What would we say?
“Don’t worry, you’re just coughing up blood from where the tumour burst deep within you”
“I’m not bothered in the slightest my boy, the doctor said I only had days”
“Have you enjoyed your life? Can you pass on any wisdom?”
“Nothing I say now would change what you would do anyway, so what’s the point?”
And then we would both be sitting in silence once again.
Here I sit
At 11:04 the next day
You died half hour or so ago
But you looked comfortable.
The family are here
My brother’s organising a flight home
I’ve come outside to smoke
And find some space.
But I’m not the same as the others
I’m processing things differently
And hugs aren’t what I need right now.
Or maybe it just hasn’t hit me yet, which is why I’ve come outside.
It’s time I went in now
I’d rather stay out here
But I’ve got to be there for my family
Whilst I remain detached.
Not because I think it’s expected of me
But it’s just how I’ve become
Tearless and numb to death
All the same
Love you pa
Naturally, life just continued. A day after pa had died turned into a week, turned into a month. It was my nan’s 20th death anniversary a few days back. They are both gone now, and everyone who still remember them is growing older. It’s just the nature of things. Perhaps this is why I write this blog in some ways, to honour my memories and hope I get passed on. But it’s more likely that if I died suddenly, this would just disappear in a years time when I don’t pay my bills to the web domain.
Still, it keeps me busy.
July rolled around after another couple of SectApe gigs.
At the start of the year I wrote out a timeline. I’ll be honest, I haven’t been that diligent with it. But I also haven’t really strayed too far off course. I set goals in early January. As the months passed, things changed and I adapted my plans. I didn’t fret and stress because I hadn’t ticked off some fucking list, but likewise I’ve been checking the list whenever I don’t have a project on, to make sure I’m still on track.
It’s fine to change any aspect of a goal, or even delete it if you want. But I like to look at it and remember that when I wrote the list, there was a reason behind each goal.
If you’ve read my blog, then you will know that I spent summer reading the Wheel Of Time, so that come March, I could re-read my nanowrimo story and begin editing it. I decided to give myself the 3 winter months to really lock down and focus on the novel. At the start of the year, this seemed like an appropriate timeline and goal.
I joined SectApe shortly before winter began. Suddenly a large chunk of my time and energy went into that. Then as I’ve mentioned my grandpa died near the start of June. I might be somewhat cut off emotionally at times, but I’m not exactly going to just continue as normal when I know my grandpa is sick in hospital. I’ll put a list of things to the side, and spend time with him. Then there’s Bec. I feel so happy when I’m with her that I’m making time to spend with her. And I’m ok with that. Being busy, as I learnt for myself in July, can actually make you get a lot of shit done.
I tried to begin rewriting my nano book. Sure I was busy, but I thought I’d be able to do it in patches. I re-read it again, I think it was in May, and I jotted down some thoughts as I went. I then began doing some research and discovered that the central theme I had built my story around was flawed. It wasn’t until I finished the story that I discovered what the theme was, the unconscious message I’d put into the book. When I realised the message was wrong though, I lost motivation. Not entirely, but for now the creative spark isn’t lit for that particular project.
Instead, on a whim after doing one of the gigs, I did camp nanowrimo, and wrote a new 50,000 word story. Last year I did a whole blog post on my nanowrimo experience, but for camp I took it easy so it wasn’t as epic. When I say I took it easy, I mean I didn’t have multiple 6+ hour/10K+ word sessions. I just plodded along, kept up my quota, and finished a little ahead of schedule.
Still, here’s a screenshot of my stats, I might not be doing a whole post on it but I’m still proud that I managed to get through it.
The story is about a guy who fights beer crime, by drinking peoples leftover beer. It was intended to be a superhero story, but it’s more of a curse than a super power. I’m pretty happy with my effort, as I was quite busy during July all in all.
I managed to write that story during the lead up to the EP launch, when I was rehearsing in my bedroom a lot and juggling 32 hours of work a week (on average). I know, a 32 hour week isn’t huge for most people, but when you include the hours I would have spent rehearsing for this gig in my bedroom, plus the 1.5 hour drive to work each way, 4 rehearsals with the band, and recording my parts on the EP that weren’t done, I think I did well over the equivalent of a 40 hour working week, and still managed to write a novel.
Now naturally, there’s no word of that which is untrue, but there is more to the story. I couldn’t have done some of those things if circumstances were different. I worked nightshifts and managed to sneak in some book writing time here and there. I was fortunate enough to be able to sleep at Bec’s house, as well as mum and dad’s place a few times, so I didn’t have to drive up and down for work everyday.
Thing is though, you add all that shit up, and I don’t care if there were some parts of that which were kind of special circumstances, it was a fucking busy month. When I wasn’t at work or with Bec, I was pretty much working on something, be it music or writing. I worked tired frequently. I had options to sneak a nap in, but I fought my body. I set alarms to get up and write. I wrote when I was brain dead at 3 AM. I wrote when I was brain dead at 10 AM. I wrote when I was beyond brain dead at 7 PM. I drove back and fourth from Geelong to Melbourne on 2 hours sleep after working nightshift to rehearse and record during the small windows of time we had before the gig. Organising 4 people to be at the same place isn’t always easy, and things like sleep get sacrificed.
I’m no one special. No one gives a shit about what I do. There’s no fucking reward for it, and even less for talking about it. I possibly come off as either a whining cunt or a humble bragger in this post, but that’s not how I feel. I had a busy month, I focussed, I got the shit done. Anyone can do it if they set an achievable goal and stick at it each day.
Sometimes you have to change your goals so that they are actually achievable though. The goal of rewriting my (150K word) nano story this year was important, but only because I want to have a story I can share with people. People hear you’ve written a story, they want to read it.
By writing a new, smaller story, I think I’ll be able to achieve that sub goal. The novel I wrote last year, I want to really take my time with. I can see it as being something that I might be working on for the next decade, and I don’t want to rush it because of some goal I made at the start of the year. Knowing when to set a deadline for something and when to take your time with a project is crucial.
The 4th of August 2017 was an important day in my world.
With SectApe, we had the date for the EP launch set before we had finished recording the EP. We needed the pressure of a deadline to really push ourselves into gear. Either we had the EP finished and people could buy it, or the 4th of August was going to roll around and we were going to embarrass ourselves at Bar Open.
The lead up was intense for me, despite recording everything with the band. I was in the room listening to them, jamming along, and had my signal routed silently out to the computer. I had headphones and could hear what I was doing, but the band had no idea what I was playing.
I did different things each take, as I was learning the songs. We then had some gigs, and I played different things again, having refined some bits and changing instruments for some songs. There were a few days of overdubs, where I had to come in and re-record some songs with a bit more direction or to get something closer to what I was playing live. Despite this, it wasn’t until I heard the EP that I found out what was kept and what was scrapped from all of these sessions.
It was a busy time, and there was an underlying current of movement through the whole process. Decisions couldn’t be fretted over for too long. There wasn’t time to over analyse things. The band had been playing the songs for a few months before I joined, so the foundation of the EP was quite structured. My contribution was much looser.
Rehearsing for the launch was a lot of bedroom time for me. I got a copy of the EP about a week before the gig & I then had to learn it. Not too hard of a task seeing as I had played it at some point in time, but it was quite different to what I had been playing during the previous gigs. We also learnt 2 new songs in that last week, and I organised T-shirts and CD’s spending many hours printing the EP’s image onto blank CD’s and burning them at home. I think we picked up the last shipment of T-shirts the day of the launch too, it was a real rush.
In the end, the EP launch went well. It was honestly such a blur. I listened back to a recording and it sounded great! I’ve got hazy memories of looking out towards the crowd and seeing a wall of people in front of me. I don’t know how many people were there, but I’m short and as far as I looked, I saw people. I also remember finishing the last song, and all of us clapping in time to the song, and then when we stopped, hearing the crowd clapping along with us, thinking it was part of the show. It was unexpected and unintentional, but it was a fucking magic moment.
Here’s a link to us playing I Am Plague at the EP launch. It’s not the best audio/footage but it’s all we have.
The day after the gig, I was on a high. The stress was off. I’d written the book. We had finished the EP. We had played the launch and killed it. I went to the bar to pick up all of my stuff, and then on the drive home, some cunt in a black Ford with an already smashed in front ran up the back of me. I pulled over and the fucker turned down a side street and fucked off too!
I was a bit pissed off for about an hour. It wasn’t that he had ran up the back of me, I’ve done it before, it happens. It wasn’t that he drove off, I was annoyed that he had done a hit and run, but it wasn’t the end of the world. What pissed me off was that this stupid cunt had already smashed in his bonnet before he hit me. It’s one thing to make a mistake, but if you don’t learn from your mistakes then you’re a waste of space, and you definitely shouldn’t be on the road. Unfortunately I changed my insurance over from full comprehensive to third party about a month earlier, so I couldn’t claim a thing and had to cop it on the chin cause he fucked off without exchanging details.
I did the logical thing and bought a scratchy, as I figured the worst that happens is I lose $5 but I potentially win enough money to get my car fixed. Plus I change my head space back to where it was before the crash. That’s how you gamble isn’t it, you chase your losses?
In the end I won a free scratchy, so I’ll call it a draw. But it did give me an idea for a story, so I’ll chalk that up as a win, and ignore the fact my car’s a bit bashed in at the back.
As with the guitar I want that I spoke of earlier, these material problems, things like cars being crashed into or something being lost or stolen, are just blips in life. They aren’t real problems, like my grand father dying or my hands losing all sensation.
Which leads me to the last part of this post.
The day that Bec and I hooked up, was one full of gin and tonic. At some point in the day, I asked Bec where was somewhere she had always wanted to go to but never been. She said Darwin. I challenged her to go there within a year.
She did it in under 6 months, and brought me along with her. She’s something else hey.
Our trip was slightly planned but purposefully left vague. We organised our flights to and from Darwin, hired a Britz van, and planned to go to a place called Litchfield the first night. Otherwise, we would go where the wind took us.
As it turns out, the wind didn’t take us too far at all really.
It began shortly after I got off the plane. I just felt “off”. I’d woken up with sore arms in Melbourne, and the flight and the heat hadn’t helped. I ignored the feeling and drove us down to Litchfield. The idea of driving a van for hours on end to camp in Kakadu for a night or two wasn’t appealing. Instead, we stayed in Litchfield and checked out some sights.
This waterfall was pretty cool. I remember enjoying it, but also having this anxiety running in the background. I couldn’t relax. There were some kids who climbed up the cliff face on the left of the photo and jumped off, and I remember feeling like shit, being sure that I was about to watch someone crack their skull open. This isn’t how I normally think. Sure, everyone has a bit of anxiety now and then, but I’m not normally the kind of person who would dwell on something like that. Death doesn’t normally bother me so much; it’s something that happens to us all. I can sit back and let people’s actions dictate what happens to them, if they are mentally sound enough to make a particular decision. On this day, I felt on edge and couldn’t stop imagining the worst.
It was at our campsite here at Wangi falls that things really went downhill. I lost all feeling in both my hands to the point where I couldn’t light a cigarette lighter, hold a pen or use my phone (not that there was any reception, but we forgot to bring a torch and so we were using my phone). It was the most debilitating thing I’ve ever experienced, and I have no idea what brought it on or what made it leave.
Now I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced this, but it kind of scared me. Here I am, 31 years old, and I’m weak as shit from an unknown cause. I was on holidays and felt like an old man. The grey army (retirees who travel around Australia in motorhomes/caravans) weren’t as debilitated as me. I was watching them do things like hold plates and turn taps on and fun stuff like that, whilst I was feeling strung out and tired come the peak heat of the day and struggled to pinch open a water bladder. It felt like I had thick leather gloves on my hands constantly, and I couldn’t make a fist with my hands. It got worse before it got better, and I really started to wonder if it was going to be permanent.
As much as I had these waves of anxiety during the middle of the day and my hands were going all weird, I wasn’t too concerned when something actually happened to me. A kite (a bird of prey, not the thing with a string) swooped down and stole my dinner one night. I had a burger, and was bringing it up to my mouth when this thing shot past and took it right out of my hands! It then sat on a tree and ate it, whilst looking down at me. Hilarious, I wish someone had of filmed it. “Victorian idiot sits and eats dinner under a bird in a tree”. Live and learn. Amazing accuracy mind you; it didn’t even nick my hands as it swept past.
As the pain and lack of movement in my hands got worse, I began to contemplate a life without ever getting back full use of my hands. I probably wouldn’t be able to work. I would no longer be able to play guitar or any musical instruments really, not even a synth! I wouldn’t be able to type, which means I wouldn’t be able to express myself through the written word! Would I even be able to hold a book open?
Then I realised that if worst came to worst, I could lie in bed all day and watch movies and TV shows, hopefully with this beautiful face next to me. I could catch up on every show I’ve wanted to see. I could watch every movie that’s been mentioned to me. I could trawl netflix and watch every doco ever made. In this day and age, there’s a virtually limitless amount of entertainment.
I can’t justify wasting that much time sitting in front of a TV when I’m not sick though, especially not after a wake up call like this. I choose to do things like write stories in a month or join bands instead, with the intention of “catching up” on massive amounts of entertainment if I ever have a stroke or something and can’t do the things I currently enjoy. I’d also consider taking up some kind of illicit drug habit too, so if I’m ever stroked out, please bring me narcotics.
It’s a pretty scary thought that some random fucking virus could knock me around like this, and then fuck off. That’s the best answer I’ve got so far though. I went to the Dr when I got home. He didn’t know what it was. I got some bloods taken. All fine. I lost sensation in both of my hands for a week, but now that it’s back, it’s business as usual. To be honest I’m already forgetting what it was like. The fear has gone, it’s a previous reality. Now I’m just left with the memory of the experience.
All in all, I guess I need to just keep writing and making music while I can, because one of two things is certain.
I’ll either get sick and become too incapacitated to create or I’ll run out of time and die before I can finish everything I want to do.
Not the happiest thought to end this post on, but personally I find it to be a very motivating one.