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Caffeine Headache

My head and pencil neck

                Hang longingly over the

                Syringe-like highway dividing lines

Speeding past; morphine

                Nightmares; an ominous windshield

 

I’ve been wearing black

                Socks in the morning

                The coffee I cuddled

In my tonsils

Gropes around

                Like the failure of alcohol

 

I’m going on furlough up north

Up away from pedestrians

                And pederasts,

Just above the street corner

                Cymbal music, a cut

                Above the freon suffocation

 

To the fake pastoral fields

                Away from my siblings

                Away from the church

To the fake pastoral fences

In a car with a passenger

                I don’t know

                Away to anywhere

 

I took the white hot pills

To ensure that before I reached

My destination I would not fall

Asleep on the road, killing us both

 

But this time they made

                Me ache; as my foot

                Dips into the combustion

 

I squeeze my eyes

                I’m awake and more in pain

                And acutely aware

That I’m as fragile as glass.

 

–Eric Rasmussen, 1990

My 24th album, Hot Tears, is now available on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, YouTube and other platforms where music is (still) sold.

This is my first and so far only album dedicated to jazz. Most of the eight songs are cool and modal jazz in the Miles Davis-John Coltrane vein, though I’ve added a couple of ringers: a Louis Armstrong takeoff that was meant to accompany my short film Scrabble Rousers, and a fusion rock piece that owes more to Frank Zappa.

My reasons for doing jazz might seem obvious: I’ve played alto sax since I was 12, and I love postwar American jazz in particular. But there’s a sillier reason: I needed a jazz song for my film, and I don’t like leaving single stray songs lying around unattached to albums. So I wrote seven more to make “Scrabble Rousers” less lonely, less likely to fall through the cracks.

In the age of streaming, I understand that, sadly, the format of full-length albums is dying. And yet those are the formats I love. I love sequencing groups of songs, seeing if their different moods take you on a journey. While I wouldn’t call the Beatles’ White Album my all-time favorite, it’s one of the albums I’m most obsessed with, because I don’t know how you make a long work like that with such a chaotically wide variety of styles and yet still somehow make the whole thing seem cohesive. So assembling albums–trying to yank the listener through as many wide-ranging emotions as possible without losing them to alienation or befuddlement–is a hobby I enjoy almost as much as making the music.

Having devoted myself to an entire jazz album this way, for the dumbest of reasons I concede, I was also curious to see how well my saxophone playing has held up. Although I played it in high school, I put it down for almost 30 years while I pursued a love of rock music and its main sonic vehicle: the guitar. But I picked up the sax again for a couple of songs on my 2015 album Clam Fake, mostly to see how the instrument would sound when sandwiched next to alternative guitar tunings, since guitars tuned Sonic Youth-style tend to sound like horns as well. I figured something interesting would happen.

But now that I’ve tried a whole album of improvising on this, my first instrument, I must say I’m pretty proud of the results. Aside from one tweak of two bad notes and some edits on “Scrabble Rousers” and “A Picture of Lori Looking at the Sky,” the sax solos you hear on Hot Tears (not counting the introductory melodies*) were not heavily chopped up.

I don’t know if I’ll do another jazz album soon (yesterday, I sent the saxophone back to the company that rented it to me, so right now I am sax-less). But after you’ve heard me churn through a few more styles and experiments (I’ve got a country rock coming out next week), maybe I’ll try this again someday.

As always, I composed, arranged, performed and produced the album by myself. I hope you enjoy.

*I should have added for clarity and full disclosure that the opening sax melodies on “Glitching” and “A Picture of Lori Looking at the Sky” were put together from fragments of saxophone runs for the sake of recording speed and simplicity, though only the middle solo on the latter song was edited together from two different improvised takes. I also forgot that I had to piece together the solo on “Scrabble Rousers” from two or three takes, something I should have mentioned in the first draft of this blog post. My apologies.

My New Jazz Album

Within the next month or so, Salon de la Guerre will be releasing two new albums. One is best described as an “art country” album. More on that later. The other is my first album dedicated to jazz and it’s mostly in the Miles Davis-John Coltrane mood, though there are a couple of curveball songs.

Why did I do this? Why do I keep straying from the garage rock that is Salon de la Guerre’s main order of business? Well, there are a few reasons. One is that playing around in different genres helps me innovate and come up with new ideas. Next, I had built up a collection of melodies that didn’t really fit into pop or punk or rock songs very well. After enough of them piled up, I decided to do the right thing with them.

Then there were a few mundane, practical reasons. As regular readers know, I’ve made a few short films; for years, I have had to hide one of my student works from 2006 because I had put a popular Louis Armstrong song on the soundtrack. It was going to be a huge burden to pay for the rights to this song every year, and so I tried to think of a way I could capture the spirit of the piece and make my own jazz song to save the film, “Scrabble Rousers,” from oblivion. I took a huge risk and tried to score it using my own saxophone playing (something I’ve done only a little of since high school). Once I had the sax in my hands, I thought I might as well go all in and record an entire jazz album.

Sorry for the long-winded explanation. The upshot is that I’m fairly proud of the result, which is called Hot Tears.

Attached is a song from the album, which is almost completed.

I just restored one of my student films from 2006 to YouTube with new music by Salon de la Guerre. The song was made specifically for the movie, but it will also appear on an album of jazz tunes I hope to release this year called Hot Tears.

Enjoy the movie … or the music … or both!

I’ve Been Told …

…since I was a child by Republicans that outsiders ended Rome. Now Republicans are trying to end the Republic.

I’ve been told since I was a child by Republicans that there has to be a hell, because otherwise what would be done with Nazis? Those people have now joined a Nazi movement.

I’ve been told since I was a child by Republicans that I had to follow the teachings of Jesus when Jesus scorned their world view specifically.

I’ve been told by so-called libertarians that they don’t want to be told what to do by Democratic leaders but whom now use protests by African-Americans as an excuse for a strongman to invade the cities with force.

I’ve been told by Republicans that black Americans should give up their grievances because slavery is over, and then these same Republicans try to explicitly deny African-Americans’ votes.

I’ve spent my entire life forming an opinion of Republicans based only on what Republicans say and do. They think I’ve been in a bubble. I have been. Theirs. And nothing in it is true.

Anniversary

We didn’t have a dinner out
The plague would not hear of it
I couldn’t buy her a nice new gown
She’d have no place to wear it

She wouldn’t want a special cake
It would make way too much of her
My offer of a walk she wouldn’t take
Cause getting out the door was a bother

She didn’t need a night at the play
It’s dangerous to sit in the rows
She didn’t need a day at the spa
Or to see a jar with a dozen or one rose

She didn’t need an anniversary
With all the gestures such as these
Cause most of what we share is all right there
Each happily seeing what the other sees

And ten months together we’re locked away
With more laughs than shouts in between
We both know we chose right on a long ago day
And are loving our year seventeen

No, the 2020 election was not “close,” as Donald Trump fans addicted to wrongness are going to mutter for years to cast doubt on our system and further justify their own exceedingly poor judgment.

It was only the time line and the inconsistent way the results were revealed that made this election a so-called “nail-biter”–specifically the big, dramatic, crashing reveal much later that Joe Biden had won by a fairly wide margin. This means the idea of closeness was always meaningless to the omniscient universe.

Storytellers know all this: You might be coming to the movie already knowing that Romeo’s going to get snuffed or Luke Skywalker’s going to blow up the Death Star, but a lot of bad news early on has you doubting your instincts every time, and the play has got you hooked. It was a play. And the bad guy in this one never really had a chance.

Remember

You were freed, too, conservatives.

Now that Donald Trump is losing the 2020 presidential election, he has continued to allege voter fraud without any evidence. And some Republicans are fanning that idea to their minions on the street, who eventually could try to stop a legitimate election with violence.

If Donald Trump, a man you didn’t like five years ago, can so easily turn you into liars on his behalf now, conservatives, what hope do you have to articulate your values in the future and win people to your causes? Who will trust you? Who will trust your judgment? Your maturity? Your goodness? Who would believe that your ideas come from a good place and not from your ability to be so easily molded by malefactors? Who would not reasonably ask, “Was being molded by bad people what got you to where you are in the first place?” You risk everything, including your souls, standing by this man.

The third volume of my serio-comic epic novel The Ghost and the Hemispheres is now available as an e-book on Amazon.com. This was the last part of what was originally supposed to be one giant book. I noticed when I was still talking to agents that the size of the work put them off, so I have chopped the novel into what I hope are three more palatable bites.

The book is about the family of Octavio Albedo, a coffee baron who builds his empire in the early 20th century in northern Nicaragua. Octavio’s success helps build the town of Ascension, which over the years sees civil war, hurricanes and upheaval. The town is also beset by metaphysical problems: Its denizens start to think that they are living half in a dream, half in reality. Some are possessed by demons. Others see themselves caught in the conspiracy of capitalism.

In Volume 3, we follow four of Octavio’s great-grandchildren after they’ve fanned out into the world. One is a blood-thirsty, murderous Contra whose downfall comes when he finds his own capacity for goodness. Another grandchild is an inmate in a Honduran prison who’s got a secret formula for an amazing and possibly valuable street narcotic tattooed on his back. He becomes a highly prized target of several gangs. Next is a child prodigy painter in Miami who finds that the demons chasing her family have somehow inspired an awe-inspiring artistic talent in her.

Despite leaving their war-torn country, the various Albedos still find themselves plagued by various feelings of unreality, post-traumatic stress disorder and thirst for revenge—but an even deeper hunger for understanding of their world and what their madness really means.

Lest that all sound too austere, I should remind the reader that the novel is absurdist and funny. Here is the description on the Amazon site:

“A mountain town in Central America lives half in reality and half in dream. In Volume 3, the great-great grandchildren of Octavio Albedo fan out across the hemisphere trying to put their lives back together after a decade of war, but find that as spiritual creatures, their flesh is something best inhabited only part time.”

You can check out Volume 1 of The Ghost and the Hemispheres here.

You can check out Volume 2 here.

Again, the cover painting and design is by my friend Corey Brian Sanders.