Rivers Cuomo blog posts - 2005
This page collates all of archived blog posts by Rivers Cuomo on his Myspace.com account in 2005. These posts were originally archived by user freesiayourmind with help from other members of the rivers_words Livejournal.com account.
- 1 September 25
- 2 September 29
- 3 October 1
- 4 October 4
- 5 October 6
- 6 October 11
- 7 October 12
- 8 October 17
- 9 October 18
- 10 October 19
- 11 October 20
- 12 October 21
- 13 October 23
- 14 October 24
- 15 October 25
- 16 October 26
- 17 October 27
- 18 October 31
- 19 October ??
- 20 November 8
- 21 November 9
- 22 November 29
- 23 December 13
- 24 December 29
All Day I Dream About Sex
September 25th, 2005
I gave up my shoes finally, the black campers with massive sole erosion. I’m on to some new adidas. I wish my feet weren’t so screwed up. The rest of my body too, for that matter. Why am I such a mutant?
Anyway, I wonder if these new adidas will stick. My big toes already ache a bit (c.f., Eddie Johnson). They’re leather too, I think. I wish I could find some totally non-animal product shoes that didn’t totally suck. Man, the world’s messed up. It’s so hard to be a good person because everything’s set up for cruel exploitation. It’s just so easy and convenient to exploit along with all the rest.
Ahh, animals. Kids, too. Will I ever have dependents? Only time will tell. And the new adidas? Only time will tell.
My First Vipassana Course (A Re-enactment)
Thursday, September 29, 2005
RIVERS: No, I'm not going to change my mind about this.(getting a little nervous)... what am I doing here? It's like...something out of a dream, or, I don't know. Maybe I'm just going crazy.
Standing right in front of Rivers is a little man, not more than five feet tall.
LITTLE MAN: (irritated) I cannot teach him. The boy has no patience.
Rivers’s head spins in the direction the little man faces. But there is no one there. The boy is bewildered, but it gradually dawns on him that the little man is Goenka, the Vipassana Master, and that he is speaking with an Assistant Teacher.
THE A.T.’S VOICE: He will learn patience.
GOENKA: Hmmm. Much anger in him, like his father.
THE A.T.'S VOICE: Was I any different when you taught me?
GOENKA: Hah. He is not ready.
RIVERS: Goenka! I am ready. I... A.T.! I can be a Vipassana meditator. A.T., tell him I'm ready.
GOENKA: Ready, are you? What know you of ready? For thirty yearshave I trained Vipassana meditators. My own counsel will I keep on who is to be trained! A Vipassana meditator must have the deepest commitment, the most serious mind. (to the invisible A.T., indicating Rivers) This one a long time have I watched. Never his mind on where he was. Hmm? What he was doing. Hmph. Adventure. Heh! Excitement. Heh! A Vipassana meditator craves not these things. (turning to Rivers) You are reckless!
Rivers looks down. He knows it is true.
THE A.T.'S VOICE: So was I, if you'll remember.
GOENKA: He is too old. Yes, too old to begin the training.
Rivers thinks he detects a subtle softening in Goenka’s voice.
RIVERS: But I've learned so much.
Goenka turns his piercing gaze on Rivers, as though the Vipassana Master's huge eyes could somehow determine how much the boy had learned. After a long moment, the little master turns toward where he alone sees the A.T.
GOENKA: (sighs) Will he finish what he begins?
RIVERS: I won't fail you -- I'm not afraid.
GOENKA: (turns slowly toward him) Oh, you will be. You will be.
GOENKA: A Vipassana meditator’s strength flows from the Dhamma. But beware of the dark side. Anger...fear...aggression. The dark side are they. Easily they flow, quick to join you in a fight. If once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will.
RIVERS: Is the dark side stronger?
GOENKA: No...no...no. Quicker, easier, more seductive.
RIVERS: But how am I to know the good side from the bad?
GOENKA: You will know. When you are calm, at peace. Passive. A Vipassana meditator uses the Dhamma for knowledge and defense, never for attack.
RIVERS: But tell me why I can't...
GOENKA: (interrupting) No, no, there is no why. Nothing more will I teach you today. Clear your mind of questions. Mmm. Mmmmmm.
GOENKA: Use the Dhamma. Yes...
Goenka taps Rivers's leg. Rivers’s body wavers, but he maintains his balance. He concentrates but, distracted, he loses his balance and finally collapses. Goenka jumps clear.
RIVERS: Oh, no. I’ll never get it now.
Goenka stamps his foot in irritation.
GOENKA: So certain are you. Always with you it cannot be done. Hear you nothing that I say?
Rivers looks uncertain.
RIVERS: Master, this is totally different.
GOENKA: No! No different! Only different in your mind. You must unlearn what you have learned.
RIVERS: (focusing, quietly) All right, I'll give it a try.
GOENKA: No! Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try.
Rivers closes his eyes and concentrates.
RIVERS: (panting heavily) I can't.
Rivers shakes his head.
RIVERS: (discouraged) You want the impossible.
Quietly Goenka turns. With his eyes closed and his head bowed, he meditates. Rivers stares in astonishment. He walks toward Goenka.
RIVERS: I don't...I don't believe it.
GOENKA: That is why you fail.
Those Passengers With Small Children
Saturday, October 01, 2005
Charlie had a poop explosion, apparently too much payload for the diaper. Pat and Jen had to clean it up off the airport floor, the stroller, the blanket, and their hands. I said, “Makes you think,” meaning it makes ME think, “Is this something I want to deal with on a regular basis if I have kids?”
Pat responded, “You don’t even think about it,” meaning, you love the kid so much you don’t even notice you’re cleaning poop up off the floor of a public building.
Pat has a happy glow these days that I’ve never seen from him before.
I wonder what kind of father I’ll be. My big fear is that I’ll be kind of disinterested—so self-obsessed that I don’t even really acknowledge the child.
(Me? Self-obsessed? Impossible!)
When I was a kid I had the greatest step-dad ever. He was the kindest, most compassionate guy a boy could want in his life. He was so fun to play with. He wasn’t around enough though, of course, because he was always working. I wonder if that’s how I’ll be.
Or maybe I’ll be like my “real” dad. I don’t know too much about him because I grew up apart from him. (I’m looking forward to getting to know him better, though, now that he’s back in the States.) I’ve talked to his other sons (the ones that he raised), and I learned that he was quite the disciplinarian. I think they even had to call him “sir” into their early teens. I wonder if I’ll be like that.
And I wonder if someday I’ll be cleaning poop up off an airport floor with a big smile on my face. Love makes you do the craziest things.
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
My mom’s so cute about caffeine: “I’m not doing so well.”
“I had a cup of tea yesterday.”
“And today I had another. I’m all discombobulated. And I’m just reinforcing the addiction. Sigh . . .”
I chuckled because I can see that she’s winding herself up over nothing. She’s going to outgrow this, I thought to myself.
It’s interesting when you start to look at your parents as kids themselves, in the process of growing up. You can start to take on a parental role in some ways.
I’ve been thinking I want to live near my mom when I have a family. Not just so that I can take care of her but so that she can help take care of my kids, if and when I have them. We can all take turns being parents to each other, working as a team, one’s strengths making up for the other’s weaknesses and vice versa, and giving each other perspective when it’s lost in the miasma of self-doubt.
Like when a cup of tea wrecks a day and foretells personal ruin.
I wonder if I’ll be able to find somebody who wants to move to Connecticut and start such a multi-generational family with me. I talked to K about this last night and she didn’t sound too enthused. I don’t blame her; it would mean abandoning the familial structure that’s supported her all her life. Better to stay where she is and find someone there. Same goes for me. That would be most practical.
It’s an interesting predicament we place ourselves in when we scatter to the four corners of the earth and sow our seeds where we will. It’s up to our grown children, then, to bring things back together, to make families that are strong—not through force of will, but through observing the human magnetism that’s humming within each one of us.
There are some things that are more important than adventure. Who wants to end up stranded at the end of their life in the middle of some strange land with no familiar face in sight, and the shakes from an existence shocked by too much stimulation?
Thursday, October 06, 2005
Yesterday when I arrived at the venue I went into the catering room. I got my lunch—curried vegetables, rice, salad, bean soup, potatoes au gratin, some kind of sweet bread for dessert, and soy milk for a beverage—and sat down at the table where some of the others had already gathered. Stuart, our tour manager, was sitting there; so was Brian and his girlfriend. We talked pleasantly about Bob Dylan’s latest records and other light-hearted matters. Then Scott walked in, with his fiancé, and with Pat. They got their lunch as the four of us at my table continued to talk. They sat down at a table near ours. A minute later, Scott picked up his plates suddenly and said to Pat and Jillian, “Why don’t we go sit with them,” meaning us--“you know, like we actually like them.” It was a funny and cute gesture and the three of them got up and actually squeezed in around the four of us at our table.
This is typical Scott: always trying to bring everyone together, always trying to create a “family atmosphere”.
There are more examples.
Sometimes it’s a one-on-one thing:
“Hey Rivers, you want to go running with me in the park today?”
“Uh, I’ll probably just do my treadmill like I always do.”
“Come on, it’s better for your muscles to break up your workout routine. We’ll go slow and we’ll chat. You’ll get to see the scenery. It’ll be fun!”
Sometimes it’s a large scale thing:
“Hey Rivers, I was listening to the recording of last night’s show today and I got an idea. How about we break down the last chorus of Perfect Situation and you ask the crowd to sing along with you. It’ll be epic!”
“Aww . . . I don’t know if I can do that. It might seem cheesy. Besides, I don’t think I have the confidence to pull it off.”
‘C’mon! I know you can do it. It’ll be huge!”
Sometimes it illustrates his own vulnerabilities and needs for connection with his bro’s, like the other day when he was alternately angry, heartbroken, depressed, frustrated, and practically tearful because he learned that Pat , for some reason, didn’t have him in his monitors at soundcheck.
“I can feel when you’re not listening to me, Pat, and it’s totally depressing. It’s a totally different thing than when we’re listening to each other. It means either I have to just get with you, or I have to ignore you completely. That makes me so sad. That’s not why I joined a band. We’re capable of so much more. We can have that magical connection that a rhythm section’s supposed to have. You know, like Led Zeppelin.”
“You know," said Pat, "I’ve never had that connection with bass players in the past, for whatever reason. I’ve always just assumed that’s how it’s had to be. It’s always bothered me, actually.” The monitors were adjusted and the two of them focused and synced up better than ever at the show. It hurts, sometimes, to be pushed out of your usual routines, your comfort zones, and into the scary land of intimacy with another person—or a whole audience full of people—but we're all super glad that we have a new big brother figure in our lives that’s doing exactly that.
Yesterday in the catering room was one of my most enjoyable lunches even though I didn’t talk much, and even though the conversation wasn’t profound; we were all just sitting around talking, hanging out, like a family, like we actually liked each other, because we do.
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
I got some pastry gunk on my mousepad. My middle finger was sticking to it. I had to wipe it off with saliva.
All good now.
I’m still eating pretty much garbage. Actually catering has been decent at the venues. I’m actually eating vegetables. And the occasional half-piece of chocolate cake. I’m having problems at the hotels, though. I don’t like ordering room service. Something about having to face other human beings is enough to make me want to starve sometimes. I’ve been doing it though. The guy the other day was like, “Are you . . . in a band?” “Yeah.” Just give me the pizza. “What band?” Unpleasant feeling spreads over my body. “Weezer.” “Cool! Where are you playing?” Etcetera, etcetera. I was definitely in the wrong for being unhappy. I should respond to every living being with love and compassion, no matter how apparently annoying. Even when I’m hungry. And tired from traveling all day. And all I want is to eat my pizza and pass out. Even then. Because who am I really hurting when I get unhappy? I hurt the room service guy, a little bit, because he can feel my displeasure at his presence. But really I’m hurting myself. Really it’s me that’s feeling my displeasure. The girl that brought the pastries this morning was kind of hot, in an Eastern European kind of way. She carefully took the saran wrap off the milk, the oatmeal, and the water. She didn’t have to do anything to the jellies or the pastries. (She called the jellies “preserves!”) I gave her the usual huge tip and she went on her way. Why don’t those kind of room service people stay and badger me? I have a real problem deciding things sometimes, especially in the morning. When I called for breakfast the other morning, I ordered the usual bakery basket and was terrified to hear in response, the question, “What would you like in it?” “I . . . um . . . uh . . . you decide . . .” Sometimes I would rather risk getting a bunch of stuff I don’t really want rather than deal with sorting through everything to find the stuff that I do. That’s usually only in the morning, though. And in some cases, I’m always sure what I want, as in the case of the Eastern European-ish girl versus the celebrity-stalker guy. In any case, I wish both of them happiness equally, or at least I’m trying to. I can see that I’m only making myself miserable by having a preference. Whatever comes in the basket, I’ll take it, with love.
The Hot New Look
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
The Hot New Look
I must say, I’m quite impressed with the Mach 3 Turbo Razor. It has a 3-bladed cartridge like the regular Mach 3 but there’s a small battery inside the handle which powers a vibrating function that, rather than just being a marketing gimmick, actually greatly improves the quality and ease of the shave. Pat, who turned me onto it, says it’s like “mowing a lawn”. My brother, whom I turned onto it, says it’s like “shoveling” your face. All in all, it’s made shaving a joy, whereas heretofore it was a chore. I highly recommend it.
Brian, on the other hand, goes for the upscale, old-fashioned shave: the straight razor. It’s an actual razor blade he slots into a heavy, metal, vice-like device. “This would never make it through security at the airport,” he said. He also has a potpourri of shaving gels, foams, tonics, and brushes. He’s really into it. When we were in London last, he went to get professionally shaved. It took half an hour but it was a “real experience”.
I’ve also noticed a proliferation of hair products in our dressing room recently—pomades, gels, and such. Even a hair dryer. For a long time Brian and I would borrow Scott’s hair product—“NOW I look sexy,” I would say. Then I got my own hair product and Brian and Pat started borrowing mine. Then Brian got his. (Just the other day I heard him make a quick call out to the bus right before we went on stage: “Could you have my girlfriend bring in my hair product, please?”) Finally, the other day, I saw a little jar of gel and brand new hairdryer next to Pat’s wardrobe case. Now we ALL look “sexy”.
I had an extremely hard time when I first went to get my hair product. I went into a salon when we were in Toronto. They had shelves and shelves of jars, cans, bottles, and tubes of creams, pastes, tinctures, tonics, gels, stabilizers, sprays, mousses, and pomades. I said, “Uh . . . do you have any hair product?” The woman looked at me like I was retarded. “What KIND of hair product.”
“ . . . I don’t know . . . um . . . something to put in my hair?”
After another ten, painful minutes in the salon, I emerged with my hair product (and far less self esteem). The product did what I needed it to do and it smelled good, too. Brian’s girlfriend says it smells like “cookies”.
The 80’s. Those were the days for hair products. When I was a junior and senior in high school, I absolutely couldn’t leave the house without “doing” my hair, spending at least an hour making myself look as much like George Lynch from Dokken as possible. Actually, though, it was Carlos Cavazo from Quiet Riot that was my first hair role model. I took my copy of “Metal Health” to the salon in Mansfield, Connecticut, and showed the woman the picture on the back. “Make me look like that,” I said. An hour, and copious amounts of mousse and hairspray, later, I arose from the chair looking, as my classmates would soon point out to me ad nauseum, like I had “stuck my finger in an electric socket”. My mother was mortified by my appearance and stormed out of the salon. I had to walk the three miles back to our home.
It was worth it, though: I looked like I stuck my finger in an electric socket.
Sometime, when I’m shaving, I wonder if I might end up with that same look again by accident. I wonder if something might go wrong with my mach 3 turbo razor, if somehow, some water might get into the handle where the battery is and somehow electricity might be conducted up through the blades and into my face. Maybe that’s just what I need to put my look over the top, though. I’ll look in the mirror, hair standing on end, burn marks on my face, smoke rising, and say, “NOW I’m sexy”.
Monday, October 17, 2005
I saw my mom last night. I’m going to see my dad tonight. I haven’t seen them together since about 1977. The day is coming soon when I’ll see them together again.
Life is strange. Beautiful but strange.
The girl I was madly in love with when I was ten was at the show the other night. It’s weird for us to be talking again in our mid-thirties. The strands of continuity in my life surprise me. The same pain and pleasure of crushes have been with me my whole life, transferred from person to person and situation to situation.
I felt it again at Harvard last year. The same unutterable anguish at not being able to have the dark-haired beauty that I wanted. The same feeling in the pit of my stomach as she smiled and said sweetly, “I just like you as a friend.”
Have I grown up at all from age ten to age thirty-five, from the first early crushes to the latest one?
I think this last time, maybe, I had a breakthrough. I faced my craving in all its terribleness. I didn’t block it out of my mind. I just felt the pain, day after day, for months on end until slowly it passed away. I think the next time I have a crush, if there is a next time, it won’t be so bad.
I can finally say good-bye to the girl I loved when I was ten. I can finally move towards something less about pleasure and pain.
Slip Slidin' Away
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
Things seem to be moving forward with K, ineluctably. Boy would it be strange to have someone around all the time. “How could I do this if she were here right now,” I thought today as I was working on a song. The hotel rooms are so small and I’ve always needed total privacy to work on music. And she’s always watching TV. Actually, maybe that would work. Maybe the sound of the TV would cover my creative mumblings so I could feel secure. Ahh, it’s stupid to worry about it. I’m sure everything will work out.
It’s all so exciting. What an adventure.
She wants to have kids, three of them, and “as soon as possible”.
“Are you sure you want three?”
“Well, maybe one kid and then a pair of twins”.
She also said she’d be OK with taking them on the road.
I had a good talk with an old friend about K last night. He is the ultimate jade when it comes to relationships, as I have been historically too.
“What’s going to happen when you become attracted to someone else?”
“What’s going to happen when she falls in love with someone else?”
“Do you really think that two intelligent, dynamic people can be together for life?”
He described one of his long-term relationships as like “dragging a piece of furniture around” wherever he went.
I totally sympathize with the guy.
Yet I’m still moving forward. This thing just seems to have a gravity that I can’t escape, nor do I feel particularly inclined to escape it. All my fears about commitment are slowly dissolving. Perhaps that’s one of the benefits of getting older. Even if you make a decision that ruins the rest of your life, it’s only half of your life that you’re ruining. Screw it.
The thing about K too is that I already feel committed to her. I know no promises have been made but somewhere over the course of knowing her these last eight years I just became bonded to her on a very deep level, deeper than the level of conscious vows. It would feel strange to break that bond and start up with someone else at this point. Actually, I want whatever’s best for the both of us, whatever’s most natural. If she finds someone where she is, and she’s happy with him, then I’m happy for her. At that point, I would have no qualms about moving on and starting anew. I think.
Plan B would definitely be to find someone at school, though I have very little faith in that method, or in the meditation community back east starting next summer. School didn’t work out too well last semester, as far as mate-finding goes, because the women are just so young and so not into the idea of getting hitched up. I don’t blame them. They’ve got three-quarters of their lives ahead of them and tons of ambition. Who like that would want to be a rock star wife? There was just no magic there between me and them.
The meditation community is much more promising. I could find someone closer to my age and we would definitely share the most important thing to me, the meditation teaching and helping others come in contact with it and benefit from it. And she would also most likely live back east near my parents. Maybe her parents would live there too.
I feel like if I can get my family thing squared away, I can make a stronger commitment to the band. Without that missing piece of the puzzle, I just don’t want to go back on the road again for another cycle of shows, interviews, videos, photo shoots, and lonely hotel rooms. Those guys all have their women folk and are well on their way to starting their families, to the extent that they want them. I’ve got nothing. And NO, I can’t find someone on the road, if that’s what you’re thinking. I can’t find someone in the world of rock. It would have happened by now if that was possible. I’ve got to settle down and be stable, live in one place for a while. Then things will fall into place naturally.
Whether it’s Plan A or Plan B it’s going to happen.
In The Hot Seat
Wednesday, October 19, 2005
Mmm, mmm . . . coke over ice.
Last night’s show was a little better. I felt a little less self-hatred and fear.
We added one Pinkerton song, “The Good Life”, and that seemed to get THAT part of the crowd on our side, at least in my mind.
Backstage the night before, Spike had reminded me of how I felt when I was working on Pinkerton: excited, proud, brave, daring, bold, original.
I’m looking out over Central Park from the window of my hotel room on the tenth floor. Tomorrow morning we’re doing Howard Stern. I’m nervous as heck. My stomach is already in knots. Bad enough that we have to perform live on the air, at 8:30 in the morning, but we’ll also most likely be interviewed. Who knows what he’s going to ask me about. I don’t want to fall into the old weird world of Weezer routine.
Scott had some good advice.
“This is just how I’m living now,” he advised me to say. “It’s working for me.”
“Yeah, but what if he asks me something like ‘what’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done backstage?’”
“Meditation!” hahaha, we both laughed. Scott’s the best. He makes it seem so easy to appear normal.
Ahhh, maybe Stern won’t even interview us. This is definitely the hell week, though. The hell week of the hell month. Tomorrow’s Stern, then we fly to Los Angeles for a 2-day video shoot, then Leno and dinner with Jimmy Iovine, and then three shows, two for our hometown crowd. Could I have a little more stress, please? I shouldn’t complain. Most bands would kill to have this many opportunities. Anyway, the tour’s almost over.
The other night as I was walking back to the stage from the soundboard where I played “Island”, a woman grabbed me from the first row of the stands and pulled me towards her mushing my face into her breasts. She cradled me there for a good ten seconds before security pried me loose. She was telling me that she loved me.
Clean and Safe
Thursday, October 20, 2005
Scott gave me some of his sampler toothpaste from his dentist in Cleveland yesterday. It was vanilla flavored. Gross! I almost yacked.
I like to brush my teeth before I go onstage. It’s a little ritual. It keeps the mic from getting gamey, too, over the course of the tour. Now that I have my own mic things are pretty cool but back in the day when we were touring the clubs, using the clubs’ mics that are used by hundreds of other lead singers each year, I used to encounter some horrendous flavors that made me wonder where the mics had been.
Other daily rituals include orange soda after the show in a cup with ice. I don’t know why but it really hits the spot. I also pee before I go onstage but that’s not so much a ritual as a matter of necessity as I’ll be downing a lot of liquid and unable to reach a bathroom for another hour-and-a-half. It sucks to have even the slightest need-to-pee sensation while you’re onstage.
It’s funny how people think I travel through some kind of “underground tunnel” to get to the soundboard to perform “Island”. I just walk through the crowd and no one notices. I’m the biggest non-rock-star of all time.
Lonnie is our security guy and I’m not exaggerating when I say he must be almost three times the overall mass of me. I feel kind of cheesy sometimes walking around with such an obvious display of manly force but that seems to be the way our management team wants to roll these days. He’s a great guy, anyway, Lonnie. We were all a little intimidated by him at first, but when we had our first get-to-know-you conversation over dinner in Mexico City a few weeks ago, we were much reassured to hear his musical tastes.
“I’m an eighties man. Phil Collins. I like Celine Dion too.”
I love anyone that upturns a stereotype. A big, hulk of an ex-football player who just wants to sing along with “One More Night”. We all need a little love.
Bacon, Rhubarb, and Bouillon
Friday, October 21, 2005
I have the slowest internet connection of all time here. “1985-slow,” as someone put it in production.
Elisha Cuthbert just spent fifteen minutes screaming into my ear about what a loser I am and, alternately, cooing how much she likes me. Tears actually came to my eyes.
I guess it’s time to start saying goodbye to all the women I won’t have now. All the possibilities. The movie stars, the other successful musicians, the orchestra violinists, the law-students, the med-students, the fun, bad-girls, the the young ones, the bossy ones, the pure ones, the serious meditators, the natural-born leaders . . .
It’s so hard to let go, but it’s not like I ever had them anyway. The only choice that’s confronting me now is one . . . or nothing.
It’s tough to concentrate right now. The other guys (and Peggy) are in the trailer with me gabbing. . . oops . . . gotta run to the set.
Pepperjack cheese with pita bread isn’t cutting it. I wish we had some utensils in here so I could attack the fruit with impunity.
“How do you spell ‘Iovine’?” says Scott.
Knock knock knock.
“We’re ready for you guys.”
I can see why she’s the TV star and I’m the songwriter. She looks amazing on camera and I look gross. It’s weird too because she looks pretty in person but she looks AMAZING on camera. The make-up girl said she’s “so fun to do cuz the make-up just slides on. I had to mix together six different eye shadows just to make our session last ten minutes.”
It’s getting late and I still haven’t meditated yet. I’ll have to sneak it in sometime soon; maybe break it up into two or more sessions. I’ve learned the hard way not to make a big deal about it: nothing seems more diva-like to people than to inconvenience them for the sake of meditation.
Scott’s killing it down there. “I’m sick of your f***in’ bulls**t!!!”
“La-la-la,” says Elisha, covering her ears.
I never thought I would have to do so much extra-musical stuff to be a musician when I was growing up. I never wanted to act. The thought never occurred to me. I just wanted to play guitar.
I think we’re having fun though. It’s just the latest challenge in a year of new challenges for all of us in Weezer.
Roll with the changes.
I’ve got the new Nickelback song stuck in my head. That was funny what the guy said on Stern yesterday.
That went pretty well, didn’t it? It was an interesting cross of personalities. Howard seemed very sincere about his days in a quasi-monastery and his days with transcendental meditation.
“Transcendental Meditation” is the kind of meditation that Rick Rubin does, and the kind that I did as a child in the ashram, and the kind that the Beatles did. In TM, you focus on a mantra . . . wait . . . hold on.
“Get a French bulldog. You won’t regret it!” said one of the extras as I was walked by the theater room.
Many of the crew are humming the chorus from Perfect Situation compulsively. That’s a good sign. One guy started whistling Buddy Holly.
Marc Webb just told me that he used to see me every day at 10am walking down Sunset from my apartment by Rick’s to our office space at Sweetzer. He said I was always carrying a notebook.
“Why didn’t you say hi?”
“Well, I didn’t know you. That would have been weird.”
I gravitate towards the Mead composition books. I’ve used them on and off—mostly on—since 1989. Most of the blue album songs were in Mead books. Greyhound lost them shortly before the blue album came out when I shipped them by bus from Connecticut to Los Angeles along with my trumpet and clarinet. Boy was I pissed. They didn’t even give me any money in compensation. “Those notebooks could be priceless someday,” I thought. I was pissed too because whoever stole my stuff would place no value whatsoever on those notebooks. Who knows how many songs were lost.
That was a rough spring. My stuff was lost; the earthquake happened (far more unsettling psychologically than you might expect); no money; hardly any food; no furniture; and Kurt Cobain died. It was a very inauspicious start to what turned out to be the breakout year of our lives.
1994. Of all the music from that era, it’s Hole’s “Live Through This” that really defines it for me. If women could rock, singing about their personal lives, and be successful, then ANYONE could, nerds included. Other records from that period may be more timeless but “Live Through This” has the distinction of sounding more like 1994 than any other.
It did come out in 1994, didn’t it?
“Perfect Pizza Situation!” said Karl right now. ‘Scuse me while I grab a slice.
Goin’ home. Good night.
Sunday, October 23, 2005
This morning when I got off the bus there was a guy standing there.
“Are you with the tour?” he asked.
He wanted the tour manager’s name so he could inquire about taking the leftover food from the venue after the bands leave. He wanted to take it to “the mission.” I took his number and told him I would give it to Stuart.
He seemed harmless enough, and sincere. There’s something a little sketchy about someone waiting outside the bus at 7:30 in the morning however.
I took karate lessons when I was twenty to twenty-one. I told my sensei eventually that I had to stop because I was “getting serious about playing the piano.” In that style of karate, Kyokushin, we would punch planks and hit our shins repeatedly with sake bottles to build up the calcium deposits on our bones. Our head teacher, Mas Oyama, purportedly fused all his knuckles together in this manner till he had one “superknuckle” on each hand.
I knocked someone out once in a sparring match and immediately cried quietly because I felt so bad.
Takashi was the guy who got me into Kyokushin. I met Takashi at Los Angeles City College in the spring of 1991. That’s right about the time I met Pat and Matt.
I also met a girl named Sonia at LACC that spring. She approached me in the computer lab and asked me some bogus question just as a means of starting a conversation with me. I couldn’t believe it. A pretty girl actually wanted to talk to me. She was one of those rare super-hot Latinas that actually for some reason wants to talk to pasty white guys. She was Argentine. Matt and I used to say “There is a God” when either of us would have inexplicable luck like this.
I took typing, Psych 101, and English 101 that semester. It was in my English class that I heard the analogy of the unraveling sweater. Dr. Eisenstein used the image to demonstrate the effectiveness of focused thesis statement in an essay. “All I have to do is hold a single thread in your sweater and it will unravel as you walk away.”
By the way, it’s “HOLD this thread” not “PULL this thread.” I know it sounds like PULL on the record but it’s definitely supposed to be HOLD. I’m thinking that maybe Brian sang the wrong word (he joined the band just in time to do those vocal tracks) and I didn’t notice at the time. We were really rushed to finish the album.
We saw Blue Man Group with Ric Ocasek round about the time we finished the Blue album. And “P”, Ric’s wife Paulina, had a baby round about the time we mastered it. I remember thinking that we had totally botched it—the guitars were too loud, the drums were too dry, the vocals were too low, and the energy of our live show had completely avoided being captured in the studio. (I love the Blue album now, though, and I think we did a great job, especially for a first album, and especially on such a limited budget.) The press was quick to viscerate us for being slick, lifeless, major-label rock and I took it all like poisoned daggers in my heart.
Last night a woman grabbed me in the crowd again.
“Kiss me!” she screamed.
Voice Over Internet Protocol
Monday, October 24, 2005
I talked to K again last night. I’m going to see her in December. We’ll see how things go. In the meantime, I’m racking up a hefty Skype bill.
Last night I saw Sheeny and her cousin. I told them about the developments with K.
“Did you tell her she has to meditate?” Susie asked.
“I didn’t make it a condition for getting married. It’s not something you can force a person to do.”
“Yeah,” she said, “and when two people are close they naturally become interested in what the other is doing. She might come to it on her own.”
“Yeah,” added Sheeny. “I suspect she might do well at it. After all, she is quiet and strong.”
K IS quiet and strong. She’s not the kind of person that has to be blabbing her every feeling to you all the time. She has some self control.
She can also communicate intimately, though. When I saw her in August I was going through a crabby spell. She finally burst into tears and said, “I’m sad because my family made a lot of effort to make you happy and comfortable here and it seems like you don’t appreciate it.” Woah. I felt an ache in my heart and immediately realized that I had been acting like a tool.
I think she’ll be able to discipline kids too. Her family was very strict with her when she was growing up.
“They would lock me in a storage space when I was naughty.”
“. . .”
“Only for five minutes, though.”
Apparently, her dad was particularly strict about the way she held her chopsticks.
I met her dad in August. He seemed like the coolest guy. He came right out on the street to meet me and help me carry my stuff in. Most fathers in his culture are not so welcoming to potential suitors of their daughters—especially foreign ones, I imagine.
I have a long history of being hated by girlfriend’s fathers. Michelle Labonte’s in eighth grade. Jodi Klemyk’s in 1988. I loved Jodi so much but her dad thought I was the scum of the earth (which I unquestionably was). He made it very difficult for me to see her. I even wrote him a long letter explaining how sincere and well-intentioned I was. I never heard back from him. I even built her little brother a skateboard ramp. All for naught. To him, I was just a freaky, long-haired loser that was after his daughter.
It must be tough to have a teenage daughter. Pat recently quipped that letting a teenage daughter out on a date must be like “handing a priceless Stradivarius over to a gorilla.”
Perhaps someday I’ll find out what that’s like. Perhaps someday I’ll have a girl.
A half-Japanese girl.
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
“If I don’t get pit action,” said Dave Grohl, pointing to the dark wet circles under his arms, “the whole first part of my show is ruined.” He was jumping up and down, flailing his arms like a severely retarded cheerleader.
I had snuck into the Foos dressing room to pilfer an orange soda only to discover that they hadn’t left for the stage yet. They were still in the midst of their warm-up routine, blasting Slayer and bouncing around the room.
I pick Dave’s brain whenever I can about frontman techniques: he’s seriously one of the best I’ve ever seen and I’m obviously one of the worst.
I’ve gotten a lot better over this tour though.
Now if only I could learn how to talk onstage. That’ll be my next question for Dave.
Bruce Reich was at the show last night, the composition professor from UCLA who gave Brian and me quite a few lessons. He seemed very impressed. Lindsay, Rick Rubin’s assistant, was there too. Jordan was there. Todd Sullivan was there. My friend Adam was there.
Adam said it was weird to see me singing without a guitar. It sure is fun for me, though. Don’t Let Go has been a total blast. I can’t believe how much better that song has gotten.
Jordan said he found the perfect woman for me.
“After all the help you gave me with my relationship I’m going to turn things around now and hook you up.”
“. . . “
“Well, I’ve been talking to K recently.”
“Rivers, you don’t understand. This girl is so hot!”
Figures. Recently there’s been a spate of opportunities, like the women grabbing me in the crowd. Two nights ago Brian saw a woman flash me from the stands, jiggling herself as I walked over to the side of the stage. I didn’t even see her.
So now the whole world knows that we pilfer things from the Foos room from time to time.
Yesterday we found a large bag of Famous Amos cookies sitting on the table in our dressing room.
“That must be a joke from the Foos,” said Pat with a guilty look on his face.
“I’ve been eating their cookies every day and I guess they finally decided to just give me the whole bag.”
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
Pat Finn was there tonight. He played Undone with us. That would have been a perfect opportunity to tell a story on stage.
Pat Finn was the guy who introduced me to Pat and Matt, and the guy that introduced them to each other. I was working at Tower Records on Sunset Boulevard in 1990-1991. One day a skin-head looking punk came in to start his first day of work. It was Pat Finn. I thought he was the coolest thing ever. A real punk.
At the end of his shift he inexplicably said “Hey man, do you want my peanut butter and banana sandwich?”
Food was at a premium at the time for me.
A real punk not only talked to me but gave me his sandwich.
I idolized him. He was always trying to get our boss to punch him so he could file for unemployment or sue or something. He also always tried to grab my nuts forcefully. I didn’t know if he was gay or just insane but I thought he was the coolest. I tried to get him in my horrible metal band to be a DJ of all things. For some reason he was interested in playing music with me too but on HIS terms.
One day he said, “You’ve got to meet my friend Winky Smiles.”
I went over to his apartment on Gordon and saw first thing as I entered a large grown man lying in a heaping pile of filth and garbage. He looked up.
“Hey Man.” It was Pat Wilson.
They played me Morrissey songs and I tried my best to understand why it was cool because I knew that it was but I couldn’t. Everything they played me had clean jangly guitars and that just didn’t jibe with my heavy metal background.
“This is great stuff,” I said. I knew I had to latch on to Pat Finn.
We eventually formed a band, Sixty Wrong Sausages. Jason Cropper was in the band too. We all wrote and took turns singing. Four-tracking was on in full force.
Pat Finn also joined Kyokushin with me. He was gangly at first but he came to kick some serious ass eventually because of his incredible determination.
He was one really intense guy, kind of like me. He was a vegetarian, a conspiracy theorist, a punk. He told me about a musical duo he had formed back in Buffalo called “Skraper”. The other member was apparently a Teutonic titan who rapped a violent breed of nonsense. I had a pretty scary image in my mind and was surprised eventually when I met the guy, a complete lamb of soul, when he helped me move into my apartment with Pat and Matt. I’m talking about Karl.
Pat Finn was the nexus between all of us, Pat, Matt, Karl, me, the guys in Wax, the guys in the Dum Dums.
It was cool to play with him tonight.
He’s married and his wife has a nine-year-old (?) by a previous marriage. The girl goes to a “Waldorf” school. I want to find a special school for my kids too. I want them to practice meditation every day like we did in the Yoga School.
I called K again this morning. I pointed out to her that our last show is in Vegas in a few days. She could meet me there.
Vegas. You get what I’m saying?
She said I’m crazy.
I AM crazy.
Thursday, October 27, 2005 9:52 AM
I think I pulled one of my gluteus maximi last night.
I don’t know why I have the reputation for being the systematic thinker: I think it’s Brian. He came up with a brilliant scheme for solving the cover song conundrum (you know, the fact that four guys can never agree on one song to cover.) We each selected two songs and put them in a hat. Each day we draw a song and have to learn it and play it at sound check. Yesterday we did Gary Newman’s “Are Friends Electric?” for Pat and today we’re doing “I Don’t Know How to Love Her” from Jesus Christ Superstar for me. Everyone’s happy.
And this boy has notebooks, too. Yesterday we got in an argument because both of us thought we were supposed to learn the keyboard part. I had filled a page of my Mead book with notes.
“See, I did all this work!”
“Pshhh . . . Look at this!”
Bri pulled out some fancy French notebook with graph lines on the pages and leaf after leaf of notes on all the different keyboard parts of the song. The lyrics were printed out, cut, and carefully pasted around the notes he had drawn.
“Hmph. . . I guess you can play the keyboard if you want.”
He ended up letting me play the keyboard anyway.
We call him the “MD” sometimes, or “musical director”. He’s the one who always seems to have his act together the most and he’s always shouting out the changes to us so we don’t get lost.
We are anticipating all out war on the last night of the Foos tour. Apparently they dropped 50,000 ping pong balls on the Chili Peppers.
“Yet, if she said she loved me
I'd be lost; I'd be frightened
I couldn't cope
Just couldn't cope
I'd turn my head
I'd back away
I wouldn't want to know
She scares me so
I want her so
I love her so...”
For The Statistically Minded
Monday, October 31, 2005
1994 The Blue Album 3,004,160 1996 Pinkerton 784,655 2001 The Green Album 1,549,531 2002 Maladroit 590,718 2005 Make Believe 804,627
The Blue album Reissue 69,778
Beverly Hills ITUNES sales 591,164
(Hey some people are really into this stuff.)
These are SOUNDSCAN figures for the number of albums scanned in the U.S.
Album awards are granted based on number of albums shipped, not scanned.
Jordan's theory is that one new album equals two old albums because of "illegal" downloading. Factor that in if you will.
The Big, Pink Building
Sivadas is a movie star! Pretty interesting. You all may know him as Liev Schreiber. I remember him as being a little older and a lot taller than me, and quite rough as far as playmates go.
My father was like that too. In some of my earliest memories I’m being tortured by “da nubs” or “da pincer” or I’m being tickled to death.
What a class we had, not more than twenty five kids at any one time, but producing one movie star and two rock stars (the bass player from the Dave Matthews Band also went to the Ashram School.)
I saw some of my classmates last night, Lakshmi, Sumati, Radha, and Ravi, some of whom I hadn’t seen since I was about 10. The sisters told me something disturbing, that their mom remembers me as being a “problem child”, “angry”, “grumpy”, and “intense”. Apparently, all the parents would get together and have meetings about me. I guess I wasn’t very heedful of authority—I would just do my own thing—and I had a troubling amount of influence over the other kids.
They brought me some fudge, a book one of them wrote, and a magazine that had an interview with Liev and his mom about the yoga school days.
Those WERE the days, man.
Acres of beautiful, New England property in upstate Connecticut, a bizarre Romanesque mansion painted pink, organic gardens, a Japanese Tea house, oodles of interesting hippies and alternative folk from around the world, plenty of other kids to play with, and an extremely loving, supportive, and vast network of adults to raise us.
Why was I so angry? Why was I so intense?
Sumati is now a grandmother! They married young, those girls that stayed at the ashram after my family left. They tended to have kids quickly, and a lot of them. My brother and I have been barren even into our impending middle age. I wonder what we would have been like if we’d stayed at the ashram.
It was a real shock to enter the “real world” in sixth grade, public school. I was no longer a big fish in a little pond. I became an extremely small fish.
Liev left the Ashram, too. I wonder if he had kids. I wonder how he fared when he first hit the “real” world.
I think I’m going to rent some of his movies and see how he’s turned out.
Those were the days, man. Those were the days.
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
I’ve been getting an inordinate amount of advice from eighteen year-olds on my love life.
My dad seems to understand my situation. He says he went through a similar process in finding his wife about twenty-five years ago. His first commitment was to God and his religion. He was celibate for several years. He became clear on what he was looking for in a partner. He met Lila. He “dispassionately” analyzed the situation. He didn’t “fall in love” and he didn’t “see stars”. There never was a “sudden thunderstorm”. He calmly concluded that they would make a great team. Over the years, true love seeped in like “dew, deep into the ground.”
K’s mom on the other hand is a little concerned by my lack of passion. She advised K: “Well, tell him you won’t get married unless he asks YOU to marry him!” She suspects that I don’t care to whom in particular I get married.
Jen Wilson was a little concerned too. “You might be selling yourself short if you settle for a relationship without that passion. You need—”
Pat interrupted her suddenly.
“Now, the world don't move to the beat of just one drum, What might be right for you, may not be right for some.”
He was singing and making hand motions to illustrate the lyrics.
“I’m serious,” continued Jen. “You deserve—”
”Diff'rent Strokes. It takes, Diff'rent Strokes. It takes, Diff'rent Strokes to move the world.”
Pat’s point, I think, is that everyone is different and maybe the relationship that’s right for me is different from the stereotypical romantic relationship.
Scott agreed when I asked him.
“Everybody’s different, bro’. Everybody needs different things.”
That was especially reassuring coming from him because I know how glad he is that he waited to find the right person.
I really think K is the right person. And she was right here all along. I just needed to grow up.
We narrowly avoided disaster last night. She copied me on an email she sent to Stuart about our December visit requesting that she be put into economy class while it was OK for me to be in First. I was flabbergasted. I had thought we were going to be a team. Equals. How could she be OK with flying Third class to my First? I took it as a sign that she didn’t want to incur the commitment that would come with allowing me to pay so much money for her. I skyped her immediately. She said I had misunderstood her. She wasn’t afraid of commitment but just couldn’t bring herself to spend so much of anyone’s money on a single flight.
“My dad just bought a car for that amount!”
We both agreed to fly Business.
I hope we can make these decisions as a team in the future.
I want a partner.
Not a housekeeper.
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
People. There’s not much more time left. I’m heading out to the center tomorrow or the next day and there I’ll have no internet access. The course starts in three days.
I wanted to write a few words of good wishes to everyone. I’m sorry I haven’t been blogging lately; I’ve been working on a big article for Jane magazine and another essay for re-re-admission to Harvard. I’m having fun.
Thanks for being such great fans and friends, advisors and teachers, coaches and cheerleaders.
Good wishes also to my family and my work colleagues; and good wishes to my band.
I’m going into a cell for fifteen days of Vipassana. I intend to face as much of my sadness, anger, fear, and craving as I can and come out a happier person.
I’ll see you on the other side!
Peace and love,
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
i am currently in myanmar where use of my cell phone and all of my email accounts is blocked by the government. i'll be in a free nation again on dec. 6.
I can't check my messages on Myspace either. I'm surprised I can blog.
Letter For Readmission To Harvard--2005
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
Dear Dr. ****,
This letter is to inform you of my intention to return to Harvard next semester and to fill you in on what I’ve been up to since I left.
After final exams in January, I went to Los Angeles to finish Weezer’s fifth album, Make Believe, which debuted on May 10 at number 2 on the Billboard album chart, our highest position ever, and which was just certified platinum. The first single, “Beverly Hills”, went to number 4 on the pop singles chart, making it our biggest hit ever by far. The current single, “Perfect Situation”, and its video, are doing well also. The album received mixed reviews but I believe it is one of our best.
Since Make Believe was released, Weezer performed with many other top artists including an extended tour with the Foo Fighters and one-off gigs with some of my biggest influences, Oasis and Public Enemy. We toured all over Europe, America, and Japan and broke new ground in Brazil and Mexico. We worked purposefully to improve our show and I worked especially hard to improve myself as a front-man. Almost all fan reports and critical reviews expressed surprise at the improvement in our show.
We did a lot of publicity, including a cover story for Rolling Stone magazine and performances on The Howard Stern Show, Late Night With David Letterman, The Tonight Show With Jay Leno, and The Jimmy Kimmel Show.
We made two of our best videos, I think, for the singles “We Are All On Drugs” and “Perfect Situation”. We took these projects as artistic challenges and worked really hard. I pushed myself particularly in the domain of acting—which I’d completely shied away from since childhood.
Throughout the year, I downloaded the most popular songs on the Billboard Hot 100 and listened to them on shuffle as I ran on the treadmill. Similarly, I read many of the bestselling books, both fiction and non-fiction, including Ron Chernow’s biography of Alexander Hamilton, Azar Nafisi’s Reading Lolita In Tehran, Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, Levitt and Dubner’s Freakonomics, and Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. I read Newsweek magazine fairly regularly. I got a better sense of the medium in which my work exists, where I want to fit in, and where I don’t.
I kept a web-log that which received about 700,000 page views. I wrote articles for Ellegirl and Jane magazines, one called “My Apartment” and the other about my trip to Asia. I view my literary efforts as just another means of being creative and hopefully spreading a positive influence.
I traveled to India to visit my meditation teacher S.N. Goenka and to Myanmar to see the sites related to our tradition. Unfortunately, I couldn’t meet with Mr. Goenka because of his sudden ill health, but I still received tremendous inspiration from visiting the home Vipassana center and meeting so many other serious meditators. The trip was documented for possible inclusion in a film.
I attended several Vipassana meditation courses around the country including the 20-day course in March in Massachusetts. I also studied the Buddha’s discourses and other critical and historical texts related to the Buddha’s life and teaching.
I got closer to my parents, uncovering within myself a sense of responsibility for and connection with them. My mother is now a Vipassana meditator too and I am enjoying the feeling of security and support that comes with having multiple generations within a family walking on the same spiritual path. My father saw me perform this year for the first time and we are getting to know each other after not having much contact while I was growing up. I appreciate the sudden fatherly influence in my life and am surprised at how much we have in common.
I am looking forward to coming back to Harvard in the spring and finishing what I started back in 1995. My motivation is much different now than it was then: then I was terribly discontent and dreaming of being a classical composer, a writer, or basically anything that I wasn’t; now I just want to enjoy my life and do the responsible thing—graduate.
Take care. I will see you soon.
(2005-07-05) [revised and edited]
Here's the 2004 letter again:
What I’ve Been Up To Since I Left School Weird Science
After the initial failure of my band’s second album, Pinkerton, I decided not to return to school in the fall of 1997, instead setting out on a mission to develop creative methods which would allow me to be more consistent as an artist. Above all, I wanted to cure myself of the Romanticism which I believed was to blame for my failure.
Throughout 1998 and 1999 I engaged in hundreds of song-experiments. I filled notebooks and cassette tapes. I drew graphs, tables, and charts. I studied other songwriters’ methods. I took hundreds of pages of notes on the creative process, mostly from Nietzsche, but also from Goethe and Stravinsky.
At first, I maintained a relatively normal social life, playing and coaching soccer and continuing my classical piano studies with Bruce Sutherland. Eventually, however, I became more and more isolated. I unplugged my phone. I painted the walls and ceiling of my bedroom black and covered the windows with fiberglass insulation. I disciplined myself to the extreme. My goal was to purge myself of all weakness so that I could write “perfect” songs as reliably as a machine.
Most of the time, I believed that I was optimistic and happy. The song-experiments, however, produced music of less and less joy and, occasionally, I would fall into despair. At one point, in September of 1999, I actually gave up my mission and decided to go back to school, sacrificing my music career indefinitely. I contacted Dean Thomas Dingman to gain admission, but learned that I had missed the registration deadline by two weeks. I could only move forward with the music.
I struggled on for two-and-a-half years in all. I finally concluded that such intense focus on musical perfection was only scaring off any real inspiration I might have had. I decided I needed to broaden my focus onto a more practical, tangible goal, in the hopes that the music would start to flow in service to that goal. I read in Nietzsche that “great” men like Julius Caesar, Cesare Borgia, and Napoleon found their genius through practical activity, on the battlefield, in the pursuit of worldly ambitions. They were not locked away in a study like me. I decided to follow the example of these men, step onto the battlefield, and pursue “World domination”. I hoped this goal would spark my creativity. .
World domination—or, in terms applicable to me, commercial success—meant making the most of what I had, musically, and becoming active with my band again, and making an album and touring. I swallowed my creative insecurities for the sake of that success and revealed my songs to close associates in early 2000. Their positive reactions led to rehearsals, which led to performances. We discovered that during our long absence, we had only become more popular. Our “failed” album, Pinkerton, was now viewed by many critics and fans as great. With momentum behind me, I kept writing. At the end of 2000, we entered the studio to make our long overdue third album. Imperial Aspirations
The Green Album was released in May of 2001, going on to sell over two million copies worldwide. We toured extensively, playing our biggest concerts ever. We performed on Saturday Night Live and at the MTV Movie Awards. The album’s success at radio and MTV, and in foreign markets wherein we had had no previous success, seemed to me to validate the approach I had taken with myself and my art. I quickly became the opposite of the unconfident hermit I had been in 1998 and 1999. I now believed that my band would become “the biggest band in the world” and that I was the man to lead us to that destiny.
I sought to cultivate the same ruthless practicality in my business that I had achieved in my music. I studied the lives of Napoleon and David Geffen, Machiavelli’s “The Prince”, and contemporary texts on leadership and management. I gradually took over all of the business responsibilities from our manager and managed the band completely by myself. My performing, writing, and recording continued but were now joined by my business activities, all of which together I viewed as converging on the one goal of “world domination”. I read books on business and negotiating. I hired a staff. I reformed our operation, renegotiated contracts, and consolidated power. I found it easy to gain ground in negotiations because no music businesspeople wanted to “play hardball” with “the artist”. Furthermore, I believed we were able to grow with integrity, as I could now make informed choices, seeing for once exactly how the business worked.
However, I also steered us into many bitter battles, including two lawsuits and many other very tense negotiations. For example, in order to demonstrate our independence from the record company in the new age of digital media, I shut them out of the making of our fourth album, Maladroit. We financed and produced the album entirely ourselves, sending hundreds of copies of the finished product to press and radio—but none to our record company. The record company could only watch on the sidelines as the single quickly climbed the charts, and the fans downloaded the promotional copies off the internet. At this point, we had what I believed was optimal leverage, and we renegotiated our contract.
Ultimately, however, Maladroit was not the big hit that it had threatened to be, selling only about three-quarters of a million copies. I had succeeded in improving our financial arrangement, but not in making a hit album. The record company blamed my shenanigans for the downturn in our success.
Many fans also criticized the music. They heard both Maladroit and The Green Album as being “mechanical” and “emotionless”. I tried to evaluate the criticism objectively but I made little progress. I had extinguished my faculty of self-criticism in 1998-2000 in order to make the comeback. Now I could not tell if my current predicament was just a classic case of an audience lagging behind the development of an artist (as in the case of Bob Dylan when he went electric) or if I had I really “lost something”. I reacted defensively, calling the fans “little bitches” in an interview with Guitar World magazine. Now the fans were unhappy, the record company was unhappy, my associates were unhappy, and I was unhappy. I did not know what could be done to change that.
I fell further into ego and vice. Still, deep inside, I was having serious doubts. I asked myself, “Is my life really supporting the production of the kind of music I know I am capable of?” I had to admit that my music no longer gave me the feeling of sublime ecstasy that it once had. Although I had already written another large pile of songs for our fifth album, I put all plans to record on hold. There was a revolution brewing in my unconscious, soon to be triggered by the man we had hired a few months earlier to produce the album, Rick Rubin.
In February of 2003, Rick gave me a copy of Daniel Ladinsky’s translation of Hafiz’s poetry, The Gift. After overcoming my initial aversion to all things spiritual, I decided to read some of the book because I trusted Rick so much. Henry Mindlin, in his introduction to the book, says:
Hafiz wrote hundreds of ghazals [or love songs], finding ways to bring new depth and meaning to the lyrics without losing the accustomed association of a love song…He explored different forms and levels of love: his delight in nature’s beauty, his romantic courtship of that ideal unattainable girl, his sweet affection for his wife, his tender feelings for his child…his relationship with his teacher and his adoration of God.
I was struck by the connection between all these different forms of love. I recognized that the feeling of sublime ecstasy I once got from music was just one more of these forms of love.
I had an epiphany: if the feeling these mystics get in union with their God is analogous to the feeling I used to get in union with my music, then their teachings for how to achieve their union should likewise serve to instruct me how to achieve my union. A whole world of spiritual teachings therefore opened up to me for the first time since, as a child, I had decided that I was an “atheist”. I now read these spiritual teachings as coded instructions for how to connect with my musical creativity. For example, when Hafiz says, “Self-Effacement is the emerald dagger you need to plunge deep into yourself upon this path to …God”, I read it as “Self-Effacement is the emerald dagger you need to plunge deep into yourself upon this path to Musical Creativity.” Like this, I just replaced the word God wherever I saw it. I had discovered a new path which I believed was what I had been waiting for.
I eagerly studied a wide variety of traditions including the mystical poetry of Hafiz, Rumi, and Kabir, contemporary spiritual teachers, and ancient texts such as the Tao Te Ching. In accord with my understanding of these teachings, I abruptly dropped all of my business responsibilities and hard-won power, and isolated myself once again. I fasted and lost fifteen percent of my weight. I took a vow of complete celibacy. I gave away or sold most of my possessions, my house, and my car and lived in an empty apartment next to Rick’s house for the rest of the year. I settled outstanding lawsuits and reconciled myself with enemies. I apologized to many people. I volunteered six days a week at Project Angel Food in Hollywood, preparing meals for people with HIV. Balance
Thus, my life made another extreme swing, as it has many times since I was a teenager. I have been sometimes a tyrant, sometimes the most frustratingly passive person you have ever met, sometimes a socialite, sometimes a hermit, sometimes a rock star, sometimes a student. I have had little inner stability.
During this latest swing towards spirituality, however, I started a practice which may help me achieve some balance: meditation. Rick Rubin sent me some books on the subject but, at first, I would not read them. I thought that meditation would rob me of the angst that I believed was essential for my connection to music. All the crazy experiments I have tried in my life have always been an effort to improve, maintain, or recover that connection. Eventually, however, desperate for answers, I read the first three chapters of one of the books, Ken Mcleod’s guide to meditation, Wake Up to Your Life. His words hit me like a lightning bolt. I realized that, in a sense, I had been wrong all these years in trying to connect to my creativity by violent means, for example, by mining my adolescent anger for “Say it Ain’t So”, crucifying my leg for Pinkerton, or consuming Tequila and Ritalin for “Hash Pipe”. Mcleod says:
These devices [such as the ones above] do not work in the long run because they draw on our system’s energy to generate a peak experience. Peak experiences cannot be maintained, and when they pass, the habituated patterns and the underlying sense of separation remain intact. (xi)
Mcleod, and other sources I began reading, showed me a new way to work. Instead of generating peak experiences for inspiration, I could strengthen my power of concentration through meditation so that I could get more and more inspiration from weaker and weaker experiences. Not only that, but the practice would make my life better, and make better the lives of those that have to live with me. I started to meditate.
The technique I was drawn to is called Vipassana. It is taught around the world at over one hundred centers and temporary camps. (Go to www.dhamma.org for more information.) I started the practice fourteen months ago, attending seven ten-day courses and serving as a volunteer at two. Since then, I have found that the areas of tension in my mind—the fear, the anger, the sadness, the craving—are slowly melting away. I am left with a more pristine mind, more sharp and sensitive than I previously imagined possible. I feel more calm and stable. My concentration and capacity to work have increased greatly. I feel like I am finally much closer to reaching my potential.
I now live in a small but comfortable apartment. I feed myself adequately. I took a class at USC this spring, “The History of Literary Criticism”, and enjoyed it very much. I take private lessons in music composition once a week from Bruce Reich, a professor at UCLA. I still volunteer, once a week, now at the West Hollywood Food Coalition, feeding homeless or otherwise disadvantaged people. But most pleasing to me is that, month by month, I have watched my creative flexibility returning. The music I have created over the last six months has brought me much enjoyment.
I am returning to Harvard in the fall. Other than that, I am wide open to whatever else comes my way…
I'm serving a meditation course for the next ten days. See ya! :)