Category Archives: Going Forward

How Drum and Bass Ruined/Saved My Life

[youtube:http://youtu.be/cwI0gbGEyuI%5D

I walked into the dark, sweaty, smoky backroom in Loretta’s where Hazeus towered behind the decks bouncing a tangled mess of dreads to the roll of the ragga drums. It was love at first bass drop! (Insert every Hollywood movie cliché.) My heart skipped a beat, I had goose bumps, time froze…I was head over heels. Up until that moment I was very much into the rave scene but I loved the culture more than anything. House DJs were basically interchangeable to me and like most anything else to a 19-year-old boy, it was only a matter of time before I grew tired of it and moved on to the next “greatest thing ever.”

Drum and Bass was a completely different animal. While trance and house concentrated on simple, repetitive drums used to drive inspirational synth patterns and elevate the crowd into a sense of faux-euphoria, DnB took another approach to move the crowd.  It almost completely threw out all the pretty melodies, sped everything up nearly double time and turned its focus to… drums and bass. (duh!)  It was deep, moody, heavy and inspirational in its own way, and it was exactly what I needed in my life.

I felt empowered, important and privileged to be a part of this movement, as nearly every college kid feels about whatever it is that they are passionate about. Drum and bass quickly engulfed every aspect of my life. Nearly every CD in my car was a DJ mix, nearly every outfit in my closet was completely out-of-place anywhere but a nightclub, and every waking moment was spent thinking about the next party. Within a year the music was everything. “How can I go to class?  Tech Itch is playing tonight.” “Dom and Roland is playing Saturday. I never liked that job anyway.” “Family?  My family is at the party already.” Before I knew it I was a college dropout, unemployed and essentially homeless. I floated through life for half a decade like this and I had never been happier.

All great highs are followed by devastating lows and mine hit like a ton a bricks. I woke up one day to realize that somehow I had enlisted in the military, gotten married and become a father. What? When did I become so utterly normal? Wasn’t I special? I should’ve been someone by now. Why was I not a famous producer/DJ or at least running a record label? That was my path in life, right? I mean, the only thing I ever wanted to be was a rock star as far back as I could remember. While most boys were dreaming about being fighter pilots or firefighters, all I could picture was a stage in my future. But there I was in my mid 20s…aging early, overweight and nursing what had to be an undiagnosed case of clinical depression. I gave Drum and Bass my heart and she gave me nothing in return.

I look back now at that angry, ungrateful “man” with overwhelming embarrassment. If anything I am lucky to be alive, let alone a father to two beautiful children and a husband to a wonderful wife who stuck with me for better or WORSE. I can’t pinpoint the turning point when maturity knocked at my door. I’m just glad that it finally joined the party. It brought with it a peacefulness that I had never felt and a realization that I am anything but normal. I have seen half the world and I am nowhere near the end of my travels. I have never tucked a Hawaiian-style shirt into a pair of bermuda shorts. I have never owned sandals with Velcro straps and most importantly, I do not listen to Nickelback. I can’t be angry at DnB. In fact, I thank her for shaping me into who I am today. I really like this guy.

Drum and Bass, and more recently its offspring Dubstep, is still a huge part of who I am. I exercise to it, I dream to it, I drink to it. It is the soundtrack to a heaving handful of meaningful memories. It’s where I fell in love with the mother of my children and my partner in life. It’s playing as I write this. It will forever be a part of who I am. About a year ago I saw Dieselboy in San Diego and it was nothing short of amazing! After the show, out of nowhere, I actually shed a tear. The next morning it became clear to me that for the first time in a decade, I felt the magic again. I caught the dragon I had spent the last third of my life chasing. The music never left me out to dry and it certainly didn’t owe me anything. It has always been there — growing and evolving with me.


Find more artists like Roni Size at Myspace Music.

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“The Only Exception” — Paramore

This past spring, I had the painstaking task of picking ONE song for my soon-to-be-husband and me to use as our first dance at our wedding reception. Do not underestimate the gravity of this task. For a bride, this is huge. I struggled. Between his interest in indie and my love for good ol’ pop, it was proving to be more than difficult. It felt impossible.

And then I found Paramore‘s “The Only Exception”.

Okay… Soooooooooo, maybe I didn’t find Paramore… It was more like I was watching Glee. Yes. That’s what I said. GLEE.

Hi, my name is Kim. (Hi, Kim.) I’m a grown adult and I freaking.love.Glee.

Don’t hate. That show is awesome and we might as well put on our boxing gloves right now because I have sworn allegiance to Mr. Schuester and all things Glee. Sacrifice the body! VIVA LA GLEE!! 

Where was I… Oh yes, Paramore. This song stole my heart from the first few lines…

When I was younger I saw my daddy cry
and curse at the wind.
He broke his own heart and I watched
as he tried to reassemble it.

And my momma swore
that she would never let herself forget.
And that was the day that I promised
I’d never sing of love if it does not exist.

But darling,
You are the only exception.

My now husband and I both come from divorced families. Some say broken homes, we say *modern American families*. Although we have come to terms with (and truly love) our step parents and step/half siblings, there has been some residual damage to our faith in traditional love and marriage. We dated for five years before we decided to get engaged. We lived together for four for those years. Leading up to the engagement, we struggled with the *need* for marriage… what does it *mean* to be married… can we do it better than our own parents or are we doomed the same divorced fate… is it worth even trying… do we want to risk putting our future hypothetical offspring through a possible divorce…?

Maybe I know somewhere
deep in my soul
that love never lasts.
And we’ve got to find other ways
to make it alone.
Or keep a straight face.
And I’ve always lived like this
keeping a comfortable distance.
And up until now I’ve sworn to myself
that I’m content with loneliness.

Because none of it was ever worth the risk.

Well you are the only exception.

Well, we did get married and are happy little newlyweds. Due to years of therapy on both sides we are probably more prepared for the reality of marriage than our parents ever were. The goal is to learn from our parents’ mistakes… And in the unfortunate event we do decide to split, we’ll handle ourselves in a way that causes minimal damage to our little ones. Besides, having us as parents will give them PLENTY to tell their therapists without having to witness a nasty divorce.

I’ve got a tight grip on reality,
but I can’t let go of what’s in front of me here.
I know you’re leaving in the morning
when you wake up.
Leave me with some kind of proof it’s not a dream.

You are the only exception.

And I’m on my way to believing.
Oh, and I’m on my way to believing.

Of course, our parents didn’t go into their wedding saying, “He’ll be a great first husband.” It’s all unicorns and rainbows to start… So who knows? All we can do is take it one day at a time and keep the friendship aspect strong through the ups and downs. Today, like most newlyweds, our future is full of sunshine, babies, building our dream home outside of the city, family trips around the world, and watching each other wrinkle up and go grey.

We shall see…

Either way this song was perfect for our first dance. It’s honest in its immediate declaration of the effect our parents’ divorces had on our faith in love. It expresses the hesitation we both have to trust in the institute of marriage. But, most importantly, it sings a song for two jaded people who are deeply in love that are giving it a valiant effort.


Find more artists like Paramore at Myspace Music.

“The Wood Song” — The Indigo Girls (i.e., the song that saved my life)

I tried to kill myself when I was 17.  I know, I know… you’re thinking “hell, who doesn’t?”… but really.  I did.

It wasn’t a particularly dramatic attempt.  No pills, pistols, nooses or knives.  I simply lay down in the parking lot of City Park East on a bitterly cold night in January and decided I wouldn’t get up again.  Hypothermia: effective, yet kinder to the people who would find me later.

Earlier that evening, I had gone to a funeral home for the very first time.  The body of a dear friend was laid out on display which was slightly amazing since he’d shot himself in the head two days prior.  I walked up to the casket and stared; I had never seen a dead body before.  He looked strange… his face and hands looked waxy and fake… a body sans soul.  Everything that made him look like him was gone.  And it was never coming back.  Ever.

Our last interaction was a fight.  The day he shot himself, I had actually written “Call John” on my to-do list so maybe we could reconnect.  That same day, he told the last person to see him alive that he hated me and wanted to make my life a living hell. He very nearly succeeded.

The rumors spread.  He did it to spite me.  It was my fault. Or so my little grief-mortared brain believed.  And so I lay down on that asphalt, determined to make amends – life for a life, right?  I stayed there a long, long time.  Long enough that I stopped feeling my fingers.  Long enough that I stopped feeling cold.  Long enough that I stopped feeling anything.

And then an odd, startling sound broke my reverie.

I flinched… who the hell is at the park at this time of night?  Is it a drug dealer, a rapist, a psycho?  Is someone going to kill me?  And then it occurred to me… maybe I didn’t really want to die just yet.  I crawled to my car chanting “I’m gonna live so goddamn long and be so goddamn happy just to spite them…” under my breath.

That’s how the next couple of months went – metaphorically speaking.  I was too numb to walk, so I crawled.  I felt wooden.  And tired.  And old.  And every day I listened to the Indigo Girls remind me that it was supposed to be hard but that it was worth it.

…but what it takes to cross the great divide

Seems more than all the courage I can muster up inside

But we get to have some answers when we reach the other side

The prize is always worth the rocky ride

 

Now… I didn’t really believe them.  But I wanted to.  I wanted an answer.  And a prize at the end of the ride.  And so I listened.  Sometimes just wanting to believe is good enough to get you through.

I wish I had an answer to the great big “WHY?” that hangs over this memory, but I don’t. The song speaks of a “greater hand” and a “tricky plan,” and while that gives many people comfort, I’m not convinced that the divine plan ever includes things like suicide.  Or murder, or drunken car wrecks or childhood cancer or any number of other awful things.  I just don’t think God is an asshole, sadist or tyrant.  I don’t think S/He sends tragedy to teach us lessons.

And yet tragedy happens.  With alarming (ir)regularity.  And we are changed by it.  No other event in my life has shaped me like this one.

How are we to live with this?  This knowing that tragedy can strike unbidden at any moment?

 

But the question drowns in its futility

And even I have got to laugh at me

‘Cause no one gets to miss the storm of what will be

Just holding on for the ride

We walk.  We crawl if need be.  We laugh at ourselves and we hold on.  To each other especially.

Seventeen years have passed since that night.  I still miss my friend.  I include this song on almost every mix cd I ever make.  I refer to it as “the song that saved my life.”  I have tried to wring some good out of his death by allowing it to change me for the better, but you can bet your ass I would trade any virtue I may have gained for a single night at the Waffle House with him.  But until a genie pops out of some half-empty bottle of Shiraz and offers to alter time in exchange for my firstborn, I keep sailing my little wooden boat and chuckling to myself how things work out — I grew up to be a grief counselor.


Find more artists like Indigo Girls at Myspace Music.

“The Suburbs” — Arcade Fire

“The Suburbs” is the heavy opener and titular track from Arcade Fire’s grammy winning latest album. It is, in my opinion, a near-perfect opening and a summary for the entirety of the album. I myself, and I believe anyone, can connect with the universal message here that is perhaps not unique, but nevertheless both heart-wrenching and beautiful.

In the suburbs I
I learned to drive
And you told me we’d never survive
Grab your mother’s keys we’re leavin’

You always seemed so sure
That one day we’d be fighting
A suburban war
your part of town against mine
I saw you standing on the opposite shore

But by the time the first bombs fell
We were already bored
We were already, already bored

There is a clear idea here of an apocalypse, be it a literal one or rather the emotional wrecking of one’s reality. The secure bubble of childhood lost, “moving past the feeling” into the crushing sterility and starkness of consciousness, “into the night.” Right off there’s a sense of nostalgia, a feeling that for me almost becomes bitter throughout the song. The idea of a naïve sense of boredom even as “the first bombs fell” lends itself to the prominent theme of childhood.

Kids wanna be so hard
But in my dreams we’re still screaming, running through the yard

There’s a heartbreaking realization there: the difference in today’s youth and that of the suburb-dwelling generation of the 1970s. The responsibilities given and the adult roles taken by today’s youth are in stark contrast to the quieter, simpler beauty of a childhood spent in what seems in retrospect a dreamlike innocence.

The poignant image of “all of the houses they built in the seventies finally fall,” i.e., the death of the quintessential suburb, is I believe one of the key lines of the song. There’s a repeated reference throughout of a reverence for the past, the time before the end of the peaceful life of the suburbs. That part of life passes like “it meant nothing at all.” I see it as less of a physical end and perhaps more of a coming-of-age story, a classic pining for the days before the stifling, mind-numbing complacency of adulthood. The playful, simple chords would help suggest this; there’s a clear childlike playfulness throughout, despite the underlying melancholy of the lyrics.

After these unpleasant truths we’re asked:

So can you understand
Why I want a daughter while I’m still young
I wanna hold her hand
And show her some beauty
Before this damage is done

This phrase almost brings me to tears. After the clear ending of an entire way of life, growing up on a natural, untouched beauty, the onslaught of adulthood and the horrors faced in this modern age by ourselves and by nature brings a desperate desire for a daughter before it’s too late. To show her the beauty of the world while it still stands, before the evils we’ve set upon it rend it to an incomprehensible form. I can’t wait to have kids, because even in my short lifespan I’ve watched my childhood playgrounds become dangerous, supervision-dependent havens in what were once green and unfettered imaginariums. Even as air quality warnings prevent us from setting foot outside with a clear head and a worry-free heart, it’s imperative that we show our children the beauty still left in this world…that we watch the cool air kick up the skirts and blow the hair of our futures as they run out to play.

Image courtesy of http://www.burningwell.org


Under the overpass
In the parking lot we’re still waiting

It’s already passed

So move your feet from hot pavement and into the grass

Cause it’s already passed
It’s already, already passed

Whatever thing passes, be it a storm representative of the dangers we’ll face or indeed a hint of the coming end of our kid kingdom, we’re beckoned to move off the steaming pavement and feel the pleasantness of the cool grass between our toes.

Sometimes I can’t believe it
I’m movin’ past the feeling
Sometimes I can’t believe it
I’m movin’ past the feeling again

I know I already can’t believe the years that have passed, though I still (God-willing) have many yet ahead. Here we see that the narrator is moving past that stage of his life, moving on for better or for worse. But there’s clearly a lingering memory of a simpler time, of a better time. What we make of our future is all on us, and perhaps the only saving grace of the loss of that physical and mental world is that we learned from it what lessons we could. Regardless of how much we separate ourselves from whatever golden age we experienced, in our dreams “we’re still screamin.”


Find more artists like Arcade Fire at Myspace Music.