Change and Rest

•18 September, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Ho hum.

The reason I’ve not posted these last couple of weeks, despite the best of intentions, is that the most interesting thing happening to me at the moment is something I’m currently not allowed to talk about. And I probably won’t want to talk about it after it’s all over and done with. Suffice to say that I feel the winds of change blowing.

Frankly, the last couple of weeks have not been pleasant. I’d booked myself a little break from work to sort my head out because, as you may have gathered from recent posts, I’ve not been feeling great lately. In fact, I feel increasingly like a trapped animal and I’ve noticed myself lashing out because of it. It feels like I’ve become a less joyful person. And a meaner person. And I really don’t want to be this way. My mental health has taken a real drop on top of this general shrinking of myself in the last few weeks, and I’d hoped that a week of literally doing nothing would do me good.

No such luck. What I can say is that my employers have prevented my little rest cure, and that instead of getting myself sorted out, I’ve been unable to sleep for more than three hours at a time. I’ve been put on a short course of zopiclone to try to restart my cycle, but poorly kept hours are a relatively small part of my problem. Plus, I’ve discovered that it does nothing for stress-induced insomnia and makes you feel like utter shit the day after any nights you do manage to sleep on it.

So, one way or another, I’ll be taking a break from life. Ideally, I’d find a bed and breakfast in a mid-size Scottish town with wrestling in the local town hall, but I haven’t got the money even though the room price would be off-season. Instead, I’ll just be letting the days go by until I get thoroughly bored and start finding things to do. I’ll be trying to stay on the Exercise Wagon, because God knows I fall off it too easily if I allow myself to. But otherwise, this is about allowing my mind to stop panicking so I can actually start to concentrate on things again. And prioritise effectively. And do stuff rather than pottering round the flat in a fug of overloaded paralysis that has far more to do with preceived conflicts than reality.

Sure. It’s a noble thing to aim for. I’ve failed to get my head on straight before and I’m likely to fail again. But I suppose it’s the trying that counts, and if I can at least manage to put one or two healthy routines in place, I’ll feel a lot better for it. There are things that used to keep me sane that I’m not doing enough of anymore, and if I can just get myself doing them again, life may be less of an uphill struggle.

Some Half-Formed Thoughts

•9 September, 2014 • 2 Comments

Maybe for now this is my depression blog. I’ve been in a rough way for the past few weeks, but feeling like this has allowed me to find something at the centre of myself. It’s a burning flame. It’s anger and frustration at where I am and what I’ve become and it’s showing me a weak light through the mists of my current despair.

I’m not myself. I can feel it. Despite my outward self-assurance and my usual manic drive (if you’ve got a crazy plan, I’ve got the will to carry it through), I’m more reluctant to put myself out in the world than I used to be. Long-term readers of this blog, or anyone who knew me as an undergraduate, know exactly how opinionated I can be. Yet there are a lot of things I’ve not said on here recently because I can’t be bothered with the potential internet shitstorm. I blame facebook.

Really, it’s more about how I’ve used facebook since getting into music. I used to only add people I knew and kept my account to myself, but a desire for self-promotion has made me a very open user. This means I see the debates on other people’s open statuses and know how heated and disrespectful some people can be. I used to enjoy discussion, but every group on the internet acts like religious fanatics, especially if you dare to call into question a part of their crusade. While in a depressed state of mind, I don’t have the energy to moderate a debate here or on a facebook link on my timeline. So I avoid issues while keeping schtum, at least in terms of my writing here. Furthermore, in terms of expressing my deepest and darkest thoughts, I don’t feel as though I have a forum to vent anymore.

And so I remembered livejournal. Being a blog provider in essence, there was less inane chatter while still having a social-network-esque functionality. And that functionality meant that you ticked boxes as to who you shared with rather than having to close down from a big pool the way facebook does. My least judgmental friends and acquaintances could be shown some of my darkest thoughts in a space that felt safe to me. In fact, my last post on there was about something that, already in 2011, I felt I couldn’t say on facebook.

Other things have happened. I’ve been listening to albums I’ve not dug out in years. I’ve been actively trying to find ways to take control of my psychology again. I want to be the brave, kind lunatic I was, not the defensive, trapped animal I’m turning into.

The time right now is 3:06 am. And here I am writing. This me, this is what I do. This is how I deal with the world. I don’t think I’m back yet, but I think I’ve found the path back to where I was before I fell.

Feeling the Need

•4 September, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Chief among the reasons for my recent silence, I think, is the extent to which I’m treading water. I went back into the cinemas as a part-time job to fund a (failed) master’s degree, and ended up just kind of getting stuck there. An attempt to get out via temping ended up in the hardest six months of my life, and now I’m living with my mum and basically going nowhere for the moment. The band splitting up hasn’t helped any of this.

We’ve not been focussing on drummers. I went out and bought an Alessis SR-16 to tide us over for the drum work, and it sounds rather good through my old Peavey 75w PA system. We’ve auditioned one or two, but really the lack of available sticksmen means that getting one to hang around while we find a guitarist is unlikely. Especially with so many bands that would be able to get them straight into gigs. So we’ve auditioned guitarists week on week. We’ve had good players and bad players, lovely guys and arseholes, and everything in between. But we still haven’t found the right guy.

As such, I’m not sure what adventures I should be writing about here any more. I could easily turn this into an outlet for all my misanthropy and vent on politics, religion, and human stupidity, but I wonder if I have the energy. Or better things to think about. Way back when, I used to write about the adventures of my social life, but what is there to say? I really don’t get out much anymore – I just sort of go to events. Should I be reviewing local wrestling matches? Would the promoters in question (some of whom I’ve had the pleasure of meeting) actually be able to take constructive criticism on the chin, especially from a punter who doesn’t wrestle? And, from that point of view, should I be bigging up some of the people I see at open mic sessions, as that’s the only other thing I seem to be doing lately?

Anyway, I probably ought to cut short this post-for-a-post’s-sake. My life is not the big adventure it used to be. I’m working on that, but the major thing is a job with a livable paycheque plus a reduced commute. 12 hours a day away from home for a take-home pay of c. £8,000 a year isn’t a good way to live. I could and should be having my old drunken adventures in Brum again, but I need the time and money to sustain it. So, in the meantime, what would you like to see? Doctor Who reviews? Local wrestling reviews? TNA Impact reviews? Invective against Richard Dawkins, George Osborne and anyone else who’s pissed me off this week? Please leave all suggestions in the comments here, or on the facebook link you got here from…

Money

•4 August, 2014 • Leave a Comment

One of the things that’s been killing my motivation to blog is that I don’t seem to be going out and doing anything. Since the band split up, each week has just been a slog of trawling classified ad’s looking for guitarists – only to be ignored, stood up on audition night, or rejected after the fact. No gigs and little money tend to mean no adventure worth writing about on here. So I need a better job. The cinema chain whose name I’m careful not to actually mention on here are not Britain’s Worst Employers by any stretch of the imagination, but minimum wage on a zero-hour contract is a killer in an industry with such wildly fluctuating business levels. When the summer holidays finish, I will be barely scraping a living.

Furthermore, I’ve run up money on credit cards over the last few years, casually assuming that I’ll have a “real job” soon and so pay it all back quickly. But real work is surprisingly hard to come by, especially if a lot of your time is spent zombied from the irregular sleep of shift work. I tried the temping agencies, but had a series of disasters that kept me away from them for over a year. And it’s hard to motivate yourself to spend time on the disheartening job-hunting process when you already feel like life is passing you by. Personally, I want to spend my time doing things that actually give my life some meaning. On that note, today has been kind of good. I overslept, admittedly, but that means I’ve faced the day less tired than I would have done. So I managed to drag myself into actually applying for jobs (and ringing an agency or two just to remind them I’m still here…). Part of today’s work was a costing exercise.

Occasionally I work out my expenses on the back of an envelope, just so I have some idea where I’m up to financially. It mainly serves to tell me that I’m not really allowed to have a social life outside the occasional Sunday afternoon Pathfinder game, but today’s little tot-up gave me a ray of hope. I added up everything I needed to spend money on: credit card bills, the bills of a putative shared house, beer money – the lot. And then I struck off the frivolities and investigated how much it would cost me to stop living with my mum but carry on with my current thrifty lifestyle. For a moment, it looked like bad news. When I’ve done this exercise in previous years, I’ve just whacked 25% on the total as a vague tax and national insurance margin. And that figure told me I’ll be living with my mum for a long time to come. So I decided to look properly at the rates and the income brackets. And what I’ve found is that I only need to start earning £12,500 a year to start moving on with my life…

Download 2014, or, Why I’ve had it with Steel Panther

•31 July, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Bringing us up to date before my weekly musings start again properly, I ought to mention the Download festival. As you may have guessed, it is mostly the setting for a rant as far as this blog’s concerned. Rest assured, I did enjoy a long weekend of camping and great music. And I was even recognised as the lead singer of Harlequin’s Kiss while I was out and about…

However, what I want to talk about is why Steel Panther’s performance that weekend put me off them for life.

Steel Panther, for those unfamiliar, are a parody band. They write funny songs full of exaggerated misogyny and obnoxiousness, taking the lyrical tone of an early 80s Motley Crue to ludicrous extremes. Their look is based on the mid-80s, pretty-boy, spandex kind of rock, very reminiscent of Poison. They borrow riffs from big hits, and their banter with the audience between songs is a Spinal Tap kind of parody of what your rockers were doing in the 80s. The ironic nostalgia, affectionately mocking the excesses of 80s rock, has won the hearts of new young rockers and the old guard alike. Or so I thought. That’s the positive view of what they do, at any rate.

The problem with this kind of parody is that you can’t go far enough that everyone will see it as a joke. Take Ali G, who my classmates in late 90s Doncaster didn’t realise was supposed to be funny because the character is a deluded idiot. They thought his behaviour was normal. Or take Fight for Your Right to Party by The Beastie Boys, which was meant to be a hip-hop trio lampooning their macho-douchebag rock contemporaries. Until those macho douchebags adopted the song as an anthem. But this is a purely academic issue. What really bugged me was the closing 10 minutes of their live show.

I caught the end of the set, sitting on the slope above the arena while I waited for The Pretty Reckless to appear on another stage. Between songs they do a comedy sketch where the guitarist, Satchel, tells us how much he loves Download while the bassist, Lexxi Foxx, keeps saying, “didn’t you say that about Sonisphere?” It’s an old joke, but nobody’s watching this stage for the originality. Then, after another song or two, it’s time for that closing spot they do where they get some girls from the audience on stage.

Now, I have to break off a minute to make a point about the current social climate. In years gone by, a girl in the audience sitting on a dude’s shoulders and lifting her top would have got her some camera time on the big screen. Now, the directors don’t seem to go actively looking for those girls, and even cut to something else instead. The rock scene is made up of two extremes – the posturing meat-heads that were infamous in the 80s, and the well-read, politically active types who’ve seen the light of feminism and related movements. And I think the meat-heads are a dying breed.

Anyway, the girls get on stage. They pose with the band. They’re drunk. One already has her top off (case in point: only shown on the screens in long shots). One brunette clearly fancies Satchel, and so walks up behind him, drapes her arms over him and jiggles his crotch with both hands.

So Michael Starr, the singer, begins by getting the girls to walk down the protruding catwalk part of the stage (which I’m sure wasn’t there last year – I think Aerosmith wanted it). Just as Tommy Lee might have done, he suggests that the girls all take their tops off. One or two do, but the ones that don’t are offered no further pressure. Then Starr suggests some other mild ludity, and Satchel (as the comedy role for this spot) suggests some ludicrous, self-serving ludity as an alternative and is ignored. Not comedy gold, but clearly a joke. Then Starr says he wants to set a record, because nobody’s ever played a whole song at Download with three girls making out with each other on stage all the way through. Satchel chimes in that nobody’s played a whole song at Download while three girls are sucking off the guitarist. He then has to prevent the brunette from helping him live the dream.

Why was this all a big deal? Well, Steel Panther are a parody. So they’re trying to take the piss out of the bands that did this (and Motley Crue were certainly still doing Tommy Lee’s “tiddy cam” as recently as 2006). The problem is, society hasn’t moved on enough to make the whole thing ironic. So while putting a veneer of irony over the affair, four guys on stage are peer-pressuring a selection of audience members to Get Their Tits Out for the Lads. And in not realising that Satchel’s aside may be taken seriously, the Steel Panther guys clearly don’t realise that a rock audience has evolved with decades of using sexuality as a way of sticking it to authority. At the end of the show, Starr asked the audience to give the girls a cheer. The quiet half-heartedness of the applause was a demonstration of how uncomfortable the display had been for Download’s Sunday evening crowd. I suspect many of those who did cheer felt like I did – an uncomfortable tension between the convention of giving a cheer to audience members who were part of the show (like a magician’s audience dupe) and the fact that we really didn’t want to condone what just happened.

The worst of this is: if Steel Panther are parodying the fact that we used to do this shit last century, then they know what they’re doing. So this whole affair makes them hypocrites for mocking the very flesh show they’re exploiting these women to give. And it is exploitation. These same girls certainly wouldn’t have got their tits out for you, and probably not for me. Give me a platinum album and a rock festival stage and that might change – and that’s my point. Famous guys get female attention and they’re exploiting that amenability to make a sex show on stage that will surely sell tickets. Or if they’re being smarter than that, if this is about us as an audience not getting the joke, about them holding up our lust for bare boobs and these girls’ willingness to expose themselves for a rock band that’s just a joke (honest, guv!), then they’re cynically exploiting the nostalgia of the followers of 80s rock bands. Laughing at us up their sleeves because their joke is on us. Which would make them the kind of intellectual musical snobs that sneer at us for liking such a vapid art form as hair metal. You know the type – they usually like The Smiths. Either way, be they exploitative hypocrites or playing a sneering and meta practical joke, all I can say after this unpleasant end to a show is: fuck Steel Panther.

Rock Band Blues

•21 July, 2014 • 4 Comments

The last real biographical update I wrote was in January, so I ought to try to bring things up to date if I’m about to have a blogging renaissance*. Day-to-day life has not changed much for me since July, when I moved my place of work across the West Midlands without changing day job. However, my musical work has ground to something of a halt.

I knew it was coming. Harlequin’s Kiss’ guitarist, André, was in three bands at the time and we had reached a ‘treading water’ point by January. We weren’t writing anything new and any attempt to learn new covers was simply collapsing, but we were still active and had gigs booked for August. And then, in March, something blew up in André’s personal life and he decided that he had to quit one of his bands. Andy the drummer departed soon afterwards.

Drummers are hard to come by. The equipment is expensive and finding a place to practice is difficult. So my first act was to buy a simple drum machine to keep us going while we found a new drummer. In the meantime, we set a guitarist search in motion and had bites on our ad’s within a few days. The first guy to set foot through the rehearsal studio door turned out to be the right one. Laid back, played rock ‘n’ roll, very good guitarist. All boxes ticked nicely. We auditioned him twice just to make sure, but we did end up taking him on. So we set to getting the songs back together and hunting for a live drummer.

The day we auditioned the new guitarist, we were supposed to see a drummer, too. He didn’t show up. A week or two after we took on the new guitarist, this drummer got back in touch saying the guitarist had flagged us up to him. After spouting enthusiasm and promising he wouldn’t no-show us again, I reluctantly agreed to let him try out. He no-showed again. A couple of weeks later, we auditioned a retired pro who agreed to work with us on a part-time basis while we found someone younger and more willing to develop with an essentially new band. It looked like we could relaunch on the gig that was still open to us in August.

And then the guitarist’s old band got back together. And the drummer’s wife fell seriously ill. So we were back to square one and had to drop out of our August gigs.

As things stand, we’re still looking. We have an interested drummer, but he’s looking elsewhere and we’ll lose him if we don’t get a guitarist soon. The musicians advertising online seem to come in waves and it’s all bassists and singers at the moment. I’m in touch with one guitarist, but I’m not sure if she’s feeling out the material or has changed her mind about auditioning with us. Harlequin’s Kiss will be back, but we’re not sure when.

*N.B. This is not a promise.

Absentia

•9 July, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Seven months? Seven fucking months?! My life’s in a worse state than I thought. If I’m writing, if I have the motivation to send out these weekly cries in the dark, then it’s usually a sign that my life’s where it should be. And you’ll notice Nevermore hasn’t had any real sense of regularity for several years.

Quite frankly, I should probably never have attempted that Master’s Degree. It disrupted my career, left me in a financial mire and caused me a breakdown that I never had the time to recover from properly. Nearly four years after starting it, I still work a minimum-wage, zero-hour job, and I’m too fragile to spin all the plates I need to to dig myself out of my current mire. A few things have improved for me on the social-life front (and I’m truly blessed to have the friends I do – you guys know who you are) but, by-and-large, I’m in a rut and I’m not sure how to drag myself out of it without ending up in a deeper rut.

I’m not reading. I’m not writing. I’m mostly wasting time doing nothing on the internet because the nothingness of it means I’m not doing something that means I’m feeling guilty about not doing something else. Every time I feel determined to get something done I get paralysed by the feeling of conflicting priorities, overwhelmed by all the things that need doing, and then guilty about some of the things I’m neglecting. And now here I am apparently trying to justify myself to you because I was stupid enough to give you a window into my life in the first place.

Do I tell you about this stuff in real life conversations? No?

Did you think, at any point in all of that diatribe up there, any of the following: Can’t you just organise/prioritise? Can’t you just stop wasting time and at least get a job done? Can’t you at least focus on your mental health as a starter?

No. No. And also, no. I’m sure it sounds so fucking easy from where you’re sitting. Yes, in the first two instances, it’s my mental health holding me back. If I didn’t have to deal with the disorientation caused by an anxiety disorder, I probably wouldn’t have failed my Master’s Degree and probably would have got myself a decent job by now. Unfortunately, a stable job will do a lot more for my sense of well-being than trapping myself for God-knows-how-many more months in my shit wages and long commute while I “get better”.

I’m a mess. I appreciate that. And all I can do for now is devote the little energy I can muster into whatever seems most important at the time. There is no “grit your teeth and get on with it” here. It just doesn’t work like that. Maybe next week I’ll explain a little more deeply.

If I find the time and energy.

 
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