Day Nineteen: Initiative

Today is actually January 22nd. I’m learning so far that I am unable to blog daily, but I am able to carry around a composition book where I make notes throughout the day, and in the morning when I am going through my readings and planning for the day. From there, I can go back in and type from the notes. When I can catch a 1-2 hour block, I can get to the computer and type from the notes. So far, it’s rather efficient, but getting several days behind stresses me out a little. I learned this from doing National Novel Writing Month several years ago. You can get a little behind and be okay, but once you are about a week behind, it’s really hard to catch up. I am getting a pretty good handle of my time management, but I will tweak my schedule some more.

I’m really trying to do quite a lot to get my life in order, and there is much work to be done, with all the goals I’ve set for 2017, but I think I’m doing pretty good so far.

jeffdahl

Jeff Dahl: An early mentor, first via mail correspondence in the 1990s and later as a member of his band 2000-2008.

As I mentioned earlier, I was going to discuss mentors, which the dictionary defines as “experienced and trusted advisors”. I was recently listening to the audiobook version of “Mastery” by Robert Greene  and he discusses in the book that having a mentor is important for the mastery of anything. In fact, as I have been working through the book “The Daily Stoic” by Ryan Holiday. Ryan apprenticed under Robert Greene from the age of 19.

When I was a teenager, I was a budding guitar player who was not quite “good enough” during the tail end of the hard rock/metal reign on MTV. I’ve never been one to handle rejection well, believe me, and I was replaced by a much better guitar player in a garage band I had for a while during high school. The other guy was more naturally talented, had worked harder learning the “shredder” style of guitar, and despite how much I tried to practice, I never could get a handle on doing much more than power chords, barre chords, and never seemed to have the patience and ability to figure out entire songs note-for-note from what little resources we had in pre-internet days: guitar tablature in guitar magazines. I was a voracious reader of anything rock n roll history, and I read about the New York Dolls in the The Illustrated “New Musical Express” Encyclopedia of Rock, an old book my friend found at a yard sale and gave to me, which became my bible of classic rock knowledge. I had interest in similar acts such as David Bowie, Alice Cooper, Mott the Hoople, Slade, T-Rex, etc.

I managed to get a cassette copy of “Lipstick Killers” by New York Dolls, released by ROIR (Reach Out International Records). From that cassette, I learned to be a real guitar player. The material wasn’t difficult to learn by ear and play along with the recording. At that point, I became a Johnny Thunders disciple. Shortly after getting that cassette, I purchased a VHS of miscellaneous New York Dolls video footage from one of the bootleg tape traders who advertised in one of the music magazines and saw the clip of New York Dolls on Don Kirschner’s Rock Concert. The performance of Johnny Thunders on that show was the original prototype for my stage attitude and style and it always stayed with me, even 20 years later.

Shortly after that, I immersed myself in old glam rock from the early 70s and punk rock from the late 70s, particularly the American punk rock, like Dead Boys, Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers, and Richard Hell & The Voidoids. I began buying issues of the punk rock fanzine from San Francisco called Maximum Rock n Roll Magazine, which were on sale at Ear-X-tacy Records in Louisville, and discovered there was an entire scene and network of pre-punk and “punk rock n roll” preservationists out there in the world. I saw an advertisement in Maximum Rock n Roll for music by Jeff Dahl for sale via mail order. I ordered his first three albums directly from cassette. The basic facts I knew:

  • He was from a band called Angry Samoans and another band called Powertrip.
  • He had played with Cheetah Chrome from the Dead Boys.
  • He was in an early 80s band called Vox Pop with members of The Germs and 45 Grave.
  • He played in the style of Dead Boys, New York Dolls, and Iggy & The Stooges.
  • He was supposedly big in Europe, and kind of an unknown in the U.S.

I was a little surprised to receive, along with the music I ordered from him on cassette and CD, personalized typewritten notes signed by him, along with a catalog of every album he had available, along with other similar acts he carried as a mail order distributor.

After graduation, I moved to Arizona, and discovered that he lived outside of Phoenix. We spoke on the phone, talking about music and records. In 2000, I was the first recruit in a new “Jeff Dahl is back!” band he was forming.

From him, I learned how rehearsals were handled, how records were made and released, how publishing was done, and how shows were booked. Much of that learning was actually applied with The Earps in getting our record deal and doing DIY tours in the US. Looking back, my relationship with Jeff Dahl really was an apprenticeship.

Later on, I worked with Ricky Rat from Thee Trash Brats after he moved to Indianapolis from Detroit. During his introduction of me to his much younger new girlfriend, he explained to her that Jeff Dahl had been a big catalyst bringing all the punk rock n roll bands together as a national network, showcasing them every year at the Desert Trash Blast in Arizona. I quote Ricky, to the best of my memory, in explaining to her that “Jeff Dahl found a niche in Europe following the death of Johnny Thunders and Stiv Bators, who were very popular in Europe. He filled the void for the fans who still wanted to hear that kind of music.” Later on, Scott Luallen from Nine Pound Hammer told me “Jeff Dahl was a GOD in Europe for about 10 years.” When I played with Jeff, we were a local band in the Arizona punk rock scene, aside from some shows we did in Hollywood and Las Vegas.

Video of my last performance with Jeff Dahl on February 23, 2008:

The Jeff Dahl Band disbanded following Jeff Dahl’s relocation to Hawaii. Before he left, we released “Back to Monkey City” on Steel Cage Records, which you can purchase here on Amazon. The album had a brief review written by David Fricke in “Fricke’s Picks” in Issue 1066 of Rolling Stone (November 27, 2008)

During my years of playing music, I had many mentors, some very skilled people I learned from, whose lessons are still useful today. Some were almost like deities (either living or dead) I had never met, others were right there with me on the stage, and others just wrote some books I read over and over.

Today, I have different mentors to guide me through the difficult times, problems & issues, and the trials of midlife. Some are the big folk heroes of world religions, like The Buddha, Jesus, and Lao Tzu. Others are historic western thinkers and philosophers like Epictetus, Seneca, and Marcus Aurelius, and more modern spiritual writers like Thomas Merton, Pema Chodryn, Jack Kornfield, Wayne Dyer, and Eckhart Tolle. The various authors of books I am reading to guide me through this year, down to Joe Zarantonello at the Thursday night meditation group at Loose Leaf Hollow.

Deng Ming-Dao on Initiative

Key points:

  • The world is a storm of myriad realities, and we cannot allow ourselves to be swept into this vortex. To do so, we become lost and lose our center.
  • Action must be guided by intellect and experience.
  • We learn from teachers, elders, and others.
  • We must test what we learn in the world.
  • We need to have both meditation and theoretical knowledge to be wise.
  • Our basis for initiative is: Wisdom, Courage, Timing, Perseverance.
  • We must burn clean, leaving no bad ramifications or lingering traces. A poor act leaves destruction, resentment and untidiness.

Much of today’s entry reminds me of the Joseph Campbell monomyth, or “hero’s journey”. Supernatural Aid. Meeting with the Mentor.

The Daily Stoic:

Our fortune changes. We may have lived well and lost everything, and got it all back. (Comparing this to the earlier Taoist idea that all life is destruction and regrowth, over & over again, it is very similar. Same idea as the hero’s journey too!)

The Stoics say:

One thing always remains.
Our freedom of choice.
Both big picture and small picture.

Tomorrow, I will discuss conquering laziness and what Steven Pressfield calls “Resistance” in creating any kind of art or project.

Cheers,
B.G.

Day Six: Emerging

Thunder and rain at night.
Growth comes with a shock.
Expression and duration
Appear in the first moment.

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“Things cannot remain in stillness forever. Winter storms may destroy things, but they also prepare the way for life. If things are swept away, it is appropriate . There must be an opportunity for new living things to emerge and begin their own cycle.”
-Deng Ming-Dao, Chapter 6, 365 Tao: Daily Meditations

“Nature doesn’t create storms that never end.”
-Dr. Carl Totton, Psy.D.,

What’s This Tao All About podcast

On Wednesday night, I visited the home of Kevin “Hotwheels” McGregor, frontman of my former cowpunk band, The Earps. He lives in a Phoenix neighborhood off 26th Street & Indian School Road, in a small WWII-era ranch house.

Formerly the “band house”, with all the ramen noodles, cheap canned beer, and party girls coming in and out as you can probably imagine, I hadn’t been back to the place since sometime in 2009 or 2010. The home has been completely redecorated since Kevin, somewhat of a philandering bad boy, took a wife and started a family. His 7 month old infant daughter was sleeping in a crib in the family room.

As Hunter S. Thompson said, “It was weird, Bubba. I was there.”

It was almost hard to believe there had once been great tensions between Kevin and me, usually over band business. He would cancel shows last minute, pissing off promoters, who screamed at me, and I would have meltdowns about it. Not to mention, my own habits, being either drunk or hungover at all times, depressed and lazy, and getting in trouble with his neighbors for being shitfaced in the backyard, shooting beer cans with a BB guns at inappropriate times: 2AM on a weeknight, for example.

My observation of the internal personality dynamics between the members of the “classic” lineup of The Earps (the version of the band that released albums, toured, and got press) went something like this:

  • Kevin and I were pretty good friends, but subject to arguments over band business and very different ideas about ethics. Luckily, neither of us are really fighters.
  • Kevin and Aaron “Ump” McCollum could usually be civil but seemed to butt heads over which one of them was in the leadership role. In hindsight, it wasn’t bad to have two Type As in the band, as long as they stayed in the roles that best suited their talents and abilities. For the most part, this worked well, but things ended badly when Ump left the band. I always sensed a competitive relationship between the two of them.
  • Drummer Marvelous Matt Maverick and I did not get along at all. Never understand why, exactly. Probably the only musician in my music career that I never got along with. It seemed as if he was envious of my strengths and exploited my many weaknesses and tried to bully me, which I didn’t respond to in a “water off a duck’s back” kind of way. Hard to say. (I was surprised, studying the enneagram years later, Matt and I are actually a very similar personality type. Both of us have freedom as a core motivation. While I lean toward “loyalty” to friends and my own beliefs and ideas, Matt leans toward power seeking, but isn’t really a power type all the way. ) Whatever may be said, and we have been estranged for many years, Matt and I were probably one of the best rhythm sections of any band I’ve ever been in.
  • Kevin and Matt were the founding members. Being a bit younger than the rest of us, Matt seemed to be Kevin’s bratty little brother in a way. This relationship was important for diplomacy and Kevin’s referee role between Matt and me.
  • Ump and I were very close friends, with hardly a disagreement between us. Without that bond, either one or both of us would have probably quit the band much earlier and we wouldn’t have been able to do all the cool things we did.
  • Matt didn’t seem to like Ump, who seemed completely indifferent to Matt.

The Earps were a delicate balance of power and the unity was very fragile. What we had were a group of mediocre players who were almost completely useless as individual musicians, but together could blow bands of more talented individuals off the stage. Honestly, every single member of the band was egotistical and selfish in some way, so there was never a shortage of drama.

At this time, Kevin is the only remaining member of The Earps but the band, at least in name, is still actively preserving the legacy, makes me happy in some weird way.

Odd twist to the story:

The Earps had begun as a ripoff band, as many bands do begin, and if anyone tells you any different, they are probably either lying or their band sucks. The band copied from, and even blatantly ripped off at times: Redneck Girlfriend from Seattle, and Nine Pound Hammer from Kentucky. We covered at least five Nine Pound Hammer songs in the early days, also covering their versions of cover songs too.

In 2015, I was asked to join Nine Pound Hammer.

Nine Pound Hammer knew about me from The Earps video “I Love Las Vegas” and my work with Jeff Dahl. I was asked to join on the spot. I remembered how to play half the Nine Pound Hammer setlist from doing those songs with The Earps.

I played with Nine Pound Hammer at the Star Bar in Atlanta and again at PKs in Carbondale, Illinois. The planned summer 2016 Europe tour never happened, which was disappointing. I was dismissed from the band in the fall of 2016 when the old bass player, Mark Hendricks wanted back in. That was fine by me. I may be asked to perform with them again in future. Who knows.

I will be making a guest appearance with the current version of The Earps tonight at Chopper John’s in Phoenix.

“Have you taken the time to get clarity about who you are and what you stand for? Or are you too busy chasing unimportant things, mimicking the wrong influences, and following disappointing or unfulfilling or nonexistent paths?”
-Ryan Holiday, Where, Who, What, and Why, Daily Stoic

Hmmm. Maybe I’ll answer that in tomorrow’s post.

Peace.

B.G.