7. ATLANTA, SHATTERED
Self portrait, 2004
I began to rebuild my recording studio. One reason for buying my new computer was to have a base for a digital recording studio. I had grown in love with making music, and the longer I put off going back to it, the more I knew I had to go back. I began to have trouble coming up with new ideas for paintings. It seemed like everything I wanted to do with the medium was accomplished. Perhaps the definitive painting was Alva, in which I found a marriage of the brutal, expressionist paint handling of Jackson Pollack with the personal, surrealist imagery that I found lacking in purely abstract visual work.
At the same time, as my medications brought me mental peace, I found I had less I needed to say, in a literal way. I no longer felt much need to rail against anything much, except perhaps stupidity! Yet I still had feelings and emotions that I wanted to convey. Most of the rock musicians I know have usually worked around lyrical themes as a way to give their music direction. While I have no problems with that approach, and do it myself, I have also listened to enough jazz music to know that words are not a necessity. I found abstract music much more interesting, for myself, than abstract painting. This was another factor driving me to complete my studio and get back to making music.
Before I was able to completely lose myself in music, I took a camping trip out into the southwestern United States for nearly a month in early 2001. I brought my sketch book with me, and I set myself the goal of producing a minimum of two sketches per day during my time in the various parks. Up until then, I had often taken a sketch pad with me on camping trips, but the idea had always been to get some ideas for possible use in a painting. I decided to use ink pens for the sketches, rather than pencils, for two reasons. One, the ink sketches would tend to physically last longer; and two, I didn't want to be tempted to go back and erase anything. I didn't want to waste time second-guessing my actions. It was during this trip that my sketches seemed to leap in quality and become artworks on their own, not just preparations for paintings. I was surprised to find myself picking up a new medium at this stage in my life, but ink sketching has become an integral part of my camping trips now. For a backpacker like me, it's much less bulky and heavy than photography, which is a good thing when climbing a mountain. And, unlike photography, the time you spend staring at every inch of your subject allows you to really get in tune with that area. The sketch brings all that back to me. With photography, it's usually "let's snap it and look at it later." (I exclude my brother from this statement, as I've never seen anyone take so long to shoot a picture; the results, however long in the making, speak for themselves.)
Nowheresville Promotional Photo, 2004
As I began to record my own songs again, I decided to release them in the form of a series of related two-song singles, rather than save them up for a future album. I figured the singles would get my name around more as I handed them out to anyone who would take a copy. I was hoping I might strike a chord in someone, and that would lead to some collaboration. Eventually, I put all the singles together, along with some rarities and unreleased tracks from the last decade, and released them on my Nowheresville CD.
At this point, a friend of mine named Steve Shattah, a friend of mine from the music clubs, asked me if I wanted to help him put a band together to perform some of his music. He said all the right words, talking about how he wanted a band that would go places other bands hadn't been. It was to be original, groundbreaking, and so on. Just what I was looking for! Steve played guitar, so I agreed to play bass. It helped that I had recently purchased a new five-string bass and was looking for an excuse to practice on it. Steve presented me with some very rough demos of some of his material, and the two of us began to arrange it as we searched for a drummer.
Drummers, being hard to find, were hard to find. After auditioning a few guys who were clearly not ready for the big time, I came to practice one evening to find out that Steve had signed on a recovering alcoholic as our drummer. Taking an alcoholic drumming around to bars to play music seemed to be asking for trouble, but there it was. We became The Shattered, based on Steve's last name.
We got about a set's worth of material together, and, without completely knowing all the songs, Steve got us a few dates playing around town. As was to be expected, the band missed cues, forgot lyrics, and generally had a rough time of it. We went back to rehearsing, and during that period, we began to record our sessions to use for an album. As we played the songs over and over for the tape recorder, we got pretty damn good, and a good album came out of it. But then Steve kept on rehearsing us, and rehearsing us, and rehearsing us, until the songs became stale. Our recordings that we had let out were getting tremendous reaction from people, who seemed to feel that we were quite different from other "alternative" groups. It seemed we had what we all wanted: a truly original group.
However, I was sick of practicing without playing out. Steve seemed to be making no moves to get us any shows, and our drummer had begun to drink again (it's hard to play when you can't even hold the drum sticks). I decided to leave the band, as this kind of amateurishness was not what I needed after playing in The View for the better part of a decade. Then, after several superficial arguments with Steve over musical issues, I was sacked before I could quit. To the best of my knowledge, The Shattered ceased to exist soon after. Certainly, I never saw them play in a club anywhere after that.
While all that was going on, my mother passed away. She had been in the middle of moving to Minneapolis to be near her grandkids when a heart attack got the best of her. By the time The Shattered broke up, I realized that I had a small inheritance to deal with. I can still recall sitting in the lawyer's office looking over the willn with my brother and his family. A few rough numbers were jotted down, and immediately, "California!" popped into my mind. I would have enough money to pay off my credit card debt (the final reminder of my days with The View, with enough left over to live off of while I moved and looked for new work.
My remaining days in Atlanta were spent cutting my ties and laying my plans. I became rather reclusive in my attempt to save up as much as possible. Without saying why, I also began to work as much overtime as I could at work. I pretty much stopped going to clubs to watch bands, and I let most of my friendships disolve away. I was ready to move on and find some new experiences, and the less of the past that pulled on me the better.
I was passing Elvis Presley's Graceland on the way out west, so I stopped to pay homage to the King. Yes, it was incredibly tacky, but it was the tackiness of a man who appreciated the extremes of current fashion, not Las Vegas' least-common-denominator tackiness. And just when you found yourself wondering who this man was who flew about in his private jet like most people drive cars, you encountered the ever-present music of a man with a huge voice and an ability to interpret songs rivaled only by Bob Dylan. This nexus of rock 'n' roll served as a final goodbye to the east and whet my appetite for what I hoped was the open artistic scene of California.
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© 2000, 2010 by Rick Hines.
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