Saturday, April 05, 2008

Australia Part Eight: There Will Be Blood...

Day off in Auckland was wisely spent away from the rest of the band. I've got no problem with the rest of them; it's just that any chance you've got to do your own thing needs to be taken.

So they all went to a black sand beach with the Bellrays. I'd already been there two years ago, so I was alright. Instead, I spent the day driving around Auckland, checking out the different neighborhoods, driving on volcanic islands with supposed buried WWII fighter planes and enjoying all the small-scale cricket matches taking place.

For some reason, Australia and New Zealand both offer a dazzling array of potato chip flavors that are absolutely unfathomable in the States. On this day I would devour an entire bag of roast chicken chips trying to figure a reason why Americans are limited to "cheese", "spicy" or if they're really lucky "spicy cheese" for their chip flavors. Any help?

The main goal of the day would also be to track down some Peanut Slab ice cream. A Peanut Slab is a deceptively simply candy bar…it's merely chocolate and peanuts. Only available in New Zealand, it's a delicious bastard who's slowly made the transition to almond slabs, dark chocolate slabs, coconut slabs and the one-and-a-half times larger super slab. None of which hold a flame to the succulent heaven of the original.

Shortly before my trip I was alerted to the existence of the Peanut Slab in ice cream form and I'd been salivating ever since. The evening was spent hitting a handful of different grocery stores in hopes of turning up some of the savory delight. No one had it and most were certain it wasn't even in production anymore. The whole thing felt like a long-lost night from high school…hanging out at supermarkets, looking for ice cream, nothing more exciting to do, killing time…it was time well-spent then and was reminiscence enjoyed now.

The next morning the band ate together at a highly-recommended brekky place called Benediction on St. Benedict's road. After first hearing the name of the restaurant, I quickly offered up, "I've met some girl's before with a Ben addiction" quickly followed by a half-dozen elbow nudges and "Get it?" repeated incessantly. I would say the joke at least ten more times that day. I know no shame.

From Ben Addix to Real Groovy where I contemplated many a single in the $2 bin. I ultimately passed on stuff by Jale, Tsunami, Soul Asylum (1st single), Jonathan Fire-Eater, the Volcanos and a couple of unknown peculiarities. I did grab an Autolux 7" I'd never seen before (live on KXLU?), some Jap noise 7", a handful of oddball mid-Nineties rock and roll that seemed obscure and probably one or two more 7"s I now forget. I topped the whole thing off with a $40 NZ Sonic Youth "SONIC DEATH" CD from Venlo, Holland in 1983. You never see that shit around, so I was psyched.

After RG we slowly made our way to Hamilton, first stopping at One Tree Hill to check out the expansive view of most all of Auckland. Now the name One Tree Hill is a misnomer as the One Tree on top of the Hill had been chainsaw'd down by angry protesters some 15 years ago. What exists now is barely a stump, but clearly "One Stump Hill" doesn't have the same ring to it. We chilled up there for a bit and tried to get Ko to pet some cattle. She almost fell for it.

On the road to Hamilton, our driver made a quick detour to the residence of one Mr. Wayne Anderson. While mere words will do little justice to this character de resistance, let your mind swallow his performance and let it be known that HBO has supposedly bought the rights to the reality show.

In short, this man lives for the big-voiced bombastic male singers from days of yore. As we waited in his driveway the obscenely loud sound of Tom Jones sprung forth from his opened windows like a tortured pet trying to escape its master. The decoration of his abode is nothing but album covers, cardboard cut-outs, press clippings and anything else related to the likes of Sinatra, Humperdink and their ilk.

Baker had him put on the DVD of the reality show Wayne Anderson: Singer of Songs and to watch it in front of the man was a little surreal itself. But he was quite the gentleman and we were all grateful for having met him and being so generously allowed to walk through his home.

For some unexplained reason the promoter got us day rooms in Hamilton. So we spent maybe an hour or so there before going to the club. It would be family day for the Datsuns as they're from Cambridge, about 20 minutes away from Hammy. Someone's mother would specifically ask for Dirtbombs pins and I was more than happy to oblige.

First band was the New Telepathics and they had a nice no wavey, rhythm-heavy vibe. We played alright. Datsuns jammed too. After the show we were shuttled off to a hotel near the Auckland airport in preparation for our early morning flight. This would mean three different hotels in less than 24 hours. That was kind of cool and kind of depressing.

We were on the same flight at the Dat-O's (downunder slang for the Datsuns) and that's always fun. I walked past the CD/DVD shop and they were playing Kelley Stoltz's Circular Sounds inside so I walked in and feigned interest at their pathetic stock if only to get a dose of that San Franciscan sound. Woo-eee that Stoltz sure knows how to write 'em and it's great to see the usually clueless people of downunder to be hip to the fact so early in the game.

Once in Wellington we checked into the hotel which pushed our numbers to 4 different ones in just over 24 hours. Waltzed over to Slowboat Records and found nothing. Up the street to Real Groovy and contemplated a few releases (The Sonic Youth's Sister on Flying Nun with original uncensored artwork and possibly non-US gatefold) and ended up becoming preoccupied with a strange swelling sensation in my right knee.

So here's where I tell you that I'm a fiend for cracking my joints…knuckles, toes, my back, neck…if there's anything that will make that self-satisfying pop I will vow to find out how to do it. One of the weirder ones is definitely my knees. While it usually works best while laying in bed and rocking them akimbo while keeping my ankles close together, I've developed a method that works while I'm standing up. I set my foot down and with a careful but focused effort, I make a movement that in all likelihood is doing nothing but ruining my life at an accelerated pace.

On this day my knee would begin to unexplainably feel swollen. Of course, my solution to the problem is to keep on popping the thing which really only exacerbates the situation. To top it off, I strike on some weird knee-popping vortex where I'm magically able to pop and re-pop, and re-pop again with no recuperation time necessary, so I must've been popping and locking almost once a minute before I had to make a concerted effort to stop the madness, go back to the hotel and examine the situation.

The knee was visibly swollen. It would continue to be so for a couple of days and my lazy man's hypochondria once again failed to get the better of me.

Soundcheck was vaguely pointless and I kinda skipped out early anyway to go and do two last minute phone interviews with radio stations in (I think) Christchurch and Dunedin. Interviews have become more and more problematic…as one in the band who does NOT write the songs or front the group, I plainly don't have as much to say about it all as Mick would. And also, when's the last time you read/heard an interview with a musician that was interesting? Really think about it as it has probably been awhile.

For the Dirtbombs and the press we get set up with lately, a lot of our interviewers haven't previously heard us. So, that leaves us with introductory Dirtbombs 101 questions like why do we have two drummers, what's Detroit like, why so many different line-ups, etc, etc. And I in no way fault the interviewers who have never heard of us before.

The inherent problem is that in having been asked these questions no less than a billion times, whether in interviews, by my grandparents, by long-forgotten parents of kids I went to grade school with, by the boss of my first job at the mom-and-pop grocery store across the street, is that the questions lose any semblance of spontaneity. Instead, I've got stock, boring answers that are burped out without any effort or thought put into them. And it all wraps itself back into the fact that having interesting answers for an interview while being in a rock band is a lot harder than you'd ever imagine.

After interview I walked around town a bit, hoping to run into either of the Flight of the Conchords guys. I didn't. I did see a big throng of Hare Krishna followers weaving through the streets, with their tambourines and drums and generally seeming to enjoy themselves. That was cool. I stopped in for an Italian BMT at Subway and was caught off-guard by the table of three girls all speaking rapid-fire German.

Apparently there was a fire alarm set off somewhere near the hotel and Mick and Troy actually had to evacuate. It seemed like it was maybe the next building over or so, as I was able to get back to our room with no problem.

First band the Transistors were alright. Young kids from Christchurch they had that ever-sparking energy that is the hardest thing to produce. From there, the tunes will come. They look good behind their instruments too…so they've already got the two hardest things covered.

We played and it all felt right. We locked in together and were cooking like an Italian aunt who always says "EAT…you too skinny!" At the end of our set, I did a headstand on my bass drum. There was a little notch in the ceiling that I was actually able to slide my feet into and thus hang upside down from. With my hands free, I proceeded to play my drums while still upside down over them. After a few seconds of that, I removed my feet from the notch, went back into headstand form, stuck the landing and quickly walked off the stage.

I was immediately met by one of the Transistors who stuck out his paw to congratulate me on a show well played. As I put my right hand toward him I was immediately struck by the bold streak of crimson bubbling from my thumb and quickly offered him my left hand instead.

I wrapped it up in a towel and held it tight while we discussed the encore. I'd hoped to keep it covered up for the subsequent songs, but that clearly wasn't going to work. So for "Shake Shivaree" and "Can't Stop Thinking About It" I soldiered on and bled into my palm and all over my drumstick all for the sake of rock and roll.

From there, I sat sorta speechless backstage, curious as to how I'd cut the outside of my thumb so deep without feeling a stitch of pain. The more I looked at the wound the worse it seemed. The cut went deep, certainly deeper than anything I'd had before. I somehow avoided pouring tequila over it to disinfect and instead patiently waited for the club owner to call a medic and get their expert opinion.

The medic was there shortly and seemed to think it'd be my best bet to go to the hospital just to be safe. I went in the ambulance by myself and in mere minutes I was at the emergency room. All I was told in preparation was that my wait would be a couple of hours.

After filling out some simple paperwork, I found a chair, sat down and then noticed Harrison Ford's The Fugitive playing at approximately the 40 minute mark on the television up above. Oh yes…this wait would be momentary. You see, there was a span during my freshman year of high school where my brother (who was at the time a senior) would, without any particular reason, come straight home from class and immediately put The Fugitive into the VCR. And when I say without reason, I obviously mean other than the obvious fact that the film fucking rules.

So I sat there for the next hour and fifteen minutes totally oblivious to the open wound in my hand, trying to pick up any subtle nuances of the film that my high school brain may have been to dense to absorb. You've got to love movies that you've seen countless times that still find ways to reveal plot lines and approaches years after the fact. It offers up the idea that one is never completely done watching a film, just as a piece of recorded music is never done being listened to or a written work is entirely read. There's always more to be gleaned.

There was a guy there, slightly obnoxious, who'd apparently come to at the bottom of some stairs. He didn't remember how he ended up there, but he'd figured he'd somehow fallen. There was blood on his rugby shirt. He was shoeless. He left before they called his name. He figured he'd be alright. I wondered to myself how many emergency room visits on a Friday night are a result of mind altering substances.

At the movie's commencement I pick up the local daily paper and find that I'd done an interview with them the week prior. It was your standard fare, at this point the only memorable part other than the 1/4 page they dedicated to me and the Dirtbombs was the letdown that the headline made some mention of "help from Uncle Jack." Oh well, can't win 'em all.

From there my name was called to go to the back room, my wound was surveyed and quickly cleaned up, glued shut and wrapped in gauze and bandages. My whole treatment time was no more than 7 minutes. My waiting time (which was repeatedly predicted to be a couple of hours) was just short of 90 minutes. No one asked me word one about payment as New Zealand has free emergency health care. I would take a cab back to the hotel, walk down the street to an all-night chipshop that had a print out titled "Dance Like No One Is Watching You" that struck me particularly hard and then watched the "are they serious?" TV performance by metal band Immortal. It was a great night

So even though it reads kinda like something your 4th grade religion teacher would hand out in class, I searched for a good 20 minutes trying to find this tract, so enjoy it here. It connected with this fool after he'd tore his finger open...

We convince ourselves that life will be better after we get married, have a baby, then another. Then we are frustrated that the kids aren't old enough and we'll be more content when they are. After that we're frustrated that we have teenagers to deal with. We will certainly be happy when they are out of that stage. We tell ourselves that our life will be complete when our spouse gets his or her act together, when we get a nicer car, are able to go on a nice vacation, when we retire.

The truth is, there's no better time to be happy than right now. If not now, when?

Your life will always be filled with challenges. It's best to admit this to yourself and decide to be happy anyway. Alfred D Souza said, "For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin - real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life."

This perspective has helped me to see that there is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way. So, treasure every moment that you have. And treasure it more because you shared it with someone special, special enough to spend your time...and remember that time waits for no one...

So stop waiting until you finish school, until you go back to school, until you lose ten pounds, until you gain ten pounds, until you have kids, until your kids leave the house, until you start work, until you retire, until you get married, until you get divorced, until Friday night, until Sunday morning, until you get a new car or home, until your car or home is paid off, until spring, until summer, until fall, until winter, until you are off welfare, until the first or fifteenth, until your song comes on, until you've had a drink, until you've sobered up, until you die, until you are born again to decide that there is no better time than right now to be happy...

Happiness is a journey, not a destination.

Thought for the day:

Work like you don't need money,
Love like you've never been hurt,
And dance like no one's watching.

Author unknown


Anonymous said...

BEn - I just read your latest eating a packet of Tzatziki (Yoghurt & Cucumber) FLAT CUT potato chips!! Just got back from DJing in Ambers bar - fave song tonite - Keep On Running by Stevie Wonder!
Say hello to the troops -

Anonymous said...

I love this piece - it's really how I try and live my life, but it's wonderful to have it encapsulated in a piece of writing.

I've been informed by my boyfriend that the last part ("work like you don't need money") can be attributed to Satchel Page, a baseball Hall of Famer.


Anonymous said...

Peanut Slabs, Suspended Drumming and Dance like no one's watching.

My top three highlights of this entry.

As entertaining as it may be I'm a little baffled by Wayne Anderson though.

Laurie said...


Hanging upside-down and playing the drums is pretty fucking cool. No one there will forget that long after everything else fades away.

Your quote about 'living life now' is about the most practical and wise thing a younger person could happen upon and live by. As an 'older' folk I can say that it is so easy to be always setting your sites on the other side of that mountain *I know, sounds trite* the sooner you learn and live it will does all the difference...okay, off my soapbox. Anyways, obviously you 'get it' Maybe your posting will bring the message to those who need it. It is amazingly simple and amazingly elusive.

As always, an interesting read.


anne. said...

first thought, best thought....right?

Anonymous said...

Hello, Anonymous #3 again,

The interviewing issue always annoyed me. When you're reading these bland interviews that look like they've been borrowed from a children’s TV show and gain no actual information that a fan of the artist wouldn't already know. But I guess it's a tool right? You've got to promote the band/show and who knows maybe introduce yourself to new fans who don't already know the basic stuff.

This has to be one of the most arduous and least rewarding aspects of being in a band but it performs a necessary funtion. I can see both sides of the argument from the interviewer perspective. They’re probably interviewing loads of people all the time so they’re never going to be a fan of or even know that much about most artists but the other side of that coin is that this is their job, they’re doing this for other people to read. You’d think what with the internet these days it would be easy too look into the history of any band, find a few a few articles and spend a bit of time working out a few new/interesting questions.

I feel for you…and all bands that have to go through the relentless press schedules.

Great entry. My favourite so far.

Katie said...

I've often wondered what kinds of questions I'd come up with if I were to interview a band that I truly care about, and if they'd actually respond in a satisfying manner, or if those questions would fall into the been-asked-a-thousand-times category, even though I think I'm being original...

So the real question is, what have you never been asked that you're dying to talk about?

Anonymous said...

try to find Herr's chips, they have a lot of interesting flavors, and a really good onion snack that will make you hate funyuns.

Dillon said...

please don't ask the person who posted this to delete it, but please do check this out.

that video is fucking fantastic. i wish i was at that show. i just thought you ought to see for yourself one of the best qualities of the dirtbombs.

murfreesboro, tn

Anonymous said...

that is brilliant. My favourite brand of chaos.

How funny is that?

Keep up the good work.