In 2017 I submitted songs to the Fraser Valley Music Awards, and was nominated in 3 categories: Electronic, Loud, and Queer. I don’t know how I ended up in those categories, but at least they make a fun phrase.
At the ceremony, I didn’t win any categories. Later I found I nonetheless was awarded a day in an art school’s recording studio.
I’d only recorded in a studio once. Across the 1991-1992 holidays, I “dated” a guy whose step-father was involved with a recording studio and offered me some time. The relationship culminated in the guy strangling me, then spending 2 weeks in a psychiatric hospital… while I spent those weeks intentionally “experimenting” with being high 24-7 (I was reading the Fassbinder biography, Love is Colder than Death).
I’d gotten involved with a collective of Los Angeles artists attempting to respond to the recent Riots/Uprising. Instead of using all the studio time myself, I offered it to the collective. The list of artists was a who’s who of the performance art scene (including Exene Cervanka, Robert Bedoya, Keith Antar Mason, Linda J. Albertano… and a band called Seven 1… me and two art friends: MiKelly and Ken Villa). The CD was in a special issue of High Performance Magazine, called The Verdict and the Violence.
Back to 2017… In my current artistic epoch (since 2010), sometimes songs plop out into a pleasing recording in a couple hours, but usually I spend days, weeks or even months tweaking songs until I “don’t cringe” at anything anymore. Going into a studio for a day seemed counterintuitive.
Re-recording old songs, rather than creating new ones, seemed like a potentially palatable option. And I had a number of songs from my oeuvre of which I’d never made a satisfying recording.
I picked some songs out, learned to play them again, and started making what I thought might be “sound beds” to bring to the studio. But this turned into my usual recording process… with 100’s of hours of tweaking.
The emails to set a date with the art school kept coming. Eventually I stopped responding to them… uncharacteristic of me, but allowing this lapse in responsibility felt liberating… like being a teenager (when these songs were written, between 16 and 20) and, without letting anyone know, just not showing up again for a job.
In 2001 or 2002, my mom hired me to take some digital photos for one of her textbooks. This allowed me to afford a high-end camera that also recorded decent video. The videos from this album are all being made from footage taken with that camera, and are each accompanied by a brief story on the theme of folks who have contributed something along the way that helped me better integrate issues brought up in these earlier songs. The camera didn’t have a long record time, so some videos are “stylized” (stretched).
Innocence is Bliss
On June 2, 1993 I wrote in my journal, “There has to be a better way.” And then, “There is only now.” Not long after that I met Richard Earle McBride, a retired elementary school teacher. He took my calls at three in the morning and listened to the sometimes dozens of pages of journal entries I’d written that day. He never interrupted once… unless it was with an exclamation of “Marvelous!” or “Wonderful!” Other people questioned me, tried to help me, to fix me. I couldn’t handle any of that at the time. He soon moved from Manhattan Beach to Phoenix, where I visited him in his ever-more-cluttered house. These were his dogs, who never once got up the courage to say hello to me. He also had a parakeet. The song, I wrote in 1986. This version was recorded in 2019 for the album “Post-Adolescent Burn-Out.”
What if Lightning Strikes?
I had a number of gay male mentors in my teens. This song was composed for one of them, George Kelly, when he died in 1988 from AIDS (at 28). As with most other gay male mentors from my teens, I don’t have a story to relay about who they were. All I can say about George is he steadfastly came to facilitate a gay youth discussion group on Friday nights in Redondo Beach… then he died. Glen Poling invited me to present to a youth camp about how homophobia had affected me. I didn’t know what I might say, but ended up telling the auditorium about having a gun pointed at me and being saved when my friend took off his belt and started smashing windows in the motel where we were cornered. Afterward, I cried unconsolably (and didn’t cry again for 8 years). Then… Glen died. There were others… Myron (can’t remember his last name) told me he saw my potential to carry on the humanistic approach of Harvey Milk… standing for everyone, not just for gay people. Then… Myron died. My grandma, in the video, died at 98. My partner, also in the video, went through his teens a decade after me. This version was recorded in 2010 and is included on the album “Post-Adolescent Burn-Out.”
What are You Dreaming There?
I had a fantasy (or expectation) that I would find my equal. We would sit at a grand, exquisitely-aged, hardwood double desk—writing poetry. In 1995, I met an older gay man named Tony. We got to know each other well enough that he invited me for dinner. We got on the topic of relationships. Thankfully, I had no sense, as I sometimes had when conversations turned in this direction, that he was trying to play with me with his pointed questions. Finally, he sighed and said something like, “Brian, maybe you’ll never find someone who is your equal. Even if you did, you might just rip each other apart. You might need someone with a sense of humour who makes you smile. Would that be so bad?” This song, from 1988, was written for a guy I was dating who was always asking what I was thinking, but who I felt wouldn’t understand if I told him. After listening to the song, he asked, “What does it mean?” This version was recorded in 2019 for the album “Post-Adolescent Burn-Out.” The video is my partner (who has never asked what I’m thinking) showing off the braid he gave to his Ariel doll in 2002.