We spent two and a half hours practicing the first ten minutes of the piece for the Fringe show Ė probably weíll need to pick up the pace for the next three rehearsals but it was good to get into fine detail about what weíre doing. Nigelís kind of been taking over as composer of the piece, but thatís alright as I like the direction itís going and itís good practice to play something disciplined occasionally. Thereís a tradeoff of less free improvisation but itíll still be a work in progress when we premiere it at Happy on Feb 25 Ė the gig there in September was fine with just one rehearsal, the live element always boosts up the energy and allows the unexpected. Itíll be at its most refined when we play the Newtown gigs on March 4 & 5. The audience should get a different experience each time if they want to come to more than one. Weíve got lower ticket prices than most Fringe shows, hopefully that works to our advantage. We need about 25 paying people through the door each night to break even Ė thatís the one thing Iím slightly nervous about. Weíve got to get a good buzz spreading; people will definitely get value for money.
Still having problems with vocalist Atsushiís alcohol intake Ė time to give him a warning about that. First I noticed that his vocals sounded Ďoffí and then I noticed the empty bottle of wine. Worst case scenario we can go ahead without him but hopefully it wonít come to that.
Next practice Wednesday. In the meantime Iíve got to go out to the inlet tomorrow Ė thereís a big gorse patch to take out and then more banana passionfruit after that.
Four weeks to go til the first Fringe gig, then seven til I fly to Melbourne! The countdownís begun.
And I had my first swim in the sea for the season at Oriental Parade today Ė nice sensation. Odd that itís taken me so long to get around to it.
Today the January airfare special expired Ė so I got in with five minutes to spare and bought myself a ticket to Melbourne. I fly out on Monday 21st of March. I guess from here Iíll be confronted with the logistical implications and the Ďwhat have I done?í feeling. Iíve given my flatmates advance warning Ė Iíll be a bit sad to give up this flat as itís the best one Iíve had and has really felt like home for almost a year now. I even cleaned my room fairly thoroughly yesterday Ė discovered a couple of good CDs I thought Iíd lost: the John Zorn 80s classics Spillane and The Big Gundown (still canít find Naked City), as well as the Bad Brains and some of my own old recordings (comparing them to the newer stuff, I can say Iím improving Ė slowly).
Itíll be good to finally start spreading my wings. Iíve been in Wellington for six years now - I get a bit envious of my globetrotting friends and family. For about the last two years Iíve had a strong urge, sometimes repressed sometimes tormenting me, to get out of town. Wellingtonís almost too perfect; itís a utopian city, small but cosmopolitan and without the drawbacks of the big metropolises (not that Iíd know). And on bad days I loathe it with a passion Ė the Ďscenesí get to me after a while, and all the Ďcreative capitalí stuff with its multiple meanings of the word capital. Once something becomes a sales pitch itís thereby degraded, so I have a love/hate relationship with the Wellington arts scene (and film in particular Ė donít get me started).
Melbourneís a small step, a practice run at international travel. They speak (a version of) English there after all. I should still come back in the second half of the year to finish the $#%@ing shorthand paper for my journalism diploma, then I can travel further afield at the end of the year or early next.
My 2005 wall plannerís starting to fill up nicely. Iím going to be flat out from here on with working Ė I have an extra incentive to be saving now Ė and of course the Fringe show. One bit of good news is that Mark, the Festival director, liked the Live 2004 DVD enough to want to screen it at the programme launch on Thursday. Fingers crossed he can jack up a video projector, or at the very least a big-screen tv for it. Then on Sunday itís the first rehearsal and I/we can start actually playing again.
I've worked on orchards in the past and noticed that after a day's work, when I closed my eyes at night I could still see apples or kiwifruit or whatever in front of them. I noticed yesterday after a day at the inlet that I could see banana passionfruit when I closed my eyes. It's a creeping weed plant, presumably introduced for its edible fruit but it grows rapidly to surprising lengths - up to 20m. Tracing it to its roots and ripping it out is a mission as it goes around in circles underneath the long grass.
The job's basically better all round than last year's: slightly higher pay, shorter commute, a bit more variety - not just boxthorn to remove but blackberry, banana passionfruit, ivy, gorse, snakefeather, boneseed and more - and not all of them have prickles. I discovered there is boxthorn there after all - horrible plant with two-inch spikes - but none of the giant ones that are growing near Paekakariki luckily. It's a good time of year to be outdoors, and almost makes up for missing out on tramping in the first week of the year. I get scratches off the blackberry but on the other hand the berries are a nice snack (the banana passionfruit's not ripe yet).
And over at the other job it's fairly repetitive indoor stuff in front of a computer reading court cases and converting to hypertext - which has the 'perk' that I can listen to CDs while I'm doing it. The cases range from some in impenetrable legalese that I can hardly tell what they're about to a couple of bluntly disturbing rape and murder ones. There was a Fijian guy who poured petrol on his girlfriend and set fire to her (fatally) for leaving him and got a life sentence, that kind of thing.
Both jobs are at the semi-skilled level; I'm still under-achieving, but they give me flexibility with the hours and so not a bad lifestyle. I'm waiting to hear back about the job interview I had last week, and since they haven't called yet and it's a long weekend I won't know til at least Tuesday. It would be good if I get it, so I can be on a salary for a year and put something solid on my CV rather than being at the mercy of fate when it comes to jobhunting.
On the other hand, not getting it wouldn't be all bad. I could keep working outdoors for the rest of the summer - something office workers could well envy. There's a DOC volunteer week in the bush doing restoration of an old railway line in March which I could go to after the Fringe show if I don't have a fulltime job. I'd have an excuse to spend half the year in Melbourne then come back and finish the diploma (shorthand shouldn't be quite so horrible second time around since I'd know what I'm in for and not be juggling it with a hundred other journalism assignments); and spending a year teaching English in Asia to save for Europe would probably be a good thing for the sake of the foreign culture experience. Getting the PR job would give me more options later on though but maybe in a more western context.
And along with the jobs there's the Fringe show - it's all been at a pre-production stage so far, doing planning and writing stuff. Sunday we're getting together to design the poster, then the first rehearsal is the following weekend. It'll be good to actually get playing again, get it out of the hypothetical stage - I haven't touched the guitar this week, need to do some practice. Each year my music should develop in a new way, and the albums function partly as milestone markers. I spent the first half of 2004 thinking I was finished up as Loose Autumn Moans seemed to be the end of the line, but I eventually managed to pull Ascension Band out of the hat, and there was also the one-off reunion of The Winter on December 29th which I was very pleased with. But this is 2005 and what I did last year is no longer relevant. I have to take things to the next level and there's definitely huge room for improvement - I've been playing for ten years now and I still can't 'play'...
Anyway, here's the timetable for the next few weeks. Between this and working I'll be keeping myself occupied. Funnily enough I haven't felt depressed this year. Staying busy has psychological benefits.
Sunday 23 Jan 7.30pm - Poster design session
Thursday 27 Jan 9.00pm - Fringe programme launch (media event)
Sunday 30 Jan 7.00pm - 1st rehearsal
Wednesday 2 Feb 7.00pm - Rehearsal
Wednesday 9 Feb 7.00pm - Rehearsal
Friday 11 Feb 9.00pm - Fringe artistsí party
Sunday 13 Feb 1.00pm - Outdoor mini-gig (20mins) on waterfront
Sunday 20 Feb 7.00pm - Rehearsal
Friday 25 Feb 10.00pm - GIG AT HAPPY
Sunday 27 Feb 7.00pm - Rehearsal
Friday 4 Mar 7.00pm - GIG AT NEWTOWN
Saturday 5 Mar 7.00pm - GIG AT NEWTOWN
The planets seem to have been aligned favourably for me this week. The horoscope said so, and it could be interpreted as being accurate. I started the proofreading job - and also got offered work again with Nga Uruora Kapiti. I already knew they had work available and were happy to have me back, but the problem was that it was Taskforce Green work which meant I would have to be on the dole for six months to qualify. But they've found me a non-TG job which I can start next week!
So from here on things step up a gear. I started the year in stasis and now things are moving. I've gone from unemployed last week, to part-time this week, to fulltime next week. Juggling two jobs should be manageable as they're both flexible with hours. So I get to work outdoors when the weather's good, and stay indoors when it's not! Sounds quite utopian. And then there's the Fringe show on top of that, and we should also put in a Creative NZ application for Ascension Band to do an album & tour later in the year. Funding applications are a lot of work - so the next couple of months are going to be full-on. Hopefully I can keep it up for eight weeks, then maybe go up to New Plymouth to see WOMAD.
Something that could throw me a curveball is that today I've got a job interview at a PR company for a trainee role. If I get it that would be a year's fulltime employment on a decent salary, and would set me up for a career. I could put aside a sizeable chunk of money and move to Europe for a while, skipping the year's English teaching in Asia to get there. On the other hand if I don't get it, the path I'm on now seems OK. I just discovered another of my friends will be in Melbourne this year - seems like the place to be in 2005. And if I worked in PR would my artistic credibility be sunk forever?
In all, making good progress. Have to start thinking about poster design for the Fringe show next...
The holidays seem to be over for most of Wellington, which suits me Ė Iíd had enough of sitting around reading books and hoping the weather would improve. Iíve had a couple of training days for my proofreading / formatting job at Brookerís legal publishing firm, so can get into that now. Itís ok, not great, but a start. I like to build up momentum steadily, so now Iíve got a part-time job itís hopefully easier to get another - then I can put money aside while also pushing ahead with Ascension Band. The thing with WINZ and part-time work is that Iíll end up with the same amount of money each week whether I do 12 hours a week or 20. Really I need to be working 30+ hours and get off the dole - itís not like Iím incapable of working or have any great need to stay there (no new albums to finish off). I kind of avoided getting a job late last year so I could give my full attention to Ascension Band, Fringe pre-production, the Live 2004 DVD, and make the Fringe preview show on Dec 18th happen. We made an $8 loss on the show, so like they say donít give up yr dayjob. Also the band seems to have a bit of momentum going now and I can start delegating tasks. Iíve done the hard part and got the ball rolling; now hopefully itíll gather its own momentum and be unstoppable.
At least if Iím working Iíll have an excuse for my low writing output. Iíve got one more story to go to round off my second volume of shorts, so I guess Iíll do the self-publish thing again. The bookís provisionally titled Scrames don la Screan, and covers the period early 2003 -> whenever it gets finished. I guess it's a bit darker than the first volume, Anterior Pathways. So much has happened in that time, but itís all been internal. My material circumstances havenít changed much, though Iím living in a better flat now. Artistically Iíve gone from total solo introspection with Mantis Shaped and Worrying finished in January 2003, to currently being the instigator of a large proliferating group project that I canít directly control the sound of and wouldnít want to. In between comes The Winter, RIP. Itís not like Ascension Band is coming out of the blue though, we had a first attempt at Meatwaters in late 2003. The basic premise was that Iíd always wanted to play with a big group. But now with The Winter officially defunct and neither Mike nor Simon in the current AB lineup my attentionís been transferred. Like Star Trek: Generations when they killed off KirkÖ Anyway Ė gigs are coming up in the Fringe Festival, and the bandís got a website now at http://ascension05.tripod.com
I guess the consolation of having weather this bad is that I'm now glad not to have gone up into the Tararuas. DOC are warning people to stay away, they've had bridges washed out and there's been a search & rescue mission for a woman with hypothermia. It's particularly weird today - I'm in Masterton and it's gone from blue sky to heavy downpour, and back to blue sky within 20 minutes.
So after a pretty good new year's eve, the year's been more or less a writeoff so far - the holiday that wasn't. Half of my friends are down in Southland for a Stewart Island trip, but I had to decide not to go on financial grounds; I'll put the saved money into my international travel fund. Stewart Island is great, huge abundance of wildlife, endless golden beaches and crystal-clear water, but I've been there before and it's probably most enjoyable the first time. Surprisingly though for a fishing community, the fish & chips there suck.
Just as well I haven't been feeling depression; it's early in the year so I'm optimistic about it and have a few things planned out. Tomorrow we're having an Ascension Band meeting to watch the Live 2004 dvd and write a press release for the Fringe show. That's due on Monday and I've also got the proofreading job starting then. Hopefully if I can keep busy time will fly and it'll be Fringe time soon. And hopefully hopefully hopefully enough people will come to see the show - with this kind of scale of thing, playing to five people just isn't going to be satisfying (or break even). Then off to Melbourne & unknown adventures (eg washing dishes for a living?) and back to Wellington in August to finish my diploma.
One good thing with visiting family is that I got to see all four of my half-sisters in the last few weeks, and they're all looking well. Bronwyn the youngest (merely 40) is living in Korea now, seemingly permanently, so could be a useful contact there. She's doing a NZ road trip with her boyfriend for another week or so and looks happier than I've seen her for a long time (quit smoking etc). Megan's living just outside Carterton, big property with fruit trees, chickens, sheep etc, semi-self-sufficient. Alex has lost weight and got over last year's cancer scare. Christina the eldest (45? 46?) is an international airline pilot, and she's got a new job that lets her spend time in London and San Francisco. She's single, independent, well off, & has taken up weight lifting which is pretty cool really.
Another odd thing about the last few days is that I've been listening to a lot of American country and folk music - Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music, Joan Baez's second album (pretty dark mysterious stuff once you listen to the words), the Carter Family (a bit too weird for me, conservative commercial music from the 1930s), and The Essential Johnny Cash. The last one in particular is great stuff; I guess now that he's dead his time has come and he's gaining in popularity. I'd heard a little of his stuff before, but songs like 'I Walk the Line', 'Folsom Prison Blues' (recorded live in Folsom Prison for an audience of inmates), 'the One on the Right was on the Left' and 'the Man in Black' really made an impression. Listening to country eh - who would have thought? Hope I'm not going senile...
The yearís got a shape to it, but Iíve spent the first few days confined to barracks. Iím waiting on a friend from out of town to get his social engagements (prelude to moving to Korea) out of the way so we can go tramping. Itís one of those incredible shrinking tramping trips that keeps getting pushed back. So far itís shrunk from a mission up to Te Urewera National Park with three days tramping down to an overnighter in the Wairarapa. Still better than nothing and I canít wait to get away. I really hope it doesnít turn into Waiting for Godot.
I have to be back by the ninth, as everything starts up then: Ascension Band press material due, proofreading job starting on the 10th etc. So up til thenís holiday and I want to be away by yesterday. But Iíve been under house arrest Ė everything shut, my bike broken down, most people away, and bad weather. Instead Iíve been trying to make the most of being at home. Thereís an embarrassingly bountiful supply of good food in the kitchen, my flatmate sometimes goes overboard with the shopping. Plenty of good fruits & veges Ė the challenge is to eat it before it goes off. Iíve been going to the pool for exercise, and Iíve got books to read, guitars to play, internet access, good music to listen to. Stranded in paradise as it were. I even got a new short story started. Training for when Iím a political prisoner and have to keep myself occupied by writing a novel.
My favourite new recording is the finale by The Winter Ė we overcome the jinx for a day and I got us together once more. Mikeís moving to Melbourne so we knew it would be our swansong. It was a good feeling, playing music that was both familiar and new. We had a definite style as a band, and thereís 56 minutes of new material. If The Winter had a concept it was to be a free trio who could break into grooves as well as be completely abstract, so thereís a mixture of stuff with and without beats. And the cello is such a great instrument, unusual enough to make us distinctive. Also nice to play in a trio, possibly the perfect number of people for improvisation (solo is a monologue, duo is intense call-and-response all the way, four or more and you start interacting with an overall sound rather than sparking off individuals). Made a change from the heavy artillery truck-rolling-down-a-hill Ascension Band. Itís still a crying shame we didnít play together more often, but it was something.
Thereís also the whole poetic subtext layer that Iím quite keen on, eg having our last get-together in midsummer. And it hopefully lays to rest some ghosts from 2003 and makes a satisfactory conclusion to the year. 2004 had some good parts but was frustrating and inconclusive, what with the diploma still unfinished and bad shit happening around the world. 2005 looks promising though Ė Iíve got a job to start, 15 hours a week of boredom but a job is a job and maybe I can move up to a better one from there. Itíll provide some income while I do the Fringe show, and as it starts on January 10th it also means I can take the first week of the new year as a holiday with a clear conscience. Now if only I can get out into the bush for a couple of daysÖ
Is the purpose of the Perfect Pop Song (PPS) to make one want to hear it repeatedly, become locked into an embrace with it? Thereís a song doing that to me right now, which few others have touched. Dylan, Velvet Underground & so on league. Jim Whiteís ĎStatic on the Radioí. He and Aimee Mann sing it together and her voice is heart-melting. I get a sudden yearning to hear more of the Carter Family and early Joan Baez (the folk singer Joan Baez, before the Dylan covers / descent into bathos). I got around to Johnny Cash in 2004 Ė amazing how he was so far ahead in the 50s in terms of lyrical content. Itís perfect rock & roll, totally for real and itís got good words.
I also finally listened to Wild Bill Hicks, courtesy of Amy thank you. Iíd always shied away from him Ė Iíd read some of his key quotes and on the page theyíre not exactly funny. Plus it was highly political which definitely steered me away. But listening to his recordings is brilliant. A brave man shining a light in dark corners.
Iíve got a pile of books from the library which I may or may not get around to reading in the next couple of weeks Ė John Barth, Janet Frame, JG Ballard and a non-fiction one trying to explain ten-dimensional space.
& is Derek Bailey the world's ultimate guitarist? In terms of purity? In which case Ballads is maybe the ultimate guitar album. I hope he's still alive & playing in Barcelona when I get there. Gimme another year or two Derek...
New Year was good, I saw some fireworks from a spot in the Botanic Gardens. I walked home after sunrise.
The artwork arrived for the ddpp album! Thanks Paul.
*Until I discovered that was the name of an American soft drink TMTMTTMTMTMTMTMTMTMTMTMTMTMTMTTMTMTMTMTMTMTMTMTTMTMTM