December 5/6 1997
Life, obviously, tritely, but truly, is a gift. Whether you asked to be born is irrelevant - you don't ask for every holiday gift you receive, either. In my case, it was a gift for which another child had to give his life so that it could be given to me: an earlier Mike Keneally born to my mother passed away in infancy - had he lived I don't think there'd have been any pressing need for me.
Last Monday, after the Robb Vallier gig at the Troubador (a barn-burner) I got in the car, put on Frank Zappa's "The Best Band You Never Heard In Your Life" and went for a drive to look at the large studio facility which served as a rehearsal space for us in 1987 and 1988, as we prepared for the tour which produced that album. I parked out of view of the security guards in the parking-lot entrance booth and looked at the outside of the studio complex and listened to the music we produced. What a gloriously creative man was Frank Zappa; what an amazing band we were, and how inconceivably fortunate am I to have been a part of it. And how easy to forget the simple truth that if I weren't, after all, ALIVE, none of it would have ever happened to me and none of my precious memories of those days would be here for me to cherish until the day I die.
Which could be tomorrow - ask Michael Hedges, God rest his beautiful soul.
So remember that Frank wasn't kidding when he said "it's so fucking great to be alive", and live a little. Or a lot.
Enough of that! Last week I was constantly reminded how fucking great it is to be alive as I languished in vacation mode up in Sparks, Nevada. Jesse and I drove up to hang with my mom and my brother Marty for three days, then Viv flew in for Thanksgiving and we hung out for another three days. Pure bliss, not a lick of work to do, and a whole hell of a lot of time to just play with and talk to Jesse and be constantly humbled by her every word and action - this kid really is amazing. I won't bore you with Dad-speak but I'll let you know that her sense of rhythm, her grasp of melody and her memory banks are at least as developed at age three as mine were at age six. I wouldn't be at all surprised if she ended up writing some really scary music someday. If she feels like it. Whatever she decides to do, though, she'll do it well.
This week I was in San Diego for three days. I did my second-ever session with Matthew Lien and found it just as fascinating as the first (which resulted in the album "Bleeding Wolves", see MK discography for details) and ultimately more satisfying, since I feel at least twice the musician now that I was two years ago, thus more able to give this very affable but very demanding composer what he was looking for. For one song he had a guitar solo written, down to every last minute articulation, but not on paper - it was all in his head: he sang the solo to me and I practiced it until it sounded like what he had imagined, and got it on tape. We were both really happy. What a nice thing to be able to do for someone.
Then I spent a couple of days at Chatfield Manor doing a LOT of writing - new discography entries for the "Music For Pets" collectors' box, another look at "Shampoohorn", proper entries for "Half Alive In Hollywood" and "The Tar Tapes Volume One", and looks at "Merry Axemas", the Mark Craney benefit CD and the Ed Palermo album of Zappa songs. I've also tremendously enjoyed reading all that you folks have had to say over at "Sluggo!-rama". At first I'd thought that I might weigh in with a few responses here and there, but I've subsequently decided that I should keep my big nose out of it; I've got the rest of this playground practically to myself so the "Rama" shall be yours and yours alone. Just one thing, though, for the boys in THE ROOM...talk to me again in a few years, after you have kids.
Also it's overwhelmingly male over there - please, if there are any women reading this who own the album, make your voices known. But I'm very grateful to all who have contributed - much food for thought for li'l old me. I never would've dreamed that "Nina" and "TRANQUILLADO" would have emerged as such early favorites - as I told Beller on the phone today, and he agreed, I conceived of "Nina" as a kind of thought-provoking speedbump, but you folks seem to have gotten a lot more out of it than that. All the comments are great, I'm blown away, flattered, amazed, amused - please keep it coming.
Driving back to LA yesterday, the car I was in (the "B" car, a 10-year-old Ford Tempo well past its last legs) kept stalling, so I parked and let it regain its bearings and waited out the traffic watching the film "Starship Trooper". What a sly, subversive, funny, expert little piece of work that is! The few critics I've read who've received it as some kind of pro-military tract are as clueless as clueless can be - it's not even pro-HUMAN. Rarely have I so much enjoyed being told what a foolish, bloodthirsty species I belong to. Highly recommended. I talked to Henry Kaiser today - not an easy mark, film-wise - and he enjoyed it just as much. He wasn't so kind to "Alien Resurrection", though, for what that's worth. The next Mistakes album is in the advanced talking stages. It will be very different from the first, in ways I'm really looking forward to. I've also just agreed to take part in two, possibly three more tribute albums, so I'll keep you posted as their status becomes more official. A lot of people hate tribute albums. Who knows, maybe they suck, but participating in them is a lot of fun.
It shall be interesting to see how El Nino treats us here in the beloved San Fernando valley in the weeks to come. Today was expected to be a real bad day around here but it's been gentle. (I type these words fully realizing that I may look back on them with bemused scorn one day, remembering bitterly how I had to scoop water out of my living room with my hat collection two days after having typed them. Hope I'm wrong about that.)
Viv and I have laid plans to leave Los Angeles sometime soon and move our family back to San Diego. Now that we've made that decision, of course, I've been noticing that L.A. is somehow not as disgusting as I've always held it to be, at least as regards the music scene. I've never relished club-hopping around here - didn't like the music, the audiences, the whole vibe. "Ugly" was the word I most often used to describe the Hollywood area and its attendant frame of mind. But in recent weeks I've spent a lot more time than usual in the clubs around here, either playing or seeing other bands or just hanging, and I've noticed a much more genial, intelligent, gentle tenor to the whole scene. It's actually a pleasure. And of course this is the moment I choose to return to San Diego - without regrets, mind you; S.D. has still got it over L.A. in a million other ways - but it's undoubtedly ironic. Still, it makes me happy to not feel compelled to describe the L.A. music scene as an irredeemable trash heap. And I know that I have changed as well. I just feel more comfortable EVERYWHERE these days. I'm teeming with confidence, just this much short of brashness. 1998 will kick ass.
Okay okay! You've got plenty more to read, go to the discography and poke around for a while. Have fun. Write when you get back. And pile it on at the "Sluggo!-rama" please!
Later, my lovelies,