I dig music. I used to play drums, which was awesome, the crazy gigs, crazy times, getting high, getting laid, getting paid sometimes, raising holy hell and fucking with people. The more anarchic the scene, the better. Blood on the floor, sounds in the air. Think a hockey game, but with notes. And weirder.
I’ve been writing since as far back as my memory goes. I used to write articles about strange bands. They’d appear in doomed little magazines, or online somewhere. I always sweated the writing, broke my back on the things, making written English sound real and not like the crap they taught us in English classes. I had a writing class once and the teacher turned us on to John McPhee. Holy shit. That was it. That was writing. That was so real. I still think so. Bruce Catton’s This Hallowed Ground did that to me when I was in high school, or was it junior high? Or 5th grade? A beat up old Penguin edition of Thucydides kicked my ass one summer in college. My mind was really blown by Fernand Braudel’s History of the Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II. I was stuck in Santa Barbara, bored to tears, and I could see the little cities he described up and down the coastal plain there. Feel the same winds. It changed my life, I guess, somehow. Later I picked up Lawrence Durrell…damn. The moonlight on the cobbly desert floor just beyond the Delta. I guess those are the influences, the inspirations that I remember. Toss in Cole Porter, Merle Haggard and Don Van Vliet. Maybe well written commercials, film noir, neurology, and of course a life of epilepsy. That’ll fry your brain, epilepsy. All of you normal people see the world one way. An epileptic sees it his own way, two dimensional, big thick lines, quivering auras, a Van Gogh. A Van Gogh looks real to us. Absolutely real.
I love jazz. I write about it. About the players, the scene, the notes pouring out of their horns, and why people might dig it. I like the local, the little joints, the unknown. I like a guy playing his axe like there’s nothing else out there but the music. The smell of weed somewhere, the clink of empties, sweat glistening under a bare bulb. Cool.
This gig dropped into my lap, out of the blue. I never wanted to be a jazz journalist. Never ever. Jazz writing is so fucking dull. The worst. Unreadable. I mean, if you write about music, you ought to try and write as well as the players are playing the music you write about. People should be able to feel the experience of hearing the music through the experience of reading about it. That’s how you get people interested. That’s how you pack a jazz club on a Sunday night. That’s how you make a difference. [I quit the Weekly in 2011.]
Otherwise it’s just bullshit. Just facts, names, trivia, bullshit. A phonebook of facts. I try not to do that every week. I try and turn people onto jazz who hate jazz. I try and fill clubs. I try to make jazz fans, one at a time. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t.
Me? I’m married, thirty years now. We met as berzerk punk rockers in 1979. I’ve had various day jobs. I like day jobs. I rarely play drums anymore, but I love drums. My passions are linguistics, neurology, evolutionary science, lots of history. I love seeing music, all kinds of music. I like old movies. I love really good writing. I love natural history museums, zoos, historical sites, anything with dinosaurs. I love dinosaurs. I love throwing parties. Wild, noisy endless parties full of smartasses. I love books. And hockey. And LPs for a dollar. And solid colored ceramic coffee mugs. And getting things in the mail. And wearing blazers. I love the desert. And maps. And talking. And women. I love the view out my front window. And driving the freeway late at night with the windows open and the music blaring. God I love that. I love words too, and accents, and languages, and grammars, all kinds of grammars, and people that say fuck in polite company. I love dictionaries.