I received a very nice email from a very bright guy whose questions caused me to have to attempt some personal insight. It went like this:
Hey Fedrico:

I’ll try and answer your questions.

I.  First off, I want to ask why in the music mecca of Chicago isn’t there a bunch of friends that you’re performing with as much as you write?
**I played in bands through the 80’s to mid-90’s, then got married and had kids, converted to home-recording. Of my old band-mates, I lost touch with some, some died, most got out of music. I’m now actually about 12 miles out from downtown, in the South Suburbs.

– Is it just our generation that only learned to compete and not collaborate?  I wonder why you don’t have any other players with you, with all of this sound production going on.
**I had a pretty good three years with a drummer in The Friday Project; check out:*the fridayproject. bandcamp*. We did a lot of recording, had a few other players in and out, then my partner  decided he wanted to do covers, and I didn’t.  I’ve been in three bands since, one as bassist for another guy’s originals; it was OK but I got bored after recording two albums with/for them, *bustouts.bandcamp*. Another band was a a cover band – I got bored again,. The last morphed to a cover band, so I left.

-Is everyone too busy?   Is that what it means to make music now, “It’s Every Man for Himself?”
**Yeah, maybe. In my case, I’m 55 with a job and  kids, so, as you know, time is very valuable. Other musos  I meet tend to be approximately the same age, and they have similar obligations, with most, frankly, less willing/able to sacrifice.

(PS. I know what’s happened in the post crash economy – its going through the floor – but most musicians don’t ever reference that fact. – So its “Everyone’s struggling?” …)
**I think it’s not so much about money specifically, more about time.  And, a lot of older muso’s have forgotten *how* to commit to a band, if they ever knew – I meet a lot of dilettantes and posers.

(Because) II. The reason I ask the above question is not only to state my availability and desire but also to notice that to make good performances and records requires a lot of love & care & concerted effort : i.e.”friendship” and/or productive relationships with others… hours of practice… an openness to new ideas… a desire to at least interact with the audience (social function of music)… a desire to meet women…
**The latter reason is the best reason! Yeah, and all of those things take time, focus, patience, an ability to appreciate that musical results take practice and actual effort …

– Have drugs and drinking destroyed everything but a workmanlike relationship to music?
** Not for me. ;-D  Those were issues I encountered when I was working with 20 and 30 year olds – I haven’t seen them as issues with over-40’s, except maybe pro’s.

(Because, finally) III.  I have responsibilities and limited resources and its only fair to try to have some understandings & agreements before investing one’s life force, money, gas, wear & tear on the car, time spent, etc…  I’m not really looking for guarantees…  just a sense that its easy enough to shoot one’s self in the foot &  lose a lot of time and money, not to mention facing serious opposition from others.
**Respectfully, you’d be absolutely nuts, at this point, to travel from MI to IL.  I do my stuff in a small house; I have no rehearsal space, no sleep-over space. My studio is my bedroom. Also, I am not an easy guy to get along with, Type “A” and all of that, so no guarantees. I do do a fair amount of collaboration over the internet, and that would probably be the best way to start, (requiring a basic DAW and interface, and the ability to upload and download).

– So, in a way, this is as much an offer for friendship as for a spot in your band… (David Thomas says he has enough friends and wants people who can sell his records, ok, whatever)…  if that sounds fucking hippy well I’ve been thru punk rock too and whatever your day job is, you still need friends to make music…
**Absolutely! Friendship is essential, unless you are brothers like in Oasis, Kinks, Black Crows … There the blood covers it.  Sometimes. (Pere Ubu’s Dave Thomas?)

actually most of my friends in Chicago are old punks and anarchists…
(Influences:  Mekons, Wacos, Big Black, Shellac, Swans, Vudi, Einsturzende Neubauten, Art Music, etc)…
**Yeah, my bands were on the funk, grunge and the side of things. Pumpkins, Phair, 11th Dream Day, Urge Overkill, etc., hung in the same bars, played the same clubs …

– Right now, at least until the spring, I only have weekends except for the occasional weeknight gig (that is unless there can be a more radical arrangement – Songs from the Big Pink style,…  the disconnect I sense could be stated: “I don’t need anyone (Off), I need people” (Red with Grankspoine). (Which is a fuggin’ good song).  Is there a nihilist there mixed with a social democrat or anarcho-socialist?  (“…Off the muthafucker/I see red…”
**To quote my old friends in The New Duncan Imperials, “I’m schizophrenic. No, I’m not.” I’m also a big reader, and songs are often influenced by what I’ve read – I love noir, sci-fi, procedurals, mysteries …

– Ensemble-wise I think it would be best to find a young drummer…  I can play guitar, bass and a few other things… I have good rigs… I sing and write some as well… I can dance… right now there is plenty of material, the only question I ask is “Why do you want to do this?”
**For me, currently, live interaction is jamming, hanging, strictly casual.  There are no original music venues in the South Suburbs where I live; the closest are in the city, and the demographic there is 20’s to 30’s.  My thought was to find some local guys to get loud with, record with, etc. Doing shows would be mostly impractical for the above reasons. I lost touch with all my booking contacts years ago.

– I’m trying to find a way out of my super-difficult circumstances.  I don’t know how I will do it.  I work two jobs and cook for my folks during the week. I won’t send them to a nursing home. I don’t know any way out except to commute to Chicago weekends, which I’ve done in other years (see resume).  I live far a-fucking way.  I’m an artist and writer as well.  I have a 26-year-old daughter that still needs some support.  I love songwriting, recording and performing.
**We have much in common – I have two teens living at home, I am sole custodian (well, the daughter is now 18). I take a train into the city daily to work in a high-pressure, white-collar job. I have an elderly mother who, at this point is in good health, but at 75 … I pay my bills, drive an old pick-up, skip vacations, buy microphones, food, guitars, booze, and stuff for my kids. I have a tax lien and crappy health insurance, I’m fat and bald and pretty happy being single; although I’m considering looking for a girlfriend, I’m not too ambitious about it, yet, and mebbe never again – I hate the hassles and love the freedom.

– In short, please write me back and tell me what it is you’re doing and why.
**Hmm. Music is what I do. I mean, I can’t be cosmic about it. I also cook and drink and I read tons, work, raise kids. But first, music is what I do. I recall being mebbe 28 when a bandmate told me, “You are a musician.” Fuck, that was huge – I’ve not looked back. As of now, I’m pretty happy writing and recording; I have decent gear (far too much of it), a small house to write and record and mix in, a few guys I pass files back and forth to on the ‘net. I post my music on free sites, free to post and free to download. It’s not a money thing for me and it’s not a job, and since I’m actually doing it, it’s not a goal. Every now and then I notice somebody’s listening, but I usually just post a link to my stuff at a couple forums and on my blog and facebook, and that’s it.  I might get feedback on one of every 3 songs or so, and that’s OK, because feedback or not, I’m gonna keep doing it. And while live performance is a rush – loved it – it’s been a couple years now since I did a show, and the rest of it is satisfying, even if I do place CraigsList ads.

– I have facial hair and wear a hat.

– please don’t bother writing a crappy letter, I know you’re eloquent.
**As are you.

mike vlayman


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