Since the downturn in the economy began back in 2007, lots of us that did the L.A. catch-as-catch-can dance of straddling a half dozen trades in media and entertainment found ourselves with more time and less dinero on our hands than we were comfortable with.
As our revenue streams like print media, commercial acting and radio started getting skinnier (the first being hammered by our pal the Internet, the second by fewer ad dollars being spread out over fewer new spots, many of which now feature Oscar nominees and winners, hey Joe Pesci and Sam Jackson, do you really need the loot THAT bad, and lastly, free or paid programming is a godsend to struggling radio chains), we found we had loads more free time.
Which would have been the devil's playpen were we younger but for those of us on the flip side of 50 means existential toe gazing and self-loathing amped up to 11. In my particular case, my entry into the world of the creative arts was via playing music at the dawn of the punk era and as music has always been my true home and passion, back I went, even though there's even less money in it than the barren, afore-mentioned fields.
So, I made a CD last year (IT!!) and am recording a mini-EP now for vinyl. As the bards of the Bowery sang in my youth, I just wanna have something to do and this is what I chose. Luckily, I can scrape together enough lucre to go into studios and have kind patrons for the rest and even more luckily, have never been more fertile, new song wise.
One of which is an under two minute polemic entitled "No Fun In The Modern World", based on a pair of chords, a thumpy chorus and a rapped verse (more in the Dylan sense than hip-hop, I'm old, remember?). With that in mind and with the idea that a different voice besides mine would enliven the tune, I called upon my good friend Keith Morris (Black Flag, Circle Jerks, OFF!) to join me in Echo Park to track the song. Sent him the lyrics, he liked them and agreed.
If the afternoon had only been a short film subject, it might have said everything one ever needed to know about aged punk rockers and the zeitgeist of middle aged Bohemia. The recording studio is on a steep hillside and as I went out front to signal to Keith where the door was, he was ambling down the hill, backpack and drink in hand, his impressive dreadlocks bouncing along with his steps--just as I stood up to wave him over, an LAPD cruiser swerved around him, stopped in front of me and backed up to turn around--both Keith and I paid it no mind, but I remarked later that had this been 30 years earlier, both of us would have been scared absolutely rigid.As is, what do we fear from them? We ain't holding, spray painting, vandalizing--we're, dare I say it...working!
As he is a pro belter, it took him all of three takes to accomplish his verse and chorus and did so with elan and a gut curdling scream that I demanded be mixed as loud as possible. He and the engineer and I sat afterwards gabbing about rock and roll, van tours, punk rock cred and more or less everything else us old goat warhorses would reminisce over. What struck me after he split was that we had sort of turned the paradigm on its head--Keith's new band OFF! is as good as anything he's ever done, the new thing we cut was slower in tempo and better played than I used to do but without any reduction in rancor and it seems to me once a punk rocker, even with skills added or country and folk and jangle and Latin beats mixed in, you'll always be one. It's an attitude.
Would that our bodies agreed--as we stumbled back into the beautiful sunlight of a May L.A. afternoon, all three of us were groaning and holding our lower backs. The tune may have been called "No Fun In The Modern World", but it sure was a blast to bang it out in 2012 anyway!