Monday, September 27, 2004

Talk to Her

"Where words fail, music speaks," wrote Hans Christian Andersen the fairy-tale writer. "Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and which cannot remain silent," wrote Victor Hugo. Voltaire phrased it more bitterly: "Anything too stupid to be said is sung."

I've never been good at talking about my feelings, and somewhere along the way, I learned how to let other people's songs talk for me. I'd gotten rather good at it--so good, in fact, that I didn't expect to find anyone who could learn the same hidden language, and use it to such great and devastating effect. But many powerful things can come unexpected.

Forgive me for this brief foray into too-personal territory. If you know the story, well then, you know the story. If not, don't ask.

09.20.2004, 2am

1. No Ordinary Morning - Chicane
2. Eleven Eleven - Silverman
3. Beautiful - Mandalay
4. Out of Time - Blur
5. Fear - Sarah McLachlan
6. Everything in its Right Place - Radiohead
7. Drive - Bic Runga
8. In My Secret Life- Leonard Cohen
9. Fool on a Hill - The Beatles
10. Heaven - Lamb
11. Shri Krishna
12. Laughing as I Pray - K's Choice
13. Overflowing Ashtray Heart - Silverman
14. Home - Zero 7
15. Good Girl Down- Morcheeba (featuring Bahamadia)
16. Sun Again - Kinnie Star
17. I Loved You So What - Ani DiFranco
18. (I'll Never Get to See You Sleep*) - Enya

*not the real title

Monday, September 20, 2004

"She's the one who would've taken me to my first all-ages show..."

Oh, but that was a good gig last Saturday night. I haven't had that kind of fun in a long time, and I hadn't really expected that the Admit One gig at Saquijo's (featuring Jazz Kidding, Twisted Halo, Sugarfree, Cambio, and Urbandub) was going to be the blast that it was. Everything was just right: the cozy venue, the enthusiastic audience, the bands' musician friends (Buddy Zabala, Diego Castillo, Aia de Leon) who showed up to jam--the bands just fed off this favorable confluence of events, making it a Really Good Night. At one point, you couldn't tell where the audience ended or the band began, because everyone was just dancing around, having a mess o' a good time. Margie was up on her feet and dancing with Thor, and even Milwer was pounding the table and rocking out. Which does not, in the normal universe, happen at all.

"How many gigs have you been to?" Milwer asked Margie at one point. "This is my second!" he said, proudly. (The answer to that question, if any of you are wondering, is "Don't even know how to start counting.") We're all glad to see Milwer expanding his horizons, although he may have changed his mind Sunday if he woke up with the hangover I thought he was going to have. If he doesn't, I think the Scoobies are going to the Sugarfree gig next Friday at Peligro, new gig addict Milwer in tow. We're already looking forward to the day, maybe two or three years down the line, when Zo is ready for his first gig. With any luck, I'll be standing right there, holding a candle and crying tears of joy, the ninang to this music christening.

Friday, September 03, 2004


Got up freakishly early today (in magazine writer terms, 7:30am) when Anne Poblador called to ask if we were interested in a phone interview with Renée Olstead, the 15-year-old actress (Still Standing) who's just released her self-titled album. The phone interview was at 9:30am--not much time to prepare!--but I said yes anyway. I put myself back to sleep till 9am, and woke up just in time to greet Renée with a gruff but lovable newly woken voice.

The interview went okay, although her youth definitely shows in the way she answered the questions. Q: So you're a singer and an actress. How do you manage to do both? A: "Well, my schedule's busy, but it's fun!" Her (non-)eloquence aside, her voice on the album--covers of American songbook standards--is astonishingly mature. I really was quite impressed, although I had to bite my tongue before I blurted out the thought running through my head: "I really like your voice now, but can you imagine what it would be like when you've finally gotten a real heartbreak? Wow!" Normally, I would also say that her torch songs would improve after she'd lost her virginity, but this being LA...well.

One of my favorite interviews, but also the one I'm most ashamed of, is the one I did with Jack White of the White Stripes. I didn't know much about them then, and I'd only gotten the disc the night before. I knew they were, like, Big in Europe and America, but this was also before I heard Elephant and fell in love with it. Also, the early schedule (8:30am!) and my late nights meant that I was still groggy when I spoke to Jack. I still have the interview tape, though I'm embarrassed to listen to myself again, drawling like a drunk, eating my words like a retard. And asking questions like, "So, what is the hardest button to button?" Thankfully Jack was game.

I used to think that Tori Amos was my dream interview subject, but that was only until the record label sent over the interview disc of her talking about Scarlet's Walk, and I heard firsthand what all those other interviewers were saying, about her verbal pretzels. And, my, but she does go on and on. So passionately about everything, including places that were her friends who were gay and had AIDS and were betrayed, etc. etc. She sounded like she was on a peyote vision quest.

I think by now you've done more interviews than I have. Tell me about your memorable interviews? And who were you really thrilled to have met or spoken to?

Thursday, September 02, 2004

The Minor Fall and the Major Lift

I stumbled on this article in today's Salon, written by a guy who was in a poetry class with Jeff Buckley. I don't know what about today or my mood, but whatever it is, the article's exacerbating it. It's just one of those days when you wake up from a long, strange dream (one of my many apocryphal dreams, a recurring theme since I was a child), with leftover emotions that I can't shake no matter how many cups of coffee I drink.

Anyway, as you know, I'm signing up for some postgraduate classes next sem. Frankly, I don't think I miss the classroom setting, especially since I've been teaching workshops for a few years now and will be unused to being the lectured instead of the lecturer. But I do think it's going to help my writing, since I feel that I've been working for so, so, so long in magazines that I'm starting to get into a writing rut. Or a career rut.

Sorry for the aimless angsting. This may or may not have something to do with the fact that I'm turning 30 in about two and a half months, or it may just be a temporary mood thing that'll go away as soon as I take another nap. Also, I'm going up to Sagada tomorrow night, and that's always meant weird mood swings for me. I don't have my copy of Jeff Buckley's Grace right now, but if I did, that's what I'd be listening to right now: the complex guitars, the fragile vocals, the strange, painful, beautiful lyrics.

Right now, the song playing in my head is Jeff Buckley singing a Leonard Cohen song:

I've heard there was a secret chord
that David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don't care much for music, do you?
It goes like this:
the fourth, the fifth,
the minor fall and the major lift.
The baffled king composing 'Hallelujah'

So much in that song about a song. Where does music come from? Divine inspiration and ecstasy, or brokenness and despair? Or both: "I don't care if you heard the holy or the broken Hallelujah."

I had that discussion with my friends a long time ago, when I asked them if they'd rather be happy or good at their art, given that the two were mutually exclusive. For years and years, the pretentious little snots that we were said we'd rather produce good art than be happy, until we really got going on life, and finally got to taste what real unhappiness was like. Then we all decided that it wasn't all that it was cracked up to be; when I asked them the question again, years after college, everyone agreed: happiness over art.

Well. I'm counting on God not being that cruel, that good art and happiness can't be had in the same lifetime. I'm tempted to say, too, that I wouldn't care if it were a short life, just as long as it was fulfilling and happy--but, well, that's not the kind of thing you say when you're about to go on a trip.

Jeff Buckley walked into a river and disappeared when he was 30. He produced good art. I sure as hell hope he was happy.

Here's a poem that he wrote: