2018 was an amazing and horrifying year. I celebrate the best of the best and the best of the worst.
“So….are you still like…making music?”
This is an actual quote from a recent conversation I had. It stung at first but in the end, I got it. I’ve played less shows and shared less music this year than any year I can remember.
“So…are you still like…making music?”
I’ve played a couple epic shows with the band and felt the inevitable 3 day high of being accepted by a large crowd.
“SO ARE YOU STILL MAKING MUSIC OR NOT, MOTHERFUCKER?!”
Oh right, that. The answer? Yes. Lots. Last year I decided that the Patrick Galactic I’d shown the world had run its course and I wanted to branch out, creatively. Remember that whole “It’s the end of an era” tagline that I threw around a lot? There was a reason.
I’ve spent the last 8 months recording relentlessly, making a beautiful video with my ace, John Theroux, and before the year is over, you’ll be hearing a lot of it! I’ve had the opportunity to work with an amazing cast of musicians on my next EP and I am so excited to show it to you. Almost excited enough to…no. Not yet. But soon.
Till then here’s a picture of my dog, who has been endlessly bored watching me make this shit. Give it up for Luna everyone. She’s the real hero here
Cover photo by Tony Hammons
“Bummer dude your obituary wall can’t be updated”
I woke up at 2am on Thursday and read the text from my friend. He calls my Facebook wall my “obituary wall” because I, like approximately everyone minus my friend, am known to share an RIP post when artists I respect die…and 2016 was a busy year so…I was in the middle of a self-imposed exile from social media and he knew I wouldn’t be posting about this newly-deceased person. I immediately opened my Apple News app and scrolled feverishly. I saw that Roger Ailes, former head of FOX News, had died. Realizing I had been pranked, I laughed a little because I am no fan of Ailes, FOX News or anyone who peddles xenophobia, bigotry and intolerance as entertainment.
I went back to sleep.
I had weird dreams. Something didn’t feel right.
I woke up again at 5am. I re-opened my news app. By then the story had circulated long enough to appear at the top of the headlines.
Chris Cornell dead. Apparent suicide. 52 years old.
I couldn’t believe what I was reading. I felt sick. I felt overwhelmed. I was in the midst of a great wrong and couldn’t switch to the second gear of acceptance.
I was in 6th grade when I got a copy of Badmotorfinger. I had already worn out my copies of Nevermind and Ten. My musical awareness was exploding. My dad took me to Pearl Jam’s now-legendary show at Magnuson Park, which sent my NEED TO KNOW in to overdrive. I had seen an interview with Chris and Kim Thayil on Headbangers Ball. They looked different than the other Seattle bands. They didn’t have the “I never asked for this” air about them that had already become a well-worn trope among emerging Seattle artists. They were crass, smart, articulate.
And then they played the video for Outshined.
Cornell, looking like a hyper-fit Jesus Christ in shorts and Doc Martins, screamed, crooned, and immediately changed my pre-teen perception of what a rock star should be. He was gorgeous, he was righteous, he was instantly who I wanted to be.
I was an MTV addict since the age of 6 or 7. Growing up in the 80’s I had been conditioned to accept the Bon Jovis, Poisons and Metallicas of the world as what a rock star was. I was 11 when Nirvana burst in to my life. I loved them but there was so much about them I didn’t understand yet. Soundgarden bridged that gap in a way that made transference easier.
In early ’94 I started to see teasers for Superunknown in my local paper and record store…I was so excited. Badmotorfinger had now become a staple of my daily listening routine alongside Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, etc. I was ready for another round of speedy, dark, not-revolutionary-but-very-good metal to channel my growing angst in to.
When the day finally arrived and the album came out I had already worked it out with my Mom that we would go immediately when she got home (at 6:30) to the record store (it closed at 7) so I could get my copy. We got stuck in notorious South Hill traffic. My heart raced. The idea that I would get this album even ONE DAY after it came out was completely unacceptable. I felt panicked, my anxiety growing higher as the car clock read 6:55 with still a mile to go…we weren’t going to make it. I contemplated jumping out of the car in a military roll and running. But I wouldn’t have enough time. At 6:59 we pulled up to Budget Tapes and Records. I flew from the car to get through the door before they closed. The owner, Floyd, knew me well and laughed as I raced to the display and grabbed my copy. I did it! We did it! Whatever.
We didn’t have a cd player in the car and there was NO WAY I was going to share my first listen with my Mom. I love my Mom, she is a wonderful person and in many ways my best friend but she could NEVER appreciate how much this moment would mean to me. She liked Amy Grant, for fuck’s sake.
We got to the house, I moved toward the front door with the grace of a cheetah…she walked. I didn’t have a key. “GODDAMN IT, hurry up”, I thought. Finally, after what felt like one full turn of the Earth’s axis, my mom made it to the door and turned the key…and I was gone, a ghost to all in that house who loved me.
I had unwrapped the cd in the car so I wouldn’t have to wait a single goddamn second to hear it. These are the moments that I miss so much today. An album would be hyped for 6 weeks before it was released. The reviews would start piling in a few days before it came out. I had read everything I could get my greasy little fingers on. I re-read them. The praise was universal for this one. It would be different. I needed to hear Black Hole Sun because it was the track that everyone hailed as a total departure.
Finally, I popped the cd out of its case. I delicately inserted it in to my cd player. I took a breath and hit the play button. I lay on my bedroom floor and started reading through the liner notes. And what came through my speakers for the next 70+ minutes changed the way I perceived rock music for the rest of my life. It was metal. It was psychedelic. It was pop. It fucking glowed.
Chris Cornell’s voice soared in a way I could never have imagined possible. Every song could have been the best track. I waited for a stinker. It never came. In fact, my least favorite song was Spoonman, a song I loved which had been released a few weeks prior to the album coming out. I was in the presence of a genuine modern rock masterpiece. I listened to the album another time all the way through and then turned out my lights and listened to it all night as I slept. I did the same thing for months after.
By the time summer rolled around, Black Hole Sun and its video had taken over MTV and the public consciousness. Soundgarden were the biggest band in the world, if only for a moment. On a family trip to Seattle we passed the Seattle Center and I saw in the marquee, like a glowing godly proclamation “Soundgarden – August 13th”. HOLY FUCK. HOLY FUCK. HOLY FUUUUUUUUUUCCCCKKKKK.
When I got home, I knew what to do. I called my uncle. My uncle is about 15 years older than me. So, though we were a generation apart, we could connect about many things. He, like my dad, like me, was obsessed with music. The phone rang and rang and rang. The answering machine picked up. “Hey Paul, it’s Pat. I need to talk to you. It’s about Soundgarden. Please call me.”
I don’t know how long after it was but the phone rang and I clumsily raced to pick it up. It was Paul. “Hey Pal, I haven’t listened to your message but I wanted to tell you that Soundgarden is playing at Memorial Stadium on August 13th do you want to go?” At this point I think it’s worth mentioning that my uncle is, to this day, both a hero and a legend to me. For this and many other reasons.
Needless to say, I saw Soundgarden at the height of their powers and popularity. I also saw Screaming Trees that day as well as The Reverend Horton Heat. It was the last show of their tour in front of their hometown. It changed my life and accelerated the NEED TO KNOW...to be what they were…to learn the mixture of this powerful alchemy that they could so effortlessly command.
There was only one more Soundgarden record, Down on the Upside. I still feel it is excellent, though not all agree. I could hear the changes from their previous work. When they broke up in 1997, even though I loved and adored them, for some reason I wasn’t surprised or even sad.
I scooped up Cornell’s debut solo album Euphoria Mo(u)rning the day it came out. It, I felt, was a masterpiece. It was more nuanced and soulful, while demonstrating the influence of Radiohead’s OK Computer. It briefly generated some buzz but quickly got buried under the heap of Nu Metal and other such shit that had taken over the American consciousness. I saw him and his band at the Paramount on that tour and again was floored by his voice, his presence and his musicianship.
Chris did a lot after that. Audioslave. More solo albums. Scream…eh…let’s just leave it at that. I didn’t love everything he did. In fact I hated some of it. But I remained bonded to his command of craft and respected his commitment to experimentation, regardless of the result. I always listened eagerly to whatever he put out and looked for the good in it, even when I didn’t enjoy it.
When Soundgarden reunited, I was more curious than excited. I had seen enough reunions to know that some things are better left as a memory. Could Cornell even hit the high notes of Beyond the Wheel or Face Pollution anymore? By chance, I caught some live footage of them performing at Lollapalooza. It was good enough to make me excited. When they announced a show at The Gorge in July of 2011 my animal instincts kicked in and, before I was even consciously aware, I had bought 5 tickets.
It was the last show of the tour. Queens of the Stone Age, Mastadon and the Meat Puppets(!) played. I was drunk. When the band walked out, the place erupted. Cornell wore white. His long hair was back. He had a beard. He…kinda looked like Jesus again. They proceeded to fucking destroy their set and bring all those teenage feels back to life. I had chills. When they closed their set with 4th of July my mind literally exploded.
When they returned for an encore, as if to prove to stupid me that he could, in fact, hit the high notes, the band launched in to Beyond the Wheel and Cornell hit every note as if it were 1988 all over again. I mentally bowed to the master and stored the show away as a high point in my lifetime of concert going. “I would definitely see them again,” I remember saying to my Dad.
Well. No, as it turns out.
I wrote a tribute to David Bowie after his passing last year. It was heartfelt and cathartic. Since then another of my greatest musical heroes, Leonard Cohen, also passed on to quest for a new castle. Both of them made me a better, more thoughtful person.
But Chris Cornell has meant the most to me. I know that all the members of Soundgarden wrote and made massive contributions to the band. Cornell would be the first to point that out. He left Seattle and moved to France. He talked openly about how he had wanted to escape Seattle his whole life. He modeled. He made Scream.
He wasn’t perfect. He was just a man. But his words, his voice kept me company every day when I was mercilessly bullied in junior high. His fucked up chord progressions and effortless melodies were there to teach me as I learned to play guitar and write songs. His path was a guiding light of sorts as I quested to know more.
Perhaps more importantly, Chris talked openly about getting sober. When I got to the end of the line a few years ago and finally put the bottle and the pipe down, I was lost. I had never even contemplated the thought of being clean. I was in over my head and out of my depth. And, as in so many years past when I didn’t know what to do, Chris Cornell and his words were there again to provide a path.
He talked about the changes sobriety brings to one’s life. He talked about being a different person sober. He helped me see that it was ok to change and that my creativity wouldn’t be lost without substances. He was right. Once I accepted the change, things improved for me exponentially.
I feel tremendous empathy for his wife, children and family. Suicide is a curse on those that remain. The questions that will undoubtedly go through their minds for the rest of their lives are a painful, undeserved punishment for a crime they never committed. There is still much to learn about how this could have happened.
There is nothing romantic or sexy about suicide. Depression is a murdering savage with no face. I know Chris Cornell suffered from bouts of severe depression throughout his life. That the murdering savage appears have claimed him as its victim is truly tragic.
I feel terrible for his band. After a quarter century of work, their time together was abruptly halted with no warning. After touring the world together, navigating the extremes of both obscurity and overwhelming success, decades of distance and then a triumphant return, this end can’t be anything other than devastating.
Thank you, Chris. Thank you for your artistry, your passion, and the courage to share your story. Whether I was 14, 27, or 37, you provided me with so much inspiration. Losing you represents the loss of some innocence, an irretrievable time in my life that your mere existence embodied. It's safe to say you were the avatar for many millions more. As you quest for your new castle, you are loved and appreciated the world over.
As 2016 has done it’s damnedest to destroy human dignity and crush our collective spirit, I have been filled with things to say that, up until now, I haven’t. It’s far easier to keep quiet and focus on yourself and your endeavors when society is boiling over with conflict.
It’s also cowardly.
So I am going to get it all out now.
If you count yourself as a fan, supporter, or friend of mine, I want you to know that:
If you embrace racist, sexist, xenophobic, homophobic, transphobic, or some other phobic/ist ideology I have failed to list that grants you the moral imperative to suppress the rights of other people for simply existing, I don’t need your support.
If you believe a woman’s worth is defined by the shape of her body or her willingness to smile at your request, I don’t need your support.
If sexual assault against anyone is an act you are willing to trivialize or counter-define to justify your disastrous inability to empathize with the trauma of another human being, I don’t need your support.
I respect any belief (political, religious or otherwise) that allows for the dignity of all others.
As I promote my music and invite more people to hear my work, the fairest thing I can do is be honest about where it comes from (and where it doesn’t).
Currently Listening to:
The Raincoats, “Odyshape”.
I love discordant records with fucked up timing and lots of strings. This album, as best I can tell, is not loved quite the same as their debut but it is my favorite. Ana De Silva, Gina Birch, and Vicky Aspinall prove here that artistic vision trumps technical brilliance every time. I always turn this on when I’m feeling a little…well…
Exposed and impatient
My daily pre-release ritual is sending dozens of emails to press outlets every morning. It is an exercise that is both cathartic and absolutely horrible. There are the inevitable rejections, which are better than the inevitable apathy, and then, every once in a while there is the “I love it!” email that I’m not-so-secretly hoping everyone will send.
Possibly my greatest talent, if it can be called that, is investing my whole self in my music. I leave it all on the stage, the studio, whatever the place, I leave it there. That said, sending your heart in to the hands of the press can be kinda demoralizing if you don’t harden yourself and stay focused on what really matters.
After more than 20 years, I must confess that my biggest blind spot is my sensitivity to rejection. But my faith is stronger than it’s ever been and, though rejections will continue, so will I.
That felt good to say.
Currently really digging:
Kikagaku Moyo "House in the Tall Grass"
Beautiful Japanese Psych Rock. I don’t think I need to say more but I will. If Can was Radiohead with a pinch of early Mogwai and everybody was pleasantly stoned, they would be Kikagaku Moyo. Highly recommended.
Currently hoping you are aware of:
The big release show on 11/17 at Sunset! You can get a copy of “Running from the Sun” on CD or cassette two weeks before the album drops and see a diverse bill of great bands. Let’s make this a bash to remember! You can buy tickets here and RSVP to the show here and/or here.
It’s warmed my heart to see so many tributes to David Bowie this week. I’ve always considered him an icon but the magnitude was impossible to comprehend until he was gone. I had listened to Blackstar several times since its release two days earlier and felt it was Bowie’s strongest album in decades. I like The Next Day and don’t dislike Reality or a few of the 90’s albums but there was something grander about this…something ominous and real…something inexplicably bigger. It seemed clear to me that Bowie was pondering his mortality, which, at the age of 69, isn’t uncommon. Fuck, I do that now, who could blame him? As it turns out, as we all know now, he had very good reason to ponder.
I cannot imagine what it is like to live with a terminal illness. I have known and loved people living with incurable cancer. I watched them fight, weaken and die. It is a harsh, unforgiving transformation. Cancer has no regard for the life of the person it is slowly murdering. Though David Bowie was a very public figure his real life, the one lived with his wife and daughter, was very private. Through his accumulation of personas and his music we felt a connection to a man that we knew almost nothing of. He wanted it that way. I have no idea what he went through these last 18 months but he was clearly intent on departing this realm as artfully and passionately as he lived in it.
The moment I read the announcement of his death, Blackstar felt like something far different than what it initially seemed. Never has an artist so carefully crafted their send-off. This is the kind of death a book or a play or a movie is made about. The timing, the drama, the agony...it was so…BOWIE. The man was a singing, swaggering work of art every step of the way. Why would his death be any different? Though it was shocking and sad to realize the Thin White Duke had taken his final bow, everyone learns the limits of their mortality at some point. My mind soon turned to his creative legacy and the gratitude I felt for his influence in my art.
It took me a while to understand David Bowie. A long while, actually. When I was 17 growing up in Puyallup, Washington there was a music store called Budget Tapes and Records that I spent a lot of time at. This was just before the Napster craze and Budget had a HUGE selection of used music that could be had for a very reasonable price. They also had a Dollar Bin that I very rarely perused because it usually was overflowing with Donny Osmond albums and other absolute shit that was of no interest to me (sorry/not sorry Donny). Anyhoo on this particular day I decided to look through it and saw a copy of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. I had listened to exactly zero Bowie up to this point. But I knew knowledge of his work was a MUST for anyone who fashioned themselves a knower of musical matters and promptly laid out the 4 quarters and 7 pennies it would cost to take such a risk.
I was apprehensive. I was excited. I got a great deal! I got home. I made a beeline to my room, hastily stuffed the CD in to my player and…was immediately confused, disoriented, and otherwise nonplussed. I liked “Suffragette City” but the rest made no sense to me. “But this is legendary shit,” I thought to myself. “Why don’t I get it? I HAVE TO GET IT.” But I just didn’t. Super uncool, I would remain. A classic Galactic dilemma.
But I didn’t give up on Ziggy. I kept that album. I made myself listen to it every once in a while. Just to see…did I get it yet? I listened to hundreds more albums, continued to expand my musical vocabulary and…still nothing. WHY MUST THIS HOMOEROTIC MASTERPIECE OF SPACE AND TIME ELUDE MY SIMPLE MIND?!
Flash forward 4 years. I am 21. I have a full-time job and a long drive every day to get to it. I have one of those big-ass books with much of my cd catalog in it and on this particular hazy morning (this was the height of my stoner-dom, every morning was hazy), Ziggy found his way in to the CD player. And in an instant, a moment of clarity, Earth, Sun and Moon formed a perfect circle and the limits of my coolness expanded just enough for me to the grasp the brilliance contained on that spinning, thin silver circle. Suddenly I got it in a very big way. I listened to it every day for a very long time afterward. It was like going from Padawan to Jedi. It was like I had discovered The Force for the first time.
It changed what I wanted to do with my own music. It changed what I wanted to listen to. It changed me in a fundamental way.
Now there wasn’t a David Bowie album safe from my eager ears. Hunky Dory, Aladdin Sane, Low, and “Heroes” all became staples in my regular rotation. His ability to assimilate, produce, and reinvent, draping every aspect of his essence in art, was a constant inspiration. Perhaps most importantly, the confidence with which he delivered his message, that free expression belonged to everyone, the freakier the better, provided a fatherly comfort, both artistically and in my day-to-day life.
Bowie never drew lines or set limits on where his creativity could go. He wasn’t perfect either, by his own admission he made some pretty bad albums in the 80’s trying to reach an MTV audience he didn’t entirely understand. But shouldn’t an artist dedicated to experimentation fail sometimes? Any result to David Bowie, success or failure, was temporary. He brushed it off, changing pace and face and spent the 90’s successfully reaching that audience that had eluded him the decade before, highlighted by a legendary co-headlining tour with Nine Inch Nails that many of us are probably irate to have missed right about now.
David Bowie, the artist, will be remembered as many things: a transformational songwriter and performer, a tinkerer who experimented with texture and tone endlessly, a believer in the power of transformation, an advocate for the young, the alienated, the disaffected…that horribly awesome “Dancing in the Streets” video with Mick Jagger, his bulge in “The Labyrinth”…the list is long and deservedly so.
The man, David Jones, is purposefully an enigma. Perhaps in an effort to let his art do the talking, he revealed very little of himself to the public. There will no doubt be tell-all interviews and books forthcoming, there are already some far-less-than-flattering stories in circulation that Bowie never denied in his lifetime. It is not my intention nor is it possible for me to sing the praises or condemn him as a person.
In the end, he was a tremendous shaper of pop culture and contemporary culture in general. His gifts were vast and he was generous with them all.
I am eternally grateful to have known the celestial presence that came to be called Bowie.
"What are your songs about? What do you make music for? What's your message?"
"Well I...uh...see the...hmmmmm...yeah, basically....you see, when a man loves a woman..."
I have been asked these questions a lot over the years. And, unfailingly, I stammer and trip all over myself trying not to look like a fucking moron...which I then fail at on account of all the stammering. I'm not good on the spot. I'm more of an "off the spot" guy, lurking in the shadows of my own omnipresence.
I make music to express my unyielding desire for acceptance, for peace, for an understanding that has, thus far, eluded me.
I have lived most of my life feeling like an outcast of some type. No matter how many people are around me, no matter how many friends I have, I am inhabited by a profound and unwavering solitude. It's a long, dark kind of alone...heavier than my bones, thicker than my blood. It's like a universe occupied by just me. There are many times I'm grateful for it and many times where I wonder if I am just crazy and no one has figured out how to tell me? Either way, I am endlessly preoccupied with my own anxieties and racing thoughts and that creates a barrier (or protective shield, depending on how you look at it) between me and the rest of the world.
Breaking through this cavern of echoes to the rest of the world is a formidable task. Writing music helps me wade beyond the waters of my distorted thinking. It's medicinal, it works just like an anti-depressant. When I go too long without creating, I get clogged up with nervous tension and self loathing. A new melody or a great lyric is like a Xanax for my heart. When I'm on a roll and am writing a lot, I feel like I am successfully fulfilling my purpose in life.
If I have ever felt the presence of God it has been through song.
Performing is the truest form of connection I know. It's a bridge from the deepest, darkest part of me to you. It's where I'm most honest, no need to hide or pretend. There are no falsities, no stutter steps. I don't care how I look or how it makes you feel when I am singing my heart...we are inexplicably connected. If you want to know me, the stage will unravel every layer of pretense. It's a discovery for us both.
And THAT is why I make music.
Do you make music or some other art? Why? Leave a comment, let's jib-jab.