“*” to be released November 11, 2018

So anyway, on November 11, 2018 I’m going to be releasing my 10th solo album, called “*” (aka “Asterisk”). I’ve been working on it on and off for more than 10 years.

“*” is an album of 13 songs inspired by lessons I’ve learned over the course of many years being a fan of the author Kurt Vonnegut. It works regardless of if you’re a fan or if you’ve never read a single word he’s ever written. But it’s probably better if you’re a fan.  It’s not an effort to retell any of Vonnegut’s stories or offer a biography of his life, etc. It’s 13 Derek Brink songs that are imparting the wisdom of the messages and insights I’ve applied to my life from Vonnegut’s work.  I recently explained it to a friend thusly: “I used to write songs after reading the Bible. These are songs I wrote after reading ‘Slaughterhouse-Five.'”

I started reading Vonnegut in earnest when I was in college. I read all of his novels within a year and all of his short-stories and essays within two. Out of that, I started writing songs. Some of them were terrible. Some of them weren’t. Nevertheless, I was stashing all of them aside in the “Songs for Kurt” file, thinking I’d eventually put out an album with that title. But I quickly figured out that I wasn’t where I needed to be as a writer or musician to pull it off. And also, it dawned on me that maybe people just wouldn’t be that interested. Who wants to hear an album full of songs about things I learned from Kurt Vonnegut? The market for the album might just be me.

And it took me 10 years to convince myself that writing it for myself (and for Kurt) was enough.

It also took me 10 years to get the confidence in my writing to do it. And to become the guitarist I felt I needed to be. And this. And that. And–you guessed it–the other. Some of the songs that are going on this album have been stewing from the moment I put down “Cat’s Cradle” (the first Vonnegut book I ever read). Some of them were written just prior to production, or even while it was ongoing! (There’s something of an “overture” track that needed to be put off until I was sure what to put in it.) Over the past decade or so, I’d occasionally return to the idea or write something new that I’d stash away thinking maybe SOMEDAY I’d do it.  All said, even though I’m never going to be the writer or musician that I want to be in my head, I’m finally the one who could write this album. So the day has come.

I feel like I’m underselling how excited I am about it.  I love a lot of these songs. I think the end result is going to be VERY strong. This thing is going to be BANANAS in a way that none of my stuff has ever been before. There’s a 10 minute prog piece that borders on metal. There’s also a traditional Irish ballad. And a song Neil Young could’ve written. And an over-the-top pretentious hodge-podge for the closing track. I’m using a mellotron choir in places, and sparse acoustic guitar in others… It’s all over the place, musically.

And lyrically, it’s some of the most fun I’ve had in a long time. My writing took a DEEP turn into the personal in a way that isn’t always accessible roundabout the “Ink-Stained Fingers” album. It was freeing to not be talking about my innermost hopes, dreams, and pain on this one. But that also presented the challenge of how to find the heart of the lyrics I was writing. They had to be in Kurt’s spirit, but I needed to have it reflect myself as well. It was easy to find Kurt. It was a whole other thing finding myself in it. In the end, it turned out that we weren’t that different. Although there are a couple of times where my voice on the album is a little bit of “character work.” When I sound older than I am, just know that I’m Kilgore Trout on those parts, in my head. The rest of the time, I’m Derek. Or somebody. Who knows?

The title is a reference to a Vonnegut joke. Vonnegut illustrated one of his own books and as an example of the quality of his art, he drew an asterisk and captioned it, describing it as a “picture of an asshole.” In the years that followed, the asterisk-hole became a standard reference among fans. It became so closely associated with him that he even incorporated it into his signature. The hardcore Vonnegut fan sees any asterisk in any context and has to restrain themselves from asking who drew the asshole. So…basically…come November 11, I’ll low-key have an album titled “Derek Brink – A Picture of an Asshole” in my catalogue.  I cannot express how happy I am about that.

Earlier I noted that I had thought of calling it “Songs for Kurt.”  A friend who wasn’t entirely positive about the project when I speculated about doing it (but had not yet started on it) said that people would probably think it was a reference to Kurt Cobain rather than Vonnegut.  So “Asshole” it was. So it goes.

The cover will look like this (only bigger):

I had to draw 100 assholes before I settled on that one.

And the tracklist (which won’t mean anything to most of you) will be this:

  1. The Last Folk Singers — *Excerpt
  2. TralfamadOverture
  3. The War
  4. You’ve Got to Laugh
  5. Malfunction (Or “Broken All Along!)
  6. Now It’s the Woman’s Turn
  7. The Way the World Will End
  8. If It’s Raining
  9. Eliot’s Benediction
  10. Here We Go Again
  11. Greetings From Far Away
  12. Fight for Peace
  13. We All Just Got Here

And if you’re wondering, November 11 is a Sunday this year. It would have been Kurt Vonnegut’s 96th birthday. Why did I choose his 96th birthday instead of a more significant number? No reason at all.

I think Kurt would have liked that.

Life Update, I Guess…

This blog is kind of becoming “Things I Forgot to Blog for a Couple Months.”  Sorry about that.  The podcast eats up a lot of what I might have otherwise posted here. But I feel a little like writing, so we’ll do kind of a life-update.

Not a lot is going on.

Thank God that’s over.

Okay seriously though. I’ve got a handful of things going on. I’m writing some music. That’s happening mostly because I moved all of my favorite guitars upstairs into my office area, where I spend a lot of time. So it’s sparking creativity. If nothing else, I’ve had a few ideas sitting around that I needed to get into demo form, so I’m working on that.

I’m also just kind cleaning up in the house. It’s been a mess for a while. Like almost “he might be a hoarder” levels…but I’m not.  I’m just incredibly lazy and it gets worse when I live alone. So I’m cleaning and just trying to put stuff where it goes. It’d be nice to have someone over now and again and give them a place to sit.

For those wondering, the migraines have continued. I’m kind of used to them, to be honest–which sucks.  They’re about weekly or every other week.  Seems to vary. Usually they follow something stressful. So that also gives you a window into how often I feel stressed. I should still see additional doctors about it…but how do you even do that? Patient rosters exist and I don’t even know who I’d call if I wanted to start calling. It’s dumb. Guys like me just end up in the emergency room some day and follow up with doctors after that. Not that I want that to happen, of course…

The migraines themselves aren’t even that big a deal. Yeah, my head ends up hurting and it’s not PLEASANT, but it’s a headache and I can get through that. It’s the visual part that gets me.  That part’s difficult. Although now that I know how they behave it’s easier to deal with it. I just wish that part would stop. But the brain scan and blood draw I had and the subsequent eye exam revealed nothing serious…so I think it’s just a thing that’s happening. Although I did notice that the timing of it all correlates with the floaters and flashers in my eyes (which are a normal thing that happens to some of us as we age–yaaaaaay).  So maybe that’s all related and when the gel in my eyes finishes separating (yaaaaaaaay) it’ll get better?  But I also thought it was tooth-related last year.  So, who can say?


The only other thing really going on is work.  And I’m getting excited for the Jason Isbell concert next week.  My friend Amanda is coming into town for it and we’ve not seen each other in a while.  Excited about seeing her too and hanging out. Isbell’s music just might be my “happy place” these days, so I’m looking forward to a great show. The sets and reports back thereof lately have been stellar.

And, I don’t know…I guess that’s it.  See why I don’t blog more often these days?


Current Listening:

  • Lori McKenna – The Tree