Sick and Tired…

Foremost, sorry about not blogging for a while.  I’ve been busy and lazy at the same time.

Moving on…

I’m sick. I kinda felt it coming on as far back as Tuesday. I’d been tired and jittery all at once and that’s never good.  I went to bed super early that night, got ten hours of sleep, and woke up tired. Went to bed earlyish on Wednesday too.  And woke up early on Thursday aching all over, just knowing nothing good could come from eating anything.  So I called in and went back to bed.

I slept for a while and then called my dad to ask if he thought I was having a heart attack because my back and shoulder hurt and I didn’t have any appetite. Went over to his place for a while and he kinda talked me down. He called an Urgent Care for me and was ready to take me there and get an EKG done if I felt like I needed it. But talking about it out loud, it started to feel silly, and ultimately I’m the only one who can decide if I’m going to a doctor or not…and I decided that since the Ibuprofen is helping and I’m not falling over or anything…maybe I’ll save the deductible for my first REAL heart attack.

Then it rained.  POURED.  There were tornado sirens and the power was blinking in and out.  Out of nowhere, it was nighttime outside at like 5:30.  One of THOSE storms we’re lucky enough to get here from time to time.  The kind where my cable and Internet have been blinking out ever since.  Since I was there already and not stupid enough to try to drive home, I spent the storm hanging out in Dad’s basement. Going up and down the stairs without getting winded convinced me that my heart is working and my back just hurts because of course it does.

After the sky had cleared a bit, I went to the grocery store to get some soup. And they were on generator power, so that was pretty much the only kind of thing they were selling. The power had been out there for an hour and a half. It was one heck of a storm.  There was a stoplight completely blacked out right in front of the place, too, and I could see the block of shops across the street was also without power.  The grocery store had a bare minimum of lights and was still selling anything that wasn’t refrigerated or frozen, but they were going to have to trash all their cold food by that time.  Rough afternoon for everybody, I guess.

I bought and ate the soup and it went fine. I still didn’t really WANT it, I just thought I *should* eat. It’s weird for me to not feel hungry. I spend most of my day thinking about what I’m going to eat next…so being at “I guess I should cram SOMETHING down” levels is pretty unwell for me.  But I forced down the chicken noodle soup and all went well.

I got up today and still felt very uneasy so I stayed home again.  I’ve got a very understanding work-group, staffed with great people.  They lost power today, presumably somehow because of last night’s storm, I guess. So I guess I didn’t miss a lot by staying home. I talked to one of my team-mates by phone a couple of times throughout the day as much as I could to help with some questions and whatnot. They’re helping me out, so I tried to help them too.

I ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich around 12:30 (noon), again not out of hunger but because I figured I should. And a few hours later I discovered that my stomach didn’t appreciate the PB&J in the same way it did the soup. Remind me to shop for pants, by the way.  It’s been a while since I’ve done that…

I had some toast about three hours ago and so far have been sitting comfortably on the couch ever since. I’m kinda hoping I just bought spoiled jelly.

Of course, I’m writing all of this in case it does turn out that my heart is failing so there will be some record of how I died and my stupidity in overlooking it. Or this can also stand as a warning: If it was the jelly, someone should throw it out instead of making another sandwich.


“It Could Be Worse” – Now Available!

With no ado…here’s the link.

It’s been a year in the making. I’ve been talking about it and talking about it and it’s finally time to inflict it upon my family and friends and who whoever else. My new album “It Could Be Worse” is available for free (or best offer) via download or on CD RIGHT NOW. I’m excited about it. I think it’s one of my best albums, and since I’m giving it away, you can trust I have nothing to gain by lying about that. Here’s the cover:

Sorry it’s smaller than it should be. When have I said THAT before?

I’m going to write about all the songs and such in this post and give you a look into the themes of the album and also a window into my year long process. And that’s an interesting thing. I chose to take a year to do this album. I wanted to take my time and not cram everything into a few weekends. And in the long and short of it, all that happened was I stretched those few weekends out over a whole damn year and didn’t learn a thing about myself or my process. So the next one will come quicker. Taking a year was a good idea that didn’t really work out in practice. Nevertheless I enjoyed working on this one and I think everybody who likes my stuff is in for a few surprises, but ultimately a solid Derek Brink style release. Here’s what I wrote in the liner notes:

This album contains 10 songs about survival. It’s a punk album, a folk album, and almost a light FM album. The title, of course, is a reference to the Mel Brooks movie “Young Frankenstein.” You know the scene. My favorite lyric on it is in “Who I Am” where I say, “My heart is an old drunk. Last call came and went, I should probably be getting home…but come on, man, you know me.” My least favorite lyric is in “I Still Believe” because I bet people are going to think “I still believe in survival” is “I still believe in the Bible” and they won’t read the lyric sheet. By my count this is my 9th album as a solo “artist” whatever that is. All songs are made up. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is hilarious. Tracks 2-4 contain swear words, including the word “fuck.” I’m not sorry about that. They’re just words.

…and I know that’s all a little confusing without hearing the record. I’m not sure if it gets much less confusing after you have. But you’ll be able to decide for yourself if you listen to it.

The song list is packed with some stuff I’ve had sitting around, some stuff that was newly written that convinced me to start work on an album in the first place, and also a track or two that sprung out of the recording process. While I was starting out on the project, I was deeply immersed in listening to Big Star’s “Complete Third” set, which takes the listener all the way from the rough demo stage to the completed (and remastered) “Third” album (also known as “Sister Lovers” among Big Star fans). It’s a heck of a listen that teaches you how a song can grow and change throughout the process of making an album (with acoustic guitar tones so incredible that they literally made me cry). It also serves as an interesting chronicle of how sometimes in making an album, you add an idea, drop an idea, and just generally mess around a little seeking the end result.

If you want a behind the scenes look at making an album, start with “Complete Third.” I was eager to try out some of the stuff I was learning by listening to that album and particularly “Always” (the last song on my album) came out of that. As did my approach to having an acoustic guitar track on every song, even where I normally wouldn’t have, and several of the microphone placements and mixing techniques I used. Without “Complete Third” this would be a very different album. I don’t know if you can hear it in the song construction, necessarily…but it’s all over the production.

As I said above, all of the songs are in one way or another about survival. And now I’ll go song by song and tell you how.

This umbrella features in the art if you get a copy of the CD. I drew it. And I like it. This is the kind of thing you don’t get with a download.

1. So Anyway

This is a track I have had sitting around in various forms dating back to probably 2003. It has always been a short, punky tune and the first line has always been “So anyway, like I was saying before, I don’t like much of anything anymore.” I think that’s a good opening line at this point in my career. I did in 2003, too. The rest of the words went through a few changes over the years. I only wrote the part referencing Pete Townshend when I sat down to do the demos for this record. I reference the Who’s song “The Seeker” so heavily in that verse that they might deserve a writing credit.

The song itself is at once dismissive and also seeking depth. I said in my description of the album that each of these songs is about survival. “So Anyway” is a summary of taking the step of owning one’s own mistakes and flaws and trying to figure out what to do with them. I guess I don’t really offer any answers or insights…but at least I’m acknowledging the problem. That’s the first step.

You can’t really tell unless you know what to listen for, but this song features my first and so far only usage of the Electro-Harmonix “Pog” pedal. It’s an octave generator that plays an octave above and an octave below the note you’re playing to generate three tones at once. I used it on the main lead line. Should’ve turned the effect up a little louder, probably, but subtlety is a fine art. I like the pedal and it’ll show up more on future releases, I bet.
2. Nobody Else

“Nobody Else” is a song about betrayal. We’ve all had a friend bail on us and show their true colors. I wrote a song informed by one such instance in my own life. It’s not a blow by blow description. Most people won’t know who I was writing about (or will assume the incorrect person, maybe). But I told a version of the story, anyway. I was surprised to find out that the story had a harmonica in it and was in a major key.

The lyrics on this one are pretty rough when you really look at them. The song sounds deceptively happy. But lyrically, “…if you want compassion then you’d better pray because nobody else can stand you anymore” is a pretty brutal thing to say to someone. There’s a comeuppance factor in this song that you don’t always get in real life in that it’s indicating that the betrayer is abandoned by mutual acquaintances. That’s a rarity in real life. Usually they’re so manipulative they can keep their friends for a while. But in the case I was writing about and also in this song’s narrative, the asshole bailed on everybody. Sometimes life is fair.

That said, I thought it was important to include the line, “You’ve got your side of it, but I believe mine” and to admit that there’s culpability on “my” part, too. Everybody’s the hero of their own story, y’know?

In the bridge I used a line I’ve been wanting to use forever. “If you want to start a fight over this then just take a fucking shot, but bring a lunch, it’ll take you all day (etc)…” I had a professor in college who used to say, “You can probably whup me, but it’s gonna take you all day, so bring your lunch.” I liked that. So it’s here.

There’s a lot I like about this song. The “fucking shot” line was in and out once I realized I was in a major key, but I still think it works. I delivered it like Michael Penn would have, so I think I struck the right tone. I like the harmonica. I like the “Leslie” whirl in the bridge where there might otherwise be a solo if I hadn’t done that. I like the lyrics in general. It’s a fun little song about getting hurt but coming out stronger and smarter. One of my favorites on the record.
3. Everybody Shut Up

I should start by saying this song isn’t specifically about my workplace. But it’s a little bit about every workplace. Every office, anyway. I wrote a white-collar anthem. Didn’t really mean to…but I did it.

I had the opening line in a notebook for a couple of months, but I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to write anything to go with it. “Everybody shut up, I’m trying to think. I can’t hear myself fuck up.” It’s a good line. It suggested a work-environment to me and once I committed to that, it was easy to write, mostly just using standard office tropes. It’s a fun one. It’s a song about just trying to get through the damn day so you can relax. Who hasn’t been there?

I don’t have a lot else to add to this one. It’s not that complicated to understand. It was once of the first ones I finished writing specifically FOR this project. Once I had this one together I started thinking, “Maybe I’ve got an album coming soon…” I had a couple of ideas of what I wanted to do…I considered writing a full-on Americana album and playing a lot of old songs from bands-gone-by, but when I wrote this one, it became a half-punk, half-acoustic-driven mishmash that ended up capturing almost all sides of what I do. This one was important to the project in that way…it’s the song that made me realize I was going to be needing a distortion pedal on the album.
4. What I’m Dying For

In line with what I said about “Everybody Shut Up,” I didn’t fully abandon the idea of doing some songs I’d done in other bands. “What I’m Dying For” was something I wrote and performed in The Social Gospel and I think also Blue Tattoo (both with my brother Dave). It’s one of those songs where I finally felt like I’d hit my stride as to what I “should” be writing for that band…and then the band broke up. Ahem. But I liked the song and always knew I’d play it elsewhere. So here it is.

This is a song about discontentment. When I suddenly found myself staring down my 30s (and now seeing signs on the road ahead directing me to my 40s) I took stock of who and where I was in life. I’d thought I was going into ministry. Imagined I’d have the wife and kid and all that bullshit they tell you that you need to be happy. And I got angry for a very long time. I felt like I was slowly burning out and marching to the grave…and for what? I didn’t know. Clock in, clock out…still angry…

There are no real answers in this song either. I’ve found them personally, don’t worry. But sometimes describing the struggle is more important than writing a happy ending. That’s why the movie puts the happy part at the end…it isn’t the interesting part.

The line, “All I do anymore is suck up–shut the fuck up–like it doesn’t matter” is one of my favorite lines I’ve written. The word “fuck” is integral to the rhyme scheme. You don’t get that a lot.

This one was hard to mix. It went through about a dozen arrangements until I was happy with the final sound. And even so, could it have used more bass? Less background vocals? I don’t know. I just like it. Listening to this one over time made me realize how influenced I’ve become by Bob Mould (formerly of Husker Du). The “hard” side of what I write probably owes more to him than to anyone else at this point. So props to Bob, is what I’m saying here.
5. No One Leaves St. Louis

This song is very abstract. Stay with me.

I know that the tense shifts all over the place. Sometimes it’s past tense, present tense, and even future tense within the same line. Don’t try to make grammatical sense of it. It’ll drive you nuts. And that’s on purpose. I considered trying to clean it up, but I thought it helped the point of the song to leave it baffling.

I guess you’d call this a love song. Although I think the line “it doesn’t count as a love song if nobody’s in love by the chorus” is one of the most important phrases in understanding the lyrics. It IS a love song. But love is more complicated than a love song. Sometimes “I love you” isn’t as simple as “I love you too.” Sometimes it’s “let’s not fuck this up by dating, but I love you too.” And when that’s left hanging there, everything is fucked up. Time, location, emotions…they’re all out the window.

I guess in this story, it’s two people meeting up after not seeing each other for a while. The guy obviously has deep feelings for the girl, but it’s not meant to be. And that kinda sucks. But at least they’ve got whatever they’ve got, and whatever that might be is walking down Delmar in U City looking for a beer. He’d do anything for her, but the best thing he can do for her is not press that. No matter how long it takes to put those feelings away.

Yes, it’s semi-autobiographical. Of course it is.

When I wrote this I had a line in the song that I had to change because of the passage of time and events. The line “Worst case scenario, there’s that club where we used to go” USED to be, “Worst case scenario, there’s probably parking behind Cicero’s.” Cicero’s was a bar/restaurant in St. Louis that I liked. It closed while I was working on this album, with very little fanfare. Nothing lasts forever.

I also added a line to the song. I was writing about St. Louis and my pet theory that even if they move, no one ever really gets out of there. People are always drawn back. Or they can move to Detroit or Minneapolis or someplace and live there for 30 years, but when anybody asks they say, “I’m from St. Louis.” In the song, it’s clear that the girl has left…but she hasn’t. Something keeps her coming back–maybe it’s him and maybe it isn’t. Then while I was writing the album, Chuck Berry died. And I wrote “I guess everything changes. Even the best things. Nobody expects Chuck Berry to play here again.” It seemed like a perfect metaphor. Chuck Berry’s dead. But he’ll always be part of this town. No one leaves St. Louis. The love never fully dies.
6. Who I Am

This song came together while I was working on the album. I’d already demoed a few songs and set things to click-tracks and so on. But I had a few stray ideas sitting around both lyrically and musically that turned into this song. I’m glad it happened. It’s one of my favorite lyrics and songs I’ve written in years.

Self-identity is something we all wrestle with. Especially when we know we have to change. Even if the change would be good, it’s human nature to think, “I know the doctor said I should quit, but if I’m not a drinker, then what am I?” Even if we don’t like him/her very much, there’s comfort in at least recognizing the person in the mirror.

It seems like every few years, I look in a mirror and think, “Who are you this time?” (This is a metaphor. I’m not nuts.) That thought is usually followed quickly by “this again, huh?” and I spend a bit searching for myself and boiling myself down to the basics. I think that’s important to do from time to time; remind oneself of your fundamentals. It’s important to see if they’ve changed, and if so why. You’ve got to know yourself to keep living with yourself.

I mentioned in the CD’s liner notes that the “my heart is an old drunk” line is one of my favorite things I’ve written. But there’s a verse in the song that’s very personal and reflective of my music career…

Is anyone listening to this? Am I just giving it away for free again, or is anybody buying? Pouring my soul out again. I’ve got a million confessions to blurt out to a catchy tune. But it feels like I’m lying.

That’s what it’s like being a musician.
7. Amanda, I’m Tired

Let it be stated throughout perpetuity that sometimes a name is just a name. I used the name “Amanda” in the title/song because I like the name and for various reasons, I needed it to be a three-syllable name. It worked for Waylon. It worked for Boston. It works for me. Don’t bother my friends named Amanda with this lyric. If you read it out to them, I don’t think any one of them would reply, “Yep. That’s definitely describing the week we broke up.” The working title of the song was “God Knows,” but when I’d jot it down on lists and things I kept calling it “Amanda” and I added the “I’m Tired” just so people wouldn’t think it was a cover song.

Now that I’ve said that.

I LOVED working on this song. The lyrics mean a lot to me and I’m very proud of them. In much the same way as “Nobody Else,” I think I did a good job indicating that someone ELSE might have a clearer version of the story than I do. In this one I flat-out say, “This is YOUR story, too.” We all forget that someone else was involved in the narrative. That someone else felt not only the same things we did, but probably a bunch of stuff we could never hope to understand. That someone else got hurt. As much as I felt like it was important to express “my” side of that, I am proud of the searching of the other person’s feelings that comes out in the second verse/chorus. This one means a lot to me.

Producing this one was fun. I love the change from the soft acoustic part to the rumbling, overwhelming electric. And I love the string parts. I don’t want to toot my own horn, but this one feels a little like a movie soundtrack to me. A friend heard it and described it as “Tom Petty meets Radiohead.” I don’t consider either one of them a main influence on what I do. But I hear it too, now that someone’s said it. Especially in the louder part.

Of all the things you have to survive in life, I think “the one who got away” probably leaves the most lasting scars. Especially when you’re the one failing to patch them.
8. That Was Then

The turn from “Amanda, I’m Tired” to this track is one of my favorite 180s in my career. From the deep, lush, grandiose production of “Amanda…” to the complete, childish irreverence of this song… It makes me happy every time I listen to that transition.

This one’s pretty clear, lyrically. “I loved you then…but that was THEN.” It’s just a good, old-fashioned kiss-off song. And it’s short and punky. It ticks all the boxes of what I like about this side of my writing.

I initially sang “I don’t fucking need you” in the second verse. Decided to dial it back. I don’t mind using the f-word, but it isn’t always necessary. In this song I was saying it just to say it. So it got cut.

I used to do this one in one band or another with my brother too. We had a lot of good songs that need to see proper releases. I hope (and think) I’ve done this one justice.
9. I Still Believe

People are going to think this is a religious song. I can see why. I even mention God in it. But it isn’t a religious song to me. To me it’s a song about keeping hope in the goodness of everything around you, despite the evidence. And that CAN include religion, but I didn’t mean that specifically here. In fact, this song was inspired by a conversation I had with a friend who is a staunch atheist. He told me about what he “still believes” about good and evil. I took stock of myself as well, and this is the song that came out.

I also was writing about depression. I’ve dealt with depression for most of my life. “It comes on like a fire” is the best way I can think of to describe my “down” cycles. Sometimes they come as an explosion, but a lot of times they come as a gentle smolder that goes unnoticed until suddenly the living-room’s fucking GONE. And in those times, it helps to try to remember the goodness I haven’t given up on yet.

I recently saw Rufus Wainwright in concert and he said that in his down times, he’s realized that he can only get through it by finding his gratitude. (He was speaking specifically about the death of his mother.) He has to find what he’s grateful for to find the road back to himself. I’d written this song before I heard him say that, but I think that’s what I was trying to say with this one. When life gets hard, focusing on what I believe and the goodness I am grateful for is part of what helps me feel better again.

As I said in the CD liner notes, I’m a little afraid people will misunderstand a line in the song and won’t check the lyric sheet. I’m afraid they’ll hear “I still believe in revival” as “I still believe in the Bible.” The latter is a stupid lyric. That’s why I didn’t write it.

As an interesting side note, I never start work on an album until I have a “Track 1.” I have to know how it all starts before I can begin working on it. When I wrote “I Still Believe,” I thought I’d written my “Track 1” for the album. And yet, here it is at track 9. I almost couldn’t have been more wrong.
10. Always

“Always” was in progress when I started recording the album. I had enough of it that I knew I would put it on the album, but not enough of it that I knew quite where it was going. I bounced around between what point of view the song would be written in (first person/third person) and ultimately what message I wanted to give.

Most of the song is a down-note, lyrically. It’s describing someone who’s definitely struggling. It’s trying to tell the listener that it’s okay to feel bad. It’s okay to struggle. It’s okay to hurt. Then it turns it all around and says, “But you can ALWAYS come home.” Struggle while you need to, but come back to where you belong. And you don’t belong in the dark place.

It’s basically me in a good place giving advice to myself when I’m inevitably in the bad place.

I like that the bridge sounds almost gloriously, decadently happy, but if you look at the lyrics they’re “It’s always never getting better. There’s always something in the way.” It’s one of the saddest, most defeated parts of the song, but it sounds climacticly happy. Then, again, there’s that line… “But you can always come home.” It justifies all of the happiness in the music balancing against the sadness in the lyrics. There’s always good right there just waiting for the bad to stop. And that’s maybe the best way I could’ve ended the album.

It’s an album about survival, after all.

Here’s the download link again. I hope you enjoy listening to it.

Thanks for your time.

A slightly edited version of this picture is on the back of the CD jacket. It was a happy accident because I needed to see the back of that piece of equipment in the foreground so I took a picture with my phone. Made me smile when I looked at it, so I saved it.

Farms, Funerals, and Family

My aunt Clara died today. She’s one of the aunts from Arkansas that has been more or less a central figure to that side of the family, or at least that’s how I’ve always viewed her. Maybe I should take a step back and explain that.

There’s a family farm on my mom’s side of the family. It’s not a property I’d ever have any real legal claim to. It would be a misread to think I’m part of some kind of wealthy land ownership situation. But it’s still right to call it “the family farm.” It’s the place where my mom’s mom and all of her siblings grew up. And until recent years it was tended by “the girls;” four of my aunts who lived together and looked after things–Stella, Clara, “Deet,” and Naomi. When I was a kid, “going to see the aunts” was a regular thing in the Summer and it meant spending a week staying in the farmhouse with the girls. I have a lot of fond memories of that. The house was a gathering place for everybody in the family. You’d see all of the cousins, most of the aunts and uncles, and a few people you were pretty sure you were related to, but who can tell? And the girls were at the center of it. They had the gift of hospitality above all else.

In 1994, my mom died and I stopped going to Arkansas over the summer. I was 14. If I’d been in my 20s or so and could drive a car, maybe things would’ve been different. But as it was, I largely only saw Mom’s side of the family at Thankgiving, weddings, and funerals from there on out. And over the years, Naomi then Deet and now Clara have died. Stella is the only one left, and her health isn’t great.

I don’t know what becomes of the farm house soon. Someone probably has an idea. Probably more than one someone. Probably more than one idea. Probably an argument to be had sometime soon by somebodys… As for me, if nobody has claimed it, I’d like to put a bid on the piano in the front room. It’s the only one I ever heard my mother play.

But I’m not sure we’re there quite yet.

Clara was the one who you called if you were playing in the yard and came upon a snake. She’d take care of that for you. And she was the one who knew I’d want to play dominos or the board game Aggrivation every night I was there. She’s the first person I’d ever heard say, “you’re gonna get GOT” in a gaming context. And she was also the one who baked the GOOD bread. I’ve never had bread as good as Clara’s. And I guess I won’t again.

The thing I won’t ever forget Clara doing was something that happened when my mom died. We were at the funeral parlor and there was a family member (by marriage) who was known to be fairly rude and semi-intentionally say the wrong thing present at the wake. Said family member was talking to me at one point. I remember she was saying something about the carpet in the funeral parlor being cheap, as though that’s anyone’s problem. Clara made eye contact, marched over, grabbed my arm, and said, “Derek, have you seen this floral arrangement that so-and-so sent? I just know you’d like it…” and drug me away. Once we were by some set of flowers or another she said, “I didn’t think you should listen to that right after your mom died.” I don’t think I’ve ever said “thank you” so quickly.

And another memory. My brother and I went to Arkansas for Deet’s funeral several years back, but failed to tell anyone we were doing so. We’d gotten a hotel room nearby, but decided to go over to the family house to say hello. We knocked on the door and everybody got excited to see us–we had even forgotten to tell Grandma we’d be there! We were in the house for all of two minutes before we realized that Clara had gone down the hallway to fetch some sheets and blankets to make up two extra beds. “The boys are going to need someplace to sleep.” We had to stop her and tell her we’d gotten a hotel room so we wouldn’t be under-foot. She just assumed we were family, so of COURSE we would be staying. In hindsight, it kind of breaks my heart that we didn’t. Sometimes you forget about hospitality until it hits you over the head.

My Grandma called me about two weeks ago to say she’d been down to see Clara and she wasn’t doing well. She’d been in poor health and the writing was on the wall. I said something about it being comforting to know she’d be at peace…but even when they’re true, those are just the words you say. They don’t really help that much when someone you care about is struggling. Maybe they do later. I’ve never been sure.

While we talked, Grandma started talking to me about liquidating her assets. She had a stroke earlier this year and is now living with my uncle and aunt. “Derek, do you need any quilts? Would you like some old pictures of your mom? Do you have a Foreman grill? Would you like that clock you gave me for Christmas back?” She kept saying she doesn’t have room for things. But she’s 93. We both knew what conversation we were having. It made me nostalgic for the times she used to ask me when I was going to find a nice girl and settle down. Not that I have any answers to that, either.

Time keeps passing and with it people pass away. That’s how life works. It’ll happen to all of us. So it goes.

There is a lot I love about being from a big, Southern-with-a-capital-S family. I love that despite the fact that I haven’t kept in touch in the right ways, I’m always welcomed. I love that Uncle Eddie and I are going to talk guitars when we see each other; we speak the same language. I love that when I randomly bump into one of the cousins it’s easy to say hello. I love that some of us have stayed in touch on Facebook in the ways I’ve failed to in person. But the one thing I hate about it is that when it’s a big family, a lot of mourning gets crammed into a few years, every generation.

I posted on Facebook the same thought that I’m going to use to end this post. If I had it to do over, the one thing I’d do differently is I’d have gone to the farm in Arkansas more often as an adult, and I’d have kept in better touch with Mom’s side of the family. I guess I’ve lived long enough to regret some things. Unfortunately the only way a lot of us figure that out is by outliving somebody else.

I can probably do better from here on out.

“It Could Be Worse” is coming out on May 18

I’m going to write a longer post that will go up when the album comes out…but yeah.  The new album “It Could Be Worse” will be out on May 18 in digital format on my Bandcamp page or on CD if you see me in person or ask for one to be mailed to you.  Either version is “pay what you want” pricing, and I’ll totally give you one for FREE, as usual.  It’s one of my best albums, and I can’t wait for you to hear it!

Here’s the cover (which I hope you can click on to make it bigger, but if not…sorry):a0654136360_10.jpgThe track list (which won’t mean much to most of you) is:

  1. So Anyway
  2. Nobody Else
  3. Everybody Shut Up
  4. What I’m Dying For
  5. No One Leaves St. Louis
  6. Who I Am
  7. Amanda, I’m Tired
  8. That Was Then
  9. I Still Believe
  10. Always

It’s about a 40 minute listen. I play my 1973 Martin and my Rickenbacker guitar and my Rickenbacker bass all over it. I’m really happy with it, and I hope you will be too!  See you again on the 18th!

Current Listening:

  • Frank Turner – Be More Kind
  • John Moreland – In the Throes

“What good is money if it can’t inspire terror in your fellow man?” – Montgomery Burns

Well I’ve got to get SOMETHING on here in April.  May as well be a random post.

  1. The new album (“It Could Be Worse”) is very near completion.  I’ve just got photos left to do.  The problem is that’s been impossible.  The photographer and I have been having trouble meshing schedules.  Still hoping to get something finalized soon, but if not, I’ve got a “plan b” for cover-art.  So you’ll probably be listening to the thing roundabout my birthday if all goes to plan.
  2. Been going to church a bit lately.  Took a couple-year hiatus, there.  Assuming I make it in tomorrow (or later today, as the clock would have it), it’ll be three weeks in a row.  It’s been nice.  That’s about all I have to say about it for now.
  3. Today was Record Store Day.  I didn’t go to it.  I’m kind of sick of the whole ordeal.  I’m an AVID music collector, but the notion of a day being set aside where the industry purposely creates too small a supply to meet a demand, where you have to fight to find what you want…it’s just ridiculous and it’s part of what’s killing brick and mortar stores.  If people can listen to Tom Waits’ “Orphans” collection on Spotify, why get up early on a Saturday to go throw elbows to get the vinyl repressing?  If you’re going to make it, make it for those of us who are actively Tom Waits fans and aren’t just jackasses looking to flip the “collectors item” on eBay.  Also, none of the record stores in this town have anywhere near enough parking to make it worth the fight.  So, I’ll pick through the scraps tomorrow, while I’m also shopping on the regular shelves that are there EVERY day.
  4. The podcast is going okay. Numbers are better on the theme shows, but I’ve got my regulars who listen to most episodes regardless.  So that’s about all you can ask for if you’re doing it for free.
  5. I’m writing this on the day Verne Troyer died.  He was preceded by Harry Anderson and Barbara Bush.  It’s been kind of a weird week.

Boy, that’s about all that’s going on.  I’ve got some stuff I’d like to write about in long-form, if I ever get motivated to do so.  So maybe that’ll happen soon.  But until then, I guess this was a mercifully short one.

Current Listening: A bunch of Pearl Jam.

This is too many albums for Facebook…

There’s a thing going on Facebook where you post a different album cover each day with no explanation of why it means so much to you for either 10, 15, or 30 days depending on which version you were tagged in.  I had at least 50 of them.  So it’s going here, instead.  I pulled all of these images off of Amazon and they in order by their file number/name, I think…I just hit “select all” in a folder and then pressed “upload.”  No thought went into the order.

…and also about a dozen more, but this took me like an hour.

By the way, I don’t care that Facebook shared my info and neither should you.  They’re a company and every company has done it. Just because you get an ad, you’re not obligated to buy or believe what it says.  If you don’t want your personal info out there, don’t share it with anyone.  Facebook didn’t give out your address and phone number…YOU did.

Sorry About This

Haven’t blogged in a while and wanted to write something.  Having some trouble getting the juices flowing though, so I decided to find one of those “getting to know you” surveys to spark some ideas.  And this survey has almost 100 questions.  So that’s a post.  Sorry!  At least this one’s a better survey than that last one I took and made you read.

  1. Who is your hero?
    I don’t really have one. Heroes tend to let you down. I have people I admire for individual qualities and I’ve got musicians or writers who I would call INFLUENCES…but “hero” is such a worshipful term I’m really not comfortable applying it to anyone.
  2. If you could live anywhere, where would it be?
    Kinda like it where I am.  But I’d like to visit Ireland, Scotland, England, and Canada(land), and maybe I’d end up in one of those if I had the choice.
  3. What is your biggest fear?
    Spiders.  And dying alone.  So dying alone with a spider.
  4. What is your favorite family vacation?
    We didn’t really take a lot of them.  We went to Arkansas to visit family a lot when I was a kid.  Sometimes it was the whole family, sometimes less.  So probably that I guess? We didn’t ever do the Disney trek or go travelling or anything like that.
  5. What would you change about yourself if you could?
    I’d spend less time doubting whether or not I’d like to go out.
  6. What really makes you angry?
    People getting involved in things that were fine without them.
  7. What motivates you to work hard?
    People getting involved in things that were fine without them.
  8. What is your favorite thing about your career?
    I like at least most of the people I work with. They don’t often get involved in things that were fine without them.
  9. What is your biggest complaint about your job?
    When people get involved in things that were fine without them.
  10. What is your proudest accomplishment?
    This is a hard question because I have trouble crediting myself with things. And even when I know I’ve done something good, by the time I realize it, it’s already in hindsight and I’m working on the NEXT thing…  So…
    I’ve had a pretty good recording career.  We’ll go with that.
  11. What is your child’s proudest accomplishment?
    I guess something its mom didn’t tell me about, since I was unaware I had one until this question.
  12. What is your favorite book to read?
    I read a lot…it’s hard to say.  “Catcher in the Rye” stuck with me.  So did “Lincoln in the Bardo,” more recently.  And a bunch of other stuff…  There are even comic books I’d put on this list like “Bone” or “Blankets” or “Maus.”  “Angela’s Ashes” impacted me greatly and so did several Vonnegut books of course (“Cat’s Cradle,” “Slaughterhouse Five,” etc).  A couple of spiritual authors like Brennan Manning and Tony Campolo have meant a lot to me in the past too, although a lot of my “spiritual” reading ended when I started unindoctrinating myself from my Bible College years and listening to the MESSAGE of Christ rather than poking at every Greek letter…
    I could go on and on…  But those are the books and authors that popped into mind.  Plus a controversial thought at the end to grow on.
  13. What makes you laugh the most?
    A lot of things.  Usually just any conversation where the participants (myself included) just let themselves be silly and sort of daydream or spin into madness. Also cat videos.
  14. What was the last movie you went to? What did you think?
    I’m genuinely trying to remember the last time I went TO a theatre. I don’t do that very often.  It might have been “Elvis & Nixon” with my dad back in 2016.  I liked it.  With what’s come out about Kevin Spacey since, I’ve got some mixed emotions though.
  15. What did you want to be when you were small?
    Everything at one point or another.  But probably mostly a famous musician.
  16. What does your child want to be when he/she grows up?
    Again, you’ll have to ask its mom, I guess.  Also please let me know who she is and how and when this happened, if you don’t mind.
  17. If you could choose to do anything for a day, what would it be?
    Meet my child.
  18. What is your favorite game or sport to watch and play?
    I’m not really into sports.  I don’t enjoy playing anything, that’s for sure. But I do enjoy watching the occasional soccer game and I like to watch darts.  I also enjoy both the Winter and Summer Olympics.  And if wrestling counts (it should) then that’s it hands-down.
  19. Would you rather ride a bike, ride a horse, or drive a car?
    Car.  The rest of that sounds like there’s way too much wind involved and it’s probably rough on the ol’ nutsack.
  20. What would you sing at Karaoke night?
    I’d need four friends and we will ROCK THE SHIT out of “Wannabe” by the Spice Girls.
  21. What two radio stations do you listen to in the car the most?
    KDHX and KSHE, I guess.  The former way more than the latter.
  22. Which would you rather do: wash dishes, mow the lawn, clean the bathroom, or vacuum the house?
    Wash dishes.  I actually kind of like doing dishes.  The water’s warm, you can listen to music or a podcast or something and still count it as “productive” and you feel kind of accomplished once you’ve put them into the washer and started it.  (I hand wash then put them in the dishwasher.  This is the only appropriate method.  I will fight you.)
  23. If you could hire someone to help you, would it be with cleaning, cooking, or yard work?
    Probably cleaning. I get lazy about it.  Like for years at a time.
  24. If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?
    Probably corned beef and cabbage (with potatoes and/or carrots).
  25. Who is your favorite author?
    I think it’s probably Kurt Vonnegut.
  26. Have you ever had a nickname? What is it?
    A couple in high school, I think…but I’m having trouble remembering them.  My brother (and some others) sometimes call me Wayne, which probably counts since it’s not my middle name. I haven’t really had many that have stuck. People who try are usually greeted with strong negative reactions and drop it.  Just call me Derek.  Or Wayne.  I’ll answer to Wayne.
  27. Do you like or dislike surprises? Why or why not?
    It depends on the surprise.  “Hey Derek, there’s free cake!”  That’s great!  “Hey Derek, there’s an active shooter!”  That’s bad.
  28. In the evening, would you rather play a game, visit a relative, watch a movie, or read?
    Any of those will be fine.  You pick.  What time? Can I bring anything?
  29. Would you rather vacation in Hawaii or Alaska, and why?
    Alaska.  I prefer cold climates.
  30. If money was no object, what would you do all day?
    Probably pretty much what I’m doing right now, just without an alarm clock looming over me.
  31. If you could go back in time, what year would you travel to?
    I don’t know.  Maybe one of the years where I could see The Who when Moon was still alive or something.
  32. How would your friends describe you?
    You’d have to ask my friends.
  33. What are your hobbies?
    Numerous…  Mostly pop-culture stuff.  A lot of people would count my musical meanderings as a hobby.  I read a lot.  Watch a lot of TV.  Stuff like that.  I also enjoy making stuff, so I try to find projects to work on or things to do around the house that feed into that.
  34. What is the best gift you have been given?
    That’s a tough one.  I come from a very generous family and “best gift” changes over time too–like when I was 11 it might’ve been the ticket to see Styx play live in St. Louis.  When I was 14, it might’ve been my bass amp.  When I was in my 20s it might’ve been the roof over my head while I was half-assing my way through college.  I know that I value gestures more than things, though…  And thankfully there have been enough of those that it’s overwhelming trying to narrow it down.
  35. What is the worst gift you have received?
    Smash Mouth’s Greatest Hits.
  36. Aside from necessities, what one thing could you not go a day without?
  37. List two pet peeves.
    (1) When you can hear people chewing.
    (2) People commenting on what they did, saw, heard, or smelled in a public restroom.
  38. Where do you see yourself in five years?
    I try not to think that far ahead.
  39. How many pairs of shoes do you own?
    I don’t know, a million?
  40. If you were a super-hero, what powers would you have?
    I’d abuse them.  It’s best not to give me any.
  41. What would you do if you won the lottery?
    I’ve thought about this.  I wouldn’t tell anyone about it and I wouldn’t outwardly try to show it off. But I’d buy a lot more dinners and stuff like that and probably worry a little less.  I wouldn’t do one BIG thing, I’d just spend when I wanted to, knowing there’s a nest-egg there. I mean, I might pay off a credit card or my student loan…but in general, I think you’d be surprised by how little it would change me.
  42. What form of public transportation do you prefer? (air, boat, train, bus, car, etc.)
    I don’t take public transportation. I have no opinion.
  43. What’s your favorite zoo animal?
    Bears, maybe? Or the masturbating monkeys?  One of those.
  44. If you could go back in time to change one thing, what would it be?
    I don’t know.  I’m not sure there’s a pivotal moment or decision that would really significantly change that much and those that would probably wouldn’t ultimately be beneficial to anyone.  I’d take back a thing or two I said or avoid going to events I know in hindsight that I didn’t enjoy.  But there’s not one specific thing that leaps to mind as “THAT is the ONE THING!!!”
  45. If you could share a meal with any 4 individuals, living or dead, who would they be?
    That’s an excellent question and I’m choosing to answer it with as little seriousness as possible.  I would go to dinner with Gordon Ramsey, Guy Fieri, Paul Prudhomme, and Emeril Lagasse.  We would go to White Castle.
  46. How many pillows do you sleep with?
    More than you’d think.  I’ve got a firm “My Pillow” and a buckwheat pillow under my head.  Then I’ve got a number of other pillows just kind of AROUND in case I need them because of my back pain…  Sometimes I’ll need to put a pillow under my back so I can have some support there.  Or sometimes between my knees if my sciatica is hurting my hip.  Or sometimes in-between my ankles if my knees hurt.  All told, I think there are up to five pillows on the bed at any given time.
  47. What’s the longest you’ve gone without sleep (and why)?
    I think like four days.  I was depressed.  Didn’t eat for a few of those days, either.  Wasn’t a good period.
  48. What’s the tallest building you’ve been to the top in?
    I really have no idea.  I don’t know that I’ve been in too many tall buildings and when I have been, it hasn’t been important to me to remember the number of floors.
  49. Would you rather trade intelligence for looks or looks for intelligence?
    I’d trade both on Tuesday for a hamburger today.
  50. How often do you buy clothes?
    Pretty regularly.  I’m kind of a t-shirt collector, so I get those frequently.  Pants and socks and stuff as needed.  I enjoy buying clothes, so I do it often.
  51. Have you ever had a secret admirer?
    How in the fuck would I know that if it was a secret?
  52. What’s your favorite holiday?
    Thanksgiving.  And sometimes St. Patrick’s Day.
  53. What’s the most daring thing you’ve ever done?
    It isn’t something I’m proud of, so I’ll pass on this one.
  54. What was the last thing you recorded on TV?
    Looks like it was The Graham Norton Show on 3/9.
  55. What was the last book you read?
    I’m a few stories into George Saunders’ “Tenth of December.”  It’s good.
  56. What’s your favorite type of foreign food?
    I guess Chinese food. Or maybe Greek because I do love lamb. But I get Chinese more often.  So probably that.
  57. Are you a clean or messy person?
    I’m a fucking slob, thankyouverymuch.
  58. Who would you want to play you in a movie of your life?
    Tough call…most of my favorite actors are too old.  Maybe somebody like Paul Dano would be age appropriate and he’d be great at it.
  59. How long does it take you to get ready in the morning?
    Depends on the morning and what’s happening with my back.  Anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes.
  60. What kitchen appliance do you use every day?
    Microwave, I guess.
  61. What’s your favorite fast food chain?
    I eat at a lot of them.  This is hard.  Wendy’s maybe?
  62. What’s your favorite family recipe?
    My grandma’s banana nut cake.  Oh shit…I forgot to call her tonight. I meant to do that.
  63. Do you love or hate rollercoasters?
    Indifferent. I feel like if you’ve ridden one you’ve ridden them all.  I’d go on one, but I’d probably think going to the park was a waste of money.
  64. What’s your favorite family tradition?
    I guess we have them, but I don’t really think of them that way.  Probably the longest standing one and the one I’ve made it a point not to compromise is Sunday dinners with Dad, though.
  65. What is your favorite childhood memory?
    I don’t really have one.  I don’t mean that in any kind of philosophical way or sad way.  I just really don’t do well at recalling my achievements, accomplishments, or happy occasions.  I often have to be reminded of them.  There were a lot of them.  That’s good enough.
  66. What’s your favorite movie?
    This is a VERY hard question, but my default answer is “12 Angry Men.”  I might have to do a podcast episode on this topic some time.
  67. How old were you when you learned Santa wasn’t real? How did you find out?
    I don’t remember.  It seems like it wasn’t that big of a deal.  My parents always gave me better gifts than Santa did anyway.  I was in my 20s before I realized they did it that way on purpose, though.
  68. Is your glass half full or half empty?
    I can’t remember where I put the fucking glass and it’s a red Solo cup, anyway. I’ll just get a new one.
  69. What’s the craziest thing you’ve done in the name of love?
    Nothing too crazy.  Mostly I’ve just put in way too much drive-time on somebody who wouldn’t do the same in the past.
  70. What three items would you take with you on a deserted island?
    Food, water, and shelter.
  71. What was your favorite subject in school?
    Music and art classes.  You know.  The ones they don’t want to fund anymore.
  72. What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever eaten?
    The first thing that came to mind was chicken hearts, but there’s probably something weirder.
  73. Do you collect anything?
    I covered that above, kinda…  But yeah.  CDs/vinyl.  Movies.  Books.  T-shirts.  Guitars.  And things related to those interests–sometimes a figurine, sometimes a poster, etc…  Hear all about it every week on my podcast, Empty Checking!
  74. Is there anything you wished would come back into fashion?
    People need to get away from streaming media and go back to collecting physical products.  And I think they WILL.  It’s just going to take some time and a plunge in Google or Apple’s bottom line that makes them fuck over their customers on storage space to wake people up.  Or just ONE really good hacker who fucks up everybody’s “cloud” and they realize they really can’t depend on it.  Or Netflix going under.  There are a lot of ways it COULD happen.  I’m interested to see which one takes place.  And when it does, friends, come to me and I will help you replace your lost Frank Zappa CDs.
  75. Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
    Depends on the setting and situation.  But by default more of an introvert.
  76. Which of the five senses would you say is your strongest?
    Well, to begin with, the human body has WAY more than five senses.  That’s a significant simplification of a very complex set of inborn attributes.
    For example, we don’t JUST have a sense of touch.  We can touch something and have the sensation of knowing it will be sticky, furry, hot, cold, etc…  And that’s what most people mean.  But the human body also has an innate sense of knowledge of its relationship to itself.  Close your eyes.  Now keep them closed and touch your two index fingers to one another.  How did you do that without seeing your hands?  You used your body’s sense of itself.  This sense is the same one responsible for “phantom pains” when someone loses a limb. The body’s knowledge of itself fascinates me on a deep level.
    We also have a sense of morality, a sense of humor, a sense of self-value, and there are those who would even call our ability to anticipate a reaction based on sight/sound/etc, otherwise known as “intuition” as its own sense in and of itself.  The human body is a complicated wonderland of senses that are far more numerous than the five we’ve come to identify.  Here is an article from Cracked that cites sources indicating it may be anywhere from 14 to 20 on average, based on most studies. (The body’s awareness of itself–proprioception–is mentioned in the article.)
    Anyway…  Smell.
  77. Have you ever had a surprise party? (that was an actual surprise)
    I don’t think so.  And I really wouldn’t want one.  I don’t like people making too big a deal about my birthday, especially if there are a bunch of strangers around.  And I’d want to have the benefit of knowing I was going to have to be around a group of people who all wanted to talk to me all night.
  78. Are you related or distantly related to anyone famous?
    No one that springs to mind, but there may be someone I’m forgetting.
  79. What do you do to keep fit?
    I do not.
  80. Does your family have a “motto” – spoken or unspoken?
    Probably. But we’ve never formalized it. We joke occasionally that for example when you’ve overloaded the trunk of your car and things are destined to fall over and break but you close it anyway and mutter, “nah, it’ll be fine,” THAT’S the Brink family motto.  But in general, I don’t think we’ve officially got anything. Unless referring to something that isn’t working as “well, this shittin’ thing” counts. Dad started that one and I know I use it regularly.
  81. If you were ruler of your own country what would be the first law you would introduce?
    By Official Decree of the Office of The Derek: Everybody stop being dicks and follow the goddamn road laws because YOU’RE the reason we HAVE them; you don’t know better, you’re part of the problem, and YES I’M TALKING TO YOU.
  82. Who was your favorite teacher in school and why?
    Mr. Koontz, my choir teacher is the first who comes to mind.  He was a warm, encouraging man and he always had kind words to say to me.  He believed in me and made me a section leader in the choir, encouraged me to get into our chamber choir, and constantly guided me toward doing my best.  If anyone reading this ever finds him on Facebook, please let me know.  I’d enjoy saying hello.
    Then the same for Mr. Hudson who was my science teacher in Jr High and then in 9th grade.  When my mom died, he kept me after class into his prep-period on the day I got back from being out to deal with it and asked me if I was okay, told me he’d lost his dad when he was my age and said if I needed to talk to anybody he’d be glad to make time for me.  I’ve thought about that a lot and I’ve tried to do the same for people I’ve known since who have lost a parent.  I’ve not found him on Facebook either.
    I’d like to tell both of those guys how much their little gestures meant.
    Then in college, I had the pleasure of turning similar professors into friends…and they are on Facebook and know what they mean to me.
  83. What three things do you think of the most each day?
    I’m assuming we’re talking about material things here…so I’ll say:
    (1) My laptop because I use it for a lot of stuff including most of my hobbies.
    (2) My phone because I’m addicted to social media.
    (3) My bed, because I wish I were in it.
  84. If you had a warning label, what would yours say?
    Caution: Words may be harmful.
  85. What song would you say best sums you up?
    This is impossible to answer and I am not even going to try. There are too many fucking songs.
  86. What celebrity would you like to meet at Starbucks for a cup of coffee?
    Good question…  It might be interesting to have a chat with Brian Wilson.  I’d love to pick his brain about sound production and the beauty of the small background parts that no one cares about except for the writer.  Or I know Rufus Wainwright frequents Starbucks, based on his Facebook page, and it seems like he’d be fun to talk to.  Or maybe someone like a Jenna Fischer because I could start with “I’m from St. Louis too, where’d you go to high school?” and she seems nice based on her twitter.  Or one of my favorite comics like a Patton Oswalt or Marc Maron.  And I always thought I’d get along with Sally Field for some reason.
    But really that scenario has got to be weird for them because they don’t know me AT ALL and I know a lot about them…so ideally just somebody with whom I could talk about more than just the thing they’re famous for…  I know Neil Peart of Rush hates when fans come up to him and fawn over his music, but if somebody doesn’t recognize him and wants to talk about the weather, he’ll talk to them all day.  (So I know what my move would be with Neil…after a two hour conversation about bird migration patterns, I’d end with, “Tell Geddy and Alex I said hi.” and then get punched.)  Whatever the case, I’d try to make it more than just the “OHMYGODYOURESOGREAT!” fan gibberish and have a conversation THEY can enjoy as much as I do.
  87. Who was your first crush?
    I don’t want to put a person’s name out there.  She’s a very nice person and she’s a mom now.
  88. What’s the most interesting thing you can see out of your office or kitchen window?
    From the office I can see a street and a parking lot.  From my kitchen, I can see my yard.  That’s about it.
  89. On a scale of 1-10 how funny would you say you are?
    Maybe like a 6-8 depending on when you catch me.  Sometimes I’m a solid 3.
  90. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
    I didn’t even plan for 5.
  91. What was your first job?
    That the state made me pay taxes on?  My parents wanted me to enjoy being a teenager and I was probably part of the last generation that COULD do that…so I didn’t get a real job until I became a part time library worker in college.  But I played in a bunch of bands and roadied and stuff before that, and it sure felt like work, and there was some money thrown around for it.
  92. If you could join any past or current music group which would you want to join?
    The band I want to join doesn’t exist.  It’s me and a list of my musician friends who get together and we play songs we wrote and we all like playing together and we’re great.  But most of them are too busy.  And I’m too lazy.
  93. How many languages do you speak?
    Most of one.
  94. What is your favorite family holiday tradition?
    Whenever we get together, whatever that means.
  95. Who is the most intelligent person you know?
    I haven’t tested.
  96. If you had to describe yourself as an animal, which one would it be?
    Like a clinically depressed basset-hound maybe? An extremely forgetful cat?
  97. What is one thing you will never do again?
    Graduate from high school.
  98. Who knows you the best?
    Probably either my dad or my brother.  Maybe both.

Well, that was thorough.  Sorry again!


Current Listening:

  • Decemberists – The Crane Wife
  • Snow Patrol – Eyes Open