(ICYMI: DGC Kickstarter going on now! Will we pass $2,000 today? We’re at $1,902 when I’m posting… Go check out the fun rewards, many under $10! -ctan)
The next morning I felt the effects of having hardly slept two nights earlier. I felt like I could barely roll over as Ziggy answered the phone. Through the haze I gathered he was talking to Carynne about today’s plan.
After he hung up, Ziggy said nothing, just kissed me on the cheek before he folded the blanket over me and went into the bathroom. I understood it as you sleep a little longer while I take the first shower.
When he woke me up the next time it was with a damp kiss in my ear and water dripping off the ends of his hair. I crawled to the edge of the bed shaking my head.
A shower woke me up somewhat, though, and we finally said the first word to each other after we were dressed. Mine was “Morning.”
His was, “Yeah.” I think we had identical still-sleepy half-smiles on our faces. Then, “Marvelle’s going first.”
He looked at the clock on the microwave. “Forty-five minutes.”
“We better get going, then.”
“Tony’s on the way. I had him pick up bagels.”
He must have talked to him while I was passed out the second time.
As it was, Tony had picked up enough bagels for a small army, so when we got there we set out a spread. I made some very strong coffee and tried to think of exactly what I was going to try to have our prospective drummers do today.
I realized I could ask for suggestions. Chris had just taken a bite that got whipped cream cheese on his nose. Perfect time to ask. “What should we have them do?”
He had to swallow before he could answer. “Teach each of them a track from the set?”
“The same song or different ones?”
He thought about it. “Teach Bradley ‘After the Storm’ and teach Marvelle ‘Do It.”
In other words, reverse which songs each of them had worked on the day before. “Yeah, okay.”
I hid upstairs with the Strat for a little while, with headphones on so only I could hear what I was playing, reminding myself of some of the changes, and giving myself some time inside my own head. I felt a little bad about not helping to set up the drums but then again that wasn’t my job.
When I emerged Marvelle was jogging lightly in place to warm up. He was wearing a tank top and I found my eye drawn to his tattoos. His skin was pretty dark which made them hard to make out, but the design was something elaborate, covering his deltoids like black lace.
We warmed up the band with another round of 12-bar blues. Everyone was playing pretty laid back, and I didn’t know if that was because we were all tired, or Marvelle thought he had the gig in the bag so he relaxed a little, too. Whatever. We were a little sloppy, but the jam had a nice feel.
“Feel.” I should explain “feel,” except the thing about feel is that it can’t totally be explained. Common wisdom says you can’t teach “feel.” It’s not the same thing as “rhythm” and it’s also not the same thing as “expressiveness.” Maybe it’s where those two things overlap.
Then I went into a spiel about “Do It” that went something like this: “So, this is a song that only exists as dance remixes. There is no canonical version of it that is the ‘single’ that all other versions are a remix of. So we have a lot of license to mess around with it. It’s also probably going to be a dance number, so whatever we do, we’ll have to nail it down and not change it. Right now, though, there’s nothing nailed down, so we’re experimenting with what’s going to work.”
“A’ight.” Marvelle punctuated his agreement with a drum fill.
We built the song up section by section, first chorus might go like this, bridge might go like that, verses might go like this, finale might go like that. There wasn’t much of a verse to speak of, but there was a little. Two short ones.
Ziggy’s eyelashes looked very long and thick to me as he watched us work, not saying anything, not looking at me directly.
I got a really good idea for a bridge I could do with the Ovation and discarded it because that was not the right direction to take this. I knew it. Not for this show, not for this incarnation. But it would mean recreating one of the synth lines with finger picking and just no, not now, not this time. It just wouldn’t have been right and I knew it.
It hurt though, physically, like a cramp in my diaphragm, to set the idea aside.
Marvelle was rock steady—so steady it was almost boring. But that was good, right? Dance track done with a drum machine, perfect. Right?
“What do you think about jazzing it up?” I asked him.
“I’d love to,” he said.
“By which I don’t mean actual jazz but, you know, fancying it up.”
“Sure. You want a little island feel, maybe?”
I shrugged. “Maybe? Just curious what else we can do with it.”
So we did a kind of island-y pseudo-reggae rendition but I could see Ziggy giving that the side-eye. I tried to reassure him with a look that it was just an experiment for the sake of testing out Marvelle’s chops. I broke it off halfway through. “Okay, yeah, enough of that. Worth a try, though.”
“What do you want, chief?” Marvelle asked.
“We call him ‘boss,’” Bart said.
“I’ve been trying to get them to stop calling me that for years,” I said, trying to figure out if when Marvelle had said “chief” if there was a little sarcasm in it, or condescension, like you’d say when driving a child home from school, “where to, chief?” Or if it was my imagination. The thing is he got a skeptical look on his face when I said “for years”–as if I couldn’t be old enough or something.
I decided I was being hypersensitive, looking for excuses. “And I don’t know what I’m looking for. Trying to find something that gives this song something.” I shook my head slowly.
“I know what you want,” Bart said. “Let’s do it from the bridge. Just straight up like before.”
Bart, as usual, was right. It wasn’t the drums that needed to be snazzed up, it was the other half of the rhythm section, and as he applied much more of a walking bassline, Marvelle found a couple of places to add a little cymbal fill, too. Ziggy was nodding his head in time with the rhythm.
When we got to the end of that run-through, I unslung the Strat and put it in the stand. What I really wanted to do now was ask him, somehow, if he was okay traveling with a bunch of queers like us. But I didn’t think just blurting that out was the right way to do it. I’d meant to ask Carynne more about that, but then I’d gotten sucked into my own head and had forgotten to talk to her.
I decided to ask about that later. In my head I was getting twisted around the question of whether it was fair to let my own queerness dictate someone else’s hiring. It didn’t make much sense, but I wanted to make a decision that didn’t make me feel like shit, you know?
In the end we told Marvelle to make himself scarce while we conferred and to come back at dinner time when he’d either get his drums or a job.
We didn’t actually confer right away. We ran through some stuff to show Ziggy what we’d been working on arrangement-wise, and got his input and talked over various ideas and options. I made notes.
Then Bradley came in.
I’ll cut right to it. We taught him the power ballad, and he was not afraid the whack the shit out of the drums. I’m not saying that hitting the drums harder is better—in fact, it’s the opposite usually—but I just really liked it. Liked his performance. In everything we did, he wasn’t 100% technically perfect, but was 95% there.
And that’s what I’d said after we kicked him out so we could talk. We were in the break room again. “I think we could bring him up that other five percent.”
“But why, Daron? When we’ve got another candidate who you’ve said’s 1 hundred percent?” Carynne asked.
“I’m not totally sure. It’s…talent, maybe? Feel? I don’t know how to describe it. When we play I feel like Bradley really…shows me something. Marvelle–”
“Does what he’s supposed to,” Carynne insisted. “Marvelle understands that this is a backing band, not a…a–”
“Real band,” Ziggy said under his breath.
“–collaborative effort in freedom of self-expression,” Carynne finished. “You–”
“I get that,” I said, maybe a little more shortly than I should have. “Trust me, C, I get it. But if the decision were completely mine, which by the way it technically could be, I’d be… torn. Because I do get what you’re saying. Musically Marvelle’s the sure choice, the safe choice.”
“He’s also a good guy. I got a recommendation from Jordan on him, you know. Talked to him last night.”
Ziggy piped up. “Did Jordan say he’s queer-friendly?”
“This is the thing,” I said, putting my hands on the table, spreading my fingers all the way out flat. “On the one hand I know we want to create a reliable backing track for the dance numbers and all that. But I feel like if it’s too…dance-centric, too much like it could be done like a machine, then the whole show is going to come off run-of-the-mill. Bart can do a lot but he can’t fix everything. Most of the choices that would snazz things up would take us too far from the–”
I stopped speaking, staring at my hands, as the solution hit me. Each hand was like a drum riser on the stage of the table. That’s literally what gave me the clue.
I looked up. “Let’s hire them both. Two drum sets. Two drummers. Playing in unison most of the time. I want to fill up those South American arenas with sound. That’ll do it. It’ll be electrifying live without us having to deviate from them the album.”
Ziggy nodded slowly in thoughtful approval.
“Do we know they can play together?” Bart asked.
“They can if you take charge of the rhythm section,” I said. “They’ll both look to you for the lead, at least while we’re learning it all.”
Carynne rubbed her chin. “You’ll have to talk about the stage design and all that–”
“But it’ll work,” Ziggy said firmly. “It’ll work. And we did say there’s the budget for a few more hires.”
We went down to the McDonald’s a couple blocks away where Marvelle had said he’d be hanging out until it was time to come back. I could see through the window that Bradley was sitting with him, sucking on a shake through a straw.
“Here’s the deal,” I said as I marched right up to their little formica table. “We’re taking you both. Two drum sets, twice the fun. Sound good?”
Marvelle held out his hand and Bradley grasped it not in a regular handshake but in the interlocked-fist style and they nodded to each other. “Congratulations, brother,” Bradley said. “Now you better get your union paperwork done.”
(Thanks to everyone who’s backed the Kickstarter so far! It’s going great! But we’re 1/4 of the way through and although we’re more than halfway to the minimum goal, only about 1/4 of the number of backers we usually need have signed up so far. So please don’t wait to do it if you’ve been meaning to. You won’t be charged until April 29th so you can pledge now: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/ceciliatan/darons-guitar-chronicles-third-omnibus
Meanwhile, I’m still compiling photos for the DGC “casting call” post! Send me your pictures of who you’d “cast” as various characters. Hm, maybe after the Kickstarter is over some of the leftover rewards will become prizes and I’ll have you guys vote on your faves or something… Email daron.moondog @ gmail.com with photos of your suggestions! -ctan)
Today’s actual video:
(The song I was gonna pick, because the video is such an AMAZING mishmash of 1990 being the last gasp of weird eighties fashion and this style of video, too, but which I didn’t because in the end the title was too much of a spoiler, is this one from Seduction: -daron)
(Is the blond one supposed to be a Madonna clone? Is one of them actually wearing a Devo hat? There is so much going on in here… I’m having flashbacks. -daron)