Both the Musician and Rolling Stone interviews were awkward because both writers clearly seemed to smell a scoop and wanted to dig into all kinds of questions about Star*Gaze and Jordan’s involvement and they couldn’t help but ask me stuff about Ziggy’s upcoming tour. And I just kept trying to steer them back to talking about Nomad and Remo. Like, seriously, if they wanted to grill me solo they could’ve said.
Except now that I think about it I probably would’ve refused and they probably knew that. I don’t know. I found it flattering on the one hand, like I know it’s important to talk to the media and I know it’s a really good sign when they want to know all kinds of stuff because it means they’re actually interested and buzz is building. The worst is to be ignored and nobody cares. But what I was in Miami to do was a different job and them using Nomad’s press contact as a way to get to me seemed underhanded and weird (even though Jonathan later assured me it wasn’t).
Plus I was there on Remo’s dime.
Remo, who I would’ve thought would be equally annoyed, seemed perfectly content to have me doing all the talking, and sat back alternating between looking smugly amused and proudly paternal.
We drank bourbon all through the Rolling Stone interview. I held myself to one, nursing it as my way to get through it, but really it probably wasn’t the best idea to have started drinking before rehearsal.
Rehearsal worked out okay anyway but something had happened to me in New York–or maybe I’d always been like this but something finally made me stop reining my perfectionist side–and I felt this need to push everything to a higher level. To the highest level I knew it could achieve. Maybe it’s just that I could see that level and once I grasped it was there I couldn’t settle for merely good enough anymore. I don’t know. I was annoyed with Waldo’s attitude that these guys were such pros they’d be fine. He was right. But if they were that good, I didn’t want “fine.” I wanted excellent.
Like I said, though, it worked out okay. Even Remo seemed to appreciate the run-through the next day when at soundcheck he seemed a lot less stressed out than he could usually be on opening night. Which was saying something given that he was stressed about about Melissa’s family.
I like to think I’m not a tyrant. I like to think I’m just trying to give everyone the best chance to sound their best. To be their best.
I haven’t told you guys much about how the recording sessions of Prone to Relapse went. I kind of skipped over that, I know. I think the most I’ve said was that there was some strife and tension between me and Ziggy. Maybe I should open up about that period of time a little.
It’s a hard period to talk about for a couple of reasons. For one, remember I was still so deeply closeted. I think sometimes I can’t even access thoughts and memories from those days because they’re stuck on the other side of a locked door. That period in particular is hard to recall because it’s so obscured by what came after. But also because it was when I was, for lack of a better analogy, birthing an album that was incredibly important in my creative life, and a lot of subconscious stuff is bursting free and in hindsight it’s hard to reconstruct. Plus they say women literally forget how painful labor was, like your brain erases it, so that you’ll be willing to do it again. And I kind of think something like that was going on, too.
But the reporters had asked me a couple of things that had scraped up some gunk from the memory banks, and this was a point in my career when I was being forced to reflect a little in order to keep my feet under me.
So now’s as good a time as any to try to tell you some of that stuff. Ziggy joined the band in April 1987 and we recorded a four-song EP pretty much right away, four songs I’d had in my back pocket for a while, so he had only minimal input into them. “Walking in Time,” “Grenadier,” “Welcome,” and “Desire.” That EP, which we’d self-produced, was the thing that had grabbed Watt’s attention and Charles River had taken over distributing it by the end of the year and had sent us into the studio to record a full album, which hit the stores in ’88 while I was still working at Tower.
The studio Watt had sent us to was in a terrible part of town. I had just moved into the house in Allston so Chris and I were carpooling in his van every day and we would pick up Bart on the way because it was less risky to have one vehicle parked on the street there than two. We started picking up Ziggy on the way there, too, both because that kept Ziggy on time and eliminated the risk of him getting mugged while walking from the T. Our engineer-producer was a guy named Clark and he had been mugged twice the month before, once in broad daylight on his way in, and we decided to try to avoid that.
Watt was technically our producer but he was kind of hands off, and Clark and I were the ones who ended up making a lot of the decisions that a producer usually would. The fact that I’d worked in a studio and was basically a competent engineer myself also helped because Clark didn’t have too much ego. I think the decision to have Watt as producer was also a budgetary one: it meant we weren’t paying through the nose for someone who I probably would have fought with all the time anyway.
These were the sessions where we recorded “Candlelight.” We’d been playing the song for a while, remember. We’d been gigging with Ziggy for a couple of months at that point and so all the songs were written, they just hadn’t been recorded yet. So you’d think all the strife about how they should go would have already been worked out in rehearsals and shows we’d already done.
You’d be wrong. The EP had been pretty much a straight-up capture of what we sounded like live, but if we were going to be in a good studio with a 24-track recorder and good engineer I wanted to craft something that would be its own thing, that would be a good album and not just what happened to be a collection of good songs recorded at the same time.
I wanted to have the first and last tracks be instrumental–or mostly instrumental with only some minimal lyrics at the end–like an overture and an end title. An overture usually has motifs and elements from all the songs in a show or the movements to come. So first we needed to figure out what was going to go on there and record those songs first before I could quite decide what to do. The ending song I already had a riff and structure but the opening one I really did want to be a kind of introductory thing, preparing the listener’s ears for the music that was to come.
This was not long after Love and Rockets had put out an album that had songs like “American Dream” which were almost all instrumental until some words snuck in toward the end. And The Cure’s “Push” was right before then, too. So those were the sounds I had in my ears. It’s not a coincidence that both were guitar-driven rock that didn’t sound anything like the blues-heavy stuff of “classic” rock or metal or even punk, and which used acoustic guitar in a way that didn’t sound at all like folk. I don’t know what lodestar we were pointing at but it was a moment in time when that was possible, like this gap had opened that we poured into. I was a little behind Love & Rockets and The Cure but not by that much.
Anyway. We were on a limited budget and only had a certain amount of studio time, which meant as we neared the end of the time we had booked it for, it was more and more urgent to finish what we needed to, and we were spending longer and longer hours there. For the most part we relished it. Watt liked any excuse to stay up all night with musicians and I had been waiting all my life to do this–I was much more interested in recording than in eating or sleeping.
So it came down to the last few days and I still had my heart set on recording an overture piece, but it was something we’d have to learn and feel our way through. Which was going to take an unknown amount of time.
Around ten at night on the last Friday of our studio time, after we’d been working on this instrumental thing since eleven that morning with very little break, Ziggy had had enough. He’d been mostly floating around the control room for the past eleven hours, bugging the shit out of Clark and Watt. Watt had gone home or to a show, to babysit or court some other band maybe, and Ziggy was champing at the bit. I can’t really blame him. He was probably bored out of his skull.
At one point he finally commented through the engineer’s mic, “Do you guys really need me here right now?”
My ability to explain myself was pretty terrible back then, remember, especially when I was already hypersensitive about a lot of things relating to Ziggy. “Of course we need you,” I said, annoyed, but he couldn’t actually hear me reply. So I came out into the control room.
“You have somewhere else to be?” I demanded.
“Just asking.” He was snarly, though.
“You have somewhere else to be?” I asked again, more slowly. “Something else you want to be doing?” Some-one else you want to be doing, in other words. “Because I don’t. And this is a band effort.”
“Fine. Fine. Just asking,” he repeated.
What I was trying to say, I think, was that it was important to me that we were a band. Even on songs that I wrote entirely on my own I wanted the whole band to be credited as co-writers. We all had equal shares in the royalties. And to me that meant I wanted equal commitment out of everyone. But instead of having a good way of expressing that, it was just annoying as hell to me that Ziggy didn’t seem to intrinsically understand that. And I somehow thought that forcing him to hang around was going to teach him this lesson by osmosis or something.
An hour later we were still playing and some woman he had called showed up.
I think, but I am not sure, that while Bart and I were working out a section that absorbed my attention pretty fully for a good hour, that said woman got on the floor in the control room and sucked Ziggy’s dick. I think Clark’s, too, possibly. I was used to blocking out that kind of shit overall. I didn’t care what they did.
The next day went pretty much the same, only the woman–a different one–showed up earlier. And the main reason this one became an issue was because at one point we took a break and Bart had to use the bathroom. There was only one bathroom in this place so it could be kind of a problem if someone was stuck in there for a while.
Stuck is not the word for what Ziggy and she were doing in there, though it rhymes with it.
I’ll be frank: this was a toilet that had been pretty much used mainly by men for years and was rarely cleaned. The bathroom itself had two walls of brick and two drywall because it was built into a corner of an industrial warehouse, a brick floor, and a single bulb hanging from a wire. A rusted metal file cabinet sat in one corner with one drawer containing rolls of the cheapest toilet paper that could be bought in bulk and the other had stacks of packs of brown paper towels. No one ever bothered to put the towels in the dispenser. When a pack ran out you’d just tear open another one and leave it sitting on top of the cabinet.
And when the toilet paper ran out people would just use the rough brown paper towels instead of toilet paper and then throw them in the big open trash barrel in there instead of flushing them. Toilet paper had run out on our fourth or fifth day or recording and the studio manager had said they’d replenish it, but they never did.
The toilet itself was one of these kind of industrial-looking ones with a black U-shaped seat and no lid and the sink was pink and shaped like a seashell, set into a particle-board vanity cabinet that looked basically like someone had donated it after a house renovation or something. There was no hot water in the building so the hot tap didn’t even do anything.
So tell me. If you were going to fuck in that bathroom, where between the barrel of shit-streaked paper towels, the industrial toilet, and the tacky vanity would you do it?
I don’t know where Ziggy did it but he managed it. Maybe she just bent over and they did it standing up–I don’t know, I didn’t want to know, and I didn’t want to think about it. But here’s how it went.
We came to the end of a test run of the final epic section of the song. Clark was nodding appreciatively.
Bart took off his bass and stretched. “I gotta take a shit.”
Chris stretched, too. “You gonna be a while?”
“Probably.” Bart shrugged.
Clark opened the door into the room where we were recording then, though, and we could suddenly hear the high-pitched squealing that was Miss Right Now being sexed however she was being sexed by our illustrious lead singer.
“How long have they been at it?” Bart asked Clark.
Clark shrugged. “An hour maybe?”
Bart leaned an ear in the direction of the sound. “Surely they’ll be done soon.”
Ten minutes later when they weren’t done, though, and we were still all too polite to just bang on the door and tell them to hurry the fuck up, Chris and I decided we were not, however, too polite to take a piss in the weeds at the edge of the back parking lot. So we did.
When we got back upstairs Bart was getting desperate. “I’m walking to Dunkin’ Donuts,” he announced.
“They’re assholes about the restroom, though,” Clark warned. “Customers only.”
“So I’ll buy a donut, oh no.” Bart put the back of his hand to his forehead to express how tragic that would be. “You guys want I’ll bring some back.”
“Honestly? I always feel sick after I eat one of their donuts,” I said.
“That’s because you’re only supposed to go there for the coffee,” Clark said.
“Then why the fuck do they call it Dunkin’ Donuts?” It was a little difficult to have this conversation with the rather loud sounds of Ziggy and his paramour going at it.
No one had an answer to my question and Bart set out. I went back into the recording room behind the soundproof door where it was quiet. I had an idea for what the vocal part should be melodically but I didn’t have any words. I went and picked through the melody trying to get words to fit but nothing was coming other than nonsense. The phrase I had going around was “like a milk chocolate sunshine” which would have been fine for some kind of neo-psychedelia but that was not what we were about.
A half hour later I realized Bart wasn’t back. I emerged to find Chris and Clark sitting in the control room and everything quiet, though Ziggy still hadn’t emerged from the bathroom. “You think Bart can possibly still be taking a shit?”
“If he doesn’t come in in five minutes I think we should go check on him,” Chris said.
Four minutes later, Ziggy and girl popped the latch on the door and emerged, sweaty and red-faced, and she pretty much fled at that point. To make a point I went in there myself immediately to take a piss as if I’d been waiting all that time to.
If the walls or floor were any more shit- or blood-covered than before I couldn’t tell, but the air was thick with hormones and sweat.
I didn’t piss. I masturbated into a handful of wet paper towels, chafing myself in the process, and then tossed the sodden lump into the trash with the rest. And then I had a brief bout of dry heaves, but it passed pretty quickly.
When I emerged, Bart had come back. I fairly forcibly dragged Ziggy into the vocal booth and played him the melody I wanted and told him to sing whatever came into his head while Clark played back the section we had recorded. I might have been kind of terrible, kind of a tyrant about it, you know? Like maybe I screamed a little or pushed him physically into the booth or both — I’m actually not sure because although I remember being ripshit angry at that point I don’t remember if I was able to hide it or if I let it out. I just don’t remember.
I do feel like it could have all blown up in my face right then, he and I might have been at each other’s throats, and it could have ended the Moondog Three experiment right there. But it didn’t. This is why this story isn’t a story, really, because the moment passed, and the reason the moment passed is because of what Ziggy did next.
Ziggy went into the booth and opened his mouth and damn if didn’t blow us all away. He put a slight twist on the melody and the words that came out that fit the riff drew together a bunch of stuff that had been floating around in my head for a couple of weeks and how the hell did he do that? Where I’d put “reality” he put “no one can see” and where I’d been stuck on “like a milk chocolate sunshine” he busted out “your fingertip touches mine.” Those are almost the only lyrics in the whole song. I hadn’t told him what nonsense words I had or anything, just played him the melody and let him rip.
We ended up re-recording the band part, and then doing Ziggy’s vocals over again, and then we had a song, and I went home and lay awake in my own bed thinking what the fuck is going on but feeling like musically it was working.
And the point of that story is not what disgusting pigs we can be but that when the band or I am just barely on the edge of meltdown sometimes the most amazing music can come of it. And also that talent will get you a lot of slack in my book.
Oh, and Bart apparently did get mugged. He had left his actual wallet in his bass case so he tried to give the guy a dozen donuts and the change from purchasing them and the guy apparently took the $4.50 or whatever it was and then fled in disgust before he got stuck with the donuts, too.
(Thanks everyone who has kicked in to the fundraising drive post-Orlando! So far I’ve gotten receipts from half a dozen readers with notes from others who are intending to chip in, too. Every bit helps. So far everyone has chosen Equality Florida! <3 Details on the rewards for chipping in see last post along with links to the donation site(s). Daron was in NYC over the weekend for project meetings while the Pride parade was going on and kept having flashbacks to that first one he and Ziggy marched in. Who would’ve thought that 25 years later the whole skyline would be lit up with rainbow colors to celebrate us? You guys are helping my heart feel lighter. -ctan)