I don’t like anything anymore.
Just like “Blueprint For a Successful Evening,” this isn’t really a new piece. I originally “finished” it in December 2013 and until recently it’s existed in limbo. It felt finished but I didn’t like it enough to actually do anything with it. I took it back out on May 15th and put another fifteen to twenty hours into it and now I’m finally happy with it. It used to look like this:
The journals I wrote around it back then aren’t particularly interesting. It’s a whole lot of “I don’t feel okay but I know that I don’t have anything to not feel okay about.” It’s disturbingly similar to the shit I was writing last night. It was only about a month later that I totally rearranged my life and got a lot happier. Makes me think that maybe I need to do the same thing again but I’m not sure exactly what that would mean this time around.
Aside from the main caption, I Feel “Weird” When I’m Unconsciously Unwilling to Admit What’s Really Going On, the only text in this piece says: “I’m playing with textures because I hate myself.” Someone had told me (back when I made this piece “the first time”)| that my art was “too flat”; for some reason, I listened and that’s why I created a bunch of different textures in this piece. It’s [whatever]. It’s all part of the process of figuring out what’s me and what’s some other artist. I don’t seek out advice and I definitely don’t ever seek out art by anyone else (for comparison or for any purpose) but little things leak in to my head now and then that either take hold or don’t and that’s okay.
I don’t like to do non-expressive / cartoon art these days. It’s too hard; I don’t have the technical ability to do it in anything close to a reasonable time frame.
But I do love Rational Anthem (the kids and their music)| and their choice of “Autobiography,” as the cover art for their new record, was a huge honor. And that meant it was suddenly necessary to produce a little something extra (in that same style)| to grace the LP’s lyric sheet. And though my art for their last lyric sheet was absolutely in sync with the theme of that album (and not as half-assed as it might seem), it still meant that I needed to deliver something a little more substantial this time around. (Especially since they – you know – pay me for this stuff).
Originally, I was gonna do a unique cartoon for every song on the record but I don’t have the time or patience for that stuff these days. I think this one image efficiently nails the gist of their album. It certainly covers the bulk of Hembrough and I’s late-night, hours-long phone calls (through which we’ve solved all the problems of the modern world).
I drew this approximately five months after I said I would but it all works out that I’m just sharing it now ’cause it ties in to some of my plans. Spillane and I decided earlier in the week that we’re going to meet up with Rational Anthem somewhere in the Midwest near the end of the month and join them on tour for a week or so. It’ll give me an opportunity to hang with them, see a lot of friends in
cities I rarely get to anymore, rapidfire-hit a bunch of galleries in different cities, and sell prints at their shows each night – where I’ll ALSO get to watch Rational Anthem play every night, along with a handful of other bands that I’m really excited about. THE TRANSGRESSIONS being a particular standout. (I used to
release all of their records on Traffic Street and they folded around the same time my label did (for pretty much the same reason). This will only be their second show in years and it’ll be the first time I get to see Ben since we were both all fucked up on heroin). I’ve got a lot to look forward to and a lot to be excited about right now.
Listen to “Lloyd Christmas” by Rational Anthem
Listen to “17” by The Transgressions
It’s times like these I wonder why I do anything that I do and if any of this “being alive” experience is worth it. WHICH IS FUCKING INSANE because I have such a great time most of the time. Why am I so fucking prone to these ridiculous spurts of absolute hopelessness?
No matter what I do; no matter how hard I work at everything; no matter how SPECTACULAR of a life I build for myself… in the midst of all good things, I’m always gonna slip into these awful dark spots. That’s my reality. It doesn’t matter how happy I am most of the time because, when I start to feel this way, (short as these moods might be) everything goes out the window. I KNOW I’ll be okay any moment and even that doesn’t comfort me.
I’m in panic mode. I went to the Triple Rock to set up around the side but was told I couldn’t. They were cool and said I could hang out ’til the liquor store next door closed and then set up over there. But it was supposed to close at 8 and never did. I came over to Memory Lanes to try and set up for the show here but no one’s going to be here, I don’t want to set up in the parking lot and I don’t want to have to go inside, muster up the courage to find out who to ask, find the courage to actually ask, risk rejection, and – even if successful – take the time to set up only to discover that turnout is even worse than expected, sell nothing, feel weird about painting at this random show – all the while – not being able to listen to the music I want to listen to (which is one of the most important parts of my “trying to feel better” process).
I can’t do a lot of the work that I need to do with updates and my website because I don’t have wifi access for my computer and I can’t do a lot of that stuff on my phone. I hate spending time driving to places that have wifi and then doing that stuff in public because I’m a fucking weirdo and I have anxiety about everything. I could call a friend and ask to come over but I don’t like asking anyone for anything.
Part of me wants to hit the road for Chicago because I know my friends there will welcome me but I still don’t like the idea of being dependent on anyone for anything and I don’t like feeling intrusive even when I’m assured that I’m not. I’ve also yet to hit any galleries in Minneapolis because none of them are open until Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. So it seems dumb to leave before then. But there are more galleries in more cities than I could ever hope to get into so maybe that doesn’t matter.
Even though I don’t want to live in any one city and (most of the time) like living the way that I do… right now I kind of wish that I just had a home. And I really don’t like that I feel that way.
I don’t know what to do with myself. If I were on my own, I’d probably just hide in the back of my van for a while but I have Chris with me and you can’t hide when someone is sitting right there with you. And I’m glad Chris is with me but sometimes it forces me to make better decisions when I don’t WANT to make better decisions. And other times (right now, for example) it puts me in a place of total indecision. I act differently when someone is “watching” me. I don’t know what the fuck that means or what I’m trying to say. Really, I’m scared that he’s gonna interpret some of this as meaning that I don’t want him with me anymore, even though that’s not the case and even though I can just turn the fuck around in the chair I’m sitting in and tell him so. WHICH I’LL DO ‘CAUSE IT’S FUCKING WEIRD TO WRITE ABOUT SOMEONE ON THE INTERNET WHEN YOU’RE SITTING RIGHT FUCKING NEXT TO THEM. Why do I even write these weird random public journal entries?
‘Cause I want attention! Me! Look at me!
I’m gonna postpone doing my computer bullshit, drive the fuck back over to the Triple Rock, hope that the fucking liquor store is closed, set up my god damn print table, and work on my new fucking painting. And it’s all gonna go kinda poorly because that’s what happens when my head is in a bad place. I do well when I’m SMILING. When I’m genuinely happy. Nobody gives a fuck about some miserable little shit. No one wants to talk to or buy art from someone that looks unhappy.
What the fuck is wrong with me?? I have literally ZERO problems. Fuck. I need something to snap me out of this. It doesn’t take much but I never know ahead of time what it’s going to (or needs to) be.
If I were on my computer, this is where I’d embed an audio stream of Sass Dragons’ “Diaper Baby.”
“I don’t care – I want attention; it doesn’t matter where it comes from. I’m as needy as the day I was born. Like a crying baby: ‘Somebody change me!’ and tell me just what I’ve become.”
Minneapolis has been on my list of cities to hit. Cleveland Bound Death Sentence reuniting to play Extreme Noise’s 20th anniversary seemed like a good excuse to be impulsive, bail on Asheville, and spontaneously trek halfway ‘cross the country.
We overnighted in Lexington and Chicago along the way since CBDS doesn’t play ’til tomorrow afternoon. We’re just pulling out of Chicago and making our way north now. 11 PM is a little later than I’d like to be heading out but we don’t operate on a schedule and it’s hard to walk out of Dave and Mike’s place. I just have too much fun with those kids. They definitely come across as jaded, grumbly, curmudgeonly old men (who are actually five years younger than me) but that’s also definitely part of their charm, since they’re secretly some of the warmest, funniest kids around.
I met Dave in the Baltimore punk scene – mostly around Charm City Art Space – back when we both lived out that way. And he met Spillane when I recruited both of them to come on tour with me and Rational Anthem back in 2009. Neither of them had even been on tour before and this one was TEN WEEKS long. (They’re both fucking warriors after surviving that thing).
I met Mike that same year. His band had just recorded their first demo and a friend in Ohio tipped me off, thinking I might be interested in them for Traffic Street. Their first tour included a house show somewhere in Maryland. I went out to meet/see them and brought ’em back to DC for a day or two after. We’ve been friends ever since.
So the plan was to hit the road earlier in the day but we stuck around ’til now, doing mostly nothing, just joking around, having fun. We did go out to Logan Square for a few hours though and I got to finish my latest painting (“Something to Cry About,” which I’ll post later in the month). Anyway, one joke led to another and I wound up giving Dave his first tattoo. It’s on the front of his right thigh, just a couple inches up from the knee. The caption comes from something Mike said this morning in a sleepy haze: “Where do rats go when they die? I don’t mean, like, in a spiritual sense…”
I’m looking forward to coming back to Chicago real soon.
Back in February, I was lucky enough to get to work on a painting and set up a print table at a couple shows some of my favorite bands were playing. On the second night, I asked my buddy Mike (who runs Dead Broke Rekerds) if I could scoop up some records in exchange for some artwork. He picked out a print and asked if I would draw something for a Dead Broke sticker. It took me a while ’cause I was stressing out, worrying about whether or not Mike would like whatever I came up with. As soon as I decided to drop the anxiety and just do what came naturally though, it was done in no time and I had this design. I’m really happy with it – in large part just because it’s so radically unlike the kind of art that a band or label would normally use for a sticker design.
I don’t think I met him just then but the first time Mike and I crossed paths was in late 2006. His band, Down in the Dumps, was in Florida to play The Fest and I caught their set in Tampa at Transitions Art Gallery (now Epic Problem). In my mind, this was right around the time when DIY pop punk was really blowing the fuck up (in an incredibly relative sense) and getting awesome/exciting again. Off With Their Heads released Hospitals, started their never-ending tour, and were in the midst of the flurry of 7-inches that they’d release leading up to their first full-length for No Idea. 1-2-3-4 Go!, Kiss of Death, and A.D.D. were all fucking killing it with bands like Ringers, Snuggle, Drunken Boat, Monikers, Witches With Dicks, Tiltwheel, Chinese Telephones, and Pretty Boy Thorson & The Falling Angels. Labels like No Breaks, It’s Alive, Dirt Cult, and Salinas were similarly picking up the pace, building incredible catalogs, and (soon enough) inspiring me to do the same. Banner Pilot self-released their first record. The Brokedowns put out “New Brains For Everyone.” Blotto was on the other side of the Pacific, churning out 7-inches at the same rate as Off With Their Heads, (mostly for Snuffy Smile, who were also tearing it up on the label side of things). And shortly thereafter (or right around then), we got the first records out of Dear Landlord, The Measure, The Gateway District, Dead Mechanical, The Humanoids, and The Steinways.
But I’m getting carried away… the FIRST band to play at Transitions that aforementioned night in October 2006 was Down in the Dumps. They were the only band on the line-up I didn’t know anything about. And they were fucking awesome. It was everything punk rock’s supposed to be: grimy, coarse, fucked up but catchy and upbeat (sonically, if not in content). Mike played bass and sang. And as I’d later find out, he was also the guy responsible for Dead Broke Rekerds, whose catalog now boasts a whole slew of my favorite records.
After I moved to DC for law school and started my record label, Traffic Street, the first bands to come through Baltimore and stay at my place were Iron Chic and Jonesin’. Mike played bass and sang in Jonesin’ and – though he wasn’t at the time – is now the bassist in Iron Chic as well. Both bands mean a lot to me. One of Traffic Street’s final releases was Jonesin’s EP, “The Dream is Dead.” And – going back to the beginning – #001 in the Traffic Street catalog was a 7-inch compilation called “Dangerous Intersections,” which was not only my first vinyl release but also Iron Chic’s first appearance on vinyl (and only their second release overall, following their five-song demo).
Before Traffic Street collapsed under the weight of my mental health issues and heroin addiction, Mike and I were in regular contact, states away, trading our releases for our distros, talking music, making fun of each other, and – every so often – crossing paths again when I’d book a show for Iron Chic or he’d book one for Rational Anthem (who, coincidentally, shared the A-side of “Dangerous Intersections” with Iron Chic). When it all went wrong for me, he continued to stay in touch, checking up on me periodically, wishing me well, and even sending me a slew of records in the mail while I was in rehab. He’s continued being a source of support since I’ve been back in the real world too. He’s a great friend and a veritable fucking pillar of DIY punk rock. I’m honored to have my art featured on one of his label’s stickers.
AND REGARDING “punk rock today” and the claim made by the title of this piece… Allow me to present some audible evidence! Here are songs from the records Mike traded me that night back in February, as well as some recent stuff by other bands I’ve mentioned (and some by bands that spawned from their ashes).
“Babyboo” by Unfun
“Snow Angels” by Murmurs
“Wolf Dix Rd.” by Iron Chic
“I Wish I Could Be Happy” by Rational Anthem
“Not Cool” by The Slow Death
“Old Man Yells at Cloud” by Skinny Genes
“This Future Sucks” by The Brokedowns
“Hey Caroline” by Dear Landlord
“Look” by Science Police
“How the Day Runs Down” by Dead Mechanical
“Start Walking” by Off With Their Heads
“Hold Fast” by Banner Pilot
And even though they’re not technically “punk rock today“…
“‘Lone” by Jonesin’
“City of the Living Dead” by Down in the Dumps
Oh! AND… I think I like the black-and-white version better but since I can’t resist coloring anything and everything, here’s what the finished, physical drawing looks like (though the stickers will still be black-and-white).