Same dream again. I'm on stage, in the spotlight, Strat slung low beneath my hip bones. An F chord rings out; sound waves dance through the air. I step to the mic, and like I have a thousand times before, I sing from deep within my center, "Don't let the days go by..." I step back from the microphone so the audience can finish the lyric. Silence. I am alone.
Woke up covered in sweat, ill at ease, like something in me is rotting. Tried to calm myself with a chant. Om Gum Ganapatayei Namah. Om Gum Ganapatayei Namah. I bow to Ganesh who is capable of removing all obstacles. I pray for blessings and protection. Don't make me play any more shows with Theory of a Deadman.
Beginning to think my agent is frankly a bit shite. Look, I get it. I'm not some delusional has-been who doesn't know when his ticket's been punched. Superstardom, the big gigs, Lollapalooza -- been there, done that, bought the t-shirt. Like the Dhammavadakada says, "None can live without toil and a craft that provides your needs is a blessing indeed." Put me in the House of Blues, Dallas or Myrtle Beach on a Wednesday or Thursday and I'm a happy camper. Just don't book all my coming and going through bloody Burbank -- LAX, that's all I fucking ask. A wise man once sang "it's the little things that kill," heh heh.
Chris Traynor's a massive knob. We had to kill some time at Burbank before boarding so I decided to look over some of the press materials for the new record. Is it really possible that I uttered the phrase "the ancient thrill of rhythm" aloud at some point? Sure, I've thought it before -- countless times -- but it doesn't seem like something I'd put to words in the company of fellow humans. Anyway, whilst I pondered, Traynor comes over and asks all casually if I've seen Gwen's new video. I feel a sour taste rise in the back of my throat, but manage a cool reply, "No mate, more of a rock guy myself." Nigel never would have pulled that shit. Better with a slide as well, especially on "Zen".Get a row to myself near the back of the plane and try to keep working but now the idea's been planted and it keeps niggling at me. Finally I fuck off on the PR and fingers salty from shit airplane peanuts, knowing I'm in for pain, I search Gwen's video. Whole thing's a bit Sinead, I think, but my cool British reserve begins to melt away because Jesus look at her face in HD and what cruel LA god decided we'd stay so fit, both of us, our physical beauty turning us to walking mausoleums, youthful fire made stone.
Have to slam my screen shut as Traynor passes on the way to the loo with a smug look on his prickish face, then suddenly the plane is falling from the sky. My bollocks jump up into my mouth for safekeeping, I'm sweating, uselessly gripping the arms of my seat, and the plane is thrashing about like an eel with a boot on its tail. Om Gum Ganapatayei Namah. Om Gum Ganapatayei Namah. I'm going to fucking die while that bell-end Traynor has his pants down 3 yards from me. Protect me Ganesh. Remove the obstacles from my path. But the chant has none of its usual power, I feel no sense of calm, only hollowness at my center. Perhaps I was always empty. Half full cans of tomato juice pitch up and down the aisle and I try the only other mantra I know:
Kingston. Zuma. Apollo.
Gwen.PART II, 2016
What the fuck's a Blake Shelton? Leave it to Traynor to get inside my head again. I'd been solid for a month, doing my breaths, my chants, borne along like a herring on the current, the past is past, I am here, I am now, all that. Then the band gets together to shake the cobwebs off before the big Aerosmith gig in Lima, and on a break, twat that he is, Traynor sidles up and says "Gwen and Blake Shelton huh? Hey man, don't worry about it, that country shit sucks."
"Don't really follow the gossip blogs, mate," I say, playing it cool, but I'm kippered. Inside I'm split, gutted, salted and cold-smoked over smoldering woodchips. All that breathing, all that chanting, and one remark from some scarf-wearing Yank knob and I'm breakfast. Not for the first time, I think about calling Nigel. "Getting the band back together," as it were. And sending Traynor packing back to sodding Blue Man Group, the prick.
I hit the loo to calm myself down. In the stall I chant nam-myoho-renge-kyo. I have faith in the Mystic Law. I believe in life’s inherent possibilities. I like scarves actually. Wear them myself sometimes.
Back home I feel the pull of the MacBook, like it's the center of gravity, tugging me into its orbit. I tool around the house a bit first, but really, what am I doing? Walking from room to room like a ghost.
I sit down at the computer and all of a sudden I'm watching "She’s Got a Way with Words" by Blake Shelton, which, to my eye, is just a clot of paunchy bumpkins having a go at a sham poker game while some overstuffed Joe Bloggs drawls "When you put two and two together you figure out love's got four letters." Not exactly "Tyger Tyger, burning bright," is it? That's the Blake I prefer, personally. Heh heh. Must remember that one in case some pap gets in my face about this at Burbank.
These thoughts make me feel better, but only for a moment. Back in the day, if I came across some gormless todger dating my wife, tossing the ball around with Kingston, singing shit songs and generally making my life worse, I would have told myself, "this hapless cunt's never even heard the Breeders" (I mean stuff off "Pod," — everyone knows "Cannonball"), and been on my merry way, ne'er a glance back. That was then, as they say.
That high and mighty bit, that sense of superiority: it's hard not to feel it when the world's tickling your parsnip, when every show's a sellout and the Goo's are your direct support, but you know why they call it "gassing you up?" Because it’s not real. It's just air, and when you come back down from that cloud to find yourself alone in in your big, empty LA house, you've only got two choices: pack it in or start again.
Look, I’m a rocker, not to mention a Buddhist, so of course I don't fear death, but that whole out-with-a-bang kit is not for me. Besides, look how it worked out for Kurt: music's shite, loads of people are homophobes, and his daughter's favourite band is Oasis. (Note to Rick: hey mate, a little on the fence about this line. Do I really want to start it with the Bros Gallagher? Noel's okay, a pisstaker, but Liam is proper mental and I don’t want to get a corkscrew to the kidneys at Sainsbury's when I'm back across the pond.)
No, physical death is not the way for me. It is my spirit that must be reborn.
I shut the computer, and make my way to my meditation room. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Those who live normal lives and make a consistent effort will duly triumph. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
Every morning we begin again.
Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in.PART III, 2017
Sexiest Man Alive? You've got to be fucking kidding me. Nando's peri peri is hotter. Has the entire world gone mad?
Look, I'm no numpty. I get that times change. Life goes on, ob la di, all that. For a fleeting moment, I rode astride a shooting star; my voice echoed back to me a thousand times over; my lover was a mirror of my own physical perfection; Nigel was the absolute lad on lead.
That's gone. It's alright. Like George said, all things must pass. Om Namah Shivaya. I bow to Shiva, the supreme deity of transformation who represents the truest, highest self. But what kind of unprece-fucking-dented transformation did I miss, in which Blake Shelton somehow became the Sexiest Man Alive? Shame on People magazine. Fake news, innit?
No good getting worked up like this. Om Namah Shivaya. The only constant is change. Time for an interview — it's been a while.
Back now. Think it went well. This Is War. That's the new single. Pretty powerful. A rock song that asks the big questions.
Dad bod, is that it? I thought that was over. It's the bloated corpse of dad bod, here to dance on Bowie's grave. Remember the Thin White Duke? This is the Fat White Bloke. Sexiest Man Alive. The mind boggles.
No questions from the journo about that mess, luckily. Just goes to show, when you make serious art, they engage thusly. Though to be frank, I thought I'd get a bit more of a reaction revealing I’m one quarter Jewish. Probably a bit hard to process. Rehearsal now.
Well, Traynor certainly didn't miss the Jew bit. Absolute prick. First he's just giving me the predictable business, am I snipped and whatnot, singing little parodies, “no foreskin on that guy, circumcised” to the tune of Glycerine.
“It's disrespectful,” I tell him. “Besides, us Brits prefer a dryer wit,” though, in truth, we do love a cheeky bit of parody. His just isn’t funny.
We play for a bit and, as it always does, the music centers me. Do a bang-up take of Greedy Fly. Underrated tune.
We take a break and Traynor's at it again.
“Gav,” he starts, Yank smirk behind the bushy beard, “as a Hebrew, does it bother you that Gwen takes the kids to church?”
Inside it feels like I’ve swallowed a suitcase of razorblades, but I play it cool. “More spiritual than religious, mate,” I say, “To each her own.”
Does it bother me? To spend my life apart from my family, my flesh and blood, breathing and chanting, breathing and chanting, huffing and puffing, just to feel connected to something, anything, because I’ve lost the one good and true connection in my life? Does it bother me, you hairy tosser? I’m with everyone and yet not.
Kingston, you’re in my heart, at the Stone Pony Summer Stage. Zuma, I carry you with me, to the Sweetwater County Events Complex. Apollo, Daddy's thinking only of you at the Cal Coast Credit Union Open Air Theatre. Gwen. Gwen. Gwen.
I miss the one that I love a lot.