Flip the Tape
It’s been a while, I don’t even know what to write about anymore. Between the poetry and the fiction, it’s like I’ve forgotten how to do this. I have a job again, and for the first time in months, I’ve worked a full week, Monday to Friday. I’m tired and I feel like I’m losing myself—so here I am in front of the keys again, wading through the dirt and the cobwebs, looking for something to grab on to and dropping far too many commas along the way.
Let’s start with a confession. I’ve fallen for it—rather, given in to it. I can hear you asking, “What is ‘it?’” (Did I punctuate that correctly? Leave a comment.)
Well, friends, it’s the mightiest of mighty, and the wave that drives culture forward, circa 1985 and on; the other punk, the new jazz, the music world’s wrestling circuit, the last truly American art form and the last vestige of authentic north American folk music: Hip Hop and Rap. What was once my only ticket out of Boyband-land has become the anchor in my life. Everything comes back to Hip Hop and Rap for me, whether it be the producers, the samples or really, you name it, every road seems to lead back here.
I’ve spent months on end compiling and chopping, slowing and mixing, converting and sampling dozens of sounds into what I’ve been calling an “album.”
Do you guys remember albums? I listened to Queens of the Stone Age’s Songs for the Deaf last night and it was truly great, a cohesive collection of songs with a theme—a gimmick—to keep it all together. It was a nostalgic blast that is at the forefront of things I wish could resurface—the iPod killed the album, and shuffle will be the death of us all.
Professionals sequence albums. Sequencing an album is an art form in and of itself, as is the presentation of the physical product at the end. A PDF booklet may never be seen, a thumbnail size album cover is the visual equivalent of blue balls, and as great as it is to have everything at your finger tips—I find myself sorely missing the crack of a new jewel case, fighting with the spindle and snapping that disc past the bearings on the spinner in your discman. I miss the rolling volume control and the ten-second anti-shock protection; the smell of the freshly pressed booklet, the gloss or matte of the freshly printed pages—never having been opened.
My album, End of Side One, is less of an album, and more of a mixed media piece of art. The main point of the project is the book. Forty-eight to fifty pitch black pages, branded with a basset hound and stamped with the radio play and words I’ve written to and around the music. It’s a time stamped piece of work for me: “The Unemployment Album.” This will forever remind me of the end of summer and fall of 2017. I’m proud of it, no matter how flawed I feel the final project is.
I’m a better writer than I am audio engineer. While I feel confident in the songs, I feel iffy about the mix. I’ve been doing them over and over again, trying to find the balance, but I feel like I may have been wrong recording the vocals like I did. There’s still time. I can re-do them. It’s hard not to obsess. This is the first thing I’ve ever decided to sell and not just give away, so I want it to be as good as it can be. Otherwise, why even do it? Why take people’s hard-earned money, if I’m not willing to do the work myself?
Here's the gyst of it before we move on: for $25 Canadian Dollars, I'm going to mail you a copy of the book, a Fat Dog sticker and you'll be emailed the album with a digital copy of the book, so you don't have to worry abut getting it from Bandcamp. I'll do a digital-only version of the package as well, for $15, and you'll get it all in an email. On Bandcamp, the album alone will be available for however much you'd like to pay for it, but you're only getting half the experience that way.
Hopefully, I'll be selling within the month of December.
This has been the last spike in the line for this part of my life; that’s why it’s called End of Side One, because I have already flipped the tape. I’m on Side Two, I’ve been on side two for about three weeks now—bad luck has a way of putting your life on shuffle. So much has changed in so little time that I look back on the guy who made this album, and I feel like I barely know him. Compared to the guy who was sitting at these keys one year ago, I've become an entirely new person.
We go through phases, and versions of ourselves; Joel.0 was first updated in the fifth grade by a man named Bill Lees. Joel.1 was born out of paternal suicide. Joel.2 was updated tenth grade by the heartbreak left by a little woman named Brenda. Joel.3 was implemented by the end of high school, the loss of another relationship and the beginning of something called, “adulthood.” Joel.4 was brought upon by the hardware upgrade and death of the family. Joel.5 was the version, shipped out to the capital city to find love, and when he returned with Rosetta Stone: Love running on his systems, Joel.6 was created. There was a hiccup in his software that caused a malfunction—service techs were unable to work on him until four months later, but finally, with a new wardrobe and outlook, work ethic and ego-reshuffle, Joel.7 has finally rolled off the line.
Good luck, me.
I sell frames and lenses now. While it’s something I never thought I'd be doing, I feel like I’m going to be good at this. On the job, I’ve come to learn how to adjust glasses properly to someone’s face. This requires a level of finesse that I have never had in my life. The mantra of small adjustments and calculated moves has, already, changed my behaviour. I’ve never been one with a “light touch,” but now, my job kind of depends on it. Whether it be with the patients themselves, or their frames and lenses, finesse is the word of the day. I’ve realized that’s why I’m not a better singer. I reach too much, I don’t have the finesse in my throat to keep it within a scale while I sing, I jump around in different octaves, and there’s not a lot of smoothness; I have lacked the finesse to sing well, and you could probably apply this logic to my bass playing as well. And my writing.
Finesse is key, it always has been and always will be, I'm just glad I finally realize it.
I’m realizing that no matter what I do with my life, as long as I love my family, respect my fellow human and write the truth, the whole truth, my truth and nothing but those truths; I’m going to be just fine in this world. I have undervalued the gift of other people. Not their individual gifts, but the collective feeling of community that permeates from a body of people that smile at each other, that stop in the grocery store for a chat; people who shovel each other’s driveways and sidewalks without expectation or obligation. As long as I stay conscious of this, and it's positive effect on me—I'm gonna be fine.
At this moment, I have 63 “likes” on Facebook, 551 "followers" on Twitter, and 97 on Instagram. Does that really matter to me? Not really. Am I going to keep trying to “grow the base,” as they say? Fuck yes. I’m going to try to get my words out there, try to get more eyes on my letters, but at the end of the day, as long as I can hear the keys snap, crackle and stomp, I’m the happiest man on Earth.
Buy my album.