What’s (Been) Going On
As many of you may know, I’ve been making music for the better part of the past thirty years. There’ve been many bands, many projects, many tours, many comedy shows, many radio shows, many benefits for many causes, many years just traveling alone. I’ve been on many record labels - venerable American indies like Lookout! and Touch & Go, both of which sadly had to shutter their doors during the economic downturn of the late aughts, as well as Matador Records, who is still going, but with whom my relationship is now over. I’ve never been the hippest ticket in any given town on any given night, but I’ve always been there, and an amazing number of you have always been there with me.
The last record that I recorded under my own name or with the always amazing group of comrades we call The Pharmacists was released seven years ago. It’s almost hard to believe. To be fair to myself, it’s not like I’ve been sitting on my hands the whole time - I had an incredibly active few years in the middle there, writing, recording, and touring with my collaborative project with Aimee Mann, called, The Both; I toured with the Pharmacists to the logical end of the cycle on the last album (and some beyond that), I’ve continued to tour solo since, and I am always up for a drop in on any number of extremely talented friends’ podcasts, benefits, comedy, variety, etc. shows, AND, I’ve been little by little putting together a body of work - a set of music and ideas - that has, at this point, sprawled beyond the traditional album length, as well as - little by little - week by week, month by month, year by year - creating a space to record and produce this music, and learning on the job exactly how to do that.
I probably had enough songs to complete an album a good five years ago, but a number of things - personal and financial - prevented me from doing it. And though it’s always been a constant source of low-level anxiety that so much time continues to pass by, I’ve also come to see that time as a boon. When I missed that first hurdle, that first deadline to PRODUCE SOMETHING, the world didn’t end. Time kept moving, and all of the expectations that I had for MYSELF morphed into a more compassionate and contemplative group of feelings that were more about incubating, honing, experimenting, learning, and rebuilding a certain amount of confidence that I think I’d lost in my stymied relationship with the cycles of releases and promotion and needing support (not just financial) from the label I was working for; and so I started to actually just allow myself that time. It hasn't always been easy, and I've grown and changed some over the long course of working on this. But having the eventual freedom to work on it at my own pace, and in my own space, has allowed this body of songs to change and grow with me. And now we find ourselves in a new political reality, and I find myself compelled to keep writing. We’re close enough, though, that I feel like I can set the stage to finally offer this work to you.
So, yeah - as I said - it’s been seven years since the last TL/Rx album, but really this has all been decades in the making. If my Twitter mentions are any indication, I'm PLEASED to know that there are at least a few people waiting for me to make a record, and I find myself here, at what I think is the right time, with the right platform, to take a step forward into further autonomy VIA COMMUNITY, and a productive future. It’s often the case that tools arrive before we’re ready to use them or even understand their potential. Just as often we find ourselves sitting around, immobilized for lack of the tools we need.
I’ve thought a lot about this. I’ve always had my hands deep in the processes of making a record, promoting a record, touring on a record, etc. And I’m going to carry that knowledge, gained in the trenches, forward to keep doing this - keep making records, keep touring, keep speaking out, keep singing about all of the things that are important to us; and as part of that, keep challenging MYSELF to keep growing, keep evolving.
Don’t Want to Live Inside Myself
Constraints of time and geography have meant that I've been making this record mostly alone, in my dusty, also evolving, impermanent, partially-mobile mad scientist lab of a “studio.” But I haven’t been entirely alone - the moments in this project that have become the most important to me, are the moments when friends have pierced my bubble - come in and given something of themselves that's often completely changed my idea of what it even was that I was working on.
Chris Wilson, Pharmacists drummer of many years, plays on most of this stuff. Though I fancy myself a “fun!” and “interesting!” drummer, and began working on these songs with my own drum tracks, I knew I needed what Chris was going to bring to these songs without even knowing what he was actually going to do on them. Wearing my producer hat, I made a conscious decision to let go of my ideas of how things should sound and just recorded him bringing his most raw yet refined vision of how to play these songs, and it turned my head around and wound up being the first piece that began propelling this all toward some fruition.
I asked force of nature Jean Grae if she’d sing a simple refrain of “Can’t go Back” for me, and she sent me a layered harmony that so deeply cut to the core of what I was singing about - and in a moment when I’d been particularly too inside my own head for too long, reminded me that I’m not alone and that this music is real - it’s not just in my head - that I’m practically a puddle just writing about it now.
I had what I thought might be a crazy idea to add saxophone to one song, and through a mutual friend, met NEW friend Adrienne Berry, who slotted into that one song so easily and with such a telepathic sense of what I didn’t even know I wanted, that we tracked her on a few more, and they were all pretty much done in one take.
My dear compatriot and collaborator, Aimee Mann, who sent me a cross-country harmony for Lonsdale Avenue that, over the time we’ve been playing it live, has become so integral to the song, it couldn’t have made it to the album without her.
The great Jonathan Coulton, who, in the midst of the chaos leading up to the release of his OWN new album and tour, took the time (just a few days ago, as of the date I’m writing this) to listen closely to a song I’d lost the thread on, and in adding his voice to mine, gave it a structure that made the whole thing make sense to me again.
Visionary and friend Rachel Lichtman, who came and STAYED with me to help me distill my thoughts into something cogent and put together, with help from my brother Danny, the video that would capture something of the spirit behind all of this.
The Jodi of “Timorous Me” fame, who’s kept me from starving more than once and in more ways than one, and who’s been a constant sounding board and source of wisdom.
And my old friend Molly Neuman at Kickstarter, who helped me understand this new iteration of what’s actually our very old idea of punk rock community, which, by the way, has always included you.
Music For Me, Music for You
The funding that I’m seeking here will be used frugally and righteously. We’re going to make what I hope you’ll think is a great record, with a lot of extra music for all who join in on this project. I have ideas for some beautiful art and packaging that will come together as we go along. I want to pay everyone who’s been working on this with me what they deserve. We’re going to do all the nuts and bolts stuff - manufacturing, publicity, etc; music video(s) if possible; pay off some debts in any way that I can; I’d like to keep working on building my studio to make sure I, AND MAYBE OTHERS, can keep making music on our own terms. I want to keep making music for me; I want to keep making music for you. I’m seeking sustainability; and as it’s my belief that I have a responsibility to use my platform to do what I can to help others achieve that, too, I’m going to remain as active as I possibly can toward that end.
Autonomy and Community
So now that I’m not working for anybody else, I hope we can work together to KEEP making good stuff. I’m ready to bring these songs forward, beyond the constraints of the shifting landscape of the music industry. I’m taking autonomy and control back, and using Kickstarter to commence the next phase, of which the album that this campaign aims to make a reality will be just the first step. The old label Immediate Records used to have a slogan: “Happy to be a part of the industry of human happiness.” I like that industry. And there’s a lot of work to do.
(Thank you to everyone who came forward with photos and video from over the years. Header photo by Mattias Corral.)
Risks and challenges
There are often speed bumps (both logistical and financial) on the road to getting a record out. I’ve seen a lot of these challenges, but having always kept one foot on the DIY side of the street, I've also seen a lot of creative ways to overcome them. I’ll put my many many years of experience and (relatively) decent work ethic into every decision made over the course of completing this project and getting it to you.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)