Thursday, March 9, 2017

The Whine House

The Trump White House belongs in the middle ages.  A time when equality, fairness, justice, the commonweal were barely imagined, let alone decreed by law.

The 2017 Whine House - all the hysteria and hand-wringing of the best of Shakespeare's tragedies (it shouldn't be long before it debuts on Broadway) but populated by a third rate cast without the theatrical chops to pull it off. Like, ever.
"Home" original song by Paul Fogarty (moi)

Thursday, February 16, 2017

When To Cancel

I just canceled a concert in Muenster. I don't normally cancel concerts but I'm feeling sick and tired this week, literally ill with some virus that's going around, and when the venue called me earlier this afternoon they said: "So listen, Paul, thought I'd let you know, we've only sold two tickets so far..."

And normally, you know, I wouldn't be that fazed. I'd be like, well, people are gonna show up. It's not unheard of for there to be no tickets pre-sold right up to an hour before show time and then in trickle thirty or forty or fifty people. Sometimes those sleeper concerts, where it seems on the surface of it that nothing is about to happen, they can be the best concerts of all. I've lost count of the number of times I've turned up to a venue and the owner looks at me, then looks at their shoes, then says: "Um, sorry to say this, Paul, but um, maybe no one will come."

And I'm always like: "Have a bit of faith, dude/dudette, people will come...."

And I'm usually right. Like 95% of the time.

But today, when the dude called, told me about the two tickets and all, I said "You know what, let's cancel it. Let's do it some other time. Besides I've been sick all week and I could use the rest."

And it's true. I can use the rest. My vocal chords will be especially grateful if I don't have to sing my lungs out tomorrow night in Muenster. In fact my whole career could use the rest tomorrow. I've been testing out my vocal chords all week. Sunday?  Forget about it. Monday - little better, lots of groans and grunts and breaks in the vocal delivery. Laborious. A Grind. Tuesday I eased back cos I'd done so much testing on Monday. I did some vocal frying, think Bill Clinton meets Elmer Fudd. Then yesterday i spent an hour on guitar sitting in the sunlight singing at half volume or less, than after a nap spent another hour on the piano, raising the volume a tad on the vocals but nothing athletic.

And then today, the day before the gig I started out with a voice that wanted to go sideways and coached it over the course of an hour or so to something that I thought, given another day's rest, might result in a passable performance in Muenster. But it was six of one, half dozen of the other. Would I make it through the concert?  Would my voice?

So we agreed we should cancel. Find another date maybe in Autumn.

A couple of years back, though, I would probably still have driven the 500 km to Muenster, leaving home at 4.00am so I could get through Frankfurt before peak-hour at 7.00am, so I could then get to the halfway point, 250km from Muenster by 7.30am and take a two hour nap in my car so I could then hurtle along the autobahn and be at my hotel by 1.30pm. Enough time to then have a good long nap, three or four hours, before I would then wake up, shower, and do a sound check a couple hours before showtime at 8.00pm.

Cos that is what it takes for me to put on a great show. I got to be rested. Mainly cos I'm relying 101% on myself and nobody nobody nobody else. I don't even take a train to let the train drivers take some of the load. No. I go by car, alone. I go by car because I got to take all my shit - my three guitars, one ukulele, box of cables and microphones, my mixing desk and cables, my two 300watt powered speakers, speaker stands, mic stands and my clothes and my ironed stage shirts, and my guitar stand and my sleeping bag in case I need to take a nap and it's minus 16 out.

And when you travel by yourself - ie: you personally are driving every inch of the journey yourself - and you do your own bookings, and you manage your own touring, and you got to book the hotels and mail the posters and write the bio and send the infos and the photos and you got to write the songs, melodies and words, and come up with the chord charts, and the arrangements, and you got to teach yourself the recording programmes, the ones more powerful than the top studios even from like a decade or two ago or even less and it fits entirely into your tiny, silent mini-mac that takes up exactly the same space on your office desk as a small plate of mixed cheeses, and you got to play the guitar into the mic that you yourself sourced from someplace, that is plugged into the mixing desk that you decided to buy and that all plugs in the back of your Apple cheese platter with one single tiny plug and then you got to sing into another mic that you sourced and bought and learned how to best place, inside the room that you yourself have decorated with rugs and hangings and a vocal mic anti-reflection shield, and when you are doing all that stuff yourself you have to have to have to be protective of your stage performance. You've got to surround that motherfucker with some serious space and reverence.

You got to first off practice your pretty little ass off every day of every week and never ever take a holiday or a sabattical and you are gonna lose friends over that, let me tell you, and you are going to annoy neighbours and alienate loved ones even though what you do is putting food on the table and gas in the tank or life in the battery pack.

So that's the first and foremost thing - getting as good as you possibly can and continuing to improve upon it and perfect as much as you can. And then, when you have done all that other stuff - the researching, the bookings, the driving, then you got to got to got to make sure that before each and every show you ever do you are well rested.  Cos only when you are well rested will you be at your best on stage. If you are just 1 or 2 or 5 percent off it makes a difference. You sell 5 CDs instead of 12 or 15 or 20. Maybe 65% of the audience decides they will come back to see you again next time you are in town instead of 80% who will mostly bring friends along with them next time you are in town.
That can be the difference between playing to 40 people and 100 people - just that 1 or 2 or 5 percent that you were off because you were not sufficiently rested - cos you didn't plan ahead, cos you left home too late and had to rush, cos you didn't factor in the predictable traffic jams en route.

Now this is the stuff, the minutiae, that make a very real difference not just today, but next tour.
At some level it becomes about the mathematics. If I was to drive to Muenster tomorrow morning and play at the venue tomorrow night okay there might be 25-30 people in the end. But there might be four, or just the two who already had tickets. Playing to four people is almost impossible to do. Adrenalin does not kick in. Playing to four people is like hanging out your wash. Nobody needs to see that, and it's heavy and its hard and everyone agrees never to risk witnessing it ever again.

So I'm glad to have finally arrived at this place in my head. The place where I don't feel I HAVE to prove anything to God or Jesus or my parents or school chums or the good people of Muenster by driving 500km in sub zero to play a tiny concert. I would LOVE to do it, sick as I am, but I don't HAVE to. So this is where I've arrived at. This place in which care, self-respect, thoughtfulness and common sense take precedence over that desperate need to reach somebody with my little songs.

This is especially hard to do this week because this week in the midst of my virus and my moaning and grunting I've come upon a whole series of revelations to do with my songs, my music, my performance level, my technique, my approach, my onstagiosity. And I'm keen as shit to put these revelations into a live show in front of actual people. I'm champing at the bit. Muenster will not be the debut of the new me. But next week a little place outside Frankfurt will be. And every show from that point on is going to be as exciting as all get up, let me tell you.

Every song has it's own unique power. This is the lesson I've finally learned this week. This lesson took me longer I guess than most people because I've written so very many songs. So many, in fact, that no individual song has ever really blossomed in my mind. Just more business as usual. Imagine every one of those 1200 songs not with it's own title but catalogued and referred to by number. "Here's song # 203," for example.   They're all just more songs to me, or they used to be.

But then this week, somehow, I was able to begin to get a sense of their individuality. They're all unique. This dawned on me in a great flood, like a bursting dam. And I've never been so thankful ever before in my whole life. Thankful that I never once lifted my head from my workbench until 1200 songs had already been written. But now I've lifted my head and I can hardly believe what I've done. And this, dear friends, is what I now am so keen to present to my little cafe crowds. Individual songs. Each with its own, unique heart beat.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Time and Space and Me

I still can't believe it.
I'm pinching myself. Urrrnnngghhh. Mmmmmmnnnnhhhh.
I had more postal business to do yesterday and if you don't know, me and post offices, we are natural enemies in the wild. 
But yesterday, yesterday, it felt like I turned a corner in my life and suddenly was walking along in a parallel universe.
In this parallel universe not only is the post office open after lunch in the summer, like every single week day, it is populated, staffed if you will, by friendly, helpful people.
Pinch pinch.
But I'm ahead of myself.
I got the news that I had to post off some more plakate (posters) to this venue I'm gonna play at. I got this news at 11.57am. I thought, gees, it'll take me two minutes to grab the posters and walk to the car and get out into the street. By then it will be 11.59am. I'll have one minute to drive to the post office. Which is not impossible.
But if I arrive at 11.59.59, for example, the 'ladies' at the post office are gonna see me coming, note full well the fear in my eyes, and slam that door right in my face - even as I'm galloping up the wheelchair-access ramp.
It's only wheelchair-access because it was built so long ago that in those days people had to drag their dead relatives behind them everywhere they went while they waited for the Black Death sub-committee to make a ruling on where their relatives could be burned or buried. Besides, stairs hadn't been invented.
So I figured, "relax Paul, don't even try. Squash that urge to get it done before midday. You can try after the midday sleeping break." 
Not my sleeping break, theirs.
They got to sleep midday til 3pm every week day cos the task of slipping envelopes into bags hung at hip height is taxing almost beyond comprehension. And don't even get started on the skill required to tear pre-torn stamps out of sheets kept in softly padded books kept at room temperature so as to precipitate easy access and somehow assuage the laws of physics. 
I waited til 2.49pm. Then I casually strolled out of the house to my car. Casually fiddled with the rear vision mirrors, all three, til they were just so. Then I drove casually down to the post office, waved a couple of cars to go ahead of me at different junctures... pulled the car into a parking bay, waited for the panic-stricken dude in the car screetching to a halt next to me to alight from his vehicle and rush off to whatever doom awaited him before I nonchalantly exited my vehicle. I then sauntered to the post office, fifty meters away, turned the corner of the building, perambulated along and then up the wheelchair-access ramp and tried the door. 
Of course.
I'd known they were on summer holidays a month ago, but I wasn't prepared for them to still be on summer holidays. 
I read the sign. They were only open in the mornings all during August and up to and including September 10th. 
I felt a twitch in my lip. I began eating my tongue. 
"No matter," I said to God. 
Then I turned and went back to my car and drove to the next town.
"Surely...." I thought all during the drive. "Surely...."
But alas, they too were still closed for the summer and wouldn't return to regular hours til after Sept 10. 
I knew I could not go back to the post office two towns over - it was the scene of my most recent histrionics. I had to try somewhere new. 
So I drove to the town next to the town next to the town that's next to the town next over. 
I couldn't find a post office. I pulled up outside a bakery and went inside. Three men were standing on the stoop. I thought: "I bet they know where the post office is...." but I didn't want to stop their conversation or their enjoyment of lunch.
I went inside and asked the lady behind the counter.
"Excuse me, do you have a post office in this town?"
She shrugged. She didn't know. She pointed to the men out front.
"They are locals, I'm sure they know...." she said.
They did know. They gave me exacting instructions on how to get there. I got back in my car, drove to the post office, parked, and walked to the front doors. 
My heart was heavy. I thought "I bet it's closed for the summer, too."
I pulled at the door handle. Nothing. 
Then I pushed.
It opened.
Angels sang a soft, lilting chorus in my ears. 
A string section dovetailed in... 
Inside the post office it looked modern. Organised. Neat. Fresh. 
You could breathe. 
I looked for the large envelopes I would need. I couldn't find them.
I thought: "I could ask one of the counter staff, but i don't want to make them angry..." 
Then I swallowed my fear and approached a young man behind counter two. "Excuse me, I don't mean to interrupt, but do you have any A4 sized envelopes?"
He smiled.
He said: "Yes, we have them in packs of ten."
Then he strode out from behind the counter and helpfully ushered me to where they were located. 
"Thankyou...." I managed. 
He smiled again.
I picked out some envelopes. I returned to his counter and paid for the envelopes. 
Then I stepped aside to a stand up counter, withdrew an envelope from the pack, wrote the address on the front, with my address on the back, folded up and stuffed my posters into the envelope and returned to the counter. The same counter. 
I said "Can I pay for the postage here or do I have to go over to that other counter??"
Cos that's what you always have to do in German post offices. 
"No no...." he said with yet another smile. "You can pay here too, it doesn't matter."
So I handed over my envelope of posters. I paid a frighteningly small amount for the privilege. He smiled again. "Anything else you would like today?"
I was so taken aback I said: "You know, this right here is the finest post office in all of Germany."
I went back out into the street and noticed that the world was somehow a little lighter, a little brighter. The birds sang. The air was fresh and cool and I drank it down with inordinate pleasure. 
It felt as if time and space had conspired to meet me there and then. The three of us jumped in the car and drove home, fresh and alive and promising each other never to lose touch again.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Moan Me This

Tomorrow evening we drive through three or four separate nations to arrive at a beach on the north Adriatic. The drive is about the same distance as Gympie to Tamworth, so it's no monster and we have two drivers plus two back-seat drivers. This is what one must do here in order to get to an actual beach. Okay, there's no surf in the Adriatic but one thing at a time.
But today, today I drove to Filderstadt to get my hair cut by a bent-over Italian woman who was tired of living. She wasn't 70 or 60 or 50 or even 40. I'd guess she was 33 or 34. She slaughtered the guy in front of me with her slovenly, inexact swoops of the electric clippers, each swoop accompanied by a moan or a sigh and sometimes even a roll of her heavy eyes.
They made this sound, the eyes: "wwwhhhhhhrrrrrrrrrrrrr cacluck!.... like a pair of 1950s bowling balls.
The dude was thin, like a cardboard cut-out. He sat obediently affixed in his slot on the chair while the sardonic bitch wove her magic Ronson. She had not suffered a stroke, this much one could see, but she moved as if she were having one at every moment. Not only that but simultaneously she moved as if she were the sad and embattled teller of her own sad tale of misfortune and was also the audience soaking in every word, every groan, yawns and all, and was also the jaded judging panel allotting points for content, delivery, originality and theme.
She was, therefore, the complete package. I wondered how someone this bent over from life at 33 would describe herself on a dating website. 
I could have gotten up out of my chair and simply left. But I was torn between the idea of getting a good haircut from someone who at least gave one the illusion of care, and staying to find out where this brief entanglement might lead. Songs and stories, after all, are gifts from the unknown.
The cardboard dude left all-but in tears. His face was red. I looked at it. His eyes told me "leave while you can." I smiled, waved, and eased back into the chair. 
The witch did not attend to me next. She slipped outside for a cigarette, then came back in and swept up the cuttings from cardboard man. I waited, I understood her needs. 
It was all about power. Control. Winning every minute of life by whining on about it, complaining til somebody says, or everybody says "so sorry..." 
She wanted me to be annoyed, impatient for her to get to me. I couldn't have cared less. Take all day, i thought. I'm on summer break.
Finally she approached me from behind and said: "Hair wash is over there"
"No wash," I said. "Just a cut."
She moaned and said "I don't speak English. Only Italian or German."
I said: "You navigated your way through that entire sentence pretty well for a non-english speaker."
In German I repeated: No wash, Just a cut. 
I showed her how much I wanted off. 
She groaned and rolled her eyes: wwwhhhhhhrrrrrrrrrrrrr cacluck!.
"Number 12?" she spat.
I nodded. "But only if you really want to cut my hair..."
She turned red. "Of course! I am here aren't I? I'm not at home, of course I want to cut your hair."
"One would assume so," I said. "But you don't give the impression of being interested in being here at all." 
She threw her hands in the air and said something in Italian. 
I thought: This is my final chance to leave. 
But I let it go on. My curiosity had the upperhand. I already knew we were gonna have a disagreement about the price of the cut at the end. And I knew she was gonna moan and groan and whine and slouch her way through the entire ordeal. I kept wishing she would at least stand up straight.
So she took to me with the 12s. Except it wasn't the 12s. This, I decided to let go because it was part of her plan: to do it completely wrong, to do it badly, like she had with cardboard man and he had not even had the decency to confront her about it. This made her twice as determined to bring me to the boiling point. 
Once she'd done the sides she attacked the top and left whole stands of hair shooting up like clusters of bamboo in a golf course.
I smiled at her. This made her groan even louder. 
Then she took her scissors and comb to the first battleground - the sides. She'd already done them with the not-quite-12s. Now she was hacking into it with a sense of focus that would make Edward Scissor-Hands blush.
Finally she was about 1/3rd done and began blowing the hair out of my face and off my shoulders. She held the mirror up so I could see how she'd butchered my best side. 
She almost cackled as she asked "And?? How does it look?"
She expected me to explain that it just wasn't right yet. But I didn't.
"Cool," I lied. Then I began to stand up. 
She grabbed her blow dryer and started blowing loose hair down the back of my T-shirt cos she'd already removed the apron. 
"Perfect," I said, as my back and shoulders began to itch.
"Do you want some gel?" she spat, suddenly urgent cos she sensed losing a couple bucks.
"No," I said. "I just want to get out of here." 
"No products? No sprays?" she complained.
"None whatsoever," I said. "Let me pay so I can leave and never come back." 
"That's 24 euros," she said with a whine. 
"It's 23," I said. 
"No no no," she insisted. "It is always 24 euros."
"It's 23 Euros," I said. 
She moaned and groaned simultaneously and sort of coughed and said something witchcraft-like under her breath. "Look! There on the big posters on the window it says 24 euro. You see! It is always 24 Euro!"
"That's for a wash and a cut," I said. 
"It is 24 euros always, whether you have a wash or not," she lied. 
"Then moan me this," I said. "Why, on your huge poster, is there that item on the bottom that says "Cut only: 23 euros".
"Oh oh oh oh ...." she moaned, for the first time justifiably. "That poster is old."
"It's the one you just pointed at to justify overcharging me," I said. 
23 Euros it was then. 
For such a meeting of minds however, I would've happily paid double. Gel or no gel.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Leatherbacks and Syrup

I never considered myself a troubadour, or a traveller or a restless soul. I always felt I was a solid, down-to-earth dude with his roots firm and deep in that part of the earth upon which I happened to live at those times when I had such thoughts.

I don't just write sentences that way... it's the way I speak, too.

Only thing that's removed with the written word are the often-times very long pauses in between thoughts. That sentence might have taken a week to write. That’s the majesty of the written word. You can figure it out over time.

That's why I often use so many dots. Some people hate little dots. "Over-punctuation"  they call it. “Sloppy, juvenile.”

To me they are essential.  At their most powerful they are like punctuative footprints walking across a literary gravesite.

You can hear the silence in them ... 
Sssshhhhshshshsh ... hush ... quiet ...

They are made of sheepskin ...

I remember when I wrote certain songs because I remember which putrid, hole-in-the-wall apartment I was living in at the time.
My apartments were usually less than savoury because I didn't give two hoots about such things.
All I needed was six walls: one below, one above and four surrounding - a place to put my writing desk, good acoustics (and the less furniture you have the better the acoustics get) and a window ledge upon which to rest my ashtray and my cigarettes.

One such dive was in Gladstone Road in Highgate Hill, Brisbane.  Gladstone Road is a busy thoroughfare and it has some steep segments and some grinding turns up alongside some raised ridges that drop down toward the Brisbane River.

When the dude showed me  the flat it was a sunny winter's day and the sun was streaming in through the west-facing living room window and cutting deep golden-yellow beams across the two plush-orange sofa chairs that sat there like wide-hipped Godfathers just returned from a month in the tanning studio.

I saw the perfect spot for my writing desk against those windows and salivated at how wide the window ledges were... you could fit two dozen ashtrays on there and still have room for a half-dozen unwashed coffee cups.


That's where I wrote "The Party's Over".
I wrote the song after I took a night off from sorting mail at the state mail centre in favour of playing a half-hour set at the Shamrock Hotel in Fortitude Valley. It didn’t get any more downtown than Fortitude Valley.

The dude who invited me to play, Vinnie, was the singer in a punk and rock band who's name I can't remember. I do remember they were pretty good, but the bikers who hung out at the Shamrock on a Friday night were unmoved by their punk antics.

The bikers were unreservedly terrifying. I was duly terrified.

I was relieved that the punk band cleared the room during their first set. Turned out the bikers couldn’t stand punk. By the time I got up to play during their break the room was empty.

I had never been so happy to play to no one.

But when I started to play my acoustic guitar and sing, a couple of massive, leather-clad bald men with huge moustaches and beards and tattoos sauntered into the bar, sat on bar stools and swivelled their tattoos toward the stage to listen to me play. They seemed intrigued by the mellowness in my voice. 
Try as I might I could not make it sound non-mellow. I tried to roughen it up but it just came out like sickly honey. I thought for sure they were gonna take me out back and drive over my syrupy head after my set. I couldn’t have imagined that they actually enjoyed it.

Then a few more came in. Then others. Pretty soon they were all back in the room, listening with a kind of childlike innocence at me singing my songs. I also sang a James Taylor cover, Fire and Rain, and still no violence was triggered.

I played the whole set like a deer caught in the glare of  headlights... and only when I'd finished and gone home and written the song, and then gone to bed, and then woke up and practiced the song again and then later told some friends about it, and only then after Vinnie offered to be my manager and I refused his offer did I realise what a strange but beautiful moment I had been a part of.