Last September, I sublet my friend’s practice space while he was on tour in Europe. Having just gotten back into an urban area, and never having used a practice space before, I was stoked. There was a PA system, I could hook up my guitar to my little 4-watt Vox and blast my vocals through the microphone, scream if I wanted to. I went in there whenever I could. My schedule was basically work, eat, practice space, write, sleep. I was able to get a lot of my songs into more useful shape, and the work I did in there led to me recording a little demo in November, which has led to more projects and nice feedback.
I wrote a while back about how I was getting into this whole Krautrock music thing. I’ve been reading Krautrocksampler. I also got a really cool book from the San Francisco Public Library called Cosmic Krautrock and Its Legacy, which has pictures of all of these compelling experimental bands that came out of West Germany during the late ’60s, early ’70s. Some of the bands, like Neu! and Faust have been credited with being proto-punk: precursers to punk music.
Youtube and blogspot are the greatest things ever for finding entire ripped LPs of music that is out of print or hard to find. I’ve been taking naps with Harmonia and Cluster and Tangerine Dream and Neu! playing in the background, getting dressed while listening to Can and Amon Duul. Right now, as I write this, I’m listening to Faust.
After months of discovering obscure post-punk and metal music, this trippy experimental psychedelic ambient music made of organic instruments and sampled sounds and strange undulations of instruments meeting in a rise and fall together and separately is totally awesome.
And it feels likes it’s sucked me into some strange alternate universe.
About a week ago, a friend posted that one of his bands needed a keyboardist who was drama free and available to tour and record. I saw it and wrote in my journal that I wanted to do something like that. About five minutes later, he called me up, asking if I could play prog keyboards. I told him that I was more of a keyboard-light person, but he insisted I get the name of the guy in charge of this signed Krautrock project. After a number of very positive emails in which I sent clips of my work and some background about myself, confessing I was mainly a singer/lyricist/guitarist, the guy in charge of the project sent me about 14 Krautrock songs I’d never heard before that he said he is influenced by for the project, some sheet music of songs he is working on, and invited me to come to one of their practices. I felt like I was in a really cool Krautrock school for about three days, as I listened to the songs and practiced ideas based on the music he had sent from the project.
Then, I was hauling my two 88-key keyboards and electric guitar down to my friend’s practice space a few blocks from my house, along with a Fender Twin Reverb amp my neighbor had let me borrow.
There were other people trying out that night, a violinist and a Krautrock influenced concert pianist. I took over the microphone, free styled some spacey spoken word poetry, sung some on-the-spot melodies, played some piano and guitars and basically kicked ass, while everyone else kicked ass on bass, keys, drums, guitar and violin. We all made some lovely music that night, and it fit, it was fun and felt good.
The next night, I had my own band practice, and the following night, I was invited to West Oakland to jam out with some old-school punks who have a recording control room in their practice space and wanted a female musician to round out their songs. I made up words and a melody to one of their songs, they played some of mine. The light was dark, the amps were big, and we did the best cover of Fascination Street by The Cure I’ve ever heard. We played my songs, Iggy Pop, Joy Division, and PJ Harvey. I basically screamed into the microphone for four hours, dream come true.
I came home Wednesday, Thursday and Friday night and face planted on my mattress. It took me a good half hour to hour to get my shit together enough to get into my pajamas. I’ve been trying to kick this nasty bout of bronchitis for a few weeks now, so after the excitement I had this week I spent the majority of three days in the house, on my bed, totally sick again. A friend had a show down the street, another was spinning some of my favorite music at a bar down the street, but I went to neither, just sat in my pajamas, and time crept by like nothing had happened. Until the guys I’d jammed with Friday sent me samples of the covers we’d done and I was happy all over again.
It’s been hard to let it sink in, how rad last week was. On Sunday, I got to sit in on a practice for the new Hawkwind lineup, another project the gatekeeper in charge of the Krautrock band is in charge of, and I wrote a few pages of writing in my notebook and at one point, my friend was trying to drum and sing at the same time and they all three looked at me sitting there and before I knew it I was singing vocals to Lemmy’s song “Silver Machine,” the one that hit the charts back in the ’70s, as a placeholder while they recorded their run through for the keyboardist.
You would think at this point I would be like, my life is freaking weird, but I wrote something in my notebook while I sat in on that practice for three hours: “If you’re tapped in, all the synchronicity doesn’t seem so weird. If you have a master plan, always, once you focus, the players come out and then everything makes sense, but it’s because from the beginning, from the get-go, you believed that something would come through. You made it happen.”
I posted on my Facebook music page that the best compliments I received last week were, “She’s got some pipes,” and “You’ve got a great scream.” A friend of mine added, “You also joined a Krautrock band with a couple of legendary bastards.”
Anyhow, it’s been busy. I’ve also been working on a piece of writing for an upcoming reading, a profile of a new favorite coffee shop for Oakland magazine, and a crapola of other writing, in addition to trying to get my own songs polished up. I never realized what hard work it is to be in charge of writing all of the songs for a band. The bass player and drummer I’ve been working with on my songs since November are great at helping me add transitions and space into my songs, but we are moving at a pretty glacial pace, and my amp is a piece of crap unless split into a bigger speaker, which I don’t have. So my new goal is to save up for a good amp, which means I need to not be sick anymore, and have some free time when I’m not working on writing or music or at the library. But I can’t really see that happening any time soon, so I’m going to come up with a Plan B, which is to stumble onto some funds or a side project.
Friends have been texting and calling, “Let’s hang out,” and I’m always off to practice or doing some writing. But this was the life I’d wanted and planned for years. I’m not complaining. I’m happy as pie immersed in music all of the time, constantly digging up new music to listen to, reading about it in books I get at the library, writing about it, creating it. No matter what my sicknesses I catch or how sad I am over missing my ex-husband or whatever, I can find a home in music. Like my friend Kirsten said to me last night, ” You’ve always been a musician, you’ve always done music, so whatever project comes along, it’s what you were born to do. It won’t go away.”