Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Causing Trouble For The Right Reasons. Issue #103

First of all, there are few things that really offend me. I myself partake in the darkest of humorous riffing back and forth with my friends. Some of the stuff that is said if not taken in it's proper context could sound really bad if someone were to just step into the situation, but really it's just to get reactions from each other and the prized outward guffaw. I think it's something we all do, but there is a definite difference between the lines of dark humor and being malicious. This brings us to what I want to talk about his week, and raise a discussion on what's acceptable behavior because sometimes I'm horrified from what I find seems to be...

A friend of mind is getting married in the fall and one of the groomsmen has been sending chain emails around for a few weeks feeling out the tone of what he should do for the bachelor party. The guy really wants to take a trip to Vegas as well as have the obligatory local celebration for my friends near domesticity.
As the email was passed along more and more and I could see what people were thinking, it seemed (like me) that folks were just fine with the local gathering and that a big trip seemed a little much for people right now. You could tell that the guy was getting a little frustrated with the feedback and after a few days of getting responses of people uninterested, wrote back with the following...

"Well this sounds like the gayest bachelor party I've ever heard of. I'll be sure to be there my pink tuxedo and have my Cosmopolitan in hand."

When I read that my blood pressure and heart rate immediately shot up and I was livid. Why? I don't even know the guy, he has absolutely no affect on my daily life, and right now I can't even remember his name. Was I having a bad day? I don't think so, but all I know is that I was startled by my reaction to what was obviously a very insensitive and condescending comment not to me, but to the gay community at large. I sat there for a bit until I got up and walked away still offended by this individual's untaught choice of words.

When I look back on my childhood, I can see that I was introduced to the gay community and the homosexual lifestyle at a very young age to do the fact that many of my family friends were gay when I was growing up. My mother worked in the hair/fashion industry in the 80's and that's just how it was. I remember distinctly one day in elementary school when the topic of gay friends came up (diversity class maybe?) and I was one of the few people who seemed to be comfortable talking about it. It was just part of my life, and seemingly part of few of my peers at the time. A few of my mother's friends in the gay community died of AIDS when I was very young as well and so I think I was exposed to that at an earlier age as well. As I grew up, I noticed the term "gay", "faggot", and "homo" used all the time in the sports teams I played on, in Boy Scouts, and other male dominated activities. Due the environment I grew up in I always cringed and was left with a bad taste in my mouth when I heard talk like this. One time when I was around 10 or 11 I myself used the term "faggot" in discussion at a baseball game and was disgusted with myself afterward for a long time. I didn't believe what I was saying when I said it, and looking back think it was probably little guy stuff trying to find out what worked for me. That didn't.

So getting back to the email, I was grossed out by the ignorance that someone my age in this time in the world would use, much less in a public forum thinking that it would get a laugh. I instantly felt taken back to the time of being younger and the lack of understanding how somebody felt that this was funny/that other people would respond well to that. I tried to resist writing back due to the fact that I didn't know what I could say that would get across to the guy, wasn't my responsibility, and that over email tone and purpose can't be interpreted. Though I knew better I ignored my better judgment and chose to write back with the following...

"That's ignorant man."

Yeah, not my most eloquent writing but that's all I could muster without going off on the guy. Again, not my problem but felt I had to defend something (someone) that probably has to do with my own issues regarding the subject. After I sent it I felt bizarre as and slightly embarrassed that it would more than likely would come off as some half-communicated passive aggressive comment. Also, I was disturbed to see that I had sent it to everyone in the email chain inadvertently.


What reaction did I hope to get back? Was I hoping for some massive life view shift from this guy? I don't think so, but for whatever reason I felt he needed to be called on it. Maybe the fact that I accidentally sent it to everyone would be some sort of embarrassment based realization? I was reaching here.

After a few minutes, this is what he wrote back to me...

"Nope, looks right to me. :)"

Now I felt really bad. Not only was it really offensive, but now through probably some form of public defensiveness he was validating it. I knew right then the trip down this road stopped for me and didn't want to participate any further. Then I started receiving more emails addressed to me with the following messaged...

"Yep, sounded right the first time."

"Can't think of any other way to put it."

"Couldn't agree more."

I honestly don't know the name of the feelings I had as I read these replies. It wasn't anger, it wasn't an urge of writing back to defend my position, I think it was just sadness. Sadness based in the form of a collective ignorance that I know exists everywhere but personally hadn't experienced/come into contact with in a long time. I felt again like I was 11 trying to explain to my peers why that wasn't ok to refer to people in that way and again seeing that it's the current accepted form of racism in our society today. I've been told by some of my inner circle over the years that I just can't walk away from certain situations without interjecting when I feel that something is really wrong, even if they have nothing to do with me. That might be true. Sometimes I feel the need to point things out to people and most of the time I guess when that happens it's due to injustices I feel I see towards others, or ignorant behaviors affecting in ways the individual might not be aware of. Likewise, I expect others to point out behaviors of mine in the same way if I exhibit them. That's the only way we learn right?

There's no solving/nice ending to this story which is maybe one of the most frustrating parts. Though I didn't want an apology, I deep down probably hoped that some kind of reflection might happen. What I got was the exact opposite, but that's the chance we take when we go out on a limb; "doing the right thing" is subjective isn't it?

After that day I've been thinking about the dark-humor based riffing that a few of my friends and I do and though it's in no way related to the topics I've been talking about here, I'm going to be more aware while it's going on. Lighthearted, over the top, and aimed at eliciting reaction for sure; you'll still never know how you can affect others without knowing it.

(As I was going to post this, news came across the wire that the California Supreme Court upheld the Prop. 8 same-sex marriage ban.)

We Are All Alike, On The Inside.
-Mark Twain


Monday, May 18, 2009

Weddings And Street Fairs. Issue #102

This past weekend I had the pleasure of performing at my friend Shawn Kirk's wedding to his lovely bride Christa. I've known Shawn for about 5 years, and though we don't get to see each other very much he's good friend; the kind of guy you just feel good to be around. So as you can imagine I was honored when he asked me to play "Tonight" off of Songs From The Orange Room for the kick-off to his ceremony.

The wedding was atop Pier 66 downtown which overlooks the sound and all of downtown. A beautiful Saturday night held about 240 guests on the roof-top plaza area and it was a really nice ceremony. They had also asked me to bust out the ukulele for the Hawaiian version of "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" by Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, and duet with their cellist friend on Death Cab For Cutie's "I Will Follow You Into The Dark". Both were songs I had to learn and right up until the last moment wasn't sure I had down but ended up going well. The wedding was also pretty unique as it was a melding of their families Irish and Jewish cultures. Lot's of references to both in tradition and readings...MAZELTOFF! Now lets go watch Boondock Saints!
Hopefully that was culturally offensive enough...

I felt bad bailing after dinner before the dancing (love getting my dance on), but had to get home due to The Wifey's 6:45 signup for her "Beat The Bridge" run and my UW Street Fair Show with KIRBY KRACKLE. I played last year with my solo band but thought that the timing was nice this year to get KK out of the conventions and see if geeks melt in the sun or not (they don't). As I think I've mentioned many times, I love playing outside and fairs so it was a blast. The standout factor for me with the show was the debut of our keyboardist Bryce Francis who kicked the songs up a notch covering all the string/piano parts and even adding some of his own flourishes to the songs. The KK live band is starting to really gel, but unfortunately this Tuesday @ ToSt is the last set for our bass player Kent. Starting the searching process...again. Still, I can't believe I went this long without keys on stage in my life...LOVED IT!

In non-music related stuff, I'm looking forward to my sister's wedding in Hawaii in a month. It'll be the first destination vacation where my family will all be outside of Seattle so it's gonna be a trip. Lot's of yard work, video games to catch up on, maybe just sitting in one spot for a week sounds good...

Nah, I'd drive everyone nuts.

Enjoy the sun you pasty ass (like me) Seattlites!


Monday, May 11, 2009

2 Shows, 1 Cup. Issue #101

A big THANK YOU is deserving for everyone who came out to the COLLIDER CD Release show and made it our best show yet! We had a great time and hope you did too. It was good to shake the rust off of the live set after having taken a performance hiatus since last June (too long), and to have so many of you come out to play with us this past Friday. We're putting together some more shows for this summer as I know have another record/project to promote and play behind. The good thing is that they don't compete for the same audience so there's a variety of venues I'm looking forward to playing in the next few months. It should be a good summer, and if I'm lucky will get to play some outdoor shows which is truly the best!

Speaking of outdoor shows, this Sunday May 17th I'll be bringing the full KIRBY KRACKLE band to the University Street Fair for a 10:30 AM slot to see what happens when geeks rock out before 11:00. Your guess is as good as mine...
The show will be the debut the band's new keyboardist Bryce Francis and I'm sure after 3 weeks of me playing air keyboard trying to show him "what I think I want" that he's ready to get on stage. It's been really fun to get him up-to-speed and I think the KK fans will like what they hear!

This weeks blog post title is a play on the now infamous viral video which no, I haven't seen. There are some things you can't unsee...

It's meant to reference the playing of a show and being inspired vs. going to a show and being inspired. I believe that it's all the same energy that goes to the same source, and on Sunday night my cup overflowed with the goodness coming off the stage at the GMK show. GMK is the Louis Johnson, the little bro of my high-school friend John Johnson. During what I look back on as a time of creative fearlessness (with equal parts unknowingness), John and I would perform on stage at high-school talent shows with Laymans Terms as the backing band behind John's raps. Over the years, we've gone in and out of contact and so when I heard he had a show I was in town for I knew I had to see it. I've only gone to a few rap shows in my day (though I listen to it all the time) and though I've always had a blast, never did they reach the inspiring heights for me as last night did. Following 2 acts before them that dealt with technical difficulties by swearing at the audience and telling them they'd "tear anyone up" (??????????), John and GMK took the stage like pros and had the crowd in the palm of their hand. Combining a cutting edge hip-hop sound and positivity in their message with what I would describe as well performed "Motown-esque" on stage dance/interaction, I would recommend anyone to go see them. You'll smile the whole time...I know I did.

Thinking about it the day after I thought how that's the way I want people to feel after they leave my shows...inspired and feeling good. Something to reach for always and last night lit a match under my butt to make it even more so.

Celebrate Music!


Sunday, May 3, 2009

COLLIDER Debut Album Release. Issue #100

The blog made it to Issue #100! Cool. :)

This year has been a year of firsts. First time out of country, first time on the east coast, and this Friday with the release of the debut album from my band COLLIDER the first time I've released 2 records in the same year much less four months apart.

This Friday we'll be debuting the album with a CD Release show at The Showbox (Market) in Seattle with a 21+ show starting at 9:00 (doors @ 8:00). With the widget below, you can hear the entire album before the show on Friday and while you're listening I thought that it would be cool to give you some back story on the songs.

Overall, this album is a big noisy rock record. I feel it's a different sounding record for me in that it's painted with big brush strokes musically/guitar wise with detail not in the forefront, but under the brash surface. Lyrically, I worked quicker than I usually do and as a result was left with what I feel was not detailed stories, but instead big cinematic-like images. Let's get to the songs...


This song was started with Collider guitarist Matt Edington providing the riff and he and I working out the rest. When we started I imagined driving a Mustang in the rain with a stickshift grinding gears as it shifted. It sounded raw and nasty and in the end we hope it captured that mood. Much of this record was written with lyrics being sung in practice that in many times ended up as the final lines. The "he" in the chorus was something I was confused as to the vagueness of and where it came from until the final vocal recordings when I realized that "he" was me...


I go through periods of being really hardcore into Bruce Springsteen and the time around when this song came to being was one those stages. The riff sounded really organic to me; not like a rock song but more of a compacted little animal that sounded cool. Starting to sing over it, I liked what came out about little small towns (Bruce- style) and the evil that can exist in a Rockefeller-esque environment behind closed doors and the psychological impact of what it would be like to "punch the clock" the majority of your adult life. After listening to the final product, this song contains one of my favorite lyrics from the album after months of reading some cool books (The Secret, The Power of Now) seemed to seep in..."Die and find the reason why we're all around/feel the space and find we're all connected now/Come back and forget it again...


This song is a variation of a song I had written for Laymans Terms during the final days of the band four years earlier, and was glad it found a new life in Collider. For some reason this song reminded me a lot of summers at my grandmothers house and that's how the reference to "Forget-Me-Nots" worked it's way in. Yeah, I know my flower strains...what?
Anyways, this song is something I'm still trying to figure out as to what it means so if you can help at all, I'm all ears...


Tidal Waves, Volcanoes, and Holy Ghosts all make of the lyrical landscape of the song that might not of been if I had been taking a bathroom break when Matt played the riff. Sometimes in band practice someone will play a little phrase that they didn't mean to and everyone turns around wide-eyed and asks, "What the hell is that?!?".

"Last Sunset" was one of those songs as Matt tuned up in practice and then played the opening chords in the song prompting me to spin around begging him to play it again so he didn't forget it. The song felt like a breath of fresh air and yet something that seemed we had always played before it's inception. Part dedication of reciprocating love and part ode to the temporary abandonment of emotional natural disasters, the song is what I feel is the heart of the album in many ways.


If you're thinking that the song sounds like a car commercial once it hits the chorus...you're not alone. I even have my monologue written out where I equate anti-lock breaks to the comfort of knowing your children are safe if anyone ever wants to hear it. No? Okay then. Regardless, the song's psychedelia reminded me of a "Kula Shaker" probably deeply ingrained from working the winter season at CAMELOT MUSIC way back in 1996 when my manager played it on repeat every day. I love the vibe and came to realize the chorus lyrics directly seem to be a subconscious direct comment for around the time the band started gelling and literally was "getting better". Go figure, the megalomania knows no bounds...


Another riff that I had laying around from four years ago (it pays to keep a record of unused material!), PD is worth mentioning as it had one of the hardest guitar parts I've ever had to play and sing at the same time. Maybe that means nothing to you, but I'm just saying. I love singing when the pre-chorus hits..."I believe that better days are not far away from us now/I believe the wood and trees hold a power somehow even now". I love technology, but maybe what we have here and have always have is what we've needed all along. This is coming from a guy who spends many hours online every day, but I digress...


This song is my baby. When I spoke of the world-wide RPM challenge I did in February 2008 (10 songs written/recorded in 30 days just to see if one could), STYH was one of my favorites as a result of the experiment and the Collider guys loved it too. I decided to make it a Collider song as we were going in the studio, needed another new song, and wanted to get it out to listening ears as soon as I could. The song was written in an hour, and as a result captures what I feel is a singular specific emotion lyrically that I don't feel I had yet achieved up until that point. I thought of what it would be like to have a partner you've lived with your whole life; someone who you shared everything with just leave this world and what someone would be left with feeling as a result. The entire song is a build-up to the final chorus and what I feel is a good end to the album. This song took the longest to do since it had to be "perfect" and of course ended up working best when we stopped trying to make it so. Like most things right?

Hope that gave you more insight as you listen to the songs. Feel free to email me at kylestevensmusic@gmail.com if you would like advance tickets for $10 before they reach the price of $12 the night of. Also, you can email me your request and the band and I will put your name on a list so the night of you can get the tickets at the advance price.

Thanks so much for reading for 100 issues which is maybe the only thing I've ever done religiously 100 weeks in a row! I hope they haven't felt like that many and that I can keep your attention for the next 100. By then I could be living in Guatemala in a shack selling mangoes with my wife on one side and my sherpa on the other. Probably not though, I'm pretty freaked out of spiders. We'll have to see...