So why do I want to be a punk rock star? Why do I front a band in shitty but character-filled little clubs, jumping around like a spaz and gnashing my teeth? Am I the archetype? Is it somehow in me, like a preordained characteristic?
I t’s all ego, and that strikes me as funny sometimes. I’m the most self-deprecating egomaniac still living. Morrison and Kobain were both like that, although I don’t really put myself on their level by any stretch. Deep down, people like us know that celebrity is vacuous and empty, that the people who cheer for us won’t give a red shit about us when we disappear from the stage. Except of course for the hardcore fans, the scary few that always seem to be there when you turn around, like they’ve been waiting for you in that bathroom stall for days on the off-chance. And you know what? They probably were.
Unlike most rock star folks out there, I love the road. All the bullshit about copying music and everything just cements what I’ve always believed; that CDs, tapes and mp3’s are just the medium, and it isn’t the medium we’re selling. A true musician wants to be heard by millions, but what he really wants is to stand there on the stage in front of a room full of people who want to hear him. The size of that room doesn’t matter, but the people do. I’ve played rooms with a dozen people who cared that you were there, and I’ve played outdoor concerts with 30,000 in attendance who couldn’t give a shit that you were alive.
I’m not really a rock star. I don’t dress like them or act like them. I don’t do drugs, aside from the occasional toke or two when the mood takes me. I drink, but not to the point where I’m not myself anymore. I don’t have sex with the fans no matter how cute and how tempting, and it’s not because I’m gay or something. I’ve just decided in my own way to reject all the bullshit that goes along with success. I don’t need mansions, but I also don’t need credit for what a great man I am when I do something good with my money. My donations, though large, are always given quietly. There’s nothing that sickens me more than some junked-out rock mega-icon giving a million bucks to the favorite charity of some girl he’s fucking and splashing his messiah all over the news for the world to see. That’s just a pissing contest.
I don’t even look like this. On stage, all that hair is just a wig. If the truth be known, I’m bald. By choice thank you very much. I shave my head. It’s one guaranteed way to ensure my anonymity when I walk through the wild, wild world. Despite all the clutter and the lifestyle, I try to maintain at all costs just how normal and human I am. I’ve heard stories about Mick Jagger and the team of people who exist solely to cater to his every whim, but that sort of life just isn’t for me.
Shit, I’m rambling away to myself and not even really paying attention to this woman. It’s an interview she wants, something with that punk rock spirit she reads about in the sort of crappy magazines that tell you just what that punk rock spirit looks like and what band of eighteen year old malcontents possess that spirit, if only fleetingly. She wants to do what we call a puff piece on me, something where I can rehash all the stupid bullshit I’ve done, tell her about how I once wound up in bed with the supermodel, which for the record is not true, and about how I encouraged a group of kids to beat each other senseless with folding chairs until one of them died of head injuries at a gig in Tupelo. That one is true, but I’m not proud of it, and it didn’t happen that way…
This sort of thing sucks. This woman, a blonde girl of around 30 years who learned everything she knows about me from reading other puff pieces, she isn’t really interested in me. She thinks she is, and the moisture in her panties tells her she’s right, but she’s fooling herself. What she wants is to sit with God, or maybe Ivan the Terrible, and look into the face of a real life superthing. I often wonder how long people spend trying to figure out what they want to wear when they meet me; what outfit will give them the most presence and sexuality while maintaining a sense of having just been pulled out of the dirty clothes hamper and thrown on in a hurry. Rock stars spend thousands on consultants who figure out the answers to those sorts of questions for them. Me, I buy my clothes myself and couldn’t care less about how I look, so long as I don’t look stupid or overt.
I have these interviews on about a weekly basis. Usually, they’re for some college newspaper that all the kids think is alternative media simply because it prints their letters and reviews their top-40-from-the-dark-side music. I don’t even really remember where I am right now, whether it’s University of Whatever or a college named after some long-dead martyr. These interviews are always entertaining for one simple reason. Eventually, I’m going to tire of the fluff-and-pamper bullshit and say something truly interesting at the expense of the interviewer. I’m notorious for it, and even though I blow away interviewers in every city I hit, the next one always thinks that they’ve somehow got me pegged, got some sort of innate connection with me just because they really got one of my early songs. So they think they’re my friend, and they think they’re going to show the world just how investigative journalism can be when they pair a normal and healthy interest in the topic with the things they learned in psych class to get to the bottom of the real me.
So where did I grow up? Around.
I can actually see the questions forming in her mind with little colons next to them, and answers in bold text to keep them clear in her head.
Was I always the kind of outcast I sing about? No. I was an outcast of a completely different type. In fact, I wasn’t even a punk. I was just another faceless nerd not quite understanding why it is that everyone else can get through life so easily. I was the worst type of outcast, one who was never cast out but instead was never even seen to be brought in.
Did I play guitar in high school? No, nor do I now. I had a very brief interest in the guitar early on in my career, but I figured out that it just didn’t work for me. Why not? Because I couldn’t lose myself in what I was saying while I was thinking, “A minor… A minor… Walk to the C7… Fuck, what’s a circle of fifths again?”
She laughs. The look in her eyes confirms just how close we’ve become.
What do you like best about being a musician? Actually, I’m not a musician. Mozart was a musician. Beethoven. The many Bachs ending with Skid Row’s Sebastian Bach. These people could hear something in their minds that was so beautiful that they had to write it down. They wrote long, sprawling, complicated songs with many different parts working together to tell a story that was so intricate and full that it defied any other means of expression. I stand on a stage in front of a bunch of sweaty bodies and scream.
So what would you call yourself? A really shitty poet.
So what do you like best about being a really shitty poet?
Now’s my chance.
I like sitting across the table from beautiful women, supple breasted creatures with those little shirts that show off enough belly to let you know how flat and tanned their bodies are under all those clothes. I like talking to girls like this, girls who would have felt physically ill talking to a monster like me if it wasn’t for the status thing, and I like knowing how easy it would be to lean forward, touch their knee, run my fingers up their thighs, slide inside their black and fashionable miniskirts to their black and fashionable panties, and then with one finger gently spread them apart and touch them in their most sensational, most private, most deeply personal of places. I like knowing how wet I make these girls, and I like being able to not bother touching them.
I like ending the interview by saying something crushing, something that tells them of just how rejected they are. I like the almost audible pain that comes across their faces as it occurs to them that we hadn’t connected at all, that they didn’t know me on some personal level, and that for all their beauty and youth they simply couldn’t faze me. I like it when they realize that this is it, that they have only a handful of good questions and then this incredible insult, and they can’t pretend the interview never took place because they already told all their friends who they were meeting, and they need the insult in order to make their word count.
In short, I like being an asshole that isn’t any deeper than you are, and wishes you didn’t try to revere him and worship him. Because the truth is that the music I write and the things I say aren’t that very wonderful, but I love being out there and doing what I do. I’m not doing it for you, and I’m not doing it for fans or record executives. This is what I do and it’s what I love. I’m glad as shit that other people seem to love it too, and the fact that I’m able to use their support as a way to just do this and nothing else all day and all night is something for which I will be eternally grateful. But the truth be told, I’m just a regular guy who’s just a little too ugly and a little too shallow for someone like you.
And with that I stand up, I pay for our beers (hers was the unknowable local specialty beer that looked far too much like muddy water to be coincidence), and I head downtown to my sound check. I don’t look back; I never do. It was a cry for help from me, and she didn’t even hear it because I hid it behind the angry façade. What’s funny is how long she’s spent trying to find the hidden meaning to the things I say and do, and when I laid it all down there she totally missed the point. Entertainers are what royalty used to be, and the masses have this notion that they are owed heroes. I’m nobody’s hero. I’ve cheated, lied, stole, and by proxy I’ve killed, and it’s really hard for me to smile for the cameras and pretend to be Boy Heart-throb, King of the swampy pantied masses. The one thing I know that sets me apart from all the other Rock Gods and Messiahs is that there’s nothing great and glorious about me. I just love making music.