Installment #4

“The Pure Warrior”

I know it’s presumed by a lot of people that because I am the main song writer that the other members of the band just come in and play their parts and they don’t contribute much beyond that.  I’m here to put that myth to rest.  Although that was true on the some records like “The Crimson Idol” nothing could be further from the truth with this band.  We go through long and lengthy rehearsal periods where we work on arrangements and overall song structure.  This goes on for months before we ever start to record for real.  We meticulously take songs apart and put them back together again.  With any creative process the first 10% is inspiration and the other 90% is like pulling a donkey uphill that doesn’t want to go.  In other words it’s 90% blood and sweat.  It’s where the real craft of songwriting takes place.  Get in there day after day and slug it out and beat on it with a big steel hammer until it starts to take shape!!  Does it sound like fun?  Yeah, if you’re a glutton for punishment!!  Why is it so painful?  Because in the back of your mind the anxiety of whether or not it’s going to turn out to be a masterpiece or a big pile of junk is ALWAYS eating at you.  I doubt there’s a professional songwriter on earth that doesn’t feel that after they’ve written their last song will EVER be able to do it again.  I remember listening to the “Idol”, for the first time about a year  after we recorded it and I had 2 thoughts.  Number one,  how did I do this?  And secondly and more importantly,  how in the world do I do this again!!!!
It’s the constant “alligator” all songwriters wrestle with. 

But I have a secret weapon.  Enter Michael James Duda.  When I come up with a kind of a “thumb nail sketch” or a rough idea for a song, I usually run it by Mike before I ever let the others listen to it.  I call it the “Duda test”.  I can read him like a book!  Depending on the look on his face, I can tell right then and there whether it’s worth even trying to go forward with it or not.  When I play him the idea, if his face lights up, then at least there’s a chance the thing has possibilities.  But if he sits there with that look on his face like, “what’s wrong with you, or, why are you EVEN thinking about making me listen to this junk for”, then I know there’s little chance that song will EVER see the light of day.   The man knows a good thing when he hears it.  He never even stops to think.  He trusts his immediate gut reaction and for me that’s an enormous tool to have.  He doesn’t get caught up in whether other people will like it or if it’s the “cool” thing.  He’s gives me a “fan’s” honest reaction and that’s the best thing any songwriter could want….a built in Rock N’ Roll market tester!!

He’s been in this band for over 20 years. No other member is even close to that. He and I have done almost to 2000 shows together. The fans have no real idea of what goes on out on tour with a band that does the kind of physical output that we do onstage. It’s not all as glamorous as you may think it is. I’ve seen him severely injured and still perform. More than once I’ve seen him in between songs throwing up on the side of the stage where the audience can’t see him because of food poisoning. I’ve watched him many times with a boiling fever go out and still destroy an audience.

It’s often said that the Bass player is the “heart beat” of any band. Talk about pure heart, he’s the “Pure Warrior”. People get asked if they were in a fox hole who they’d want in there with them……well, he’s my man!!!!

Oh, and that other minor detail I forgot to mention, he’s one of the best Bass Guitarist’s in the World!!

“Golgotha” would have never turned out the way it did without his input and his ability to still see and hear music like a 15 year old. He believes in me as a songwriter but he’s not afraid to push me. Whenever we start to make a record I know he’s always looking over my shoulder like some sort of “uncompromising vulture”.

But then again, I do the same to him.

I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Him and I have been through a lot of blood and guts together. God forbid I ever had to do this with anyone else but him!!! Just call him, “Iron Mike”!!

More Next Month

B. L

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Installment #3

“The Last Runaway's Coming Home”

We came to Hollywood in 1975 with $162 dollars between us, We, meaning Arthur Kane and myself.  The New York Dolls had just broken up and he and I found ourselves orphaned.  We started what would become the band “Killer Kane”.  It was actually Arthur’s nick name but it seemed cool so we went with it.  I mentioned the $162.  It didn’t go far.  We were broke in just a few days.  I was in L. A. just one week and started selling my personal gear that I had accumulated over the years, and that went pretty fast too. I tried to make the band work but it was impossible.  The last time I ever spoke to him I told him he had to get himself together and he said: “Hey, you’re not pulling that Paul Stanley crap on me”.  He resented Kiss for their new-found success, and made it clear he wanted nothing to do with me or them. For the first 2 months I was in L. A. I slept on a couch in the garage that was our rehearsal space in a house in Laurel Canyon.  But the band disintegrated and for the next year and a half I was basically homeless.  I slept on floors in the houses of whoever would have me at the moment.  Eating, well that became an extra curricular activity.  In other words, I literally never knew where my next meal was coming from, and there were a lot of times it didn’t!!    It’s interesting, a year and a half goes by pretty quick when you’re writing about it, but in real time, it’s an ETERNITY!!    When I first got to L. A. I saw a Hollywood Chamber of Commerce statistic that said a teenage girl came to Hollywood once ever 13 seconds.  That didn’t include the guy’s or the guy’s and girls over 20. Just teenage girls.  When they’re in school they’re the best looking, the most popular, and voted the most likely to be “whatever” and think they’re going to set Hollywood on fire.  They don’t realize that every other girl with the same exact credentials from “anytown” in the world is all thinking the same thing.  They all come to Hollywood with stars in their eyes and get eaten alive!

That same statistic said the life expectancy there was 6 months!!

Only a fraction of 1% will ever have even minor success.  It’s the same for music too.

It’s a place where the competition is enormously fierce and nobody even wants to know your name.  But, there is a place there for those that want it more than life itself.  I remember, I was 12 and my Father telling me America was one of the last places on earth where a man could still become a self made millionaire, “if he wanted to pay the price”!!

I said, “yeah Dad, I wanna pay the price”.  But I had NO IDEA of what I was talking about.  But I soon learned.

Fans ask me now how they can become successful.  I tell them, “you don’t choose it, it chooses you’!!  In other words, if you CANNOT live without it, then go for it.  But if you think, for even one moment, you can live without it, you should seek another line of employment, because you WILL NOT make it.  Show business is tough, but Hollywood is flat out cruel.  I didn’t make these rules.  I’m just telling it like it is!!

The song, “Last Runaway” is a musical/autobiographical account of my years in the wasteland called “Hollywood”.  Was I scared to death?  You better believe it !!  But there were also times of tremendous joy.  In the chorus I write: “It was the best years of our lives, the world was ours to run”.  Even in the midst of all that misery, nothing I’ve ever written has been more true.  At times it was glorious!!

I’m sure most people at some time in their lives have gone through something that has been extremely challenging.  Something that took them out of their “comfort zone”, something that made them want to “runaway”. This song is for ME and THEM!!  I know your pain!!

There’s a line in the first verse that says, “on borrowed beds of nails I wailed and I’d lose control”, well that goes back to the year and a half sleeping on other peoples floors.  Think about it, it’s one thing to be on a “bed of nails”, but ones that are borrowed?  That just adds to the fear and the angst because as uncomfortable as they are, they’re not even yours!!

There are a million other horror stories that came out of that time, but there was also a tremendous amount of hope. It was the life blood of what we all lived on!!   As the song say’s, ”just one last chance to change it, give me back the life I can’t wait to live”!!

Out of the ten’s of thousands of musicians that came through Hollywood at that time, there were only a small handful of us who “made it out”.  You know who we all are. Some are still with us and some have passed on. 

No matter what, it’s a song about our survival, but even more so…….Redemption!!!!

More Next Month

B. L.

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Installment #2

“Say Hello To My Little Friends”

The rehearsals for this album started in the Spring of 2011.  A lot of time was spent just talking about the direction of the songs and really trying to turn the songs inside out to see exactly where they wanted to go.  One thing you learn over the years in the song writing process, is that after the songs begin to take shape, they will eventually start to talk back to you and they will tell you where they wanna go.  The trick is learning to listen when they speak.  This process of writing and arranging and the demo’s went on for several months before we even began to record the album for real.  One of the first tracks we recorded was “Miss You”.  It’s interesting because ironically it was the first song ever written for the Crimson Idol.  There were 3 songs that were originally supposed to be on the “Idol” but never made it and “Miss You” was one of them.  When you see the lyrics you’ll understand that Jonathan is clearly talking to his brother Michael, as he kneels at his graveside.  I feel strongly that Doug’s solo on it is as close to perfection as you’re ever going to hear.

The first batch of songs for the album was recorded before we left to start the 2012 “Thirty Years of Thunder” tour. The intention was to resume in February of 2013 and finish by the end of the year. Then my leg blew up and those plans were scrapped. The morning after the surgery the doctor came in and said, “I’m going to be honest with you, this is going to take 6 months to heal”. I was lying in the bed pretty medicated at the time, but I could still understand the concept of 6 months, and it seemed like an eternity at the moment. Looking back now, if it had only been 6 months I would have been happy. It ended up being about 2 years to get the strength back in it. In the mean time, we discovered I’m in a group of only 4% of people who have an allergic reaction to titanium. Now, this is a bit of a problem, as this thing is now a permanent part of me!! The reaction to the titanium was actually worse than the break itself and I got hives all over my body. I’ve never had them before, and trust me……you don’t want them……it’s a hell all it’s own because you’ll scratch yourself until you bleed!! So to help with the insane itching and the unreal pain from the leg…….Say Hello to My Little Friends…….Professionally known as Oxycodone/Acetaminphen!! Known on the streets as Percocets!!

Now, I don’t like taking drugs, but when you hurt bad enough you’ll do anything!! I remember coming out of the recovery room after the surgery and I didn’t even know it was possible to have that kind of pain and I told the nurse, “either give me some pain killers or a hammer so I can hit myself in the head, either way this pain was going to go away”!!!

I WAS NOT JOKING!!!

So after 5 days they let me go home, and in about 2 weeks after that we start to get the reaction to the titanium under control. That was the longest 3 weeks of my life. But a strange thing happened then. The pain just kind of went away. So, I’m taking 2 percocets a day, (which for me is a lot), but considering what I went through, that’s not a lot. I take 2 a day for about a month. Then for then next 2 months between 1 and 2 a day. Then for the next 3 months just 1 a day. Now you understand WHY the pain “just went away”. Call it naïve, but I’d never been through anything like this before. After I was home for a couple of months I’d go into my writing room and write for a couple of hour a day. I’d go back the next day to listen to what I did the day before…… I didn’t remember recording ANY OF IT !! That freaked me out!!! And it was happening every day. Normally I can remember even small bits of things I recorded while I was writing from 20 years ago. Now, most of everything I was doing the day before I couldn’t even remember at all!! Again, call me naïve, but I had yet to figure out in my head the concept that no pain equaled great loss of memory. Why? Because I was loaded all the time and didn’t know it!!

Percocets are sneaky. You’re bombed but don’t feel like it. You stay high for so long you don’t realize what normal is like anymore, and that becomes the NEW NORMAL!!! UNTIL…..it was time to stop taking them completely. I’ve never had to detox before from anything. After taking them for 6 months, I WAS TOTALLY HOOKED!!! It took an additional 3 more months to slowly wean myself off of them.

I’ve since said, if I never ever have to put another one of those things in my mouth I’d be happy!!

One of the strange side notes of that whole experience was even though I didn’t remember writing and recording a lot of the stuff, a lot of it was really, really good, the problem was, most of it was really abstract and unusable.  But I DO NOT advocate using ANY kind of medication to help anybody write!!!!

One of the reasons I’ve told this part about the drugs is to warn people, whatever you do, don’t even think about taking that stuff recreationally.

Honestly, I don’t see why anyone would want to. Those things are MONSTERS!!!! I hope I never have to take them ever again.

Anyway, the recording continued on……….Golgotha was getting closer!!

More Next Month
B. L

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Installment #1

“Skull and Crossed Bones”

The recording of this album began in Spring of 2011. It continued on over the next 4 years with various interruptions, some were planned, some were not.

After the 2010 World Tour I was scheduled for reconstruction surgery on my right shoulder, which was done in January of 2011. After all the years of sports and touring the thing was an absolute mess. I had the left one operated on after the 89’ Headless tour and it too was hanging by a thread at the time. If you’ve never had any kind of reconstruction surgery I strongly recommend that you don’t!! I had a torn rotator cuff, a torn labrum and the shoulder head and joint were cracked and broken in 3 places. I was living on cortisone shots throughout the entire tour to get me through it and deal with the pain. I did the same thing on the 89’ tour getting shots once a week to keep going. We were in Switzerland toward the end of the 2010 tour and a doctor came to the dressing room before the show. He gave me 7 shots of cortisone in that shoulder and it had zero effect!! He could hit none of the spots in my shoulder that were inflamed. Honestly, I don’t think that poor man could have hit water if he fell out of a boat!! The last 2 weeks of that tour was a LOT of fun !!

I guess I should have been thankful because the right one lasted about 20 years longer than the other. The rehab was insane on this one and lasted 3 months but I was able to start writing in about half that time. The first song written was “Last Runaway”.  We went through a number of possible songs early on and then over the next year started to narrow down which one we would actually record. In the Spring of 2012 we started preparing for the 2012 “30 Years of Thunder” Anniversary tour.  We felt that tour was important to put a lot of attention into that tour because anytime any band can make it that far into a career, it’s something to celebrate!!

We started work again on the record in early 2013 but had a little problem in May.  Specifically May 22nd. I was moving some stuff on the ranch property we have here in California and I got knocked out of the back of my pickup truck into a pile of bricks. When I hit the ground I new I was in bad shape.  I tried to get up but my right leg wouldn’t move. I laid there for 2 or 3 minutes without moving because sometimes if you get hit really hard the body will respond after it’s had a chance to recover the shock of the  impact.  Then tried to move again and to say it hurt was a gross understatement.  I tried to get up but my leg was like rubber, like it had no bone in it. I found out later why.  I knew then I was in big trouble. An ambulance was called and when they put me in it I felt like I had been hit by the truck I was just in.  Now the property here is fairly large with many dozens of acres and the roads have no pavements. On the way out the driver told me he had to drive over a cattle grate.  For those that don’t know what a cattle grate is, it’s a set of metal rails in the ground with open spaces in them which create holes that keep cows from walking over them. It acts like a fence and they’re used on roads where a fence stops and lets cars go through but cows won’t cross over them for fear they will BREAK THEIR LEGS !!!!!  Wow, how ironic !!!!  I looked up on the inside of the ambulance where I was lying and saw there was a plastic net hanging from the inside of the roof.  I asked the paramedic if it would support my weight if I pulled up on it to take the pressure off my leg when the driver drove over the grate.  He said it would, so just before the driver went over the grate I reached up and tried to pull myself up. He was only going about 5 miles an hour and I’ve never screamed from pain before in my life but when he hit that grate I screamed louder than I’ve every screamed before in my life !!!!  I pulled myself up to take the pressure of the leg but the leg was totally dead and wouldn’t move, so pulling myself up had no effect and I felt every rail a hundred times over .  Pain…..I’ve broken about 10 bones in my body over the years doing one crazy thing or another,  Take all of them and put them together and it STILL would not equal that pain !!  It was unlike anything I ever experienced before.  I got to the hospital and when the ex-rays came back I then understood why the pain was what it was.  My right femur was broken and completely detached from just under my hip. The femur itself was split length wise, from just below the hip all the way down to the knee.  The surgery lasted 6 hours and when it was over I was then the proud owner of an 18 inch titanium rod that will now be with me for the duration !!  I’m big fun in Airport security now!!! 

More Next Month,

B.L

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