Thursday, February 22, 2007

In memory of Kurt Schnyder

'Venus in the Basement' by Kurt Schnyder

I got the call this morning.

I knew his health hadn't been too good since he broke his hip in a bicycle accident a little over a year ago. When I saw him a few times around Christmas, he was thin -- as always -- but he was very happy.

For the first time in many, many years he was in love. He excitedly talked about buying a ring for his girlfriend, Charlene. If you knew Kurt, as I had for almost 30 years, that was deeply surprising -- to put it mildly.

Still, there could be no questioning his enthusiasm for his new relationship. At times it was all he could talk about. And there was no questioning his genuine affection and love for his girlfriend, despite surprising differences between them.

So it was especially saddening when one of our mutual friends called me this morning to tell me Kurt had passed away less than 24 hours after checking into the hospital. We still don't know the particulars of his passing and, really, it's hard to feel like they really matter much. He was not young, at 53, but not old, either. Still, his health had been increasingly precarious, especially after the bike accident knocked him off his feet for the better part of a half year. The last time I saw him, he was still using a cane. (I used a cane, myself, for five years after a motorcycle wreck when I was 29, so it's never something I like to see one of my friends leaning on. I kept hoping he'd be throwing it away soon but... ah well.)

Anyway, I'll be writing more about Kurt, who was a very good painter and graphic artist (the hurriedly photographed picture above that he gave me as a housewarming gift almost 20 years ago only hints at his skill and vision... I hope to share more with you over coming months) as well as a fine percussionist (he was part of my all improv ambient ensemble Drift in the mid-90s, along with clarinetist/guitarist Steven (Caz Camberline) Becker and violinist/vocalist Ann De Jarnett).

He was a witty, often wildly funny man. At times he lived a little large and maybe a little wobbly -- but he was a hell of a guy and a hell of a friend and -- damn it -- I really miss him already.

Gotta go.

Here's the memorial site Kurt's sister and friends and I came up with for Kurt.

Below are some songs featuring Kurt Schnyder:

13th Bar Blues

Kurt plays all the percussion on this wild and woolly workout. We recorded in two passes, with me on guitar and him on a handful of his percussion toys on both tracks. And I later went back and added some keyboard parts (no, that's not really a sax section, back there).

Pretty Little Head

Kurt is joined on congas on this track by our mutual friend Michael Bay on shakers. The two conga tracks and the shakers were actually recorded for one of the songs on Mike's unreleased first album that he recorded a number of years ago in my old project studio and he graciously allowed me to swipe them and build a whole new track around them.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

A Moody Guy

There ain't no heart in my heart anymore...

OK... I guess it's no surprise a lot of us theoretically creative types have... oh, let's call them... mood issues.

Of course, we don't all go the Elliott Smith route and there are, undoubtedly, some happy-go-lucky types who keep pouring out music and words (or other forms of art) and never once think about plunging a dagger into our own hearts.

Well... there must be.

But it ain't me.

We all have ups and downs, of course. And, perhaps, it stands to reason that those who "live large" will have higher highs and lower lows. Not to mention more erratic cycles of up and down, longer, shorter... maybe a little like heart arrhythmia, I suppose: too fast, too slow, pounding, barely beating... that's what the emotional life of some of us is like.

A life of interesting times, you might say.

Anyhow, I'm not bitching. Good grist for the kind of songs I write. (Or do I write the kind of songs I write because of... yeah, you think?)

But it's been a long and rocky journey, too. And, as those adept at reading between the lines have probably already sussed, after a few decades of alternating -- and, not unoften, overlapping -- periods of attempted monogamy and semi-wanton carousing, all of it well-lubricated by society's drug-of-choice, alcohol, I have in recent years led, by comparison, an almost monastic life of relative seclusion and sobriety.

That might sound like something healthy and mature -- and, to be certain, I have, thank God, no desire to try to squeeze back inside the bottle that contained me for so many years. But alcohol did, for me, have a leveling effect on my moods. It sort of mushed them together.

And, honest to God, for me, a good, nasty black out drunk and killer hangover seemed to have the same kind of salubrious effect claimed for electroshock therapy. You wake up, you can't remember anything, you ache all over... but whatever it is you were obsessively worrying about is pretty well forgotten, just part of the smear of history. Past history.

That was the good part of drinking, for me.

The bad part was that what started out as an occasional blow-out became, over the years, a somewhat more subdued, but nightly, then daily routine. (Well, the two beers every morning before coffee counted for something, yeah? After breakfast, I was good 'til cocktail hour... as long as that began about 5 or 6 pm and lasted until closing.) I had many adventures over the years with a bottle in one or both hands... but at the end I was just watching TV and sluggin back one Bud after another. The guy I swore, when I was 19, that I would never be.

But no good deed ever goes forever unpunished... the receding tides of alcohol revealed a jagged and rocky emotional landscape I've found myself picking my way through, ever since.

It's an interesting life, still.

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previous versions
October 02, 2005
January 27, 2006

There Ain't No Heart in My Heart No More

There Ain't No Heart in My Heart Anymore

There ain't no heart
in my heart no more
I don't know where it's gone
but it's gone for sure
Maybe it went with you
when you went out that door
but there ain't no heart
in my heart anyore

I feel like giving up and maybe I should
I cant go on and I know it's no good
There aint no meaning
in life any more
no there aint no heart
in my heart anymore

The end just means
we begin again
where did you say I signed
I've lived this life
one two many times
I don't think I can take it twice

Too many loves
too many lies
too many broken lives

too much night
too little love and way too little love
and nothing to show for a life

There ain't no heart
in my heart no more
I don't know where it's gone
but it's gone for sure
Maybe it went with you
when you went out that door
but there just ain't no heart
in my heart no more


Monday, February 19, 2007

Is this thing still on?

First... a GIG ALERT:

I'll be joining fellow legends, Tim Swenson (formerly of Lunchbox [the original late 80s LA faves -- not the johnny-come-lately 90s band of the same name] , Candida, Drink Deep, and Thieving Kind) and Raindog (aka publisher and poet RD Armstrong in his bluesy, whisky-voiced folky mode) at Long Beach, CA, cultural mecca, Portfolio, this coming Friday, FEBRUARY 23, at 9pm, in an informal roundtable, song-swap format. Portfolio is a charming, comfortable old coffeehouse with great coffee. There's no cover and all ages are welcome.

Uh... remember me?

I didn't think so.

I'm the guy who used to write this blog, here. I had podcasts and silly little vignettes purportedly designed to illustrate or augment the mostly acoustic versions of my songs I'd been posting since Fall Equinox 2005...

I know, I know... it's pretty hazy to me, too.

Of course, it's really only been a few weeks since I posted any new music... but in that time I've lost my voice, forgotten how to play (just in time for the live show mentioned above), had my songwriter's block turn into blogger's block and, not necessarily unrelatedly, had to move the written content part of this blog from one server to another. (Forget that happy face talk in the post below... the aftermath of the move was, as they say on the internet, a royal PITA.)

But I'm back, damn it, and, if not proud, at least unbowed.

Here's a little (and I mean little) improvised instrumental guitar duet (featuring that great duo me & I) just to get things rolling again...

A Rainy Presidents Day

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