Why I Wrote A Book About The Bottom Of The Music Biz
Let's drop the royal we for a second, okay? This is Jef, and I'm here to shamelessly plug my book signing at Cactus Music from 12-3 p.m. tomorrow (beverages provided by St. Arnolds; music by Giant Princess). I also want to explain why the book exists at all.
I'm prone to hyperbole, I admit, but I have no problem with an honest appraisal of myself. I am perfectly aware that The Black Math Experiment - though surprisingly popular - did not exactly set the world on fire. I didn't end up with a guitar-shaped swimming pool. I ended up with a handful of songs I was proud of and a very odd story about a minor celebrity.
What's so special about that? Why write a book about it? Any band in Houston, in America, in the world has what I have. Maybe not the Arquette story, but they all have their own adventures, and that's why I wrote it. I believe that those of us down here at the bottom of the music industry, struggling for an original voice, a decent paycheck and maybe just a little bit of respect have just as fascinating a history as Keith Richards or Jim Morrison.
Hell, I have email interviews with Cory Sinclair of The Manichean I would pay more to read than I would to tackle Justin Bieber's autobiography. Sinclair's not alone in the "Holy shit! Really?!" category, either.
What very brief glimpses I've had into the personal histories of Christian Arnheiter of the Hates, or Paul Fredric of Asmodeus X, or Larry Sanders from Kemo for Emo have shown me that the eternal struggles you can pick up at any bookstore about the icons, legends, and pariahs of the record industry are being played out all around us.
Admittedly, that's not why I started to put down an account of the four years I spent in The Black Math Experiment. I started it because I had a crazy idea that I could write the band back to life. If I could just tell the story, the heart, the magic I had felt as one of the members, then maybe enough people would believe it right back into reality.
I wanted to see if I use my penchant for dick jokes and weird metaphors to get an audience to clap for Tinkerbell. It seemed sensible at the time. I had discovered Jandek not through his music, but through a documentary on him. I had never listened to the Doors as a child, but came to worship Jim Morrison after reading No One Here Gets Out Alive. Maybe I could do the same thing with my own book.
It's ridiculously easy to self-publish now. Through the magic of CreateSpace.com, I can have my entire life bound and sold for less than five dollars. And sold it has, surprisingly enough. It hasn't brought me enough fame to entice my brothers and sister back to the stage, but iTunes tells me that a few more songs sell each month. The ball is still in play.
I see no reason why it should be me alone in Houston who discovers the power of their own story.
That's why I wanted to address my fellow musicians. Hell, not just them. All the artists, the accountants too. The teachers and the drug addicts and anyone else who feels alive enough to remember the feeling.
Write it down because it's worth something, and even if you never sell a single copy you can look at it there on your shelf and know that you have created something. Bands are you listening?
Why not jot down your tour stories, the times a booker screwed you over, the groupies, the drugs, the sheer unholy magic of the experience? Seriously, it takes no effort to have a book on your merch table just like the one I'll be hawking on Saturday.
Who knows where it will lead? I didn't call Quinn Bishop over at Cactus to do a signing, although I could have. He called me, like I was actually important enough to warrant it instead of a man who pays the bills as a counter monkey at a sheet-music store.
My favorite quote of all time comes from the great rock movie Velvet Goldmine. In it, Eddie Izzard says, "It doesn't really matter what a man does with his life. What matters is the legend that grows up around him."
Write down that legend. Those people out there who are knee-deep in diamonds and vagina are your equals, not your superiors. Your voice deserves to be heard as much as anyone's, but it will not rise above a whisper if you don't take the time to tell the tale.
A fan - don't laugh, I have a couple - asked me what "The Bible Spelled Backwards Does Not Change the Fact That You Cannot Kill David Arquette" means. It means simply that no matter who tells you that something is impossible, it isn't. If it appears that way, then they're just twisting the words of the rules in their favor.
Don't let them tell you that you're not a legend. We've all got a story. First person to send me theirs gets a free copy of mine!
Jef With One F is the author of The Bible Spelled Backwards Does Not Change the Fact That You Cannot Kill David Arquette and Other Things I Learned In the Black Math Experiment, available now.