So I wrote a book…

After 43 years of putting it off, I finally wrote a book. 68,000 words. Put the finishing touches on the third draft at the end June.

It was a thrilling ride. I threw the kitchen sink at it. Every thought that ever nagged me. Every emotion I felt shame for feeling. Every painful memory that has haunted me throughout my life; I stuffed inside those pages. Granted, in a fictionalized way. But it’s all there. My mother’s death, alcoholism, suburban upbringing, relationship with my father, etc., etc., folded into a story about a twenty-four hour period in New York City after it’s announced that a signal from space has been discovered.

It’s a dark tale about human nature and the perils of progress. Or something like that. I don’t know. It’s not very good. I would even go so far to call it a miserable failure. At least, I hope it’s a miserable failure. It is my first book. As much as I daydreamed the Q&A sessions at packed bookstores during my debut book tour, I’d like to think I was reasonably realistic about its true quality.

A few people close to me read early drafts and I received thoughtful notes on it. Yet, I felt the truth behind those notes. I persevered, though. It was necessary to finish. I’m sick of leaving the wreckage of unfinished works behind me. I don’t mind if it’s wrecked, as long as it’s a complete wreck.

What happened? I bit off way more than I could chew. My abilities not yet matched by my ambitions. Multiple first person points of view threading throughout different places and times and loosely anchored by one character’s hero’s journey from Jackson Heights to the Great Lawn of Central Park. Shit. Even I’m confused.

But I had to do it. Had to scrape that one off so I could get to the creamy nougat inside. I’m halfway through the first draft of the second book and it’s miles better. More confident in voice. A simple first person point view told in a simple linear way. Kind of. Well, it’s not one point of view but two. But it’s the same person. You know? Hmmm. Can’t keep it simple, can I.

So before I put a year’s worth of work into the drawer, I thought I should at least mention it. State that I put all of my heart and soul into it. But sometimes, that’s not good enough. Writing’s fucking hard. It takes immense skill and patience. As a father of two small children, I have a plethora of patience. Need to work on the skill. Onward.

And even though it’s unedited and without any context, here is the last chapter of There is A Light That Never Goes Out:

Chapter 26

I exist in a slither of air squeezed between vacuum and rock.

Only moments before they have their way with me.

My good eye catches a dull black smudge of nightmares toward the Western edge of the arc when I get a message from Zenotal.

Not a second too soon. I touch the screen.

“A few hours ago, the DoD’s servers lit up. A “grey paper” blitzed every email account in the building. From a Dr. Jeremy Rehman. Interesting read. Still catching my breath. See you in a bit. Maybe.”

I can’t explain my findings. Skating a razor’s edge of reality. None

of it possible, but with everything that I am, I know it to be true. In this

message you will find two images attached. The first image was embedded

in the data sent from the Cygnus Void. As you will see, it is a dot with six

elliptical rings and half ring encircling it. It is my theory that this represents

a type of Dyson Sphere. The center dot represents our star. The rings are

the superstructure that the senders of the signal intend to build around the


The second photo is an electron microscope image of a

motherboard from the wreckage of the SERUS. This is how the SERUS was

compromised. The only way that I can imagine an advanced technology

circumventing and overriding a more primitive one is through the use of

nanobots. And since those nanobots did not piggyback onto the signal, they

must have arrived via microscopic wormholes from a type of Bracewell

Probe located approximately two and a half light years away at the

boundaries edge of the Cygnus Void.

Not for some want of assisting our civilization in advancing to a

Type-II level of power harnessing, but as a matter of fulfilling its program.

Because I don’t believe organic beings are behind these actions

but the artificial remnants of one. And it is these artificial lifeforms that

have been the cause of the destabilization of our communications infrastructure.

Scattered over the surface of the Earth from the contaminated wreckage of

the ISS. Not the coronal mass ejection on July 12th, 2012. That had nothing

to do with.

And just to be clear, If you’re reading this, I am dead.”

Dr. Jeremy Rehman

Once you let it happen, life can be so fucking interesting.

I send the email titled “Ghost.”

A few moments later the National Guardsmen stop in their tracks. A pause. Then as if rewinding the tape, they turn around and sink back into the trees. The Apache helicopters loop around and start heading North. The lights and sirens fade uptown. Go chase the rabbit, fellows. This turtle’s gotta fly.

Ripping off the front cover with the account numbers from Gloria’s book, I let drop the book of poems in the grass.

Something that beautiful doesn’t belong in my life.

I feel a compression of air against my face. The Indian Chief walks toward me from nothing. His voice consumes me. Echoing from every point.

“You have chosen life.”

He is before me now. Standing there like in that original dream. His headdress pulses white. He reminds of Steve Austin wearing a bronze tanner. He hands me his tomahawk. It lacked any real weight. A mere television prop.

“What am I suppose to do with this,” I asked.

“What did I say to you when you were a child?”

“That I was no rabbit.”

“You are not.”

“Then what am I?”

“You are the tsunami that washes away the shore. You are the lava that erases the landscape. The wind that carves mountains. The sun that bakes the clay.”

“The comet that begins an extinction event.”


“Who am I to argue with the six million dollar Indian Chief.”

“That is wise.”

And with that, he puffed out of existence. It was time to make my way.


The starlight leads me through the trees.  The water from the pond a mirror against ancient light. I walk upon the water in the infinite of night. Scaling rock. Cutting my hands on the jagged wall that was forged by ice and time to the top of the castle and back into the woods. Into the trenches and battlements heavy with poison and fear. A hundred years of constant war. Of gold, glory and lines in the sand. The shore of a quiet sea appears to my right. A wistful rustle of wind skims the surface. The doomed cascade of manmade things. A heart-light dissolves into shadow. I can see people swarming the mall from Bow Bridge. Families. Survivors. Outcasts. Looking up. Feet on the ground.

Steady. The worst is yet to come.

Sheep Meadows is SRO. I press through bodies. The initiated. The ones who will have to face the monsters staring down from the void.

They say if you can’t take the heat, get the fuck out of the kitchen.

When my feet touched 59th Street, first light begins to swallow the truth. A twelve hour reprieve from our creeping fate. Although with this comes the enlightening of the left behind. The layer of denial stretched taut across the surface of the city that would take an uncomfortable amount of time to remove. Bulldozers and dump trucks. Pits and fires. The line between sacrament and necessity. Ashes in a faraway field.

An entire city cannot become a memorial.

At the Northeast corner of 58th Street and Broadway, a dark suited middle-aged woman was lying on her back on one of the larger piles of bodies. She was alive and muttering something about needing help.

I stood over her and looked into her face.

“Please…I…can’t…feel…need help…”

Maybe it was the lack of sleep. Or the wretched headache that blinded my left eye. Maybe it was God giving me yet another sign. But there, before my eyes, the woman’s skin sagged. Splotches branched their way out from underneath her sick skin. The sockets of her eyes caved in and her hair grew grey and whispered from her skull.

My mother.

“Save me.”

They say there are no do overs. But sometimes the failure to act can be a catalyst for change. To make one aware of one’s weakness and become more than we are. Second chances. Washing away the past. Rebirth.

I didn’t have a pillow so I pressed my hands over her nose and mouth.

She fought with all she had left. Grabbing at my wrist and trying to push at my face. Scratching at my useless eye. But she was weak and failed to go with her first instinct.

Then her arms dropped and her eyes became glass.

Today has been a good day. One for the history books. A swimming echo printed upon our collective mythos.

We’ve been shoved out of place. So first we’ll have to deal with those who will want to push us back to the way things were. Ain’t gonna happen. There is little hope for us if we attempt to crawl back to that. Though our chances for survival seem slim, it’s okay. Because whoever said we would survive. Nations, Empires, continents, oceans and species perish into ash to become a layer of clay on a cliff face.

So what does it all mean?

Did the onion evolve to become mirepoix for the rabbit braise I never got to make?

Of course, not. That’s fucking stupid.

So what does it all mean?

It could mean fulfillment. A plan to fulfill oneself. Being satisfied at that moment of death. To have accomplished something worthwhile. To be, in some small way, remembered.

But Gloria. When I die, she will be lost. And so will all of us at some point. Once we’re all gone, it’ll be like it never even happened in the first place.  

All of it serving no purpose. Nothing fulfilled.

Even with the existence of this extra dimensional multiverse generating God, if it’s all happened and happening all the time, its purpose is less. Because nothing is unique when the ordinary is preordained.

So bear with me as I ask one more time,

What does it all mean?

I’m sorry. But it means nothing. And I think you knew that already.

If there was a great truth, knowing it would not bring fulfillment.

However, I need to mention that, at this moment, I am utterly fulfilled. I am my mother’s death breath escaping into the abyss. Free to wonder infinity. Until at last, the lights go out.

Stepping over several Saudi gentleman and into the lobby of 111 West 57th Street, I pass a skull type chap who greets me with a wide smile and informs me the elevators are working just fine due to the backup generators. Arriving at the 52nd floor, the elevator opens up onto the gallery exposing a haunted caramel time of want. As the sun fills the floor to ceiling windows that traps us in, Miguel sits at an antique Bosendorfer piano playing has if he’d already died. Zenotal was in front of a laptop at the bar.

“He’s been playing this tune for an hour. I don’t think he knows another one.”

“It’s Intermezzo by Manuel Ponce,” I say.

And Miguel would never need to know any other piece of music ever because everything about anything came through Miguel’s graces and flourishes. The piano aged to the point where his thick broken hands conformed perfectly into the bone colored keys.

It was beautiful.

“We’re gonna need to get somewhere without a piano.”

“Any ideas,” says Zenotal.

“I don’t think there’s any pianos in Macau.”

Jose, white towel over his shoulder, comes out of the kitchen with a beer.

Handing me the beer, he says,

“Miguel hasn’t played since he was a boy. A prodigy. The town had high hopes for him.”

“What happened?”

Pulling the towel from his shoulders to wipe his hands, Jose shrugs.

“Are you hungry?” he says.

“I am. Yes, please.”

I took the beer and sat on the couch next to Enrique who was sleeping. His bandage would need to be changed but only after he wakes.

Miguel took a breath.

“Lo que ahora?”

Zenotal looks up from his laptop.

I take a long drink from the bottle. My God, it was good. Too good. I’m already anticipating the next. Plotting how I’m going to keep this going for the rest of the night. This feeling. That worry that there might not be enough. I almost shouted to Jose to ask if there was enough.

There’s never enough.

This would be my last beer.

I’m not my father. I am my father.

“Well, I think a couple days rest and healing are in order. Are we safe here, Zenotal?”

“For the time being. They won’t even start looking until the power is back up. And honestly, there’s nothing to find. But we shouldn’t linger.”

“Wasn’t planning it. Maybe a week.”

Another drink.

“Si, pero ¿qué estamos goin hacer a continuación?”

“There’s a few things kicking around, Miguel. But what’s kicking hardest is this Dr. Jeremy Rehman. I guess we can confirm that the revelation Dr. Rehman was going to leak was the reason for the government coming clean about the signal?”

“Confirmed,” says Zenotal.

“So where did the good doctor end up, I wonder?”

Jose calls out to Miguel. Time to eat.

“So what do you think, Zenotal? Should we leak this ‘grey paper’ and just be done with it? Put this matter in the ground and move on?”

“It seems it was Dr. Rehman’s intention to fill in the rest of the details of his discovery. I don’t see why we shouldn’t see it to the end. Just the say the word.”

“The word is given.”

For the first time, in a long time, everything is different. There is no going back. There will be no going back.

“I wonder what happened to the motherboard?” I whisper.

“What’s that?”

“Nothing. Just thinking out loud.”

I used to wonder if we were the only ones in the universe. The only creatures capable of knowing itself. I wondered that because with it came a true sense of specialness. At the right place for the right amount of time. We looked up and said, what am I? There would be no need for faith. Or God. We would be special by simply just being.

Now we may need a God. Because we seem to be surrounded. In their sights. Locked on target.

And I say bring it on. Let’s prove our mettle. Or not. Up until now it’s been a difficult and bloody birth, cord wrapped around our neck, mother not responding. We’ve had to crawl out of the birth canal on our own. Into that cold white light.

But like a fawn just slipping out of the after birth, we must stand up and open our eyes before the predators come. Engage those instincts long since dormant.

To survive.

Sitting down at the table, about to break bread with my brothers-in-arms, Gloria’s face overwhelms my mind’s eye. My great love. I will make them remember. I promise.

The sun is almost up now.

We did not pass into that goodnight. Well, at least, not most of us anyway.

So now I will drag this world into the unknown kicking and screaming. We will be ready for whatever comes. Whether we want to or not.

Jose was right. I’m a baby in this new world.



But filled with love.

You think you know me? I hardly know myself. What are these motivations that drive me? I suppose that doesn’t matter now. I have been transfigured. I’m lost from you. A filament of a corroded fragment. A hologram caught in a six and a half second cycle. So don’t give me a shove because I might wake up. And you’ll all disappear.

A slit.

And the light erases all wonders.

A Taste of Bombay Spleen…

Bomby Spleen is the new booktrack by Tanuja Desai Hidier.  Its accompanying book is the long awaited sequel to her first novel, 2004’s Born ConfusedBombay Blues continues the story of Dimple Lala, who thought that growing up would give her all the answers, but instead she has more questions than ever.  She thinks she’s heading to Bombay for a family wedding — but really she is plunging into the unexpected, the unmapped, and the uncontrollable. The land of her parents and ancestors has a lot to reveal to her — for every choice we make can crescendo into a jour­ney, every ending can turn into a beginning, and each person we meet can show us something new about ourselves.

T&A.  2014.

T&A. 2014.




Bombay Spleen is also the first new music from T&A, my ongoing musical collaboration withTanuja, since 2010’s Ferocious Love.  She and I co-wrote six of the albums twelve songs including Light Years which was co-written with Marie Tueje and Thomas Denman.





The first video from the album Heptanesia was directed by Tim Cunningham in London. The song was written by Tanuja & Marie Tueje and produced by Dave Sharma. Featuring the legendary Jon Faddis on trumpet and Neel Murgai on sitar.

T&A.  (le) poisson rouge.  2014.

T&A. (le) poisson rouge. 2014.

Bombay Spleen…

A long time ago I met Tanuja Desai Hidier.  She wasn’t Desai Hidier yet.  Just Desai.  I placed an ad in the Village Voice looking for a singer.  I met 56 singers.  Tanuja was the 57th.  I knew Tanuja was going to be the singer when we shook hands.  I had known a few people before whom I have had musical chemistry with and I knew what it felt like.  Tanuja and I were bound for a colorful and chaotic collaboration.  io

It started with Io.  The band I needed a singer for.  Io was a confused band.  Fighting between early eighties post punk and seventies arena rock.  Our shows were blitzes of frenetic rhythms, distorted open chords and Tanuja screaming to be heard above the fray.  Then, we added a violinist.  Io lasted about fifteen months before Tanuja married and became Desai Hidier and moved to London.

The rock star pursuit of my life ended and I built a recording studio in Williamsburg, Brooklyn opening for business in 2004.  Just as that was happening, Tanuja published her first novel Born Confused and contacted me about helping to record a booktrack for it.

When We Were Twins was released the same year.  Five of the albums fourteen tracks were written by Tanuja and I under our new title T&A.

Since that time, T&A has written and recorded whenever the ocean between us closed enough to bring us together.  One of our projects, and my personal favorite, is the Ferocious Love EP from 2010.

But Tanuja has been a busy bee since then writing a new novel that was released this week.  Bombay Blues continues the story of her character Dimple Lala as she heads to Bombay for a family wedding.

tanujadesaihidierAnd once again, T&A wrote six songs for the book’s accompanying booktrack.  Produced by Dave Sharma, Bombay Spleen was released this week along with the book.

Out of all the work Tanuja and I have created over the past twelve years, these songs are the ones I am most proud of.  So far.  Many thanks and congratulations to Dave Sharma for doing a magnificent job on production and to all of the other songwriters and musicians who worked on the album.  I am grateful to have been a part of this energetic collaboration and look forward to the next.

The Waste Land…

waste_landSometime in the fall of 2010, I sat in a local Northern Manhattan diner to have breakfast with my friend and composer, Paul Brantley.

He was telling me about an Old English charm he was setting called For a Swarm of Bees.

As I listened, I was musing to myself how it was odd that I had never attempted to set a piece of literature to music.  I suppose, I thought, why would I have?  I had spent the past 20 years writing pop songs.  I wasn’t that type of “composer.”

After completing Ferocious Love, the latest release from my musical side project T&A with Tanuja Desai-Hidier in 2009, I was pretty much done with the stand-alone pop song.  I had longed for years to tell a larger story with my music and it wasn’t until the middle of 2010 that a story revealed itself.  I was in the midst of writing and recording my rock opera Pilgrimage when Paul and I sat down for breakfast that morning.  I was “on fire” during that time and thought, well, why not me?

The first thing that appeared in my mind was The Waste Land,  T.S. Eliot’s modern masterpiece published in 1922.tumblr_mk2njfAaxO1qaekxxo1_1280

In 1998 I went back to college after my first attempts at landing a record deal were unsuccessful.  I was burnt out and lost.  Lying low in school for a few years seemed like a good idea as I got my bearings realigned and figured it wouldn’t hurt to accumulate some credits.

During my second semester at Hunter College, I took a modern poetry course.  The first half of the term was spent on The Waste Land.

I was completely lost.  The poem is a collection of fragments.  And within these fragments are allusions to mythology, literature as far back as the 14th century, popular culture, religion, historical events, art, and T.S. Eliot’s own personal experiences.  Without an understanding of these allusions, the poem can seem enigmatic.  There is no narrative.  No narrator.  It is a pure work of modern literature.  One cannot be a passive observer.  One must seek out its mysteries to discover the treasure inside.

With no real college background and I deep aversion to any books that didn’t have anything to do with Star Wars, I was hopelessly out of my league.

But there was something about the language that took hold.  Even though I was denied at the time of its deeper meaning, the words swimming on top of the roiling broth of history kept me hooked.

And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.


As the years past, I revisited the poem often.  Using it’s power to help fuel my own creativity.

At the diner that morning, listening to Paul talk about the Old English charm about bees, I decided to set The Waste Land to music.

That night, sitting on the bed with my guitar, my copy of the poem opened in front of me, I worked out the first few lines.

I toyed around with it for a few months more as I finished up the first draft Pilgrimage, however, once that was done, I was exhausted.  The well was dry and I used the next three years to study filmmaking.

Then a few weeks before Christmas of last year, I sat down at the piano.

The time was right.  The well was again full and in just over three months of work, the first draft of The Waste Land is just about complete.

Deciding not to record it, I am instead scoring it and mean to keep the work as a performance piece until the time is right.

The goal is to workshop the piece sometime at the end of May.  Before then, I will be announcing a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the cost of the musicians and singers for the workshops.

2013 recap…

Back in October, I was able to clear my desk.  After returning from a trip to Buffalo for the premiere of Dry Bones, a film written and directed by Gregory Lamberson that I was an associate producer on, I sat down to finally get the Coyote Love music video Blame It and documentary Bettin’ Dirty Water “in the can.”

I also had a couple of work-for-hire gigs to make deadlines on including this music video from the Staten Island band Theater of the Absurd that I edited:

My musical side project with Tanuja Desai-Hidier, known as T&A, had an original song placed in the movie Other People’s Children starring Chad Michael Murray.  The movie, directed by Liz Hinlein, will be playing the festival circuit throughout 2014.

So with the production of five music videos, a short film, a documentary, making it onto a movie soundtrack, an associate producer credit and a bunch of work-for-hire gigs, 2013 wasn’t a bad year. I was starting 2014 with a clean slate and was ready to get to work.

The first thing I wanted to get moving on was a sci-fi short film.  But before I could start on it, I needed to do a quick green screen test with my daughter, Rose.  I set up the lights, the green screen and her Lego tree house and in just over an hour, created this clip:

The test was to put FCPX through its paces.  Could I do what I was seeing in my head with FCPX?

No.  Most definitely not.   I needed more power.

I needed After Effects.

That also meant I needed to learn After Effects.  So before the holidays took off, I sat and I learned.

The first test was to make a planet and animate it:

Okay.  Not bad.  Needs some tweaking but it’s a good start.

So as I was immersing myself in the world of After Effects, I was also writing the script for this untitled sci-fi short film.

The idea behind the short film is to combine live-action with Lego sets.  You know, for fun.

After a few weeks of pre-production, the Lego sets and all the space ships were built, the script was finished and I had a pretty good head start on the virtual sets I was building in After Effects.

And then Christmas happened and all that momentum came to a screeching halt.

Rose and Gus.  2013.

Rose and Gus. 2013.

Don’t get me wrong.  I loves me some Christmas.  I got little kids, for crying out loud.  How couldn’t I love Christmas?

But I knew once the holidays were over and the new year rolled in, I would find it difficult kicking that momentum back into gear.

And I was right.

The sci-fi film sits on hold for the moment as I take care another project that took hold during the holidays.  One that I will keep to myself for the time being.

Though I will say:

“I will show you fear in a handful of dust.”

For The Record…Part 1: 1992-1996

[This is the beginning of what will be an ongoing series documenting my musical journey through the past 22 years. It is important for me to get this story out into the ether for my children to one day discover and learn a little about their old man. Included will be photos, songs and musings of all my travels and experiences. And most importantly, about the love of music that guided me to where I am today.]

On June 4nd, 1992, I moved to New York City.

Baltimore.  1992.

Baltimore. 1992.

I was an indestructible force of youth and ignorance.

I was 21 years old and my name was Adam Michael Patro.

The safe warm womb that I vacated was white suburban Baltimore.

Once in New York, that ignorance paid off because if I had any clue about the level of talent and salesmanship needed to become a rock star in the early nineties, I wouldn’t have so murderously cut the umbilical cord.

A brief word on 1991, my last year in Baltimore.

Three things happened that year to cement my quest for rock stardom.

I discovered this record:

Nine Inch Nails, Pretty Hate Machine.  1989.

Nine Inch Nails, Pretty Hate Machine. 1989.

I’m fully aware of all the artists that inspired this record. It didn’t come out of a vacuum. All popular and culturally defining albums are born out of greatly unappreciated ones. But it was this album that tore through my spine and forced me to want to create. As all great art should.

I acquired the Atari 1040ST with Cubase 1.0. (First home computer with MIDI ports.)
For the music that I wanted to create this was the machine that I needed. The machine that all the professionals were using. This was about the time I came down with a serious case of gearitis. There is no cure.

And lastly, a musical epiphany occurred during the last song of Jane’s Addiction’s set at the first Lollapalooza that summer in Virginia that also featured Nine Inch Nails. (It was during that show that I passed out due to dehydration and somehow managed to convince the nurse at the first aid tent that I didn’t need to go to the hospital.)

Interestingly enough, it was during Stephen Perkin’s drum solo in Three Days that the musical spirit took hold. He bowed his head at the alter of drums and maniacally played a chorus of noise and groove that soon was accompanied by two other drummers from either side of the stage who joined in on floor toms Nitzer Ebb style. It was a glorious cacophony glued together by a racing heartbeat of eighth notes from Eric Avery’s low E string.

Maybe it was exhaustion after 8 hours of sun, hunger, dehydration and loud music. Maybe it was the mushrooms. Whatever it was, at that moment, I decided to be a musician. Six months later, the spirit whispered that it was time to head north. Destiny awaited.

Once in New York, it only took me 8 weeks to burn through the $8000 I had been saving for over a year working on the assembly line at the General Motors plant back in Baltimore and in my haste to plant roots in New York, settled on a $6.50 job pushing papers at a midtown Ford dealership. (I wasn’t really qualified to do anything else.) So I was out of money and couldn’t afford the $825 a month for the “one bedroom” apartment on the corner of Spring and Lafayette I had foolishly rented in Little Italy.

Fortunately, I had a cousin living on Thompson Street in the village who allowed me to stay with her. Temporarily.

As my first New York summer turned to fall, I hit my first low point. I was stuck at the Ford dealership, my cousin was getting restless and all my musical gear was in storage by the Holland Tunnel.

I should note that at this time I was a rather gifted pool player. Like “run-the-table, late night hustler, get chased out of the bar for being a shark” good. Now, I didn’t hustle or anything like that. What I did was spend most of my nights nursing a Budweiser at The Raccoon Lounge on Warren Street down by the World Trade Center and whipping any and all who dared cross my table. I even belonged to a city wide pool league.

In mid-November, my cousin’s patience ran out and she gave me two weeks to clear out. To be fair, other than playing pool, I was usually just hanging out on her couch, drinking her vodka and being depressed. I wasn’t even giving her any money for rent. She was right to send me on my way.

TowersBut where would I go?

That night, I sulked up to her Greenwich Village rooftop to smoke a badly needed cigarette. The early evening air was chilly and the sky glowed gold from the two imposing towers just to the South. And like a pair of stern yet loving parents, I felt safe under their presence.

I prayed.

Please, I don’t want to leave you. I belong here. I know that more than I have known anything so far in my life. I need help.

Help came the following morning with a phone call.

“Dude. I quit my job. I’m moving up in two weeks. You got to find a place.”

2645_1064374822591_6316037_nThat was Thomas Denman.

Thomas Denman moved from Fremont, Ohio to Baltimore to play guitar. In the Fall of 1991, he placed an ad in the Baltimore City Paper looking for fellow musicians which I responded to. He only lived a few minutes away by car and was the first person to seem genuinely excited about my music. We immediately hit it off and started making plans to form a band.

I had been composing songs for a few years by the time I met Tom. My primary writing instrument was a Roland D-20 multi-track keyboard that I somehow convinced my father to buy me with the little money he had saved up for my college education. My guitars skills at that point were in their infancy and I hadn’t yet the courage to write on it.

Baltimore. 1989.

Baltimore. 1989.

Besides composing, I also had a considerable amount of experience working in different recording studios around the Baltimore area. An example of the work I was doing at the time was a song called Lied 2 U. (I was a Prince fanatic all through the 80’s and couldn’t help myself.)

The name of the recording studio and engineer are lost on me, however, I remember the sessions well enough. This song was one of a three song cassette that I was going to lure some hot shot A&R guy to sign me to a fat record contract as soon as I got off the bus in New York City. It was recorded onto a Tascam 16 Track 1″ reel-to-reel and mixed down to DAT. A high school friend and former band mate, Paul Krysiak, played electric guitar.

So back to the phone call.

It’s not as though Tom’s call was a total miracle. Months before I left Baltimore, we had made tentative plans that he would eventually join me. It’s just the timing couldn’t have been any better.

All I had to do was find an $800 a month two bedroom apartment and secure a lease even though my potential roommate didn’t have a job and I barely made enough to cover half the rent.

Oh, and I had two weeks to make it happen.
Carlton St.
After an exhaustive search and only days to go, I ended up breaking down in tears on the couch of a gay couple’s brownstone in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. They were renting a railroad apartment on the top floor and were reluctant to give it to me for the reasons already stated. Taking pity on me, arrangements were made that they would have a phone conversation with Tom’s mom back in Fremont to get some financial assurances.

On December 2nd, 1992, Tom left Baltimore for a city he barely knew and to a new home he had never seen.

And I was finally able to liberate the rest of my meager belongings and musical gear from storage. I was whole again and ready to fulfill the promise of my spiritual awakening.

[Shortly after settling into our new place, Tom and I immediately begun to write. The first piece of music we conceived was, ironically enough, the first and last thing I composed on the computer rig in New York City. This piece of music sat on a cassette for 19 years until I resurrected it for the Pilgrimage opera. More on that in this previous post.]

In early January, 1993, Tom and I answered the Village Voice ad of a drummer and bass player who were looking for a guitar player and singer. We met bassist Helder Coelho and drummer Ray Dominici a few days later at some skanky rehearsal spot in Lower Midtown and Riverzone was born.

Thomas / Ray / Helder / Adam.  Philadelphia Photo Shoot, 1993.

Thomas / Ray / Helder / Adam. Philadelphia Photo Shoot, 1993.

With my computer rig in storage for most of my first six month in New York City , all I had was my Ovation acoustic guitar. So during those six tumultuous months, when I wasn’t working my mind-numbing desk job, playing pool or getting drunk watching Seinfeld, I worked my guitar chops enough to not only begin writing songs, but to also assume acoustic guitars duties within our fledgling band.

We soon acquired a tiny room behind a Fotomat on Varick Street in Tribeca for use as a rehearsal spot and began wood-shedding.

The first set of 8 songs were born quickly with the sound of my writing altered dramatically with the acoustic guitar. The lyrics lingered on themes of leaving home and heartbreak.

I’m uncertain what was the first song I wrote for Riverzone, however, I am sure it was one of either two songs. Mighty Have Fallen or To Be Without.

Mighty Have Fallen was recorded twice. The first version was tracked digitally at Tiki Recording Studios in 1994 with Mark Gaide on Tascam D-88’s through a custom built Trident console. The second version was tracked at Cove City Sound in 1995 with Dan Hetzel on a 2″ 24 track Studer though a SSL console.

This is the 1995 version.

After six months of constant rehearsing, we played our first show at a club called Street Level that use to infest the corner of 1st Ave and Houston Street.

The date was July 21st, 1993. My first New York City gig.

Adam  and Helder @ Kenny Castaway's, 1993.

Adam and Helder @ Kenny Castaway’s, 1993.

Adam @ Tiki Recording Studio, 1995.

Adam @ Tiki Recording Studio, 1995.

It was also the day I bought my ever faithful Washburn D10M acoustic guitar. I couldn’t in my right mind play my first gig in New York on an Ovation guitar. So right after work, I jetted down to the village and hit Carmine Street Guitars. Standing tall on her stand, she was waiting for me by the window as I rushed into the store. The tag read $185. It was the best $185 I ever spent. Over the next 18 years, I would write over a 100 songs on that guitar. She sits under my bed, waiting for me to die so that the two of us may be cremated together, our ashes cast into the Arizona desert.

Riverzone was the first band on that night. Well, considering it was the middle of a New York summer, it might as well have been the late afternoon. The heat of the setting sun blazed through the windows that looked out onto the stench of the Lower East Side. And besides my sister, girlfriend (visiting from Baltimore) and a few people at the bar, the place was dead. But none of that mattered, because as far as I was concerned, I had arrived. In the span of just 13 months since moving from Baltimore, I was in a band and we were playing our first gig. It was only a matter of time before we were playing arenas. The certainty of this fact was absolute and I played the show like the rock star I was going to transcend into.

I was so comfortable on the stage that halfway through the set I took off my shoes. This was my house. One that would soon be many. I was pretty damn sure of myself.

How was the gig in reality? It couldn’t have been very good. However, the shows would get better as we continued to rehearse ferociously and our confidence grew. So much so that it was time to spend some money and record our first demo.

RZdemoThe Riverzone demo was recorded at Tiki Recording Studios in Glen Cove, Long Island in December, 1993. Mark Gaide was the engineer and we tracked on the brand spanking new 8-track, 16-bit Tascam D-88 digital recorders.

The band recorded the basics live and then overdubbed additional guitars, vocals and keyboards before mixing it through Tiki’s custom built Trident console.

The demo was also a wake-up call for the limitations of our drummer, Ray Dominici. During playback, deep into the mixing process, we were astonished to discover that not only was Ray playing the same beat in every song, he wasn’t holding the band together as tightly as he should have been.

A few months after the Tiki sessions, the search began for a new drummer. When we found the new guy through a Village Voice ad, Ray was fired in our little room behind the Fotomat. It was incredibly painful. His playing wasn’t the only issue. Throughout the early part on 1994, he was becoming more and more unreliable. Ray was a livery car driver and had a small family but was having issues at home. And those issues were impeding our rise. It was time for him to go, however, he was not only our first drummer he was also a good friend. As he left with drumsticks in hand and his head down, I kissed his cheek. It was the last time I ever saw Ray.

The new guy, however, was a godsend. He was a big, friendly bloke who had a wrist that made the snare go WAP! In my mind, we were as good as signed. With the backbone the new guy added to the songs, our fortunes were set.

That was until after our first gig together at Don Hill’s. The new guy had gone back to the rehearsal spot later that night and took out his drums and then called me the next day at work to say he was out.

I was devastated.

In my mind, we had climbed that mountain. The band had a year of gigs under our belts, a tight set of music and a four song demo. Riverzone was prepared for the next level. It wasn’t supposed to go down like this.

This was going to set us back at least six months. And God, to go through the whole nightmare of placing the Village Voice ad which then leads to the bullshit phone calls, the waste of mailing out tapes and then the fucking torture of auditions. And then when you think you found the guy, there was no guarantee he wanted to be in the band.

I was nauseous when I called Tom. He didn’t take it the news well.

Then along came Richie.

Helder / Adam / Thomas / Richie.  Tribeca, 1994.

Helder / Adam / Thomas / Richie. Tribeca, 1994.

I’m not sure where Richie came from.

He kinda showed up when we needed him and then was gone when we didn’t.

I couldn’t even tell you how many gigs we played together.

What I know is that he kept Riverzone alive long enough for us to find the last guy. Jared Feldman.

After one our countless Kenny’s Castaways gigs in the fall of 1994, Jared’s father approached us about having his son play in our band. Jared’s band, Wild Kingdom, was playing later that night, so we stuck around to check ’em out and we must have liked what we heard because we took his dad up on his offer.

Jared, on the other hand, wasn’t as thrilled as his dad was about playing in our band. So due to creative differences and mostly because of the bitch of a commute Jared had to do from the middle of
Long Island to the city, he immediately bowed out.

It was also about this time that we said goodbye to our little room behind the Fotomat. Without a committed drummer, there was no way to justify the $400 a month rent.

Once again we were rudderless.

So a plan was hatched.

After a year and a half of constant playing, we didn’t seem to be making a dent. The audience for our gigs were still mostly friends and even though we would usually get a good response, we couldn’t turn that into a buzz. Remember, this was 1994. There was no e-mail list. No social media to promote gigs. It was the band and the songs. You went out and played hard and if you had it, that buzz would ignite and then the record labels would start seeping through the walls of the club.

Riverzone lacked that buzz.

So we decided on a backdoor approach. The band would record three album ready songs and shop them to the labels. All we needed was a few thousand dollars, a great studio and a drummer.

Money wasn’t an issue. The three of us decided to pitch in $2000 a piece. Tom and Helder had decent jobs and there just so happened to be a remaining $2000 sitting in my college savings account back in Baltimore. Considering that it seemed a foregone conclusion that I wasn’t go back to college, my dad gave me the money.

Cove City Sound.  1995.

Cove City Sound. 1995.

Tom’s boss and Riverzone’s pseudo-manager, Alexis, got a line on a studio in Glen Cove, Long Island. Cove City Sound is owned by Richie Cannata, famed saxophonist for Billy Joel and the Beach Boys. One of the staff recording engineers, Dan Hetzel, was assigned to produce the tracks.

And what about the drummer? After much debate, it was decided to ask Jared if he would record with us. He balked. We offered him money. He agreed.

Jared / Adam / Helder / Tom / Alexis.  Cove City Sound, 1995.

Jared / Adam / Helder / Tom / Alexis. Cove City Sound, 1995.

I would love to be able to write about how after spending all that time and money recording those three tracks, a bidding war erupted amongst the major labels. Riverzone eventually signed the biggest deal, we hired Jared, finished the record and went on tour opening up for Hootie and the Blowfish. (Then when the second record flopped, we found ourselves millions of dollars in debt and having to play county fairs. Opening up for Hootie and the Blowfish.)

There was an important caveat to this whole thing working.

We needed to know people at record labels to send the songs to.

We knew no one.

Richie Cannata was extremely gracious to give Alexis the number of a entertainment lawyer in Midtown whom we immediately called and arranged a meeting. A meeting that we had to pay $300 for the pleasure of having, mind you.

“These songs are too polished. I don’t here the band. I don’t think there’s anything I can do for you.”

That was it.

Our only card and we played it.

Tom, Helder and I stood on the platform of Columbus Circle waiting for the A train in shock. I remember Tom and Helder staring at their shoes. Almost $8000 in the hole and we were right back where we started before the whole Cove City affair.

I, on the other hand, was energized.

Let’s take a step back.

In May of 1994, Tom and I moved from Fort Greene to a neighborhood at the top of Manhattan called Inwood. Helder had been living in the building for several years and was sick of driving us into what was a pretty dangerous neighborhood at the time late at night after gigs and rehearsals and lobbied hard for us to move into his ‘hood. The two bedroom apartment that was available was far larger with ample space for our home recording studio.

studio1At the heart of our set-up was the Tascam 688 8-track cassette recorder. Sweet little machine. Then there was my Atari 1040ST that I would program the drums and keyboards and then “stripe” a SMPTE tone on the eighth track on the 688 with a JLCooper PPS-1 box so to sync both machines up. All very archaic. But it got the job done. Riverzone just didn’t rehearse endlessly, play gigs or dump thousands of dollars at giant recording studios, we also constantly wrote and recorded demos.

There were a few new tunes that Tom and I had been toying with sitting on the 688 that had a slightly different sound then our previous tunes. Instead of the long progressive type acoustic guitar driven songs, these songs were shorter bust of electric guitar pop.

That midtown entertainment lawyer was right. I knew it. The three Cove City songs were layered to the point of exhaustion. There was no fire. No urgency. The band wasn’t there because there was no band. Just musicians playing parts. Riverzone was a seasoned rock band. We needed to capture that. Crudely, if possible.

I waited a few days before calling a band meeting. My proposal was simple. We were going to record again, however, this time it would be in a a cheap ass hole-in-the-wall recording studio somewhere in the city. We would track the new songs live. If there was something to capture, we would capture it. Lightening in a bottle. We owed it to ourselves to try. After everything we’ve put ourselves through, we had to know.

I spent a few weeks visiting hole-in-the-wall studios in the city and was leaning toward one on 14th Street when Tom and Helder approached me with their own proposal. They wanted to go back to Tiki Recording Studios. I was reluctant. I felt we missed out on that gritty New York City recording experience. The new songs needed that seediness the Rolling Stones captured on Some Girls. Plus I didn’t want to go out to record in Glen Cove, LI anymore. However, I relented.

Once again, we hired Jared to play the drums.

Such Things

Such Things

The Such Things sessions were actually very enjoyable. We had a good working relationship with Mark Gaide, the songs were rehearsed and we seemed to know exactly what we wanted to do.

The basic tracks were recorded live with very little additional guitar overdubbing. All we needed was for me to nail the lead vocals and we were set. Of course, I get a bad cold right in the middle of the sessions. I was able to muscle through my tracking with the help of plenty of Guinness Stout juicing me along, but it was far from my best performance.

After the songs were mixed and the CD’s manufactured, I sat down and listened to all our hard work. I couldn’t have been more unsatisfied. We spent too much money recording four songs at Tiki when we could have recorded up to 8 songs of similar quality elsewhere in the city. And even though the songs were okay and everybody played well, the sound just wasn’t what I wanted. It needed to be dryer. More in your face and raw sounding. These mixes were drenched in reverb and once again, my vocals were buried.

And the only person I can blame for it all is myself.

I tried to take the reins and guide the band in a certain direction. I heard what I wanted in my head and was pretty sure how to achieve it but I gave up that control when Tom and Helder decided on going back to Tiki. I became a passive player and allowed myself to get caught in the stream. Tom and Helder were a few years older than me with real jobs. I looked up to them as if they were my big brothers. I just didn’t have it in me at the time to tell them no.

Would it have mattered in the end if I had gotten what I wanted?

Probably not.

It was the fall of 1995. We had our first EP, Such Things, and that was about it. Jared was still reluctantly playing with us as long as we traveled an hour an a half out to Long Island to rehearse at his space.

The gigs started winding down and speaking for myself, I was getting sick of the songs. Once there was a point, not too long ago, when I felt that I couldn’t live without this band. Now I wasn’t so sure I could live with it.

Riverzone played its last show…I’m not sure when. It was at some joint across the street from where Street Level used to be.

Unfortunately, the gig was recorded. It was a terrible show. At one point, someone from the previous band accidentally picks up one of Tom’s guitars and begins walking off with it. You can hear Tom yelling for the dude to stop on the tape as the three of us kept playing. Helder broke a string. No one was there to see us. It had finally sputtered out. There was no more gas.

It was never spoken. Tom began to drift away. I saw less and less of him. Then in March, 1996, as I sat on the futon eating my daily ration of frozen chicken and tater tots, Tom walked out of his room and told me he had found his own place and was moving out in May. He then turned and walked back into his room.

I sat stunned. That was it. After four years and a mountain of dreams, it was all gone. I cried. I cried it all away.

We had done so much and gotten little of anything in return. There was only two things to do at that moment. Give up or try to find a way to carry on.

I just needed a little time to figure it out.

Riverzone.  1995.

Riverzone. 1995.

Bettin’ Dirty Water (The Coyote Love Documentary)…

The Coyote Love documentary Bettin’ Dirty Water had its premiere last night at the home of the most gracious and talented Jane Stein and Jeff Nash. Thanks, guys.

I started compiling footage for the documentary in the early part of 2012 with the intention of putting together a movie exploring the lives of working class musicians in New York City as they cope with the ever evolving musical landscape.

Besides interviewing most of the band, I followed them to numerous rehearsals, gigs and recording sessions.

I soon realized the story I wanted to tell had been told to death. Yes, there is a glut of acts out there vying for precious social media time. Because of this, the music these acts are releasing have little or no value in the minds of the listener. The “music industry” is in a state of transition as we move from the one paradigm to another. These transitions are never easy and are always marred with some level of upheaval.

Putting aside that broad commentary, the real story slowly revealed itself during the editing process. Hank Wagner, the creative force behind Coyote Love, and his sincere take no prisoners attitude that propels him toward the goal of having a self sustaining musical act was the story that resonated. I decided to keep the focus on him and the music.

I am deeply grateful to Hank and the band for allowing me into their lives to capture and create, without any instruction or guidance, this film.