A week or so ago I sat down to write this thing, then stopped before I even started. I wasn't about to wrap up a year like this one until I was 100 percent sure it was over. For the past several years many have been cautious about New Year's Eve, anticipating not just a few traffic deaths, fireworks accidents or DWI busts, but some sort of catastrophe that grabs the attention of the world. I don't blame Osama Bin Laden for this. Instead I blame The Poseidon Adventure. It seems no one thought twice about the year's ultimate amateur night out until this movie was released in 1972. If you haven't seen it, it's about a luxury liner that is capsized by a tidal wave at the stroke of midnight, turning whooping joy into shrieking horror in a matter of seconds. It's better than Titanic, because it's shorter and the story line doesn't get fluffed up by love triangles or Celine Dion. And I'll never hear the words "happy new year" the same way again.
I think we can all agree that 2001 was a bad year for America. Even before the image of the burning Twin Towers was visible in every direction, things kinda sucked. Everyone seemed hell-bent on making a reality TV show out of everything, and the very act of creating reality TV makes it unreal. It was almost as if we needed something real, something genuine, to jump-start our senses again, and on September 11, we got it. Even then, we didn't know how we were supposed to feel. We couldn't be angry because it wasn't P.C., and we couldn't be funny, either. Some tried to declare comedy a dead art form at a time when we needed the healing power of humor more than ever. Fortunately they failed, and America is laughing again. Sure, we're only allowed to laugh at farts, but that's fine. I have a baby in the house now, so our supply of flatulent humor has grown by a third.
Having said that, I'd like to go on the record and say that in spite of the rest of the country's woes, this has been a really good year for me. I financed and released an album this year, it came out at a time when people could appreciate it and it's doing pretty well. I've found that people would rather hear the record than come out and watch me play, and ultimately that's how I would have it. In June I met one of my childhood idols, Biff Rose, and found a character study worth a hundred songs. One of my live shows in November was attended by Bono, Kevin Spacey and No Doubt. I got to meet them and through them I learned once and for all that I don't suck. Thanks, y'all. I did a few commercials this year and made a few bucks, and I got to score my first string arrangement, which was performed by the U.S. Air Force band and aired nationally. I had sushi in Hollywood, I had curries in England, I had haggis in Scotland, I had pizza in Manhattan, I had a beer in Berkley, and I had a joint in Oregon. And on December 10th, my son Dexter was born.
Here's to an even better and more exciting 2002.
Happy New Year.
Well now, this has been the longest gap between newsletters in the history of darinmusic.com. But these six months have felt more like one big one to me - having a kid kinda does that. It also kinda leaves you with little time for much else, so most of the time it's either create or report. Right now is a rare moment in which I actually have time to do both.
This year has, for the most part, been nothing less than blissful, thanks to a huge bag of sugar named Dexter. But as a bonus, most of my work has been done here at home, since I now have my own Pro Tools setup and have been recording like a madman. Last month I wrapped up production on Craig Marshall's debut solo effort, which has been recorded sporadically at five different studios over a period of nineteen months. We've had the help of several guest musicians, including Tony Scalzo (Fastball), session whizzes Michael Ramos and George Reiff and Austin legend Ron Flynt. I also helped out on drums, guitar and backing vocals, and David Baerwald was kind enough to help with recording gear. In addition to this project, I've put together several commercial ditties here at the house, many of which are currently airing on national TV.
This year's SXSW conference (see photos page) was not as insanely busy for me as the previous one, due to fewer drumming commitments, so I got to spend more quality time seeing bands and making new friends (hello Steve, Foscoe, Jenny and Jeffrey). The showcase itself just barely escaped disaster at the hands of the fire marshall, who ticketed the club and cleared it out moments before my set. But the few who actually managed to get in had a great time, though I could neither see nor hear them. I could hear the band, however, which this time around featured Kenneth Dowling (bass), Kevin Pearson (drums), Derek Morris (keys) and the return of David Lucas (guitar). These guys brought the D Murf live jive up to a new level, and since that night we've never looked back. But as many of you know, the backing band around here is an ever-revolving roster of musicians, and it's almost completely different nowadays, but still no less talented. Currently I'm using hometown hero Kevin McKinney (Soulhat) on guitar, which is a dream come true, and Tripp Wiggins is back on drums after a long stint in London.
In other news, My first solo CD, Solitarium, has been hard to find lately. But I'm glad to say it is back in circulation again, and you can order copies right here at darinmusic.com by clicking on "store", directly to your left. Austinites beware; look out for K-Tel Hit Machine, the newest local supergroup which features myself, my old pal Mike Belile, Johnny Goudie and members of The Real Heroes. We play the hottest and gooey-cheesiest superhits from the 70's with all the rock, style and panache of Hedwig. Okay, that's a pretty big hype, but the buzz is for real. Lately a large crowd of fans has generated spontaneously like the onions in my backyard, for no reason that we can see except that it's just fun.
And if rock ain't fun, it's fucked.
I've declared this day to be one without television, choosing to avoid not only the media feeding frenzy that milks tragedy for every last drop, but also the rest of the infotainment community that lives to exploit each of the seven deadly sins in the name of consumerism.
Besides, now that American Idol is over, what else is there?
I choose as well to reflect not just on the events of one year ago, but on the events since. There should be no more doubt that we're at our best when things are worst, but what concerns me is how we are when things aren't quite so bad. With our youngest and finest overseas hunting down the bad guys, one ponders, how far have we really come here at home? Is America any less narcissistic today than last year? Nope. Americans still believe that we are God's gift to the planet Earth, and what's good for us is good for the world. Our conflict in the Middle East will end only when the first McDonald's opens in Bagdhad. Period.
Next I must look inward and ask how far I myself have come over the past year. Do I still procrastinate? Do I still confuse and frustrate the hell out of my wife? Am I still a nose-picker? A resounding 'yes' to all of the above. My nine month-old son has come much further than his old man. He already has more star power that I'll ever posess, and I think the reason is clear: eyebrows. they had to have come from Mom; they certainly didn't come from me, and boy do they rock. They lay his future out before him like a plush red carpet. I'm not kidding. This kid is so damn cute, I'm thinking of changing his sirname to Culkin. Don't believe me? Check out the photos page.
Besides writing a new batch of tunes for the next project, whatever that is, I've been focusing lately on my latest drumming assignment(s). I'm playing behind my old pal Kevin McKinney (see previous letter below), performing his solo material, and I'm also playing for his other band, local sensation Soulhat. This is the most fun gig yet, since I've been a fan for years, and there's plenty of creative stimulus, which I never get enough of. K Mac also turned me on to the new Flaming Lips record (Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots), which has become a favorite of mine. Other discs in my changer at the moment are:
Spoon: Kill the Moonlight; The Rolling Stones: Between the Buttons; Andrea Perry: Two; Kevin Mckinney: Mcvein in Green.
That's it for this month. Oh, one more thing. Look for Craig Marshall's debut CD, "Popular Crimes" later this month.
Happy Something. Anything.
BOXING DAY MAKES ISC FINALS LIST
A couple of months ago, sort of on a lark, I submitted an edit of Boxing Day and a check for $30 to the International Songwriting Competition, which is sort of like the old John Lennon contest from a few years back but with much less hype and publicity. I thought at worst I'd have a small tax write-off and a chance that panelist Andy Summers might hear a song of mine. Next thing I know the tune shows up on a list of sixty finalists chosen from around the globe. You can vote for the song yourself if you visit the ISC website (once you're there, go to "about ISC").
Othernewswise, Craig Marshall's debut disc, Popular Crimes, produced and drummed by me, is now available over the internet. I recommend finding it at NotLame Music.
TRISH AND DARIN TO REUNITE FOR HOMETOWN GIG
Trish and I have been playing acoustic shows together since the mid eighties, but we haven't played one in our hometown of Houston in at least ten years. So this month we've decided to do one, what the hell. It'll happen on Thursday, December 19th at the Continental Club downtown. We'll play a lot of new material and plenty of old classics as well. Those of you who've never seen T&D together with just a couple of guitars should get a kick out of the chemistry. It's rather cool.
After that I'm taking the rest of the year off. In addition to doing the Christmas thing I'll be celebrating little Dexter's first birthday, recording a bit with the guys from Cotton Mather, reading, and doing a bit of work around the house. Being my own landlord ain't so bad. By the way, while you're out record shopping this month, pick up the Band's Music From Big Pink. I recommend that one because I know you already have the latest from Beck.
A happy and safe holiday season to all.
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