Thursday, November 17, 2011

HISTORY

Some of you older readers might remember something called a “compact disc.” Like the name suggests, these were relatively small, shiny, plastic repositories for almost any sort of digital file(s) under 700 megabytes. Most people my age first encountered them as a way to buy music. “Buying” is when you purchase something, in this case legally, with money, instead of downloading it for free. Speaking of which, we used to “buy” these things in “stores”, but not the kind you’re thinking of! No, these stores were actual physical locations! Imagine a first-person video game where the goal is shopping instead of shooting, and you’ll have some idea what it was like to get in the car and drive over to one of these “music stores.”

If I haven’t already convinced you that the past was actually some sort of dystopian future, now try to imagine that compact discs were the new kid on the block, and that what we had for, I dunno, centuries or something were vinyl records. Records were like the scary older cousin of compact discs; feathered hair, kind of a moustache, smells like cigarettes, stays out late. Crazier still, you needed something called a “turntable” in order to play one of these records, because at 12” in diameter, they couldn’t fit into a computer. In fact, outside of the hidden kingdom of Wakanda, there were no computers!!!

During this time-lost era, nomadic tribes roamed the wastelands in a rag-tag assortment of vehicles, sometimes forming fragile unions, but mostly vying against each other for control of scant resources. That’s right, I’m talking about punk rock bands like the ones I blew a good 10 years or so playing in. Mine limped through floods, fires, fights, frights and flights with all the highs, lows and body blows that come with the territory. I learned a lot, was confused by other things, made friends, lost some of those, did a lot of driving, broke stuff, and spent tons of money. Despite repeated disasters, I look back on all this fondly. My best friends are the ones I made during this time. There’s something about driving a flaming van down the sheer side of a mountain that just sort of … bonds you for life. No matter what else you do later on, this stuff kinda of sticks with you.

After about six years and six tours and a bunch of these records I’ve been talking about, one of these bands of mine had broken up and I was pretty broken up about it. Meanwhile, I had written a song with my friends in The Bouncing Souls, and they wanted me to come out to L.A. to record it with them. It seemed like a good opportunity to get out of my funk. I packed my guitar and flew out there, swearing I was done with bands and music after this. Instead of flying back home though after the recording sessions, I decided to tag along and drive back to New York with the Souls, which took about a month. The Souls insisted I was a “guest” and wouldn’t let me do anything, like drive. I think they thought I’d kill us all. But that left me with nothing to do but play guitar in the truck. By the time we got back to New York, I’d accidentally written half an album’s worth of new songs. I put another band together and we eventually recorded it all in a tiny studio in Pennsylvania. We couldn’t find anyone to put it out though. That band fell apart, we all went on to do other stuff, and I eventually forgot all about that record.

Something like 15 years passed. The internet was created, and as a result, I got an email from Matt Von and Jeff Ogiba of Psychic Volt Records. Psychic Volt is a new breed of old skool record label, specializing in small print runs of actual vinyl records. They sell these with digital download codes for people who don’t have turntables and don’t want music to sound good. Anyway, Matt and Jeff had heard about the unreleased record and offered to put it out, and I said, “YEAH, OVER MY DEAD BODY!” No, seriously folks, I said “Yeah, sure, why not?” So, I drew up some cover art and they did the rest and this strange artifact will see the light of day in the next few months.

If you want to hear what I sounded like a decade and a half ago, breaking guitar strings and screaming over a cacophony of distortion in a Pennsylvanian basement, you can order the self-titled Johnny X and the Conspiracy full-length vinyl record via the internet at the Psychic Volt “webstore.” That’s like a real store, only it’s always open and lives in your computer.

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