Death by Mixtape

So you wanna be a rock and roll star? Don't. Just don't.

If you read music criticism with any regularity, you’ve surely noticed the disquieting number of actual musicians moonlighting as rock journalists. The temerity of these people astonishes and saddens me. How can they justify bringing technical expertise, insider insight, and at least a remedial understanding of composition into a profession that’s built on the principle of talking out of one’s ass until one’s sphincter incurs laryngitis? It’s an outright affront to my particular, specialized skill set, not to mention it’s unnaturaldidn’t these jerks see the 90210 where a viciously panned campus artiste pithily informed Brandon that “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, write reviews”?

You don’t see me writing songs and sharing my “vision” with the worldnamely, because I haven’t the first fucking idea how to. I’ve played guitar since high-school commencement and like to tell people that with a little time, I can “pick up” most pop songs they’d hear on the radio. I like to tell people that because it’s a bold-faced fucking lie that masks my gross incompetence. I don’t know scales. I can’t read sheet music. I can’t pick out individual notes, much less solo. I’ve never written a respectable song in my life, andespecially as I careen toward the customary physical and mental collapse inherent with turning 30 [Watch that, 29-and-counting Ed.]I have no aspirations to start now.

Yet, these advanced rocker/journalist hybrids are ubiquitous, menacingly asserting their obvious superiority like a battalion of T-1000s. So, in a noble effort to combat obscurity, I spent the entirety of my cherished Thursday eveningThursday is the new Saturday, you knowcreating and recording one original rock and roll song, with vocals. Just one, mindto appease you, the reader, and to meet your increasingly goddamn unattainable standards. I mean, that pussy John Lennon cranked out a buttload of these things, and most of those sucked. How tough could it actually be?

6:15 P.M. Nestle into pajamas, consume three-quarters of a large pepperoni pizza, and contemplate my “vocal aesthetic” (i.e., Cookie Monster or faux-Brit falsetto?) while flipping through Maxim‘s swimsuit issue.

6:30 P.M. Search for instruction manual to Tascam 420 four-track recorder. Find instruction manuals for every piece of technology I have owned since eighth grade . . . with notable exception of Tascam 420 four-track recorder. On plus side, unearth reams of undergraduate-era “poetry.” Upon review, not only refrain from using cat to flog myself to death, but seriously consider applying passage “This is my body, relieved of blood” as chorus to tonight’s imminent masterpiece.

7:15 P.M. Repeatedly fail to master art of taping original two-chord progression over eight-year-old car tape of Use Your Illusion II. Decide I need more blank cassettes.

7:20 P.M. Opt to “wind sprint” 15 blocks to drugstore to acquire more blank cassettes, merging calisthenics with rock and roll, à la Olivia Newton-John. Thirty seconds later, vomit three-quarters of large pepperoni pizza onto sidewalk.

7:45 P.M. Return from drugstore with five blank, 90-minute, high bias Maxell cassettes. Call ex-housemate Arlie in Los Angeles for Tascam 420 “hot tips,” but he’s on a tight deadline, frantically assembling grad-school applications. Pretend to comprehend minutiae of impromptu, frazzled 15-second how-to session, hang up, accidentally drop Epiphone guitar, cracking its neck. Loudly suggest that meowing, desperately thirsty cat shut her “fucking yapper.”

7:50 P.M. Perfect distorted, staccato two-chord progression to the degree where I can comfortably thrash around in headphones as I play. New housemate Jeff enters attic in second attempt to unwittingly encourage me to talk more shit about my beloved, quasi-native Cleveland, scaring the living shitand memory of said two-chord progressionout of me. First attempt: Jeff witnessed me sauntering around wearing a tank top and nothing else. Consider working this experience into video for tonight’s imminent masterpiece.

8 P.M. Tune to Drop D, a half-step down, aka the Linkin Park tuning. Am officially ready to “fuck shit up.”

8:45 P.M. Devise entire two-minute, 12-second “song,” complete with intro, verse, pre-chorus, chorus, and bridge, which sounds suspiciously similar to Linkin Park’s “One Step Closer.” Tune guitar down another step, aka Isis tuning. Am officially ready to “artfully fuck shit up artfully.”

9:30 P.M. Devise brand-new two-minute, 12-second “song,” which sounds suspiciously similar to Isis if they had no idea how to play guitar. Although entire song contains less than 10 chords, each recorded version is beset by mangled notes and bends, inconsistencies in tempo, and an irreparably awkward transition to “triumphant” chorus.

10:30 P.M. Plug in microphone and begin warbling lyrics to Sunny Day Real Estate’s “In Circles.” Just to practice. Just to see how I sound over my song. Just to kick around melodies and techniques.

10:31 P.M. Unplug microphone.

10:32 P.M. Turn off amp.

10:33 P.M. Insert Almost Famous into DVD player.

11:30 P.M. Forget if dorky teen journalist protagonist “gets” Kate Hudson in the end. Fall asleep.

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