Soup

Peter maneuvered swiftly through the living room, attacking all surfaces with vicious swipes of his duster. His breath buzzed and popped dryly in his throat, constantly near the brink of a coughing fit as he unleashed torrential downpours of disinfectant upon his desk, tables and bookshelf. Dragging a rag quickly with meticulousness across the coffee table, he hocked and sloshed his mucus around, trying desperately to shake loose whatever it was that had been causing him such discomfort all morning.

It had been the strangest sensation to wake with: shallow breathing and a tight restriction all down the throat, accompanied by an incessant dryness. Peter was shocked by his condition, having rarely ever experienced more than a few light colds over his 26 years. Despite a practically non existent social life, he always made it a point to take good care of himself, keeping his body healthy and fit. This consisted of a routine morning work-out regiment, strict diets and maintaining a high standard of cleanliness within his apartment.

He was well aware of the futility of his current cleaning frenzy. It had only been two days since the last thorough cleansing, and now he was feeling almost disappointed by the thin patches of dust he swept away, knowing that they meant he was no closer to relieving himself from irritated, prickled swallowing. Slumping down into his computer chair, he decided to log on and get some work done, in hopes of distracting himself for a little while.

Thanks to a doctor's note declaring a diagnose of extreme social anxiety, Peter was able to score a job working from his computer at home. He had anxiety about his co-workers at the call centre being bitter about him landing such a cushy deal right out of the gate, but the fact of the matter was that barely anyone there was even aware of him; still, he embraced the anonymity of his position. He would just click away quietly in his apartment, entering payroll and adjusting schedules, safe from the world, within the confinement of solitude.

It wasn’t that he hated people, but more that he hated the way they made him feel about himself. Growing up, he became more awkward every year, never quite getting the gist of social interaction. His anxious and nervous behaviour in most situations would make others uncomfortable, and after a while it was as if he emitted some sort of negative pheromone that caused others to just ignore him all together. As this caught on over the years, Peter would shrink a little more each time, making him even easier to ignore. Eventually, he became something of a recluse.

He did crave recognition though; so even though it caused him immense amounts of discomfort, he would occasionally stand on street corners whenever he was forced to leave the house for food. He'd stare at the passing crowds, coughing lightly in hopes of catching an eye or turning a head. When the heads stayed staring straight ahead, marching passed him, he would experience a conflicting mixture of disappointment and relief.

He tried powering through his work, focusing intently on the numbers blinking across the screen, but the relentless wheeze cutting through him was becoming harder and harder to ignore. Every time he heard the squeaks slipping out from behind his teeth, his left eye would flutter and twitch as his hands balled up involuntarily. He made his way hastily to the kitchen, grabbing a mason jar and shoving it under the tap.

Peter couldn’t believe the level of relief he was experiencing as he drained the jar repeatedly. He had only planned on one drink, but as soon as the cool water hit him, he went into a feverish rampage of filling and chugging, filling and chugging. Every time mouthfuls made their way down his throat, it was as if his lungs were suddenly swollen with clean, fresh air. Twenty minutes later, the hydrated trance broke and Peter was leaning against the counter, looking and feeling incredibly refreshed. He couldn’t believe how good he felt and how easily he had lost track of time. But then he felt it; the crackling and tensing began to creep back in, quickly eliminating the short lived sense of relief.

Infuriated, he rushed to the bathroom, opening his mouth as wide as he could and looked into the mirror. Just like the previous attempts he had made through the day, he could see nothing, but he knew there was something there. Hesitating for a moment, he took a deep breath and shoved his index finger deep into his throat, exploring the sides as he cringed and gagged with discomfort. Eventually he stopped with a shock, feeling several strange, hardened notches lining the inside of his throat. They were just out of reach, so he could only touch a few, but could feel many more making their way down.

Scouring the internet, Peter hit every version of WebMD the World Wide Web had to offer. Could it be tumours? Nodes? Blisters, pustules, cankers? Maybe even old popcorn kernels? The online medical forums were great for fuelling paranoia and filling his head with ideas, but no answers were found no matter how deep he searched.

He reached for his glass of water, leaning his head back as the liquid soothed him, rewarding him with full, healthy breaths. Then, a strange thought hit him. Going to Google, he typed “Gills” into the search engine. He felt incredibly foolish as he made his way through Wikipedia and online dictionaries, reading about different types of gills, yet the more he found, the more things began to click in his head. It was the discovery of the decapod crustacean and hermit crab type gills that really began to snap things into place.

An online dictionary entry described a gill as “a respiratory organ found in many aquatic organisms that extracts dissolved oxygen from water and excretes carbon dioxide.” Hermit crabs, a decapod crustacean, were said to have adapted to be able to breathe on land, as long as they are kept moist. They are capable of surviving outside of water, but thrive within it.

Peter ran his hands slowly down his neck. The notion was completely ridiculous. A person doesn’t just wake up with gills, yet, the facts seemed to check out. He chugged several more glasses of water, feeling waves of comfort with every gulp, yet after a moment without it, the dryness would return. In his bathroom, he ran the tub until it was full, taking off his shirt and dunking his head down under the water. Taking in mouthfuls and deep breaths through his nose, he remained submerged. He felt no panic or sense of urgency. While beneath the water, he experienced a serene calming that he had rarely, if ever, felt in his entire life.

When he brought his head up, he checked the time. He had been underwater, with no problem or struggle what so ever, for forty-five minutes. The time had completely slipped away, and he knew he could have easily stayed under for another hour or more if he had wanted.

Back in his computer chair, head dripping puddles onto the floor, Peter reflected on his situation, becoming more and more depressed as the reality set in: He had gills. He was a freak. He already felt out of step in the world, unable to connect with people, and now they would want even less to do with him. People would turn away from him the way they do a paraplegic or burn victim, just trying to ignore them so as not to experience discomfort for themselves. He could just picture himself, walking down the street, wheezing up a storm, frightening children. Or maybe he would have to fashion some sort of fish tank helmet, like a scuba divers helmet but filled with water. It all just seemed like too much to add to a life that was already overwhelmingly uncomfortable.

Weighed down by his thoughts, as well as his still sopping hair, Peter left his home and began walking down the street. As much as he hated being outside when he didn’t need to be, he couldn’t stand wallowing in his apartment any longer. He was too preoccupied to care about the people passing him by on the street as he made his way down the sidewalk, eventually turning in to a small diner he sometimes ordered out from. He sat down in a booth and after several minutes of trying to get her attention, managed to flag down a waitress.

“Hey there, hun, what can I get ya?”

“Tomato soup… does it come with—“

“FRANK! I told you to turn that damn stereo down! You’re going to drive away the customers! ...Sorry, hun. What was that?”

“…I just want the tomato soup… with some crackers too if you—“

“What?! No you can’t wear headphones! What if I need to get your attention? ...Sorry, that was a tomato sandwich darling?”

“…Soup…”

“Alright, dear. Coming right up.”

Peter stared down at the bowl of chicken noodle soup in front of him. He didn’t care enough to correct the order. He was used to getting the wrong food. It was just something that seemed to always happen. Sometimes he would purposely order the wrong thing in hopes of getting what he actually wanted. It never worked out like that though. He stared into the soup for nearly ten minutes, unmotivated to take even a single spoonful. He could faintly make out his reflection, a noodle in place of an eyebrow and a chunk of chicken obstructing his nose. He stuck his finger into it, swirling it slowly in the now lukewarm broth.

Without thinking, he lowered his face down into the large bowl, feeling the noodles, chicken and carrot chunks rubbing up against his cheeks. He began breathing in and out slowly, relaxed and calmed by the liquid as it soothed his aggravated lungs. He didn’t much care about his surroundings in that moment. In his soup, he could breath easy and let the rest of the world melt away. That is, until he began attracting attention, as one face down in a bowl of soup often will.

“What in the hell are you doing?” asked a voice, perplexed.

Peter didn’t answer though. He just stayed in his soup, listening as more voices gathered.

“What’s wrong with him?”

“I don’t know, he’s been like that for over five minutes now.”

“Do you think he had an aneurysm or something?”

“Mommy, how come I can't eat my soup like that?”

“Should someone try to move him?”

“Don’t touch him! What if he had a seizure?”

Down in the mild warmth of the noodles, chicken and carrots, Peter wore a wide grin. From what he could hear, the entire diner was now surrounding his booth, wondering about him; concerned about him; interested in him. At one point, he felt a woman’s hand lightly rubbing his back, as if to comfort him, until someone told her to cut it out. He’d never had this much attention in his life. He had always anticipated ridicule in crowds, but all these people seemed genuinely worried about him. It was the nicest he’d ever felt.

“I just called 911” said the waitress.

This news concerned Peter. He’d seen E.T; gaining the attention of strangers in a diner was one thing, but he didn’t want scientists tearing apart his throat, trying to figure out how his gills worked. He sat up, turning to face the crowd. There were roughly twenty people, all looking at him in silence and awe. He wiped his wet face, a noodle sticking to his sleeve. Standing up, he bowed awkwardly, said a quick “Thank you.” and walked out the door. The crowd followed him to the doorway but remained there, staring confusedly after him as he hopped onto an idling bus. Taking a seat at the back of the bus, grinning again, Peter took out his phone and began searching for other nearby diners.

 

Clichés Happen

It seems as though every musician, band, and general artist has an unending supply of stories concerning the trials and tribulations of pursuing their craft. Most of these tend to be horror stories, usually taking place while on the road. The problem with these tales is that they usually end up falling under the category of “cliché”. Because of the reoccurring and tired themes, they end up sounding like some sort of Spinal Tap sub plot; but there is a very good reason why these tired stories get retold again and again: because the really do happen... all the time.

I speak from firsthand experience, having personally dealt with many “rock n roll clichés”, time and time again. Vans breaking down; promoters screwing you out of money; showing up to shows that end up not actually existing; stolen gear, and my personal favourite, bandmates getting too drunk to perform. That last one, while being something that always infuriates me when it happens, is a cliché I've been guilty of on more than one occasion.

 http://fitnowtraining.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/bucket_head1.jpg

http://fitnowtraining.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/bucket_head1.jpg

When I was 19, my band BONGJOVI had our first show, an all-ages show, at a local firehall. I was the only one who was of age and didn't have to be in school all day beforehand, so I bought myself a quart of Jack Daniels and waited. By the time the guys showed up to bring me to load-in, I was sitting on the couch with my head in a bucket. Understandably enough, the band was pretty pissed, but performed instrumentally that evening, telling the crowd that I had come down with food poisoning.

Other occurrences can end up being more out of the control of band members. In the summer of 2014, my band, The Human Comedy, was heading towards the Confederation Bridge at 3 a.m., on the way home from a fairly successful weekend playing on Prince Edward Island. About 20 minutes away from the bridge, the hood of the van began spouting thick smoke. Of course, the van broke down and we ended up having to use nearly all the money we had just made to remedy the situation the best we could.

We spent the night in a hotel and probably nearly 13 hours of the next day sitting in the hotel parking lot trying to track down a mechanic who was open on both a Sunday and a holiday. It was our last show of the summer before I moved away to Ottawa, and it almost felt fitting that we would be met with the mother of all band clichés: van troubles. It almost felt like “making it”.

 http://images.rapgenius.com/369d3a3842d770d087d11f090ee50acb.615x461x1.jpg

http://images.rapgenius.com/369d3a3842d770d087d11f090ee50acb.615x461x1.jpg

And that's pretty much the only way you can look at situations like that. You have to laugh and think “I can't believe this is happening, but of course it's happening." Honestly, if your band isn't running into a series of tired old clichés, maybe you aren't doing it right. These stories are essentially rites of passage and should be collected and worn like twisted, whiskey-soaked merit badges from the loudest, shittiest scout troop. 


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David Haddad

David Haddad is an aspiring writer and musician who has been playing in bands since the age of fifteen. As a second year Professional Writing student at Algonquin College, David attempts to balance school while maintaining his band, The Human Comedy, in Moncton, NB.

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Euro Trip

 Chris Lewis (left) and Kyle mcdonald (right) of the middle eastern mantra doom band, zaum

Chris Lewis (left) and Kyle mcdonald (right) of the middle eastern mantra doom band, zaum

I spoke to friend and fellow Maritimer, Kyle McDonald of the band Zaum (I HATE records), about his experiences in Europe over the past two few years. Zaum have only been active since mid 2013, yet have experienced a fair amount of success at home and internationally in an astoundingly short period of time. I threw a few questions his way, to which he provided some fantastic insight from his personal experiences.

How long do you normally tour while in Europe/where are some of the places you play there?
To make a European tour worth your while based on the cost of flights – a tour of at least 2 weeks is typically minimum. The only exception to that is if you’re offered 1-2 very high guarantee offers, for example to high profile festivals etc. In those cases it may be still worth your while to even head over to play only a few shows at a time.

I personally love playing Eastern Europe. The market is largely untapped, so a show there is going to typically draw a much larger crowd and people will be generally much more appreciative and enthusiastic in regards to your band (assuming you are good!). You’ll usually get extra special treatment from promoters and show goers, and it’s an unbelievably beautiful part of the world.

 Zaum, Oracles (2014)

Zaum, Oracles (2014)

How did you first go about booking a European tour?
Booking a European tour is very tiring. Typically, bands have booking agents who will put together a tour for them, and all of the details are taken care of. The issue is this – the lesser known your band is, despite the fact that agents or agencies may really love your music and excitedly agree to book a tour for you – you’ll discover they are incredibly flakey.

For this very reason, many decide to go independent and fill in the rest of the dates themselves. It’s difficult, especially for a first time band – but the idea is to ask favors from bands and/or promoters who have already been over there and have some connections and contacts. Frankly, had it not been for a half dozen friends of mine who helped with me booking contacts, I likely wouldn’t have played there yet. Once you have contacts – the idea is to put your head down, get comfortable and ready to spend days behind your computer sending emails to thousands of promoters/venues/contacts.

What major differences do you find between playing Europe versus Canada?
Europe is entirely different. Firstly, the promoters care about your experience and well-being. When you book a show in EU, you can provide a hospitality rider which is typically filled for you. Expect an early load in, most certainly a soundcheck, a really well prepared hot/fresh meal, a full spread of snacks, drinks of all sorts, assorted food typically including fresh fruit etc, etc. It’s not out of the ordinary for it to be an open bar situation for band members. Also beyond this, people buy light years more merchandise than they do in North America. Crowds are very attentive and enthused. People want to talk to you after the show and make it well known how much they loved what they witnessed. Also expect for Europeans to spread the word. Europeans are interested in discovering new music, purely on the basis of their deep desire and appreciation for it.  


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David Haddad

David Haddad is an aspiring writer and musician who has been playing in bands since the age of fifteen. As a second year Professional Writing student at Algonquin College, David attempts to balance school while maintaining his band, The Human Comedy, in Moncton, NB.

Facebook | Youtube | Stay In Touch Records

"I've never 'signed' anything"

A misconception in the world of music is that the the only way to be successful is to get signed by a major record label. It certainly helps, but many independent musicians will argue that the catch-22 involved in a major signing is the loss of creative freedom. This is all part of the age-old “selling out” debate between musicians, often punks, but it comes down to what the artist is looking to accomplish.

Many bands seeking the backing of a label, while still maintaining the ability to create without restriction, will choose independent labels. The difference between major and independent record labels is that indies are looking to nurture the genuine nature of artists and their music, rather than trying to remold them into what is most profitable, based on margins and statistics. The indie-label relationship allows a band to fully explore their artistic potential with sometimes meagre but always helpful financial backing to put towards either recording, distribution, or the funding of a tour.

Having never been a part of any label, I've always been curious how one would go about developing a relationship with one, and eventually get signed. I decided to ask punk singer and guitarist Eric Neurotic of the band Feral Trash what his experience has been like over his many years, playing in bands on several different labels. Though he now resides in Ottawa, Eric has been a staple in the New Brunswick punk scene, playing in bands like Fear of Lipstick, The Varsity Weirdos, and now resides on Dirtcult Records with Feral Trash.

  Feral Trash @ House of TARG, Ottawa, 2014/10/24

Feral Trash @ House of TARG, Ottawa, 2014/10/24

“There's not much to tell, honestly. I've worked with about a half dozen different labels and they've all just kinda contacted me at some point and asked to work together. Making friends in other bands can sometimes help. I've never 'signed' anything either.” he said, laughing. When I brought up the concept of a band sending tapes and records to hundreds of labels, hoping to eventually find one that would stick, he responded “I've never done that. Ever. I don't think that actually works.”

“There's no skill to it. Play enough shows, make enough friends, record a record and someone might want to put some dollars into it. At least, that's how a bond starts. Like this label out of Portland (Dirtcult) once asked if I wanted to do a Fear of Lipstick record with them. I already had someone releasing it, but when Feral Trash first recorded, I sent them the tracks and asked if they were interested. They were.”

 FERAL TRASH, DEAD EYES EP

FERAL TRASH, DEAD EYES EP

The casual nature of Eric's approach towards finding labels speaks to the superiority of indie labels for artists. You go out and play as much as you can, hone your sound and style, and eventually that might be recognized by someone who genuinely enjoys and respects what you've worked to create. The looming shadow of “the industry” looking over your shoulder to make sure you're “generating,” and other such buzz words, is not a necessity for the independent musician.

“If there's a heading or big bolded quote like in interviews, make it 'I've never "signed" anything'”


David Haddad

David Haddad is an aspiring writer and musician who has been playing in bands since the age of fifteen. As a second year Professional Writing student at Algonquin College, David attempts to balance school while maintaining his band, The Human Comedy, in Moncton, NB.

Facebook | Youtube | Stay In Touch Records

Chasing The High

I think it's pretty common for kids to start bands in high school. What can be less common though, is people continuing on with that pursuit once they've graduated and entered into “the real world”. It's understandable, considering how difficult it can be to make any sort of living from music, but there are some who decide to plug away regardless, money be damned.

 

 An old band of mine,  BONG JOVI , playing in Sackville, New Brunswick in 2011.

An old band of mine, BONG JOVI, playing in Sackville, New Brunswick in 2011.

I've been in bands since I was 15, and after my first live performance, I was hooked for life. I think a lot of people's first shows are usually pretty underwhelming, playing for a small group of friends or family, but I happened to luck out on mine when a local church that was known for being very modern decided to put on a punk and metal battle of the bands, to appeal to the youth.

 

My band at the time had only been functional for a few months with maybe four original songs under our belts, but we entered anyway. I don't know what kind of promotion they put into the show, but we ended up playing for about 700 people that night. For a first show, that's sort of like being thrown into the water before learning how to swim, and even though we didn't win, just playing to that many people was enough to become instantly addicted to the rush. Also, church pews got destroyed and several people broke their arms, and that's just good ol' fashioned punk rock.

 

 The Human Comedy

The Human Comedy

Since then, I've essentially just been chasing the high of that first night, but as you get older, life starts getting in the way. I still have a band, The Human Comedy, back home in Moncton, New Brunswick, but being 11 hours out of province makes it difficult to keep it going. Despite that however, packing it in has never really felt like an option. We recorded a four track EP over the summer, and the current plan is to push it around online, collect some (hopefully) positive reviews, and possibly find ourselves a home on an independent label.

 

 The Human Comedy live in Moncton, New Brunswick, 2014

The Human Comedy live in Moncton, New Brunswick, 2014

My current journey is an ongoing attempt to balance the responsibilities of a twenty-something student, while still chipping away at that seemingly unattainable dream. “Famous” is a word that truly makes me cringe, and I think it's a term that confuses what any artist should be shooting for: to be able to live off of the thing you love the most.

Live @ The McDons House June 2014


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DAVID HADDAD

David Haddad is an aspiring writer and musician who has been playing in bands since the age of fifteen. As a second year Professional Writing student at Algonquin College, David attempts to balance school while maintaining his band, The Human Comedy, in Moncton, NB.

Facebook | Youtube | Stay In Touch Records