THIS IS NOT SLANDER Chapter Thirteen

Rudy and I meet that Monday night at Centraal.

“I still don’t understand why you referred to us as “You Guys” when we were discussing the next possible Grounds show… “

“Oh, I do that all the time.”

“What, act like you are not an integral part of something- like this band?”

“No, no, no, just… sometimes… I get outside of myself. I get too amped up to see the big picture.”

“Well, the big picture is that you need to figure a way to do all of these things you are committed to, and not get in the way of the progress Piercing is making. It’s starting to show, because you were barely able to play any of our songs last Sunday after the awards show.”

“You want me to choose between Piercing and the Holiday?”

“No, I want you to figure out a way to make them both work. You’re headed down a slippery slope, and I don’t have any time to spare. I’m going to call you tomorrow to ask you what you think about this.”

He glared at me, but more in a way that did not reflect anger, rather that I had given him a homework assignment. I didn’t take it as a good sign. I walked him to the door. After all of the late nights where he spent the night in Centraal, or had to rush out of a foundry job to make a gig in Manhattan, the moments in the van where he was genuinely blown away by the ride ‘this van is fucking  Sweet!”, or the badass bridge in Magnets- he was one of a kind. But when the people who mean the most to you express feelings of being hurt, there has to be a certain protection. I would provide it, in distribution and defense. If I couldn’t muster up the fortitude to kick Rudy out of the band, how was I supposed to get us to the next level? The deed paled in comparison to what actually was waiting for us.

I called him at five o’clock that Tuesday.

“Hey man, it’s Twining. Did you think about what we talked about last night?”

“Yeah, you want me to choose between Geneva and Piercing….”

“No, Rudy. That’s not it at all. I asked you to find a way to make them both work. You obviously haven’t done that, so I’m going to make it easy for you. You are no longer a member of Piercing. I had no idea I would get this one last chance to make it in music, and I’m not going to let anything get in the way of that. You are obviously absolved of any financial responsibilities, and I’d like to thank you for everything you did to help us get to this point. But we need to move on.”

Silence.

“Alright, I guess.”

“You can come by tomorrow around 6.30 and get your equipment.”

“I’ll see you then.”

“I’ll be here.”

I had never been in a band where we kicked someone out.  I had my moment of Napoleonic vicissitude during Bold Schwa, a civil war over  how to manage that band; but the Schwa was nothing like Piercing. After an hour of mulling the event over in my mind, I emailed Jocelyn, Todd, and Adrian the news. I heard back from Todd and Joss almost immediately- finally they were monitoring media for our latest developments. If only I could get them to surf Earcandy every day….

I stayed up until 2am, catching the Carson Daly show because Grimes was on. There was quite a bit of attention on her as she exemplified a powerful, modern female artist. And she was convincing; the depth of her voice hinting at Lisa Gerrard, the playful yet dangerous musical vibe aligning with the best of Debbie Harry. At the same time, whether it was to reassure myself after the madness of the previous week, or if I was truly being sentient- Jocelyn had that much talent, at least vocally and visually. I wouldn’t be here otherwise. A door convincingly opens.

It’s quiet at the Palace that Wednesday morning. I’m sipping Darjeeling and listening to the Cocteau Twins collaboration with Harold Budd- ‘The Moon and the Melodies’- as I do each morning at the shop.

As the climactic piano note on “Memory Gongs” rings out through the speakers, in walks Lawrence Steele, the founding member of the one, active metal band in town. LST, as he is known at the Palace, is a serious listener and is in the possession of a concise set of observational skills; unlike many of his contemporaries.  He looks up at me nervously as he passes the sticker covered front counter, decades of detritus, again.

“Hey man, how’s it going?” Lawrence offered a beak.

“Ehh, not so good.”

“Band problems?”

“Oh yeah. Some serious shit went down last night.”

“Oh yeah? Like what?”

I had the sense that Lawrence knew something I didn’t know, or that he knew everything I knew.

“Because I heard about some crazy shit last night as well.” He added

“Does it pertain to Piercing?”

“Uhh, yeahhhh. Why do you think I’m bringing it up?”

“Do you know we kicked Rudy out of the band?” I asked him, in an incredulous voice that was a complete stereotype.

“WHAT?!?!?!?!?! What the fuck did you just say? You guys kicked Rudy out of the band?”

He began walking around the front counter, taking a circuitous route amongst the merchandise.

”Man, there is nothing but fucking chaos here… Do you guys know what you’re sitting on? Do you know the fucking opportunity that is unfolding in front of you? Jesus fucking Christ, you fucking people!”

“Whoa whoa whoa, what the fuck are you talking about? You don’t think I can handle this shit?!?!?!”

“Do you know where Adrian was this past Saturday night?”

“No I don’t. I called him to weigh in on the Rudy thing, but he said he couldn’t talk and hung up on me.”

“That’s because he was in a studio, recording demos with Class Ring. They put the band back together.”

“Why the fuck would they do that?”

“Because of Esther Fowler.”

Esther was one of the Mystic kids who had relocated to the west coast. I had always implored the kids of this generation to leave town, because ‘Mystic is a great place to come back to’. Travel, tour, relocate, just get out and see more of the world. It was a long standing tradition over generations where kids would embark on a group relocation, and set up an Outpost in some new town, retaining the Mystic characteristic. After a few months in Los Angeles, Esther found herself wound into the crowd around Year Zero artist Sunset Haze. One night while pushing the envelope of consciousness, Esther broke out a CDR of Class Ring to entertain Sunset. Class Ring certainly had their strengths, and I was as big a supporter of the band during it’s time as anyone. But on this night, she caught the ear of a recording artist who had some clout in the business. And he was impressed.

“ I really dig this, who is it?”

“A band from Mystic, where I’m from. They’re called Class Ring, and they really are fantastic.”

“These guys are fucking cool. No one is doing this, this… this…  detached thing. That all went out the window with Pavement, because they cornered the fucking market on that one, eh?!!?!?!?!”

“Hahahaha. All the kids in town love Pavement.”

“Yeah, but these guys are better than Pavement. Do they have anything new? When is this from?”

“They recorded this about a year and a half ago.”

“Tell them to get me something brand new. I like it.”

When I phoned Adrian about his input about the situation with Rudy, he told me he was too occupied to take the call. He was actually recording the new Class Ring demo in Connecticut; twenty minutes from Centraal- to send to Sunset Haze. That’s why he couldn’t talk to me about one of the most crucial decisions Piercing would face. I knew why he wouldn’t have told me what was happening that particular night. Going back to Class Ring for Adrian could only seem like a betrayal, and he was reticent to begin that conversation with me. I again, couldn’t blame him. But now, after solving one major issue, I had to figure a way out of this mess, and keep Piercing moving forward. Moving forward was the one thing that never failed.

Before I call Jocelyn, I remember that I have an exit meeting with Rudy that afternoon; he still needed to come by Centraal and gather his equipment. I decided to put all of his gear in the back of the blue van- it seemed more Rock to at least take your gear out of the van for the last time, and also so he wasn’t in the house in case some phone call came down the line. For all I knew, he was already aware of Adrian’s return to Class Ring- but if he knew before, he didn’t let me in on that information. There was no going back now.

“I found out earlier this afternoon; Jeremy texted me around 2pm.”

“Can you believe this fucking shit?!?!? They kick him out, The Rock Star of that band, and then now, after we start to gain some traction, they want to put the band back together again?”

“Have you heard about Sunset Haze in all of this?”

“Yeah, sheesh. Don’t people know that these touring musicians have friends they party with in every town they play? It’s a big part of how you survive on the road, because you don’t have to be locked in a van with the same four or five people all day and all night. And how many demos does he hear and say ‘that’s cool’? Ten? Twenty?”

“I know, I know, I agree with you. But we can’t take an offensive stance here, let’s just let it play out and see what happens.”

“I know where you’re coming from, but when I went down to Brooklyn to master the “Massive” single, and he met me there, and I saw his toes were sticking out of his skate shoes, and I knew winter was coming; I went out and bought him a pair of boots and mailed them down to him last October. Did Class Ring buy and send him a free pair of boots so his toes wouldn’t freeze?” I was incensed.

“Why do you have to always make these things personal?”

It was a good point.

“Do you really think they’re going to last more than three months? It’s just like any bad relationship- you think about the good times, and when you try to recreate them, all of the negativity that drove you apart in the first place reveals itself all over again.”

“Like Liz Taylor and Richard Burton?” I said, trying to add some levity to the situation after getting so riled up moments before.

“Yes. Exactly.”

I was a bit taken aback that she corralled the reference so quickly. I had been aiming for some kind of humor; because Joss never suffered whiners, and I knew I was treading dangerously close to it. And she was right. If the accumulation of my efforts were true to my beliefs, this reunion wouldn’t interfere. In one simple statement Jocelyn had me re-evaluating my view on worth.  While we were weaving through the conversation, I was pacing through the gardens at the house. I hear the familiar sound of a sedan coming down our dead end street.

“I gotta go, Rudy is here to pick up his gear.”

“Good Luck with that…..”

“Thanks…..”

I clicked off the phone, put it in the front pocket of my chamois shirt, and approached the van, which Rudy was slowly walking toward. I put the key in the lock, turned it left, and removed it from the door.

“All my stuff’s still in the van?”

“No, I just thought it would be more ‘real’ to take the gear out of the van, rather than the mother-in-law apartment.”

“Hahahah, yeah….”

I had been dreading this moment for two days; but after the latest development, this exchange seemed no more detrimental than a field trip in elementary school to the nature center, where the staff would encourage you to touch and hold live snakes. The smooth scaled skin of this interaction with Rudy was little more than preparation for what was to come.  You never know which anxiety will actually be diminished by developments beyond your control. Later that night, Malthus comes to the house to finalize the cover design for our new single. I will be submitting the video for “Decisive” on Thursday morning, and he and I spend a few hours sprucing up images, which I will use to update the content of our online presence. We talk design theory, while he works his magic with instinctual keyboard shortcuts and precise mouse movements- it’s a thrill to see Malthus manipulate the machine toward his ideal. His dexterity creates a meditative essence within the studio, and I am thankful on more than one level. After two eggs and toast the following morning, by 9.30 AM I have collated all of the pertinent details of our new single, attached the appropriate files, and hit send for our email to Carol at Earcandy.

We have a show in New London at the Wishing Well in ten days. I had been emailing Phoebe for a few months, hoping that they might want to play a show in her “hometown” with the new band. We finally found a June weekend, where they were off from recording and could spend a whole weekend out of the city. But now that we had no bass player, I began to seriously worry that the show would be compromised- we couldn’t open and there was no way to reschedule for the night. I decided to take that Thursday off from work, submitting the Earcandy material after tea and plowing through every musical contact I could access in an effort to find a bass player to at least fill in for this one show with Finito. If we fucked this up, the repercussions in Brooklyn could be of serious consequence. Finito had to play in front of a great crowd while they were in town.  In addition, I had already promised Phoebe that they could use all of our equipment for their set, so even if Piercing had to cancel, I would be at the show all night. Not that I minded that at all; Phoebe was a Palace kid and deserved my help, but it would be minimized without Piercing appearing on the bill.

In my haste, and distilled through the recent distaste of the Piercing situation, I decide to call Thomas and see if Thames could play that night. It had only been two years since the reunion at the Station Show, and I figured one practice Friday night would sharpen us up enough for the gig. And that would also insure that Finito would have a large crowd to see them in town. I let my tea seep as I dialed Thomas.

“Hey man, it’s me, Ellery.”

“Good morning, good sir! What brings such an early phone call from the man who can’t stand the phone? You must need some tremendous favor from me to call at such an hour.”

“You got me, my mouth was open.”

My reply was a sly reference to our shared joy of Eddie Murphy’s “Delirious” LP. I figured he would understand both levels of the nod.

“What’s up?”

“We have a big show coming up this Saturday in town. But we just kicked our bass player out of the band, and I can’t find anyone to fill in for the night. How about Thames opens the show, since it doesn’t look like Piercing can play.”

“Aww, mannnn. I would love to play. Why don’t you tell me about these things earlier?”

“Hahahahaha”

“Yeah, we’re going to be in Montauk for Philip’s birthday, so there’s no way I can make it. Even if I got on the ferry and made it before showtime, we’d probably never have the chance to practice beforehand.”

“Yeah, that’s all too true. Well, it was the first thing I thought of, on to the next idea.”

“Why don’t you call Brent? He could learn your songs in a week.”

I couldn’t tell if that was a dig at our songwriting ability or the sheer genius of Brent. I decided to buy into the latter.

“Brilliant idea. I’m going to call him now.”

“Cool, let me know what he tells you.”

I leave a message for Brent that he returns an hour later.

“Aww, shit man. I would love to play, but I’m in South Carolina visiting my Dad.”

“Do you think you could have learned all of the songs in a week?”

“Oh, sure. I’ve seen you guys enough times to know what you’re trying to do. So, yeah- I could totally do it. I feel bad that I can’t help you out for this show.”

“No worries, man. We’ll figure something out.”

“But hey- if you ever need someone to fill in like this again, don’t hesitate to call me; I’d love to play with Piercing.”

“Thanks man. You know you are my first phone call.”

The entire time I had been conversing with Thomas and Brent, I had been sending out emails to everyone I knew who could handle a bass guitar. I was delighted to find that every single one of them got back to me- I even pleaded with Phoebe to learn our set over the internet. She was classy, as always.

“I’d love to help but I have so many family obligations when I’m home, there is just no way I could pull it off. Sorry…..”

And yet, after six hours, I wasn’t any closer to finding a bass player for our next show. Jocelyn had gotten out of work at the top of the hour, so I called her immediately.

“I called everyone, even tried to reunite Thames to cover the gig, to no avail. I’m out of ideas, and I think we should cancel tonight to give the club a full five days to find another act. I’ll still bring all the gear over to the show for Finito to use.”

“I’ll help you with that, if that’s what it comes to.” replied Joss. Surprisingly.

“Ok, cool.”

“I’ll call Adrian to let him know we’re going to have to cancel.”

“Thanks.”

Jocelyn was assuming a position of responsibility. I was as thrilled as someone could be when it becomes apparent the apprentice that was revered handles the shield.

Five minutes later, my landline rings.

“Hello?”

“hey, man, it’s me, Adrian”

“How’s it going?”

I had been expecting Jocelyn to call, not Adrian. The yearning idealist in me came to the fore; I was curious what his take would be, circumventing the proper “channels” to get his message across to the top of the “food chain”.

“We can’t cancel this gig!!!”

“I know, I know, I know- why the fuck do you think I’ve been on the phone and on the machine for the past six hours? I just can’t find anybody!”

“Why don’t we just get Jeremy?”

“I thought you didn’t want to be in a band with him?”

“Yeah, I don’t. But we need to pull this show off. I say we just do it.”

After my conversation with Rudy at the Palace, Joss, Todd and me met at my house to declare we were all in on getting a different bass player. I assured the two of them I would get into contact with Adrian the next night; which is when he returned to the studio with Class Ring. When I finally did get in contact with him that next night, he stated he was fine with letting Rudy go, but he had one condition:

“I don’t want to be in a band with Jeremy.”

It was a surprise to me, because all that I could discern from their mutual time together in Brooklyn was amiable- two Mystic kids in an Outpost digging the new scene and being there to support each other, along with the handful of other Mystic kids in the city. He must have seen something that we were not privy to, or were not supposed to know, as it may expose certain other elements. It was hard to tell the depth of it, but one thing was certain- Adrian did not want to be in a band with Jeremy. I felt that I was being railroaded to a certain degree, but I wanted to get the show in as much as anyone.

“And are you prepared to handle the consequences of this action?”

What I was thinking was ‘Are you going to tell Jeremy he’s not part of the long term plan for Piercing? Or am I going to have to?’ I had already kicked out one member of the band, I was hardly looking forward to repeating the event a few weeks later.

“Yeah, yeah. Let’s just get through this weekend.” sighed Adrian.

He still hasn’t told me he is back with Class Ring. I wonder if he even knows I’m aware of the situation. I hang up the phone. I pick it up and dial Jeremy; I still had his number memorized. He picks up on the first ring.

“I suppose you need me to learn all of the Piercing songs on bass in the next four days?”

“Can I even get a formal offer on the table?”

“I can practice tomorrow night; Todd is off, I think Joss has to work. You, me, and Todd can get the foundation set then. The three of us could do a stripped down acoustic practice on Wednesday, without drums, and then we could do the four of us full electric on Thursday, what do you think?”

“That’s what I was going to suggest.”

Jeremy had been paying attention all of the time I had been friends with him. He, more than any other Palace kid, had grabbed the curtain and peered behind it to see what was really going on. And what was really going on was the never ending scheduling. Emails, phone calls, trips to the post, emails, emails, emails….

trips to the post

phone calls

emails

We would enact his proposed practice schedule almost to the minute over the next few days. Saturday night we would play the songs for the first time as a five piece- onstage. It would help us tremendously to have someone whose attributes included an understanding of creating an image, of the hard detail that had to be constantly considered. It would make it much easier on everything if Adrian could acquiesce to having Jeremy become our new bass player; even if the bass was third down on the list of his exceptional musical skills. We needed a bass player. He needed a band; and I was having trouble stitching the disparate threads together. The most obvious solution to a way forward seemed to be the one that could create a distinct environment that I had been so delicately cultivating. But what if Adrian was correct?

Adrian calls me the following night, unprompted.

“Hey, I don’t want you to get all pissed off and start yelling at me when I tell you this, ok?”

“Yes, I will not yell and scream.” I knew what was coming next.

“Class Ring is back together.”

“I have heard about your reunion.”

“Yeah, well, like, I had no idea any of this was going to happen”

“Sure, sure.” I reply, trying to coax him into continuing unimpeded. I needed to know as much as he was willing to tell me.

“But Esther was hanging with Sunset Haze in LA, and they were hanging out and partying and shit, and she played him the good recording we did at the Warehouse.”

“That’s a great EP. I love it.”

“And so, when you called me last weekend, I was in the studio demoing songs. It’s because he asked us to, and it feels like a real opportunity, yannow what I mean?  I’m sorry I wasn’t more involved that night; I know shit was going down and it was crazy.”

“Yeah. Have you spoken with Joss about Rudy and such?”

“Yeah, we talked at length a week ago. I understand where she’s coming from. But Rudy, man, he is the real deal. He’s rock and roll.”

“Yes. He is. But that’s only a part of who he is.”

“I know, man, I know…..”

Silence.

“I just want to let you know that this is not going to get in the way of me being in Piercing. You know I always get there on time, and that I’m always up to work, right?”

He was correct. Adrian had the toughest commute within the group; and none of us had it easy.

“I think we can make it all work. I’m only going to ask that you don’t use Steven’s amp for Class Ring.”

“Yeah, of course, no problem. And hey, thanks man- that’s what I really wanted to hear from you.”

ellery twining

the talent

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