This was not the plan.
Out of everyone, no one is more surprised about this record than me. It wasn’t supposed to happen; I was not supposed to be in this position, and I certainly was not anticipating dragging a bunch of other people into this weird, noisy spiral of a band called Downcity Armory.
One EP, and an idea, an experiment, to see if the long-dormant tendency of buying music could be woken up if, instead of lining the band’s pockets, the funds went to a charity instead. That was all. The experiment was a success, more or less. People ponied up the scratch and all told, we raised $133.30 for Free Geek Providence. Not bad for a new band with no rep whom had never played a live show. High five, everybody. Gold star!
That was when the calls started coming; the emails too. Play? Live? Us? What? I didn’t want to. Not at that time. The record had run its course; I’d said my piece to the world. It was an artifact now.
But real rock and rollers have a hard time saying no to the stage, even when the fat has built around the midsection and the music world is a pale reflection of itself from when I was in my prime. And I’m not much of a fatalist but when the right players entered the game, it made saying no not just impossible, but downright stupid. Of this I know for sure: it certainly would not have happened without Mark, Christopher, and Fusco, all warriors of the stage who just might be more cracked than I am.
They have to be at least half as crazy to say Yes to the proposition of hitting the road for three days, with little more than limited air play in our own ‘burg, a sound so unorthodox we had to make up a new genre, a deliberate disregard for conventional wisdom, or even a group photo to trade on. We did everything a new band isn’t supposed to do. Because why not?
The decision to tour, even do limited tours, was an easy one. I had toured the country with my previous band, so I knew we could do it; the question was if we should. I had heard more seasoned rockers tell me, indirectly, that you should conquer your hometown first before hitting the road. But these were old men who had been in this game for a long time, and we live in a different world now. I’ll limit bemoaning the current state of the music industry, but words like that are not formed in the minds of musicians who cut their teeth on the road, but who have heard about nothing but the bottom line. You might say this was inevitable; this is the new economy, and you might be right. But the other inalienable truth of the road is that if you only stay in your hometown and only play a show once a month or even every two weeks, you only get good at practicing. The road, even a short road, changes you. We went out really excellent musicians; we came back an excellent band.
Which brings us to now, and this double EP. I cannot thank my producers Christopher G. Brown and Phil Petrie enough for going such distance to take these songs, songs I never expected to write, and make them something more. They dealt with a lot of crap from me, especially since this is probably the most personal record I’ve ever written. Suffice to say, it is an album, or pair of albums, that is for its namesake, the Year of the Horse. It’s a record for 2014, looking back on the fallout of last year, and anxiously wringing its hands at the booming thunder on the horizon. These are not comfortable times and these are not comfortable tunes: songs about oligarchy, wiretapping, and second-class citizens. Real threats that I or people I know and love face in real time. The lyrics are truth, not poetry. The music is direct, not complex. It is a scream of reason, as well as love songs for paranoiacs. It is not a perfect album, but it is exactly what it has to be for me, for you, all of us, right now. A snapshot of who we are and more importantly, what we face. Part warning, part dirge, part clarion call to action. Make no mistake; we are at war – and as a musician, I have gone to war the only way I know how. With a shitload of distortion, a scream in my throat, and a platoon of crazy motherfuckers at my side.
And there will be more shows, and I want you all to be there. Not for us, of course; we still give all our proceeds to charity. But so we can plan. So we can choose the next road, the better road to the future. So that instead of being alone and miserable in the drudgery of 9 to 5 and network television, we can find the others, meet them, and join them. And live like human beings.
That’s the plan now.