Rats

Earlier this month, I visited a friend in Prenzlauer Berg for dinner. As I approached the apartment, a rat scuttled across the pavement.

Now, many of you probably aren’t surprised by that; after all, Berlin is a big city, a dirty city, and that’s just where you find rats. But one of the most surprising things about Berlin is simply its lack of rats. Even in the most wretched apartments here, or at least the ones I’ve been to, you just don’t find them. The city is extra-diligent about cracking down on them, and on places where they could breed, and as a result, you’re far more likely to see a marten or a weasel (especially in cold weather) than a rat.

But, as you might guess from the way my luck runs, I’ve had experience with them. My last apartment, which I moved into a little over twelve years ago, was a nightmare. I took it over from a guy I knew whose wife had gotten a job in Hong Kong, and it was a huge, ground-floor place in a particularly depressing part of Wedding. It was in the back, not on the street, but it was just exactly what I didn’t want: two coal ovens, for one thing, each of which burned a different kind of coal, which, because the neighbors had destroyed the coal-cellar assigned to the apartment, I had to haul around 35kg of coal into just about every day. For another thing, there was nothing of interest in the neighborhood, or, as I discovered, for many, many blocks around. None of my friends wanted to go up there, but at least it was close to the U-Bahn.

Now, in the street-front was a shop which looked like it had been closed for a long time, given the dust on the windows, with a sign behind the grating indicating that it sold espresso machines wholesale. As the bitter winter, one of the coldest on record, faded into spring, there was activity there. Out went the espresso machines, and in went a bunch of burly guys, cleaning the place up. Soon, a sign appeared, saying that an Italian ice cream place would be opening. Certainly nothing too exciting about that; those places are omnipresent here, and, since I don’t eat ice cream, I don’t know if any of them are any good, although I suspect not many are. Finally the place opened, with a sign saying the ice cream was made on the premises, which I found surprising, since the shop was incredibly tiny and I couldn’t see where they made it, not even when the back door, which opened onto my and my neighbors’ living space, was open.

One problem that I had was that I was subletting this place illegally. I believe all sublets in Berlin are illegal, but some landlords are cooler with it than others. I was told that this place was owned by two sweet old ladies, one of whom had briefly taken English lessons from the guy who’d sublet it to me. At any rate, I never saw them. I paid rent to the guy I’d sublet from and he paid the landladies. My address was c/o him, as it had been at my previous sublets, and I never had any trouble getting my mail until one day we got a new postman. He was an ageing hippie, from the looks of him, John Lennon wire-framed glasses and a greying pony-tail. But looks can be deceptive. “I can’t deliver mail to you because your name isn’t on the post box,” he said. I told him that the name of the guy whose apartment it was was on the box, and that should clue him which box to put it in. “No,” he said, “you have to have your name on the box or I won’t deliver it.” I’d been warned not to do this, but it looked like I didn’t have any choice. So I wrote my name on a label and pasted it onto the box.

The days got warmer. Finally, in July, it got downright hot. A friend came to visit and when he got in the apartment he said “Man, those are some mellow rats out there. They didn’t even budge when I came walking by.” I looked out the window, and sure enough, there were a few grey lumps in the lawn. When he left, I watched him go, and he stamped his foot. The rats scurried a bit, then settled down after he was gone. This didn’t look good. That night, as I left for work, I noticed that there were a bunch of empty cans out back of the ice cream joint. The labels indicated they’d contained peaches in heavy syrup. No doubt that’s what had attracted the rats. The ice cream guys couldn’t be bothered to walk a few steps to the garbage cans and throw them in.

I got off work at about 11, and I’d go to Zoo Station to catch the subway back up to Wedding, and it was there, among some of the most unsavory residents of Berlin, that I noticed more rats. They were between the tracks, the same color as the pebbles, but unlike the pebbles, they moved. They’d run for the sides when trains approached, then come back out again, scavenging for who knows what. I guess I just hadn’t noticed before.

It started to cool off again, following the usual pattern of warm days but increasingly sharp nights. I was sitting, reading, one night when I heard a sound from the kitchen: eeeep eeeep. From my time on the Lower East Side in New York, I recognized that immediately. When I checked, I found a couple of turds. They were big enough that I knew the animal I was dealing with, and it wasn’t a mouse. I went to a hardware store the next day and bought a rat trap and baited it with peanut butter. Don’t mess around with cheese; go for the stuff they really like. That night I was awakened by a snap, some high shrieking, some rhythmic flopping, and then silence. I fell back to sleep.

The next morning, there was, as I’d expected, a large, dead rat in the middle of the kitchen floor. I picked it up and went outside to the garbage bins, which were overflowing with empty cans left by the ice cream guys. As I deposited the rat, there was the sound of scuffling inside the bins. I bought another couple of traps. It was getting colder. The ice cream guys would be closing down. They’d want in, somewhere.

A few days later, the doorbell rang. It was the hippie postman. In his hand was a bill from the electric company. “I’m not going to deliver this,” he said. “You shouldn’t be here.” And with that he walked off. Now what?

I bagged a few more rats. This was getting unpleasant.

Soon, a letter, registered mail, arrived for the guy I was subletting from. The word “Hausverwaltung” was in the return address. It was wrong, but I suspected I should take a look at it. After all, he was in Hong Kong. And it was what I’d feared: the bill the postman had refused to deliver had been sent back to the electric company as undeliverable. They, in turn, had alerted the landlady that Herr Ward had apparently skipped town. The landlady checked her records and saw there was no Herr Ward on her books. She checked the mailboxes and saw my label on the box. She terminated the lease.

I faxed Hong Kong. The guy filpped out. He told me to get out immediately and cursed me for losing him his big, cheap Berlin apartment. He announced he’d be back in a couple of weeks to close the apartment down. I had to be out by then.

I was hardly heartbroken, but the timing could have been better. I had a lot of work to do, and this was just complicating things. Still, it was time to look for a new place. And there were the rats.

In late September, the ice cream shop closed for the season. The cans were no longer being tossed out the back door, or in the garbage bin. I headed to Zoo Station at 8 one Saturday night to catch the first batch of Berliner Morgenposts to check the apartment listings. There weren’t many, but there was one from a woman in Mitte who needed someone to take over her lease. I wasn’t sure I wanted to live in the east, but things were, it’s true, cheaper over there. I called the next morning. It turned out that not only was she a journalist, not only did she speak English, but she recognized my name from the magazine. I looked the place over. It was fine. We set a date to meet with the landlord.

The furious guy from Hong Kong was still due, and the woman in Mitte was having trouble moving out. I moved some of my stuff in, and left some in Wedding. A friend had rented a place in Neukölln that he’d partially furnished but couldn’t yet move into, for some reason. He let me have it for a couple of days, just to sleep in, while things shook out. I’d go to Wedding, pack some, call a cab, and move it to Mitte. Finally the day came when a friend rented a truck to take everything, and I woke up early, and went to the apartment to start getting things together for the big move. When I got there, there was excitement in the courtyard. One of the garbage bins was on fire, and the neighbors had a bucket brigade going. I reflexively looked to see if I could help, but it appeared things were going well, so I went inside.

About twenty minutes later, the doorbell rang. I opened the door to see an old woman leaning on a cane, and a well-dressed younger man with her. The woman started shouting. “You started that fire! I’m calling the Kripo [Kriminalpolizei] and having you charged with arson!” And who, I asked the man, are you? “I’m her lawyer.” Do you speak English? “Yes.” Does she? “No.” Good, let’s speak English. I hope you’re being well-paid for this. “Not nearly enough,” he sighed. I told him I’d been asleep in Neukölln when the fire had started and only wanted to pack my stuff and leave that place for good. The guy who had the lease had missed his plane in Bombay, I think it was, and would now be a few days late, but she could deal with him when he got here. “You’ll really be gone this afternoon?” the lawyer asked. I promised him that as soon as he got the old bat out of my presence, I’d go back to packing and they’d never see me again. “Have a nice day,” he said, and steered her towards the courtyard.

So that’s how I found the place I’m leaving now. People are always surprised when I tell them that this — rats, coal heating, being informed on by my postman — happened in West Berlin instead of East Berlin, but someone recently theorized that the postman could well have been ex-Stasi, given a job where he could do no harm. Possibly. Another friend who’d been studying law and had dropped out to work in the Post Office later told me that the postman had broken something like eight federal laws. No doubt.

I hope there aren’t any rats in my next place. With four, three, or two legs.

It’s official, here comes the worst blog entry in Failed Pilot history.

To detour from self-promotion, pop-cultural alienation, and failed stabs at humor, it must be noted that I am amazed daily that one of my cats is about to turn thirteen. This will be simple…the sort of thing one might read on an Elliot Smith fan’s blog.

This (once) solid black, longhaired, somewhat overweight and big-boned (he’s a BIG cat) asshole makes a frequent habit of vomiting hairballs onto my bed, records, and books. His hair is turning a combination of black, gray, and maroon. The name I gave this animal is “Marcel.” It means nothing. He’s smart, one of those “like a dog” cats, which is good, as I don’t like dogs. Cats are the thinking man’s pet. Dogs are a complete hassle.

One of Marcel’s asshole moves went like this:

One night, I returned home from a long evening of drinking to find one of Marcel’s bottom fangs protruding from his mouth at a right angle. Suffering from a fairly serious abscess, Marcel was rushed to the vet during the next day’s mind-shattering hangover (not much you can do about this at four in the morning). One confusing, blurry day and $600 later, Marcel was returned home minus his two bottom grabbers (one had simply fallen out earlier that year…I found it on the floor).

Several years prior, Marcel was prancing around on my balcony and fell fourteen feet, belly-flopping a concrete flowerbed border. He cracked two ribs and shredded his front claws in the failed attempt to regain purchase before the fall. Needless to say, it was soft food for a month. PRESCRIPTION soft food. Familiar with the racket that is prescription pet food? Let’s hope not.

At times, considering some of the healthy gifts that Marcel leaves in the litter box, I hallucinate that I own a giraffe. Either that or a large man is sneaking into my home to use my cat’s toilet. I like to confront Marcel while he’s doing the business. Yelling “BAD CAT” usually does wonders for his little walnut brain.

Marcel gets along fine with his adopted sister, a very fat (18 – 19 pounds) orange tabby named “The Mayor.” I absorbed The Mayor into the fold during the summer of 1998, thus replacing her predecessor, a fascinating cat named “Colby.” Colby could fetch and had bi-colored fur. Each hair started out white, and turned black, giving her the look of a cuddly ashtray. Sadly, Colby died of kidney failure after months of incredibly stressful treatment. The Mayor has a tiny frame. Her obesity makes it appear as though she swallowed a grapefruit. The other cat in the house, my girlfriend’s beautiful calico that owned the premises before I moved in, is another story. Marcel emotionally and physically terrorizes this cat on a daily basis.

Aside from my mom and fewer than four others, I’ve kept a longer relationship with Marcel than any other warm-blooded creature.

This is not an obit, nor is Marcel ill. If anything, he is a little too healthy for a 13-year-old cat, but if he continues to rob me of a good night’s sleep (hairball barfing, furniture destruction, needless howling at all hours), there will be issues that require tissues.

Yeah, right. Marcel is untouchable. You can view Marcel and my two lesser cats by visiting my MySpace profile. You’ll have to find that on your own. Dig around for a picture of me with a horrible haircut, “working” in bed.

Here’s to you, Marcel, may there be many more years in our love/hate relationship.

See, I told you.

 

Pete Dunton –Taking Time

Pete Dunton –Taking Time/ Still Confused –RCA 42501 (1973 French issue)
Pete was the drummer With Freakbeat faves The Flies and Please. He was also in a late line-up of Gun before forming the Proggy T2.
This single came out in the UK on Rockfield and the production by Dave Edmunds is pretty spectacular. Dave was in the middle of his Spector recreations in the Rockfield barn at the time and the Welsh wizard pulls out all the stops on this single. Swamped in flange and chorus, Taking Time literally explodes during the instrumental breaks full of psyched out Banjo and unmistakable Dave Edmunds guitar interjections. The B side Still Confused sounds like Badfinger on mushrooms with a nice understated vocal performance from Pete Dunton.

Click on title for edits of Taking Time and Still Confused

No Country for Old Men….HALL OF GREATNESS!!!!

1. Anton choking on the peanuts during the “so, you married into it” exchange.

2. Tasteful use of the transponder.

3. It’s not near as violent as the reviewers, especially the ninnie that wrote about it for Slate, would have you believe.

4. It’s a tour of proto-sprawl motels circa-1980.

5. (Goof) Mid-80’s K-Car in motel parking lot.

6. This poorly-written volunteer entry in the ‘Parent’s Guide’ section of the film’s IMDB entry:

Strong, graphic, grim violence throughout. It has a longer-lasting effect than a normal R-rated movie. It is the most violent movie that the Coen Brothers have done yet. A man uses a cattle gun to shoot his victims (a few at point blank). These shootings (there are many) are quite graphic and bloody. A man gets strangled with handcuffs (blood spurts as an artery bursts). A man comes across many dead bodies (and a dead dog). These dead bodies are shown graphically. A man shoots a dog that’s attacking him. A man gets shot at (he gets hit in the arm). A man is in a car crash and a bone is sticking out of his arm. A man is shot in the head and neck, blood pours out. This happens during a shootout. A man is shot in his side, but gets into a hospital. It is implied that a completely innocent woman gets shot. A man shoots an antelope while hunting, and the antelope limps away. The list goes on–violence is one of the movie’s main themes.

7. It is indeed the Coen Brothers’ return to glory.

Change –Wildcat/ Yaketty Yak, Smacketty Smack


Change –Wildcat/Hold On –EMI 2354 (1975 UK)

Change –Yaketty Yak, Smacketty Smack/When The Morning Comes –Orange OAS 210 (1973 UK)

This review definitely asks more questions than it answers…These two records seem to feature the same band, but they don’t sound at all alike. Wildcat is firmly in Brother Susan/ Slade Glam mode while Yaketty Yak, Smacketty Smack is a lovely pop tune to suit an afternoon of mild S&M activities. Both singles have Sigmund(s)son and Helgason credited as writers (Wildcat adds Rolfe –Could that be Barry Rolfe who recorded Look The Business?), so I would assume a Scandinavian connection. The EMI single is produced by Emil D. Zoghby and to confuse matters even further, I picked up a single by Chance (although credited to Change on the back cover) called Wash My Mem’ries (Pink Elephant PE 22.736 –H) also produced by Emil. That single is rather ghastly, but again could this be the same band? Hopefully our Nordic friends can perhaps provide some information here?

Click on title for edits of Wildcat and Yaketty Yak, Smacketty Smack

Ginglish On Musemsinsel

So while I’m looking for a new place, life, and work, goes on. In recent days, I’ve picked up a guidebook gig, and one of the chapters I have to do is museums. Which is great: I love museums, and if I had it to do all over again, I might well give in to the impulse I had in my teens to go to musem school and wind up making some dough. I’ve always loved the way a museum, properly done, is an alternative way of arranging knowledge. I’m used to doing it with words, but museums have to do it with objects. Just as there is with a book or essay, there’s an implicit agenda in a musem’s ordering of objects: a curator is arguing a position, and the viewer is obliged to sort out the information and react.

I started on Tuesday with a visit to the Deutsches Historisches Museum because although I’ve been to a bunch of shows in its I. M. Pei annex, I had yet to see the new permanent collection in the main building itself. Plus, I woke up that day feeling depressed and decided, on the principle of the blues, that immersing oneself in another’s misery might make me feel better.

Dunno if it worked, actually; I left the place feeling like my head was going to explode. But that’s getting ahead of myself. The permanent collection is divided in two: Roman times to World War I upstairs, and postwar through reunification downstairs. Right off the bat, there’s something odd, in that prehistory isn’t even touched on, and, thanks to the Neander river valley, if nothing else, Germany has a starring role in that. And anyway, those Germanic tribes must’ve come from somewhere. But you’re only a few meters inside by the time the Christians come on the scene, and the long road to the Holy Roman Empire isn’t far away. And so you stroll, as Teutonic knights head off to the Holy Land, Martin Luther nails his theses to the church door (an event the captions claim almost certainly didn’t happen), the French fight the Germans, the Germans fight the French, the Austrians fight the Turks, the Swedes fight the Poles, the Germans fight the French, the French fight the Germans, the Germans fight with themselves, and here comes the Congress of Vienna! Pretty soon it’s time for the Industrial Revolution, paintings give way to photographs, there’s a nice little pair of rooms up a flight of stairs with Jugendstil stuff in them, with a film of German soldiers jamming into trains on their way to the front playing on the downstairs wall just inches away. Next thing you know, you’re back on the landing and it’s time to go downstairs.

I went through the downstairs rather quicker than I would have liked to; closing time was looming in an hour or so, and I also knew this part of the story better than I did the other half (not that I knew the first half much better after a couple of hours with it, for which I blame my education as much as anything). I also had more tools with which to assess the artifacts, and I have to say, the collection is amazing. Also, the way they partition the post-war stuff the way the country was partitioned is done extremely well; you can see the stuff on the other side, but getting there is another matter, although it’s easily enough achieved, of course. (I should mention, though, that the struggle to end the DDR is infinitely better-presented at the almost-unpronounceable-by-non-Germans Zeitgeschichtlisches Forum Leipzig, which is almost reason enough to visit Leipzig all by itself).

But as I walked out into the dark of Unter den Linden, I was experiencing a sensation not unlike vertigo because of all of the captions I’d read. Now, there was a time when all of Berlin’s museums’ captions were in German only, and there was no way to know what was going on unless you could read German. (Lest this seem a bit of xenophobia, I invite you to go into your nearest American museum and see how much information there is in any other language but English). Now, however, as Berlin’s museums are slowly integrating collections divided by the Wall, bilingual German and English captions are showing up. The weirdest of all, though, are in the DHM, which erupt into inexplicable italics every now and again. And it’s not because the words are untranslatable German ones like Heimat or Lebensraum, because they’re not. They’re just random words italicized (a practice I’ve now demonstrated enough and will cease; you’re welcome), in both the German and the English texts. I don’t get it, but it sure does slow you down.

The next day I went to the Bode-Museum, which is practically my next-door neighbor. I had no idea what was in it, because back before it got dome-to-dungeon redone, the best anyone could tell me was “coins and stuff.” Well, the coins are still there, but so is a load of Byzantine and medieval and early renaissance sculpture, painting, and bits of architecture. I made the acquaintance of the amazing woodcarver Erasmus Grasser, who flourished in Munich between 1474 and 1518, and was boggled by an entire room of stuff by Tilman Riemenschneider, whose ability to represent facial expressions and even emotions is unparallelled in his time. The Bode is all about space, which is why it’s particularly good for sculpture; there are two domes letting daylight in, and a gigantic “basilica” with “chapels” on the sides which allow for the display of groupings of renaissance and baroque religious statuary, paintings, and altars.

Here, the captions weren’t annoyingly italicized, and for the most part the English was pretty good. Well, until the one where it really wasn’t. My eyes were glazing over on the second floor, what with an oversupply of baroque bronze sculpture, but I did stop to read about how they were mass-produced, and I came upon this: “The bronze-smith then prepares the metal to be porn into the mould at this time.” The “then…at this time” is bad enough, but…ummm… The piece used to demonstrate this is a naked statue of Mars, anatomically correct, and the first thing that came to my mind was that it isn’t porn til it’s poured.

This leads me to give voice to what I’ll call Augustine’s Complaint, because it’s been voiced over and over by reader and commenter here Steven Augustine. There are tons of underemployed writers and editors, native English-speakers, here in Berlin. Pay us to proofread this stuff, and we’ll turn it into idiomatic English that won’t embarrass you. Really. We may not have doctorates in English, but we do read and write it quite fluently, idiomatically, and we offer really, really affordable rates. However, time and again, it’s the “qualified” Germans who render this English text, and it shows. I’m reminded of a friend of mine who wrote for a (now defunct, I hope) terrible magazine published by Berliner Tourismus und Marketing for distribution in hotels which were BTM members, called Berlin|Berlin. It was German and English…sorta. My friend, a journalism school graduate, raised bilingually in America, and veteran of some of America’s top magazines, wrote an article for them and was told by the editor that her English was terrible. The “corrected” article, of course, was a total howler.

At any rate, I ended this week’s museum-going at the Pergamon, whose holdings aren’t of as much interest to me, although it’s swallowed the Museum of Islamic Art from West Berlin, and you can’t help but be awed by a museum that contains not just artifacts, but whole complexes of ancient buildings and a huge hunk of the city wall of Babylon itself. There, the English captioning is often inscrutable and nearly always polished for maximum dullness. They’re going to do renovations there in the not-too-distant future, and I wonder if this will mean dealing with this problem. Probably not; they have a reputation to uphold, after all.

Create A Buzz: If You Build It They Will Come!

 

Building a music career is hard work. Every day, month and year you repeat the same grind: build the band, write the songs, record the songs, rehearse the songs, perform the songs, promote the band, advertise the band, solicit industry, publicize to the press, build the website, create the message boards, forums, and chat rooms, assemble the street team…it goes on and on until you think your head will surely explode from the mountains of menial tasks that face you, the unsigned artist, each day.

 

Still, after putting in all of that work a band will hit dry spells, slow times and glass ceilings. Some days, your already slow move forward, seems to retard even further. Sometimes it feels as though you’ve peaked and will never advance. There are even days you want to blow off all of this tedious monotony, get a job in the electronics department at Target, and call it a day!

 

But even as your face is smushed up against the glass ceiling of a never-changing cycle of music business grunt work, hope is just over the horizon. See, there is something that you never stopped to think about all the while you were chasing the elusive brass ring of music stardom…all of this time, you were in control. If opportunities have stopped coming your way, then make your own. If you want to be a rockstar, develop a situation you can star in and rock. You have the power and the ability to be anything and everything you have ever wanted to be if you learn to simply create your own buzz.

 

The following are a few tips that may help you to get started creating your own buzz in order to push past the obstacles and keeping moving down the Yellow Brick Road of musical superstardom:

 

1.) Create Your Own Gigs—Tired of whining that you never get the gigs you want? You know: good clubs, weekend shows, prime slots, longer sets, decent pay, good bands on the bill, press attending, industry confirming and most importantly, your band headlining. It’s ridiculous to waste time complaining, when you could be booking, planning, promoting and playing your dreams gigs right now. Sure it will be a lot of time invested and it may mean putting smaller gigs on hold for awhile in order to promote one giant show, but the payoffs will inevitably outweigh the work…and the best part is, it’s all about you. You are the promoter. You are the stars of the night. You pick the date, the times, the bands. You invite the press and the industry. Within a month or two, you could be playing the types of gigs you have always wanted, and all the while getting press, making money, collecting names for your mailing list and building hype for your band that even the stodgiest industry can take notice of.

 

2.) Join The Ranks Of The Press And/Or The Industry—You know what they say…if you can’t beat them, join them. If you want to get industry or press to notice you and your band, what better way than to become a member of the industry or press. Pick up a gig writing for a local magazine and review your friends’ bands and the shows you promote. Intern at a record label and meet friends in the industry to invite to your gigs. Start a management/promotion company and book your band and your friends’ bands to become better acquainted with clubs and their booking agents. You’ll find it will be much easier to deal with industry people when they consider you more of a peer and not just another band asking for help.

 

3.) Numbers, Numbers, Numbers—It may sound ridiculous but in the entertainment industry (as in any business), your perceived worth is tracked by your numbers. Web posters, gig patrons and listeners of your music all translate to numbers and the big ones impress fans and industry alike. If you want club bookers, managers, magazine editors and A&R to notice you then make sure your numbers are up. Web hits, fan group members, online community friends and people on your personal mailing list all add up to your bankability as a band so keep driving those numbers up and watch the doors swing open wide for you.

 

4.) Teach, Volunteer, Take Classes, Join Groups—If you want to meet new people, gain different opportunities, and find fresh ways to obtain your goals, then get out where people are doing what you seek and mingle. If you play and instrument, start teaching and get to know the bands of your students. If you see big events happening in your town, volunteer to work them and get to know the management, talent and audience alike. Take classes and join music organizations not only to learn but to network. There is a whole world of entertainment people out there. Get to know some of them and make those folks a part of your band’s promotional circle.

 

By following these tips and others soon you will find that your band is enjoying the opportunities and buzz you were only dreaming of before. Best of all, you’re now in charge of your own career and musical destiny; creating profitable situations for yourself. You are playing good shows and coming home with money in your pocket. You are selling your own product to pay for band expenses. You are filling your press kit with reviews, interviews and mentions of your band. You are meeting people and building your mailing list. You are establishing your reputation as an important member of the artistic community. No longer waiting to be thrown a chance by some industry member, you have taken command of your musical destiny and cast yourself as the star of your own show. Now, don’t you feel better?

 

 

Sheena Metal is a radio host, producer, promoter, music supervisor, consultant, columnist, journalist and musician. Her syndicated radio program, Music Highway Radio, airs on over 1,000 affiliates to more than 126 million listeners. Her musicians’ assistance program, Music Highway, boasts over 10,000 members. She currently promotes numerous live shows weekly in the Los Angeles Area, where she resides. For more info: http://www.sheena-metal.com.

Set Goals: Your Rockstardom Wasn’t Built In A Day!

Every musician currently living on the Planet Earth would love nothing more than to wake up tomorrow in the midst of their glorious peak of superstardom. But, as Rome wasn’t built in a day, neither is the career of any one musician. A musical career is a long, sometimes arduous journey of tiny advances and minor setbacks filling the fragile shell of big breaks and huge disappointments. It’s up, it’s down, it’s all around and hopefully, as time passes, you can see the course of your career building up slowly through weeks and months and years of steady progress.

But how can you tell if your career is actually going somewhere? How do you know if you’re really getting closer to your musical dreams? How can you determine whether or not you’re on the right path? How do you know what to focus on in the immediacy and what paths can be left for another time when you are better equipped to tackle them creatively and concretely? While there is no one set way achieve rock superstardom, the clearest way to realize musical success is to simply set goals.

As mundane as it may seem, setting goals, both long and short-term, for your musical project lends the same kind of structure and discipline to your career that an athlete would use to train for the Olympics. Realistic goals enable you to build your band’s list of accomplishments the way a runner builds his muscles… pumping up your musical achievements as you lift off the weight of each entertainment roadblock. And the good news is that you can start today. At any time you may put into effect a list of goals, large or small, aimed at boosting your career in any given area.

The following are a few tips that will help you to set some goals so that you may get on your way to achieving all that you want from your music and the entertainment industry in general:

1.) Set Goals You Can Achieve—Nothing is more depressing for an artist than setting lofty goals for yourself and your music only to bottom out with hopelessness when none of the goals are achieved by the deadline. So, much of what keeps artists plugging away in the industry, against all odds, is the positive re-enforcement of feelings of accomplishment. Keep that upbeat mojo going by setting goals for your band that you can absolutely actualize with lots of elbow grease and some good creative flow. Take a minute to assess each potential achievement and put a realistic time allotment on it so that you’re setting yourself up to succeed and move onto the next musical goal.

2.) Keep Your Eyes On The Prize—It’s all well and good to set goals just to see if you can do them, but if you’re ultimate goal is to be a big ole humongous rockstar, then try and set goals that will help you on your way to a Rolls Royce, a Bentley and a 2,000 square foot infinity swimming pool. Set a goal to get one article of press each month, to book a decent gig every two weeks, or to update your website daily. Give yourself six months to finish your full-length album, three months to raise the money for your band’s t-shirts or a year to find a good manager to pitch you to labels. Each one of these goals is a great achievement on its own but also an important piece in getting your band where you eventually want it to be. So it’s a win/win for your career, any way you slice it, and the feelings of accomplishment will certainly empower you to keep pushing on in the ever-frustrating music business.

3.) One Goal At A Time—It’s okay to have twenty goals on the table but they should be lined up in order of immediacy and priority so that each one is given their own individual time. Trying to work too many angles at one time may jumble your ability and focus, and leave you at your deadline with six or seven goals only partially achieved. In an industry so dependant on "what have you done lately," it’s always a good thing to get a goal completed in a timely manner and move onto the next so that the outside world sees a band that is always accomplishing things, always achieving, and always succeeding.

4.) If At First You Don’t Succeed—No matter how hard you try, there will always be goals that elude you past your self-imposed deadline. While it’s good to discipline yourself into a regiment of goal-setting/achieving, don’t beat yourself up if circumstances beyond your control lead you to fall short on a deadline or two. The most important thing is that you realize your goal. Secondary to this, is for you to accomplish your goal in a timely fashion. So, put your emphasis on the success and the positive achievement and don’t give up on your music and your goal if the deadline rolls around prematurely.

Once you set a line of goals in front of you, it’s easy to focus on achieving rather than worrying about failing. As you begin to achieve goals, you can rely on the confidence of all you’ve done and dismiss the angst of worrying about things that haven’t happened yet. You’ll never be able to accomplish everything all at once, so why not relish the successes that you can manifest immediately whilst dreaming of the goals you still have yet to achieve. Don’t waste time. Sit down after you read this and scratch out a list of goals, each with its own timeline. Find something you can accomplish today for your music, something you can get done by tomorrow and something terrific you can nail down by the end of the week. Your band will look better to industry and fans alike and, most importantly, you’ll look and feel great to yourself and your music. RockSuperstardom awaits! Start knocking back those goals and kick the music biz in the butt, one positive achievement at a time!

Sheena Metal is a radio host, producer, promoter, music supervisor, consultant, columnist, journalist and musician. Her syndicated radio program, Music Highway Radio, airs on over 2,000 affiliates to more than 126 million listeners. Her musicians’ assistance program, Music Highway, boasts over 10,000 members. She currently promotes numerous live shows weekly in the Los Angeles Area, where she resides. For more info: http://www.sheena-metal.com.

PRESS RELEASE!!! I’VE SIGNED TO MATADOR RECORDS

Though other outlets, probably Pitchfork and definitely the Matador Records web site, will be announcing this over the next week and a half, I’m here to break the news that Andrew Earles and Jeffrey Jensen have finally signed to Matador Records, under the artist moniker, “Earles and Jensen.”

What this means:

Earles and Jensen Present: Just Farr A Laugh Vol. 1 and 2 will be released February 19th on Matador Records. It will be the first comedy release for the legendary indie label; a past and current home to Cat Power, Yo La Tengo, Pavement, The Ponys, Interpol, The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Mission of Burma, and The Unsane. The double CD set constitutes the world’s greatest collection of prank phone calls. Included in the package will be a book (not booklet) of drawings, photographs, and writing, all courtesy of multiple contributors. It’s a virtual who’s who that doesn’t make a lot of sense, but nonetheless creates a wonderful companion to the recorded works.

Bleachy, absurd celebrity impersonations, pop-cultural clusterf**ks, total insanity – the whole gang is here…a 150-minute assault on your funny bone.

If you are a fan of Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk, Yes’ Tales from Topographic Oceans, the Hampton Grease Band’s Music To Eat, The Mothers of Invention’s Freak Out, Husker Du’s Zen Arcade, the Minutemen’s Double Nickels on the Dime, TFUL 282’s Mother of All Saints, and wish there was a prank call/comedy version of these wonderfully indulgent, macro masterpieces, well, it looks like February 19th is going to be your lucky day. That last sentence is a thinly-veiled way to say that unless you are promotionally serviced by Matador Records or rank amongst the contributors, don’t expect a burn or freebie.

A short list of artists that contributed drawings: Mike Aho, Archer Prewitt, Devendra Banhart, Mark Henning, Ian Marshall, Gavin McInnes, Jake Oas, Aurel Schmidt, Matt Sweeney, and Megan Whitmarsh.

Don’t know ‘em? Look ‘em up. Some of these people can be found on the Internet.

The entire list of writers that contributed forewords: Gregg Turkington (AKA Neil Hamburger, comedy genius, writer, Warm Voices Rearranged), Matador co-owner/co-founder Gerard Cosloy, David Dunlap Jr. (writer, Washington City Paper, Memphis Flyer, funny guy), and master humorist/writer Neil Pollack (books: Alternadad, The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature, Never Mind The Pollacks: A Rock and Roll Novel, editor/contributor: Akashic’s Chicago Noir).

All of the must-be-seen-to-be-believed photography is by Geoffrey Brent Shrewsbury. Seriously, it will blow your mind.

Otherwise, the respective introductions and thousands upon thousands of words of track-by-track commentary are provided by Andrew Earles and Jeffrey Jensen.

Who you are dealing with:

Along with writer Ian Christe and artist Steve Keene, Jeffrey Jensen founded modern day Brooklyn NYC around 1992, during the Dinkins administration. He has written or directed the films The Low Down Dirty D.A.W.G.S. (1999), Street Boogie (2001, shelved), and Graceland Too: The Movie (still in production). An accomplished artist, Jeff is known for his puppet shows, intricate nightlight dioramas, and evenings of vast entertainment, as well as anything else you could possibly think of. With his incredibly magnetic personality, Mr. Jensen has left a lasting mental imprint on anyone lucky enough to have spent over an hour in his presence. Jeffrey has played in many bands, including The Closet Case, The Jewish, The Star Spangles, plus he was the bass player for Homestead Records recording artists Smack Dab. He drives a 1982 Chrysler Lebaron, contributes regularly to Vice Magazine, and was accidentally shot with a .22 rifle when he was 13-years-old.

Andrew Earles is a writer and loosely-defined humorist that lives in Memphis, TN. His words regularly appear in The Onion A/V Club, Spin, Harp, Paste, Magnet, Vice, Paste, Chunklet, and The Memphis Flyer…among others. He founded The Cimarron Weekend in 1997, co-publishing and co-editing said argument-starter with David Dunlap Jr. until 2001. Four or five people like to claim that it was a great zine. From 2001 until late 2006, Andrew was a regular contributor to Tom Scharpling’s The Best Show on WFMU. As far as books go, his essays have appeared in the now out-of-print Lost In The Grooves (Routledge) and remainder table favorite, The Overrated Book (Last Gasp). He is a core contributor to The Rock Bible, to be published by Quirk in 2008. Most of his attempts at live comedy have failed miserably. Andrew is a proud Southerner and amateur, wanna-be outdoorsman that loves to fish, act like he knows a lot about animals, and walk around in the woods. He sometimes has a smart mouth, yet against all logic, has yet to receive that long-overdue ass-whomping (not an invitation). This is his blog: www.failedpilot.com

Jeffrey Joe Jensen and Andrew Scott Earles are Leo’s, reliably carrying all of the negative and positive baggage of that particular sign. Amazingly, and unknown to the duo until several years ago, they share the exact same birthday of August 15th.