Hammered

January 31st, 2003

Got hammered last night.

The department threw a going away party at The Whiskey (in the W) for our assignment editor, an old school employee of 15 years. An open bar on an empty stomach spells disaster. And it was. People were falling over, breakin’ shit. Some tossed their cookies at work today. Other, like myself, just moved veeeery slowly.

Which is tough to do, ‘cuz with the Grammys in two weeks, this impending Iraq ugliness, plus all the other business we do, work is insane. Which combined with rockin’ with the Cockfight, and binge drinking (I kid!) leaves little time for anything else. the real test comes in the morning: there’s a 15k in Central Park.

Think I’ll make it?

Options, Opportunities, And A Minute Or Two

January 30th, 2003

Back home in NYC, back home to the MTV, back home to the cold, real world.

Been workin’ a bunch, a sleepin’ a lot. Feel like I’m just starting to get my energy back. Ran this morning. The river’s jammed with ice — far cry from the desert. I keep flashing back to California, seeing it in my mind. Kinda’ can’t believe how effortless it is to pop back and forth. I mean, seeing as I’m asleep and all. I wake up, and I’m there. Wake up, and I’m here again. Not bad. Not bad at all. Anyway, no plans for the weekend. No real plans at all. Just lots of options, and opportunities, and a minute or two to ponder my next step.

Zilch

January 27th, 2003

Left Palm Springs around 3:30pm PT yesterday afternoon. It was 80 degrees outside.

Drove to Santa Monica where we walked on the beach as the sunset — 65 degrees. Boarded American Airlines Flight 152 (after a Grey Goose martini — three olives — and two Xanax) at 10:35pm PT. 63 degrees.

Touched down at Newark International Airport at 6:38 am ET this morning. 13 degrees.

Worked all day for the MTV. Leaving now — 6:49 pm ET — and it’s, gulp, 0. Zero. Nada. No degrees.

Coming Up Next, Kathy Griffin!

January 24th, 2003

Saw Kathy Griffin — she of “Suddenly Susan” and “Celebrity Mole” — last night at the Laugh Factory on Sunset.

Was whisked straight to the VIP balcony courtesy of my UTA agent buddy James (whose wedding you may recall I attended in Kauai). Ran into a NY Producer friend. And tripped over a live mic en route to my seat. The entire audience looked up to see me there blushing. So I picked it up, thanked them, and said, “Coming up next, Kathy Griffin.”

Dork.

Anyway. Her set was the perfect commentary on this week in L.A., all self-effacing mockery of celebrity and near-celebrity. The entire audience was in the know, following her every “American Idol” reference. Depsite my general ignorance of television, I laughed as well. It’s good to laugh.

Then went back to the Mondrian and did the Skybar thing, which was the height of see-and-be-seen. Luckily, I was lush enough that it was all funny: the plastic surgery, strappy dresses, and batting eyelashes. Any anyway, my workweek here in L.A. is almost done. I’m off to Palm Springs for the weekend, then home to New York on the red eye Sunday night.

Looking Out Over Los Angeles

January 22nd, 2003

Sitting on the balcony of The Mondrian last night looking out over Los Angeles, I found myself still debating the place.

It really is the epitome of style over substance. It’s the town that gave us Hustler Magazine, bull testicle eating celebrities, and “Howard the Duck.” And yet, there, ten stories above the candlelit pool, there above Skybar and the idle chatter of Asia de Cuba, I was happy and smiling and excited by it all. By the opportunity. The possibility. (Not to mention the proximity to the glistening Pacific, the Santa Monica Mountains, and the beautifully desolate Palm Springs.)

Anyway, Michael Lockwood hasn’t called, and it’s 7:32pm PT. I like to assume he’s still jamming with Lisa Marie. Either way, I’ve burned him the best of my new demo, and will get it to him one way or another. Meanwhile, I wanted you to hear a little of it, cut I think it sounds pretty good (particularly for someone who was half in the bag).

Thoroughfares

January 21st, 2003

I’m in Los Angeles with a fist full of new songs…

Sunset to Melrose to La Cieniga… funny how every thoroughfare in Los Angeles seems to have have a life of its own. Like Madison Avenue or Houston Street, they have a hue, a vibe, connotations. From afar — that is, growing up and looking West from New York, Sunset and Melrose were invested with glamour, mystery.

Driving to work this morning, though, it’s just traffic and garbage and heat and billboards. Not so glamourous. That’s the beauty of true experience, though, of having enough time in a place, or with a person, to demystify it, them. I think it’s a good thing. And it’s what happens when I’m here in Los Angeles. It’s what’s happening now.

In fact, the lustre of the place is in part retained, in part besmirched. One of the reasons I’m here this week is for MTV News’ Golden Globe coverage. Driving into the office Sunday night, I spotted a cluster of helicopters hovering in the smoggy sunset like vultures. After watching the raw feed of MTV News’ red carpet coverage, the awards themselves, and Access Hollywood’s aftershow, I felt kinda’ dirty. Prurient. Yet, this is what I do. And what I endeavor to do more of here. I think.

On the upside, I went running Sunday morning in the hills above Griffith Observatory (featured in “Rebel Without A Cause”) in the shadow of the Hollywood sign — in shorts. Just 48 hours earlier I was running into a 13 degree wind of the Hudson River.

And I spoke with Michael Lockwood last night, who was fresh from rehearsal with Lisa Marie Presley (zero degrees of separation from Elvis!). He and I are having a drink tomorrow night so I can hand off my new demos, and talk recording. So cross your fingers, and click your heels…

Recording The JFK/LAX Demos

January 17th, 2003

Kevin and I worked in the studio from about 7pm to 1am, demoing ten new songs while consuming a six pack of Saporo and two Dominos pizzas.

Hanging out and catching up with Kevin is always fun. We’ve actually done a ton of stuff together over the years — a Christmas single (David Gray’s “Babylon” and John Lennon’s “Happy Xmas”) in 1999, last year’s “Summer’s Gone” Remix EP, and now this. But it’s not really fun, per se, when he says “Rolling!” I start sweating, and getting overly conscious of my performance, and things like lyrics and chord changes slip away.

But after struggling with six aborted takes of “California” (surely the lead track on whatever this new project shapes up to be), I fell into a groove and knocked out the remaining nine songs pretty quickly (some of which I had to write lyrics for on the spot).

Themes and threads emerge as I listened myself singing all the new stuff. The word “struggle” comes up at least three times. Notions of flying — and unlike previous records (hello, “Crash Site” anyone?) — landing were prevelent. The ocean.  Home.  And of course, Hollywood in specific and California in general, both of which make appearences.

The Midwest is accounted for too: St. Paul (where the antognist — or is it antagonist? — of “Intent on St. Paul” wants to flee), and “Shiver,” which I always imagined to take place in Kansas or some similar “In Cold Blood” or “Badlands” type place. So, interesting. Here’s everything I tracked:

California
The Albatross
Intent On St. Paul
Hollywood Arms
Being There
Golden Wings
Radio
She’ll Come Undone
Shiver
Stay

So I’m flying to Los Angeles in the morning, demo in hand. If for some reason I’m unable to update from the road, have a great week. Know that I’m thinking of you, and rocking on…

24 Hours With Johnny Marr & Rosario Dawson

January 16th, 2003

This afternoon, here at the MTV, my officemate Robert and I were listening to Styx’s “Mr. Roboto” — pretty loudly — for a nostalgic laugh, when MTV Radio’s assignment editor Raquel Bruno showed up at our door with ex-Smith’s guitarist Johnny Marr.

Apparently, my jaw dropped, I turned red, and stammered, “Great, the one time I’m cranking Styx and you show up.” Johnny F’in’ Marr! I mean, “Strangeways Here We Come” planted the whole strummy airy acoustic sound in my head, and here’s the guy right at my door! Wack. And fun. We talked about my guitar a minute (next to my desk on account of me demoing tonight and all), and he was gone.

So, Last night’s Cockfight rehearsal lacked the cohesion of the week prior, but what it lacked in cohesion, it made up for in star power. Bassist Abby Goodman’s friend (and “Josie & The Pussycats” star) Rosario Dawson came in and jammed on bass and vocals a while. Not that I recognized her until the guys knocked me upside the head afterwards, but we had fun. Which is the objective of Cockfight. We do have at least one song that’s really pretty cool, and I could play over and over and over (and did). It’s either called “Tony,” “Stony” or “Phonie.” I can’t really keep ’em straight.

Anyway, I’m headed to Control One Studios with Kevin Anthony to record new songs. But you knew that — I’ve been writing about it for days. I’m not all the well rehearsed, so it should be interesting. Or painful. Tune in tomorrow to find out which…

Everything Is Possible

January 15th, 2003

I’m completely feelin’ those new HP posters in the subway that say, simply, “Everything Is Possible.” Especially the one with the astronauts. I feel that way right now. I mean, within reason.

Had a great day at work. Headin’ to Cockfight rehearsal in a few minutes. Demoing new songs in the studio tomorrow night. Flying to L.A. on Saturday. I mean, not to jynx anything, but wow, shit’s not bad, right?

Oh, and it all began with more delicious sunshine over Central Park this morning. And a few new lyrics for a new song I’m gonna’ record tomorrow that I’m calling “Being There” (with props to Peter Sellers and Wilco both). Still needs a chorus, but here it is:

The sunlight’s streaming in through
The windows of the plane
Just 30,000 feet more
I’ll be back home again
And I feel myself descending
And I feel it sinking in
In a moment we’ll be landed
I’ll be on my feet again

I’m the king of Wishfull Thinking
You’re the Queen of Disbelief
In a city of lost angels
Broken halos, broken wings

Now the New York City skyline
Like a thousand shattered diamonds
Just scattered but still shining
In the early light of day
I’ll see you when you get here
Where the sun begins it’s struggle
Where the streets are strewn with rubble
And the avenues with dreams

I’m Not Sleeping (I’m Resting)

January 14th, 2003

It was twenty degrees running along the river this morning. But as I ran eastward on 72d Street past The Dakota, the sun peaked over Central park a raging orange. I felt like Icarus or something, blinded by the glare, suddenly warm, flying almost.

I’ve been working out verses as I run. I did a five miler Sunday morning, and wrote a second verse for an end-of-album type song I started Saturday afternoon. It’s all finger picking — not like bluegrass or anything, but mellow and more articluated then strumming — and picks up where my well-worn story about watching the sun set in Santa Monica and rise in New York City left off.

You know, the story I told on every tour stop before playing “California,” and ended it with the Aimee Mann told me, “It’s a good life if you don’t weaken.” It’s all about landing the plane, and arriving home, which is significant to me because so much of my songwriting has been about crashing and not being home.

So it’s kinda’ thematically interesting, some sort of closure. Anyway, it’s not done — I need a last verse — but here’s the second verse.

The New York City skyline
Like a thousand shattered diamonds
Just scattered but still shining
In the early morning air
I’ll see you when you get here
Where the sun begins its struggle
Where the streets are strewn with rubble
The avenues with dreams

If I can whip up a third verse and a middle eight (bridge) by Thursday, I’d like to demo it along with a handful of other newish tunes (“California,” “Hollywood Arms,” The Albatross”). And I emailed Michael Lockwood, who said to call him when I’m in L.A.! So maybe he’ll be producing whatever I do next. We’ll see — one step at a time. I’m thinking something very acoustic, kinda’ lo-fi (in contrast to “Crash Site), something whipped up in a few days, more EP than LP. Then I want to release it in New York and Los Angeles on subsequent nights.

See? I’m not sleeping, just resting.