RL4 - Sears Would Call Me Husky

This week, Merlin and John talk about:

The Problems:

  • Pixxxxxie Grrrls; punk rock day; °
  • George Lucas’s dewlap; °
  • numerous Charles Nelson Reilly issues; °
  • why John Hüsker Dïdn’t; °
  • Merlin’s chronic struggles with facial hair; °
  • Czeching out the Beetle; °
  • our complicity in a massive Rob Halford denial; °
  • hangtags for the portly man;
  • scalloped versus fretless; °
  • when we looked like butter-top bread; °
  • incontinent mastiffs; °
  • the overdue need for a Personal Ads tribunal; °

The show title refers to John’s dysmorphic image of himself that Sears would call husky.

Raw notes
The segments below are raw notes that have not been edited for language, structure, references, or readability. Please do not quote these texts directly without applying your own editing first! These notes were not planned to be released in this form, but time constraints have caused a shift in priorities and have delayed editing draft-quality versions to a later point.

John having been sick (RL4)

After having been sick (see RL3) John is 90% better, but not completely well, and there is a lot of wiggle-room in that last 10%. It is just like the last 5 pounds of weight you want to lose are the hardest, but that could be something dumb like things are always in the last place you look. John could still turn this almost-betterness back into total catastrophic sickness and he has to be very careful not to do what his instinct tells him, which is to run bare-headed in the rain in his underwear because he will get pneumonia if he would do that.

Short-haired lesbians, pixies (RL4)

People tell John to follow his gut, but his gut has told him incredibly stupid things, like to always fall in love with lesbians, to go out in the rain without a hat, or to eat all the pasta. He can’t trust it! The lesbians that John traditionally has fallen in love with are the ones with short black hair and the faintest wisp of a mustache, somewhere in between a 12-year old boy and John Waters if John Waters was a lot shorter and had not quite boobs, but lady lumps.

John spent his entire 20s chasing after girls who looked like Jane Wiedlin from the Go-Go’s and 85% of them were either gay or were going through their gay phase at precisely the time that they were friends and they wanted to talk with John about their romantic problems. It is a big part of why he was an alcoholic.

Joanna Bolme, who was in The Minders, was an engineer on some Elliott Smith records, and worked the K Records scene. John knows her in a Northwestern way and she was obviously in he substrata of short-haired lesbian cosmology. She was quite a constellation! When Merlin saw her playing with The Minders he had to go. She is ridiculously tall, skinny, and long-armed and she can play that bass! The bass, the tattoos, the short hair, often pierced nipples, it all goes together! John is not new, he has lived and he has seen what is under the T-shirts (see also Manic Pixie Dream Girl).

Merlin wonders if those are called pixies. More like angry pixies or riot pixies, spelled with a bunch of R in the middle. Some of them aren’t gay, that is the frustrating thing, but they just went through a gay phase that coincides with you trying to get with them, and a lot of girls just had a gay phase for the 20 minutes John was trying to pick them up. It is something you put yourself into completely for a couple of weeks, but Merlin now has to live with those memories and his record was not the one getting dropped on the needle.

Merlin spent so much of his life in that state, sometimes because of pixies, but often because of a vaguely athletic girl with a good family. Those are bad too because you don’t have a chance and their dad makes them laugh. It is the worst when a girl has a really great relationship with her father, fuck that! If he is also a rich lawyer then Merlin calls those the cock block docs: He is funnier than you and is hogging his daughter. That is why John always had tremendous success with girls who had very conflicted feelings about their father.

Merlin would get through their wallet and see if they have birth-control pills and anti-depressants. Bauhaus tape? We are good! John would always try to read their journal when they went to the bathroom. Merlin loves the smell of ladies’ purses. John says those smell like a cow’s utter, but that is bad how? He does not want to smell a girl’s purse, that is like smelling the inside of her pockets while her pants are still on, like smelling inside of a pair of mom jeans. Merlin has many times been the Just Friend they could talk to about their problems.

The terrible fashion during the 1990s (RL4)

Times have changed since the 1990s. Now people send naked pictures to each other on their phones. The 1990s were a terrible time to be a young person. Let’s just never speak of them again! Merlin graduated from college in 1990 and all people who had been in those classes before had done amazing things on campus, nationally and internationally.

They were full-bright scholars, then Merlin was there for 4 years and had a big effect on this and the year after he left suddenly everybody was doing things to help then environment and getting good grants. They were way smarter and Merlin blames his generation. They were a big part of the problem.

John’s community were terrible people, too! Take any small town and any 10 losers hanging under a bridge smoking Clove cigarettes and play them some Dinosaur Jr. records and you get the Seattle scene in 1992. What frustrates John is that during his whole youth the fashion was to wear really baggy, untailored, ripped, dirty clothes. When he was 24 a girl could not be more fashionable than if she took a sleeping bag, cut armholes in it, and rolled in some manure. That was so Punk!

Somewhere around 2000 everybody on the University of Washington campus started wearing clothes that fit and he was infuriated! Why are people wearing that now? He would have liked to have seen all these people’s bodies in these nice clothes when he was a young man. You had to have X-ray vision!

One time John was looking through the extra large section at the thrift store because he is an extra large person and everybody standing around him was 5’6” (168 cm) and weighed 130 pounds (60kg). You people get out of here! This is the extra large section and it should be off-limits! It is like stealing a handicapped parking space, there are not that many extra large shirts!

Merlin slid easily into Grunge because he dressed like Paul Westerburg before he knew who Paul Westerberg was and he had been dressing like that since the Dukes of Hazzard. He even had an ironic mustache 20 years before the first ironic mustache. It was hilarious and it looked great on him. It was borderline ”I live in Florida and I have a mustache!”

It was what he could grow, while people like John wake up in the morning and are fucking Rip Van Winkle with a giant beard. This is the problem with the fucking goatees: It is not a decision, but it is what is left after you shaved off the part that wasn’t a beard. Merlin would grow a big-ass beard if he could. Like a fucking comb-over, waiting for that thing to grow and smoothing it down.

R.E.M. breaking up (RL4)

They almost talked about R.E.M. on this show and now R.E.M. broke up and they can take credit for it. Whatever John could say about R.E.M. has already been said so eloquently. John had a great tweet about that: ”No one needs to hear one more aging hipster say how much REM meant to them back in the day, but here I am saying it.”

Merlin is sick to death about all this R.I.P. soandso, ”OMG Señor Wences died!” You wikipediaed that so you can get on some fucking gravy train on Twitter! Merlin is going to find people who are almost dead whom you can learn to appreciate so you can pre-mourn them by actually learning what they did before you heard something on Google News. That is what happens with R.E.M. now. Merlin’s friend Ethan Kaplan who did the Murmurs site for the last 15 years is pals with them and had a legitimate reason to change his Twitter icon and things like that.

Todd Barry posted a picture of himself (tweet) from when he still had hair, which was amazing to see. It shows him as a young man with Peter Buck and Mike Mills in 1984 and you recognize Todd, although he is a much younger person.

Peter and Mike have their iconographic look and you know the clothes they were wearing and you know their hair. It is like a picture on the back of their record, except somehow a teenage Todd Barry is in the picture and it increased John’s respect for Todd Barry immeasurably.

Merlin’s style in the late 1980s/early 1990s, looking at old photos on Flickr (RL4)

John didn’t realize that Merlin kept sending him things through Skype that he could have looked at in order to have a multimedia experience. He now sent John a picture of himself in 1987 with a mullet (although Merlin disagrees) and a mustache. John’s definition of a mullet is that the hair is above the ear in the front and touching the shirt in the back.

That is the Merlin look with the mustache, the Merlin shit-eating grin, and two things that put this picture in 1987: The long-sleeve T-shirt that says Lifes Rich Pageant Tour (album by R.E.M.) and what knocks it out of the park is the jeans that have been bleached to a powder-blue that is light as the Montana sky. They are almost white, but they had started off life as blue-jeans.

Merlin is wearing a friendship bracelet that he had woven, which John hadn't noticed. He made a lot of those for himself because he didn’t find out before he had moved away that somebody is supposed to make those and then give it to somebody. There is a tag on the flickr that says merlinwithtragicfacialhair. John doesn’t think it is tragic, but it is a little bit Errol Flynn.

Merlin sends John another picture that he is pretty proud of and that he also sent to Derrick Bostrom, drummer of the Meat Puppets. It is from YMCA in New York. Again, the jeans went through a bleach storm, they are size 28/32, and Merlin is wearing a great Meat Puppets T-Shirt and has almost Kurt Cobain facial hair, but it is the same mustache, just 2 years later.

John looks at another picture of Merlin’s Stage Band. Everybody has their hair parted right down the middle which looks like a loaf of split-top bread. That guitar cost almost $150 new. It is a Cimar, like when Eddie Van Halen turned his Explorer into a fake V, but worse.

There is a scene in the first Terminator movie when Schwarzenegger lands and he is still naked and he gets menaced by Punks. The head Punk was Bill Paxton, who looks a bit like Merlin which nobody had ever pointed out. Merlin always gets Bill Paxton confused with the other guy Jeff Daniels in Dumb & Dumber who looks like him. He is pretty good. Terminator is a 1984 film by James Cameron, before he got all full of himself.

John likes the mugshot of Merlin taken at the Sarasota Police department. John tried to get the mugshot that had been taken of him by the Boulder County Sheriff’s Department from a similar era, but they had a fire that burned down the court house and all of their records were lost. This topic is part of an implied third rail that Merlin will never ask John about but that he always wants to ask him (see RW118 and RL341).

Merlin had never heard two Hüsker Dü songs, but he saw Pete Buck wearing a Hüsker Dü shirt and he also bought one. He had a Metal Circus shirt and he had the cassette and he loved it. Merlin liked R.E.M. so much that it was weird. He thinks they should be 4 bands, but wants to come back to that topic later. He had a bunch of SST shirts (record label) and was a total poser! He had a Circle Jerks shirt, he was a mess!

John was still bopping around at that point. He was not quite in Seattle yet and he was hitchhiking around America, looking for his lost country, influenced by The Pretenders to go find America. He spent a couple of years looking around, but it had been gone for a long time. It was the era when if you were driving a foreign car in certain parts of America, people were trying to run you off the road. There were some rust-belt experiences that John doesn’t think anyone would believe if he told them now.

Until fairly recently, especially in Florida, a lot of people would not buy a car that was not made in the US. Older people would not buy a Japanese car and would definitely not buy a German car. People stood toe to toe with John and screamed at him for riding in an Audi. That was real stuff, those were the times!

There was a famous commercial when they launched the VW Bug, which was a good Nazi car from 1938. The original design was a Czech car and it was the first rear-engined air-cooled little people’s car. Then Ferdinand Porsche stole it. There was a law suit before the war and then Germany invaded Czechoslovakia and he law suit just went away.

Merlin’s personal development (RL4)

Merlin never had good luck with girls, it is such a legacy of pain, and even when it did work out it didn’t work out and what the fuck was he thinking the whole time? He could have been good in school and got really good grades up until the 8th grade, but then he went to Florida, they put him in consumer math, and the girls were wearing very tight pants. REO Speedwagon was very confusing and Merlin didn’t adapt well to that and he never came out of it.

John thinks that Merlin is a special breed of person who would have needed a mentor, an adult male who took him and showed him the way. Unfortunately we are as a nation so panicky about pedophiles that we don’t let scout masters take young impressionable men and show them the way.

Some of us just needed a scout master and John is certainly one, although he didn’t need a scout master as much as a graduate student who was good at sports. John has toned that quote down, he earlier said to Merlin: ”What you need is a really good ass kicking!”, something like: ”There is nothing wrong with you that couldn’t be solved by a couple of good ass kickings!”

When he first met John, Merlin was much more sensitive than he is now. The Internet has cauterized him a little bit. John would say: ”Merlin, somebody should have kicked your ass a long time ago and it is not too late!” and Merlin would get a terrible look on his face like John had pulled out a nose hair.

Merlin almost said that meeting John is like getting an incontinent Mastiff, or 4 incontinent Mastiffs: There is going to be a breaking-in period and you have to move some things in the house, make some arrangements for the rugs, and move the crystal figurines up on a higher shelf. The reason their relationship continues to grow and thrive is that Merlin has made some accommodations.

A single ass-kicking wouldn’t be sufficient, but it would just scare Merlin and it wouldn’t sink in. The second ass-kicking would communicate the information he needed. What if he was like Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke and the more you did to him the tougher he ended up being? You say: ”Don’t get up!” and he would keep getting up and you hit him again, except Merlin wouldn’t get up and Paul Newman ends up dead in that movie. That is a good movie! John has never seen it, he just saw the guys in R.E.M. wearing a Cool Hand Luke T-shirt.

Hüsker Dü, Sex Pistols (RL4)

Hüsker Dü, the Minutmen, and the Meat Puppets are from John’s era. He was right there for all of that, but it didn’t connect with him. No Dinosaur Jr, either! John wants to hear a pop vocal, but the guy sounds like he is trying to drown himself in a toilet. John loved Never Mind the Bollocks (album by Sex Pistols) because it has a vocal. Merlin says the only thing people remember about it is Malcolm Robert McLaren, their manager (Merlin mentions Malcolm McDowell, Randy Roddy Piper, and Malcolm Gladwell while trying to get to the name), but John disagrees.

The problem with the Sex Pistols story is that nobody knew at the time that they were a hoax. That is all retro-active over-smartness! You are claiming you knew that Rob Halford was gay (from Judas Priest)? No, you did not! Nobody knew he was gay! We have talked ourselves out of a lot of things. We should have known a lot of things! We should have known the Russians weren’t a threat. John’s entire youth was preparing for a nuclear war and it was Merlin’s single biggest fear, but then it never happened.

People who claim they were Punk in the 1980s (RL4)

Many people said in 1994 how Punk they were in 1986, but John was around in 1986 and nobody was fucking Punk! You could count the Punks on two hands in any city and they were unlikable, they were turds, but in 1994 everybody had a picture of how Punk they were, usually a picture of them at Halloween when they were dressed as a Punk where they had sharpied out the people on either side of them who were dressed like Batman and the sharpie on the picture just made it look more Punk. They thumb-tacked it up on their wall and it shows them with a shaving-cream mohawk. It was a collective conspiracy of the youth of America to rewrite history.

Merlin had something at his High School called Punk Rock day as part of homecoming. He shows John a photo of three cheerleaders wearing garbage bags and skinny ties. One girl got a side ponytail, which is pretty Punk. The middle girl has a headband and girl-jeans with the skinny belt. Girl-cut jeans were blue jeans cut for a woman’s figure. They were very high-waisted and they made your ass look like a pear that had been sitting in a bowl. Everything had pleats, which was terrible. The girl on the left has her dad’s sunglasses on and a chain belt around her garbage bag. 1983! Just throw some Vans in there and a painter’s cap!

The song Quincy Punk Episode by Spoon is pretty hilarious, Nicholas Cage was in Valley Girl, there is the movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High, but the real key to understanding this era is the Punk Rock guys that appear in every Charles Bronson movie of the 1980s where Charles Bronson is walking across a parking garage at night and suddenly you hear somebody screaming and a chill goes up the back of your neck. Baseball Furies were like Punks, but a little glam.

People who don’t know how to hide problems with their body (RL4)

Merlin compares John to Charles Nelson Reilly, who was 4’11” (150 cm), had pretty big glasses, and was obviously a polymath, but John doesn’t like to be compared to him or to Bruce Vilanch who is a very funny man and John appreciates if you mean that as a compliment, but Bruce Vilanch looks like a pile of ectoplasm with an Emo Philips wig on and John doesn’t want to be compared to him or Charles Nelson Reilly. He would rather be compared to Paul Newman! Charles Nelson Reilly also used to correct people whom he should be compared to and he did not like to be compared to Clifton Webb because he thought Clifton Webb seemed a little gay.

Somebody made fun of Bruce Vilanch in a song. The LCD Soundsystem guy James Murphy got into a fight with journalist Michael Musto. Bruce Vilanch is shaped like a traffic cone and there is so much extra flesh around his neck that if a gust of wind came up his neck fat would slap him in the face, even more than George Lucas. George Lucas has no face architecture. If he didn’t have a beard, then from the bottom of his nose to his Adam’s apple there would be nothing like a mouth floating in a neck space.

Lucas makes the category error that is also called the Andrew Dice Clay error: As your face falls apart you delineate where our face once was by cutting your beard in more and more angular shapes, which doesn’t work. Instead you should let your beard grow into a huge bushy thing so that nobody can see what is underneath it. You follow the ball, not the batter! Be the ball! See the ball! You do not want to try to fool people into thinking you have a face by cutting your beard into a helmet strap.

George Lucas should know better. He has ruined enough movies and killed enough faces. Carey Fisher is a beautiful woman, but she looks like Bozo the Clown in the first Star Wars movie. This is one of Paul Allen’s problems, too:

These people are rich enough that they surround themselves with people who agree with them and they completely exclude anyone who even raises their eyebrow. Paul is the 5th richest man in the world! Why is he wearing putty-colored Dockers? Why the Portland Trail Blazers? And why does he employ nine librarians? John needs to stop talking about Paul Allen or the power in his house will go out and he will wake up with a Fender Pro Reverb head in his bed.

They continue talking about George Lucas. Merlin mentions John’s look in the Decemberists video (Sixteen Military Wives) from 2005. John did not have his beard professionally curled in any way, but that is just what it would do if he let it grow for 6 months. If George Lucas would grow a beard like that it would disguise a lot of the problems.

Merlin has been accused that he talks too much about Star Wars and grocery stores and he is going to stop doing that, except to quote one of his other friends named John (probably John Siracusa): ”Star Wars has become for George Lucas what Joan Rivers’ face is for Joan Rivers” You can’t see that these changes are not helping, you can’t stop fucking with it, and nobody around you will tell you to knock it off. He got dewlap blindness!

People who aren’t billionaires and who aren’t surrounded by yes-men develop a dysmorphic view of themselves, like when John sees himself in the mirror he thinks he is fat. At one level, Sears would call him husky. He has a large frame. Merlin would say John is big and tall, but he is not fat, he doesn’t waddle, but he is very dignified. He is height/weight proportionate, he is a big man.

Singles ads, female friendships, being picky with the choice of your partner (RL4)

Merlin saw the first third of the movie Bridesmaids and he was prepared for it to be really dumb, but he watched it anyway because there were several people in it that he likes, and it is one of the funniest movies he has seen in a long time. In the lead is Kristen Wiig, the wonderful hilarious woman from Saturday Night Life. Anytime Merlin watches anything involving single people he is very happy to be in a good relationship with a good person. He couldn’t stand having to deal with not being in a relationship but wanting to be in a relationship.

Merlin can’t imagine writing a singles ad. It is all self-reporting! Other people should have to write those ads for you, but if there was somebody who was close enough to you so they could write your singles ad you wouldn’t be single. There should be a review board between you and the medium publishing it.

The problem with singles ads by girls is: Somehow along the way in America the definition of an adult female relationship has become that your best female friends need to be 100% supportive of you, no matter how reprehensible you are as a person. They have to tell you: ”Girl, you rule! He is not making you a priority!”, and that would mean that those friends would write an even more ridiculously fantastical definition of their friends.

When it comes to guys, a guy writing a personal ad for another guy would never happen. Instead you would need truly impartial third parties, a tribunal, a panel of six people who write personal ads for everyone, like a Torquemada type situation. You submit your profile, and they do research on you and look at your Facebook picture.

This is what 4Chan is for: It is the tribunal that should be writing personal ads for single people because those people are merciless and they know how to find your pictures on Flickr. They are behind seven proxies, they will find any photo you have put on the Internet, they will photoshop some semen on your face and then they will write a personal ad for you.

All relationships a based on lies, so why shouldn’t they be based on lies from the very get-go? You show up for a date with someone you met on an Internet dating service and it turns out the person is 75 pounds (35 kg) heavier than the heaviest picture on their profile, but most people showing up on a date have also lied and they are also fatter than the fattest picture on their profile.

It will only take them a second to readjust their filter and reevaluate. Maybe they have found their perfect mate? If they had read the profile and the profile had been ruthlessly true, they never would have made the trip because in their own mind they are much better looking and more svelte than they actually are.

Merlin doesn’t agree and he thinks they need to agree to disagree, but John never agrees to disagree because he will either agree or disagree. Merlin thinks that someone who wants to introduce you to a friend is going to say that she is very sweet and has a great personality, and there are not going to be a lot of asterisks in all of that. They might think they are doing her a big favor by damning her with faint praise. If he said she is a very heavy girl who probably won’t break up with you, you would think a little harder about saying yes.

It also depends on how many times you had sex. Your hypothetical American guy has had sex with maybe 5 different women, which is enough people that he has a sense of how it works. He has seen 5 different naked bodies and some bodies on the Internet, so he has a general picture of how this all goes down.

He is introduced to a girl called Hortens who is anywhere from being a very skinny girl to being a large girl, anywhere from being a pretty girl to being an interesting-looking person. She is a smart girl, she speaks a little yiddish, she describes herself as saftig, she gets his jokes, and she makes her own clothes. He will think about if the sex they are going to have is going to be good, but he only has a general sense of what he is even asking himself: Has he even had good sex before? Maybe this will be the best sex of his life?

Contrast that with Duff McKagan: He is married, so he is a bad example, but he has had sex with a lot of girls and guys like him are looking for a pheromonal connection and are probably not even seeing the body type. Our fascination of somebody having a perfect body is just a way-station on the way down the road and only immature people focus on perfect bodies.

Duff has seen any kind of female body, he is not going to marry somebody and then say: ”What if I should have been with a brunette?”, but he knows, whereas somebody who has never even ben with a brunette girl might spend the rest of their life thinking: ”Maybe a brunette girl would have been the girl for me?”

Those are all implementation details. The best female companions in John’s life have been across a spectrum of body types and looks. You wouldn’t look at them and say that they all look the same or that they were all equally endowed or equally pretty, but the good ones really have differentiated themselves from the other ones.

John is an old man, a veteran of 1000 psychic wars, and he spent a lot of time in love with lesbians. Driving them to the other bench is not a thing, although Merlin had a friend who did that a couple of times, but in that case they were already headed there. You don’t drive somebody to be gay!

John can't see how you can be in a relationship where you realize that this is not working out and you don’t even like the other people’s parts and you don’t want to see those parts on anybody else. Parts are parts! Merlin interjects that John doesn’t feel that way about guitars, but John says that after a while he does, it is a maturity thing. When you are a young person you play whatever guitar you can get, and at a certain point you spend a lot of time talking about guitars and you only will play a certain kind of guitar.

At a certain point you have been playing guitar for a long time and when somebody hands you a guitar you play the guitar. John reaches for whatever guitar is closest to him and if he is showing up to a gig and somebody has a guitar and an amp he can use, he doesn’t even really asks that many questions and assumes that they are in a range where he can make it work.

It is the same with women: You play enough, you get good at the basics, the fundamentals, you practice a lot, then you start really caring what they look like and what their pedigree is, and after a while any one will do. If somebody is a woman or wants to send John a woman, he will play her at his next show. ”But you do have to be up early in the morning.” - ”You should probably go!” John lives in a compound now and there is a whole area where the single women can live, up by the barn.

John’s guitar knowledge having become obsolete (RL4)

John has spent many years sitting on a chair, discoursing about the difference between a 1955 Telecaster and a 1956 Telecaster, but he could give a care now! Most of that guitar knowledge has drained out of his ear when he decided not to pursue the profession of the guy who appraises your guitar.

He spent years working in guitar stores where a guy would come in and tell him about a 1956 Strat he bought, but it was not the tone he was looking for and he wanted to trade it for a 1955 Les Paul Goldtop. Even 15 years ago both of these guitars were $25.000-30.000 and now they are off the charts. He had a 1956 Strat and it didn’t have the tone he was looking for? He must be a guitar wizard, a scientist of guitar tone, totally a Zappa who will complain that this guitar has a notch at 14 Hz and he can’t even bear to hear it.

John would take this perfect Stratocaster in a tweet case out of his hands and would hand him the Goldtop and he would plug it into an amp and play Smoke on the Water without any soul and they would trade this guitar for the other guitar and put an extra $5000 on the table, happy as can be with the guitar with the tone he was looking for.

These stories burned out the part in John’s brain that believed that tone was even a thing. Screw you! Kurt Cobain played a $75 Univox through a BOSS DS-1 and John can’t even think of anybody who would choose to play that stuff because it is so shitty. John stopped caring and if anybody wants to send him a free guitar he will play it at his next show.

John being related to Duff McKagan (RL4)

As John got to know Duff McKagan it turned out they are cousins. Duff is an amazing guy and a long-time Seattle guy and Duff Beer on the Simpsons is named after him. The other day they were standing backstage at a Slayer concert together and some kid came up to John: ”Are you John Roderick? I am your step-nephew! My mom is married to the brother of the sister of your brother’s wife!” and Duff was standing there: ”What?” The kid was Duff’s nephew and they realized he and John were both cousin uncles of this kid.

Merlin talks about the upcoming Duff McKagan autobiography by reading from an article in Bloomberg Businessweek: ”In his autobiography, It’s So Easy: And Other Lies, McKagan, 47, explains how he stopped his gallon-of-vodka-a-day habit by switching to 10 bottles of wine. How he drank his own vomit, because it had alcohol in it. How he used cocaine just so he could drink more. How he drank so much beer at one point that Guns N’ Roses lead singer Axl Rose introduced him as “The King of Beers” and a producer from The Simpsons called to ask if he could name the show’s beer, Duff, after him, which they did. How his pancreas basically exploded, causing third-degree burns on his other internal organs.” and he is one of the very few people in the entire music industry that was not ripped off by somebody and how he invested it really well.

In the earliest pictures of Guns ’N Roses, even in the first promo photos, Duff already looks like he is really wasted. He was already living the life way before everybody else was dying over overdoses or having strokes. He was one of the main songwriters and he wrote Sweet Child o’ Mine, despite being the bass player. The key to success in Rock is writing some tunes and Duff was writing some solid gold Guns ’N Roses material.

Right now he is in the shape of his life, pancreas exploded or not. That is a serious thing! You have to make some kind of lifestyle change, even if you can get a mechanical pancreas. The problem with a mechanical pancreas as a recording artist is that the microphones pick it up. Talk about a survivor!

You don’t get the sense that the big Rock guys like Vince Neil (from Mötley Crüe) can do very complicated arithmetic. He could probably handle 14+11, but at 147+250 he would be struggling. Duff on the other hand is a smart guy, he is articulate, he is a writer, and John has tremendous respect for him. He was the first drummer for the Fastbacks.

There is a whole page explaining who was the drummer in the Fastbacks when. It is very complicated. At least two of these drummers have played in The Long Winters: Jason Finn is not the guy with the floppy cymbals in the Still There Is Hope video. That is Mike Musburger, who also played in The Long Winters.

Musburger and Finn have a long-standing rivalry as two Seattle drummers who have known each other for years and the time they were both in the Fastbacks was when their rivalry really reached its apogee because who is he better man on the throne? John has to reserve judgement, although the answer is clear.

Guitars and amps, fretless bass (RL4)

John is sitting in a room full of guitars and amps and he has one guitar in reach that the Gibson company gave him a couple of weeks earlier. Merlin heard the company is in awful shape. John has tuned the guitar down to an open C. John strums some chords. It is not a great acoustic guitar tuning because it is pretty low and the strings are floppy, but it is great for recording.

Merlin’s favorite guitar chord is a D with an added F# and he always likes the G, but John got him into the C with the added low G, which is magic and John does that to great effect! John does it on It’ll Be a Breeze. You do the G and then you add the extra D on the B-string, which is a Pete Buck thing. It will make you sound like you have a Rickenbacker. John had a 1967 Rickenbacker 360 for years and it had a very unique sound which was John’s sound and he couldn’t find another guitar to duplicate this sound.

It had been broken and glued together half a dozen times and it had Gibson pickups in it. You couldn’t build this guitar, it was a unique item, but at a certain point John couldn’t take it on the road anymore because it was too important to him and he had to go about finding how to approximate that tone with other guitars. When he finally started doing it he realized you can make guitars sound pretty good, they don’t have to be great guitars and you can still get 96% of the tone by getting an amp and messing with the knobs.

The biggest factor of your guitar tone is ultimately the sound guy who is going to put a beer-soaked SM57 in front of your amp, run it through a Mackie 16-channel board through a couple of 300W power amps that he bought off of Craigslist, put a bit of Lexicon Slapback on, and run it out into his Yamaha PA.

You could be playing through a $200.000 guitar rig, but except for the 5 guys standing right in front of your amp everybody else is hearing it through such a fucked-up signal chain that if you were playing a Peavey guitar through a Peavey Bandit with the Chorus button pushed in it wouldn’t sound any better or worse. Merlin had a Bandit!

John’s friend Mike Squires who used to be in The Long Winters had a friend custom-make him a fretless Goldtop Flying V. What the hell is he going to do with that? He thought it was the coolest thing ever! That is the kind of insanity! Merlin wonders if fretless is the opposite of scallops, but fretless is the opposite of good. There are guys who can play it, any instrument can be fretless if you have incredible intonation, but you wouldn’t do a bar chord, you could maybe do spoodely goofy solos with lots of slidy bends or you could play little 2-3 note chords.

It is like playing the violin, how do people do it? Whenever John picks up a violin it sounds like somebody is killing goats with a chainsaw. Merlin wonders if it is the Suzuki method when you learn to count on your fingers and this is the second time John heard this referenced in this many days. It is hooked on Phonics for music or maybe the Roy Clark Easy Guitar or the thing where you put the stickers on the piano. Merlin is doing stuff in the Garageband, which is a musical instrument, and he is lost on that fretless bass!

John was in a band with a fretless bass player once and it is a very different sound. Used incorrectly it sounds like The Dream of the Blue Turtles (album by Sting) and is the worst kind of sound. There are several people who can rock the fretless bass and in the hands of a master like Jaco Pastorius or Pino Palladino it is a different story. Jaco Pastorius plays on a Joni Mitchell song and it is just ungodly (maybe Coyote). Why don’t you get a 12-string fretless? Go nuts! Why not? If you want a giant freak bass, why don’t you just do it?

It trends over into the Natalie Merchant territory that is not the music for John. Merlin likes the late Michael Hedges who is an amazing guitar player, but you can really get a little too much fretless bass on something. You can even get so much fretless bass on a song that it will actually cause you to get your period. Merlin heard some people like Greg Calbi say that it will literally slide off the record and fall right off there. They try to master it but they can’t because it is already on the floor. They call it a Jazz Puddle!

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