the tenth reunion

Those of you who have been reading MM.com for the past two years already know about my music band, the Monkey Power Trio. For those of you who are new here though (and for some odd reason our readership has jumped by almost one hundred people a day this month), heres the deal: We meet once a year, each of us traveling across the US to some pre-determined location, to record a 7 vinyl recording. We never practice. We never discuss song ideas ahead of time. We just set aside an afternoon, book a studio, and then go in and see what happens. (We also tend to drink and quarrel, but thats not really imperative.)

The best thing about Monkey Power is that it keeps the five of us together when we might otherwise have drifted apart.

Oh, I left the very best part out Weve agreed that we will continue this tradition until the very last one of us is dead and in the ground. Every year it gets more and more difficult for us to get away from our families and our responsibilities, but every year, I think, we each become more resigned to the inevitability that we really are going to keep doing this, even if it becomes a painful, miserable experience.

I look at the band more as a collaborative art project than as a musical entity. (If you listen, I think you might agree.) You see, we arent really competent with our instruments. For the most part, we just beat on things and yell out the words that pop into our heads. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes it’s very good, but that goodness, I think, comes from the fact that we aren’t necessarily trying to sell anything. We’re just trying to make ourselves happy.

The thing I enjoy most is listening to recordings from the past and thinking about the circumstances that gave rise to certain songs. For instance, theres one song where I yell, Falling down a flight of stairs. I remember exactly what that was about. It was about the bathroom at the Tasty Fish studio in New York. To get to the bathroom, you had to walk by this stairway to the basement that didnt have any guardrail around it. (It was just a big, open hole in the floor.) I worried about it the whole session and it made its way into the song, as many things that worry me do.

So, each record becomes a kind of soundtrack for that session and for that year. Each year the subject matter changes. Some years are heavier than others. Some are more contemplative. Some are more adult in theme. Some years have themes. Last year we went on a tour of the Natural History Museum in New York right before the session, so there were lots of songs about pickled snakes and the costumes of various native tribes.

I probably dont speak for everyone in the band, but I think that theres also an element of psychotherapy involved, not only in a sense that we get together and talk about our lives before the session, but that we force out ideas (sometimes pretty, sometimes ugly) that have been incubating inside of us. The way I think it of it, we walk around 364 days a year just passively absorbing stuff (like the news, advertising, etc) and this is our one chance to vomit it all back out and start fresh. Maybe thats not the most pleasant image, but I think it’s appropriate.

So, this weekend will mark our tenth day/year as a band and well be recording here in Michigan. Right now, Im busy picking up and getting ready for a houseful of grumpy middle-aged men, wondering what this could possibly be like when were in our 70s. (I have this dream where my grandchild drives me to an MPT session in my old age. Hopefully, I live long enough to see that happen… Hopefully, the world’s around long enough to see that happen.)

If you have an opportunity, were supposed to be interviewed on Ann Arbors WCBN Radio Friday afternoon at 3:00. I havent tested it out yet, but Im told that you can listen over the internet And, if youve got the spare change and the interest, there will probably be an opportunity to call in with a question.

Oh, if you like the idea of listening to the radio over the internet, you might also be interested to know that the liberal talk radio network, Air America, starts broadcasting tomorrow morning. Im hoping to be able to tune in for a few minutes during lunch to see how Chuck D and Al Franken do. Im hoping for the best, but the realist in me knows that things like this usually take a while to find their feet.

And lastly, in case you didnt already know, today is my wonderful wifes birthday. Shes turning 33. So, if you see her, be sure to wish her a happy birthday before just swooping in to pat her pregnant belly.

With that, I need to return to work. I have an article due tomorrow for the upcoming issue of my friend Dan Taylors magazine The Hungover Gourmet, and a comic that I need to get finished for the Ann Arbor Paper. And then theres the laundry and the cat litter.

One last thing before I go though A big MM.com thank you to the people of Angola for lowering that once forbidding parenting bar a few inches more… No matter how bad a parent I might be, I think its pretty safe to say that I probably wont hack my child to pieces for being a witch.

OK, you can read Paul Krugmans new column and go to bed now.

Goodnight, my invisible friends.

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