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April 15th, 2005 - Billy Blog [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

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April 15th, 2005

Eddy Street [Apr. 15th, 2005|02:45 pm]
Billy Corgan
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The road back home was not as memorable as the road I had taken out of there…I am uncertain what I am even going back for…without realizing it, I have given up on the best part of me, and given in to the voice that enslaves…

To my welcome relief, my father greets me at the back door with a big smile and says “I knew you would be back”(which is his way of saying you shouldn’t have bothered leaving at all)…the car sits out in the alley while I drag what little junk I have (dirty clothes, one guitar, one amp, jewelry, my tapes and 4-track) up the back steps to the 3 small steps to my old room…the room is more like a cubbyhole (situated just off the kitchen, you can’t stand up fully but have to sort of crouch) that barely holds a standard size bed, which sits without frame (freshly made) on the floor…my appearance is shocking to my dad because when I had left, I had long, soft, curly brown hair, weighed about 187 pounds and was still essentially a withdrawn person (most would say shy)…now I looked like some sort of gothic gypsy come to rock you…at 167 pounds, with ratted black hair, shaved eyebrows, and a disposition that was outwardly nervous and un-nerving, I presented a decision that whoever was watching me would have to make…which side are you on?

As I will do repeatedly though my life, I have decided to turn my back on everything I have just stood for…I decide that I am going to give up on loud rock music, and instead focus more on songwriting…which in my funny-trick mind means giving away my fuzz and distortion pedals (which I do), sell my heavy metal records (all of which I will buy back later) and not even bother having a band…since the guitar is what I do best, it also figures that I will turn my back on my flashy, aggressive style and learn how to play “real” music…in my eyes, my greatest weaknesses are my songs and my voice, and it is here that I lay the blame for my lack of success (so far), the demise of my now deceased band, and how I have ended up back here…

Once settled back in, my dad informs me that since I am now an “adult” (an incriminating and foreboding term in my family), I must help pay the rent…without negotiation he assigns me the going rate of $150 a month, which is half the rent that he pays on the house (he still covers utilities)…no mention is ever made of the $250 dollars (or my now long gone car) that he has ripped off from me, and since I am really in no position to get into it with him, I don’t…my paying rent, however, does not change the basic premise that it is his house, his rules, his insanity…my father’s home is located in a Polish-Italian neighborhood on Chicago’s northwest side, a former farm maintenance garage that has been crudely converted into a 2 bedroom shack…it is an absolute piece of shit, and is full of mice and roaches and car parts…the walls are battered, and bear the signs of a good-hearted attempt to “fix it up”…initially, the home was to be “his studio” (he is a musician and mechanic)… what was the front living room is now a sort of isolated control room, and a piece of studio glass separates this room and the middle room (the tracking room), which borders my dad’s bedroom, the back room off the alley…the kitchen has been wallpapered in beige sheet music, a constant reminder of what should be, and a profane joke… like so many projects in his life, the house bears the signs and urgent energy of a good idea that never gets completed…but since the intention never gets fully put to rest, the dream lives on in a sort of unfinished state (wires hang out ceilings, fresh dry wall leans against an exposed wall, etc)…my father never uses the studio he has built anymore, which makes me sad…what is worse is I have never been allowed to use it to record my songs (no reason is ever given---I am only invited to once, when at 16, I play a hyper, scattered blues solo on one of my father’s songs)…we live right next door to his girlfriend, a former mistress turned eternal fiancé…she lives in her family house that her mother had willed to her and her 2 sisters…my father had lived with her in the basement for years, but had moved to his house cause he just “couldn’t take it anymore”…but my dad still lives there with her about half of the time…her home is open to me (generally speaking), but it is not quite an open door policy…(even though I have stayed there many times when I was younger)…I am family, but don’t have the rights of a son… their relationship is fairly solid, but not particularly inclusive as she is not “my” mother, or even my step-mother, and my father seems to prefer keeping everyone in his life a bit separated (a common tactic among drug addicts)…at times, it feels like we are all vying for his attention: his children, his girlfriend, his friends, his ex-wives, his dog…when he is not out hustling, my dad spends his days mostly working out of the garage, which infuriates the neighbors because he makes a lot of noise doing bodywork and tune-ups…he takes it all in stride, because my father has a rock and roll persona in whatever he does, the body language a constant “whatever, I don’t give a fuck”…

It is floating here, in my dad’s world, lost between childhood and being a true adult, that I come to some critical conclusions…it seems to me if I am indeed ever going to “make it” as an artist, I am going to have to get really serious…and though it be damned, I am going to have figure out a way to get some money…I start taking odd jobs around the neighborhood, mowing lawns and painting porches…I even try to help my dad in the garage some, but I hate it, and he looks down on me and tells me he cannot believe how lazy a son I am…I work at a college bookstore, which needs extra help selling books when school comes into session…as someone who was an honor student all his life, this is humiliating to me to be on the other side of the counter, knowing full well that by turning down scholarships and grants for college I have walked away from what could have been a very erudite and secure life (I was even recruited by the University of Michigan for political science!)…I had wanted to be a history major, or quite possibly a psychologist, but all that seemed pretty far away, standing there as I was, looking like an outcast from the Munsters handing out chemistry books to 18 year olds…the old man who ran the book store had owned it for something like 40 years…at first he eyed me with a deep suspicion, wondering if someone hadn’t made a mistake in hiring me…he had recently had a stroke, and walked slowly with a bit of a limp, eyes raised just above his glasses…he thankfully kept me on, and ultimately praised me for being such a good worker and person…we had absolutely nothing in common, so when things were slow, we would try to find some common subject, like talking about the weather, or some news item in the paper…yet as small as it sounds, I really appreciate this man for not judging me, and welcoming me into his small world…it is a small but needed boost of confidence, and really helps things at home as I am able to pay my share of the rent…

This period is one of the few times in my life when things get really, really quiet…there is an easy hold on everything I do, because I am not really sure what to do…I spend a lot of time in my room, listening to scratched records I find in thrift stores, making demos I know no one will hear…I take music on from an entirely different point of view, trying to understand how great songwriters come to their decisions…why they choose one chord over another?…patterns begin to emerge, and I start to see songwriting as a type of architecture…I look for the hidden meanings in lyrics, and start to understand that my favourite lyricists speak in a kind of code…I dismantle kick and snare drum sounds, watching from the sidelines how the drummers and bass players perform a secret dance underneath the music…the beauty of music opens up to me as a sound that I can see, and I learn slowly I can write the program anyway I choose…there are so many bits and pieces, so many decisions, each direction creating a whole new set of possibilities and problems…and like someone who is learning to walk anew, I stumble around for a bit, digging at the most basic of feelings until I find the inklings of my own language…I don’t trust my own intuitions, and fight them at every turn…I don’t want to sound like me, but every attempt to sing like anyone else miserably fails…I won’t allow myself to play guitar my “old’ way (which is really, really loud!), so I must create the violence that I seek in key changes instead of raw power…I feel incredibly humbled, because it just won’t happen (or sound) the way I want it to…and so it comes that buried below all these ideas that I am recording that are reminiscent of the Cure, or the Sisters of Mercy, or Pink Floyd, or whatever, is hiding ME…
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