Los Angeles, CA- I’m sitting in the living room of the downtown luxury condo that belongs to Sydney Yuman, one of our managers, while the brand new VW of our other manager, Clay Busch, is sitting downstairs in the garage for us to use. The raindrops are playing percussion on the palm fronds in the courtyard outside and I can’t help but think how lucky we are. For an unsigned band, we have a pretty stellar team behind us.
This is the longest we’ve ever stayed in the City of Angels, and I’ve lived only four hours away my entire life. In the past five days we’ve played a packed show at a legendary strip-club to a bunch of industry cats, hung out with NFL players, NBA players, movie stars and porn stars, we’ve recorded with a professional song-writer at a beautiful house up in the hills, we phoned in an internet-radio interview while driving through some crazy-ass traffic, we did a photo/video shoot overlooking the city, our attorney, Eric German, introduced us to an A&R rep from Atlantic Records and our business advisor, Dylan Hanahan, scored us backstage passes to Linkin Park in San Diego.
I realize that many artists and bands would kill to be in our shoes right now… that realization gives hope to the butterflies swirling around in my stomach
Las Vegas, NV- It’s New Years, I’m standing on a penthouse balcony on the 27th floor of the exclusive Turnberry Towers. The Stratosphere is ablaze with fireworks and my heart is alive with hope. I marvel at how everything happens so fast… The past year has yielded many new horizons for my brother & I. Let me give you a run-down of how 2010 changed our lives:
In January, we record a killer single called “Lighthouse” with Grammy-nominated producer Kevin Churko. Working with him was one of the coolest, easiest experiences of our professional careers and the final product is absolutely stellar. Around the same time, IN THIS MOMENT begins their new album with him and the band is looking for a guest male vocalist for their metal duet “The Promise.” Kevin recommends me, everything happens so fast and the next thing you know my voice is on a national radio song, my brother and I are touring with them on the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Fest 2010 and I’m making out with Maria Brink on the set of their music video in Tujunga Canyon. Over the course of the summer, we sing on-stage with ATREYU, eat lunch with Jonathan Davis of KORN, sign autographs like actual celebrities, shoot t-shirt cannons off the stage with FIVE FINGER DEATHPUNCH, perform in front of tens of thousands of people and visit most of our family while exploring the entire United States in our mom’s decade-old mini-van.
After Mayhem Fest, we come home from tour to a broken band. Two guys whom we thought were our best friends for nearly 5 years, whom we thought we could count on no matter what, show us their true colors and bail on the most promising project in Las Vegas. We then link up with another drummer (who comes from a rock and roll royalty, no less) but the poor guy just can’t control his demons. I personally know how difficult an endeavor that can be. So we remain in musical limbo until one evening Chris Howorth from IN THIS MOMENT calls me up and invites me out on their winter tour with NONPOINT and TAKING DAWN… but this time I get my very own bunk on the bus! Everything happens so fast and the next thing you know, I’m making appearances at radio stations, working out in different cities with Ken from NONPOINT, singing on-stage with his front-man, Elias and my little tour-blog is picked up by major music website, Metal-Army.com; I even got to know the guys in TAKING DAWN a lot better and hopefully made amends with them.
So here I am, standing atop a million-dollar high-rise, staring out over the sparkling desert landscape that is America’s playground. Instead of coming home to a world of uncertainty, my brother and I feel more focused than ever before. This time, I returned home to several opportunities to collaborate with some amazing, well-known artists, including the guitar player from our favorite band of all time. We’ve had a taste of the good life, of the dream we are dying to live; we’ve been instilled with a new fury to persevere and we’ve found a true brother-in-arms in our bassist Flavio Ivan Mendoza.
Like I said, everything happens so fast and the next thing you know…
Houston, TX- The wind is whipping around the bus and although it’s aggressive, it’s somehow soothing. There is a river running behind the Scout Bar as the clouds in the sky catch the sunlight and throw it back down to us in silver ribbons. Last night we were in Oklahoma City, a town that I have some history with. The moon hung plump and low in it’s celestial half-cradle and after the show I had a Crown and Coke with Dan Brown, In This Moment’s intrepid stage manager. We poured them strong and I welcomed the warm feeling spreading through my belly, enjoying the slight head-change as soon as it hit. I haven’t really drunk much on this tour, in fact, my brother and I didn’t touch a drop on all of Mayhem Fest this past summer (except for a beer we split at the original Cheers in Boston). I’ve actually gone to a handful of AA meetings with my spiritual tour-mate, while out on the road. He told me that when the time was right, I would just know that I had a problem.
But after seeing the plights of those who truly suffer from a chemical dependency, I utterly believe that I do not have a drinking problem. I know I don’t. I’ve never had an uncontrollable urge to drink, I never wake up craving alcohol. Yes, I’ve had problems when I’ve been drinking, on more than one occasion, but I know now that the issue lies in my anger and frustration. This quest, this struggle for something more can be overwhelming at times and in a city like Las Vegas where booze and drugs and sex and money flow like water, it’s extremely easy to let your demons get the best of you. I’ve had people close to me say that I’m a different person when I’m drunk, but isn’t that the point of any substance, to get away from yourself temporarily? And some of those same people smoke more weed or pop more pills or drink more coffee than I would ever care to.
So in a sense, I really feel like I did take something from those meetings in all those different towns. I’ll probably go to one, every so often, just to keep things in perspective. That’s actually what this entire tour has been about, at least for me personally… a new perspective.
Memphis, TN- It’s cold in Blues City… Beale Street in Memphis is all but deserted. Yet in spite of the almost complete lack of humanity, the neighborhood still feels inviting. The soft, enchanting glow of the neon signs is almost hypnotizing, reminding me of my Sinful roots; I find them comforting. The ambient blues and jazz notes floating out from the front doors of the bars and music houses transports me to a by-gone time; a time I’ve only read about or seen in black and white. It’s then I realize we’re listening to live feeds, that there are actual, live bands playing their hearts outs inside nearly every spot, as the ghost of Elvis dances with the shadows … and then, we’re gone.
The night before, we performed at a venue in Atlanta, GA that once served as a textile factory. The 100-plus-year-old stone and wood structure was built like a castle. I could feel the history of the place sticking to the walls, making the air seem thick and rich, like it was forcing it’s way inside my lungs. The place was so packed, the ancient wooden floor-boards bowed with every unison jump made by the crowd, while I made my nightly transformation from fan to star and back again. The show ended, we bid farewell to our tour-mates NONPOINT, fellow poet-road-warriors whom I deeply respect and admire. The rain came down in sheets as we said our goodbyes… and then, we’re gone.
The night prior to that, we played in Jacksonville, NC, a military town by the Atlantic. I absconded from the bus, my cousin Ruth picked me up and took me to her home for some pizza and play time with her four beautiful kids. I wonder to myself, as I am surrounded by these purest forms of life, will they remember me if I don’t see them again for some time? I returned to the club, sang a song, got a tattoo, signed a pretty girl’s breasts, got an enticing offer from another and fed breadcrumbs to some very ugly ducks next to a small swamp… and then, we’re gone.
We are, collectively, the Kaiser Soze of rock and roll.
Towson, MD- I gaze out the window to yet another unfamiliar intersection, in an unfamiliar town. Only ten more days til I return home; it has been six days since my last tour-blog entry. I’ve been informed that these final two weeks or so are marked by a common phenomenon known as “End-of-Tour-Blues.” Last night, after the gig in Allentown, PA, we spent a good portion of the evening singing along to and discussing the musical stylings of Queensryche, Journey, Skid Row, White Lion, Van Halen; at the tops of our lungs, we found common ground in the anthems from our childhoods. Many of the songs I recognized, but didn’t fully know. In fact, most of the tunes I’d heard before but couldn’t recite one lyric back to anyone. The true beauty of this exercise in enchantment was the fact that it was the most important thing we had to do at the time. Who wouldn’t miss a lifestyle where singing timeless songs with new friends ranks high on your to-do list?
The road has served as a school of songs for me, a lesson in humility with every new town I wake up in. There are so many souls out here that I long to connect with; the whole point of all of this is to feel like I am a part of something much larger than my own idea of reality. The only way I know how to reach out to others is through words or melody.
So as our great, steel wagon makes the slow turn back west, I both yearn for and dread my return to normalcy. But how do I define normal? I was born and raised in Las Vegas, NV… Sin fucking City. I’ve had more fun and been in more trouble than most will experience in their entire lifetimes. I wish to share the fantastical things I’ve seen and done, including this tour with IN THIS MOMENT. I wish to give others a glimpse of the different planes of existence that are out there… waiting to be lived. The only way I can think to accomplish that is by pouring my heart out. I hope it’s enough…
New York, NY- Last night I closed my eyes on a road somewhere outside Syracuse and woke up in New York City. The tour bus was completely dark and devoid of energy, as it’s against the law to keep the generator running in Manhattan. I groped around in the blackness of my bunk, getting dressed as my eyes adjusted to the slivers of light slicing throug the bus windows. No time for breakfast, I guzzle an energy drink as Blake Bunzel and I step out onto the streets of the Big Apple.
Everywhere, life is bustling around us; delicious aromas assault our olfactory organs while the rods and cones of our eyes are overwhelmed by thousands of passing faces. I am elated by the abundance of civilization that surrounds us. Having no particular destination in mind, we spot an iconic skyscraper in the distance; yes, we are going to the top of the Empire State Buliding.
The six-mile round-trip becomes worth every step as soon as we walk out on to the obesrvation deck of the 86th floor. Facing south, we can see Lady Liberty standing proud as the late-afternoon sun sets ablaze the waters around her. The same waters that welcomed millions of immigrants with the hope of a better life. Immigrants like my mother and father who chose this great nation as their new home, solely so I would have a chance at a life better than what they endured. How I wish to turn their exodus into something that dreams are made of. My brother and I strive to accomplish an endeavor that is worthy of the opportunity our parents afforded us, worthy of them turning their own lives completely upside down… just for us.
My mind’s eye then comes to rest on a spot in the skyline where two glorious towers once stood; towers that were destroyed by the very people our parents hoped to protect us from. It is then, that my own words echo fiercely through my consciousness: failure is not an option.
Toronto, ON- The last time I was in Canada, I was running from reality. I was hoping that the farther away I went from Las Vegas, the less I would hurt. It worked, but not because of where I was… it was because of the people I was with. I’ve been very blessed to have the kind of friends I do, IN THIS MOMENT now being included on that short-list.
So this time, my return to the Great White North was much more dignified. I’m here doing what I love, thinking about someone I love… someone who truly deserves my energy and loyalty. I revel in this redemption.