While I had heard the usual hits on the radio or wherever I remember putting the CD into my car stereo as a late teen. I was planning to go somewhere. But I didn’t. I couldn’t. As soon as that drum intro started, I knew I was in for something. Being a bass player at that time, that bass line was quite the hook, and when the guitar came in, I was all in. Then the lyrics. So many thoughts, so many sensations were conjured up by the words and tone of voice. I’ve got the spirit, lose the feeling. I was spirited away and it was only a minute into the song. This was an unknown pleasure. A short time later, after about 30 seconds into New Dawn Fades, I lost it. I would eventually make my way to the place I was going that day but forever changed.
Being a teen who had first-hand experience with the shadows of life, it wasn’t easy living in general, and it surely wasn’t easy living in sunny Orange County Southern California in the late 90s wearing dark clothes and listening to dark music. It never felt right driving on PCH on a bright day listening to Ulver Or Bauhaus (but maybe Skinny Puppy due to the social and political critique of such a culture I was living in).
However, when I moved to Germany, it all fit so well. I luckily got the best dorm in the whole building – 7th-floor corner room with a view of picturesque Tübingen. We had these giant windows that opened like a door and you could sit right on the window sill with the open air all around you. In early autumn the weather was fantastic (btw I still wonder if anyone has ever fallen, or jumped, out).
I had taken out a loan to study abroad as studying in Germany was something I knew I needed to do, and that meant, for the first time, I had expendable income. One of the first priorities after settling in was buying a big 3-disc CD changer stereo. I had to ask a friend to help me carry it home. I was usually pretty thrifty and frugal, but music was my savior, my guide, my muse. I had spent the weeks before my departure burning as many CDs as possible. I had only recently made the jump from tapes to CDs – a lot of catching up was needed (was also trying to download some songs, but only managed to get a few quality tracks with the dial-up connection before I moved). Then in Germany every weekend when we were not traveling, we were going to record shops and flea markets. I remember buying Closer there.
Putting that CD on at night while sitting on my window sill, candles lit, looking out over that wonderful medieval town with a glass of French wine in hand, it was nothing short of pure bliss. It felt so right. I managed to temporarily escape all that was behind me, dream about the future, and just savor the moment. The hard part is that I will never have that experience again. I only have the memories and the feelings they invoke. I guess I can accept that though because they are lovely and intense. What is real anyway?
Music, especially that kind of music, helped me so much and it still does today. Just like literature, it allows you to transcend time and space. You can find the common links in humanity and try to understand another person’s situation whether it be joy or pain. You identify with others instead of feeling isolation.
I was born in 1979. Too young to know what I was born into, and it seems like that was a turning point in so many ways. I won’t ever be able to be there, as far as I know, but I can feel like I am when I listen to certain kinds of music: music that is honest, perceptive and reactionary, introspective; music that doesn’t try to cover up the tragedies of life. The arts are a time machine (until there are possibly VR immersive realities in the future). You might not feel right when and where you are, you might feel you don’t fit in, you might question who you are and everything around you, and you might feel like everything is closing in. It helps to know you are not the only one.
If you know this, if you are curious, or if you want to feel some heart and soul, you are cordially invited to Decabar tomorrow 5/22 for Parasites on Helium’s ode to Ian Curtis and Joy Division. Besides JD, the DJs will play other music in the same vein. This is something I don’t really get to experience in Tokyo. It’s something I have always wanted to do, but couldn’t muster the courage. I must thank Martin (Shaka Shaka) for putting it together. And must thank the band and the producers for giving us such eternal music.