Like a bright red thread stitched alongside your wayward militaristic drift, Oxford, England ran loosely in and out, connecting every embroiled rift.
As a kid, a consistent return was made here bi-annually to visit your mother's side of the family. At 4 Salisbury Crescent, up a wooden ladder on the 2nd floor, through a hobbit-sized door, lie the children's vaulted attic room with a window opening up onto the sky, forgiving all spry imaginings of the young. Holidays spent at this address had a particular scent. Like a lush fertile garden, a damp compost heap of tranquility. Sinking into the big soft bed, under an enormous fluffy feather douvet, this was the one place in the whole world where you always slept soundly. Protected by the presence of your stalwart grandparents in their separate bedrooms downstairs, steeped in constant cups of hot sweet milky tea, amidst their jovial nonstop bickering, bad things never happened here. It was like living inside a fairy tale with a Little Match Girl ending, where what would normally seem morose was actually serene. And you consistently hated having to leave.
Until the last holiday visit in January of '88. Hammered, your drunk dad clamoured up into the attic where you were quietly drawing. He stood you up and hugged you for way too long, blubbering something about how much he loved you. Your marble arms clung to your sides, preparing for the worst. Reaching his hand up your shirt like a fumbling adolescent, he tried to french kiss you while squeezing your teenage tits. WHATTHEFUCK?! Such an impetuous offense after testifying against him in court and going through all those years of state-appointed therapy. Yet, This Shit Was STILL Happening. There are no words for my contempt.
Sprinting down and out of the house, ripping on your coat, you snagged some cash from your mother's purse and just ran. It didn't matter where. Realizing later that the legal drinking age in England is 18, you slowed your pace after careening past Squitchy Lane and decided to go do the adult thing. Deal with this fresh contamination by getting shit faced at the nearest drinking establishment.
Happening upon a local pub called Jericho's Tavern, you went in and tried to order something fancy and punishing. Like a marguarita or a long island iced tea. The bartender was having none of that. He finally agreed to pour you a few stiff rum and cokes begrudgingly. "Schtupid yankee twat," you could hear him thinking. Though he warmed up to you after asking him to teach you how to hand roll cigarettes.
The pub was fairly empty for a while until a group of kids came in carrying a ton of music equipment. It took a while for them to set up their gear in front of the stained glass window at 4 in the afternoon, but they laboriously sturdied themselves to play what appeared to be their premiere gig. A few of their friends straggled in to offer support. Then they launched into a confusing barrage of something ska-ish but slower in tempo and with minor keyed melodies.
What really captured your inebriated attention was the painfully self-conscious tremor of the singer's voice and the vortex of his presence, there on the floor, no stage present. Too human. Too tender and uncongealed for your current state of mind. He shone with an agitated energetic flood-light that you were already drowning in on the dark side of the room; that angst-fueled youthful resentment for a world you're born into without your full consent, but given enough sensibility and fuck-it-ness to reckon with another Cerberus head. Feeling stripped skinless after a few songs in, you stumbled out of Jericho's and went trouncing back to the house, weeping half-heartedly as the setting winter sun glittered across the icy banks of the river Thames. Turns out, that singer was Thom Yorke performing one of his first live sets.
On another visit to England in 1997, your cousin John gave you a cassette tape of the new album a local band had just finished making at your aunt Shirley's recording studio in Chipping Norton. It was called 'OK Computer'. And you replayed that tape til it stretched out beyond capacity.
By 2003, you sent a bunch of your xeroxed comix and cds of some music you'd made to John and asked him to pass the extra copies onto that band. It was your way of saying thanks because it had been a long time since you'd fallen entranced into a widely shared soundtrack after the release of 'Amnesiac'. You were inspired to hear a group that kept evolving, housing different emotional chasms, not just repeating itself or petering out or starting to wholesomely suck within a decade. As it was with precious few other musicians whose work you loved, their music had become a coping mechanism. Like a plumb line to hold up against the internalized trials of life, and see that somehow, you are still doing alright. A sounding board, a psychic connection, a sonic imaginary friend.
John soon replied, saying that he saw your comix strewn around the studio in between recording sessions and that they loved them. Thom listened to your cd but thought "it's quite dark." That still makes you smirk like a blushing self-promoting yet totally obscure jerk.
But it's called Feedback, yo.
Since the 192 bands you played with in your own neighborhood rarely gave you any, it was worth its weight in words. Otherwise, you might have continued to believe that you didn't actually exist. That everything you made was "not suicidal enough." That, after all that work, you were "lazy", and "striving to be ignored." That "the songs you wrote were too heavy -- we're just trying to sell records here not change the world." Beyond people exhibiting surprise (though you'd never understand why) that such "spooky" music was being composed by a woman, that was it for a decade's worth of feedback, yo.
For this reason, you remain indebted to Big City Orchestra, Lance Grabmiller, Skullcaster, Andy @ Last Gasp, Weasle Walter, Chicken John, DarphNader, Dave Ligon, OX, Zoey, Willow, Charlotte, Fred @ Thrillhouse and Trixy Grace, the righteously good-hearted ranks of LCM, 5lowershop, The Lab, Church of The Buzzard, SPAZ, MediaAlliance, MaximumRockNRoll and A.T.A., Twerk, Eve Tekromantik, China of Boyskout, Skott Cowgill, Headboggle, Margarita Lara, Neighborhood Bass Coalition, Joe Donohue, Motion, 12K, Leafcutter John, Matt Flynn, Brendan Seibel, Filthmilk, Doug Poore, Fatima, Prizehog, Chupa, Kat Genikov, Tony de Jesus, Alan Dubain, Paul Smith, Jonah Rust, Dark Muse, Heartworm, Aviatrix, Ethan Port, Tamara Glass, Angel Bethke, Despicable Alien, Rachel Haywire, nullspace, Pandiscordian Necrogenesis, Common Eider King Eider, SYMPLX, Lucia Patino, Brianne Hanshaw, Brice Frillici, Realicide, Cy, Leland Kirby, Dromez, Crebain, Bill Reeves, Thorsten Sideb0ard, Nature Abhors Normality, Zac, Billy Bragg, Mick Nasty, Sinda Koslinka, Fernanda Loaiza, Stuart Chisholm, Burmese, Mitch Levay, Torn By Teeth, small drone orchestra, Debbie Dingledong, Lob Instagon, Don Haugen, Horseflesh, Horn of Dagoth, Derek Kelly, Shane DeSilva, Josh @ The Guardian, Jeff Ray, Petey, Heidi Alexander, John Dwyer, Eric Bauer, Josh Pollock, Jef Templar, Henry Larsen, Cameron Gibson, Dylan Simon, Gorpy Endockle, Derek Pardue, HausArafna, Brent St. James,Noah of Cameltoe, Jeannine & Bill Thibodeau, Maz, Dale Lankford, Douglas Land, Erika Dillingham, Rob Gillespie, James Tracy, Casey Appeldorn, Healamonster & Tarsier, Eddie The Rat, Not Breathing, Ramsey Kanaan, Gerald Hawk, Beth Custer, Keith Curts, Joey Hurt, Colin Studybaker, Raub Roy, Vetivert, V.Vale, David James, Evil Moisture, Screamo Leemo, Bonfire Madigan, WendyOMatik, Legendary Pink Dots, XtraAction Marching Band, Rich Westmeyer, Phoebe Garofano, Mary, Dolce Maletesta, pirate radio Jake, Abra Jeffers, Sarah Lockhart, Diego Gonzalez, Nebbie Loon, Kelli Winslow, Luca Garino, Lik Neon, James Tracy, AC Way, 6ixes, Stubee, Swoondoll, Vyvian Looper, John Burkhalter, Brandi Obsolete, Demonsleeper, Chris&Cosey, Styrofoam Sanchez and Sharkiface for their encouragement and appreciated aid.
Plus the letter that arrived from Svetlana; a lone female employee working 12 hour shifts at a crowded light bulb factory in Croatia. She said your music helped her get through her unremitting hellish days. So you mailed her a big free box of everything you'd ever made. Following your own string is the only way to escape the Minotaur's maze.
At the tail end of 2011, the 2nd half of 'In Rainbows' haunted your last visit to England long after its initial release. All surviving family members were now scattered far and wide from 4 Salisbury Crescent. Riots in London had just ended a week previous to your arrival in Hackney. The police had altered their original "beeboo beeboo" siren sounds to the typical American cop car whine because, according to a local radical, too many U.S. crime shows had desensitized the population and those old siren sounds held no crowd controlling power anymore. But that healthy disrespect for authority is something you've always admired about the people living on the Isles.
Crossing the channel by overnight ferry, everything you once loved about Belgium's unconventionality had mutated as well. Buried in an amalgamated blue gray EU mush. Gentrification on a continental scale. It broke your heart to see Ghent become so expensive and overblown. Just like SF. All you could do was sit on the little bench beneath the 15th century cathedral spires and sigh. Europe was losing it's local hues to The Big Nothing of steamrolling globalization, trickling down its unelected debts. Doing no good for anyone except, of course, the 1%. But no one seemed to be all that upset. Because now their heads only stared down into their iphones, grasping onto some new form of virtual protest. Note: Belgium holds the record for being the longest running country with no official government. And your friends there were rightly proud of that accomplishment.
In the spring of 2013, just in time to stay inside and deal with the debilitating effects of post traumatic stress, the 'King of Limbs' arrived. The song 'Codex' encapsulated a mountain of inner turmoil and still raw regrets inside a 10 second segment: "No one gets hurt. You've done nothing wrong." Like driving over a speedbump or hitting the same huge pothole over and over, you could not hear those lyrics without sobbing uncontrollably. No matter what else you were focused on before that melody came up on the 8000 song shuffle. This phrase seemed to drop an emotionally devastating atom bomb every time it came on and blew all else away. Standing still. Separated and wailing. But slightly more fascinated by the mind's ability to catalog and contain such an irrational magnitude of gnawing desolation within one short and specific musical refrain. Then you'd pick up where you left off again. Patch the leak. Do more lines. Renumb the brain. Continue selling everything on ebay.
Nothing is easy. But dealing with shit would be impossible without music. It's where all of our true colors thrive. Despite the trend you noticed of anti-emo Californians trying to emulate cold calculating machines cuz they seemed to be so ashamed of being human beings. As if they couldn't spare the time. Or maybe they were just like you, only capable of temporarily relieving their grief when left alone with chemical substances in private. Subsiding on the inside, not out there in real life.
One thing was for sure, you were now surrounded by droves of bland khaki fucktards who were fond of using the phrases "win/win situation" and "get in on the ground floor" sans irony. Not while nonchalantly strolling down oh-so shabby chic Valencia Street, but just beyond your bathroom window. While taking a shit, you'd overhear your new cherry-faced neighbors upselling to their clients over the phone on the weekends. And no one else within a thousand feet of your room ever played or listened to music anymore.
During one of the last free noise & doom shows at bleakhaus, prior to being shut down amidst threats of eviction, you were alone naked and drunk in the bathroom, lights off, door closed. Soft warm tones echoed from down the hall where Black Thread was performing a bittersweet analogue tape looping set to an intimate crowd through the solid state PA in the front room. Crawling into the clawfoot tub, submerged in hot water, you quietly cried, knowing it would all be over soon. Knowing the time had come to leave the Mission. Forevermore. Just as you were finally figuring out how to appreciate the small glimmers of joy discovered there, after wasting so many years ignorantly overlooking them before.
Bukowski once said the most beautiful roses can only grow in the grossest of gutters, and there was nothing subversive or down to earth or close to the bone left in that town anymore. The fact that a bigger crowd showed up to burn trash cans and stop traffic in celebration of a baseball game rather than to protest the deadly police brutality occurrances in Oakland and Ferguson and Chicago and Baltimore every other day was proof enough of San Francisco's completely diluted whitewashed droll. The city's historically class-conscious backbone had collapsed under the weight of a massive bankrolled jellyfish. Now this town was all about priviledged fratboys spattering in your face, "YUH!! GIANTS!!" Unamused, you retorted, "DWARVES!!"
But the city's spirit did not go down without a fight, without sounding out a clarion howl of every civilization's repetitive cyclic self-importance destroying truth: Depression creates necessity creates creativity creates vitality creates media attention creates corporate ascension creates proprietary greed creates hyper speculation creates overpopulation creates migration moving out creates mutation blending in creates stagnation creates irrelevance creates apathy and sinking down and bleeding out until it again creates depression.
And so, in the summer of 2015, 'Truth Ray' spent a lot of time behind the wheel of Haustruk, driving with you those thousands of miles away. No specific gps coordinates to call home so that you'd never have to go through feeling raped again.
Oftentimes, 'A Moon Shaped Pool' will discreetly bathe with the cleaner simpler version of you that now lives with your beloved piano in 100 square feet of solitude. No electricity, air-conditioning, wifi or plumbing but thinly subsisting on the non-detrimental freedoms of Less. Tweeting more to the birds with a handful of seeds than to a Twitter feed. Making plans only as grand as the distance from your face to your hand. Singing to yourself in the trees while chem trails streak criss crossing clouds across the sky. Sitting by the fire. Reading books like they're going out of style. Listening to shows on the short airwaves. Drinking hot sweet milky tea. And however hungry you may get, nothing feels as fulfilling as being able to fall asleep to the sounds of crickets, wound up in a sheet like the peacefully resting dead. Leaving a smaller carbon footprint on anyone else's unsuspecting Radiohead.
*u can call me ph!*