Sunday, June 4, 2017

Everything Must Go

My last recording project is finished. My weekly song parody service for radio ended in May. Starting yesterday, I've begun clearing out my recording studio and researching what the equipment I have might be worth. As of right now, Everything Must Go. Both to make money and to turn the room I've been using as a studio into a guest bedroom. I've been pleasantly surprised by what I can expect to make from sales of my gear, but it isn't just equipment I'm getting rid of. I'm also throwing out years of work. Decades, really. It's a very strange sensation.

Warning: There will be some music gear jargon in this post. Maybe ten people will know what I'm talking about when I name these pieces of equipment. But I'll try to keep that to a minimum. And there is a point to all of it.

I know this isn't very nice picture, but it's necessary to this post. What you see in the picture above are ADAT tapes. If they look like VHS tapes to you, it's because that's what they are. An ADAT machine was an 8-track digital recording deck that used S-VHS tapes. I used one for years. Prior to that, I used a Fostex Model 80 8 track reel-to-reel for my multitrack recording. I recorded my first album, Right Now, on that Fostex reel-to-reel. I recorded my second, Sin No More, and my third, Drive-Thru World, on the ADAT. But both machines will go up for sale soon, so there's no point in keeping all of those tapes. If you zoom in, you can see one of the Sin No More tapes right on top.

It was necessary to do that early in this process because the shelves that housed those tapes need to be cleared before I leave for my road trip this Wednesday so my wife can set up the bed that will be used in this room. The shelves will be in that part of the room, and a bunch of old tapes would not make for a nice decor. Besides, what would I ever do with them now that I'm selling the only decks that can play them?

As you can see, the trashcan is full. I haven't even started with my old reel to reel tapes. They'll go in a box for hauling away. When I think of the amount of work represented on those tapes, not to mention the money that was spent on recording sessions that were preserved on them, it's not easy just tossing them out like I did yesterday. But what I did Friday was even harder.

I haven't used the Fostex for recording since the late 1990's, or the ADAT since 2006. Since then, I've used a "studio in a box." A Roland VS-2480, combination digital multitrack recorder, mixer, and effects unit. I've backed up all of the work I've done on that machine on the built-in DVD-R drive. I'm selling this machine too, so it's necessary to erase what's on the internal hard drive before I do. I did that Friday.

Normally, I'd simply format the hard drive in one step, but I wanted to keep one or two projects on it for demonstration purposes. That made it necessary to delete songs one by one. And there were a lot of songs to delete.

The drive is partitioned, and I've always used the first partition for work that's more day-to-day. My weekly song parodies for my radio clients, for example. I had no trouble deleting all of those songs. I had them backed up, after all. But then, I went to the second partition. On it were the original tracks for my Christmas album, When Joy Was Born. Of my six albums of original music, it's the one I'm most proud of. I think it's the best thing I've ever done. Even though I backed up those files to DVD long ago, I can't tell you how difficult it was to erase those tracks, one by one. It felt like I was deleting part of myself.

On the third partition was my classic rock praise and worship album, Set Free To Worship. It felt equally weird deleting all of those files, even knowing I had backups. Even knowing I didn't want whoever buys this machine to have those tracks, which was the reason for deleting them in the first place. It felt like I was saying that album didn't matter. There's no logic to how I felt, but I felt that way anyway.

One of the other partitions had two new recordings I made for my progressive rock compilation, High Road. It was especially weird deleting those. Those pieces are near and dear to my heart. But I have the CD, obviously, if I ever want to listen to them, just like with all of my albums. I have the 24 bit masters, too. I just won't ever be able to remix them. But I've never been one to remix. Once it's done, it's done in my book.

All of this music is available on my website, by the way. It's also on iTunes, Amazon MP3, and all of the major streaming services. #shamelessplug

Once that was done, I turned my attention to an object that absolutely had to go; the filing cabinet. It only had two drawers, and one of them was broken. So even the cabinet was trash. But inside were years of work and creative energy. Printed music, what musicians call "charts" that I created over the years. Mostly computer printed, but some old hand-written ones too. But I'll never use any of them again, and we need the space, so out they go.

The same drawer that held charts also had the file folder with the correspondence between my third grade teacher and I, a story I tell in A Woman Who Changed My Life. I kept that folder.

It was the bottom drawer that had the most personal investment. Decades worth of lyrics. Mostly silly parodies about some sports team or radio morning show, but some original stuff too. Much of it was written by hand. Before I got a computer in the late 1980's, all of my lyrics were written by hand. There are no other copies. Even much later, when I would drive in to KBPI in Denver to write lyrics with Dean and Rog, and with Joey Teehan, I'd bring a note pad with me and write them down by hand.

That was the weirdest part of all. Carrying those file folders of lyrics out to the trashcan and throwing them in. You can't see them because they're underneath the tapes.

I'm a lyricist at heart and by trade. Or at least, I have been. If you think I'm any good at this writing thing, it's because my writing here has been informed by many years writing music and lyrics. I approach writing a blog post like I would writing a song. Writing lyrics has always been the easiest part of the process for me. And the most meaningful. So even though there's no reason in the world I'll ever need those lyric sheets again, it was still like throwing away a piece of myself when I dumped them in the trashcan on Friday.

But Friday night, I was reminded that those hand written lyrics might mean something to my wife someday. So I asked her about it yesterday morning. She shrugged and said she didn't think so, and once she sells this house, she'll have no room for a big box of lyrics. I offered to dig them out of the trash can for her, but she said never mind. Neither of us wants to go through all of those folders - one for every letter of the alphabet, many overstuffed - to decide what's worth keeping and what isn't. So they stay in the trashcan.

You may think you hear regret in my voice, but you don't. Just a little melancholy. The last thing I want is to keep doing what I've been doing. It had become a fast road to nowhere, with burnout as a constant companion. The realization that I don't have to get a song parody out next week, or the week after, or ever again fills me with such relief. It's just really weird taking your life's work and chucking it.

This might sound like a huge mistake to you. But there is no place to store those lyrics. And there are many more saved on my computer, if I ever want to look through them, or if my wife does. And this step shows that I'm serious about moving on. Anyone who thinks I'll miss it and come running back to recording for a living should take another look at that trashcan. I'm done. Everything Must Go.

But that's not all I did yesterday. My wife and I also had our 40th anniversary pictures taken. She took great care in setting up the place she wanted the pictures taken, here in our home. We don't go to a photography studio. Not our style. It didn't take long, and we got some really great shots. The dog even cooperated.

Early in my cancer journey, I felt this desire to change the direction of my life. I knew what I wanted to stop doing, and I knew what I wanted to do next. But because I had recording work still to do before I could finish, I would often say that I felt like a page had turned, but I had to keep going back and rereading what I'd already read over and over. But not anymore. Now I can finally turn that page for good. So melancholy twinge or no, Everything Must Go.

There was a time, spiritually, shortly after my diagnosis, when I was still hanging on to some of my old mindsets and habits. But I came to realize that in order to have peace, I had to let go of those things. If you want peace, take a look at what's cluttering up your life, spiritually, and drag it to the trashcan, no matter how long you've held on to those things or how attached to them you are. When we look at that stuff and say Everything Must Go, we find peace and freedom.

It's possible that there will come a time when I'll wish I could go through those old lyrics, or that my wife will. But I doubt it. I'd rather press on than look back. We have a whole new life ahead of us, and it starts with converting my studio room into an office/guest room. That's why Everything Must Go. #waroncancer #bearingwitness

Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14)

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