Brian Paone

Author // Musician

Filtering by Tag: Pink Floyd

The Grave Machine album turns 14 ...

*The album is cuurently available for free from this site*

When my band from 1997 through 2001, Drop Kick Jesus, officially broke up after releasing two albums and touring multiple times, the bass player and I decided to start a new band. In 2003, we recruited guitarist Pete Tachuk and moved forward as a three piece (something I had never done before). This new band, The Grave Machine, was steeped in horror movies and industrial / progressive metal (the average length of each song on the album was seven minutes long). We knew exactly who we were sonically, borrowing styles from bands like Ministry, Neurosis, Jesu,  Pitchshifter, and little bit of Pink Floyd. We knew exactly who we were atmospherically, using mass amounts of samples from movies like May, War of the Worlds, The Amityville Horror, and The Pit & The Pendulum. But here was the problem: I didn't quite know what I wanted to say lyrically.

I had a whole bunch of verses and scattered lyrics left over from the Drop Kick Jesus songs we had been working on when we broke up, but I didn't want The Grave Machine to just be Drop Kick Jesus v2.0. Drop Kick Jesus was angry, unapologetic, and like a constant quick jab and uppercut. The Grave Machine was gloomier, brooding, menacing, and more atmospheric. Some of the lyrics I had penned for the never-written third Drop Kick Jesus album just wouldn't fit the tone of The Grave Machine songs.

The album, all ten songs, took almost two full years to write. At some point during that first year of building the songs, my doctor put me on anti-depressants. Effexor-XR to be exact. I stayed on them, never missing a dose, for ten weeks ... and then I hocked the bottle into the trash and quit cold turkey. Never again. And that's when the withdrawal symptoms started and lasted for a week. Now, that doesn't sound like a long time, but one of the side effects of the withdrawal was I would get these shocks in my brain, like someone had just electrocuted me inside my head for half a second, and this happened over a hundred times daily. And during the ten weeks I was on the meds, I felt like an emotionless robot. Sure, I wasn't sad anymore, but I also couldn't get happy. It was atrocious.

That experience, between the lows before the pills, the emotional flat line during the treatment, and the ungodly withdrawal symptoms, gave me everything I needed to write what might be considered my first concept album. We didn't write the album as a concept album, but the album takes the listener through a journey of those terrible ten weeks. I had found an emotion in my lyrics and vocal melodies that I had never had in either of my two previous bands: Yellow #1 and Drop Kick Jesus. I was writing lyrics in a style I had never written before. Both in Yellow #1 and Drop Kick Jesus, all my lyrics were very straight forward, no reading into different meanings, nothing cryptic. If I screamed, "Because I hate you!" in one of the songs ... it literally meant, "Because I hate you." The Grave Machine songs were finally a catalyst for me to build a world with adjectives and similes. I tried to take the listener through the experience without actually telling them about the experience. In the writing world, we call that "show don't tell." In my last two bands, I had been telling the listener everything. I was now showing the listener what I was trying to say.

After two years of writing, we traveled to Albany, NY for two weekends and recorded the self-titled album. Tragedie Ann vocalist, Nick Panneton, traveled with us for the first weekend and sang guest vocals on the song, "Covered In Silence." He's still convinced the bathroom in the studio is haunted.

The album was recorded fourteen years ago this month, and even after more than a dozen years removed, I am still very proud of that album; the music that was written, the use of the samples, my lyrics, and my willing to try to branch out vocally and try to convey new emotions with the tone of my voice. My wife still says that of the six albums I have been the lyricist/vocalist for in my life, this one is her favorite and feels it's my best vocal performance.

We disbanded in the summer of 2005 for personal reasons. It's a shame the album never got the legs I think it deserves, but the personal issues that separated us have been rectified, so maybe, just maybe, The Grave Machine might have a rebirth at some point in my life. If not, I will always be proud of being in that band and writing those songs and having that album as a part of my personal discography as a musician.

And oh, it was because of The Grave Machine that I met my wife ... so there's always that.

11 Years Today as a Published Author ... And the Wild Ride to Get Here

My career as a novelist would never have happened, or at least to the success that I have had, if one of my best friends hadn’t died in 2005. My friend David, the lead singer of the industrial-rock band God Lives Underwater—who enjoyed some commercial success in the 90s—had been struggling with drug addiction, depression, and the throes of the music business since I met him in 1995. We became fast friends, and I was one of the few people who stuck with him through all his highs and lows.

When he passed away in 2005, I didn’t know where the put my grief. I just couldn’t find a healthy outlet for how I was feeling about losing him. It was suggested to me to write a memoir about our friendship, but in novel format so it would read more like a story than a journal. My wife was the biggest advocate of me using my grief to write my first novel and recall all the good and bad times that come with being close to someone who struggles with addiction and someone who was on major tours, on MTV, and all over the radio. He was a multi-dimensional person, and our friendship was trying and rewarding all at the same time.

Since 1988, I had only written short stories, novelettes, and novellas. I had never attempted a piece of work beyond 30k words long. So, I started writing what would eventually become my first novel, Dreams Are Unfinished Thoughts, in January 2006, and it was published in October 2007—on the second anniversary of his death.

And here we are. Eleven years to the day of that first novel being released into the world. What a wild ride it's been. I am a few months from my 5th novel's release, Moonlight City Drive Part 2, and my 5th published short story will be released in the next few months. It's only been over the last three years that I have been dubbed a rock-fiction author (adapting albums or songs into novels or short stories) but my entire eleven-year career has been steeped in music, which is my true love in the world. Between Dreams Are Unfinished Thoughts delving into the touring life of bands and the tribulations that world can trap the musicians in and my second novel, Welcome to Parkview, stemming from the idea behind Billy Joel's song, "Piano Man," writing about music has been a part of who I am as an author since Day One.

Over these eleven years, I have met a lot of my heroes and idols in the music world because of my writing, and I have created friendships among band members that I never in my wildest dreams thought I would ever make. After I finished Welcome to Parkview in 2010 (which I started in 1991), I honestly thought I only had those two novels in me ... and I was done with writing. Then in 2012, I had a flash of inspiration to try to novelize Electric Light Orchestra's album, Time. The process was so enjoyable and liberating for me as a music fanatic that when Yours Truly, 2095 was released in 2015, I knew I had found my niche in writing, and I knew I didn't want to stop. Since then I have had four short stories published, all adapted from bands' albums or songs (Moby, Jethro Tull, Porcupine Tree, and Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers respectively) and my most recent novel, Moonlight City Drive, is another rock-fiction adaptation; this time of Dog Fashion Disco's album, Adultery.

I started writing my first novel on a desktop computer next to my CD collection in my bedroom in an apartment that I shared with two other roommates, to now having my own writing office in my house that I share with my wife and four children. The list of bands and albums I have stored in the back of brain to adapt into rock fiction (either novels or short stories) is so extensive, I will probably die before I reach the bottom of that list. The immediate future of my rock-fiction career includes Pink Floyd, Digital Underground, TheThe, EMF, Thursday, and Jane Jensen.

It's been an amazing eleven years. Here's to continue the inertia of heading upward to the next eleven years...

I'm not crying, you're crying: seeing Electric Light Orchestra live for the first time

I became an Electric Light Orchestra fan through their album Out of the Blue when my mother brought it home on vinyl when I was a kid. The ELO spaceship on the front cover drew me in, but it was the sounds, harmonies, hooks, singalong choruses, and wide array of instrumentation that made me take notice. I had already gone "all in" with my Pink Floyd obsession by this point, but I had yet to find a band that I felt matched them in regards to being worthy of my fandom. That moment came when I heard ELO's Time album for the first time when it came out.

That was when ELO matched Pink Floyd as my favorite band of all time (I now have 5 bands that hold that title). Time was ELO's 10th album and I realized then that they could do no wrong. All 10 albums were perfect, in my eyes (the only other band to have made a run of 'perfect' album being Pink Floyd.)

In 2001, I had gotten up early one morning (before the sun had risen) and went to wait in line at a Ticketmaster. I scored 3rd row center tickets to see ELO for the first time. The show was still a few months away, but I had started counting the days immediately. I was so excited I was finally going to see them live for the first time after so many years of obsessed fandom. Then … I got an automated call from Ticketmaster about a month later stating they had cancelled the tour and they were not going to reschedule. I would be refunded. Then, even worse, ELO seemed to have dropped off the face of the planet. That album they were touring on, Zoom, would be the last album for 16 years. There would be no more shows for another 15 years. POOF! Just …. silence.

I started writing fiction in 1988 and ELO's Time album has always been rolling around in my head to turn into a story. Fast forward to 2012; I had two published novels at this point, and we were living in Japan, and I had listened to Time one day while I went for a run, and it was like the entire story unfolded in front of me. My third published novel, in 2015, was my novelization of ELO's Time album, titled Yours Truly, 2095 (taken from Track 3 off the album). I had also given up hope that Electric Light Orchestra would ever get back together and record another album or even ever play another show. My novel was my own personal homage to myself and for ELO fans as way to say goodbye to one of the 5 best bands to ever grace the earth.

Then … there was a blip in the ELO camp. A cricket chirp. A spark in the form of 1 single show. A show that even blew their expectations out of the water; a show that made them think, "do people still care and is there still room for ELO in the world after a 15-year silence?" They tested the waters with some more shows (all overseas) and then announcement that there would be a new album. It was like Lazarus rising from the grave for me.

When the tour for the new album, Alone in the Universe, was announced, I got 2 tickets. I'll be honest, as a Pavlovian reaction, I kept waiting for that email from Ticketmaster to say this tour had been cancelled also. I was *this* close to seeing them 17 years ago, 3rd row, and it got stripped from me. I felt like this upcoming show was a dream and I'd wake up to find they never had reformed, there wasn't a new album, and my tickets would be a figment of my imagination.

When I got in the car Thursday night with my 9-year-old son, Everett, to head to the venue, I still was waiting for the show to be cancelled and for them to say, "Sorry for the joke, but we're going to go away again." But … this time, I got to see my favorite band live, for the first time after 35 years of die-hard fandom.

It's hard to explain to people who aren't as obsessed with music or specific bands as I am what it's like, even as a grown 41-year-old man, to stand in a venue and actually see these people in front of you performing these songs. I cried pretty much 80% of the time, out of pure elation. I didn't expect to start bawling when they played "Sweet Talkin' Woman." Something about my childhood and nostalgia and all those years of listening to these songs through elementary school, through high school, through college, through my first real job, through getting married, through having kids, through buying a house, through the highs and lows … ELO were there through ALL of that. And now here they were, in the flesh for the first time. It was so powerful that I didn't even want to talk about the show for the first few days afterward.

But to watch my son out of the corner of my eye, standing on his seat throughout the show, dancing, clapping, and singing along to most of the songs, brought me to different tears. To share that with him--share something that is such a large part of who I am and where I came from musically--was amazing.

Words can't describe how it felt to stand in front of them for those 100 minutes after all these years. Words can't describe how amazing it is that Electric Light Orchestra look to be back for good after their 16 year hiatus (one that I felt was irreversible). Words can't describe the sound that came from that stage, like a warm familiar blanket tossed around my shoulders. Words can't describe the experience … but tears did. And I'm not crying! You're crying!

 

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