I’m so busy! I’m so lonely! Why aren’t these pills working?

My meetings and showcases are scheduled. I focus on what to wear, and repeat the sage words of Joshua Homme, “He’s too pretty for you.  Deb, you need a real man.”

I had a moment. I threw I drink in some girl’s face. She kept shoving me and I was done with polite. I am no holds barred exhausted, and if you haven’t noticed than I don’t know who you’ve been dating for the past month. I didn’t beg you to come with me. I’m more comfortable doing life alone. One ‘misplaced’ drink and it’s over? After four weeks looking at that trite Che Guevara t-shirt while listening to your single-malt scotch (which I always pay for) socialist/Marxist babbling and you can’t spell ‘bogus’? There is no connection between a tired girlfriend and the lyrics to “Biker.” Chrissie Hynde is not your representative, and writing “instrumental break here” is moronic. This is such passive-aggressive bullshit. I prefer my men straight up, one olive, stirred not shaken. I am too busy for a guy who can’t spell bogus and who mangles Chrissie’s lyrics and is generally not making sense. You say you’re not as tough as me. You are correct sir. As I pack for yet another trip to Chicago I look for humor. Sometimes the noise from Christopher St. sounds like pain. Even though it’s always there I’ve learned how to tune it out.  My meetings and showcases are scheduled. I focus on what to wear, and repeat the sage words of Joshua Homme, “He’s too pretty for you.  Deb, you need a real man.”

During my most recent therapy session Diana and I dissected what to do when I get overtired.  It’s still a work in progress. Marco knows how much I travel. He’s called me when I’ve been in an Austin hotel. He’s called while Queens of the Stone Age were performing in L.A. I knew I wouldn’t hear him, but I picked up anyway. It was the first time in a long time I’ve stayed sober during a QOTSA gig. I thought he might make an honest woman out of me. He’s called me both before and after Patty Griffin performed in New York. We successfully navigated my life during a CMJ festival. “You are tenacious, driven and ordered, and I’m not.”  Dude, I don’t have time to wander around the West Village throwing my thoughts about like tumblin’ dice. I’m usually packing, on an airplane, or in an East Village club seeing a shitty band. My feet hurt as I walk home from Brownies.

Brian Liesegang, is “oh my God” gorgeous. I wish Pete had warned me. Took my mind right off the electoral recount and Marco. The music needs work that I’m not sure Brian hears. He does possess a special post-Filter something worth investing in. After visiting Brian’s studio I had dinner with Tony Margherita. We went to see Butterfly Child with Jeff and Sue. I would love to work with Tony on something. We don’t talk about ‘the business’ we talk about life, politics, books, of course we gossip. Just a little. Generally people in the music business only talk about the music business. There are moments I feel my friends from the Budweiser days think when I got handed the corporate card, and the title, I lost my love of music. Forgot who Sebadoh is. I’m the major label. What they don’t see is Sleater-Kinney living in my CD player. At the end of a very long day I went back to my white and fluffy hotel. Made to be shared. They usually are and I usually don’t. I took a couple of Ambien.

Seeing Sue brought a flood of Lounge Ax memories. I have this distinct memory of the Veruca Salt showcase. One enormous Lemming Fest. I felt embarrassed for the entire A&R community. I was one of the fish and had no interest in signing the band. EMI Records expected me to be there along with everyone else. Hook line and sinker. Then there are great memories like hanging out with Sue very shortly after she hooked up with Jeff. She was hilarious. They got so drunk the next day she had to ask her business partner, “Did I have sex with Jeff Tweedy last night?” I loved those days. We’d drink until the clubs closed and the next day asked someone what happened. If you were lucky the answer was you had sex with Jeff Tweedy. There was no walk of shame. We were young and cool. Sue and Julia booked all the bands who later gave us bragging rights; Soul Asylum, Husker Du, Bikini Kill, Dinosaur Jr., Yo La Tengo. We drank all night and hit record stores and Mexican restaurants the next day.

Sue was filled with the nervous energy girls get in the beginning of a ‘could be.’ Jeff was calling her everyday from the Uncle Tupelo tour. She and I were drinking beer in the middle of the afternoon. When you find yourself drinking beer with a girlfriend in the middle of the afternoon it’s a sure bet you have no appetite. Perpetual fluttering butterflies instead. Man that’s the greatest feeling. Marco didn’t make me want to start drinking in the middle of the afternoon. I am too busy. Instead I drink expensive wine over expensive dinners then I pay the bill. By the time I started throwing down an Amex card Jeff and Sue had two babies.

My entire body hurts. It’s not just the piercings. I thought it was a cute idea to get pierced straight down in a line. I’ve changed my mind. When Marco rolled that thing out I thought, “This is never going to work.” I might have cringed. Cid keeps telling me I’ll get used to it. She’s a size queen and has this figured out. He keeps asking if he’s hurting me. He is, but I tell him, “No baby I love it.” Along with my black and blue ego I think I have a bruised cervix. We don’t fit together.

He thinks I look like a movie star or a rock star. I get it constantly, plus, “Are you a fashion designer?” Or, “Haven’t I seen you on MTV?”  All of this is intentional. I spend money to look like a “someone.” Marco claims I have the best body he has ever seen. I wasn’t born this way. Hiring Scott twice a week knocks me back a chunk of money, but he’s worth it. The payoff is Madonna arms and wearing a size 2. Thank you Crunch. Thank you Marc Jacobs, Prada, Ste. 303, mostly Barney’s. I make my business manager cry.

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A “someone” in furs.

Thursday in Chicago was a kooky day. It was long, and involved so many different people. I love being in the studio. Working on a record is an entirely different environment. Sure, one with no windows, but still better than a window seat in business class. These recent trips involve the dynamics of personalities. It isn’t easy to keep adapting. I prepare for my next role in the backseat of taxies. That’s when a bottle of klonopin comes in handy. Meetings and showcases are continuously changing landscapes. Just like what I look out over when I fly. The weather is lousy in Austin. I don’t want to admit that I’d like to see Marco, but shitty weather is a tough companion. The scale reads 121 pounds. It shouldn’t. When I bend over my spine reveals a xylophone. My shoulder bones look like weapons. Blades. I’d like to blame it on him. I can’t. I am a chessboard giving away pieces of myself to capture that queen. Honestly a king would be good.

I’m bringing Mike Patton and Brian Liesegang to L.A. for meetings with Tom. Lately Tom has been hard on me. He keeps me on my toes. At least I know he’s in my corner and not trying to nudge me out of it. Right from the gate Tom said he’d give me enough rope to fly or hang myself, but before I hung myself he would step in and chances are if I took his advice I’d fly. If I don’t I’ll probably look like a photo from the French Revolution. Recently he acknowledged that I have created my own island in New York and he loves what I am doing there. Regardless it upsets me when he criticizes my work. I don’t get butterflies over a potential love affair. I get butterflies over what Tom Whalley, Jimmy Iovine and Steve Berman think of me.

We still have no president-elect. The New York Yankees won the World Series. I’m in L.A. far too busy to care about the atypical and the norm. ‘Far too busy’ is my favorite salve. L.A. weekends are fun. I schedule brunch at Barneys because that’s where everyone is, dinner at outdoor Bistros, and spend spa days with Liz. New York weekends get boring. I see bands with Dana we get really drunk and usually unsuccessfully try to meet guys. I go roller blading down to the Trade Centers with Thom. I spend 5 hours at the gym. On a Sunday night in New York I want somebody around so I take pills to forget I’m lonely. Marco didn’t call yesterday. The two klonopin, three temazapam and an Ambien cocktail made it okay. Two glasses of wine on the plane and another when I got to the hotel made it even better. I have perfected a work, exercise and pill elixir. As soon as I got my rental last night I heard “Monster in Your Parasol.” If hearing QOTSA on the radio fills my primary need for happiness no wonder my relationships last the equivalent of a 3-minute song.

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L.A. requirment-KROQ in the rental car

Still pinching myself. Yesterday I hung out with Jimmy Iovine. He waylaid me in the hallway, and suggested we hit the company cafeteria for lunch. I didn’t know we had one. He had no cash (I offered to pay). I wonder if Jimmy ever carries money. I think that might be an icon thing. If we find ourselves in the same elevator with him we’re not supposed to look. It happened once. I spent the entire ride wondering if it’s company lore. I didn’t look. Jimmy is Interscope’s sphinx.

We were served lunch in his inner sanctum. A small round room connected to his office. Jimmy’s office feels furtive, dimly lite. Ghosts float freely. I like it. Once I held a meeting with a band and Jimmy spent the entire time lying down, elbow bent, head perched on his hand like a pin-up girl in a baseball cap. In the sanctum the John Lennon “Brooklyn” photo is on display next to Jimmy’s “Brooklyn” t-shirt. There is a framed page from a Steven King novel that mentions him.  I didn’t have time to read it. I thought about the photo of David Anderle with OJ Simpson. David eventually took it down. I don’t think Jimmy would have. I asked him what it was like working on Double Fantasy he didn’t know. “I wasn’t there. John asked me to engineer and I told him I couldn’t because I was starting my own record company. He put my name on the record anyway.”

Jimmy has a super power. He can see egos. He knows exactly where to sling the arrow. Pierce the ego and cripple the man far more sufficiently than puncturing the heart. Jimmy is an unusual predator, and maybe that’s why he is Jimmy Iovine. Maybe he can spin the world on its axle. I feel boring around people like him. Over fried rice, he tells me I’m great and “good for the company.” He told me he doesn’t want to lose me when Tom goes. No hidden agenda here, just gutted motive lain at my feet. I still feel the carpet under them, “We should hang out more.” I’ve seen that drill. You become a Jimmy Person. Until one day the luster wears off. After that it doesn’t matter what you do, the ship has sailed and you may still have a job but you don’t even have a dock. Success and power are two different animals. I don’t understand power. I work hard. John Lennon would not have put my name on Double Fantasy.

Everyone has this notion that I’m going to waltz off to Warner Bros. with Tom. Andy Gould tells me Tom likes me so much that if I’m not happy at Interscope I could easily make the jump. I am happy at Interscope and Tom hasn’t asked me to go anywhere. Not even the company cafeteria. It’s all this Jordan Shure mishegoss running through this company like lava. Jordan is exactly like lava, interesting at a distance but nothing you’d want in your home. He’s the Jimmy Person. I know Andy wants to move Monster Magnet over to Geffen. Jordan’s going to be President there, and Tom is leaving because of it. Or so the rumor goes. The pieces on the board are moving quickly. I think I may be a Knight and would like to be a Bishop a Rook would totally rock. I want to stay and make the next Queens of the Stone Age record. They keep me tethered. Jimmy didn’t have to invite me to the inner sanctum. Even though he’s kid-like and he charmed me. Jimmy could start a gang war in a sandbox.

At some point during the day Jordan the psychotic bully stopped me mid-gait. Jimmy and Tom feel, “I’m not focused enough on the project,” so he’s taking Monster Magnet over to Geffen. Jimmy wouldn’t give a damn where Monster Magnet ends up. I knew that as the imaginary words were coming out of Jordan’s mouth. Sadly, Tom’s advice is to let them go, he says they’re old and not that great. I did lie down on the tracks for them. Tom told me to sit up. Flip the story; he doesn’t want me to use my focus on them. I have to let some pawns go so I have more room to play the board. Three years ago that band were my queen. But wait! Jordan also tells me his label Flawless, even the name says so much about the man, decided not to sign Brian Liesegang because he has drug problems. If he’s only going to deal with musicians who have never done drugs he won’t have a roster.

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C’mon, let’s be real here.

Jordan should have thought things out before he tried to make the A&R girl cry. Ted Gardner and Pete manage Brian but they also manage Queens of the Stone Age the only new rock band making any noise at this label. To boot dealing with an alcoholic Australian is scary. I’ve been on the other end of Ted’s wraith. There is a reason I zonk myself out when I get home/hotel, or throw the occasional drink at someone: Ego crossbows. Psychotic bullies. Australian alcoholics. Goodbyes to bands I midwifed. I am desperately trying to survive this place without feeling loss, sadness, pain, embarrassment or fear. Interscope is neither an incubus nor my lover. Or is it?

Goddamn, I wish I could take back that moment where my drink went into that woman’s face. Everyone here thinks it’s hilarious. It isn’t. I have a one bedroom apartment in the West Village, two beautiful cats, clothes that make Steve Berman refer to me as The New York Times Style Section, the best job in the world, I make good money, and I spend it on whatever I want (primarily trips to Paris, clothes, and personal trainers). I have all the answers for everyone all the time. I even have a Palm Pilot. I don’t have problems. I am the girl with the most cake. Marco, Andy and Jordan will not poison my cake.

Waiting in New York is a list. He wrote up a list of everything I did wrong in Philly because he, “Took the higher ground.” I reckon I didn’t get the best friend stamp of approval. Josh called him a Pretty Boy. Thom decided he’s a working class shmoe who’s faking the rest of it, and apparently the asshole is continuously walking around in my Motely Crue t-shirt. Look at that! I did make a biker out of him. I don’t know why I desperately want to hold on to this relationship even at the expense of my dignity and my t-shirt. I do know why. Boyfriends don’t fall into my lap. My lap is in a different airplane seat every week. I must get that t-shirt back.

My workload is unfathomable. I’ve got Queens of the Stone Age coming to town today through Tuesday. Then Tom flies in on Friday to see The O. Then I leave for Europe on Sunday. I have no time to fix a relationship, and if I’m honest with myself less time to have one. I had dinner with Diane. We’ve known each other since 1985 when we were both radio promo assistants. Diane was once happy. Before A&M was shuttered, she was radiant. Like me she is happiest when busiest. Like me she works herself to utter and complete exhaustion and is exhilarated by it. Our greatest disparity-Diane found time to get married. She and her husband were hot together. He is a biker, who now makes her miserable. He spends all day drunk and mucking around. He has health issues. She’s still sexy which is just wasted hotness. They ignore each other and she pays for everything.

When Josh said, “Deb, you need a real man,” I imagined someone like Diane’s husband. I look at her now and think she might not remember how to smile. I don’t want a husband who has to hide from Wynona Ryder. Or one who tinkers with his motorcycle, has health issues and ignores me. Or one who will cheat on me before he even leaves for tour. Or one who can’t deal with me when I’m exhausted and have a moment. On top of which, it would be one grand relief to stop having to pay for everything.

Here’s how I get my kicks; I walk around with rock stars. When they get stopped on the street I pull a sharpie out of my bag. I always carry a sharpie. I always wear great boots. I look like a “someone.” Fans ask us to pose together for photos. This is my way of having a boyfriend.

I made a quick stop home from LaGuardia and then straight to a QOTSA party. Josh told me everyone at Interscope is singing my praises. Steve Berman told Josh I’m “a bulldog” and their greatest ally. Rottweiler is in my job description. Josh wants me to back him up on releasing “Feel Good Hit of the Summer” as the next single. He doesn’t remember how hard our sales team fought to get Rated R into Walmart. I told the band, “Usually they’ll only peruse the first three songs.” The very first words on that record: “Nicotine, valium, vicodin, marijuana, ecstasy, and alcohol. Cocaine!” Lesson #1, tell a band what not to do, and it is the first thing they will do.

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Every night somewhere in the world there is a band that is the greatest band in the world.

The night QOTSA played Irving Plaza was epic. Every night somewhere in the world there is a band that is the greatest band in the world. All dressed in white and musically impeccable Queens of the Stone Age owned it. Afterwards we all got perversely drunk. Never snort off of Nick’s mirror, only use Josh’s. I should know better. I didn’t throw up or die, so that was good. The heel of my Marc Jacobs’ boot snapped off when I fell down the tour bus stairs. A bus only has three stairs but they were enough to ruin a great pair of boots and scratch the hell out of my bony spine. Michael carried my heel around, he may still have it, and for reasons still unaccountable we ended up in the back of a cab amidst a sea of Jacksons (I think Michael wanted a trick, and, oh fuck it I don’t know…). We’ve been trying to put the pieces together for days now.

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Trouble.

September came with a list of goals and I either have PTSD or I’m making up for a month of not sleeping. Thank god my doctor left klonopin and Ambien scripts for me. Three months worth so they have to last through Europe. CMJ is coming up. In the next six weeks I fly to Chicago, Austin, L.A. twice and then spend two weeks in Europe with three of my artists plus my brother. Daryl was raised with a laminate around his neck, and the best seats in the house for any concert he wants to attend. He thinks it’s all free beer and soaring rock stars. He never knows about the drugs. He doesn’t know about my pocketbook filled with pill bottles. He does not know about my loneliness. He doesn’t realize my perfect job exhausts me. I’m not sure if he realizes I love this job so much that even when I am out of gas I push harder on the accelerator. Daryl is where I go when I need to feel safe. He is my solace. If I get lazy Daryl won’t get his laminates, and that is unacceptable.

Dave Wyndorf keeps calling and he’s a mess. Josh Homme keeps calling and he’s happy. Jesse Malin called to see if we could catch up over dinner. I have a pile of books to read. Marco, who Thom wants to fix me up with, called and asked me out on a date. A date! I figure why not. What do I have to lose?

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These are my REAL MEN: Joshua Homme, Randy Sabiston, Michael Alago (who needs a boyfriend?)

 

-For all the men in my life who kept it real and helped me push that accelerator harder.  You know who you are. xxxx.

Addendum:  I never got that Motely Crue t-shirt back

Motherf*cker: The Making of Powertrip

Travel back to 1997 for a look into the world of an “A&R man who happened to be a chick.”

The guys in Monster Magnet reminded me of the South Hackensack Lizard Boys I grew up with. High school dropouts who sat around picnic tables in Fochini Park getting stoned and drinking Jack Daniels, when the cops drove by they scattered under rocks. Lizard Boys were guys a real Jersey Girl dated. The boys a father would hate. The chicks were quarantined to a separate bench. I knew more than they did about music and I was a “girlfriend” so I got to sit at the boys’ bench. This way Brian and I could easily make-out; push each other up against trees where we thought no one could see him put his hands down my bell-bottoms.

Lizard Boys blasted “Iron Man” and Zeppelin, but their lives were The River. I wonder who got Mary pregnant? Who got laid off from their construction jobs? Who died in a car accident or of an over dose? I think Brian who ran off with my virginity did. In 1973 his mother sat in a car while the garage filled with carbon monoxide. His father never forgave him. Here in 1997 my Red Bank Lizard Boys weren’t sitting around park benches. They sat around L.A. recording studios. I wonder what a South Hackensack Lizard Boy would give to do that.

I had a rule. No sex with my artists. No sex with an artist signed by the record company who employed me. Along came Dave Wyndorf.  On paper it didn’t make sense. Dave had a long face surrounded by dark stringy hair. He had one of those goatee/mustache things that looked stamped on his face. All of which sat on a short, pale body encased in colossal muscles. Piercing blue eyes that were too close together. Inbred eyes. He was awkward, yet strong like he might explode into a million pieces of a planet from a comic book. Dave’s voice separated him from normal people. The voice, the pale muscles, and that odd face all mixed together…Rule? What rule? I have a rule?  Almost everything about making that record broke rules. But without all of the insanity and hysteria I don’t think Powertip would have been a hit. I don’t think it would have been created at all.

The guy originally assigned to oversee this record locked himself up in a Hollywood Hills mansion with a pile of crack and a cache of guns. It was 1997 and rock was strong. The KROQs, MTVs, VHSs were consuming dirty boys who played guitars. David Anderle, (who I hope is up there hanging out in a groovy lounge filled with reel to reels), my guru and head of the A&R Department, gave me marching orders, “This band has to have a hit record now.” I lived on the East Coast and I was a Jersey Girl. Somewhere along the line I told him that seeing a Monster Magnet show “makes me want to get fucked on a pool table.” I guess I fit all the qualifications.

When producer Matt Hyde first saw the band he didn’t want to get fucked on a pool table. He had the male equivalent of whatever that is. He tracked down Dave Wyndorf, like a 14-year old girl trying to find Justin Beiber.  Generally, producers don’t do that. This project landed in my hands with Matt Hyde, his studio, and most importantly Dave’s songs written and recorded on a little 4-track. He handed us a vision encased in a cassette. Before any of us had even met we’d exchanged conversations, music, handwritten notes all of which created a concept for a record that felt cinematic.

By the time Monster Magnet arrived in L.A. at Northvine Studio, which was leased by Matt, and home to a 48-track custom Crystal Console we knew what our rolls were. Everything was dictated by this enormous vision. Sometimes Dave made sense, and when he didn’t I translated. Our weirdly dynamic Scorpio/Virgo mix served us well. Powertrip was no The Godfather because nothing is The Godfather. However using that film as a template is the easiest way to describe our roles. Matt and Dave together were  Francis Ford Coppola, Dave was Mario Puzo, I was Albert S. Ruddy and A&M Records was Paramount Pictures. Once again, let me make myself clear, I am in no way comparing Powertrip to The Godfather. If I were I should shut myself in a room I never leave.

The skimpy $220,000.00 budget seemed impossible to work with. It had my assistant Ellen walking the trapeze more than once. In the late 90s bands at Monster Magnet’s status had recording budgets double that amount. Our measly $200k budget had to cover Matt’s fee, studio time, engineers, gear, cartage, flights, hotels, car rentals, per diems, union payments (haha), tape, mixing, editing, mastering and surprises. Years ago Dave submitted a demo to major labels as a joke. Accidently he got himself signed to a major label. Thus resulting in a shitty deal. On top of which that man never saw Powertrip coming.

The 90s were sexy. There was a blue dress, socks on cocks, Madonna got erotic(a). Hollywood released Basic Instinct and Showgirls. Television gave us “Sex and the City.” In keeping with the times, one fated evening Dave and I were eating turkey burgers and sharing French fries on the landing of his hotel. By the time those burgers ended up in a crinkled bag I was being led into a room at the La Cienega Park Motel stripped of my denim overalls and cotton panties with Paul Stanley’s face stamped all over them. Our chemistry became part of that record. “I haven’t fallen asleep next to someone for years!” “I never share cigarettes with anyone.” Later it made sense, but I’d never had a sex addict fall in love with me.

From that first night in an L.A. motel until the final edit Dave, sex and the record was all I could think about, and the world according to Dave was, “The only things in my life that matter are this record and you Deb.” We started a succession of watching each other sleep, sharing cigarettes, breaking each others’ hearts, mending them, leaning on each other, exchanging germs, sitting in silence, spending hundreds of hours in studios, being placed side by side in business meeting after meeting after meeting completely in synch with each other.  We were working around the clock. “She keeps me going,” he would say. “This record is going to kill me,” I would say. My closest friend Amy said, “You act like two kids who are grounded.”

 

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Me and Dave Wyndorf circa 1998-definitely should have been grounded.

 

Matt Hyde had recently gotten sober. Dave and I were both abstinent. We were all addicts and addicts always find a substance to enslave them. The record became our drug. It satisfied most of our addictions except a few we couldn’t get a handle on; sex, gambling, cigarettes, voyeurism, eating, exercise, drama.  Even though the record couldn’t possibly satiate all of our combined addictions Powertrip was our primary monkey. Northvine Studio was hidden away somewhere behind Melrose Ave. It was a dark and dingy utopia. I drove onto a gravel parking area surrounded by an old chain link fence with an enormous load-in dock that hid the studio’s entrance. Matt’s wife and I would hang out on that dock, legs dangling over the side, sitting in the sun while the guys sat in a dark room rolling tape.

The first day my motorcycle boots stepped into that studio there was porn scattered everywhere. Not regular porn. Disgusting porn. Packaged in little magazines that can almost pass for comic books, but don’t. The magazines and videos could have been tucked away but weren’t. Dave was a master manipulator, and although this might have been a test. I didn’t flinch. I was there to listen. As long as they were working they could tango with anything else they wanted to. Matt decided I was “An A&R man who happened to be a chick.”  That was ironic.

Matt’s job was to keep the record moving forward and mine was to keep Dave from self-destruction combined we were a blitzkrieg. When our struggles included band members who couldn’t do their jobs, and who had attitudes on top of ineptitude, studio musicians were called in. When the budget bared its teeth I went in to A&M and fought for every crucial dollar. If we had to use a different studio we packed up and moved from Northvine to NRG. Matt’s configurations satisfied the subtleties and the largesse of a cinematic recording. Later on his duality in phasing; specifically microphone placements on the drums and guitars confused the mix engineers, but that was later on. We had moments when we were feeling rotten, complaining, wearing down, tearing at each other, but in the end we believed and that was everything.

Amy, Dana, Cid, Julie and Liz, my closest friends although tired of watching me cry, dealing with my ecstatic ups and downs, helping me through chronic bronchitis, experiencing my burn-out; stood by me and took care of me. Thank god they were spread between both coasts because so was I. Undeniably there was a group of people who were set to breathe a sigh of relief once this record was finished and I could walk away. The day came when David Anderle cut to the chase, “I know how hard you’ve worked to develop a purely professional relationship with Dave.” Because eventually the day came when I had.

Anderle had been notorious for his sexual escapades and since his reputation wasn’t pearly white he didn’t give a shit about mine. It was the 90s, and as Courtney sang, “We even fucked the same.” The industry was an arena where everyone overlapped everywhere. If you were going to stand and judge you were wasting your time. Once a record was completed, music through packaging, the entire visionary process completed, my job was to move out-of-the-way, and Anderle trusted me to. Record companies were diverse groups of departments made up of people with specific talents and responsibilities. A&R people stood in the background watching our babies, but ultimately that day always came when we had to let our records go out into the world and grow up.

Back in the real world the business was flipping. In the 90s the general formula became ‘follow the money.’ A&R people with super empowered creativity were no longer a component of the new formula. If bands were gazing at their shoes, everyone looked for shoe-gazers. If a couple of rock bands crossed into rap territory than that’s what got chased. The artists were going to lawyers for representation. The A&R executives were going to lawyers instead of clubs. Producer managers got into the game too, sad because producers were the originators of A&R not their managers. Over expensive lunches at Trattoria Dell’Arte acts and gossip were being discussed. “Just between the two of us did you know?” Across the room we’d wave at each other while whispered tones exchanged the exact same information. Those lunch tabs were in the $80.00 plus range. We were flying around the country in business class. It all added up, and later it all caught up.

An artist and an act are two different things. We lost sight of artistry. That was more pathetic than the gossip or the overindulgence. I loved an $80.00 lunch, but real artistry is easier to swallow. I made mistakes and signed acts. Which sucked, and through some painful lessons I learned how to stay true to myself. I worked my way into this business at 21. By 1997 a little more than a decade had passed and as I matured clarity followed; I would never be compensated nearly as much as a male peer, and I would never have access to the same type of power men had. I didn’t want to ordain Wyndorf wisdom, “People like us like to dance and we like to fuck so we’ll never acquire power because people who have real power don’t have time to dance and fuck.” I  would have appreciated some power and some money, even if dancing and fucking did nurture my soul. It was unfortunate that he was probably onto something there.

I went scuba diving for a week. Immediately after I came up for air, set my feet back down on New York concrete the Powertrip mixing drama began. In New York Roli Mossimann was mixing. While I was processing giant stingrays and nocturnal octopus Dave was either talking dirty, or complaining. “I miss you Deb,” while kisses, kisses, kisses were sent over the Gulf of Mexico. I came home and fired Roli. I fired people. Joe Barissi one of my favorite engineers was let go after one song. Terry Date was next in line. I don’t know what went on in that studio, but it went something along the lines of, “He’s scaring me with the wine.” Terry was “chasing the low-end,” and no one had seen it running around.

Dave was becoming unhinged and I was beginning to feel like Anais Nin running to save Henry Miller, “He loved her for what she could give him not who she was.” What I could give him was every reason not to have a nervous breakdown and ruin a couch. Larrabee Studios had history. A long and beautiful history involving Carole King, Gorgio Morodor, Michael Jackson recorded Dangerous there! I really hated being Anais Nin to his Henry Miller because it was a line out of a friggin’ Jewel song. Still I was not going to let Dave Wyndorf tear up the lounge. So I ran to him, and hired John Travis.

With every engineer fired Dave and I leaned on each other more. “I want to drive from L.A. to Las Vegas lock myself in a hotel room with you and just fuck for three days.” “I love your mind it’s sweet and devious, and the combination is driving me crazy.” “You are so sexy. If you just sat quietly and looked at people you would drive them crazy. But then you open your mouth and Hackensack comes out,” Fifty percent of that one worked. And of course, “I love you. I love you. I love you.” In the wee hours my fingers were being sucked on while naked and lying on his side I swore Dave looked like Jesus. He just didn’t act like him.

Most of John’s mixes got canned. They weren’t bad, they just weren’t right, and of all the engineers John was the guy I hated letting go of most. He brought an element of joy back to the project, and this group of junkies needed to laugh. Dave could describe the plot of a movie better than if you actually saw the movie. John was quick. Matt was smart and loved banter. I spoke Hackensack. There was non-stop energy and entertainment. Until the realization came that once again we’d failed.

Next stop, Dave Jerden. He was the final solution. He was the Jane’s Addiction guy! Problem #1 Jerden refused us entrance to Paramount Studios. Problem #2 he doubled booked us. Problem #3 when we finally got into the studio we found his assistant mixing our record. Fired. I was kicking myself and A&M were kicking harder. By this time Matt had already recorded two other records, and I had attempted three other signings. Nine months and Powertrip kept wandering around looking for its Oz. We’d spent over three hundred thousand dollars searching.

Every time a Roli Mossiman, Joe Barissi, Terry Date, John Travis, Dave Jerden got hired we were paying their rates, studio time, additional gear rentals, travel and surprises. Combined the guys we hired had discographies that included Jane’s Addiction, Soundgarden, White Zombie, Incubus, Pearl Jam and Deftones. Collectively these bands were saving rock & roll. I believe the most significant achievement of the 90s was the resurrection of rock and roll. I desperately wanted Monster Magnet to be part of that club. Pump your fist and scream “Space Lord Mother Fucker!” The listener is never going to think about the acoustic 90 seconds that open the door to their first fist pump. But we had to.

I was running off frustration with Metallica’s Loud in my headphones. I jumped off the treadmill. Dripping with sweat I flipped open my phone, “Dave!!! I’m Fed Exing Loud. Listen to the drum sound!!!” Randy Staub had a Lars’ library. He replaced every Powertrip drum sound with a Lars’ trigger. Fifteen years later while Lars was sitting on Michael Alago’s lap I fessed up. He was not only honored he loves Powertrip. While working at The Armory a small part of me feared a lawsuit. The one I’d convinced my boss not to a give a second thought to.

Dave and I headed to Vancouver. He strung his room, just one floor above mine, with Christmas lights where late at night, ambient music in the background he could suck on my fingers, the rest of me, and we could finally get this record finished. Honestly by that point I’m not sure which excited us most. It was a tedious process, but Randy Staub studiously fixed the drums, dealt with the phasing, and got this motherfucker of a record mixed. Music, like cinema, is an illusion it can be a room lit by Christmas lights, or Lars’ drum sounds.   You don’t need to know what’s behind the curtain as long as you end up pumping your fist screaming, “Space Lord Mother Fucker!”

We were like the Russian astronauts who were safely yet precariously delivered to earth August of 1997.   One of their less publicized problems was the lost ability to get rid of their waste. Same problem Dave and I had. The Russian government, the press and the poor astronauts were all throwing around blame like a basketball during a playoff game. We did that too. He lied and manipulated and I was guilty for believing him. He refused to acknowledge our relationship. The one that everyone knew about anyway which made me feel worthless.  Yet I stayed and believed it was more than this.  I was in a relationship with a sex addict, and for over a year I reinterpreted the lies with what I wanted to hear. The only thing Dave and I ever had together was a record, and astounding sex. By our second trip to Vancouver we hit bottom, “Is there something awful I can do to make you hate me so much we can just have sex?”

During the entire saga of making Powertrip I couldn’t come up with anything worse than he’d already done; kissing the fire blowing bassist from Nashville Pussy directly after he’d left my apartment for a New Year’s Eve show my roommate booked. Fucking his roommate on the nights he didn’t stay on the phone with me until 5 a.m. “Deb, it’s just sex.” During a period of torrential fighting, aka one of our “break-ups,” they showed up to the album photo shoot wearing matching cat suits. I had to leave until that situation got fixed. The love handles were going to make me light myself on fire. Taking me to the circus with his entire family including ex-wife and four-year old daughter, and still refusing to acknowledge that I was his girlfriend (his family including his ex hopeful I’d end up as wife #2, it would have been very scary to tell people I was once married to Dave Wyndorf). Trotting around with dancers from video, photo and television shoots that I’d helped coordinate. He mentally tortured me, but he never physically hurt me.

Dave was forthcoming about his addiction to sex which is a much more complex fixation than it sounds. Sex is a supersonic concept to begin with. I suppose that’s why we spend a whole lotta time thinking about it. At the outset ignorant of, but once well-informed, I still signed on. My curves fit his muscles like a puzzle. Desire can be excruciatingly rapturous, and I became addicted to my appetites. Our lives mirrored this record, our refusal to give-up, and the sacrifices we made to keep going. Just like junkies.

We had been inseparable since that visionary 4-track tape was brought to life: the tracking, the mixing, the mixing, the mixing, the mixing, the mixing, Northvine Studio, NRG Studios, Electric Lady Land Studio, Bay7 Studio, Larrabee Studios, The Armory Studios, the sequencing, the editing (“Mother Mother” yikes!), the mastering, the styling, the artwork, the packaging, the video shoot, the new management company. Powertrip entered the Billboard charts in the top 50, a coup for a heavy rock record. Monster Magnet had a video in heavy rotation at MTV, “Space Lord” was heard every hour on the hour on every rock station across the country. My work was done. It was time to kiss my $460,000.00 record goodbye.  The one that began with a contractual budget of $220,000.  Same record delivered at a very high price.

Monster Magnet’s tour bus was getting ready to depart. The leather clad Bullgod well equipped to take on the unwashed masses. There’d be lots of one night stands, and stories that would make Jerry Springer’s head spin. One afternoon I received a phone call from MTV News asking for verification that a lesbian act had been performed onstage.  I wasn’t clear on who I should ask about that. Standing on the bus Dave put his arm around me. I reached around and scratched his back. We let go of each other as people began to board. I walked down the stairs and back into my world. He had his work to do and I had new artists who needed me. Powertrip had arrived.

A little over twenty years later I was on the phone with Matt Hyde. As we were about to say goodbye, I confessed to him, “The gift Dave gave to me, left me with, is he made me feel beautiful. He made me feel like the most beautiful girl in the world. No one had ever made me feel like that.” Long pause, and Matt said, “He could do that. He made me feel beautiful too.”

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He still makes me feel like the most beautiful woman in the room.

Dedicated to Dave and Matt, my partners in the trenches.

 

 

 

 

 

You Only Live Twice (part two)

 

The sharp edge of a razor is difficult to pass over; thus the wise say the path to Salvation is hard-Katha-Upanishad (via W. Somerset Maugham)

The break-up occurred on May 10th, 1999.   Then the real break-up, “It’s over.  We tried it and it didn’t work,” took place about thirty days later.  Then I dropped thirty pounds in thirty days.  My friends came running, but I was too busy isolating to notice.  I sat at home listening to Moby’s Play the soundtrack to my heartache.  I didn’t start to cry until May 13th and then I couldn’t stop, just like that CD’s constant circling in its player.  But I went to work.  Work was my salvation the one place I always returned to.  Like home.

Sometime in 2001 we bumped into each other.  He was married, ran a marathon and had a dog.  These were all things I knew would happen.  I knew he would try to continue our legacy, but with someone else.  They were actions taken “at” me.  His appearance of a life fulfilled was done at my expense.  While he’d spent time revenge run rampant.   I just suffered.  I feigned happiness for him and his brilliant accomplishments.  At least by then I had put down the whip, picked up a fork and was living my life.  He never bore witness to my incessant flagellation.  2001 came in sharp contrasts, I realize for all, and yet my star had risen.  For me that was a very good thing, and not a thing he needed to know.  I walked away feeling good about myself, and that was a very good thing indeed.

Two months before we broke up, I was working late when a colleague cracked open a bottle of Patron.  I’d felt alienated after the merger.  Interscope was the antithesis of A&M.  I was swimming in the shallow end of unknown waters.  I so desperately wanted a friend to help guide me deeper.  My timing was awful, so was my methodology.  I eventually came home, but two hours late and excuseless.  The general hysteria that goes along with tequila incidents gone awry spewed out of me.  I puked.  I screamed.  I puked.  Why was he even with me?  I was too old for him!  He was a downtown hipster and, “I am totally uncool!”  He cleaned me up.  Put me to bed and left.  As soon as that hangover wore off the breakup was on.

“You can drink. You don’t have to change.  We’ll get through this.”  He claimed to have lost two relationships to AA.  Since I was his third the odds weren’t looking good.  He couldn’t watch me go through it.  “Too few people make it.”  A day later, “I can’t believe I found someone so perfect for me.”  A few days would pass, “I’m trying to work my way back to you.”  I was convinced the dream had shattered in a bottle of tequila, a pool of vomit, and a bed full of denial.  A close friend gently pushing me toward recovery, “Believe me he knows you’re an alcoholic and he’s known all along,”  He maintained, “I like the way you use alcohol.”  Solutions are rooted.  We felt unworldly.  Vaporous incapable of being trapped into something so solid.

On Place St.-Michel he pushed me.  Took two arms and shoved me as if I were a pickpocket caught in the act.  “Get off of me!”  Ten days in Paris, the city of love, we had sex twice.  Angry sex.  Naked and hit by a belt, yanked around the hotel room, completely dominated, left simpering in a corner, and going to sleep with our backs facing each other.  Years I fantasized over visiting The Muse’ Rodin with a lover.  Standing so close we could have stroked The Kiss, “Maybe I’ll get a sex change operation and move to Paris.”  Beaten down I was still trying to share even though he’d clearly decided there was no more “we” it would now be “I.”   Two months had passed since the tequila incident.  Sixty days I spent looking like a Camille Claudel sculpture.

 

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There’s only one in the bed… Or, how I spent my Paris vacation.

Making love in a rooftop Jacuzzi while Grammy night lights swirled around us, cuddling up to a fire place at Long View Farms studio while an ice storm raged outside talking about everything we hoped for us none of which was true, driving to Boston telling stories about the past while the The Idiot played on rotation and we tried to hold hands across a stick shift Barracuda named Bernadette, those days were gone.

Sobriety requires a relationship with something greater than oneself.  Over the weeks our conversations turned to seeking.  He was didactic, an excitable boy searching for something beyond the experience of reality.  I was often left mystified yet confused by his musings.  Frankly I often found them sophomoric, dorm room fodder.  Lacking clarity I did engage although I had spent far more time thinking about Led Zeppelin lV than about god.

Much earlier in the relationship he’d given me a copy of The Razor’s Edge.  Claimed it was his favorite, and inscribed with many declarations about my eyes, my breath, rain. The final lines read; With you there are no walls. Together we escape burden, and culminated with Debbi- you make me cry.  I read his page long benediction so often I never read the novel.  I couldn’t quite make sense of how making him cry was a desirable effect.  I decided the inscription had something to do with love, but he didn’t sign it with love.  He’d also spelled my name wrong.

Eventually I read it.  I indulged in anything, size don’t matter, he’d left me.  Obviously Larry spoke to him, “I want to make up my mind whether God is or God is not.”  I was an Isobel (is a belle), who wanted to meet interesting people, but not if it meant giving up her Chanel dresses.  Larry (I wish I could interpret that name as ‘liar’ but I don’t think Somerset Maugham would agree) knew she would only be experimenting with, “a sort of cultured slumming.”  Isobel could also give herself an orgasm just by staring at Larry’s arm.  She couldn’t have him.  She was forced to settle, and his would be a lone journey.  In the end Larry finds his salvation.  He escapes bondage.  Poor Isobel, well, you can’t have someone who isn’t there.  Dharma-bums, social strata, the ultimate question, none of that meant anything, the only answers I was seeking made habitat behind those blue eyes. Perhaps it should have been obvious that my boyfriend needed to find something, and he couldn’t do it with me.  But I didn’t read the book.

 

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I could always find my way back home.

In 2003 he called with an invitation to dinner.  He requested that I come that same evening.  So on an indifferently cold evening I walked west to east arriving at the same building.  He was cooking fried chicken and corn bread.  An aside, by the end we had both gained about 10 pounds.  We feasted on food instead of flesh.  We swallowed up all the truth so there was nothing to say.  Rib roast, homemade bread, macaroons one of my favorite things, were all forced on me.  I didn’t want any of it, except the macaroons, but I ate anyway.  I would take anything he offered.  I finally figured out what happens when you’ve been consumed, you start consuming.  Once you gain 10 pounds you get depressed and your doctor puts you on anti-anxiety meds, anti-depressants and sleep aids.  Then you refill those fuckers as often as you need.  By the spring of 1999 I was a beggar with an extensive medicine cabinet who could no longer fit into her jeans.

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When Ile St-Louis calls you go no matter how big your thighs have gotten.

Whatever this dinner was, it was not going to be a hostile takeover.  Thanks to a couple of green pills my emotions were well barricaded.  I entered the same building but different apartment.  That helped keep a few sensory triggers at bay.  His red hair was long, and greasy.  He was wearing some make-up along with tight red glam pants tucked into Paul Stanley’s boots.  The most striking piece of his countenance was the perfectly plucked eyebrows.  The brows becoming the entrance to his face, replacing what used to be blue eyes.  The lightening bolts on his cheesy boots were enough to strike me silent.

He fried up chicken and rambled on about his ex-wife.  She was now the dumpster for all his rubbish.  She wanted money and she took her dog.  Aside from the dog it seemed her best asset was the ability to apply make-up; then they would go out together.  I immediately imagined her in a suit and him in a dress.  Our gangster and gun moll act done in reverse.  I was thankful for her.  He no longer had a reason to do anything “at” me.  I snuck a peak into the bedroom.  It contained the double sized bed we’d bought together.  Seeing it there with the same headboard did beget sorrow.  I could still see my hands wrapped around the poles.  Still and all, we had been living perversely different lives for seven years.  I owned a new bed, an extraordinarily expensive one at that.

“I’m having a sex change operation.”  I don’t know why I was surprised.  It was in my face throughout our entire relationship.  In Paris he had said the words.  If that statement were spray-painted on the wall my reaction would have been, “Wall? What wall?”  Hear, speak, see…no!  If I had to be The Three Monkeys I would, and then swallow another macaroon.  My eyes welled up but I didn’t cry.  I squeaked out, “But why?”  This was his razor’s edge.

“I always knew I would do this.  That’s why I had to break up with you.  I knew you couldn’t live this way.  I knew you need a man.”  Larry needed to find truth.  Isobel needed to live within her comfort zone.  But we were not the characters Maugham created.  And it was never the tequila, and it certainly wasn’t a relationship that fizzled after the excitement of the first 60 days.  There was always a thread between us that we tangled up, like the necklace you carelessly throw into your jewelry box every night even though you put it back on the next day.  If you never pause to fix it eventually the chain breaks.

During the months our break-up dragged on, before, “It’s over.  We tried and it didn’t work,” he also said, “I know how I feel about you. I just don’t know how I feel about us.” “I’m trying so hard to work my way back to you.”  “I need to take a break from this relationship and I don’t even believe those are my words coming through me because I could never say that to you.”  I also wondered where those words had come from.  How could I know they came from she not he.  He said he couldn’t see himself in the mirror because I was standing between him and the mirror, “I have to remove you if I’m ever going to see myself.”  My boyfriend wanted to be me.  And thank god he managed to remove me, because eventually he decided to look like Brittany Spears.

I got to bear witness to some of the process.  Throughout the next year or so she helped me sell off some records, she helped me move some boxes.  When I lost my job her new girlfriend helped me look for a cheaper apartment.  She finally acknowledged my success when she started playing in a band that loved Queens of the Stone Age.  Gone were the days when my cell phone was an embarrassment.  I was even invited to the studio a couple of times.  The make-up, the breasts, the hair, the nails, never fully disguised the man.  Eventually I heard rumor that the transition had been wholly consummated.  Over ten years have passed since I last saw her.

“I knew you couldn’t live this way.”  I was never given a voice in the decision.  Maybe I could have.  Maybe I would have stayed.  At the least we could have tried to live in the truth.  Maybe I would have walked away.  Maybe I wouldn’t have made him cry, and he could sign a novel With Love.  I always wished him to be happy.  That was the unselfish piece.  I wanted him to love me forever.  That was selfish.  “I knew you needed a man.”  Well thank you for making the decision for me.  I’m not going to go on a tirade about gender specific roles.  I only know I’ve had plenty of men (and a couple of women) since, and not one has ever given me an ounce of what he did.  I’ll never know what she could have.

I silently mourned his death.  I didn’t starve myself, I didn’t over medicate, I didn’t worry my friends.  But, I did mourn.  I will never again see that blue-eyed boy I loved.  There was a time he came to me almost nightly in my dreams.  Like Peter Pan visiting Wendy. To be perfectly honest, fleetingly he still comes I wake up happy.  He managed to crawl up inside me.  Inside of me resides a beautiful blue-eyed boy who ate candy for breakfast and called me “Kitten.”  But outside there is no grave marker.  He simply faded away never again to be.  I miss him terribly.  Yvan-you make me cry.

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Addendum: For many years I wondered if this entire saga unfolded in my head.  One evening my intern entered my office and closed the door.  She was young, zaftig, with long black hair, punk rock clothes and a beautifully kind face.  She had a story for me, but she approached with caution.  This could be dangerous territory.  A few years after he and I broke up she walked into a bar on Avenue B.  He stared, and I have made it quite clear those eyes were no joke.  He appeared to be awestruck.  Once she settled on a barstool he said, “I’m sorry.  I thought you were someone else.”  I looked at her, yes, I could see it at a distance he would have seen a ghost.  He continued, “I thought you were a woman I had a relationship with years ago.  It was the most intense experience I’ve ever had.”  They chatted some.  Her drink was on the house.

-For Molly who got to live twice