Hiatus

Recently I’ve given up writing much of anything new for this blog. Most everything I’ve posted has been from my back catalog of writings that has built up over many years. Now I’ve come to a point where I’ve posted all that material and don’t have any new writing to share.

Over the past few months, the time I would’ve normally dedicated to writing for this blog has been spent working on a memoir of my life from 2001 to 2011. A great deal of the material is comprised from print issues of Welcome to Flavor Country, entries from this blog, and journals. At this time I have no idea when that will be complete.

So I’m placing this blog on hiatus. Perhaps I’ll be back in the future with some new writing. But at this point, I really can’t say.

I’d encourage you to follow me on Twitter, where you can read of my goings-on and random thoughts. Also, please check out Razorcake, a print zine and website for which I write music, DVD, zine, and book reviews and record music podcasts. If I do more interviews, I hope to do it primarily for them. Thanks to everyone for reading the blog. It has been greatly appreciated.


Who are you? Müscle Wörship

I used to listen to Proudentall. Now I listen to Müscle Wörship. Okay, I listen to both because they both kick ass.

muscleworshipbyjonathanvandinebw

Who are you? What position do you fill in your band?

Sean Ward Bergman. Guitarist, singer, van owner.

Tell me a story from your childhood, please.

I was born in Wichita, Kansas. When I was still an infant my parents were driving through some bad weather. They heard tornado sirens sounding and then saw a tornado headed their way. There was no place to take shelter, so my father pulled over to the side of the road and told my mother to take me and lay down in the ditch. When she opened the car door to step out, the car wasn’t touching the ground. Needless to say, she did not exit the vehicle. The storm passed quickly. The car returned to the earth. We drove away unscathed.

When an older family member asks what kind of music you play, what do you tell her/him?

Our first recording came out while my grandmother was still alive. She looked at the names of the songs on the back and asked me what “Jesus Vs The Lord” was. I replied, “It’s a rock song, Granny.” She left it at that. If only she knew the power of the Google search. A search of the band name would have flipped her lid.

I’m sure you have been asked a number of times about how the band got together. So, could you please make up a story about how you all got together? No, really. Just make something up. Knock yourself out. 

We all met at karate lessons. After we had discovered the limits of each other’s strength, we climbed on top of a Quicktrip (convenience store) to huff some Freon, which is always tastiest after a workout. Suddenly, the Mesoamerican deity Quetzalcoatl appeared before us. He was as beautiful as any winged serpent we’d seen, except he was horribly overweight from appearing at nothing but gas stations and on the roofs of McDonalds and the like. Basically, anywhere where cholesterol and Freon flow freely down the gullets of cell phone implanted, freeway gawkers.

He was a terrible sight. His scales were falling off and his wings could barely hold him aloft. He didn’t have to say a word. We were immediately struck by the error of our ways. The best food isn’t fast, and the best drugs aren’t made by man. Upon this realization, he broke into a song both beautiful and terrifying. It swept us up into his wings, where the song resonated through our every molecule. We each knew we had to share this song, so we decided to form a band. We would brave the endless void of gas stations, fast food, and suicidal drivers to bring this song to all that would listen! LalalalalahhHHHHHH!!!!

Wait, I was supposed to make this answer up wasn’t I? Sorry about that.

MuscleWorship

What was the first album you bought that ignited your love for music?

Iron Maiden – The Number of the Beast

It seems we all have that person who got us into non-mainstream music (punk/hardcore/indie/metal/emo)? Who was that person for you?

When I was in high school, I came to Lawrence, Kansas, to play a show. That night I got to see the Kansas City band Shiner before their first record came out. I was really blown away that music like that existed and I wanted to discover more. My next trip up, I visited Love Garden. It’s a fantastic local record store that is still going strong. I found their record there and was overwhelmed by the rest of what I saw. I wanted to listen to every record in that store. My girlfriend at the time wanted to move to Lawrence and I was obviously smitten. So, upon graduating, we moved there. Early on I met a guy named Brandon Freeman. He was from around there and had keen knowledge of most of the underground music happening in the area at the time. He loved to share new music he was discovering and I was eager to hear it. The Love Garden did the rest.

There is nothing new under the sun, so, let’s be honest: musically you’re ripping somebody off. Who is it?

Polvo, Bastro, Panel Donor, Archers of Loaf. 

Why should I listen to your music?

You’re dying to discover the song of Quetzalcoatl and his amazing secret to burn fat and add lean muscle.

Where can someone go on the internet to listen to your songs?

muscleworship.bandcamp.com

 


Why We Write

I’m in my thirties now, but from my late teens through my mid-twenties, I was involved in independent music. I worked for record labels, booked shows, and interviewed a lot of my heroes. I made friends with all kinds of bands and musicians who are now, in some circles, relatively famous.

After getting burnt out working in that scene for a number of years, I finally realized that it all came down to who you knew. But who cares who you know? If they made a good album or crafted a killer song, that was what mattered, right? That’s what originally moved me in the first place: the music. It was that connection to the emotion that spoke to me.

Perhaps it was my naïveté, but I walked into taking writing classes with no experience of them in the academic realm, and wasn’t even thinking of literary journals or MFAs or publishers. I came because I wanted to get better at my writing. I wanted to learn the skills it took, so that people will enjoy my writing, comprehend it better and perhaps most importantly so that I can see myself improving. I wanted to learn how to utilize motifs and devices that I read in books by my favorite authors. But I also wanted a means to express my voice.

And like my epiphany about the music industry years before, imagine my surprise to read bios of writers that state who published them, what workshops they had gone to and what awards they had received. But these publishers, awards and workshops don’t mean a thing to me. It’s another closed circle of who knows who, just as in the music scene.

I left my old circle because of things like that. It was supposed to be about the music. And I thought the writing was supposed to be about writing. Yeah, it’s great if someone threw a few grand your way so that you could write. That’s fantastic! I’d take free money, too. But what I really want to know is whether your writing is any good. Does it spark an emotional reaction in the reader or inspire or inform us in some way?

I have done zines since my high school days—a way to distribute my thoughts to those who wanted to read them. I’ve always had friends and family who were interested in reading the stories I had to tell or the poetry I was writing. And so I would share with them. But in 2010 I realized that there was a speedier and more universal way to reach those same friends and family with my writing: a blog. But as is the nature of the Internet, my audience has not remained limited to my friends and family; I’ve had incidental audiences, too. It’s been a welcomed bonus.

The other night as I lay in bed, though, I realized I would likely never receive any real fame from my writing. I will never be able to quit my job and live off my writing. I will most likely find myself fifty or sixty years of age and still plugging away on a blog (or whatever replaces it by then), spinning tales for family and friends and whomever else cares to read it.

And I suppose I’m okay with that. I don’t have much of a choice. I find myself coming back to something I read years ago that has often given me the direction for my writing. In Letters to a Young Poet, Rainer Maria Rilke writes:

Go into yourself. Search for the reason that bids you write…acknowledge to yourself whether you would have to die if it were denied you to write. This above all—ask yourself in the stillest hour of your night: must I write?

As for me, I must. And sure, I also want to improve my skills and understand what tools there are that I can utilize to make myself an even better writer, clearer and more relatable to my readers.

I’m not saying it’s wrong to write for other reasons. Despite all I’ve said, given the right conditions I’d love to have the opportunity to get my writing out there to an even wider audience. (“Anyone who writes and says they don’t want to be famous—even a little bit—is full of shit.” So said a writing instructor of mine. And I fully agree.)

But in the end, I write for myself. I write because I have to. I write because I want to. I write because it takes away the stress and helps me clear my head of racing thoughts. There is a burning inside me that demands I write. And I must meet it.

why we write


An interview with Sara Billups

I have known Sara Billups since 1997. We met at the same Christian college in Indiana because she was one of the few cool people there and in an environment like that the cool kids gotta stick together. Now she lives in Seattle with her husband and two kids. We talked over the phone not too long ago on a Saturday afternoon.

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Continue reading


New Razorcake Podcast is up!

The final in my trilogy of podcasts dedicated to creatures in the natural world. In this episode, I’m focused on songs with animals in the track name. No bugs, no birds, just animals. Call it “other,” if you will, but these animals rule. I mean, who doesn’t like dogs and cats? Or jackals? Or wolfenswans? Well, they’re all here (and more!) in this podcast.

Tracklisting:
Coalesce, “Wild Ox Moan” (Relapse)

Helms Alee, “Lionize” (Hydra Head)
Nails, “Cry Wolf” (Southern Lord)
Japanther, “Wolfenswan” (Plan-It-X)
DYS, “Wolfpack” (XClaim!)
The Icarus Line, “Feed A Cat To Your Cobra” (Crank!)
Burning Love, “Made Out Of Apes” (Southern Lord)

Trans Am, “Music For Dogs” (Thrill Jockey)
Oneida, “What’s Up, Jackal?” (Jagjaguwar)
Sweep The Leg Johnny, “New Buffalo” (Deep Elm)
Descendents, “I Wanna Be a Bear” (New Alliance)
Chisel, “The Dog in Me” (Gern Blandsten)

Supine To Sit, “Bears” (Lovitt)


My Dad

When I was in elementary school my dad was fired from his job. I think he had some ideas that didn’t mix well with the bosses at the insurance agency at which he worked. When he lost his job, I was scared because I didn’t understand what it meant. Would we go hungry? Would we be forced to move out of our house? My mom was working, but it wasn’t enough to support all of us. That realm of not knowing what would happen next—that was what frightened me.

I remember the talk at dinner one night. He reassured us things would be all right. I had had no idea how bad they had really been at that time. He had to go to court to settle things with his former employer. The agency that fired him told him he couldn’t sell insurance to anyone in the county where we lived. He would have to travel to sell his insurance. Every day, adding miles to the car to make a living. Sometimes a hundred miles in one day.

He resurrected himself like a phoenix. A small insurance agency the next county over took a chance on him. He set up an office for the agency in our county. It was run out of our utility room. A Tandy computer with a dot-matrix printer, an old desk chair from the 1950s—big, black, and clunky. In the background, in the closet, a washer and dryer. Not operable during working hours, since dad may have had to talk on the phone.

The order against selling in the county ran its term. Things grew and grew. He got a space in an old office building downtown. The Spohn building, across from the county courthouse. It smelled musty and was a relic from the early twentieth century. Someone must have renovated it in the 1950s and here it was the early 90s and it still seemed caught in that time warp. I expected to find private investigators in some of the other offices. Eventually the bank and insurance agency grew and he had his own office in a bank building in the downtown of our city.

The boss at his agency and he butted heads sometimes. There were days when he would come home frustrated with the decisions of his boss. I can see him in me. I get frustrated when I’m not allowed to do things my own way, when I don’t have the freedom I want at my job. It gets me depressed, sometimes for days on end. I wonder how he dealt with it. I never really asked him. Perhaps his words would provide me with some inspiration.

One day his boss quit—went to another job. My dad was tapped on the shoulder. “Come in. We have an offer for you,” the heads of the bank told him. He took it and has been boss of the agency for more than fifteen years now. It has seen tremendous growth: he manages numerous offices in two states. I guess if we’re defining success, that is how it is done. Most important to me is that his workers are happy and get good benefits and enjoy their work. That’s what has mattered most to me when I have overseen people. I would imagine most of them enjoy their work, because they seem to be staying.

From out of that I can draw inspiration. He had a wife and two children depending on him. He had house payments to make. I have none of that. Will the lack of those depending upon me cause me to not have any fire in my belly, or effort in my attempts? Will I give up? Or will I see that redemption can be had? People can improve their lives when they feel they have lost everything, right? Why do some succeed in even greater ways than they had before while others knuckle under and do themselves in?

Every day I must remember my father. Every day I must remember the fear he felt and how he rose again from what might have been an excuse to die, to pass on, and leave us all behind. But he made something of himself. He came back and struck again and again, working hard to put food on the table, clothes on our backs and a roof over our heads. He did it all himself. I am not half the man he is. I don’t know how to change the oil on a car. I don’t know how to build a house. I am not aware of how to turn a business around. All of the things he has done. I am incapable of accepting the challenges he has taken.

I know a lot of useless information. I can operate an Apple computer. I know how to find books in a library. I can tell you everyone who played in the multitude of line-ups for the punk band, Black Flag, in their ten years of existence. This will not make me any money if I lose my job. It will not soothe my consciousness or give me strength. I cannot use this to help me find work.

My father has taken on many challenges. He took on raising me. I was a challenge. I was temper tantrums and aggravation and anxiety. I was a rebellious teen in my own way; not what he and my mom most likely expected.

That’s not to say I entirely understand my father or feel exceptionally close to him. We have extensive political and religious differences that go down to our core and separate us. I lean somewhere between leftist and apolitical, whereas he is a staunch conservative. I’m an agnostic and he’s an evangelical Christian. As someone once said to me, “Your parents are the type of people who, if they weren’t your parents, you would never be friends with them. You’d probably dislike them quite a bit.”

But my dad has taught me things such as a hard work ethic and to treat others fairly. From him I learned how to use a riding lawn mower, drive a car, and tell a long-winded story.

I know if I ask my dad how he dealt with being out of work, he would reply, “I prayed a lot.” I would do that but I don’t believe in prayer. But I learn what I can from him and it’s more than enough.

My Dad


Words

Song lyrics I was meaning to write
if only I could sing.
Things that might express something
more than letters
formed coherent.
Constantly writing on walls.
Finding nonsense
in the written
word.
No explanation
and so much deprecation.
It’s not pretty
and I’m left empty
and unable to explain
my predicament
in any way close to being
translatable.

words


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