My friend, Mark, that I was in several bands with is one of the most interesting characters I have ever known. But I hate to use a forum like this to tell Mark Pringle anecdotes. There are so many of them. But for the love of God, I wish I knew where to contact him. He’s a strange guy, but one of the best friends I have ever had. He wrote a song for me once that I have had in my head for over 20 years called We Shared the Same Song. I have only ever heard him play it live, because that’s how our musical careers have gone.
“I don’t want to sleep in the corner”
You can only take my word for it that the music I have actually recorded for people to hear is a sad facsimile of the original work. Mark and I tried to record several times. Some of it sucked very badly. Some of it was okay. But the truth is that we could never keep it together long enough for actual decent recordings of our efforts to be completed. We spent a long time writing songs. The song was more important than anything. But the end result is that there are few artifacts available for general consumption.
“where people throw stuff at me cause I’m smaller.”
We could work together for an average of 6 months before we were at each other’s throats. I blamed him. He blamed me. And really, it would be easy for me to present a case about how hard it was to work with Mark. But who cares. In the end, I have nothing to show for the some of the most valuable creative efforts of my life. And it’s a good thing I have a really good musical memory, because I have only heard the song he wrote for me a handful of times. But I can easily recall all of it. And it was perfect with just him and a guitar. And as frustrating as Mark could be, he could really reach you with his music. And when he did, he was easy to forgive.
“I would normally throw stuff back”
Mark made a living a lot of the time in Albuquerque playing in coffee shops by himself. He could throw down an open guitar case and pull in enough to pay bills. And you could see it when he reached someone. And he could do it over and over again.
“but it never seems to go down like that.”
Mark would do this thing where he would attempt to add additional instruments without adding additional people. Part of that was just wanting to get it done and he played live so much. Part of it was just Mark being weird. Part of it was just that he generally had a bad time working with other people. It would be really funny sometimes. And he would talk about the Dick Van Dyke character in Mary Poppins. The one man band.
“I just want to start a one man band.”
Honestly at the time, I had no idea what he was talking about. It had been so long since I had seen Mary Poppins. But in the last few years, I have had the opportunity to see Mary Poppins with my son several times. I can’t help but think of Mark whenever I see that character. And it always makes me think about some of the values Mark had in entertainment. He told me one time about why he liked Chinese cinema so much, even beyond the Kung Fu movies we were into because the whole Albuquerque crew studied so much kung fu. He liked that they were all so intense. Every moment of the movies were so ‘lived’. And he must have thought the same thing about that Dick Van Dyke character. He was so alive.
“And write songs that people don’t understand.”
But it all makes me think of all the missed opportunities. And really there are so many in my life. As my friend Troy says, “We never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” But I think we really misunderstand which opportunities we were missing. We always thought we were missing the business opportunities. But really we were missing each other. And yes, we were all pretty much handicapped mentally and doing our best to figure out how to overcome our disabilities. But we already had the community built. All we had to do was stay in one place and figure out how to work together until we had artifacts that we were satisfied with.
“I will finally be on my way.”
And I am using artifact in place of the term I would usually use to describe what I mean – product. Because I am finding that this is the obstacle that I have been unable to overcome in my creative process – the eventual commercialization of my artifacts. But this should have been the last thing on my mind. But it was always the first thing that would kill any of our endeavors. How do we make money doing this? And the answer really is – you don’t. You love it, and that’s the most you are ever going to get out of it. If there is eventually a payout, great!
“But I still don’t have much to say about it.”
But that’s where we would all end up. We have to eat somehow. And we would all be desperate to make money doing something we loved doing. So we would try everything and bite off more than we could chew. And eventually we would be sick of that part of the process and each other, and everyone would scatter. Back to shit jobs we all hated.
And really there are so many wasted words to try to capture what I mean. I became a programmer because I got sick of being in an Indie band. Paying $300 to $500 a month on a rehearsal space while living in an apartment with no furniture. Money seemed to always be the thing that was missing. “If I/We had enough money, then I would be able to put this whole music thing together.” But we were putting the music thing together. We were just starving half the time. And the idea of being a programmer was financing my own music projects and eating at the same time. A really novel idea. Mark did the same thing.
I don’t know where Mexican Kids at Home got their name, but I like it. I like their obvious dedication to acoustic music with no effects. It’s this really sparse landscape. An intentionally child like approach. On first hearing, it sounds like they wrote the song five minutes before they started recording. But even if they did that, which I doubt, it really has a much heavier message hidden in all that simplicity. It’s so hard to listen to commercial pop music and know that there are so many people much more talented all over the place. But it’s the lowest common denomenator always. Sex and corporate success. Fame and riches. It’s a carrot in your face as a musician. A vision of success sold to you as easily as a new brand of toothpaste. That’s what is being sold by commercial pop. It almost looks accessible. Until you realize you need contact with an executive class that you will never have access to. It almost kills you.
“And there’s some things I hate the most.”
And then a long time has passed and I realize all of this. That my one man band killed my creativity. That I didn’t begin with a vision of corporate commercial pop success. I just wanted to write, record and tour music. I got the writing part. And one part that I overlooked whenever I had it. Community. And that community seemed like the easiest thing to walk away from every time. And I realize now that it was the most important part.
“Listen to the radio and finding it hard to breathe.”