MIXTAPES

Sadly Chris Cornell (1964–2017), musician, singer, and songwriter, and member of Soundgarden and Audioslave died on 17 May. It was by his own hand: suicide by hanging.  The Grammy-winning rocker had performed that Wednesday night at the Fox Theatre in Detroit. Perhaps indicative of his state of mind, he ended his performance with a cover of Led Zeppelin’s In My Time of Dying. His family “believes that if Chris took his life, he did not know what he was doing, and that drugs or other substances may have affected his actions”.

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The manner of his passing reminded me of just how unbearable being can be.  Cornell literally walked off stage and out of an auditorium full of adoring fans, went to his hotel room, spoke to his wife on the phone, and then killed himself.  Five days later some cowardly religious fundamentalist extremist idiot walked into the Manchester Arena at the end of a Ariana Grande concert and blew himself up, killing 22 and injuring 59. Amongst the dead were many children, including eight-year-old Saffie Rose Roussos, who was at the concert with her mother and sister. It takes a really special kind of crazy…or evil, to target a tweens and teens concert like that!

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I guess we are all trying to do our best suppress or destroy something within us, be it with drugs and alcohol, religion, or by living shallow, superficial lives of self-involved consumerism. Or perhaps desperately trying to make sense of our existence or to give it all some meaning.

Here’s a kicker, Mr Bill Gates believes the world is a better place than it used to be, and apparently he is not alone! WTF?!!! I quote from a speech he gave at a graduation:

If I could give each of you a graduation present, it would be a copy of The Better Angels of Our Nature by Steven Pinker. After several years of studying, you may not exactly be itching to read a 700-page book. But please put this one on your reading list to get to someday. It is the most inspiring book I have ever read.

Pinker makes a persuasive argument that the world is getting better—that we are living in the most peaceful time in human history. This can be a hard case to make, especially now. When you tell people the world is improving, they often look at you like you’re either naïve or crazy.

But it’s true. And once you understand it, you start to see the world differently. If you think things are getting better, then you want to know what’s working, so you can accelerate the progress and spread it to more people and places.

It doesn’t mean you ignore the serious problems we face. It just means you believe they can be solved, and you’re moved to act on that belief.

This is the core of my worldview. It sustains me in tough times and is the reason I still love my philanthropic work after more than 17 years. I think it can do the same for you.

The key words he uses here for me are human history.  Perhaps for humans the world is a better place (I don’t agree about that either) than it used to be, but it is certainly not for the planet and its animals…and certainly not for Saffie Rose Roussos.

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Stephen Hawking reckons humanity has about 1000 years left on this planet before extinction. I am a little less optimistic, I reckon we will all be gone long before then. Unfortunately we will probably be taking everything along with us.

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Anyway,  so mix tapes (or mixtapes): well, they kind of help life be a little less crappier, if only by removing you from it for a little while. I got to make one recently for a fellow lecturer at a recent university art programme workshop I facilitated.  It got me thinking about mixtapes and the ones I have made throughout my life…the girls I made them for, and the road trips I made them for, and the parties I made them for!

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These days I generally only make them for my IPOD to run or exercise too. I have to admit though, that those same running mixtapes have saved me when sitting for hours in airports or on planes or during the ubiquitous powercuts we suffer where I live. The technology might have changed drastically but the ethos of the mixtape remains unaltered. It’s something you only really get or understand while listening to it alone in your bedroom (or car), the thought that someone took the time to make a mixtape just for you, and, importantly, it rocked! Or vice versa, when you have carefully compiled music that you love and the person you made it for loves it too! The mixtape then becomes a soundtrack to your whole relationship.

OK, and here is the scenic route bit that is characteristic of my storytelling: on one of my mixtapes is Chris Cornell singing Audioslave’s Be Yourself:

 

Someone falls to pieces

Sleeping all alone

Someone kills the pain

Spinning in the silence

To finally drift away

Someone gets excited

In a chapel yard

And catches a bouquet

Another lays a dozen

White roses on a grave

 

Yeahhh…

 

And to be yourself is all that you can do

Heyyyy…

To be yourself is all that you can do

 

Someone finds salvation in everyone

Another only pain

Someone tries to hide himself

Down inside himself he prays

Someone swears his true love

Until the end of time

Another runs away

Separate or united

Healthy or insane

 

And to be yourself is all that you can do (all that you can do)

Yeahhh…

To be yourself is all that you can do (all that you can do)

To be yourself is all that you can do (all that you can do)

Heyyyy…

Be yourself is all that you can do

 

Even when you’ve paid enough

Been pulled apart or been held up

Every single memory of the good or bad

Faces of luck

Don’t lose any sleep tonight

I’m sure everything will end up alright

You may win or lose..

 

But to be yourself is all that you can do

Yeahhh…

To be yourself is all that you can do

 

Ohhhh…

To be yourself is all that you can do (all that you can do)

ohhhh…

To be yourself is all that you can do (all that you can do)

To be yourself is all that you can–

Be yourself is all that you can–

Be yourself is all that you can do

Get this song, its beautiful. It always finds its way onto my mixtapes as an anthem for individuality.

So, in the end, a mixtape is about sharing powerful words, poetry put to music, with someone special. It’s you whispering in someone else’s ears about the things you love…or hate. You sharing you with another person and if anything is going to change the world ever it will be doing things just like that.

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ABSOFREAKINGLUTELY!

I run a lot and I have done for virtually my entire life. Truthfully I’ve never been quite sure whether it is toward something or away from something. Perhaps it’s both, but regardless, I run a lot. When I was at school it was for sport; athletics and rugby. In the Army I ran because I was ordered to. At Varsity, and after, it was for rugby but even now that I no longer play I continue to run. I do not jog, I run! I kid you not when I say, “I am Sparta!”

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Above: Sweaty Selfie (after a run)

I run between 10 and 20 kilometres, and 3 or 4 times a week if I am able. It is a time of zen for me, meditation and reflection, a de-stress. I have run wherever I found myself: South Africa, Namibia and the USA. I have run in Durban, Johannesburg, Kimberly, the Transkei, Windhoek, Rundu, California, Colorado and Florida.

One of the greatest investments I ever made was my little ipod! I clip it to my running shorts (No, not those horrible, silky, slitted porno shorts!), plug in my earpieces and I head off onto the road with my very own soundtrack. My tunes generally consist of a range of rock: indi, rap-rock, old school rock, light metal rock and popular rock.  Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park, Paramour, Sum 44, The Subways, Saliva, Seether and, my favourite running band at the moment, Papa Roach!

 

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“When you listen to Papa Roach, you get a feeling of passion and energy as opposed to just melodies,” says guitarist Jerry Horton. “I think that’s what separates us from a lot of other bands out there.” Absofreakinglutely!

So yeah, Papa Roach! Awesome, kick-ass band! I remember first hearing them playing on a jukebox in some dingy, old poolhall in Durban at the turn of the century. So freaking unsettling to say that, turn of the century.  The song was from Papa Roach’s second album, Infest, in early 2000. The album went triple platinum thanks to the success of Last Resort which announced them as one of the best hard rock acts of the new millennium.

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A northern Californian band, Papa Roach are a punk- and rap-influenced band, who play straight-ahead hard rock with some heavy metal leanings. In the small Northern California town of Vacaville, four high school friends, Jacoby Shaddix, Jerry Horton, Dave Buckner, and Will James formed the original band. Will James, the bass player was replaced by (how cool is this?) Tobin Esperance, who was only 16 years old and had been a roadie for Papa Roach since the age of 13. Let me tell you, the man rocks that bass. Those who have seen a Papa Roach concert will attest to that (I have a live concert dvd of theirs).

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Papa Roach vocalist Jacoby Shaddix almost committed suicide a while back. He was suicidal after a decade-long battle with alcoholism as well as  a strained relationship with his wife, Kelly.

”I went to Sausalito [California] to hang myself. I was in a f***ing place, man. The booze, my lifestyle, this woman I’d been with since I was 16. I’ve never been that f***ing broken. I was seriously going to finish it.”

However, as he sat in a hotel room and thought of ”that last conversation with your family on the phone” it triggered a change of heart. ”Suicide, that’s the most selfish act. So I decided I had to endure this pain that I was going through.”

So… ”I f***ing wrote a song instead.”

“There are always outside forces trying to tell you what to do,” Shaddix says. “So, we just put up our middle finger to critics and other people, and said, ‘We’re gonna do what we’re gonna do.’ We stand up for ourselves as a band, and our message to our fans is to shut yourself off from anyone who wants to run the show, and run it yourself.” As Shaddix sings in the chorus of Not Listening :  “The more I learn, the more I ignore.”

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Yeah, so Papa Roach, a very cool band and certainly one of my personal all-time favourites. Here are the lyrics to one their songs I love the most. Give it a listen if you get a chance.

 

Papa Roach – She Loves Me Not

when i see her eyes

look into my eyes

then i realize that

she could see inside my head

so i close my eyes

thinking that i could hide

disassociate so i don’t have to lose my head

this situation leads to agitation

will she cut me off?

will this be an amputation?

 

i don’t know

if i care

i’m the jerk

life’s not fair

Fighting all the time

this is out of line

she loves me not

Loves me not

do you realize

I won’t compromise

she loves me not

Loves me not

 

over the past five years

i have shed my tears

i have drank my beers and watched my fears fly away

And until this day

she still swings my way

but it’s sad to say sometimes

she says she loves me not

But i hesitate

to tell her i hate

this relationship

i want out today

this is over

 

i don’t know

if i care

i’m the jerk

life’s not fair

Fighting all the time

this is out of line

she loves me not

Loves me not

do you realize

I won’t compromise

she loves me not

Loves me not

 

life’s not fair

 

i’m the jerk

 

line for line

rhyme for rhyme

sometimes we be fightin’ all the goddamn time

it’s making me sick

relationship is getting ill

piss drunk stupid

mad

on the real

could you feel what I feel

what’s the deal girl

we’re tearing up each other’s world

we should be in harmony

boy and girl

that is the promise we made

back in the day

we told each other things wouldn’t be this way

i think we should work this out

it’s all right baby we can scream and shout

 

i don’t know

if i care

i’m the jerk

life’s not fair

Fighting all the time

this is out of line

she loves me not

Loves me not

do you realize

I won’t compromise

she loves me not

Loves me not

 

Life’s not fair (x3)

 

I’m The Jerk

 

She Loves Me Not

Loves Me Not

 

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Solitude

Today I committed suicide. It was a digital one, but a suicide nevertheless. I deleted myself; closed my Facebook account and took back my person, my spirit, my soul that was pinned to that social media wall. This has been coming for a while, from back with my LA heartbreak, so the new heartbreak I am experiencing was only the final push I needed.  And I took the leap. There is a certain voyeuristic-exhibitionistic hue to the way we interact in our modern society these days. It twists and maligns our relationships, both with others and ourselves, leaving ghostly, malformed, diseased essences floating in the ether and within our minds. We wail and rail in lines of digital code instead of in each others’ faces and each others’ arms.

I am an emotional freak, too much for even me to deal with let alone to expect it of other people, and so much worse for those that I love and care for. I can relate to Van Gogh hacking his ear off, so there has to be something wrong with me, yes. It is terrible to just feel too much. People recoil from it, are even repulsed by it, it’s just too much. That I am aware of it makes it a cross of unimaginable weight to bear. Picture John Hurt (in that scary-ass movie, Alien) writhing on the kitchen table while something tears its way out of his chest cavity to escape,  sometimes I feel like that.  Most often I just feel like I do not belong.

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This capacity to feel and emote to the extreme is coupled with an extraordinary gift for empathy that often leaves me drained by the world and its suffering. We are not a good match, this life and I, so I think I need to retreat to solitude. Therefore the digital suicide. In an ideal world, a mutant like myself would have a fortress of solitude like Superman or a Batcave like Bruce Wayne. Ah, to be stranded on a desert island like Crusoe, but minus Friday and the cannibals (there were cannibals in that story, weren’t there? It has been a long time since I read that book). Just alone, nothing to brush against or poke at my emotions. Peace.

The irony of the ease with which we can get in, and stay in contact with anybody anywhere is that we are no longer close. The same social constructs that we think bring us together in fact separate us, distance us. We remain to each other, pictures in a book, catchphrases and captions…empty and shallow. So I say to you out there, if you want to be with me, be with me, not on some glowing screen but hand to hand and cheek to cheek. Feel my breathe on your face when I laugh and the warmth of my arms when I embrace you. No likes and status updates and comments, look at my face and hear my voice, they will tell you all you need to know about me.

Van Gogh

Van Gogh