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Music Depression: “Gotta Knock A Litttle Harder”

I gave it all that I got, And started to knock
I shouted for someone to open that lock
I just gotta get through the door
And The more that I knocked, the hotter I got.
The hotter I got, The harder I knocked.
I just gotta break through the door!

[A Note From The Author: This article deals with Depression, specifically my own current battle with it. The article is of a very deep and personal nature to me. If you feel that this artcle isn’t for you then please feel free to skip it. I promise I’ll be back talking and swearing about comics and movies again in no time]

There are times when everyone has a moment of clarity. When the chamber of the mind puts the puzzle of the human psyche together to give a person clear, unmaligned vision into their problem or problems. We are all Saint Paul at some point in our lives, all having that epiphany on the metaphorical road to Damascus. We never know when it will strike, when the mind will allow us to have that revelatory moment that makes everything so pristine in our head, so obvious. Sometimes we get to that answer on our own and sometimes we need a trigger to get there. I had one such moment just a few hours ago and there was a trigger involved. It was a somewhat moving experience but it came about in a way that left me thinking “That was an odd thing”.

I have been dealing with a lot of personal stress from a variety of areas in my life for several months now. These are the usual things that give people stress like work (or lack thereof), relationships of both a personal and romantic nature, money and general things that we all deal with everyday as part of basic human life. Well all these factors have been butting heads against each other with me for the last 6 months or so. Lack of job led to lack of money. My relationhip with one girl went south and it affected not just my relationship with her but relationships with a large chunk of my circle of friends. This affected my home life since I lived with some of these people and it affected my overall attitude and behavior. I had slipped from being a somewhat jolly curmedgeon (an image I actually tried to cultivate) to just being a flat out utter asshole and douchebag (images I, in no way, wanted to cultivate).

Today I went to get assesed mentally in order to get some counseling. This was no easy thing for me to do because I basically renounce the conepts of psychotherapy and psychiatry outright as sheer Carny nonsense. I maintained that Psychiatry and its relevant fields were akin to modern Alchemy in the fact that they were guess work and fraudulent. It isn’t like the concept of depression just came into existence becasue Freud and Jung, or any of their disciples, wrote them up. To suggest so is not only idiotic but a staight fallacy. But my viewpoint on psychiatry isn’t the crux of this article. My moment of clarity is.

When I leave the house my iPod tends to travel with me. It doesn’t matter the mood, I need some music. I was sitting in the office Central Access, where one goes to get their Assesment done in Toledo, Ohio. I was sitting there listening to my iPod and I sat as “Gonna Knock A Little Harder” played. The song is composed by the ever talented Yoko Kanno with Tim Jensen and performed by vocalist Mai Yamane with Kanno’s backing band The Seatbelts. I sat there and listened to the song and it just mgiht have been the first time I sat and identified with its meaning.

Now I’ve sat and identified with songs before. Hell I’ve identified with songs when I’m sad or depressed and completely gotten the meaning behind the piece. I just never sat up, at one of the lowest points in my existence and said “Shit, this is me!”. “Gotta Knock A Little Harder” wasn’t written for me, I know this. It was written for a movie. But something about it held me and moved me. This isn’t the first time I’ve lisened to the song. Hell it has played on my iPod more times than I can count. But this time, of all times, it became the most personal of songs. It became the anthem of what I had been putting myself and friendss through for the last 6 months.

The song itself plays out as one giant metaphor, as many songs do. Using the imagery of locking oneself into a room to keep out things like pain and suffering is all fine and good on paper but in practice is a terrible way to live your life. Shutting the door and locking it so tight that it won’t open actually prevents the people who want to help you from getting that help to you. Shutting the door also leaves one isolated with one’s self. It forces confrontation with one’s failings and shortcomings. Let me tell you, I’ve got plenty of those!

The reality of being locked mentally with yourself in a shut and locked room is that you’alive got nowhere to run to. You have to face yourself and the reality of facing oneself is usually ugly and harsh. Facing the reality of your trueself is enough to send anyone scrambling to that locked door that is sealed shut. It is enough to make you pound on it over and over again for someone to get you out. You’ll scratch and claw at that damned thing so bad that you will shout for the door to get broke down, just so you you can get away from the person you’ve been that is looking you back in the face. In the end, the door will come down but the only one who will break it down is you. That only happens after you come to terms with the person you’ve been and recognizing that changing yourself, conciously and voluntarly to be a better person, is the key to your own escape from that sealed and locked room.

This is what I recognized today, sitting there while waiting to be assesed. My situation, at that moment in time, was because I had this moment of self-actualization. It doesn’t mean I’m instantly better. It also means that I am not solely to blame for things as well. But at least I am aware of my complicity, of my shortcomings and failures and accept them. I was afraid to do so before because it conflicted with my world and spiritual view of things. I was afraid that by making amends and apologizing to those I had hurt and denied that I taking responsibility for my choices and thus becoming someone who was inauthentic, a phony so to speak.

The fact is that by actually confronting myself and admitting my faults and apoligizing for them, I take responsibility for those actions and in turn, validate who I am presently. I still do not revel the idea of consuling, my view of Psychiatry has not changed. But I do need help and I need to start somewhere, so for now I’ll put aside my distrust of these “Scientists” and see what can be done. I just no matt er hat, I’m not going back to that room with the locked sealed door.

Additional Information:
“Gotta Knock A Little Harder” appears on Cowboy Bebop: Future Blues OST.
Catalog# VICL-60756.

Thank You Yoko Kanno & The Seatbelts, Tim Jensen and Mai Yamane

Set To Random or I Love My IPod!

Looking At IPods Makes Me Want M&Ms

I love my IPod, I really do. The simple joy of having EVERY song in the history of recorded music ready to go at my command is kind of nice. The problem is that sometimes there are just things I’m not interested in hearing at any given moment, so I end up skipping through tracks just to get to one song that makes me go “A-HA!”. Now I could edit what is on my IPod and take out certain items, but why would I do that? I might actually want to listen to those songs at a different point in time. Better to have those songs on there just in case such a moment arrives. Honestly, I am more likely to add music to my IPod than remove any of it. It’s just the nature of the beast. So what if I have to spend a minute or two to get to something I want to listen to, in the end I still get to it.

The Most Perfect Pop Song Ever!

It is more a matter of finding a song I know I won’t skip at all, that’s the key. Finding a song that you, as a listener, hear the opening chords to and know that you will play through to the end. There are tons of songs I love but only a few that don’t get skipped at all. Let’s use an example. I love The Beatles, but I am more likely to skip over some of their material, but if “Surrender” by Cheap Trick pops up then that song gets full listening privileges with me. “Surrender” is just one of those simple great Pop songs, hell it might just be The Perfect Pop Song. What is my criteria for that? Simple, I never skip past it. It doesn’t matter the mood I’m in, or the place I’m in. If “Surrender” comes on, it gets listened to. You know what’s even better? I’d say 9 times out of 10, after “Surrender” plays, the IPod goes on a good to great run of songs that have that perfect balance of flow and music I want to hear. It’s like “Surrender” is the Overture so to speak, it warms me up for a great run of songs.

There are other songs and musical pieces I never skip. The overture to the opera Carmen comes to mind as well as another piece from that same opera in “Votre Toast“. “Votre Toast” almost makes want to take up bullfighting as a profession, until I remember that my reflexes kinda suck and I’ve got a bum knee. Also the thought of playing “chicken” with 1000+ pounds of raging bull would probably make me mess my shorts so fast it isn’t even funny. I think the basic message of “Votre Toast” is what makes Bullfighting seem so appealing. That message? Toreadors (and Soldiers) get laid. Toreadors get laid a lot. Toreadors get laid so much that they feel the need to burst into song about it and have people congratulate them on how often they get laid. Sure that is some pretty intense ego-maniacal behavior, but if your job of choice involves you dodging an enraged animal and then have the balls to stick spears in it, well my friend you deserve every little piece of trim you can get AND deserve to have people sing about it. This doesn’t mean I condone bullfighting. I’ve been to exactly one bullfight and I never want to see another. Not only is it pretty unpleasant to watch but the bathrooms in the arena were quite possibly the toilets I’ve ever encountered. Like worse than the Yankee stadium bathroom in the 70s bad. Why my parents thought taking a child to a bullfight when they went to Portugal was a good idea I’ll never know. Hell, I’ll never know why thought taking me to Portugal in the first place was a good idea.

But back on point, my IPod is jammed with a lot of music and I’d say that I skip 50% of what the playlist brings up on any given day. There isn’t any rhyme of reason to what I skip, it can be completely random. Let’s use the last few songs that my ITunes picked out. I skipped “She Came In Through the Bathroom Window” by The Beatles, “GSG” by Shaka Labbits and “Kiss” by Prince. That’s 3 songs I do actually like listening to but opted to skip. The 4th song I let play. That song? Amazingly it was “Billy Don’t Lose My Number” by Phil Collins. What was it about THAT song that made me let it play? I honestly don’t know. “Billy Don’t Lose My Number” isn’t even close to being my favorite Phil Collins song. I actually skipped 3 songs I like better than the one I ended up listening to. The thing is that the decision to listen to that song led to a run of great songs that included selections from Shonen Knife, Yoko Kanno, Blondie, Bjork and Stevie Wonder. The sheer randomness of my playlist makes for an amazingly eclectic sampling of musical artists that is for sure. For fuck’s sake, I even have one Avril Lavigne song on there which just further proves I will listen to most anything!

Shaka Labbits - My Most Favorite of Favorite Japanese Bands!

I am glad I don’t keep myself pigeon-holed with just one genre of music. Listening to music should be like eating food, you should try everything. Some things will agree with your palette, others won’t. But more often than not you are going to like what you try. If I were to listen to 10 songs I’ve never heard before there is a very good chance I’d walk away enjoying half those songs. There would be a 50% chance of me asking about some of the artists so I could do some research on them and listen to more of their material. Its just how my brain works. Hell most of the bands I listen to these days I end up listening to based on recommendations of other people. Do you think I ended up listening to Japanese SKA bands like GOLLBETTY and MidnightPumpkin by accident? Fuck no, those were recommended to me by others. OK there are some musical acts I have stumbled across by accident, like the Hungarian metal band that only covers Frank Sinatra songs, but that is the dumbest of dumb luck.

I guess the question that pops in my head as I write this is: If Music does soothe the savage beast, does the savage beast care if you have your playlist set to random?

I know that my inability to let the IPod just play what pops up probably stems from my ADD. I need something to listen to but it has to grab me and hold my attention. It is the same with reading a book. Hundreds upon hundreds of exposition will lead to me putting a book down, never to be read again. Provided, reading a book is a much larger commitment mentally than listening to a 3-5 minute pop song. Unless it is Coldplay, listening to Coldplay is an agonizing experience. I’d be a terrible spy because if I were captured by the Red Chinese Communists all they would have to do is make listen to some Coldplay and I’d spill everything I know just to make them stop playing it. That shit is like mental barbed wire!

The point of this little discussion is that I really love my IPod. I love its complete and utter randomness. Hell why shouldn’t I? I’m the one that put the damned music on it after all. Just because there are certain things I skip when the IPod pulls them up doesn’t mean I don’t like them. I’ll get around to listening to them, just let me get to something else right now. Something that will stimulate my brain and cause a great big smile to cross my face. Hell that something can be “Easy Street” from the musical Annie or “The Weight” by The Band. Just find it fast or my general impatience will grow exponentially with every passing second. Play anything… except Coldplay. If somehow Coldplay somehow ends up on my IPod then I have to throw the damn thing away and get a new one. That shit is like Herpes, it’ll just keeping popping again no matter how many times you get rid of it.

So as I wrap this up “And She Was” by The Talking Heads plays and I find myself in a most excellent mood. I promise you, this article isn’t a exercise in “look what I listen to aren’t I cool”. I know I’m not cool, I just have weird music taste. Hey! Look at that! That makes sixteen more songs since “Billy Don’t Lose My Number” that I let play and not a single skip. Let’s see how long this I can keep up. It’s switching as we speak and who knows if my ADD will like what comes next. Please oh brain of mine, just stick with it for now. We’re on a roll and I’d like to keep it that way… Oh look at that! It’s “Surrender” by Cheap Trick. Life couldn’t be more perfect nor more ironic and I do love irony!

J-BAND Of The Week 10/18/09 – SHAKALABBITS!

SHAKALABBITS - UKI (Vocals), TAKE-C (Guitar), MAH (Drums) & KING (Bass)

SHAKALABBITS - UKI (Vocals), TAKE-C (Guitar), MAH (Drums) & KING (Bass)

I had promised an acquaintance from the Joshifans Message Board that today I would pimp the excellent GaGaGa SP. The one problem with that is that I can find no information on the band and in case you haven’t figured it out, I like to give some background on the bands I feature here. So I’m really torn, do I keep my promise and feature a band whose music I’ve hard and enjoy but have no real information on, or do I talk at length about bands I know about so I can pass my knowledge onto you, the reader?

A tough call my friends, a tough call indeed. I am going with the latter option, just because I think people ike to get some background on what I’m exposing them to as opposed to just throwing up random music videos in a language that most (including myself) barely understand. So having said that, it is high time I introduced the J-Rock band that has been hands down my favorite since 2003… SHAKALABBITS! Formed originally in 1999 as the band JUU-Shock, SHAKALABBITS have spent the last 10 years recording andreleasing really great music. The roots of the band are in punk and SKA, the latter despite the fact they have no dedicated horn players in the band. The band derived their name by combining the Japanese pronunciation of the English phrase “Love It” with lead singer UKI’s favorite animal, the rabbit, thus SHAKALABBITS.

The band began gigging around Tokyo not soon after forming and soon cut their first single “SWISS MAMMY” for indie label Evil Design Records. Next came their first Maxi-single Overdoing. Since then the band has made at least 1 release a year, be it single, EP or standard Album. The band grew a large and dedicated following and even teameed up with another indie darling band, 175R, to record the excellent “Stand By You”. Their biggest succes thus far include achieving the #3 position in the weekly Oricon charts for their 2003 release “Monster Tree” and having other singles like “Pivot” and “Mommy’s Back” achieve some minor chart success. They recently came back to the charts in 2008 with “Walk Over The Rainbow”, the first single from their self-titled album. The band released Mushroom Cat Record, a greatest hits collection in February of 2008 and a second Greatst Hits collection, featuring their favorite B-Sides will see release at the end of October 2009. Keeping true to form, the band released their new double single (their 15th single release) “ROLLER COASTER/HAPPY BIRTHDAY” back in August.

Also UKI, the band’s singer, doesn’t stay with a specific look verylong. In fact from album to album she changes her look (in fact you if you go back to the last D&D post you can see a picture of UKI during the band’s CLUTCH period. The look she currently sports is a short,single-tone bob and much like all of her pervious looks, she looks great in it. What I can’t say UKI looks good?

So who wants to hear the band’s music now?

First up is the song that got me hooked on this band “Monster Tree”. I heard it once and had to hear it again, it was that catchy. From UKI’s vocals to guitarist Take-C’s great opening riff, everythign about the song just clicked with me. It remains the band’s biggest chart success to date and has even been featured in several music games, like Guitar Freaks and Drum Mania. It remains their most recognizable song six years after release and one of their most anticipated when they play live.

Next up is “Pobby To Dingan”, a sentimental song about friendship and young love. It akes its title from the Ben Rice novel Pobby & Dingan. Pretty esoteric reference for Japanese Pop/Punk/SKA band. Still it is a great song that once again putsUKI’s great vocals front and center. The video is taken from their Live DVD between YOU and ME SHOW FINAL 2005 in Nippon Budokan

Lastly I’ll leave you with 2 more live performance and their most recent single. Up first a great live performance of “The Pitchfork Diaries” from their Riddle Glide Sound System 2008-2009 LIVE at ZEPP NAGOYA and one of their signature songs “G*S*G” which stands for “Groove SHAKA Groove”. Then last, their newest single “Roller Coaster”. Really get an idea of how great this band is live, as past live performances have included UKI taking true Rock Power Stance on stage, TAKE-C going nuts on his guitar and Bassist KING just… well being KING!

(Note: The BURNING CYLIDER LIVE CD comes with a DVD and you get to see UKI breakdown with emoti on stage, it is actually a breathtaking sight ot behold and gives an idea of just what the fans mean to this band)

NEXT BRAVE BLOG: Bad Movie #6!

J-Band Pick Of The Week Of The Week 10/11/09 – ORESKA BAND!

ORESKA BAND! - Ikasu (Guitar/Vocals), Tae-san (Drums), Leader (Trombone), Saki (Trumpet), Moriko (Tenor Saxophone), Tomi (Bass/Vocals)

ORESKA BAND! - Ikasu (Guitar/Vocals), Tae-san (Drums), Leader (Trombone), Saki (Trumpet), Moriko (Tenor Saxophone), Tomi (Bass/Vocals)

Yeah I know, I was supposed to do a “Fiction On Fiction” segment for Friday but it dawned on me that I need to go back and re-read some of the literary characters I plan on lampooning as part pf research. No point in writing the character in question unless I have their ‘Voice’ down. Getting Conan down was easy. Picking his topic of review was even easier. Other topics of humor and discussion will continue, including “Adventures At Marvel” and weekly rants on how my Dungeon & Dragons group are coming up with new ways to torment me.

This brings us to today’s topic, “J-Band Of The Week”. Last week you got a healthy dose of the mighty GOLLBETTY. This week it is more Japanese SKA madness with the all female ORESKA BAND. First formed in 2003 when guitarist/vocalist Ikasu met drummer Tae-san in Middle School, the rest of the band came together through hodhe podge of mutual friends. They self-produced their first CD Penpal in 2005 and then got signed by Sony Music. All this when all 6 members were in High School.

Sincew then they’ve released an album a year, each filled with bright bouncy songs that make you want ot get up and dance. They’ve already got experience playing the uS, having appeared at Anime Expo in 2007 and the Vans Warped Tour 2 years in a row in ’07 and ’08. Already they’ve built a pretty nice resume in Japan, including an ad for Pocky and songs used in the animes Naruto and BLEACH. So without further ado, ladies and Gentlemen… ORESKA BAND!

First up is “Hana No SKA Dance”, one of those bright and bouncy songs I mentioned before. I especially love this video for the old guy on the train busting and doing the monkey!

Next is “Knife to Fork” a great fun song, with vocalists Ikasu and Tomi sharing some of the singing duties. For the record “Knife To Fork” means “Knife & Fork” in Japanese.

Both songs appear on ORESKA BAND’s 2006 Album WAO!. What? Not recent enough for you? I swear you people, there is no satisfying you…

Here is “What A Wonderful World” from their 2009 mini-Album What A Wonderful World Volume 2. Big and brassy, there is actually not single song on this release that I don’t like…

So there you have it, a triple shot of ORESKA BAND and seriously, after that how can you not appreciate the fun these girls seem to generate?

Next Brave Blog: More Marvel Adventures!


GOLLBETTY: g-yun (Vocals), MISSY (Guitar), CLASSY (Bass), AKI 3 (Drums, since replaced by Mush), TAKA-P (Saxophone), SHODAI (Trumpet) & HIROAKI (Trombone)

GOLLBETTY: g-yun (Vocals), MISSY (Guitar), CLASSY (Bass), AKI 3 (Drums, since replaced by Mush), TAKA-P (Saxophone), SHODAI (Trumpet) & HIROAKI (Trombone)

Ah how I love GOLLBETTY, a straight up fun band with a great SKA/Pop flavor. The Band is getting ready to release their 4th Album SCRAMBLE on 10/7/09. The band has been around since 2004. 3 months after forming, the band released their debut EP Soul Fresh independently. Based on the strength of that record they got signed by indie label RUN RUN RUN RECORDS and re-released Soul Fresh in 2006. The band has also gotten some main stream exposure through the usual Japanese media outlets but lead singer g-yun (not a typo) quickly became the darling of a few Japanese fashion magazines. Since then GOLLBETTY has released a full CD a year. Mind you Japan still runs everything off the format of multiple single releases followed by compiling the singles with other new material to release a full CD a few months after the first single drops. This is still the main method of releasing singles and albums in the United States but singles sales take a backseat to overall album sales.

They are an extremely catchy band that deserves a little more attention not just in Japan but in general. I mean damn it, they write some really catchy stuff that just sticks in your head and won’t let go. They’re most recent songle “If!” is a prime example of this. It is just lodges itself in your cranium and plays over and over until you realize that you HAVE TO PLAY IT AGAIN!

I’d love to share it with you but so far only a commercial clip to promote SCRAMBLE is available. Oh, who am I kidding? I totally will show the quick clip courtesy of YouTube!


Still, it isn’t like GOLLBETTY hasn’t made a smattering of PVs for the sake of promotion. Let’s start with “Easy Going” from the band’s 2007 album Goll&Response. The video helps capture the energy of the band’s live performance and they’ve got energy in spades.

GOLLBETTY – Easy Going!

From there let us delve into one of 2 versions of the song “WEIO!”. “WEIO!” appeared on both the original band released version of Soul Fresh and its re-release in 2006. Both EPs have different arrangments as far as the horn parts and lyrics. The song itself is entirely in English. The version in the video is the re-release version and just a great example of the power that g-yun can project in her voice.


So after that doubleshot you hopefully are intrigued to check out more of GOLLBETTY. I really love them and think if you give them more of a shot then you too will find yourself trying to figure out just the hell is being sung in “WEIO!”!

UPDATE:Full PV for GOLLBETTY’s “IF!” Located!


Next Brave Blog: My Continuing Romance With Dungeons & Dragons!

On Music…

I have rather ecclectic musical tastes. I was raised by a father that pretty much hated Rock music (he considers Simon & Garfunkel to be ‘Hardcore’), if not most forms of modern music. Thus my sister and I were pretty much not allowed to listen to a lot of things as children. Scratch that, I wasn’t allowed because my sister was a perrenial goody-goody with an A++ average at school. My grades were middling at best and thus I was stuck with a copy of Danny Kaye singing the tales of Hands Christian Andersen and the soundtrack to Walt Disney’s The Song Of The South. The closest I ever got to getting good old American Rock & Or Roll was for my 8th birthday, when my mother and father ‘lovingly’ gave me a copy of The Village People’s Go West album.

Happy Birthday Son! Your Mother & I Despise You!

Happy Birthday Son! Your Mother & I Despise You!

My father was raised on Classical Music and thus I was as well. In fact at least one Saturday a month I was taken to the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City to attend a young people’s concert. One traumatizing performance featured Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” acted out by the world’s most terrifying puppets. One would think that after taking a screaming child home via Taxi Cab after that that a parent would stop with the concerts, but not my dad. Still, despite the it was in spite of things like this that I still developed a deep love of Classical Music. I count Mozart, Beethoven, Bizet and Mussorgsky as some of my favorite composers. By the age of 13 my Dad had let up a bit, realizing as long as he gave me a weekly allowance I’d prety much buy whatever I wanted. I listened to a lot of BAD 80’s music as a result of this which was, fortuneatly, balanced by some good stuff most of which was the Rolling Stones and The Monkees. Then at 15 years old I was sent to Boarding School.

It was there that my musical horizons really expanded. I developed a deep love of The Beatles and The Who and got my first exposure to some punk rock. I listened to The Greatful Dead and Black Sabbath. So many people were responsible for opening my musical horizons and I owe them ALL a great deal of thanks. It is because of this exposure to so many forms of music in such a short span of time, a mere 3 years, that I realized that I can listen and appreciate a vast array of music. Most importantly, I learnedthat Music is somethin that truly transcends the trappings of all language. Music is one of the truest ways to get your thoughts and feelings across, it is the perfect blend of idea and emotion. Mere human language cannot match the depth of music.

I speak neither Italian nor German nor French (despite my parents most insisstent effortsbut that is a whole other story for another post) yet I have a great love of opera. I avoid most modern Pop music because the emotion on 99% of it comes off as disingenuine. I listen to a ot of Japanese rock and punk music because the emotion comes across as very raw. I still listen to some rap, though a lot more of the old school material because the swagger of Run D.M.C. (as an example) isn’t tryng to convince you they’re the baddest, you know from the first rhyme that they are!

This man's voice has moved me to tears!

This man's voice has moved me to tears!

Music is the ultimate language. It is realest expression of emotion on the planet. Even those who sit and play it know this. Look at the depth of emotion on Yo-Yo Ma’s face as he plays the cello. I can see the joy on Andre Rieu’s face as plays a waltz. I have witnessed the power of Luciano Pavarotti’s emotion live and in person and very few things have moved me in such a way. When someone tells me they don’t listen to music, I immeadiately mark them as someone not to be trusted, because they lack emotion and without emotion what the hell is the point of living?

Next Brave Blog: The Leap Home Or The Leap To Knighthood?

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