Hamilton Leithauser (the Walkmen) Talks the Occupational Hazards of Being a Frontman

Analysis: Fender Twin amplifier emits same frequencies as a .50-caliber WWII anti-aircraft gun. Hearing chart shows a menacing sinkhole at 4k Hz.

2010

Diagnosis:    Machine Gunner’s Ear

Symptoms:     Hearing loss, left ear

Analysis:     Fender Twin amplifier emits same frequencies as a .50-caliber WWII anti-aircraft gun. Hearing chart shows a menacing sinkhole at 4k Hz. Doctor calls it a “notch.”

2007-Present

Diagnosis:     Unknown

Symptoms:     Horrifying itch deep inside right ear

Analysis:     Trumpets blow whole eardrum right out in 2007. Terrible itch antagonizes me for over next six years.

Best Guess:     1. Eardrum never healed correctly, or 2. Hideous bug nesting in there.

2009

Diagnosis:     Temporary polyps, throat

Symptoms:     Golf-ball lump lodged in left side of throat

Analysis:     After watching my own wet larynx flapping around on a closed-circuit television screen like something in a John Carpenter movie, I’m truly surprised to learn there is no permanent damage here.

2005-Present

Diagnosis:     Teeth missing

Symptoms:     Front teeth missing — self-inflicted

Analysis:     A few drinks might diminish depth perception, and the microphone might bash a corner of a canine or incisor right down the throat, or into the hair, of someone in the front row.

Solution:     1. Superglue — if tooth piece can be found, it will lock in place like a jigsaw puzzle. If not, 2. Dr. Grace Lee in midtown Manhattan will slap on some cheap-o cement for a $90 smear-‘n-sculpt. Long ago, she dropped the discussion of expensive porcelain veneers.

2006

Diagnosis:     Left lung, scarring

Symptoms:     Sharp pain in left lung most of the time

Analysis:     Double Door landlord shuts off air conditioning in rent dispute during Lollapalooza after party; singer might as well be licking spit and sweat off the floor. Pneumonia usually found in men 85-and-up is contracted, and goes misdiagnosed for long enough to cause permanent damage.

Best Guess:     This will probably kill me some day.

2007

Diagnosis:     Facial scarring

Symptoms:     Subtle but unmistakable scar on left side of face

Analysis:     Disgruntled Cake fan impressively holds middle finger up four feet in front of my face for entire 60-minute set while embarrassed girlfriend tries to pull his arm down. Same fan miraculously finds me in bar down street after show and smashes pint glass in my face.

Best Guess:     Even in inebriated, violent haze, he recognized and blamed the frontman for the terrible set.

2008-Present

Diagnosis:     Exhaustion

Symptoms:     Chronic fatigue, forgetfulness, excessive alcohol intake, dizziness, unwillingness to deal with real-world problems

Analysis:     Combination of erratic travel, lack of schedule, and two adorable baby girls at home has largely depleted all energy.

Best Guess:     If the pneumonia scar wouldn’t have killed me on its own, this will surely help it along.

2010-Present

Diagnosis:     Chronic anxiety

Symptoms:     Twitching, self-doubt, self deception, self-hatred

Analysis:     Years of subconsciously stressing over lack of long-term financial planning or career stability, combined with all the embarrassing stuff on YouTube, important mistakes made professionally and personally, has finally manifested itself into unpredictable and uncontrollable outbursts of self pity and regret.

Recent

Diagnosis:     Constant Complaining

Symptoms:     Self-pity, self-absorption

Analysis:     Complaining is, and will always be, more fun than being thankful. As humans are inherently selfish (see David Foster Wallace’s This Is Water), it is nearly impossible to see things from any other perspective than my own small-minded and egomaniacal tunnel.

Best Guess:     Try to listen to your wife, your mother, and your friends, and stop complaining so much.

Recent

Diagnosis:     Black Terror

Symptoms:     Acknowledgement of unavoidable defeat. Waking up every morning with no real schedule and staring into some sort of infinity. Bank account (or lack of) ultimately regulated by opinions of strangers. Fear of global warming, salt intake, Wayne LaPierre.

Analysis:     I tried to ignore the anxiety. Just push it waaaaay down. But now that I have kids I find there is an undefinable, lingering black terror. Sometimes it is very quiet, sometimes it is very loud… but it is always, always lurking somewhere. Last night, like most nights these days, I had a horrifying dream. An evil spirit had cornered me in my apartment. Although I had never seen him before, he was eerily familiar, and this is what made him so scary. After pinning me to a sofa in my living room, he lifted a horrible finger, and spoke:

“Now you listen to me, kid. I used to be a singer. I sang and sang and sang in my twenties and thirties. All the clubs… all over. I was the best of the best. I thought I was the shit. Then somewhere along the way, all my senses — and I do mean all of my senses — began to withdraw from my body in simultaneous retreat. My physical, biological senses. Taste… touch… all that stuff. It was like my consciousness was being annexed from the physical world. I became chronically tired and nothing was inspiring. I lost my hair and I became neurotic and bloated. I went on all these crazy-ass diets and yoga retreats but they just made it worse. I divorced my wife and ran off with a 21-year-old actress/fan who was practically my daughter’s age. I put out lifeless, loud rock records with no focus or purpose in a pathetic attempt to mimic my 21-year-old self. I embarrassed myself over and over at cocktail parties and on smaller and smaller stages. I cultivated an acute paranoia by stressing over the opinions of strangers, and fronting a rotating cast of a band who steadily withdrew support for me, musically and personally. Because my self-deception and denial were so strong, I was able to ignore a mighty ocean of truth. When my will inevitably snapped, reality’s torrent of horror was insurmountable, and I was utterly devastated.

Tonight I am here alone, again — drunk and hated. I have no savings, no family, and no retirement plan. Occasionally I’ll hear one of my old songs on a left-of-the-dial late-night station, and possibly the only comfort I have left is knowing that in nine months I will receive a check for about 13 cents. But… I will be here tomorrow night. I will be here the next night, and the night after; and I will be here the night after that — for the rest of my life, and yours.”

Hamilton Leithauser lives with his wife and two baby girls in New York City. He was the singer for rock band the Walkmen from 2000-2014. His first solo record Black Hours will be out on June 3rd in the US, and June 2nd world-wide, on Ribbon/Domino. He recently got social on the internet and now has Twitter, Facebook and a website.