Introducing: “The Supremacy of Pure Artistic Feeling”

"I like to be alone working on something lonely," and other thoughts (and a song premiere) about creative stewardship.

I just spent ten days in Alaska. I left the house twice.

That’s me. I like to be alone working on something lonely. Not in a sad asshole way–I just don’t get much done when people are talking to me.

Getting things done has become a pressing concern the past few years. Maybe I’m not addressing an early (?) midlife crisis, but pretty much any time I’m not doing the thing I’m “supposed” to be doing—writing lyrics or writing comics or scheduling a recording session or getting everyone on the same page about a tour—I feel antsy. Like a little kid who has to pee…but my toilet is a computer.

I’ve short-changed a number of partners. Made them feel like they were cutting into my time. That’s real bad. I don’t have many regrets romantically, I like everyone I’ve been with a whole lot. But it’s impossible not to feel like a turd when you’ve made other people feel like an imposition.

If I was one of these machine-ass dudes who actually produced a ton of material, I could justify how I push people away. Also, I’d be rich and could buy new people to periodically push away. But it’s not the case. What’s remarkable about all this alienating behavior of mine is how little it yields. A couple dozen songs a year. A couple dozen comic book scripts. A screenplay, if I’m lucky.

The new Self Defense Family album is about making stuff. And alienating everyone by making it… or by what gets made. In doing press, I get asked about the themes of the record, and I mumble “it’s about making things.” I answer with hesitation because I’m self-aware enough to know that’s NOT A TOPIC ANY LIVING PERSON GIVES A SHIT ABOUT. I’m not sure who will connect with it. And it hits me all at once (again) that the record about the isolating nature of creation is, in fact, also isolating. And then I get all heavy and wonder what the hell people do actually care about. Spitballing:

1. Love, maybe.
2. Beliefs or whatever passes for them in our narrowing spectrum of ‘name brand’ ideologies… Perhaps.
3. Inspirational / aspirational platitudes. Definitely.
4. Fake deep/fake weird/fake mysterious. Depends on the year.

Ugh. The reminder that I don’t share those interests and couldn’t write one of those records if I tried. “Reality is so hard.”

I had a talk with the publisher with whom I’ve done a number of comic books. My books don’t sell great, but you can’t find a tenured comic reader who won’t acknowledge they’re good. Because I like good things, that low-sales/well-regarded conflict hits my skull like cookware dropped on the floor. I “don’t get it.” But…I do get it, in a way. I’ve been in a band for a long minute. I’ve played alongside great bands that never filled more than a 300 cap, and I’ve seen music we all laugh at spend three years on the top of the world. Nobody believes cream actually rises to the top. (Except for whatever fool is currently on top. That individual believes it with full confidence.)

The publisher doesn’t understand my confusion: “If you want people to buy your shit, you gotta make shit people buy.” I’m paraphrasing. He’s right, of course. In music, you’ve gotta pick one of the four lyrical pathways listed above to write songs about and ride that until your lottery ticket hits or you die on your mother’s couch. That’s why I consider this my problem, rather than the world’s. Remember that part in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off when Charlie Sheen tells Jennifer Grey that she could just ditch school like her brother, so there’s really no reason to be angry at him? The Charlie Sheen of my conscience pops up every so often to remind me that writing tired-ass love songs has no barrier to entry and Self Defense Family could do that if we wanted.

My problem.

Which is sorta back to the theme of the record. My problem. A relationship with the world where I need the world, but resent it, and want its approval, but also want to tell it to stick its thumb in its ass. So that’s what this album is about, I guess. The thumb in the ass of the world.

Patrick Kindlon is a prolific musician and comics writer. His work includes fronting punk rock agitators Self Defense Family and Drug Church (the latter of which recently released its latest full-length, Cheer, on Pure Noise Records), writing comics for Black Mask Studios, and weekly pot-stirring as co-host of the Axe To Grind Podcast.