The music on this record was originally put to disc in the form of demos during the first half of 2001. Nearly two decades later, here it is in proper album form.
2001 was a notable year for me, personally. I was dealing with profoundly complicated difficulties made worse by being young and inexperienced. This was not my choice but it was something I accepted with notable silence. My whole life turned completely around somewhere between 10 and 12 times that year. Because of those circumstances, I resided at somewhere between 13-14 places that year, some of those places for as long as 2 months, others as short as 2 weeks. I lived 7 places over the writing/recording of this record.
An early diary entry from 2001 speaks to my frame of mind when I started this project:
I have grown up a bit. I have moved on from things that weren't working out. I've saved myself, and perhaps others from potential & inevitable miseries.
It's a feeling that borders on despair & joy.
That was one way I thought about it. Hours later, my frame of mind would change and regret would replace responsibility.
All of my worldly belongings in 2001 consisted of two trash bags of clothes, my trusty and very heavy computer/monitor which I later named Charles, a set of Creative Labs speakers which I continued to blast until 2007, and a cheap black Epiphone Les Paul. I also had a sizable mobile collection of books and CD’s.
Due the amount of shear energy I had at that time, I was somehow able to tolerate myriad inconveniences, all the while recording music and reaching some profound understandings about the functionality of the world. I was starting to question the world of “likes and dislikes,” while under tremendous emotional uncertainty. I figured I could dislike the situation as much as I wanted, but it wasn’t going to change it alone. I also decided to throw out the idea of what I “liked” when it came to recording.
As with my other decisions in life that year, for better or worse, I decided to trust the circumstances offered by life at the time. This particular record is a high point in the results that came from 2001. But as with everything, no salt, no sugar.
These songs were conceived improvisationally, as stated, under difficult emotional conditions. I added to these difficult conditions by tuning the guitar differently. It was something like New Standard Tuning, but not, as I was afraid my only guitar strings, the ones on the guitar, weren’t to be treated with extra physical stress. Deciding that instead of going all complicated as I had in months previous, I would write a “straight, rock record.”
At some point “The Norm” entered my head as a title, despite the times being anything but normal.
The Norm was meant to be a pop record. This is a notion that those who have heard these songs have found humorous. What it became for me instead, was a mode of operation. I’d write a simple riff and move on, then add another simple riff and move on. My thoughts were “make it work quickly and make it loud."
Of course it was only loud in my headphones. The majority of this record was written at a time I was living in a building that, at the time, was called “Hotel Santa Fe,” at the corner of Mockingbird Lane and I-75 in Dallas. I was in shitty hotel room on the ground level. It reeked of old cigarette smoke and decades of hidden nefarious activities which had surely been carried out in the very room I was sitting. You could almost feel and hear the echo of the mob and Hoover’s FBI.
From this room I’d cradle the guitar in bed, going over how to present basic ideas in a new tuning. I’d look up to see new stories about the economy starting to dive. The Chinese had captured a U.S. recon flight, (the Hainan Island incident,) and there was this huge blanket of uncertainty that seemed to be leading up to something huge. I’d check the news every morning and it hadn’t happened yet.
It was from that shitty room that I attempted to do everything possible to salvage what little structure I had built up around my life. The music, like 21/22 year-old me, was fluid and shape-shifting, but not without friction. There was a tremendous amount of uncertainty throughout the time I wrote these songs, and throughout the year. It was like fuel for me.
What a strange reason to have such a collection of weird songs. I personally enjoy this record very much. It’s very personal. It shows the swings back and forth from being able to accept and not accepting. It shows me forgiving and unforgiving. It captures moments of pure honesty, intensity, confusion and certainty in that confusion.
As I said, I decided to trust the music instead of trying to control it. The result was something more cohesive and inspiring than I could have ever fathomed with “trying.” It took many “finally getting over the situation” moments to finally get over the situation. And that’s just the specific situation I was dealing with at the time. There’s all the rest of it too. I’m still “finally getting over” those situations.
The songs ranged from frustration with the older generation to outright disbelief at my ex-girlfriend for not getting back together with me, after I had broken up with her. Brilliant. There was also frustration at a boss who had manipulated me into thinking I had a set job, but when I finished the setup of the work, I was fired. Then there were all the promises from those around me that things would just work themselves out.