I've been a few places, seen a few things. Most people know where I am from. Some even think they know who I am. Few know, however, that recently I became so disillusioned with the music industry and the way things sometimes have to be for us un-chosen ones, that I went back to the horrors of shitty part-time jobs and community college pre-requisite courses.
I soon realized that "this" music was something I had inside of me, something as automatic as breathing or blinking one's eyes. I had to go back because it is nearly all that I have ever had. Sure, traveling as a musician is hard. Some of it is seemingly unremarkable, but to actually experience some of this as a "professional," is something no banker or schoolteacher or even bartender would have any idea about. So here is a glimpse at what my life as a totally screwed-into-being-creative, alleged-pro, somewhat-actually degenerate, international artist is all about.
Kris Wadsworth behind the decks at Le Salon Daome.
Montreal. Customs line. I see the little booths of potential doom, which, as I know very well, can either say "pass," or "surrender your passport and come with me." The young woman at the counter who I happen to deal with is polite and, in very Canadian-like form, ushers me to the immigration room to complete my work permit process.
My agency, the promoter and I were all under the impression that my work permit had already been taken care of. This is not the case, and my stomach sinks hard into the abysmal, anxious depths much like a certain time in London when I was detained and deported back to the United States.
All is not fucked, dear sirs and madams: I get my work permit completed and am on my way with a sense of relief I cannot accurately describe. I forget a crucial document at the Immigration counter, and just before I get my funky ass to the checkout with my luggage, the exceptional Canadian border agent who sorted my work permit yells from a few yards behind, excuses himself and hands me a document saying: "You're going to have to have this in order to leave the airport, guy." Now, that's fucking service.
I finally get out and sheepishly look around for the usual "person" I have never met. The guy who will take custody of me, feed me, transport me, lodge me and pay me…and as usual, I meet eyes with this "someone" who recognizes me. We slap hands, say our respective ghetto-oriented greetings, and make our way to the vehicle. I see hills of green, signs with directions to the world famous Mont Tremblant...and graffiti. Beautiful fucking graf that makes me realize that parts of my past will always be in my future—no matter where I go. (I painted graffiti from age 12 to age 20 until I found other things to occupy my time.)
It was then that Kris, the promoter who happens to have my first name, and I began to really meet: that total stranger who issued an express interest in seeking my physical and musical presence? Yeah. A few exchanges of graf stories and the usual "how's the scene" bullshit, and I am suddenly into the heart of a city whose geographical location seems eerily unfit: I feel like I am in Europe, but know damn well we're not. Maybe it was the hour and twenty-two minute flight that imprinted in my head that I am still in North America. Maybe...
We go to early dinner, and over a pitcher of local libation and lackluster burgers, we get further into conversation. Within a short period of really honest talk, you will (whether you want to or not) get to know me. Or, at your very worst, form an opinion about this wildly, naturally expressive person in very close proximity to you. After a few intimate details, an empty beer pitcher and some intense looks from French girls with eyes like sex-crazed truckers looking for "some," we decide to head back to kill some time. I nap, wake up, refresh my retarded haircut, douse myself in Givenchy Pi, and change my tan leather loafers into some rad-ass Pumas. We're ready.
The venue tonight, Le Salon Daome, is gorgeously adorned with a rich Tiki-esque, pseudo-African motif. The place starts to get full, and more full, and more full. So I look at the time: 15 minutes before I have to start my shit show. I'm informed that the club is already almost past capacity with people lined up out the door. I take to my ritual: Unapologetically slamming free beers and Thelonious Monk-like pacing outdoors, removed from everyone while chain-smoking Marlboro 100's. "Showtime, motherfucker: Detroit and all your personal life drama have no audience here." Showtime: you are so very far away from home.
A life-size Hulk Hogan holds up the wall by the front door
El Paso ELP
Texas. This weekend, fucker: you are going. Four days have passed since Montreal, and I'm getting the remaining amount of my record collection from my hard-ass-only apartment—with a view—and a few other items aside from my bed, a few desks, a piece of the Heidelberg Project art installation in East Detroit that I stole late at night many years prior and leave the lights on, hoping my iron-stained down comforter will still be there. The week sucks. I remain positive. I get my itinerary printed for Texas, and I'm soon back at DTW.
Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport is fucking massive. I get there because I am transferring to a flight to El Paso. Detroit rarely has anything direct. The flight is fucking delayed. And delayed. I guess in New Orleans my plane had some mechanical problems, and they were waiting on a new one from one of their hangars to arrive. I had already been in that bitch of an airport for nearly over four hours. The new plane arrives: we all board. 45 minutes later and the pilot gets on his crack pipe to tell us that there is some type of crucial measurement instrument that is not functioning. We're going to have to "hold on." 20 more minutes, and he informs us that we all need to de-board and go back to the gate to wait. Again.
I go to the desk at the gate, and ask them if they even check the new planes before they bring them over and waste everyone's time. He is frustrated by the situation as well. I call the promoter in El Paso, who in turn suggests I call the female promoter in Austin who booked the flights. My phone is about to die and my charger is in my checked luggage underneath a plane somewhere at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. Somehow we get on the horn, she gets me a new guaranteed flight another two hours after that and uhh...yeah. I get to El Paso at almost 10 PM.
CJ, the promoter who booked me in El Paso, and his wife pick me up and we scarf some food in a Mexican karaoke restaurant as I crack really, really, really, sarcastic jokes to both Roberto, one of the promotion group's resident DJs, and CJ about the performers. The waitress has a really round, large ass that belies her young face. A child of about ten years sings a shitty-ass cover of Alice Cooper's "School's Out." I tell Roberto that the karaoke DJ is him "in about ten years."
We all (thankfully) laugh hard and continue on the typical topic of Detroit vs. The World. My food is spent, so is the bucket of Corona, and it's getting late. When we get in the car, they point out that the hotel almost next to the restaurant is where the author Cormac McCarthy hibernates yearly to write his novels. Ciudad Juarez, Mexico (almost the most dangerous city in the world) is only a mile away. I can almost hear people getting decapitated over drug money and territory. El Paso is one of the safest cities in the US: three-mother-fucking-cheers for irony.
Luckily, my hotel is across the street. I can see the flat lights of hellish Juarez from my room windows. I take a shit, brush my teeth, change my clothes, get the Givenchy out, fuck with my shitty haircut. I exit the elevator and am greeted with El Paso-accented sarcasm from Roberto. It's welcomed, but as almost anyone knows, you shouldn't get into a battle of shitty sarcastic jokes with me. I start in, "Yo, ya' momz just called and told me she's meeting me in my fuckin' room wearin' nothin' but a cowboy hat and a smile. She said she wants me to fuckin' spread 'er as wide as Texas." If Seth Troxler wants to be known as the Andy Kaufman of Techno, then I'm Richard-mother-fuckin' Pryor.
SoHo Cocktail Lounge is a small place—decorated with a life-size Hulk Hogan that looks like he's holding up the wall by the front door. The joint tops out at a little over a hundred. I end up with some more cool friends in this very fucked-up, cruel, weird world, sign a few autographs, and add a few more liver spots. Rock and roll, bitches.
The guitars of Austin-Bergstrom International Airport
Austin is somewhere I have seemingly always known about due to my obsession with blues music. As I arrive, the baggage carousel has larger-than-life, Texas-sized electric guitars lining the outer circumference of the apparatus. I hear someone physically turn up the volume on some Texas-tinged blues on the PA system...and I grin tiredly inside. It's a strange world, and Austin is self-admittedly "weird." Much like Montreal, I feel like the city is somehow out of place once I get there. But then again, I always feel like I am out of place no matter where I am.
Christian is the name of the person who has been bestowed the honor of picking up my royally retarded ass from the airport. He's a local DJ in Austin and is friends with the promoter who booked me. He takes me to my hotel and we plan on meeting downstairs around 9 PM. Sleeping—as a musician, at least—is for the plane, but sometimes if time allows, you gotta sneak in an hour or so. So I do, and I am actually late meeting Christian downstairs in the lobby because I forgot my toothpaste and had to go to the front desk, ask for some, and go shine my shit up. The room that was originally booked, as I found upon opening the door, was uninhabitable: I could see the street below through the wall, a massively discombobulated air conditioning unit was all over the floor/bed, and I literally said "hello," and "what the fuck" out loud upon entering. At any rate, I got another room a floor up. Maybe that's why I was late for Christian? Maybe not, but it got sorted; I took that shower, got the Givenchy, fixed the hair and changed into some decent clothing.
The main strip in Austin is called the Dirty Six: 6th Street. You know where you are when you walk down: blues, rock, country, etc. is fucking the night's air quality; cheesy college bars with mechanical bulls and other tacky-ass bullshit nonsense…non-nude dancers in the windows slyly beckoning morons to dare even coming inside and catch them naked…a fucking bad-boy's dream. Add a few craggy, creased-faced, old, rotgut whiskey blues hard-asses, though, and you might get the picture. My kind of town, my kind of night.
I get to the club called The Firehouse and am almost immediately approached and non-sexually fondled by what I guess you might call my fans. I answer certain questions, and feel sort of important. I am generally kind of nervous when playing, but this night I got on the decks like I was in my living room. Smooth. I played records haphazardly, and somehow convinced people I was a pro. Again. 8 AM brings me into a rapidly moving car with some newfound friends, scattering through the limestone mini-mountains and winding roads as I find myself trapped inside introspection and "what-the-fucks:" Trying to figure this shit of mine out. Life.
I understand how a lot of us DJs and electronic artists might feel like rock stars sometimes. Or, rather, how you might trick yourself into thinking you are. There are a lot of people who want to talk-the-rock-star-talk, but there very few who walk-the-rock-star-walk. I am not talking about pretty scenes where everyone loves and appreciates your cure for mankind—or perfect flights in business class—or even glam-ass hotel rooms. I mean, REAL gritty fucking Rock And Roll. Or better yet, blues. I think the ghost of Stevie Ray Vaughn half-trapped me inside of Prince's un-dead shell for these few shows; threw in some "bonjour's," Mexican food, the word "wait" and seriously made me wonder why the fuck I ever accept round-trip flights back to Detroit.
I loved the up and the down; I loved this experience in life and the people it brought me to. And yet again, I am back in this shit-fucked city which hangs by a depressing, hopeless thread—never-ending violence, never-ending racism and never-ending anger—this city which somehow reels me back in from all corners, only to spit me out and unleash its torments vicariously through some wise-ass fucking DJ/producer very few will ever understand. There is no place like home. And there is nothing like being a traveling musician.