JULY, 2003 E.V.
For Michael Flamm
DAZE AND NIGHTS WITH HOLLYWOOD'S PIGMY LOVE CIRCUS
It's a bright Sunday afternoon and I want to drive to Las Vegas. But instead, I'm at a barbecue with some musician friends and record company types in the hills above Hollywood Boulevard. When I arrived, I noticed thatour host's new digs (complete with a plush recording studio) is right next door to where Justin lived when he first moved to the states. This was a large house in a state of disrepair from Hollywood's golden age with a steep driveway that was the scene of many raucous parties years ago. But this little affair is anything but out of control, just a nice gathering of old friends under shady palms. As I chew on a Macanudo ascot, exhaling bluish clouds of smoke in the direction of a couple of annoyed chicks who are sipping bottled water, webmaster (pigmylovecircus.com and dannycarey.org), Giunca walks over and deadpans "the grass has got to be greener somewhere else." Looking down at his sandals, I notice that the lawn is a withered brown again). I suppose it was time to jump the fence. Giunca had already commandeered our host's shiny new barbecue grill whereupon all sorts of flavorful meat was being neglected (the host, if a rock musician, shouldn't cook, was the dour one's mantra!) only to be pulled resembling bleeding hockey pucks. Now that he'd shown the others how it was supposed to be done, his paper plates of grilled perfection were still being neglected by the 'industry' resulting in tofu/turkey/beef burgers that were begemmed with feeding yellow jackets and speckled with iridescent green flies. So after one last ice-cold Corona (there was plenty of ice and the plastic coolers were well attended to, I'm happy to report. Ah, priorities!), we decided togo see if the circus was in town...
In a few minutes we arrive at the 'loft', our home away from home where virtually every Tool song was written and arranged. But the good, the bad, and the ugly sucking the warm breeze in the parking lot tells us that the 'pigs' are taking a break from their rehearsal prior to playing a couple of gigs in southern California before going out on the road to open for Maynard's (and Billy's) A Perfect Circle. That tattooed hulk of man, Mike Savage is standing there half naked in denim overalls with a big straw hat that says 'hay seed' shading his silver-bearded face. He smiles and asks me in the deepest, most gravelly voice imaginable what my shoe size is, telling me that he's found another pair of green cobra-skin boots that he wants to pick up for me. But he's been saying this for a year now."They're three sizes smaller than yours, Mike and my balls aren't the size of cantaloupes either", I tell him again, wondering what it would be like to wear such marvelous things. As we talk, I hear Peter plug his Les Paul into an old Fender Amp. Some fast guitar riffs at peak volume summons the rest of the pigs to the trough. It turns out that they're not taking a break after all. They haven't even started yet.
Danny (looking a little burnt from an earlier party out at Justin's rented Malibu beach house) pulls out a hundred dollar bill and asks us if we want to get a couple of cases of beer. We don't really feel like gulping any more brews (wanting, instead, to go to a local tequila bar), but decide that we'll stay for a while and down some more Coronas as the band perfects their legendary "drinking music."
The pigs sound really tight this evening as they go through the set list for the upcoming shows. I stuff a wad of precious toilet paper in my ears and sit down less than a foot from Danny's drum kit as he pounds away on Swamp Creature, showboating just a tad with the fills as brand new sticks quickly become shredded along with his hands. When a stick becomes unusable, Savage tosses him a new one, Danny dropping the splintered remains into the pile of'firewood' next to the massive drum kit. Without missing a beat, DC continues to amaze me (even after all these years). I hand him a Heineken,just to see if I can slow him down (I can't). Having sat in on several Pigmy rehearsals as of late, it's obvious that the vibe is quite different with these guys as opposed to Danny's Tool rehearsals. With Tool, there is a quiet serenity (save for the occasional shadowy tongue-in-cheek utterances by Maynard), with chalk boards filled with Einstein-looking mathematical equations for the cryptic arrangements that will become their songs. (NOTE:one time in a rather drunken state, we erased and changed some of the 'Tool' equations scrawled in chalk by Adam or another band member, and wrote something of our own devising. I've always wondered we if somehow might have contributed something special to one of the songs on Lateralus). With the Pigmys, there are bottles of beer, blood, sweat, and more beers. Even with my impromptu earplugs (I'd taken the last strip from the roll of toilet paper in the loft's head with its walls lined with piss-bespattered platinum record plaques - some of which have never been removed from their decaying cardboard boxes), the crash of certain cymbals soon takes it's toll. After afew songs, I retreat to the makeshift bar in the back room where the others are talking about diverse subjects, everything from feeding baby pink miceto tarantulas and piranhas to the occult significance of certain Scottish tartans. I even hear Danny's brother Dale (who plays a mean saxophone on one of the songs on the new Pigmy record) give a historical lesson about the pirated versions of Eli Whitney's cotton gin.
After finishing their club anthem, Madhouse Clown, the guys put down their instruments and filter into our little party. Savage takes a seat across from me at the bar and quickly starts telling us about his dream of raising a prize bull in the wilds of New Mexico. Suddenly there's a lot of talk about bull sperm. I've barely made an impression on the Corona I've just opened, and already I know enough about bull pull that I could confidently purchase some over the internet (if I wanted to spend $2000.00 on bull cum, which I really don't at this point in my life). He then starts talking about another of his favorite subjects: guns, in particular the prop guns that he will use for theatrical purposes during the current tour. Listening to Mike,I am reminded of the first time that I met him. It was in the early 90s at a party somewhere in a dilapidated Hollywood apartment complex. Some of us had been experimenting with Brugmansia Datura (NOT recommended!!!) and smoking herb with Dr. Timothy Leary in a girl's bedroom.
Afterwards, my friends and I congregated in her kitchen where some obnoxious drunks (probably not on the invite list) were trying their best to pick a fight with one of us.In walked Savage in a camouflage kilt. Upon hearing these guys getting ignorant, he slammed the rest of his beer and handed one of the dudes the empty can. Although I'd never met him before, he looked this guy straight in the eye and said something to the effect that if anyonetouched me, or my friends, he'd beat the shit out of them. Well, needless to say, these guys had another party they needed to get to. Savage then began to tell us Pigmy stories, stories that could fill a police blotter. Even though I've heard some of them several times now, I never grow tired of drinking, and probably never will.
While listening to the tape recording of the night's rehearsal, Savage tells Peter that he wants to end with *****. But Peter doesn't like the idea too much, and thinks ******** ***** would be better. The two go back and forth on this for a while, each lobbying the other band members for their personal cause (the others don't seem to really give a shit right now). Savage and Peter insult one another, but this is nothing like the heavy drinking days of the early 90s when such divergent points of view might have resulted in death blows. Back then, as a safety mechanism, there was a Pigmy rule that before any band members fought, each would have to first get completely naked. As I've been told, this prevented many an ugly scene (fight, that is- not human bodies). I've tried to imagine such a fight. Damn, you'd need a tow truck to remove the wreckage, not an ambulance. But tonight, as I'm about to suggest the obvious, the two agree to change the set list so that on some nights they will end with 'Savage's' song, and other nights they'll finish with Peter's choice. Savage then suggests that I should come to the Boston and New York shows, and ride on the bus afterwards to several more gigs. I try to imagine what this might be like? It would be exactly like being with them in the loft, I conclude, only there would be windows and we'd be moving. "Only if Pete's the driver" I reply, gesturing to the guitarist as he chugs another can of beer, and burps fumes of Miller Lite in my direction.
I also remember the first time that I met Shep. It was at this very loft,and I was sitting in exactly the same chair that I now occupied. Only it was about 8:00 in the morning and I was hungover as hell, having partied all night with Danny, who was just about to try and get some sleep in the loft inside the loft when Shepherd wandered in carrying a twelve pack of Budweiser. As a blurry-eyed Danny leaned over the boards to see who was about to disturb his repose, Shepherd handed him two (not one, but two) cans of Bud. From my vantage point, I watched with mild curiosity to see what Danny would do. After examining the cans like they were loaded weapons, he finally popped one open, and tossed me the other one. Shep and I quickly became good friends, but it would be over ten years later, while sitting in lawn chairs on the hill at the top of Danny's property, drinking and smoking, that we realized that we both lived in Evreux, France at the same time, and, in fact, were both in the same small class in grade school while living in that country for 4 years.
Somebody mentions going to "Jumbs" (Jumbo's Clown Room),but John Ziegler, the new Pigmy guitarist, suggests another gentleman's club, one with a cover charge. The idea is quickly nixed. So John pulls out a guitar and demonstrates its features for us. It has a built-in E-bow, and the sounds he produces takes our minds off Jumbos for the time being (this guy also has more vintage effects petals than Black Markup Music). I've only known John for about a half a year now, but I've decided that I really like him. In fact, to give you some idea of the genius that this guy is, I've already adopted his "you're either on my team or not" policy with regards to my lady friends.
It's getting late, and the two cases of beer are nearly depleted. Someone wants to go get Mexican. I tell Danny that I'm going home, stopping for a burrito on the way, which I'll take back to my place and have with a margarita or two. He tells me that that doesn't sound too fun, meaning that he thinks we should all go out and get something together. But, the only place open at this hour on a Sunday night is the infamous "shig" shack on Hollywood Blvd. "Now tell me again about the sweat dripping off this cook's brow into the pot of beans" I ask? Oh, hell, if it gets that tofu burger from the earlier barbecue to walk the gang plank, I'm game. So Giunca and I make the run to pick up carne asada tacos and the hottest goddamn sauce you'll ever have the pleasure to…. We open the last of the Coronas and wash down the sweat of some cook's brows. Tomorrow night we'll do it all over again, save for the "shig" shack, unless someone gets more bathroom stationary and puts it in the fridge along with the Coronas and Heinekens. Now, I wonder what song the pigs will end with, ***** or ******** *****.
On the way home, Ben and I were talking about this latest Pigmy Love Circus tour with A Perfect Circle. I told him that, although the Pigmys aren't king coin yet, they had a lot of memories. We both looked at each other at the same time, and laughed as we blasted 'Livin' Like Shit.' "Well, they probably didn't have too many memories either", I said. "They have blackouts." Those who have bought the new CD (available on www.pigmylovecircus.com and dannycarey.org) might notice that The Power of Beef (the new CD) is dedicated to Michael Flamm. For those who don't know, Michael was my best friend (I'd known him since the 5th grade), and he was killed in a motorcycle crash last August 1st while enroute to the Harley-Davidson rally in Sturgis, South Dakota. I would personally like to thank the members of the band for this beautiful gesture, which would have meant so much to Mike, especially on such a kick ass record. Although Danny and Mike were also very close friends, the other members didn't know him.that well. But when they were working on the new CD up in the Bay Area (where Mike lived) last summer, Mike let them stay in his house, and even surprised them with a killer barbecue when they arrived after a long night at 3:00 am. So, maybe they did know him pretty well after all , because that's what Michael did… for everyone. When Savage asked me if I wanted to travel with them to some of the east coast shows, I told him that I would be in Ely, Nevada, on that day. I was traveling to a particular mile marker on US 50, "America's loneliest Highway" where Mike's bike and body were found several days after the crash. I was going out there to refill the glass of Remy Martin cognac that I poured for him last year, and to leave a fresh Opus-X cigar on the spot. And of course after that, I'm going to Las Vegas. Michael would have thought me a fool not to.
"...I got pulled over by the Fontana Police who searched my car and found a small bag of Charlie, some good Vancouver buds and honey oil, a shoe box of psychoactive Colorado River toads, a PDR on PDA, a bottle of Vitamin K, and a dirty nuke under the seat with a Red Mercury kicker. When the officer had me take off my jacket and saw my Pigmy Love Circus shirt, he let me off with a fix-it ticket for a muddy license plate..."