Chapter 2

 

MY FRIEND ON THE PHONE

 

- Did he wish you luck?

- No, I suppose he wouldn´t know what to say. So he chose silence.

- Did he already know about the book?

- Yes and no. When I contacted him in February about his availability to play for me, the April gig would be a very touching one to me.

- Would that gig occur in some place with special meaning for you?

- Yes it would. It would be in the same place where we were both killing time (two hours) before our first live performance which was a 15 minute walk from there! He told me that everything would be okay and added “I´m here for you.” Then we talked about the support of friends in our darkest hours. He asked me if I had real friends to talk to. I said I had a friend. In regards to himself, he said he had musician friends, mostly foreigners like him, who were always coming and going from the university but that he had two good friends. I also asked him where he saw himself in ten years. He told me he intended to focus mainly in his career, print his name in the music scene and become a well-known guitar player.

- And how about you?

- I told him that I wanted to achieve musical success, be happy and in love with a man who would have a strong character and be docile, who would fully support me because a woman's life in music is difficult for her boyfriend/ husband to handle. This is especially true if her partner doesn´t work in the same industry, due to the fact that musicians need to travel a lot for gigs and that sometimes these trips could last for long periods of time. I added that men were not likely to make sacrifices for love. That men like to treat themselves well; physical contact being a part of this treatment. My open mic friend thought I was being too dramatic and decided to simplify the plot: "It's not difficult! For example, if he likes watching football, you like music! You won’t mind his watching football and he won’t mind you dedicating yourself to your artistic career!"

- What are your ambitions in terms of artistic achievements?

 - I would like to be in the music industry, perform live in various parts of the world, act in two films and aside from this book, publish a trilogy. Total: maybe 7 years. Going back to that day: there is only a little time left before our performance. We walk towards the pub. I tell him that years earlier I had started writing a book which was still unfinished. He asks me if he would appear in the book. Seeing him all smiley and anticipating my answer, I tell him: "I promise you that if I ever finish the book I will include you in it! But not for now. Since the book is autobiographical, I need to wait to see what will happen to me. I need to see how my coming to London contributes to my artistic development. I need material for the book." Life has strange ways of going about things…On that day I didn´t know that exactly one year later I would text him reminding him of our first day performance and informing him that the book was finished.

- You will come back to music again because the neon lights will scream your name loudly!

- If the neon lights come screaming for me I´ll be happy that they do. So many times I tried to climb higher, so many times I was thrown back down to the ground. If the lights never come screaming for me, it is from the ground that food comes. It was when life threw me back down onto the ground that I wrote my songs, this book and the others which I have yet to write. Sprawled on the ground, behold, I see the sun shine brighter than neon lights. The sun is hot! I need to put sunscreen on!

- Why are you so kind when you talk about your ex guitarist? Don’t you want revenge?

- If there were a war or widespread deforestation, it would be serious because it would affect both myself and others in the short and long terms. In this story, the only person who was hurt was me. This wasn’t serious. Do you want me to wallow in bitterness? What for? So that I’ll always be reminded of this? If we can, we should opt for forgiveness not only to heal ourselves but also to transform others. I owe him and the others a big thank you. They all showed me that the fact that I gave them importance doesn’t mean that they are important although they were important in helping me make the decisions I made. They had the power to change the course of my life, I hope they have the same power to change the course of their lives.

- A trilogy? I love that idea! What’s the plot?

- It will remount to a distant time where magic hangs in the air. The flashes of bonfires at night remind one of fascinating legends and love stories, incantations, spells, heroic struggles and astounding victories.

- I want to read that trilogy! When you're done will you send it to me immediately?

- You’ll be the first to read it!

- A toast to your super band!

- What super band?

- Your time will come. The neon lights will scream for you. You’ll have huge crowds at your side, a great love, a lot of people who like you and a band full of talented friendly musicians! Your band will be magnetic on stage! Let's celebrate the victory! Champagne!

- How many consecutive cups can we drink? I can handle two. You?

- Six! Let's drink! Ready: 1, 2, 3, now! Did you drink?

- Yeah. I'm feeling super happy!

- Was it complicated to form that last band in March?

- It was a little complicated. Before telling you what happened, can I read one last poems that I excluded? So we can laugh a little!

- Sure!

- It's called: "You" and goes: "You hurt me. One day later I saw you walking on a plank. You fell and squirmed. You hurt your testicles. Do you feel pain? I have no pity for you and don’t pity myself. A week later I saw you full of ideas and plans. You had it all figured out. Time goes by. You look back and you see your losses. Now you calculate the panic. Is it a lot? I have no pity for you and don’t pity myself. A month later I saw you drinking a cola. It came with ice cubes. You bit them. Your teeth began to hurt. Did they hurt a lot? I have no pity for you and don’t pity myself. A year later you dropped your cellphone in the toilet. The phone no longer works. Are you sad? I have no pity for you, don’t pity myself and never saw you again! A decade later, I'm on a tropical island! It's hot! It's nice! I feel good! "

- Is that the end of the poem? I still say you have a bizarre way of ending your poems. Why not add something like: "I bought the island, I'm tan and there is a hot muscular guy beside me"?

- We’ll leave that to my next life! As to your question: whether or not it was complicated to form a new band, the answer is always yes for anyone attempting this. In my case, and after everything that happened, I did have some luck. Ironically, both in this band and in the previous one I was lucky thanks to the drummer. But for 10 weeks I insisted on the ads. I even chose the more expensive ad option: "urgent" to certify that my ad would remain at the top of the list because there were always new ads emerging every minute. All types of musicians were replying, from geniuses to average musicians. Besides saying that the job was paid, I also indicated the price I could pay per musician based on my monetary restrictions: Foreign singer travelling to London for unpaid performances. Aside from paying the musicians, also pays for her flight, hotel, rehearsal room, food etc.

- Still there were those who gave you a hard time about the payment, right?

- Yes. One drummer who had been living in London for years, had worked in recording studios on several projects, had also worked on film soundtracks, as well as on jingles for publicity spots replied to my ad. He said he would accept the payment announced in the ad. The studio musician said he was a good drummer but couldn’t understand why someone with his experience would reply to the ad of an unknown singer. I hired this drummer and continued looking for more band members. Some days later this drummer tells me that a guitarist friend of his told him that his rate would have to be adjusted due to the top level musician that he was. If I wanted him to remain in the band I would have to pay him more. I fired him. Others stipulated their price saying that it was modest in comparison to the average typical rates. “Ninety pounds per musician! Our profession as musicians needs to be dignified!” they would say. Of course! I thought, “If playing for 30 minutes costs that much, your dignity is sure to be guaranteed!”  One single performance in the conditions they imposed and after paying my monthly fee to the studio musician would leave me with no money for food. There were also others who would ask me why I would go to London for free if it was so costly. Logically it was because of the love I had for my dream! My days continued in the same fashion, interesting and boring forcing me to read the replies to ads with a cup of alcohol in my hand. This way, everything would be a lot more amusing in my mind!

- Speaking of drinking, I feel like eating something…maybe a little pudding which I still have in the fridge. Did the adventures continue?

- Yes. Foreign musicians still residing in their country who intended to take up residence briefly in London, although they did not know exactly when, offered me their services as musicians. I also had, at different times, the vicissitudes of two excellent guitarists with a style similar to "Eddie Van Halen", who could even play guitar with his mouth. One of them had even lived in Los Angeles, USA for some time. Because they responded affirmatively to several advertisements, they ended up in other bands a few days later. I also got replies from great rock drummers whom the studio musician liked but who responded to the ad without hearing my songs first. These quickly disappeared. They favored a much more aggressive rock. They were great musicians. When they played it was like a furious catharsis which almost caused the drum to rip! Another sip of alcohol.

- My pudding is fantastic! I´m listening…

- I still had no band and the studio musician rejected all those who were below a high level "Good" and those who were "Very Good" but had nothing to do with my style. There were also professional guitarists who had not yet matured and had ego problems or were hypersensitive. I had often heard the studio musician warn me about this EGO: "A major problem of musicians and artists in general and others is their ego." In my home town, instead of using the fancy term "ego", we use the term "think-they’re-all-that." For example, there was an especially good guitar player who said that because he liked my songs he would accept the price that was stipulated in the ad. Sometime later he stated that he couldn’t accept just any rehearsal room; that he needed one with parking which would allow him access to his car. Sure. Later still he imposed the condition that the band have only one guitarist; claiming to have had bad experiences working with others in the past. I tried to make him see that my songs would not benefit from this as there would be no keyboardist in the band. I needed him to be my guitar player and I still needed another one in the band also. He did not accept this. I remembered that in his first email he told me he had a brother who was a guitarist also and who could replace him at any time if he could not make it to a rehearsal. I asked him if he would ask his brother if he was available since he himself had decided not to take on the project.

- What did he reply?

- He never did! What a sensitive flower he was! At the slightest touch he exuded a hypersensitive smell all over the place! The situation I was going through wasn’t a worse experience than the previous time I had tried to form a band after the open mic, but I was decidedly more pessimistic and tired. Another sip of alcohol. Is there no more? Fill the glass! I can’t drink too much otherwise I’ll get a headache! Do those who continuously abuse alcoholic beverages and chemicals remember to thank Heaven that have the health to do so? Another sip. I decide to search for musicians via the social network and forget the ads. One more sip! Here I go!

- Was the social network useful?

- Not really. In any case, a musician from Manchester sympathized with the difficulties I was having forming a band and gave me the contact of a friend of his, a guitarist in London. But it was of no use, I came to find out that his predominant focus was on "world music" produced in the Middle East. I had told the musician from Manchester that my style was rock! I thanked him and took another sip from my drink. After this there was another guitarist also willing to help me. He listened to the songs on my website while we were on an online chat. He especially liked my song "Sky" and then asked me if I knew who he was. I did a quick Google search but I still didn’t know who he was. I was feeling ignorant so I retorted with the same question: "Do I know who you are?" He explained that he worked exclusively on recording albums, as a guitarist, with major record labels in London and New York only. At that specific moment, he said, he was taking a break from recording in the studio and using the social network to relax a bit. The next day he informed me that he couldn’t help me. He said he tried to come up with names of musicians at affordable prices, but unfortunately those whom he knew were like him: at the top and charging quite expensive rates because, in his own words, no musician is interested in learning the songs if they aren´t well paid. Another sip! “Go scratch your balls!"

-  Funny guys these musicians: they like the musical sound that money makes. Without money there is no life!

- Correction: without oxygen there is no life. Nevertheless, I agree that money is important. After the search on the social network another guitarist tells me that all artists in London or all artists that go to London think they’re all that and that they are going to be famous one day.

- What was the point of that comment?

- I don’t know. I told him I had performed in London, that I was searching for musicians and we started chatting. He continued by saying that I was going about it all wrong! That the correct thing to do would be to find a musician to partnership up with in writing and composing songs. Then, record some of those songs and present them to a big record label. "Then, everything becomes much easier because they arrange musicians for you, get you on the radio, television and schedule big concerts!" he says.

- But didn’t you tell him that you had already composed and recorded all your songs ´till the present time?

- Yes. But he still thought I was doing everything wrong. Anyway, from what I read in articles on the internet, I don’t know if it´s true but, even the major record labels no longer swim in money. CD sales have fallen colossally due to free access to thousands of songs through piracy and since money is scarce, any record label cautiously calculates the investments they put in their artists. They prefer those who have a huge number of “followers” and “likes” on social networks along with a pretty teenage face. These criteria help sales since a good portion of the consumer market are teenagers.

- Fuck rules, statistics, common sense and what others want from us and for us! If the rules don’t fit us, we make new rules! We must follow our inner guidelines and not stupid likeable money making standards!

- Yeah…you´re right. I had almost finished my drink when I met a bassist who claimed to have a huge list of contacts of musician friends. Besides the fact that his friends charged expensive rates, he also charged a commission on top to pay for the work (phone calls) involved in forming the band. I finished my drink and decided it was best to return to the ads!

- When did the band with which you rehearsed in March arise?

- The drummer from that band replied in early January, three days after I had placed the ad. He claimed to have a band that could cover my songs because they were a cover band and were accustomed to covering songs from other artists. However, on his website I saw that his band had a schedule of performances that were sometimes held on Fridays and Saturdays. I asked him what they would do if their performances conflicted with mine. How would they solve this problem? He avoids answering saying that if he said they could work with me it was because they could. I didn’t believe him and decided I was no longer interested in this band. Also, I wanted to form my own band, so I could make sure that it consisted of musicians whom I identified with. I need to feel free and not limited by getting down on myself due to psychological factors. So, the ads continued for ten long and painful weeks. During this time the studio musician insisted that attempting to form a band the way that I was trying to do would never work because it would bring together musicians who had never worked together and whose personalities and egos could derail the project, however competent they were as musicians. After 10 weeks of advertising, I only had a drummer and a bassist. It seemed like fate: a sudden shortage of guitarists in a city where they abound! Time passed and I got tired of waiting. So, I decided to contact the drummer with the cover band again. It was already March and I had a gig scheduled later that month! The drummer accepted but now changed his tune and told me that given that I would sing the songs in a rock genre, he would search amongst his many musician friends for two rock guitar players. Days passed. He gave no sign of life and when he did he told me he was still looking.

- The ad had already mentioned that it was rock when he first contacted you in January, right?

- Right. I take sip from my new drink because I was having heart palpitations. “What a bitch of a life!” I complained.

- Did the drummer form the band?

- Yes. On March 21st I headed to London and just as I had done in December, I woke up at 3 a.m. This time, however, I felt extremely sick - with strong flu symptoms which had started four days beforehand. I wake up but I have no desire to get out of bed. Forcing myself to get up I hear this voice inside my head that I mentioned to you earlier: “What you should do is just write a book ..." I arrive in London and I have to go to a rehearsal room suggested by drummer located in Deptford, an area on the south bank of the River Thames in south-east London. The rehearsal would last three hours, from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. being that this was the only time the band was available. Days beforehand the drummer told me that in the previous weekend he and his cover band had rehearsed 52 songs for a wedding in only four hours. So, three hours for my six songs would be more than enough, he said. I arrive at Deptford near noon. Although it was March, the weather in London wasn’t hot and there I was, a sick Latin-blooded girl, shivering. I looked for a cozy place to kill time as I waited for the time of our rehearsal. I entered a small Asian restaurant which only had three small round tables. I ordered a soup and a glass of milk. I wanted both as hot as a volcano. The employee at the counter didn’t make any comment about my strange combination of milk and soup. I was clearly a foreigner; neither English nor Asian. That would explain my strange request.

- Soup and milk? We don’t have that habit in Portugal!

- I know, but the server didn’t know that. The bowl of soup was large and very hot. The soup contained raw onion, parsley and some shredded vegetables. I didn’t eat the soup, I drank it. I just drank the broth and the hot milk to warm myself up a bit. I was still hungry. I went to another Asian restaurant. I asked about the soup on the menu; if it wasn’t strange. The waitress smiles and tells me it’s a cream soup. I sit and wait for my order. When I taste the soup it has no taste. I continue sitting there with that big white bowl of porridge-looking soup in front of me for over an hour while the spoon was taking a soup bath because it was quite warm in that restaurant. No one came to take away the bowl. They must have thought that I was going to eat the soup cold. I like Asian food, but that day all of it was strange. I head to the bathroom to put on some makeup. I want to look good when I enter the rehearsal room. The light in the bathroom is quite weak and I can’t tell if I put the base on evenly or if my lipstick is correctly on my lip line. The flu was killing me. The fact that I hadn’t received any instrumental version of my songs from them was also killing my hopes of doing a good job singing my songs. I had also lost my voice the previous day due to the flu and even though my voice was doing better that day, it was still weak. Damn!

- How come you didn’t have the instrumental versions?

- I didn’t ask for them because the band had only been formed a few days before my trip to London. There was no time. It had already been difficult to get them from the first band. It seems that they don’t like to do these types of things and found my request to be strange. I needed to have access to the instrumental recordings in order to get used to the new arrangements, rehearse at home and thus get comfortable with the versions. They saw no need for this. For them a quick rehearsal was enough.

- For example, a drummer plays drums in rehearsals and at home he/she has another drum set to rehearse, right? A singer needs to rehearse with an instrumental, right?

- In front of the building where we were going to rehearse, I stand in a corner next to a fence to try to avoid the cold breeze. The drummer calls me and says he is slightly delayed. I see three individuals walk into the building with guitar bags on their shoulder. Are they the two guitarists and the bass player? I don’t know. The drummer hadn’t sent me any online link with information on the members of the band. I didn’t know what they looked like. I didn’t even know their names for that matter. There was a guy with medium-length spiky platinum blonde hair who spoke loudly. He was very smiley, outgoing and the only one who looked like a rocker. The drummer arrived by car at 2 p.m. (half an hour late). He was thin and there was nothing “rocker” about him. His hair was very short. He was pale, full of goose bumps because of the cold. He seemed to have the mindset of someone who attaches himself to people who can give him some prestige - his website was full of photos of him with “important” musicians in London, although they were all unknown to me. He doesn´t like to waste his time. I know the type. I’ve seen it several times before both inside and outside the music world. Most idealists probably aren’t artists. The idealism that movies and television series like to portray in artists applies only to some. It is true that dreams, passion and the fight exist in music, but it is a hard business with no space for naïve dreamers. Most of the musicians I met will not fight for their dreams until they lose their minds. Most of them like to say they were bad students in math class but believe me, they do math all the time.

- How did the rehearsal with the band go?

- The studio musician had completely disapproved of my choice of this drummer arguing that he was more of a pop genre. Besides this, from the videos we’d both seen he said it seemed like the drummer and I would have little in common. The drummer rings bell of the building. I approach him. In the room before we start rehearsal, I notice some nervousness in the musicians, which I believe will disappear quickly when they see my shortcomings. Their nervousness is due to a hurried preparation of the songs being that the drummer had only forwarded the songs to them two days earlier. On a board visible to all, the blond guitarist writes some chords to the first song "Times". I wasn’t familiar with how this drummer played and I would quickly realize that my efforts in rehearsing at home with the versions of the first band would be out of context here. As he takes off his overcoat and sits next to the drum set, the drummer says he had just heard the song "Times" and the other songs in the car on his way to the rehearsal room. The drummer from the December band had come to rehearsal with notes in order to be faithful to the structure of the songs meanwhile this guy had simply listened to them in his car! "This drummer isn’t bad but he’s not as good as he thinks he is. He’s arrogant! You aren’t going to like him." warned the studio musician.

- It seems that the studio musician’s feeling about this guy not being what you were looking for was right…

- However, I liked the performance of the guitarists: they kept a good rhythm and played pleasantly - not as "acid indie rock" as the December band. Unfortunately, my suspicions were correct regarding my shortcomings. For instance, I wasn’t able to enter at the right time and keep time with the drummer. I was out of sync. Moreover, from the seven songs I sent, I told them to choose six being that "Destiny" was obligatory. The drummer tells me that on this day we would only be rehearsing three of the six songs and we would leave the rest for our other scheduled rehearsal which was on the eve of the concert. He added that "Destiny" would be omitted! I was really out of sync with the drummer!!

- Destiny, your good luck song?

- Right! At one point the blonde guitarist (who was the person who interacted the most with me) asked me about the meaning of “feign rape” and asked me if I meant “fake rape”. Does the word “feign” not exist in English? Should I have used the word “fake”? I asked myself if when I sang this song in my open mics the people understood what I meant by “feign rape”. The drummer says the song is too long and simply decides to omit the last verse. “It’s better this way and this is the way we do things around here” he says. I think to myself, “We? Who is we? Take out the verse in which I ask if he wants to have sex on the floor, in a Porsche or in the shower? Don’t even think about it!”

- Did the drummer think he was the head of the band?

- Maybe. By that point he had already drunk one liter of chocolate milk from a plastic container which he had brought with him. He drank it as he played drums, as he differed with me and as he played boss. Besides this, he also felt lost with me – these were his actual words. He gets fed up when he sees that his chocolate milk is finished and there´s no more of it. He gets slightly mad. The guitarists try their best to sync with me, even trying to get physically closer to me as they play. Without an instrumental version for me to rehearse with at home, this experience was turning into a disaster. Our efforts were in vain. It was clear that I urgently needed some music lessons. Besides this, I was also undergoing an existential crisis…

- What was your existential crisis about?

- My soul lost its sense. I was alone in the world, unmotivated. I was scared, afraid, traumatized. I was not being able to change my life for the better. There was always a struggle. I was tired of it! I have enough bad memories of my childhood. A lot of bad stuff that happened to me throughout my entire life isn´t included in the book. Intrusive memories from the past would surge quickly as if the events had occurred only moments earlier. If that weren’t enough everything I was doing was taking me nowhere.

- What does nowhere mean to you?

- How do I define nowhere? Nowhere is the place where you fight a lot for everything and everything stays the same or gets worse. Nowhere is not an uninhabited place like the moon. All dreamers start by living on the moon and later they all are transported to the planet “Nowhere”. That´s why the moon is uninhabited!  I am nymph, goddess of forests, and I want to fly from “Nowhere” and from this rehearsal! Days earlier in an online personality test I was described as having traces of assertiveness and passive escapes.

- Do you agree with that?

- Maybe. The drummer tries to ease the situation by telling me that I don’t need to know the times of entry; that I could simply just wait for the signal from the drum that will indicate my entrances. "What signal?" - I asked myself. The drummer tries to drink some more chocolate milk from his plastic bottle but remembers that it’s empty. He’s got a pissed off look on his face. He lifts his leg like a dog urinating against a tree and his foot hammers the bass drum as if to say: "This is the fucking signal. Can you hear it?" He now started playing "Times" without my permission, in a kind of "reggae" style while laughing contemptuously.

- The skinny guy was being bold after drinking all his chocolate milk…

- I think, “Are you kidding? Do you think I’m going to put up with this? For what? I have seen enough throughout my life, things are starting to go wrong with you and there´s no use in putting up with this because I doubt they are going to be any better in the future. Most of the time people change for the worse. If I stay, I will probably see the irony: the aggressor will break and the reason he does this is to anticipate the victim and to deliver his last blow. The aggressor always likes to think he is the one who is being hurt; he loves himself and thinks that the victim has no other role than that of a foolish victim.”

- Or maybe is it the victim who thinks that she has no other role than that of the fool and victim…

- But on that day there was no victimization. I took the blame for what was going on there. I told them that I took full responsibility for the failure of this rehearsal. The drummer says that there are 40 minutes left to the end of rehearsal because at 4:30 p.m. he will have to leave to give a private lesson. He suggests we move on to rehearse "Too Much." In order to clarify a doubt I was having with the drummer, I listen to this song on the bassist’s laptop as it was attached to the email the drummer had sent to the bassist and the other musicians. Here I could verify that the songs were sent 2 days prior. I wasn’t, however, listening to the song. I was focused on reading the email. In it the drummer said that a Portuguese singer who had several shows scheduled in London was looking for a band, and although he couldn´t understand what she was singing in English (I assume he was referring to my diction), she undertook to pay the musicians (rehearsals included) and in view of that, they had nothing to lose. The drummer slightly inflated the number of shows I had and the prices I would pay. I realized that this was how he was able to form the band so quickly and motivate them.

- Did he also want to cut “Too Much”?

- Yes. The drummer also says this song is too long and repeats his scornful jokes. He says that it reminds him of the long songs of "Dream Theater." Curiously, this was a band that the studio musician enjoyed greatly. After his joke, the drummer is silent and thinks for a few seconds. Then he opens his mouth and says that this song seems to be a sort of a blues rock song. 4:30 p.m. arrives and our rehearsal ends. Our facial expressions seem to be asking: how are we going to get out of this, how are we going to be prepared for our gig six days from now if we can’t even manage to rehearse two songs! At that moment, I talk to myself and consider cancelling the gig. The drummer and the others put on their overcoats and coats. Disturbed by my mental decision to cancel the performances, I grab my suitcase to get out of there forgetting that I have to pay them for the rehearsal. I notice that they are gathered in a semicircle with their hands in their pockets exchanging subtle impressions.

- What were they talking about?

- I don´t know. I couldn´t hear them. They look at me over their shoulder. Moments beforehand the blonde guitarist tried to give them some reassurance by saying, "We'll get used to her and she’ll get used to us," but I was in intimate contact with the reactions of passive escape.

- My sweet runaway Ninfa …

- The drummer reminds me in an imperative tone that I have to pay each one of them and mentions the amount. That value, in my view, would be for an intensive rehearsal. Obviously, he thought this was. I pull out the amount of money I think is fair and place it on top of a musical instrument in the room near the door. I was sick. I was tired of everything. I had loved writing the lyrics to all my songs and was thrilled with the melodies I created, having also had a role in the arrangements by sharing my “design” for the song.

- You are a hard worker female artist!

- I would argue with the studio musician when the arrangement didn’t electrify me and even that I loved. Now, I hated everything. How was it possible for all of this to have happened after the open mic? How was it possible for me to have been stabbed by someone I trusted? I had hungrily drank out of the bowl of friendship and choked.

- I hope you learned your lesson well…trust only those who you’ve known for a long time.

- I also wonder how it was possible for my performance to be such a mess on my own songs. I feel like a curer in the middle of learned doctors! I managed to create many songs but musicians made me feel ignorant – like a shoemaker who wants to play the violin! Here I hit rock bottom. I try to look for who-knows-what inside my bag when from my bag and onto the floor fall sanitary napkins: "Holy shit! What a joke!" I grab my suitcase and open the door with such an intense urge to escape that I almost yank the door off its hinges. However, I bump into a man that looks like he was listening behind the door. He grabs me, pushes me inside, closes the door and asks the others if I can leave.

- The guy pushed you as if you were a criminal and kept you hostage in the room?!

- Yes. My eyes fixate on him. I remain motionless not even breathing. It’s as if my brain wants total silence so as to be able to hear the slightest sound of danger. If there were danger, I would scream and resort to physical aggression. I was about to transform into a “ravenous dog”! The situation resolved itself quickly with the blonde guitarist, in a disappointed tone saying, “Let…let her go…” I walk out of the rehearsal room, run downstairs and try to reach the main road which I can see ahead. Where I am the street is deserted and I want to get out of there. I run up the street with a suitcase whose wheels seem like an elderly lady asking me to take it easy. I hear a man calling behind me. I advance at full speed, no longer feeling the cold. I had taken off my two coats and it seemed that even the flu had suddenly faded away. I stop and turn towards the man.

- Who was he?

- He tells me that the band wasn’t going to pay for the rehearsal room claiming that this was my responsibility. I feel bad for this guy. What kind of friends were these who refused to help this friend who minutes beforehand had impressed them by pushing me into the rehearsal room because I hadn’t paid more money.

- Believe me...you made the right choice when you decided to leave.

- I got on the train and arrived at the hotel upset. I had to say some farewells. A mental farewell to my hotel room, to this city for a while and to music. I call the studio musician, whom I had said goodbye to six months earlier, when all my songs were completed. He tells me not to get affected by these mistakes and adventures as these were a part of my learning process. He tells me to fight for music and be persistent. I continue with my farewells. I send a text message to the bassist who stayed by my side, waiting patiently while I tried to complete the band thanking him and telling him that I would be taking a break from music for a while. Before this I had expressed my regret to him and explained that because of difficulties in finding guitarists, I had to opt for a band which was already fully formed. The bassist, an Indian who had come to London years ago, who had a day job at a telecommunications company and was a very devout Christian, tells me I should not give up and that Jesus is on my side to help me in difficult times. He adds that I am talented and wouldn’t be just another brick in the wall, so I should return to London as soon as possible. His sympathy touches me; but it's easy for him to like me if he thinks I’m fantastic.

- But you are fantastic!

- I appreciate your words, sweetie. Should I also say goodbye to the open mic guitarist? Five minutes earlier I had sent him a text message saying that I missed my old band as the new one had me trapped in the rehearsal room wanting more money. I think I may have overdone it by making terrorists out of the musicians in the message I sent. He didn’t say anything. He didn’t even know that I was going to London. I call him, but concealed my cell phone number, making my call an anonymous one. He answered.

- What did you both talk about?

- For moments I wanted to ask him if he had seen my text message. In my left ear, which I was holding the phone to, I heard loud male laughter in the background. He was possibly at a friend’s house for dinner. Sitting on the floor of the hotel room, in my right ear I hear the sound of the satellite television in the background and the idea that my life was no fun at all. It was a little after 8 p.m. The night had already arrived. Outside, London, the great city full of people and me, there all by myself. "Hello?" he insists. I was still in total silence. I don’t know if he suspects it’s me. That was our farewell. I hang up the phone.

- Is this where the story ends? Is this how the book ends?

- No. I feel isolated and want to understand the emotional forces within a band, follow the professional development of those whom I met in London, see videos of live performances of bands and their backstage shenanigans, etc. Months pass slowly and I pay attention to their movements on a daily basis. I also follow the movements of some of his musician friends and their bands, either on social networks or on other online sites. This turned into a daily addiction: my beloved "reality show"! I observed everything carefully. Sometimes with a sandwich in one hand and a drink in the other in front of my computer. There's new stuff! Let me see!

- How were your first few days in Portugal after that fiasco in March?

 - In the first week my reasoning was paralyzed. My mind was cloudy and I felt like shit. I started having insomnia, which I still have today. My routine consisted of: waking up, going to work, getting off work, going home, having dinner, grabbing a beer and watching movies or documentaries on the internet until the wee hours of the morning. I repeated to myself that on March 28th I would resume writing the book I had started writing 11 years earlier. I would often fall asleep in front of the computer waking up at 7:00 a.m. sleepy and heading off to work. That was the state that pleased me: numbness. I couldn’t prevent the existence of the many passing days and hours, but I could walk around sleepily. I would only sleep four hours a night to make sure that the next day I would walk up in a very sleepy mode. In order to guarantee a deep sleep I would fall asleep half-drunk as drinking makes me sleepy. In the morning, my colleagues would drink coffee in the minibar. They drank coffee, and I sleepily sipped soothing tea. Why wake up?

- What has your "reality show" brought you in terms of information after all these months?

-  Regarding the March band: the drummer continues with his cover band where the lead singer sings all the songs, I think, to everyone's liking. He is also the drummer in another band. The blonde guitarist, who it turns out was Irish also a singer and theater actor, continues to combine these activities and is currently doing a post-graduate degree in songwriting. The other guitarist continues to work in a bar and is the only one without top musical training. The bassist, perhaps the most learned and the most travelled of them all, having been to the USA and Canada, is doing some training in production and sound engineering. Two weeks after my departure, apart from his original cover band, the drummer formed a new cover band with the other musicians from our rehearsal. In a photo of them in a live performance some time later you can see the platinum blonde guitarist singing with a punk look, his hair fantastically spiky, black eyeliner under his eyes and black nail polish; the other on drums, with a formal outfit wearing a white blazer; the other guitarist looking like someone who had just come out of a bar and the bass player, as if he’d just left the office and gone to the gig.

- Like an ornate picture with lots of color.

- In regards to the December band: I know nothing about the incompatible guitarist because he doesn’t appear on the social networks. The bassist, who also has a degree in painting, which he got years ago in Spain, continues his degree in London studying bass. His latest photos show him howling with some friends, somewhere in the Spanish Pyrenees wearing the skull of a cow as if it were a helmet. The drummer who said that he could no longer work for me because he’d found another "employer" performed only twice with his band in a whole year. On the social network he wrote that his band was recording new songs, but I never saw them. About his girlfriend, she is really a woman but jokingly claimed to be of the male gender. He is in his final year at college. He also recently started working in a bar/restaurant as a DJ at the weekend. Regarding the open mic guitarist, he has the typical routine of a professional musician and now has his own website. He has placed ads offering more of his tutoring services. He provided the postal code in the ad. He has left his uncle’s residence and I suppose that he lives in a spacious room just as he had dreamt about. He prefers to play heavy metal, rock and jazz fusion. Currently, he has been a regular presence in “jazz jam sessions". These sessions will allow him to extend his music social network, to interact with other musicians creating bonds of friendships whom he can work with in studios, to integrate (or replace someone) in a band or work on film soundtracks. I also saw that he teamed up with several singers performing duos – with him as the guitarist. These duos which he is a part of perform live music in five star hotels and even go abroad. They also perform in live music sessions in programs on the BBC. Besides duos he is working as a guitarist in many more bands’ projects besides those that he’d already had when I met him. The bands he is in all have record labels, but at the moment only have a small agenda of live performances. In September, a year after the "open mic", on the eve of a live performance with his rock band (the one that also performs in Sweden) and while in the process of recording a new album with this same band, he left them. Maybe internal bickering in addition to the visits to Sweden no longer seemed attractive. In reality there were no significant returns in terms of projection of the band, plus he constantly had to cancel all his work in London and lose money. This band had 11 performances a year. He still continues as member of his heavy metal band, where in addition to being guitarist he is also a composer. This band also had a total of 11 live performances in a year but had to adapt some songs in order to get more gigs, so they did some acoustic versions for performances in places where they don’t necessarily want "heavy music". Fifteen days after my escape in March, he put a video online with a guitar solo for his heavy metal band very reminiscent of the introduction of my song "Thing", including that one shrill note in it. Shortly after, this band made a video in which the plot is that of a woman trapped inside a room and made hostage by thugs.

- It´s similar to the story that you told on him in the text message you sent him…

- Maybe it's just a coincidence…I don´t know. I wish him all the best and the same applies to the other musicians I met. Time will pass, the years will pass...and I wish us all bliss!

- A toast to your happiness! Champagne!

 

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