Copyright  © 2017-2019 NINFA ARTEMIS

 

Chapter 2

THE BAND

- At a certain point during our last underground trip together in August I got off at a station and he continued on...He was going to sleep at one of the band member’s houses and accompany him to the airport at 3.30 a.m. being that their flight to Sweden was at 5 a.m. Still at the tube he asked me, “You’re coming back in two months, right?” I said yes...that I still had some things to finish in the recording studio in Portugal and that I didn’t have the cash to return in two weeks like he wanted to see him perform with his heavy metal  band. I was sad for having to say goodbye and he scolded, “Hey, don’t get so sad while I’m still around…only after we part.” A few minutes later I arrived at the station I had to get off at. He gave me a quick hug and I told him that I’m sure things in Sweden would go great. I got off. I walked along the platform. The underground hadn’t left the station yet and there was hardly anyone on the platform. I continued walking slowly, waiting for the train to leave the station. I subtly hear the train gaining speed and its many cars pass by me, one at a time, causing my hair to fly as some strands stick to my lipstick. I turn my head and look at each car as it passes me. With my hand I try to remove the hair from my face to try and locate him…Did he go by and did I not notice? I fixated my gaze on each car as it went by faster and faster when finally I saw him for a few milliseconds, standing, with his face glued to the window of one of the car doors, making a “fight” gesture with his fist and his lips seemed to let out one of his death metal screams that I’d often try to imitate at rehearsals. This time I only had a few milliseconds to look at him and smile. I had no time to imitate his death metal scream. My eyes continued staring at the last car...the car that was unattainable and had already disappeared from view…and I continued walking along the platform…I looked at the railroad lines…my heart was full of sorrow…it hurt…I felt bad and had a bad feeling inside me… The “bad” things came a month later and got worse and worse. On January 3rd everything was lost and on March 21st my music “career” exploded entirely.

- Can I asked what happened after you got back to Portugal that was so serious? Did his performance in Sweden go well?

- I got to Portugal on Thursday night. Because I still hadn’t gotten any news from him by Sunday night, I sent him an email asking how things were going. I didn’t get a reply. Here’s a funny thing: do you know that when he transported his laptop in a book bag he’d wrap it up in a sweater to protect it? When he tried to remove the laptop it was a struggle because he couldn’t get it out through the neck hole, or through the sleeves – It looked like a sweater with arms waving around like a man with no head! I found this routine very amusing. On the day of our first open mic I gave him my laptop case. He was very moved and hugged me. I was moved by his gratification.

- You...are a sweet angel. So, did you hear from him or not?

- I tried to contact him on his cell phone, but it was always off. I sent him a text message asking how his performances were going and how he was doing. On Monday, around midnight, I got a text reply on my cellphone from him saying he’d just arrived home in London and that he hadn’t taken his phone with him. His online social network showed his list of recently added "friends" while he was in Sweden. Therefore, he did have access to the internet while he was there.

- Were you upset with him?

- Yes. Looking back, in regards to music and generically speaking, he never guided me, made any suggestions, taught me or tried to help me progress. The truth is that he’d compliment me at times, that’s all. He was really similar to the studio musician: He’d let things “roll”.  He fears that his comments could cause stress or resentment and when I think about it, a saying comes to mind, "A slap from someone who likes you speaks louder that a kiss from someone who doesn’t care about you.” I never had any teachers or mentors.

- If you want to improve you can always take private music classes, right?

- Right. Meanwhile I would have loved to have known the details about his performance in Sweden. I wanted to have some insight into their backstage life so that when my time came I wouldn’t feel so “blind”. I spent the following days and weeks feeling isolated in Portugal. Finally, everything became clear to me, once and for all. I had to start always listen to my intuition and accept each person’s way of being. I shouldn’t expect others to change when the fact of the matter I also find it hard to change myself.

- Misunderstandings happen…You liked him a lot, but things got complicated, right?

- Yes. He, the other band members and myself all have positive and negative characteristics. It was the negative characteristics that rose to the top when I found myself with no direction. The drummer was insecure and this flaw made him leave; the bassist, who was friends with the drummer, was like a reed in the wind and followed the drummer’s lead; the other guitarist, who was also friends with the drummer, was very committed to his obligations, but had a difficult personality and left; the open mic guitarist ended up being very spiteful and decided to make good on the threat he’d posed; I felt lost.

- Why did you feel lost?! Tell them to go to hell! People who are meant to stay in our lives don´t abandon us in difficult times of need. Create a space in your heart to welcome new and fantastic people! It´s an opportunity! There are such amazing people out there!

- I’ll tell you all the details in a little bit, but first can I tell you about the vibe at our last performance on December 7th? The open mic guitarist was pretty much not speaking to me. Why? I had no idea. He seemed offended in some way. The “difficult personality” guitarist wanted to be alone with the rest of the band and if I approached him he’d tell the others to go to the other end of the bar. I was left alone in a corner for almost five hours waiting for my performance time slot to arrive.

- What a terrible situation...Who needs such a team?! That was not your band but more like a riot!

- You know how I came up with the idea of restarting the book, which I had interrupted 12 years before?

- A voice said, “Book!”...just like the other time when it had said, “London!”, right?

- You joke, but you’re not too far from the truth. On March 21st I wake up at 2:50 a.m. and get in my car. I was going to drive to the airport and head to London to rehearse with the new band. It was a struggle to get out of bed. I had to force myself because I was quite sick with flu-like symptoms. A voice in my head which came out of nowhere, as if I were talking to myself, said “What you should do is write a book! What would the guys from your ex-band say? That you don’t know how to write?! Poor things.” I was taken aback by this thought and retorted, “I’m going to sing, not write! What a foolish thought to have at this hour in the morning! I wish I could just stay in bed. I feel so sick!” On that same day at 4 p.m., I was running up a street in the suburbs of London having left behind my rehearsal room and a man asking me for money. He alleged that the band didn’t want to split the money which I had given them to share the costs of the rehearsal space. My life was in such confusion that I understood that “voice” which came to me that dawn. “It’ll be good to go back to writing! Maybe everything is part of a bigger plan. Maybe the collapse of everything has a reason for being. The time is now! I have the material to finish the book!”, I told myself.

- My adorable Ninfa writer...my sweet angel!

- Right, that’s me! I got in and sat down. The train was heading towards central London. I smiled. I was going to return to writing! I could feel the effects immediately! I felt more optimistic and life looked much more beautiful! I turned to my constant friends, right in front of me: the panic, the despair, the stress, the solitude, the abandon, the pessimism, the humiliation, the insecurity, the emptiness! I said to them, “You’re always around, right? Great! We have work to do: Let’s write a book! Let’s work like a team! It’s going to be fun! Hey, you want to go to sleep now?! Don’t you want to scare me?! You do it all the time! What’s wrong with you? Are you feeling discouraged?! No! You can’t! I’m not going to write a book alone! I need company! You are going to help me and re-live the memories of my life! What are friends for? We have to stick together! I’ll make you sandwiches, cook dinners and we can even watch some movies together. Don’t you think it’s a great idea? We can even watch horror movies! You love scaring me, right friends? Let’s write this book together! Come here, next to me!”

- You’re monologue was great! It had style! Now, back to the story about your return to Portugal after the open mic, did the guitarist continue to be absent?

- Yes. My second week back I was still recalling the good memories at the open mics with him and as I had promised in August, I sent him some “good” things from Portugal. Through post I sent him a box with three bottles of Port, Star Anise, Cherry Liquor, and about 12 keepsakes which said “Portugal” on them. These went from key chains, to cups, three shells...etc. which I had bought in shops near the beach that weekend. I had gone to look out at the ocean to air out my ideas.

- Did your ideas get aired out?

- Not really. I needed to leave the house, observe carefree everyday people just like those one can find at the beach and listen to the ocean waves. It was good for me because I had been worried lately: I had to form a band in London from Portugal. For this to work I needed to convince and find  musicians to be in my band and for this to happen, I assumed that the first thing I needed was to find a promoter who would give me a date for a live performance. I had a problem here: I had no video registry with the band in a live concert situation for the promoter to judge and give me an opportunity.

- Your situation was tough...

- After about a week, my “absent friend” sent me a cellphone text message thanking me for the package. He said he’d liked it and ended by saying, “I’m starting to feel Portuguese! Ahaaaa ahaaa ahaaaa!” I didn’t like these “ahaaaas…” which imitated laughter much because the theater director who had also been a candidate to be my guitarist used them a lot in his emails and since that time they’ve given me the chills because they are a sign that I’m about to be screwed over.

- Anyone who types “ahaaaas” is a sign of bad luck?!

- It’s true. Do you want proof? The theater director used those “ahaaas” and almost doomed me with his peculiar personality; the open mic guitarist with his “interesting” personality changed the path of my life at a time where my friends were “few”; the drummer who joined his friends to form the band in March used the same term and he had such an almighty air that he really got on my nerves; finally, the Filipino girl whom I assume the open mic guitarist was groping (big boobs among other things) had the same habit which could be seen in her social network comments.

- Did you just say boobs?! How do you know that he was with her? How did she give you bad luck?

- She started showing up at all his concerts. Groping breasts is not reason enough to screw up my life unless the guy becomes so difficult to deal with because emptying his balls heightens his ego. My trips to London were filled with adventures. I’m going to tell you about everything. Days went by. From him, only silence.

- Was he already quiet and reserved in August?

- Yes. He was a man of little words. He was more of an observer, discrete, analytical, reflective and pragmatic. I was tired of my isolation. I went to the social network to discover things about him because he hardly talked about himself in August. I came to conclude that he was equally scant and reserved on his social network. Luckily, his friends and his two bands would update their events via photos and commentaries on their social networks. They’d also post videos of live performances. The band that had gone to Sweden had photos on stage, with them in a group hug, with beer in hand after a concert, or around a microphone at a local Swedish radio station. From the photos and my posterior searches, I came to find out that their performance was part of a small rock festival. Later, when I intensified my search, I understood why they chose Sweden: the other guitarist in the band who was married to the vocalist (and who had founded the band with her) had double-nationality being that his mother was Scottish and his father, Swedish.

- And that’s how you went on to get information about your guitar player, right?

- Yes. In late September he shared that he had finished his degree. It was on a Sunday. Around here, everything is closed on Sundays, over there, people finish their degrees. Maybe he had defended his thesis in front of a jury. Meanwhile, for me, the new headache with ads began again: I was looking for musicians to get a London-based band on the same website where he had offered to be my open mic guitarist a while back. Immediately, I started to think about getting a rehearsal room. A few days later I found one which offered a good deal and asked the guitarist, via email, if he could verify the conditions being that I was not able to evaluate the space from afar. I got no reply. At one point I got desperate and asked if I could count on him or if I should advance alone. Today, I suppose he saw that as a threat to exclude him. I felt like he was the one excluding me. My insecurities spread in my mind. Ideas were getting jumbled and I didn’t know what the future had in store for me. It seemed like I was talking to no one and thought he was going to leave me behind. He sent me a text message saying he was on holiday and would be out of London until October 15th; that he needed to get out of the city for a while. A few days later I see pictures of him performing with his heavy metal band in London.

- Wasn’t he on holidays?

- I supposed he had cut them short. A few days later I see him in a picture on a friend’s social network page! My “absent friend” was in a coffee shop standing in front of a motorcycle simulation video game next to a redheaded girl with platinum highlights. She was identified in the photo. Two weeks later they’d post photos of the three of them together: the open mic guitarist, his friend who had taken his picture in the café and the girl with the highlights in Paris near the Eiffel tower on a fabulously sunny day!

- And you, at home, alone...

- I was bored because the few outstanding things in the recording studio had already been finalized and I no longer needed to go to the studio or anywhere else aside from work. To occupy my time to stop the boredom I continued searching about my “absent friend.” I looked at all the photos in his photo album and all of the photos he had been tagged in. I came to find out that his other friends near the Eiffel tower were seniors at the same university where he’d studied. His friend was a guitarist, and she was a drummer. I thought it was really cool! A female drummer! From the pictures I saw of her performances with bands, I noticed that she always performed wearing a short dress with a deep neck line.

- A dress? But, didn’t she have to open her legs to play the drums?

- The drum set was in front of her and somewhat blocked the view. From what I had observed of female drummers in music videos, they seemed very masculine in the way they dressed, aside from having short hair and lots of tattoos on their arms. She had long straight shoulder-length hair and wore a dress. From videos I saw of when she was a teenager, I also discovered that she could play the guitar, sing and has kept the same hair style.

- With whom lived the guitarist with in London?

- He told me he lived in a house that belonged to some distant family members and that he was living with them. In August he’d told me that he wanted to move out of his place because he had no space. He said that he basically had a bed, a table and his clothing was kept in a suitcase under his bed.

- And surely he wanted some privacy so he could engage in sexual encounters...

- Do you know that I have a song in my Portuguese “Incenso” album entitled “Batismo no Sexo”? It’s about a greedy sex-crazed wolf whose soul doesn’t rhyme with calm.”

- “Greedy wolf”…I like that! Going back to your ads when you were trying to get a band together, did the musicians start replying?

- Yes. Two French brothers replied: a guitarist and a bass player who would eventually be part of the band. I asked my “absent friend” if he could meet with them and see what they were like. He never replied. He only answered me when I informed him that the band had been formed. He seemed happy.

- You were able to form the band?! Fantastic!

- Yes, and the next day they were fired.

- Seriously?

- Yes. The next day, the eventual band musicians informed me (to my surprise) of the fees they planned to charge. My ad had clearly stated that they would only be paid if the promoter paid for the performance. Most bands work for free, just for the privilege of being able to perform. Before having formed this band, other musicians had laid out their exorbitant prices - way out of my league.  I had mentioned this fact to the open mic guitarist. Shortly after a drummer replied who claimed to be friends with him, but I didn’t believe this drummer because the guitarist hadn’t mentioned him. I rejected him initially because the recording studio musician felt, listening to his recordings, that he still needed to gain some more experience as a drummer. I immediately informed the open mic guitarist that there was no longer a band and explained the reasons why. I contacted his friend the drummer, again. He was very positive. The drummer had long black hair.

- You’re obsessed long hair!

- Do you think so?! Well, I checked out the drummer’s profile on the social network. He claimed he was in a relationship with someone who had a female name but who claimed to be male on the social network. I checked out the pictures of his boyfriend and noticed that he had breasts, dressed like a woman and had long blond hair which covered his face in the pictures. I thought to myself, “The drummer has a strong character to openly assume he is in a homosexual relationship. I don’t get why the other guy keeps covering his face with his hair!” Meanwhile I had been able to get a promoter who promised a performance on Friday, December 7th. It was already the end of October and I had no band. The band had been fired! Other musicians that replied to the ad were continually being rejected by the studio musician because they were either incompetent, had difficult personalities or had really high rates.

- So you were pleased with the opportunity afforded by that promoter but still quite apprehensive about not having a band, right?

- Yes. There was only a little over a month of left before the performance and I had no band, much less band rehearsals! I sent emails to the open mic guitarist complaining pessimistically that I was going to lose the December 7 performance, that I felt unhappy etc... I hated my life! Today, I think I must have been ruining his vacation. Do you know that I almost had another promoter offer me a second performance? But he eventually disappeared thinking I was joking with him!

- You? Making fun of someone!? That's news to me...

- The promoter responded to my email. I proposed performing in his bar, having introduced myself as a singer who was living in Portugal but that had a London rock band. He asked me how I intended to promote my concert. I went nuts! Think about it: I write the songs, create the melodies, sing them, pay all recordings out of my pocket building up a huge debt to the studio, I go to London to get some stage experience, was now in the process of joining a band to heighten my work and this guy comes along and asks me how I’m going to promote his event!!!

- Was the performance paid?

- In London it’s rare to pay an unknown band. We all go because of the music, for free.

- You perform for free and you still have to promote the performance?!

- Pubs and clubs use the pretext of live music to attract customers because bands always bring friends, girlfriends, brothers, friends of friends, etc... There are other promoters that require early delivery by the band which means a list with a minimum number of people whom they will bring to the site referring to these as "guests".

- The music business is difficult for bands...

- Promoters have to attract customers otherwise the bars/pubs can close due to economic difficulties. They do not do it out of greed but as a means of survival. So this guy asked me how I was thinking of promoting the band. I was unaware that this was a common question. Outraged because of all the work I had put in and because of this comment, I argued, “In my performances I want a full house. If I don’t get this, I'll be upset. Maybe a good way to attract customers would be to announce that there will be live sex on stage while I sing. I won’t be the one having sex, I’ll bring someone to do this. If not, then I will tell the audience that I wanted them there and that sex was only an incentive to attract them to the performance."

- Were you being serious?! Live sex?!

- I was simply being funny. The next day he replied, “It’s good to know how you think” and never said another word to me.

- Sometimes you’re too funny …

- The December 7th promoter only requested that we not perform anywhere in London three weeks before or after our performance. I think it’s because he wanted to guarantee the “freshness” of the act. In other words, the performance would be exclusive to his pub for six weeks! I disagreed and didn’t regard his rule. What I was worried about was that I had no band. I was stressing out! I hated the silent sepulchral attitude that my guitarist was having with me. At the time I didn’t know that he was busy sending his resume to London music schools, applying for teaching positions and trying to get more students for private lessons. Ultimately, he was dealing with his own personal storm. If this was the case, he never told me. My nerves were affecting my peace of mind and mental clarity. Perhaps my deep state of discouragement, irritation and aggression were apparent in the emails I was sending him. Resentment would build up in him without my knowledge. I had a flight scheduled for October 26 and so fulfilled the promise of returning to London two months after our parting at the underground station. I sent him some cellphone messages upon my departure at the airport in Portugal, but I got no reply from him. I maintained my conviction that he was still my friend and I flew to London.

- You’re so naïve that you break my heart.

- I got to London that day at 6 p.m. and got off at "Victoria Station". I spent the next forty minutes on my cell trying to reach him without success. I was always directed to his voicemail.

- What he said in August didn’t match his actions after the open mic, did it? You were trying to avoid your pain instead of facing it head on.

- I know. Nevertheless, I wanted to return to London and have the strength to face the arduous task of building up a band and getting performances. I also wanted to believe that I could count on my open mic guitar player friend.

- Your friend?!

- If you could have seen the look on his face in August when he urged me to return to London as we were crossing the street! Nothing like the way I was received on October 26th. Now it was more like he’d pushed me onto the road to be run over, hit and dragged down the street to sweep the floor.

- You didn´t deserve what he did to you! It was awful!

- Don´t worry. Destiny follows all of us around all day long. Him too. I truly thank him for all the things he did and didn´t do for me. They allowed me to make wise decisions. But without any doubt the night of October 26 was a hell of a dark cold night! It was a  fucked up feeling for me to be in at an underground with crowds of people heading confidently to their destinations as I stood there, paralyzed, suitcase at my side and cell phone in hand. He was the only musician I knew in London, I blindly trusted him and now I was in this predicament. My inexperience in the "backstage of music" led me to make the mistake of not staying to watch the performances of the other open mic artists and making connections. Immediately after I finished my performance he almost always had to leave. I’d leave with him. When he was able to stay, I’d stay with him. I'm shy but, if I had known what I know now, I would have made an effort to meet other musicians.

- You shouldn’t have trusted solely in him…