News of Paul Gray's passing hit me pretty hard. Slipknot made an unforgettable impact on me with their debut 12 years ago and I've been a fan ever since. Wow. Twelve years. Hard to wrap my brain around the fact that it's been so long. I'm listening to the aforementioned album while I'm writing this down and it doesn't sound a day old. The impact isn't colored by nostalgia one little bit. It still has force, momentum. Relevance. As do all the albums that followed it.

I got a chance to interview Corey Taylor back when Iowa was released and remember vividly how impressed and taken aback I was by his sincerity. I was just a twentysomething buck from some Finnish metal magazine with a busted tape recorder, but he had no reservations and spoke openly about anything and everything. Painful and comedic subjects alike, all was fair game. Aside from him only Kris Rygg has made a similarily resonant impact across the proverbial push-pull table. As I recall that's the way I've always viewed the band, both in terms of their output and their demeanor (as far as one can perceive that from a distance). Brutally honest. Candid 'til it hurts.

They're also a prime example of sincerity gone awry. I'm still amazed and bewildered how many people think of their music as childish or tied down to adolescence because of its raw, uncompromising and honest nature. Not because those people don't have the right to think so, but because they're under 50 and generally speaking in a mindframe that should be well distanced from that old Everything after The Beatles has sucked line of bullshit. Being a dismissive, disconnected and hogtied little lemming in line with the others is something that always gives me chills when come upon in people of my generation or younger.

It's easy to be sarcastic about the band. Slipknot always hit stage in their trademark masks and overalls, rarely touched upon subjects outside the far end of the negative spectrum, all the while exuding a level of threat and aggression rarely experienced, pulling everything off with zero irony. They inspired a following that must've been off-putting in its intensity to anyone on the sidelines. They were and are an easy target for those who aren't equipped to handle that level of intensity without diluting its effect by introducing levity. Being a 9-piece big band with masks, overalls and assigned numbers is a wealth of chinks in the armor for anyone willing to poke through. Let's be honest here: most fuckers simply can't process another's passion - never mind their quirks and obscurities - if it isn't followed by a wink and a nudge.

The fact also remains that they became a huge phenomenon and that, if anything, divides people easily. Opinions gravitate to either extreme to become alignments, points of assault, beachheads. Reactions and responses compete to topple one another and before you know it, you're spewing rhetoric and cheap shots in a pothole on either side of the barbed wire fence. We've all seen this story arc play out.

I speak of the band in past tense not because I believe they're done for but because this is the end of an era. I doubt their path is at an end, but certainly an unmistakable staple of the sound is now gone. It may tint my view of their future releases, as I'll no doubt pick up on something being amiss and potentially be unable to look past that. Gray was an essential part of the band's songwriting nucleus, more often than not the primus motor, and the imprint he left behind may be irreplaceable.

Rest in peace.


Everything's ambient

For whatever reason, I've been unable to get a good night's sleep all week. Thoughts race around in my head at breakneck speed and though I've awoken more and more tired from morning to next, it seems I'm unable to relax. I've averaged about 2-4 hours per night. Caffeine is burning my guts and my concentration breaks like a twig countless times a day. I have to steel myself not to slur through my words or forget where I was going. It's a pretty novel experience, something like walking around in a glass jar that distorts your field of view. Or perhaps some sort of stretchy see-thru enclosure, bubble wrap esque. Not that I'd know.

I have absolutely no idea why falling asleep is suddenly an icy hill I'm climbing with rollerblades on. It's not as if I'm so deep in contemplation or weighed down by heavy air that I can't switch off. Quite the opposite in fact. After the recent myriad of different tribulations and downpour I actually feel sort of balanced. Cleansed. I've rattled some cages, yes, but regardless of what I wrote before about putting bridges to the test, it can have a surprising after-effect: strengthening the structure. It's a possibility, though not exactly a horse you'd want to bet on. But it can go that way too, which is reassuring. Having less on my plate also means I don't have to stretch myself as thin. So all things considered my sleep dep is a mystery fit for Poirot.

I've been drinking way too much lately. During the past year I've sort of fallen into a routine of having a few and then a few more on a weekly basis. A regular band rehearsal regimen will accomplish this in a flash. Pretty much par for the course in the country I hail from and the circles I'm privy to, but for me personally it's been a year of being well out of the realm of ordinary. I've entertained the thought that the alcohol has had its fangs deep in my drama queen mood swings of late. There has to be more to it, but it's no doubt been a contributing factor.

Under the influence my personality doesn't change, but it becomes more pronounced. I get dislodged, unhinged very easily. Even erratic at times. My center of gravity keeps eluding me (no pun intended, really). It's punctuated by a false sense of being in control. I feel like the situation is mine to master, yet something else is wearing my skin and directing the flow of words and motion. I don't like waking up to that, nor is it a comforting feeling to wonder if dodging the bullet of some sort of unforeseen excess has been mere luck & chance. It does no favors to one's psyche to deal with this as an afterthought.

I'm not much of a drinker, never have been, and I miss having the opportunity to pass the time in the company of others without a nagging need to pop, hiss and jug. On my part or theirs. Generally I can go for years without a drop, but that also means having next to no social life whatsoever. This is Finland after all. As I've said before I do still feel like a tourist in the realm of normalcy - the ebb and flow of social interaction included - but that also means there are a lot of traps this tourist still wants to get caught in.

I think about crap like this way too much, I know. That's probably a major player in this particular game.

Still, it's wonderful to see the populus transform come summer. Unless you live in Finland, you could never even begin to imagine how much this land of sullen shut-ins and sit-next-to-me-on-the-bus-and-I'll-eat-your-fucking-children mentality changes as summer sets in, like someone flicked a switch. No, really. It's like dropping a dime in a jukebox. As if the whole country is bipolar or schizophrenic. For nine months of the year people act pretty much as the generic cookie cutter stereotype Finns you might've seen or heard about. For the three month spread in between, however, we are the loud, energetic, joyful band of buffoons you normally might glance upon at hockey games. I have a hard time imagining another nation who'd endure such a twist & shake collective personality.



I'm an alien, man. I don't understand anyone's anything.
- Henry Rollins

My previous entry set in motion a chain of events that resulted in me removing myself from the band I'd been playing with for about a year.

I took a timeout for the weekend to weigh in my options. I needed time to process everything with a clear perspective. After an open exchange I felt insulted, hurt and unappreciated. Ironic, seeing as that was probably the exact emotional response my words brought forth in the guys. Too much was already said and done to push any further as a team, so after careful thought I decided to take my leave. There's more to this story of course, but that's water under the bridge now.

I tended in my resignation over the phone. Organizing some sort of round-table farewell would've ended in contrived smiles and plastique well-wishing, which would have degraded us all by being obviously less than heartfelt at this point. We were all tired of talking. Tired of hearing each other speak.

I feel strangely comfortable with the whole thing. I leave them a stronger musical unit than they were before I entered the fray, and I can draw a sense of accomplishment from that. I wish them well and hope they find what they're looking for. I hope it pans out. I couldn't bring myself to say that if I knew in my heart the sentiment wasn't genuine. I hold the gents in high regard even though I battled a sense of being a visitor, an outsider for my entire stint with the band and never really allowed myself to grow roots. In some sense that was part of the appeal. To chart unfamilliar waters with no real sense of direction.

On the upside, being somewhat distanced means I move away from it all with surprising ease, a sense of relief even. I wish I could say there are absolutely no ill feelings, but I believe the situation was manipulated and while a lot was said, even more remains untold. Perhaps I intruded upon some perceived territory. Perhaps my influence caused a power transfer that wasn't welcome. Perhaps I stripped the rehearsal space of a sense of home away from home by introducing work ethic at the expense of having fun. Perhaps I tried to set goals that seemed over-reaching. I don't know. I'm guessing. I'll never know for sure.

But it doesn't really matter at this point. They go one way, I go another. Whatever baggage I leave with will fall off in due time. I have a lot of history with one of the guys and he remains one of my favorite people on the planet. I'd like to kid myself that this won't affect our new-found relationship, but without some sort of "social glue" to keep you on each other's radars it's so, so easy to fall out of touch. I hope our paths will cross from time to time in the future.

I'd have an easier time coming to grips with the aftermath of my departure if I didn't feel like I've wasted my time. Almost a year has passed and I don't play any better, sing any better, interact with people any better... I come away from this none the wiser and it's entirely my own fault. It's time to lock myself into the HQ, slip on the ol' lab coat and begin brewing strange musical concoctions on my lonesome again. Hopefully I'll prove myself wrong in the process.

More and more I second-guess the nature and very worth of these entries. While the original idea(l) might have been pious and spiritually rewarding, my words have served to only widen gaps and alienate me further. The line between honesty and hostility isn't thin, but it's become blurred enough to confuse even the writer himself. One could argue I've set aflame bridges that weren't sturdy to begin with, but smirking "Well, they weren't built to last anyway" while watching the flames rise is a stance I've taken before and I know exactly where it leads. Straining relationships to the breaking point just to see them swing in the wind is an arrogant, ignorant errand.

I've certainly ripped a great deal of dark matter out of me by pouring my heart into this journal, but that energy has disintegrated into the air around me and I find myself surrounded by a cloud of negativity. It seems to have impacted everything and everyone around me. It wasn't my original nor current intent, but I need to reap what I've sown and try to grow in the process.

Purging the septic tank on your front lawn has one effect and one alone: everything in and around your house will smell like shit. I need to get my creative juices flowing full-steam, lest I wish to suffer the odor of Eau de Buttcrack for a long time to come. I plan on getting busy immediately.


A cabin in the woods

I see a wall and I want to punch through it. I think about tomorrow and my thoughts darken.

People around me keep letting me down. Turning their coats. Slipping from one skin to another, making me question whose face stares back at me today. Their wavelength is so alien to me I feel like I'm tapping morse code in front of baby seals.

By comparison, yesterday was far better. The day before that trumped the lot by a mile. Before that - I don't know anymore. It's lightyears behind. I don't like where this is going.

I don't know how to respond when people I like turn on me. I don't handle it very well when my appreciation and affection is met with aggression, scorn or disrespect. Even if it's merely overlooked. It's a pretty selfish viewpoint, I know, but I won't apologize for it. I feel hurt and insulted, because I consider my offering a rare gift. Something bestowed to a limited few.

Respect is the most valuable commodity I have to give. Warmth and camaraderie are in bigger supply, because at the end of the day I'm perhaps even a surprisingly gregarious fellow. But don't think for a second I would waste my better angels on people I wouldn't raise above some kind of invisible bar. If this is neglected or indeed unrequited, it's never forgotten. Ever. I will never look at you the same way again. This I know of myself beyond a shadow of a doubt.

I expect them to fall and they fly higher. I wake up a surprise richer and an old thorn poorer. My anticipation grows. I expect them to soar and they hurl down, dragging me along for as long as I allow them to. The cynic within merely raises an eyebrow and retorts; "what did you expect?" My heart grows a spark dimmer. It goes from one extreme to the other and in the end I always feel naive regardless of the outcome.

The coming four days will be spent recording with the band. God, I hope it doesn't end up the fucking train wreck I anticipate it will. Perhaps I see more than is there, but it does feel like the energy has dwindled from a flood to a trickle and it dampens my spirits. From anticipation and drive to an almost pacifying sense of offhandedness and unenthusiasm. Indifference even - my nemesis. This paradigm shift is counterproductive and unwelcome, not to mention a surprise guest, yet I feel it taking hold of me like a virus spreading from carrier to carrier. It bumps me off kilter. The light is green yet the sloth, turtle and snail in the car in front won't budge. Either I'll turn around, pass them by or we'll have a fender bender - the gas pedal beckons and I long to stomp on it. I can't - won't - drag this cart of stones on my own, not unless it's solely mine to carry.

Some days I want nothing more than a cabin in the woods, offering no more than meager accomodation for my art and expression. Those days have been growing in numbers lately. It isn't the first time.


Sand and shovels

Sometimes I want to hurt them.


Aggression swells and storms inside me like enraged water pounding against the wall of a dam, grips my jaw forcing my teeth into a grin, twists itself around my body and tightens its hold like a coiling serpent. It makes it hard to breathe, yet it feeds me.

Sometimes I want to rip people in two. See them flail helplessly as the blood escapes their corpse like a river spilling onto the embankment in hard rain. No antics, display of skill or combat tactics. Only guttural, primordial violence. Savagery. My spine tingles with warmth as the images pass my view: gushing blood, cartilage moaning in sweet crackling agony, skulls fracturing into shrapnel, skin tearing from snow white knuckles...

Violence is not in my nature, but sometimes... sometimes I wish it were.

All I see around me are cowards draped in insecurities, hiding behind profiling, stereotypes and a megaphone melded into their hand to ward off any possibility of vocal intrusion. Turning from whispering to screaming and back, ears red with blood, the white noise overbearing and overpowering.

People sedate themselves with fundamentals, the blank slate, the black & white. The whatever man, whatever. The empty bliss of subtracting freeform thinking from the mix, opting for a funnel of borrowed knowledge and hearsay inserted into the receptive canal. Easy to swallow, easy to digest, easy to flush down the toilet and forget. Though I suppose that's the point. To exchange growth - admittedly often a steep slope - for a smoother ride, allowing oneself the luxury of having no viewpoint whatsoever; especially one that might contradict that day's atmosphere around the water cooler. I mean, who in the world would rather have an opinion their own than sail the gentle socialite seas on a dead calm? Oh, I couldn't imagine.

Must be a true blessing for those taken aback by the very notion of reflection, imagination and a wide lens perspective, not to mention correspondence and exchange. Unbeknownst to most, however, is that sedative's quality to quickly turn addictive. The veil before your eyes grows into a comforting padded cell protecting you from the wicked world. That's when you know you're in trouble - when you've become addicted to ignorance. When you find comfort in knowing you're none the wiser and the void inside turns deceptive and you feel like you're filled to the brim. When you're content being an empty vessel. Then again, I guess you wouldn't notice anyway.

Someone once asked me if I was worried that homosexuals would try to recruit me, should I find myself in said company. This question didn't pass through the lips of a child waving a sand shovel, but a grown man, on the outside every bit as knowledgeable of the ways of the world as one might expect. Yet thoroughly dumbed down by his own insecurity, thus rendering him halfway paralyzed and tied to a leash he needn't garb. I certainly understand the concept of fear's numbing quality and can empathize with how it would be easier to sort through the muck by sipping a cocktail of ignorance, wanton paranoia and judgement. But it certainly does no favors for belief in mankind to find yourself wondering how the fuck some people can work through dressing themselves on a daily basis, never mind the fact that they stumble onwards with sheer blood curdling stupidity.

I suppose I shouldn't complain. I certainly don't flatter myself thinking I split the skies the sharpest arrow from the quiver - I'm just a guy who responds rather with what the fuck than whatever. The state of complacency irritates me almost as much as the act of giving up. Still, recent times and encounters have proven at least a chunk of my cynicism unwarranted. They say a pessimist is never disappointed - which I would disagree with - but switching stance to the optimistic (gasp) I would have to contend that expecting less and being met with more does offer a jolt. One that seems to always catch you off-guard. These last weeks have come a-callin' with a hefty amount of surprises, good times and inspiration. Then again, perhaps that's the point?

Optimism scares me shitless, because when that castle slips through the clouds and crashes, it makes the setback's bite sting twice as hard. It makes me remember why I wanted to hurt them.

Hurt you.



No, I don't think I'm better than you.

I take time to formulate my thoughts and ideas. In hindsight it's an exercise thoroughly bathed in selfishness, because I don't consider its impact or resonance. A fair example being this blog. I don't see myself parading to an audience; rather, yelling into a black hole to soothe my own desire to have a voice and have it be heard. But not by any one person or group - none stand out. Faces don't stare back at you from the void. It's lightless and deep, but not devoid of echoes. Far from it. Sometimes they startle me. But only because I tend to forget to acknowledge their presence. That they're there. Regardless of me. In spite of my voice. And indeed because of both.

This applies to music as well, even moreso. What people may think of Ward 13 or other projects I'm involved with is an afterthought. Their appreciation of my endeavors (or lack thereof) is such a small blip on my screen I sometimes have to ponder if I even grasp the very notion of what it means to put a piece of my soul out there for others to hear. The act itself is both 10 tons of grandeur and a weightless, formless mass of nonexistence. Vague and detached on a Lewis Carroll scale, I know, but that's who and what I am. It's not that I wouldn't want people to experience my output; I do. Very much so. It's just - what?

I suppose I feel like I've done my part; swum a long mile and dug deep in deceptive ground, by some miracle chauffeured the internal struggle to an end meaningful enough. Nor am I particularily comfortable trying to pimp my children to a mass of bodies overly complacent and indifferent to begin with. That's part of the reason why a pretty substantial chunk of my social circle are completely unaware of my creative side altogether. That's why Ward 13 doesn't have 'fans'. I don't bring that out in people. Never have. Wouldn't know where to start if I wanted to.

Working alone will always hold special appeal for me. In groups the question of what others will think of this & that is raised alarmingly often. My spider-sense on this issue tingles more violently nowadays. Your opinion and intake of what I put out there may have weight, but never true value. Why? Because we don't share the same skin. This is a mantra a creative spirit should meditate upon daily. Rigorously and vigorously. I shit ye not.

I consider the strings and strains that fuel my fire to great extent. Though I don't think of myself as particularily egocentric, being a creative spirit and remaining truly unbound in that practice requires a stiff stance and a heavy helping of irreverence. It also helps if one is capable of selective deafness. Hardy har. Remaining steadfast in having faith in yourself is a walk in the park right up until someone pulls your IP into harsh light and exposes it from another, wholly alien perspective. That's when you find out how well you're built on the inside. The choices are plentiful - let it wash over you, hang onto it for reference, build a cage for it inside yourself, wave and snap like a dry blade of grass, go into emergency shutdown...

More often than not I despise the whole notion of coming to a compromise, because in essence this usually means you're halfway somewhere. Halfway doesn't lead anywhere but backwards, nor is it a very appealing starting point for new exploration. Halfway will never shake the foundations, crack the earth or carry you to the stars. It's just... there. A place to get stuck in. A grey mass, the end result of butting heads, push-pull and sacrificing the essence of the flame for a faint spark that can neither ignite nor offer warmth.

I hate - hate - the notion of compromise because it shifts focus from the creative process to the realm of social norms and restrictions - thereby diluting the flow of inspiration. A hindrance from another world of expression and exchange; one that should have far lesser a foothold in the one we're speaking of now.

That's why I can explode or cave in very easily if met with outright negativity or unenthusiasm without constructive goals. I see no contribution or worth, as it were, in outright dismissal. Some do, supposedly because it cuts down on the point-to-point and because tending the garden goes faster if you don't take the time to differentiate between the weeds and flower blossoms. I vehemently disagree.

If I truly feel it in my head, heart & gonads that an idea, route from A to B or modus operandi serves a purpose and should at the very least be explored, a countering viewpoint of another tends to struggle for validity. This is when I become protective and often very confrontational. I dislike the proverbial light bulb above my head being covered by another's lack of enthusiasm to an almost pathological degree. It makes me rabid, because it upsets my notion of balance, of flow, of the nature of chaos, of turning coal into a gemstone by sheer will. This is the way I see it. In that, I am an absolutist. But only on things I feel passionate about. Things that fuel my fire. At least for me passion and inflexibility go unnervingly well hand in hand. On this, I'm trying to mend my ways. Confronting the unstoppable force with an immovable object is by design a destructive enterprise; creativity being firmly planted on the polar opposite.

People are so frail. So delusional. Going to excesses to develop a web of comfort blankets and safe zones, their antennas set to high for any signs of threat or betrayal. I fill those character traits better than most, but my motivations lie elsewhere than in (sense of) self preservation. I don't shy away from the real or conciously seek to take time out from my mind to curl up in the arms of a clawless beast. I rarely get offended, as my ignorance explored at length above (mind you, not arrogance) means all the fecal matter thrown my way won't reach the top of the tower. This river runs deep and shouting from the shore rarely reaches the bottom - and even if it does, it's never untouched by the surrounding wall of water.

I'm protective of my output not because negativity offends me. I'm protective because my output can't defend itself.

Understand this difference.