Monday, October 15, 2012

Self Inflicted Wounds on a Two Ton Tuesday...

I don’t even know where to begin.  So much has happened between us in Two Tons throughout our years together.  Without any real time away from each other and no real management to act as intermediary between us, the pressures of cramming 4 grown men into a beat up van with lots of gear for close to 200 nights a year finally took its toll I guess.  That’s as a kind a way as I can think to put it.  I suppose I’m breaking my long silence now to share my view of the events as they’ve unfolded over the last few days.  Mind you, my goal here is not to bad-mouth anybody or cast a negative light on any individual member of this band, but I’m also not interested in candy-coating any of the last few days’ events either. I’m not quite sure what triggered the nuclear meltdown exactly, but I’m just going to share with you what’s taken place in my life this week and I hope you won’t hold any of what I write in this communiqué against me or my band mates of the last decade or more. 

It’s hard.  It’s hard being in a band.  As you might expect, what you see onstage is not necessarily the reality we live offstage.  The smiles and good times we project to our fantastic crowds from the stage are sometimes the mask we wear to hide the turbulence we’re experiencing behind the scenes.  The kind of stuff that boils just under the surface can range from our everyday personal lives that sometimes bleed into our professional lives that we try and keep separate but we aren’t always so good at internalizing, to professional issues with each other that, when not addressed, eventually turn into passive-aggressive acts that result in contempt for the very people we could not continue without – regardless of how upset we may feel towards them at any moment.  Hmmmm… I guess what I’m trying to say is that even though we get upset and wish that one of us would leave, in reality we need all of us to continue Two Tons in the way that everybody has come to know and love.  It’s sometimes hard to keep that in mind.  That being said, it appears that Two Tons died on a Tuesday.  How fitting, huh?  The last few months we’ve been trying to write new material and begin work on our next CD.  In so doing, we’ve talked a lot about what direction we want to go musically with this.  This has resulted in a lot of mixed conversations that (I’m speculating here) Kevin hasn’t been entirely pleased with.  We’ve also been dealing with issues of volume onstage.  The argument presented has been that Dennis has been too loud onstage for Kevin to properly hear himself when he sings.  That’s not entirely untrue.  Sometimes Dennis is extremely loud onstage.  To be fair to him though, it really depends on a lot of factors.  Depending on the night, it may be any one of us who are the offending decibel violator.  Sometimes it’s me – I play really big cymbals.  There was a night not too long ago where Rhoades didn’t turn on his amp onstage.  He was live through the house and he was using his in-ear monitors and didn’t even realize that his amp wasn't turned on.  It wasn’t until he turned it on that I realized how nice it was without it in my head and I was suddenly so disturbed by the sound level of his amp onstage that it irritated me for the rest of the night.  Kevin sometimes uses his in-ear monitors as well as up to 3 floor monitors that are screaming at him.  It’s just too hard to say that any one member of the band is the offending party because honestly – we’re all guilty of this infraction from time to time.  I'm certain this is the case with every band and I've heard it said by a very good friend who's done sound for us multiple times that "there is a difference between what a musician (or drummer - ha!) wants to hear - and what a musician needs to hear.  The guys who don't know the difference are the guys who will be difficult to help."  There's so much truth in this.  The mix I hear around me each night is not very fun to listen to.  If I want to listen to music, I'll go home and put my earbuds in.  I come to work with a goal of accomplishing a task, not to listen to Two Tons in my ears.  I don't even use a monitor.  I have earbuds and a click I play with fed to me from an app on my iPhone.  With that having been said…

Last weekend was a lot of fun in North Texas.  Hank’s in McKinney is always a sort of homecoming due to the enormous amount of friends and fans we have up there and the Lake Highlands Oktoberfest in Dallas was crazy cold but everybody in attendance had a great time.  I thought the show went rather smoothly but apparently Dennis’s volume was just too much for Kevin and he didn’t waste any time in making that known to Dennis either.  Dennis and Kevin (having worked together for 20 years) are somewhat of an old married couple whilst also much like young brothers who get tired (and in need of a nap) and pick at each other until they’re fightin’ mad.  I don’t guess I realized how serious the situation was – nor did any of the rest of us – but I received a text from Kevin on Monday at 3:45 that said:

I was with my family all day on Monday since the kids were out of school and I didn’t get the text until sometime later in the day. After the sinking feeling of sickness that comes from the unknown had set in, I let him know what I had been up to and that I had received his text but he let me know he wouldn’t talk to me Monday night.  I told him I’d “probably call between 9:00-10:00” the next morning.   The photos below can be enlarged by clicking on them with your mouse (for anybody who may have difficulty viewing them) and just for accountability's sake, here's the conversation in its entirety:

Due to the fact that the transmission on my truck is out, we’re down to one car. One car. One. 4 of my 5 kids currently living at home. 2 adults. Lots of extracurricular activities. Plus school. Plus work. I’m driving a lot. A LOT! My goal was to be done with dropping everybody off at their respective locations by 9:30 but an unexpected text from one of my clients in need of some computer help meant that I’d have to stop on my way back home to pick up a computer for some maintenance.This put me home around 10:40.  No sooner had I walked in my door than I received this:

The only direction I can think of is "down"...

The following are the 2 responses I sent via text messages over the next half hour. I also called a couple of times, but my calls to Kevin were ignored and sent to voicemail.

Middle school drama - it wasn't fun the first time around...
When it became apparent to me that he was neither interested in talking to me nor returning my texts, I went about my day.  I’ll be 40 years old next May 25th (hint, hint! wink, wink!) and I’m a grown man.  I don’t have time to play silly mind games or get involved in drama.  I have a big family.  I have a successful side business as an IT consultant and I work hard to provide good service to my clientele.  The last thing I needed to worry about that day was whether or not Kevin was going to call me back.  Several conversations with Rhoades throughout the day were unsuccessful in getting Kevin to relent and it seems that it only served to make him angrier.  I let Dennis know that he was probably next and he should be on his guard.  By the time Dennis called Kevin that afternoon, I suspect that Kevin had moved from a Tropical Storm over the Gulf of Two Tons into a full-fledged Category 3 hurricane, about to make landfall over Cape Fallon.  I’m not sure exactly what was said but I know that Dennis was unable to get a word in edgewise.  The aftermath of this one-sided conversation was injury so damaging to the band that I can only liken it to having used a gun to try and cure a runny nose.  He shot the band in the face last Tuesday afternoon and walked away.  I know he was upset at Dennis about the volume onstage last Saturday night (as well as the stage volume in general) but I can’t even think of why he became so angry with me in the first place?  It makes even less sense to me after rethinking this whole thing through, given that Kevin had only shown emotion at being upset with Dennis in the first place and the swift and mortal action Kevin took was unjustified and seems to me that it was done more out of longstanding anger that at that moment manifested itself over what I would imagine were years of unhappiness with us both.  Not only was I angry about this situation, but I felt like his actions robbed me of money I was counting on to get me through the holiday season and the end of the year and to be blindsided this way seemed really low and that he wouldn’t respond to me in any way seemed cowardly.  The way I see it, not only did he take from me, but he's now taken from my family.  Rhoades attempted to talk Kevin into letting me at least play through the end of the year but Kevin wasn’t interested I guess.  I’ll give Rhoades credit for that, but I just wish he had taken up for Dennis and I a little more. Here’s a little more of the back-story…

 Only one of the coolest little places in St. Louis...

There came a time after a show at the Gramophone in St. Louis a few years ago when Kevin and Rhoades got into a rather heated argument on the way from the venue after the show over to the hotel for the night.  As quickly as this argument started, it just as quickly blew into a hurricane of fists, and anger and words your mother would never want to hear you say.  Despite our efforts to break up the melee, we were unable to break up their communion (much as it would be impossible to stop, say, a tornado coming your way?) and the result of which was Kevin taking a beating like I usually only see in prison films.  This continued into a night of both Dennis and I unsure of what to do or what the next move would or should be.  The following morning Kevin appeared at the van looking like he had been eaten by a tiger and he announced that Rhoades would no longer be playing bass in the band and that we would finish the next 4 nights or so without him.  As he began to get into the van, I announced to him that neither Dennis or I were willing to continue the tour and that he needed to take us back to San Antonio or he could drive to Kansas City to perform a solo show. He wanted me to know that the result of our decision was that the band would cease to exist beyond that point to which I replied, “That was made apparent last night when we chose to get a different hotel from where we left Rhoades”. 

Friday Night Fights somewhere in Middle-America

You play with the bull - you gonna get the horns. 
Icing down his wounds from the previous night's fun.

As we began our trek back to San Antonio, it wasn’t 10 minutes before Dennis was able to finally get Kevin to relent and not only did we finish that tour, Rhoades is still in the band today.  I told him he made “Capo” that night; he’s a Two Tons Mafioso.   That’s why Rhoades, as we saw it anyway, was so pivotal in the continuation of this band.  Had he stood up last Tuesday for us the way we did for him, it would have forced Kevin back to the table to at least speak with us and give each of us the opportunity to air out our grievances with one another and possibly continue in some way for however long or short a period of time so as to get each of us through the holiday months and allow for the band to find suitable replacements to take our places, or to at least finish the business at hand as civilized adults rather than the digression of hurtful words spoken in anger through phone calls or text messages.  Or perhaps I’m wrong.  Maybe Dennis and I are too utopian.  Maybe it didn’t matter at all.  While I’m deeply hurt by the way this has all gone down and thought I had a better friend in Rhoades than apparently I do, I don’t hate the guy.  I’ll hopefully share a stage with him again at some point in time (if he doesn’t decide he wants nothing to do with me after this dispatch).  I don’t blame him.  He’s got a kid.  He’s got a fiancée.  He’s got his own debts and bills to pay and things to get covered.  I get that.  I guess what hurts so bad is that it’s not like he’s the only one who has a life to live and if he had shown a little more backbone, I’d like to believe we’d all have been in the van last weekend and onstage together.  I think Kevin could limp along with any one member of the band and 2 guys filling in.  Seems to me it would be pretty hard for him to make it through a weekend of shows without his lead guitar, drummer, and bass player – especially on a weekend where we were booked to play a Saturday night at Gruene Hall. 

I never did hear anything from Kevin for the rest of Tuesday and I met Dennis to go pull our gear out of the van and trailer on Wednesday.  Still nothing.  Not a peep.  It wasn’t until 7:30 or later on Wednesday evening that I began to go through my phone contacts list and text 150 or more people to inform them of the changes coming about in the band.  I began making calls for other gigs and auditions and a possible full time position in the IT field.  It broke my heart to do but as I saw it at the time, there wasn’t much else for me to do.  Sadly, I went to bed that night and feigned to my wife that everything was fine and that it didn’t bother me too much after her repeatedly asking me throughout the day, “Are you okay?”  Regardless of my verbal response, I guess nearly 18 years of marriage means that she can see right through me and she knew that I was in fact NOT okay. I wish i could be more cavalier about this than i have been able to, but the truth is -- this has been such a hard week. This is way more difficult than i'd like to admit and hurts so much, and I'm so much more bothered than I ever dreamed I would be by this whole thing.  Dennis has spent 20 years in this band.  To be “fired” with horrible words nobody should ever have to hear from a voice so hateful with spite on the other end without being able to say anything just seems wrong to me. If that guy lives to be 80, he will have spent a ¼ of his life putting his everything into this band.  Maybe I’m too utopian to believe he deserves more than that.  Perhaps not a pocket watch (I hear you get those after 30 years of service), but at least the common decency to speak face to face.  I’ve spent nearly 11 years in this band.  I don’t regret that time regardless of how miserable I feel about the way my tenure here has ended.  I’m hurt and I feel vulnerable to admit that in such a public way.  I want to hold my head up and pretend like I don’t give a rip but the truth is that I do.  I care a lot about what I do and I take my job as a professional very seriously and I do my best to entertain our crowds every night.  I wish it didn’t matter to me.  Maybe it shouldn’t.  But there’s a void thrust on me that I wasn’t ready to accept.  It feels like a death in some way.  Like a piece of me has died.  I hate that.  I won’t put words in his mouth, but I would guess that Dennis would agree with me on that.  The outpouring of kind words that has come from the fans and the friends I’ve made throughout my time over the last decade has been overwhelming.  I wish Kevin could see that Two Tons is more than just the music.  I wish he could see that while he’s the front man of the band, this band is so much more than about him onstage up front.  He’s castrated our collective effort grown out of years of playing and performing and evolving together and now pretending like nothing’s happened.  To me anyway, that's what it feels like he did to this band.  He can hire new guys to come out and fill in or even join the band, but it’s not Two Tons.  Rhoades and I are the most expendable, but Dennis?  How do you “fire” the guy whose hooks and guitar playing made your songs come to life?  Rhoades’s solo in Wanna Dance is way cool.  But it’s not a hook.  I’d like to think I lay a pretty strong backbeat but the truth is – unless my name is Tommy Lee or Neal Peart, nobody comes to the shows to watch me.  Havana Moon. Vegas. Love's Here to Stay.  Hold Over Me.  Oh No!  Cryin’ Eyes. Run To You. You Know.  The list goes on.  Kev is credited with having written the songs, but stop and hum any of those for just a second and tell me you’re not hearing the line that Dennis played (that came from his head and his heart and through his hands and fingers to your ears) is not what your silently singing to yourself?  “Just because you put your boots in the oven – that don’t make ‘em biscuits.”  Just because I wear your clothes and tell everybody I’m you doesn’t mean I’ll be fooling anybody.  That’s kinda’ how I see it with this band.  It just doesn’t matter anymore.  It feels like his decision just made this band irrelevant.

It wasn’t until Thursday afternoon that I received this:

But it’s a little bit late.  He had all day Tuesday and all day Wednesday to make nice.  Heck, Even Thursday morning to give me some indication he wanted to work this out.  Even now I have no idea what that text meant.  I’m not sure if he wants to meet to work through this situation or if he wants to belittle us even further.  I’m not so interested in being suckered back into an abusive relationship.  I value my contribution to this band more than he ever has and I’ll continue to play with people who want to be around me as well.  I’ve never been around somebody who claimed to love something so much but yet act so miserable the entire time we were together doing the very thing he claimed to love.  I have a houseful of people in San Antonio who adore me and love to have me home.  I’ll no longer poison my marriage by murdering her when I forget her from afar, too drunk on the poison of endless roads and the countless smoky bars we play, putting pavement in my veins – shooting it in like special heroine some 200 nights a year with the person I least enjoy being with.  I don’t want to be hateful or spiteful or angry.  I do not want to curse anybody.  I don’t want anybody to hate Kevin.  I’m not asking for anybody to stop going to see the band.  (I am curious to see what the fans’ reactions will be when they realize that the band that they love is not the band they’re paying the cover charge to go see.)  I don’t wish these guys any ill will.  I do want to feel good again and I want to move on and move forward.  I also want my voice to be heard in whatever way it can be so that regardless of the spin it takes in front of everybody in the venues across the globe, this little light here can serve as my voice as a testament to the situation as I saw it happening last week.  I feel at the very least that we as a former band owe it to you guys as friends and fans and extended family, the truth as best as I’m able to tell it.  And if you choose to go see the band, I hope it’s everything you want it to be.  Regardless, you need to be informed before you make that trek to the nearest watering hole to see Two Tons.  And maybe I got some of it wrong.  If so, it’s not done on purpose.  I just needed to get this out of me so I can move on as well.  Seasons, I guess.  This one’s over for me and I’ll move onto the next. 

Brothers doing what we do best - having fun.

I’m not sure where I’ll see you next or when but I hope it’s not too long down the road before we meet again and share some laughter and a few cold Shiners and remember how much fun we had together with Two Tons.    I’ll soon be sharing the stage with pals like Walt Wilkins, Jason Eady, John Boyd and some others.  Best wishes to everybody who receives this humble broadcast and I wish everybody a safe and happy upcoming holiday season. 

All my best.

- Doddsy
P.S. -
In the aftermath of all this, we're thinking about printing shirts that say "I played guitar (or drums)with Two Tons for 20 (or 11) years and all I got was this crummy T-Shirt..." Seriously though, here is just a sampling of some of the kind words I've received over the last couple of days from fans, friends, and people I (we) consider extended family.  To those who recieved my text message last Wednesday evening about the situation - thanks for the outpouring of support and kind sentiment, it's meant so much to both Dennis and I throughout all of this last week. 
Easily the kindest words spoken in response to last week's meltdown.
If Kevin and Rhoades only knew from whom these responses were written...