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Monday, December 23, 2013

The Story Behind "Wash It All Away"

This may be my favorite song that I wrote with Social Fallout. Robb Rich, our rhythm guitarist came in with the opening riff one day. He had been working on it for years with drummer Jeremy Horkman, and was looking to finally complete the song. While Robb played the intro lead guitarist Tim Frank almost automatically came up with the haunting guitar part that comes in after a few bars. Jeremy and bassist Mike Köenig figured out where they would join in on the mix and I had a concept in mind.

At the time I was still quite religious (more on that in future posts) and the concept that came to mind was something of a Second Coming/Apocalyptic scenario. The idea is that in the end it’s too late to get rid of all the dark things in our society. There are those songs that talk about how you should live like you were dying and how it’s too late to change once you’re dead. “Wash It All Away” is in a similar vein to those songs, but on a societal level rather than on a personal level.

I love my lyrics to this song, but I think it’s one of my best melodies as well, along with “How Happy Am I?” The melodies were always informed by the music, which means that I also think these were some of the best riffs that Robb and Tim came up with during my time in the band. (Yes, as far as I know, you can still check out Social Fallout in Green Bay with Tim and Robb as the remaining original members. I moved on to different things, mainly writing.)

You can check out the original recording of “Wash It All Away” below.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Wash It All Away

Breathe in deep 
For this breath will very well be your last
Forget tonight 
For today is all you’ve got
Say goodbye to those that you love
Say your last prayer and hope that God will still hear you

And now the fire comes 
To wash it all away
Tonight hate will die in one last bright blaze of light
Look to the sky 
One last time
And watch it all 
Get washed away

The sky goes black 
For just one moment, that’s all you’ve got
As the lights turn back on 
Weep for those that never
Found the Light on their own
Now watch as the fire comes
To consume you all

And now the fire comes
To wash it all away
Tonight hate will die in one last bright blaze of light
Look to the sky
One last time
And watch it all
Get washed away

Murder
Hate
Rape
Wash it all away
Lie
Cheat
Steal
Discriminate
Wash it all away

And now the fire comes
To wash it all away
Tonight hate will die in one last bright blaze of light
Look to the sky
One last time
And watch it all
Get washed away


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Story Behind "The Black Ring"

The Black Ring was a project that I started a few years ago at a time when I was just getting into James Bond and my favorite show at the time was Chuck. A friend of mine was getting into fan fiction at the time, and suggested that I take a stab at writing a fan fiction of Chuck. I, on the other hand, am not a fan of fan fiction; after all, fan fiction is how we got the terrible Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy.

The idea did inspire me though. Taking an ordinary person and placing them in an extraordinary situation leads to great drama as well as organic comedy. With that in mind I crafted the story of Bryson Forrestor (Bryson Forster in the revisions of the prologue that I’ve done). I don’t want to give too much away, but I will tell you that this was heavily influenced by my interest in Chuck at the time.


I started working on this during National Novel Writing Month a few years ago, but got lost when I started chapter four. I don’t know if I’ll go back to it. I like to think that one day when I’ve had more experience with reading stories and novels of espionage I’ll return to it, but for now I’ve moved on to other stories. For now, I hope you’ve enjoyed the prologue and first three chapters of The Black Ring.

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Black Ring: Chapter 3, Part 16

“Yeah, we did.” Bryson could feel the anger ebbing away, but he didn’t want to let it go. He wanted to tell Ian that he thought back to those days too and that he wished they could go back to the best days of their lives. The gravity of the situation didn’t allow him to do so though. If Ian was indeed a CIA agent then the situation was graver than he had thought.
They reached the parking lot and Bryson could finally see Ian’s face clearer and he was surprised by what he saw. The bruises and scars came through much clearer with the artificial light of the parking lights shining on his face. Bryson began to feel a little bad about how he had treated Ian a few minutes ago.
Ian pulled out a little disc that looked like a mini version of the floppy discs that were used for old computers; this particular disc was about the size of a cartridge you’d stick in a Nintendo DS. That’s actually what Bryson thought it was when he first took it from Ian. In answer to his quizzical look Ian said, “I don’t have a badge or anything I can flash, we don’t work like that.”
“Then what the hell is this?” Bryson asked.
“This is why I asked you out here. I work for a black ops department of the CIA and I’ve been mistaken for being a double agent. That disc I just gave you is the only thing that can clear me, and it has some valuable information about other double agents working within the CIA.”
“Why are you giving it to me?”
“Not everyone that’s working for this anti-American organization within the CIA is on that disk, so I don’t know who I can trust within the CIA. I’ve got both the CIA and these double agents after me and I need some place safe to keep it until I can find an outlet within the CIA to vet it for me. I figured, well, I hoped that you were still someone I could trust.”
“Should you have told me any of that? I mean, if someone were to find out that we talked could I get away with plausible deniability?”
Ian laughed, not a pleasurable laugh but a cold laugh that Bryson could tell stemmed from his own naiveté. “Plausible deniability? You’ve been watching too many movies! That’s why I asked you to pick some place we’d be alone. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t putting you in anymore danger than I had to, but that doesn’t mean that you’re not in danger. If they CIA finds you, you’ll probably just end up hidden away somewhere so you can’t divulge any secrets you’ve learned. If a double agent finds you though, whether you know anything or not you’ll probably end up dead.”
Bryson could feel his blood beginning to boil again. “Why bring it to me? I don’t want to be marked for death! You fucked up my life once, did you really need to do it again? Why didn’t you just take it to Julie? Last I saw you two were pretty close.”
“That wasn’t what it looked like. Besides I couldn’t go to Julie even if I wanted to, she’s dead.”
Bryson felt like a ton of bricks had been dropped on his head causing his mind to draw a blank. Any anger he had for Ian vanished from his mind, and all thought of that day ten years ago drifted off into the night. He may have held a grudge all this time but he never wished any harm on either of them. As if trying to find his breath, Bryson finally drew enough composure to ask, “Wh… what happened?”
Ian looked down for a moment before looking Bryson in the eye and replying, “I killed her.”
Bryson felt himself falter a little bit. Was he even standing up straight anymore? He felt as if he had been kicked in the gut. His high school flame, the girl he still considered the love of his life, the girl who made him a man, had been killed by his best friend. He didn’t know how to respond or what to say next. He never had to come up with the words.

“Get down!” Ian shouted as he pushed Bryson down to the ground. Bryson could hear the bullet whiz past his ear as he fell.

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Black Ring: Chapter 3, Part 15

Bryson jumped at the touch. “What the fuck man?! You couldn’t just come up in front of me?” As Bryson turned around he saw a slight smile on Ian’s face as though Ian wanted to laugh but couldn’t bring himself to. He looked different than the Ian Bryson knew growing up. He was more muscular, but his face was gaunt, lines of age and chipped away at the youthful exterior Bryson had once knew; the youthful glee that had once gripped his face was replaced by a weariness far beyond his years.
“I’m sorry, I couldn’t risk you running in the opposite direction if I just walked out in front of you,” Ian answered. “Since it’s not well lit here I figured that was the best way to keep you from leaving.” The thought that went into Ian’s movements disturbed Bryson even further. Why was he putting so much thought into this? Was he in trouble? Was he thinking of himself or Bryson when he came up with a meeting place and all of these security measures?
“What the hell is going on here?” Bryson asked. And then it all exploded out of him: “It’s been ten years Ian, ten fucking years! Do you know how many times I’ve thought about contacting you? Millions, I mean we were best friend since we were four; that was fourteen years! Do you know why I never contacted you? The last time I looked you in the face you were taking up my place in Julie’s bed you asshole; and now you come to me in the middle of the night after not speaking for years because you want something from me? You need my help? Why didn’t you think of that when you fucked Julie?! And then you start pulling this cloak and dagger routine like you expect me to buy the fact that you’re actually in danger so you can… I don’t know get me to loan you money or whatever. Well, fuck it man, I don’t owe you shit! You owe me!”
Ian was silent for a few moments just staring at Bryson. Bryson couldn’t tell if he was dumbstruck or choosing his next words wisely, either way he didn’t like the silence. Finally Ian spoke, “I know, I owe you a lot of things, mostly explanations. We don’t have time for me to explain them all, but first off I want you know that I never meant for things to go this far, to last this long, and I’ve thought about reaching out to you but certain circumstances have prevented me from doing so. I’m sorry for that. I wish I could tell you more, but right now I can’t give you too much information. Right now I need your help.”
Bryson struggled for a moment to grasp the meaning behind all of this. “What could have been so important to keep you away for so long?”
“I can’t get into that right now, besides the less you know the better,” Ian responded.
“No, goddammit! If you want me to help you then you’re going to tell me why I should help you now!”
“I can’t Bryson, it’s too dangerous.”
“Then that is it, I can’t help you with something I know nothing about. If you really want my help then you will tell me why I should help you not just how I can help you.” Ian turned his head away in the darkness and kept quiet. “Fine, there’s your answer,” Bryson finally said, “I’m leaving, you can figure this out on your own.” Bryson stepped past Ian and began to walk up the path the way he came.
“I’m CIA, Bryson,” Ian called after him. Bryson stopped in his tracks and turned around.
He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. CIA? No, Ian was just messing with him to try to get him to listen. He couldn’t really be CIA, could he? “There’s a pool down the trail a little bit…”
“Yeah, I saw it when I was checking out the area.”
“Before you tell me anymore we’re going to go up there and you’re going to prove it to me.”
“Ok, but time’s running out.” Together they walked toward the parking lot outside the pool. Bryson tried not to look at Ian on the way there. He felt he had the upper hand and he didn’t want to lose that by showing any further sign of weakness. “Remember that time we snuck onto Draa Field and played football before getting caught?” Ian asked.
“Yeah,” Bryson responded curtly.

“I keep going back to that day in my mind. That and the day they found that ten foot gator hangin’ out in the creak by your house. We had some good times back then.”

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Black Ring: Chapter 3, Part 14

Like a warring enemy though, an antithetical thought popped into his head just as his mind was made up: Ian filling up Bryson’s space in Julie’s bed. After all these years that image was seared in Bryson’s memory and he couldn’t erase it. He was almost to Colburn Park and anger and hate sprouted where forgiveness had stood merely a moment ago. He would not forgive Ian and he would not help Ian no matter what it was. If it weren’t for Ian he would probably be in a better place right now, he would probably be leading a better life with a better job and with Julie by his side. Whether any of that would have come true or not might have been a matter of conjecture, but all Bryson knew was that Ian had robbed him of any opportunity of finding out if something could have come from their plans and this was the first time he could really punish him for it.
Bryson parked outside the park and turned the engine of his car off. He wish he had brought a beer with him to chug back before having to meet Ian for the first time in years but the shock kept him from thinking things through properly. He heaved a sigh and rubbed at his face, his sense of nervousness displaying through his inability to stop fidgeting.
Finally he slowly opened the car door and stepped out. Quietly he shut the car door while looking for any sign of onlookers. He was quite sure the park was dead and empty, but Ian’s secrecy and paranoia was catching. Bryson made his way up to the pavilion but didn’t see Ian anywhere. Not knowing where Ian was contacting him from Bryson figured he could give him a few minutes to show up. Bryson found a picnic table under the pavilion, stepped up onto the bench and took a seat on the table top to wait.
To pass the time, Bryson pulled out his smartphone and started playing Angry Birds. Just as he was getting into the game a call came in from an unlisted number. Normally Bryson would just hit ignore, but since Ian hadn’t shown up and had already proved to be adept at finding him online that he should probably answer it in case the call was Ian.
“Hello?” Bryson answered the call.
“Are you alone? Is there anyone else around?” a voice answered on the other end.
“Ian?”
“Yeah, is there anyone else around? I just need to know that you weren’t followed or anything.”
“I looked around when I got here and I didn’t see anyone.”
“Okay, you probably wouldn’t know what to look for anyway.”
Bryson thought to himself, What would I need to be looking for? But he didn’t say it out loud. “Where are you?”
“There’s a trail behind the pavilion…”
“Yeah, I know,” Bryson said getting a little irritated with the cloak and dagger routine.
“Follow it a little ways into the more wooded areas, try not to freak out; I’ll find you when you approach my position.”
Before Bryson could answer Ian hung up the phone. Things were really getting weird, and Bryson was half tempted to walk away, but morbid curiosity won out over his other instincts. This was no longer about his past with Bryson, he was more curious about what Ian had going on that was leading to such secrecy. He looked around one more time and walked to the trail behind the pavilion.
He walked quietly and slowly, not because he thought anyone was following or watching, but because the stillness of the night seemed to demand it. It had been a while since he had walked this path. Mike lived close to Colburn and when Bryson had first moved to Green Bay he would walk this trail to help keep himself in shape after his discharge from the military. It especially helped in the wake of his boot camp injury. As he got further and further away from boot though he exercised less and less and all but forgot about his walks in Colburn Park.

Now it all seemed foreign to him. He recalled those walks listening to his iPod and watching local middle school kids play bocce ball, but this seemed to be the bizzaro version of that world. Too quiet, too night, and there was too much Ian standing behind him tapping on his shoulder.

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Black Ring: Chapter 3, Part 13

            What the fuck?! Those were the three words that kept going through Bryson’s head as he drove down Mason Street. One moment he was mired in self-pity and the next moment he was confronting his past, facing the moment his life had changed forever. He had pictured this moment for a long time but never expected it to come. Hell, he thought, ten years had gone by without a word, why now? Everything that he had thought about the moment shit hit the fan dissolved and intensified in his mind at the same time.
            What would he say? If it was asked of him would he forgive? Or would he through it back in the face of the accused? So many things ran through his head that he didn’t know what to think. Then another surge of anger sprang through him. Never once had either of “them” contacted him in ten years, and now the only reason he was here was because he needed something. It was obviously huge if he came all the way to Green Bay for Bryson’s help. But why should Bryson help him at all?
            Was Ian in trouble? He messaged Bryson under an assumed name, so either he was in trouble or he knew that Bryson would never answer a message under Ian’s name. On top of that Ian requested a meeting in the middle of the night in a park where they could avoid being seen. Bryson knew Ian must not know Green Bay that well, if he did he would have known that they could have met in the middle Wal-Mart and not been seen. But what did he need all the secrecy for?
            He had asked Ian while they were online, but Ian was in a hurry and wanted to make the meet as soon as possible. He swore that he would explain as much as he could as soon as they met but seemed to be leery of the idea of revealing anything online. Bryson offered a meeting place in Colburn Park on the west side of town. He knew it would be deserted, even if they would have been able to meet a few hours earlier, and there was a pavilion they could meet under and go for a walk into more wooded area than they needed to.
The other benefit to meeting in Colburn Park was the fact that it was on the west side of town. Sure he could hop on the highway and make it there fast if he wanted to, but he needed some extra time to process what all of this meant. That’s why he currently found himself at the intersection of Webster and Mason preparing to cross the Mason Street Bridge into the west side while contemplating the idea of forgiving Ian without provocation.
To be honest as much as Bryson hated to admit it, and didn’t to anyone except himself, he missed Ian and often considered the idea that they would make up if they ever saw each other again. He spent most of his life being friends with Ian, and for most of that time they were inseparable which made the last ten years somewhat difficult. He still hadn’t found any friends that he had the same kind of bond with. Often times he thought about seeking out Ian himself, but dropped the idea from his mind when stubbornness kicked in; why should he be the one to make the first step?

Now he didn’t need to make the first step, but it happened so abruptly he didn’t know what to think. At one moment an image of playing Jedi with sticks, Bryson as Darth Vader and Ian as Luke Skywalker, popped in his head. They used to like to go out into a patch of woods off Dixie Highway and have battles or try to see if they could make things levitate using the force. He also thought of fashioning big turtle shells out of old boxes and playing around with a pair of nunchaku to become Michelangelo from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles while Ian would dawn a cardboard shell and carry a stick so that he could portray Donatello. In that moment Bryson knew that he needed his best friend back.

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Story Behind "Breakaway"

This is one of those songs that doesn’t really have much behind it. The major point of the song deals with the duality of the human mind. We often act one way when we feel another way. It’s similar to how we always respond by saying we’re “Good” when someone asks, “How are you?” In this case it has a lot more to do with relationships.

Simply put the song is all about how someone will allow us to be with them despite knowing what actually goes on inside ourselves. At the time I wrote this I was with someone who I didn’t want to be with in the same way that she wanted to be with me. That was a major inspiration for the song. I can’t run away from my demons, and yet you still want me in your bed because you don’t know what’s going on inside my head.

As far as the music, I really liked the build of the music. It felt like it escalated when we wrote it, and I still enjoy that aspect of it. I don’t think we moved mountains whenever I listen to it, but I feel that we crafted an enjoyable hard rock song. It’s not one of my favorites, but I still find it quite enjoyable (and yes, I do listen to our songs on occasion).


You can hear the original recording of the song below.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Breakaway

Break away

Demons come in they won’t go away
I do what I can to keep the wolves at bay

I don’t lie
I don’t cry inside
Won’t you break away
(Why don’t you) break away
Why don’t you

You don’t know what goes on in my head
But still you feel me beside you in bed

I don’t lie
I don’t cry inside
Won’t you break away
(Why don’t you) break away
Why don’t you

Take away everything that you’ve ever shown me
Take away everything I thought I knew
Take away everything that you’ve ever shown me
Take away everything I thought I knew
I don’t lie I don’t cry inside
Won’t you break away

I don’t lie
I don’t cry inside
Won’t you break away
(Why don’t you) break away
(Why don’t you) break away

Break away

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Black Ring: Chapter 2, Part 12

The thought of it made him seethe as he sipped his beer and turned on the radio on his desk. All thought of trolling porn sites slipped from his mind and he completely forgot the perfect search he had come up with. He was already sitting before his computer so he opened it up and it automatically flickered to life as he questioned how he could have let one evening of simple pleasure burrow so deeply into his head. Simultaneously he was also feeling resentment for Monica for not allowing it to get to her. Whether resentment or self-loathing ran deeper he couldn’t be sure.
            Bryson logged into his computer and pulled up the Google Chrome internet browser as Bush’s “Machinehead” album played on the radio. As always his first move was to pull up his Facebook account. If ever someone felt that self-loathing was closing in on them, Bryson thought, they just need to open Facebook to realize that there’s always someone worse off in that department. He might have felt pathetic at this particular moment but Facebook was filled with sadsacks in need of therapists. He was hoping to see a status or two from some of his old classmates that would make him feel a little better.
            As a general rule he didn’t want to have anything to do with his high school peers, but he loved to add them to his Facebook friend’s list merely for a distraction and for stalking purposes. On Facebook everyone was on the same level, so he could say he was good friends with Marissa the head cheerleader in high school, even if they had never talked in high school; not that she was anything to look at these days. It was the nerdy girls and tomboys who blossomed from ugly ducklings to sexy swans and those were the girls he had actually been friends with back in the day. Of course, he didn’t evolve as they did so while they may remain friends on Facebook in real life they merely acquaintances.
            Those weren’t the people he was looking for today though. James who had been the captain of the football team back in high school went on to develop a beer gut, grow a mullet, and now changed oil at an Exxon station in their hometown. The other day he and his estranged wife had a massive public row online after she found out that he had slept with a prostitute at his friend Pete’s bachelor party. Through this so-graphic-you-can’t-stop-reading exchange his wife found out that he had been sleeping around since the night that they had gotten married, which she found out after one of the bridesmaids from the wedding chimed in explaining where he had disappeared to for an hour during their reception. They had been married for five years, now she had taken their two children, ages 2 and 3, to her parents’ place.
             These were the stories he was looking for tonight, but try as he might there was nothing more than images of sappy sayings like “Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we’re here we should dance,” pictures of children being childish, and mildly witty philosophies.
Bored, Bryson realized his beer was empty and walked to the kitchenette to grab another one. As he opened the fridge door he could have sworn that he heard moaning coming from Monica’s room and considered putting an ear to her door to find out if he was right but decided against it. He figured that he’d rather think that he imagined it than confirm that he hadn’t.
He settled back down while taking a long gulp from his beer to the tune of “21 Guns” by Green Day when he looked at his computer screen. Because he didn’t use it too often he had forgotten that Google Talk launched whenever his computer booted up, but the fact that a dialogue box had popped up in his absence quickly reminded him of that fact. It had been so long since he had used it that he had to run through his list of contact to make sure that he had never spoken to anyone by the name of Chris Thomas before.
The words, “Hey Bryson, are you there?” stared at him from his laptop screen and Bryson was dumbfounded for a moment. He was fairly certain that he didn’t know anyone by that name, but he couldn’t be 100% sure.
“Do I know you?” Bryson responded.
“Yeah, but it’s been a long time since we’ve talked,” Chris replied.
“How do we know each other?”
“We grew up together.”
“I’m sorry, I don’t recall that name,” Bryson typed even more curious than before.

“You wouldn’t recall this name it’s not what I went by when we were friends. Bryson, this is Ian.”