Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Darkness Is Falling

Key West - May 2006
Originally uploaded by dreadmon.
I've gotta fight on if I'm gonna make it
try to keep the victory in sight
the devil's out to get me, I'm shakin' in my shoes
when I'm losin' the spiritual fight

I cry, darkness is falling

-- Bryan Duncan (1985)

Sometime around the mid-80's, I met Bryan Duncan, a powerhouse Christian singer who was formerly lead singer for the band Sweet Comfort. He had just released his first solo album, called "Have Yourself Committed", a totally smokin' piece of work that I bought based off the strength of the single "Darkness Is Falling."

I was backstage at a Christian music night at Knott's Berry Farm in California, where I worked at the time. I'd hang out during these events, making myself available as a roadie for the bands that I loved and wished to know better; groups like Undercover, The Lifters, Steve Taylor and Some Band, Daniel Amos, Crumbacher, Mad At The World, Adam Again, Youth Choir, The Lifesavors and many more. I was in a Christian band called Teacher's Aide at the time, but we were nowhere near good enough to be playing a big event like this, but certainly hoped to somewhere down the road. So, I'd come to enjoy the concerts and then zip behind-the-scenes (knowing all of the employee entrances sure helped) to help lift and move gear. This put me right in close contact with the bands I adored and emulated.

At one point, I'm standing there talking with someone, I'm not sure who, and up walks Bryan Duncan, smiling, sashaying, if you will. He's a funny guy on-stage and apparently that went for in-person as well. Whomever I was talking to (the memory was obliterated by Bryan's presence) greeted him, and then the soulful singer, without missing a beat, turned to me, took my hand and gave it a good shake, then proceeded to faux-arm wrestle with me wordlessly. I honestly don't think we exchanged more than greetings. It was just a humorously odd bit of interplay - and then he was gone.

That's my Bryan Duncan story.

This moment popped into mind because I was sort of reminescing about some of the old bands and looked him up on the web, found him to be doing quite well with a new act called Bryan Duncan and the NehoSoul Band, which plays the same kind of smokin' stuff that he's so good at. Further research revealed another site that featured an interview done at a critical time in Bryan's career that I was unaware of; a time where he almost stopped making music.

We talk about some of the "casualties" in the Christian music scene over the last couple of years, and I confess to Duncan that I don't really understand why Christian artists can't be more transparent.

"I think they don't do that because it'll cost 'em," replied Bryan. "It's meaningful to somebody to stand up and say, 'I made a mistake,' but leadership positions don't like to hear that. It makes them less trusting of you, a little more suspicious if you admit to any faults."

It immediately struck me that I was led to seek this page out for a reason.

My Own Darkness Falls

every word I say is wrong, and I'm
feeling like I don't belong here
took a shot at a long time dream
and put a bullet in my self-esteem

well, it's kinda funny, I forgot to laugh
too busy trippin' down the wrong damn path
what do you do when your heart gets burned?
consider it a lesson learned the hard way
and all the while I'm hoping, praying

raindrops swell the river
carry me away
drown within the ocean
of tears that fall today

-- Bing Futch (2006)

It was about this time last year that the previous Mohave line-up began to splinter and crack; it was apparent that tensions amongst the band were getting high, and for what it's worth, I take my share of responsibility for that. There were many different ideas of what the band should be like, but they all began to stretch away from the vision that was given to me back in 1999. That vision graciously allowed for just about any style of music, as long as it told a story and tied in to the mythology surrounding Nowhere, Nevada. As time went on, however, it became more and more about "rocking it out" and marked a departure from our Americana-flavored songs that were really the core of what the Mohave concept is all about. A lot of it had to do with my frame of mind, which had begun to get intense as internal clashes and personal issues began to color the music. It really struck home one night after a performance in Daytona Beach. Snackdaddy lead singer/guitarist Ed Altom was talking about the show and said, "what's going on with Mohave? The songs are sounding a little dark."

Well, that hit me - because he was right. We were playing less of songs like "Floatin' Wally" and "L'ermitage" and doing more socially-relevant tunes like "Planet Earth" and "So Alright." I realize now, as key songwriter, that much of this was funneling straight from my own heart and into the music. Supressing it wasn't a great idea - but neither was changing the flavor of the true and inspired vision that had been preserved for over six years. Suffice it to say, when we went our separate ways in October of 2005, I decided to be still and let the still, small voice tell me what to do next. Through the winter and spring, it became clear: let Mohave be Mohave and let Bing be Bing. They would have to be unique entities.

Shadows In The Glass

I consider myself a Christian, albeit one with an open-mind. That said, I've done some pretty nasty things in my life and have struggled for many years with the inner darkness that all people seem to harbor. Some are better at dealing with it than others. I suck at it, frankly. Much better than I used to be, but instead of truly dealing with the darkness, it seems that some kind of valve inside has simply shut off, not only cutting off the flow of negativity but also some of the positivity as well. My coping mechanism has been to numb down, to become withdrawn and distant, something that's not readily apparent when you meet me in public because I'm a naturally happy and accepting person; I love people.

And I also fear people. I fear that people will get to know me and observe my wickedness, judge me, declare me a super-sized loser and then abandon me like so many others have done. Forgiveness, as it would seem, does not come easy to most folks. On the contrary, I'm usually the first to say "no apology necessary" when someone admits to doing me wrong, the first to extend an olive branch, the first to embrace enemies with a hug. This imbalance has created a resentment within that's been festering for awhile and I have a queasy feeling that it won't be easy to whap down with a baseball bat. My emotional constipation, a result of too much smack down, daddy issues and a whopping case of arrested development, is threatening to shut off the flow of reason. It's made me cold and left me dry. My sadness goes unexpressed; my fury is on an ever-increasing boil and who am I furious with? Myself.

How can I fix it if it won't break? There's something wrong inside of me and I've prayed to God, "break me!", but no break has come. Or if it did, I missed it. But how could I? Bryan Duncan, on September 18th, 2001 wrote these words about the attacks on America:

I've thought about why God allows evil in the world. I think maybe because pain is our only wake up call. Our own suffering seems to be the strongest motivating force in the world towards change.

What is wrong, exactly, that I want to change? I'm tired of being numb in places, that's what's wrong. I want feeling back. I've gotten so used to swallowing my pain and putting a smile on it, thinking positive and not letting anything get me down, that my systems are all fucked up. (I know, not a very Christian thing to say, but that's a whole other discussion that I'm unwilling to have at this moment. I wish to communicate honestly, and honestly, the word "fuck" comes to mind.)

The ironic thing is, I think I know what needs to be done, and God won't do it until I make the first move. Well THAT SUCKS but so be it, I was hoping for, you know, a lightning bolt or kidney failure or a 16-ton weight dropped upon my head, but it looks like I'm gonna have to face my fear, drop my pants, rip the shirt off of my back and get naked before everybody (and it ain't like I haven't done it before - well, at least literally.)

I can't play it safe anymore. I haven't the strength to smile through tears that never come. I've got to be brave and I've got to trust that forgiveness exists and that vulnerability isn't a weakness in this hard, hard world.

Returning To The Days Of Wide Open

don't forbid me to dream, my friend
the only shelter I have rests within my mind
and it shouldn't be hard to find another land
where everything is well
and I'm never dangling at the end of a rope
wondering what was left of hope

-- Bing Futch (1991)

Thanks for reading this far, by the way - just writing this has been therapeutic. Those of you who have followed my music since back in the day know that my older stuff was alternately hopeful and depressing; I wore my heart on my sleeve. Somewhere along the lines, that got bitch-slapped out of me and I removed myself from the music, writing in the third-person, telling stories instead and keeping the focus away from my own battles. Mohave is a universal funnel for ideas, emotions and encouragement that is a gift from God - it will always exist for the purpose of reflecting the image of a society cast adrift in the middle of a dusty wasteland. It will always be fun, always ever-changing and always devoted to the music of the world's people.

But the time has come, and has been coming, to start up the solo machine once again. Taking the music back to a personal level before these moving parts inside tear my soul to shreds. I've been meditating on the concept, so it's just plain weird that I run across Bryan's page today and read that bit about relating the negative aspects of your spiritual walk. I hesitate to go there again, but it's imperative that I do. I worry about Mohave taking a hit if people respond badly to this forthcoming outpouring of bile and blackness (and not all of it will be dark, rest assured - but quite a lot of it will be.) The world is changing - and hopefully, we all change with it, retaining vitality and moving forward. The only way to heal is to be wounded first and I pray time and time again for God to break me, break me, break me in half, spill my guts upon the asphalt, drain me of the blood that has curdled into sand, burn away the scales from my eyes, cut the razor wire from around my heart; please. Let me feel all the emotional seasons again, bring them to the surface. I want to cry. I want to scream bloody murder. I want to laugh. I want everything but the fear. That's one thing that I don't miss. Never was much good at fear and hope I never will be.

I do not know how long I've been asleep
all I know is I'm awake within a flash
the thing that I have feared most is happening
and I'm helpless within its grasp

I try and stop it
but all the effort is in vain
there is no turning back now
so just bring on the pain

and it hurts
oh God, I had no idea
my ragged breaths draw fire
I cry until I cannot feel
I cry myself to sleep

first, the shock of impact
and everything breaks free
all that I have come to know and trust
has come crashing down around me

broken sounds drown out the sirens
dimly wailing warnings in my head
I'm blinded by the agony
and the waterfall of tears that I now shed

and it hurts
oh God, I had no idea
my ragged breaths draw fire
I cry until I cannot feel
I cry myself to sleep

oh here it comes
the pounding drums
here it comes
the blanket numbs

and it hurts
oh God, I had no idea
my ragged breaths draw fire
I cry until I cannot feel
I cry myself to sleep

I do not know how long I've been asleep
all I know is I'm awake within a flash

-- Bing Futch (August 2006)


Let it be said that I'm a very, very blessed man. I have a beautiful and loving wife (who I get to pick up from the airport in an hour - yay!) My children are growing strong and smart. My friends are true. I live the life that I dreamed of back at Knott's Berry Farm, who can ask for more than that? I have hope and I have music. Now, to add to the list, I have let go. I know that I am not in control. In the words of a recent country song, "Jesus, take the wheel."

And ram this sucker into the nearest concrete light pole.

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