Charlie's Foxtrot (Putting the 'Con' in Controversy.)

The past week has been a cluster-fuck of controversy. Thats the easiest way of putting it. I've been reeling for an entire week trying to put this in a light where I could properly see what was in fact there, and what really isn't.

Before I go any further, this edition of Piss and Vinegar is dedicated to some very special people. Fat Wreck Chords, Dillinger Four, Racket Magazine, Punknews.org, Alternative Press and last, but certainly not least...Scott Heisel.

At the tail end of last week I was offered a link to Dillinger Four's epic, and utterly amazing new album, six years in the making, "C I V I L W A R". This past month has been very hard on me. All you need to do is check the more recent posts to see that. However, I don't feel in my heart that this should ever turn me bitter and jaded. In direct correlation, I saw some people I'm fond of suffering bad months as well. Jobs lost, job security in the balance, ruined relationships...and I saw a lot of people not having anything worth smiling for.

Instead of letting that fester, I attempted to bring a smile to a few peoples face, and in essence, I really did. But...that blew up in my face. Things got out of hand, and I assumed the responsibility that was dually mine. I won't get into this particular incident at length for now.

The next thing though, that I know, I'm fired from Racket and blacklisted left and right with certain people in the record industry. I felt shitty for what I'd done, and the general trust I'd abused, and still do too, to an extent. However...

When I was a kid, and I know I'm not even old now, but back then when I was a kid, punk rock was a different beast. While the internet surely existed, the advent of all it's capabilities hadn't truly been realized because most people didn't own a PC, nor did they have an internet connection (much less a T1 or Cable/DSL). But growing up in a fairly rural area the only contact we had with music was with what they told us was cool on the radio. And to be quite honest, while I still love some nostalgic 90's rock (tell me you don't fucking sing along with "Santa Monica" or "Semi Charmed Kind of Life", I dare you. You're a liar if you say you don't like those songs.) to be honest, I couldn't relate to any of that shit on the radio. I just fucking couldn't, for the most part. Sure, there was the occasional Green Day song that made it somewhat palpable for a moment being, but other than that...I mean, what did I care about Sixpence None The Richer? Does ANYONE even remember how horrible that song was? "Closing Time" just means you move it to somebody else's house, and tear the motherfucker down with less of a tab.

What we had were mixtapes, and word-of-mouth. We had the 'thank you' notes in the back of CD's. And when Green Day thanks Operation Ivy, and covers a song of theirs....you might just want to check what thats all about.

As much as I want to say a bands talents are what should be the selling point, as they rightfully should, you still need to get that word out.

And it happens when someone passionately displays love for your music, and your band. Especially when MTV and Clear Channel aren't endorsing you whatsoever. Good luck even finding table scraps.

And at the end of it all, it's people like me, who offer traveling bands a floor to crash and a plate of food. Who help book those shows, who play songs and cd's for people, who make suggestions based on other things that person likes musically. Ask anyone who's spoken to me for ten minutes, ask them how soon it becomes apparent I try and sell them on the Gaslight Anthem, or the Alkaline Trio. I've dedicated skin to three chords that I feel can fucking save lives.

One day I got a chance to write for a music magazine. Suddenly I get all this skinny, I get all these albums and bands asking me to listen to them, as if I'm important or my opinion actually matters for anything. And maybe it doesn't, but at this particular moment, I'm willing to bet it does, if even on a minuscule and minute level.

I value honesty above anything else. Integrity is important to me, so very important. And I made a mistake, my first one in nearly three years, and it cost me...or so I thought. So I thought.

I've taken time to ponder this series of events. Things hit the wall, and have become enormously blown out of proportion.

The simple fact is, at one point I was something I disliked. A critic of music. In a tangible form, on the internet. You want to read the hardest things I've ever written? Go to Racket Mag dot com. Anything that isn't an interview is me hating every ounce of myself. If I hate something, I don't mind being vocal about it, but not in written form. For the most part, these are kids who put a lot of hard work into making something they liked, and hoped other people would too. If you think it's okay to actively try to take away from them, and discredit them...then FUCK you. It isn't.

It'd be just the same as someone going into your wedding, shitting on the cake and saying the frosting was too sweet. The person shitting on the cake, you're not gonna say, "Well hot dog! I'm glad I didn't try it, I have sugar foot." No, truth is, if you're fat like me...you probably would've liked to try that cake for yourself. And even then, you might've kept your mouth shut if you didn't like it, because it isn't always about you, or us. Sometimes it's about the people who spent that much time working for something.

So why do it? Why be miserable doing something?

The truth is, I love music. In and out, up and down. I still remember the song that was playing (Jimmy Eat World's - A Praise Chorus) the first time I ever told a girl I was in love with her. I have a "Top Five" for every possible situation. I've done my time in the crowd, I've sung the words, I've shared mics, I've drunkenly danced to Hot Water Music's "220 Years" in a dead audience. Every time Fake Problems comes to town, I yell the words back extra loud and catch glances from everyone, just so people will wake up and pay attention to whats happening. With a torn medial meniscus in my right knee, I jumped on stage and sang "Walking is Still Honest" with Against Me! Music means every fucking thing to me, and without it life if but a soundless dream not fit for even the poorest of pariahs.

But even more than that, I am a writer. I write. That is my life through and through. Even if I woke up tomorrow and couldn't bare to do it again, I would. I would.

I've been writing since I was in the fourth grade. I have a need in my soul to do this, more than I do to breathe or wake up ever again. Thats the absolute truth.

So why do reviews, and interviews with assholes who thought they were the fucking Beatles and Rolling Stones all into one?

Before I started with Racket, I fell out of a relationship that nearly killed me. During, and after. And for a long time afterwards, I had no clue as to whom I was anymore. I'd become sterile and complacent. I worked a job I fucking hated, I acted in a way that isn't me. At all, and I cannot stand not to be honest with anyone, especially myself. Basically...walking dead.

I couldn't write a story to save my life. I couldn't. I had such a writers block after that break up, one that lasted over a year. But I wanted those words and ideas and thoughts and motivation and drive back in my fingertips.

And I also looked up to Lester Bangs. I still do, don't get me wrong. But I also wanted to get my name out, in case I ever wrote a book.

Fast-forward, I'm still disaffected towards a lot of writing about music on a 'professional' level, and decide to take it to the next stratosphere. I applied for a position with Alternative Press, freelancing. I'll get back to this in a second.

As far as Racket Magazine is concerned, I had my grievances. The whole time, and thats not a mystery. But I'm not, and I refuse to shit on them. Ever. They are good people, and my actions put them in a weird predicament. That said, I feel like I wasn't ever thought of in a positive light to begin with. Not that I beg for notoriety, because if I'm deserving of it, it may come one day. I just feel like the time I spent was never once appreciated. That put me in a position of complete depression with where my career was going. Writing, I mean. I just felt faceless, and for the first time I was trying hard to accomplish something. Not even just for myself, but other people around me. I have the belief that no one gave a shit, and thats fine. I'm still thankful for the awesome things I got to do.

Fat Wreck...I love your bands. I don't like NOFX, but god damn it if I don't respect Fat Mike himself. Everyone their seems solid, but this incident has lent new credence. It's a sinking ship, and I think I just realized that. They've lost their best-selling acts to major labels (Against Me! Rise Against, Anti Flag to name a few) they have almost no younger bands there to help the label re-build itself whatsoever, outside of maybe Dead to Me and the Flatliners. NOFX, Lagwagon and No Use For a Name can only go on for so much longer (as evidenced in NOFX's "Passport..." series on Fuse). American Steel are an amazing band, but they've never achieved the success they rightfully deserve. The Lawrence Arms, as much as it pains me to say this, may be coming to a close, and signing Dillinger Four...you can't build anything of merrit on that band. They'll draw well, sure, but they don't like to release new material. It's been six years since "Situationist Comedy". The biggest fumble, too, was them not doing everything in their power to bring the Gaslight Anthem aboard.

I'm sorry for whom I hurt their, but the truth is...I did my job, in a roundabout way. I got people, in a way, really hyperventilating about a band that's been dormant for nearly a decade. In the terms of underground music...that's nearly impossible, with so many bands worthy of attention falling on and off the radar nearly daily. Not that this particular band needs any help, but with years and years of taunting new releases, new music, and then shooting them down, it became a game of "band who cried album."

Punk rock is not a business, inherently. A lot of people have gotten rich off of it, because rebellion is commercially viable. But these actions weren't out of the realm of sneaking someone into a show who was under 21, and it wasn't an all ages venue. Thats the truth. Anyway you cut it, whoever has heard this album, knows for a fact how fucking good it is, and cannot wait to get this on wax, to go to the shows, to buy the merch and learn the new choruses. Plain, and very fucking simple. And with all the controversy within this album already, it's going to get a lot more attention than you initially gambled on. I'd bet the farm on it.

Now, back to Alternative Press.

I sent in my portfolio. I felt confident in my decisions for it, and I felt that I stood a decent chance. I really did. But I got the run around so very often, I got discouraged, said fuck it and decided to start my own little blog and just work diligently on my book(s). Theres some who believe in me, one in particular. And when she says she believes in me, I know I can walk through fire. I might get singed and burned, but I'll come out of it alive with a story to tell.

When this controversy became what it has generally become, the first person to come shitting on my doorstep was the same guy at Alternative Press. You, Scott Heisel. You.

The email I received from you was salt on an open wound.

Now, it isn't that so much. I've seen the depths you're willing to go to, to try and somehow become relevant with the kids again. Enough so to divulge my personal information in a very popular and public forum, to somehow further blacklisting me, because of heresay.

After I went through the trouble, on the worst day of my life, to defend your putrid, stale and egotistical ass. Saying, "This was my fault, he did nothing wrong. I'm in the wrong." you took the time to slander me. To use my full name in something that in no way is important to you. That could've hurt my future, you piece of shit. Do you even realize that? While I took time to take the hit, and tried to keep your name out of this situation, you still fucking took time further accusations, lie (and get caught in said lie).

I'm not a he said-she said person. I read what you, yourself have been saying, and I've been intensely quiet about this. But now that we're on the subject, I want you to think back to that email you sent to me. There wasn't an ounce of courtesy in that, you're too preoccupied with being a dick. Then you wonder why people don't care about what you've got to say anymore, or at least anyone who's worth an ounce of shit?

I'll explain it, then: You'll wear an Armalite shirt, grow a beard, pop up all over message boards on the internet, while bobbing on the cock of fashion oriented music. Norma Jean, Underoath, I know you like those bands, pal. And that's fine, but you're so disingenuous about the process. You'll shit all over a band in your magazine, and then plaster them all over the cover. Your ethics...are very unethical. Didn't they teach you journalistic integrity? Or did it fly out the window in order to, "you have to be able to sell your magazine."?

You have an air about you, that exudes this pompous "I'm somehow better than the kid standing next to me at the show cause I know these guys on a personal basis." So what man? Name dropping only gets you so far.

Did I want to write for your magazine? Yes and no. I wanted to get my own name out there so one day, I wouldn't have to write about music. I love it too much to pretend like I have any business telling anyone what they should think about it, at the end of the day.

So here goes.

My name is Aaron Earl Hale-Williams. I live in Arizona City, AZ. Mailing address is PO Box 95, Eloy, AZ. Half Mexican-Half Irish. I write stories, but...I'm done with trying to pretend my opinion on how good the new Off With Their Heads album is. I'd suggest people check it out, yeah...other than that...this is the last time I'll ever give some of you the courtesy of a name-check. I'm not Scott Heisel, thats not how I operate.

Besides, theres some real important shit going on in the world. Atom smashing, Hurricanes, wars, poverty and real life situations. This right here, this is me giving my two cents about the situation at hand. It won't be happening again, and I apologize. Drama is for people who need reality tv.

Dinosaurs will die. Nothing can continue to exist forever, not a worthless medium of entertainment, nor a glorified machine that will not accept it's no better than a tabloid.

I'm nothing. Some of the people mentioned here, they are nothing.

It's everyone else who means something, and it's time we worked on that.

If some of you mentioned here were about the music whatsoever, you'd think outside of the box you've hammered yourself securely in. Those nails left holes, you're taking on water...you're about to fucking sink.

Bands will still exist with, or without you. We'll still here it, and only care about them. The other mediums are nothing short of sucker fish, sustaining life from an actual creature.

And thats repulsive.

And I need a shower. I feel very, very dirty.

But I leave you with a few questions, and I want these to be answered:

What do you allow to influence you, and your decisions? Whens the last time a record review made you rush out and purchase an album? If culture exists on the mediums of art, in all it's forms, then with content being shared as rapidly as it is, does culture actually exist anymore?

With every bit of buzz that surrounds something, do you ever worry that that buzz belongs to something thats going to sting you? What will last?

Are we a product of push-button topics, are we educated idiots absorbing misinformation, and doomed to only preach this as truth?


Brownakin Skywalker said...

I don't know you, you don't know me. I sometimes post on punknews under the name "brown".

Your writing is an inspiration to me and I really mean that. It has been a very long time since I've come across one with such a way of demanding one's attention with words like you can.

So thank you for being real.

Aaron Hale said...

Thank you...thats insanely kind of you.

I've taken the liberty of linking you.

We should remedy not knowing each other.

Brownakin Skywalker said...

Thanks very much, however, not to sound like a nuisance, but if you link to pandas flying warplanes, you link to a "dead" site. I have this tendency to start blogs and then leave them after a short series of posts. I have one that I do more frequently that my friend helps out with. I find if I'm running a blog with someone else, I'm more likely to update more often. That site is http://emptyingthebastille.wordpress.com

Anyways, now that I've finished whoring myself out, my name is Ryan, I forgot to mention that the first time around. If you'd like, I'm on MSN all the fucking time. My e-mail is: allthe_stars_arefixed_upin_thesky@hotmail.com

I don't really talk too much on punknews because I find I either don't have much to say, or don't know how to get into a conversation without it getting sidetracked into a large, masturbatory inside joke, which is cool, cause I do find it all funny as hell, but I'm not really inside of it.

I am trying to get a wee bit more involved though.

Also I have a beard, does that count for something? I'm told it does. :)

Aaron Hale said...

Haha, it's cool man. You seem like a great guy, and you can actually write as well. I'm being honest.

But yeah, just be you man. Whatever you want me to link, I'll do it and spread the word for you. Thats kind of what I'm all about.

On MSN my add is aaronracket@live.com, although I should probably change that seeing as how Racket and I have parted ways.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Aaron Hale said...

You're a moron. I've "owned up" to everything. Idiot.

Secondly, what comments have I erased? I don't give a fuck what anyone says. Freedom of speech.

You have absolutely no idea whats going on. None. It's obvious with your claim of me deleting anything. I wouldn't ever do that.

Matt Ramone said...

Aaron, these days are blood. I got your back, Madball style.

Brandon said...

"Besides, theres some real important shit going on in the world. Atom smashing, Hurricanes, wars, poverty and real life situations. This right here, this is me giving my two cents about the situation at hand. It won't be happening again, and I apologize. Drama is for people who need reality tv."

And that is the very fucking truth of this whole situation. At the end of the day, it's really a huge joke. I think the only person that has been truly hurt by this is you, thanks to Heisil. However, I wouldn't be too discouraged at the moment (if possible) by this incident.

I myself have an undergraduate degree in writing, and am currently pursuing a masters in social work. I too passionately care about music (and once considered a career writing about it), but I eventually realized that in the real world this shit means next to nothing. I'm sorry to say it, but the current state of "punk" music is a sad one, and the majority of music that is labeled today as "punk" is nothing more than a bunch of middle-class white kids bitching about their depression, or the majority of the "real" punks bitching about the state of "their" music scene.

Essentially, I think it's time we all grow up and realize that there are much bigger threats out in the world (yes, even bigger than Against Me!'s new major label funded video) that we should all be spending our time and energy on.

Once again, I am sorry to see someone's life get completely fucked over due to such a pointless situation, so my condolences to you good sir, and good luck in the future.

Alex Pel said...

hey man, think about how much joy you've brought to people these past couple weeks by your "actions".

i've listened to that D4 album almost every fucking day. I stayed up later than I should have the night I got it, just so I could listen to what I had been waiting for for so long.

the people thatt love this band and love this insanely good record will buy it no doubt. the people that truly love music will support it, in any shape or form that they can.

I'm sorry you got shit canned in this whole thing.

Treatment Bound said...

Well written and well stated, fully backed.
Most of these industry guys are scrambling because they know they're going to be out of a job soon. All the MP3 movement has proven is that bands don't need the majors or their print apologists anymore.
Vinyl + MP3 download = Love

stuxmusic said...

Three things.

1) Read my blog, I just got started really, but it's all about just what you were talking about, and I'd love your input.

2) I write for denofgeek.com, and I would never hand out stuff to others. At least, not until the stuff was out. Then it's just like a free present. But beforehand, it's more like abusing a privilidge.

3) Punk rock is about tapes. Taping music is genius. Giving out tapes and CDs of stuff you have to other people of stuff you have is a great way to share the info on that band and and the way the song makes you feel and I love it and do it all the time. But not with such stuff as mentioned above.

To be honest I can see where you're coming from and I may have done something similar. But you need to find where the responsibility lies and deal with them. You letting a friend listen to a stream? Not a problem. The person who distributed it? Problem. THEY are the ones who got you blacklisted.

Thanks for being honest.

Asher said...

I love music like you and will buy your book.

Steven said...

I am the kind of impatient guy who would never usually read a piece of writing that length, but it was a really great and emotional account and held me to the end. I think you have the right to feel extremely hard done by and bitter from what has happened to you because of this, but you seem to be able to handle these things in a more calm and mature way than I probably would.
Your explanation of your side of the story resonates with me and just makes a whole lot of sense. I can identify with the some of things you have been through and some of the feelings you portray through your writing really struck a chord with me.

Well done, thank you, and good luck with your writing in future!

Seagull Steve said...

Aaron, props for owning up to this at length, although I still (obviously) dont think you should have done this. I have had the priviledge of getting advance material from some pretty awesome bands and have always been very careful with it. I also find it interesting that all your discussion on Fat bands deals with their (lack of) financial success rather than the quality of music......it kind of comes off as a diss. What happened to music not being business?

Anyways, Im bored so I thought I'd answer a few of your questions, so here goes.....

Whens the last time a record review made you rush out and purchase an album?

I dont mean to sound cliche, but when Vice Magazine gave a glowing review of the last Against Me! album I became very worried. When I heard it, my worries were confirmed. Nothing against them (no pun intended), just not my style.

If culture exists on the mediums of art, in all it's forms, then with content being shared as rapidly as it is, does culture actually exist anymore?

Dude, I am in Texas right now. It is not very similar (really, not at all) to San Francisco, which is where I currently live. I see your point, but anyone who faces the public once in a while can see that there is more culture out there than anyone can truly take in and understand in a lifetime.

With every bit of buzz that surrounds something, do you ever worry that that buzz belongs to something thats going to sting you? What will last?

Yup, thats definitely something I (unfortunately) think about, and Im sure everyone does to varying degrees. Thats how I know when I am still listening to Bad Religion when I have gray hair, the kids listening to Underoath these days will be denying they ever did, heh. See my below comment about the bullshit detector.

Things that last, to put it simply, are timeless, not a sign of the times.

Are we a product of push-button topics, are we educated idiots absorbing misinformation, and doomed to only preach this as truth?

Yes! A lot of people are. But if you get yourself a good bullshit detector, then you dont have to be resigned to this mediocre fate.

Luke said...

The following anecdote (but not the commentary that follows) is a paraphrase of a sample that I believe to be, but am not positive is, from an interview with Noam Chomsky at the beginning of some Choking Victim album.

Some guys rob a bank, stealing $2000. The government then spends in excess of $75,000 on manpower, gasoline, helicopters, etc. to apprehend the perpetrators. All the while the media spends similar amounts to broadcast the ensuing "news" to the citizenry. From an economic standpoint this makes virtually no sense.

The criminals aren't chased because anyone gives a shit about the two grand they stole. They are chased over hell and high water to maintain a system of control. You either act according to that system or pay the consequences.

You acted outside the system. It's quite possible no one at Fat Wreck or elsewhere even cares about what you did, but the system you jeopardized is another story altogether; and like the government, they will do what is necessary to maintain that system.

Welcome to 1984.

Judge said...

Fuck you, you fucking douchebag. It's sad that people as clueless as you are the ones that feel the need to get their names out there just to feed your fucking egos. You are part of the problem. Your writing is sanctimonious, overl dramatic, and error ridden. Learn how to fucking spell before you call yourself a "writer". Shithead.

Judge said...

overly. i never claimed to be a writer.

DukeXC said...

>KingCrapperIII said...
>This post has been removed by the author.
>September 24, 2008 6:52 PM

>Secondly, what comments have I erased? I don't give a fuck what anyone says. Freedom of speech.


ill give you the benefit of the doubt and assume theres an explanation for this, since i enjoyed your post so much. really cool of you to take responsibility like this, and good luck getting back on track from here on out. but.. wtf with kingcrapperiii?

Andrew said...

The 59 sound leaked??!!!