May 1, 2013
What is done is done
And what is now
Is always just begun.
NOW, we’ve sat around this table for a lot of years. A 1970’s, round kitchen table we acquired through one of our close friends. She delivered it to our Coeur d’Alene recording studio (at that time called: The Room—clever) along with five matching chairs upholstered in light tan leather.
NOW the four of us– well, we sit around it often. Our love of music and camaraderie leads us here to talk things over. Coffee, strong drinks, sketches and plans, cash, noodles, tea, spills, tools, saw dust, blood and a whole lot of talking has been supported by this table, so it’s no surprise that we are sitting here right now.
KITE live, 2008
NOW, it’s November, 2008. Monte lounges across from Scott, and Mark is facing me. I am uncomfortable and nervous because momentarily KITE will be beginning a major transition, and my mind is flitting through the last couple of years, if not the last fifteen. Scott’s voice breaks the weird silence and he casually asks me about the two newest shows that have been added to the calendar, and I blithely tell him that they are “inked” or confirmed— and then I mumble something about one of the venues being a beautiful theater that will be perfect for our rear screen projection work. But our exchange is strained, for we both are aware of the real discussion ahead—and the specific reason we’ve gathered together today. I shift in my seat and glance across the room at our instruments, poised and ready to be played. The green drum kit crouching within a jungle of cables and microphones (newly refinished in a green natural wood stain by Monte and myself over a couple of beautiful fall days). Like a curved stone castle wall behind the kit are the sable blocks of bass and guitar amps. The guitars are perched on their bent and one too many times crushed in the trailer guitar stands. The floor is strewn with more vine-like cables zigzagging to effect pedal boards and more microphones, and finally connecting to the snake (a snake in this case is a hub that joins many cables into a single, manageable cable. Juss’ so ya know).
NOW, as the fellows make small talk I think back to a time not too long ago when our rehearsal room was an outdoor shed with a dirt floor, gaps in the walls and a string of winter rehearsals on the schedule. A chill runs up my spine. These instruments and devices of ours have lead us to a lot of different places– and their arrangement across our stage has been set up exactly the same for nearly 15 years. From left to right, Scott’s pedals and station inhabit the far left with Monte’s amp behind him, then Monte’s spot with Scott’s amp just to his right and behind (a curious crisscross of amps due to Scott’s unwillingness to be too loud, which he never is, but he seems to play with less inhibition if his amp is further away from him—so we can turn him up when we want to), then mission control with the drums and cymbals, and then on to the far right looms Mark’s rig like a bookend monolith. Since our earliest shows we’ve not deviated from this formation. I’m stung suddenly by how the formation may look very different depending upon the outcome of the impending discussion. My focus is brought back our meeting and I wonder how our gatherings around the table are going to look after today.
NOW, since the release of Sleeping In Thunder (2006) we have been meandering between a number of challenging projects. The seemingly impossible to finish Lost All Age has found some new life with Mark’s entry into the group. We began the tedious task of retracking the entire record, infusing the work with fresh arrangements and focused performances. Concurrently, Monte and I have been able to compose a set of new songs that are getting arrangement and studio time as well. Songs like: The Proposal (a kiss blown to the marriage of Scott and Dani), A Ghosting Heart (a love letter I had penned for Monte and his new girl friend from Ireland), Tissue Like Winter (a cocktail napkin scribbled lyric) and Leaves On Stones (another of those “undiscovered country—what dreams may come” pieces that I’m wont to vainly pursue), among others. A string of future performance dates are booked out on our calendar into 2009, and the show itself has not only been accommodating our love of making music but it has also inspired us to make our own films to be screened behind the band during performances. In many ways, creating and performing with our own original film projects is a dream come true—something that we have talked of achieving since our very infancy around the Hope Tree. So we are making progress with both the old and the new; a sort of swerving line between now and a future release, but progress nonetheless. The new songs are settling themselves into a theme that we’ve titled, for the time being: Now, which like our previous albums, each song is a part of a larger idea—and this time it is about living in the present and celebrating the Now.
KITE live, 2008
NOW, of course at this very moment here at the table, I feel like the big three (past, present and future) are racing away in different directions, and being present at the table is, I’m afraid, beyond my ability. For now anyway.
NOW, I suppose some of the irony of this tentative title, Now, resides in the amount of time it is taking us to compose and record— which is seemingly a lot. But we’ve always operated under the dictum: we can do it all, meaning that we are capable of creating and living complete and full lives. In the two years since the release of our last record, our writing and studio schedules, and performances ran alongside Scott’s back injury and then getting married, me becoming a new father, Mark becoming a father to his second child, and Monte nurturing a new relationship— all of that combined with an occasional date night with our wives, the weight of our “other” jobs, the daily get stuff done at home, very little sleep, pay the bills, and so on, has certainly brought us to question our idealistic we can do it all modis operandi (all worthy of a run-on sentence). But when I consider the amount of life that’s been lived these past two years, I am astonished at the good amount of work KITE has accomplished. And what’s more, delighted that our experiences will be captured in our work, as they always have been. Under the circumstances, our concentrated force has prevailed—and as the Buddist quote goes: “Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.” Though, suddenly the word concentrate seems to stick out. If there’s one thing that’s certain right now, sitting here at the table, I sure ain’t concentrating— I know this because I can feel my mind drifting from heady dictums to weighing our current state to wondering just where this table was made. Wisconsin? Seems right to think Wisconsin.
first KITE promotional pic with Doug Smith (Bass)
NOW, I can tell that we’re about to begin, and as I’ve said, today is a day of change. A moment of change, one single moment— and very soon, everything will be different. Before anyone speaks I think back to the completed projects that we’ve worked so hard on. Our debut album Gravity in 1997 with its ambitious theme and
packaging. A record we made, I recall, for ourselves. We had no plans of playing live—we were going to be a studio band—studio cats, that sort of thing. The theme for the project was centered around those weighty subjects of the human condition: love, death, freedom, coming of age, hope, war and so on. Far reaching for me as a lyricist, to be sure (ya think?). Looking back on it right now, it feels like we just released the weighty thing. That record is, in many ways, the overture to our work that followed. Our bass player at the time, Doug Smith, became a first time father just after Gravity’s release, and with that life changing addition, he felt that we should look for another member– someone who would have the time to be present. Very soon thereafter, the three of us decided to change our route and we found ourselves being lead to the stage, and on to touring, so we switched our lives around to do just that. Bassist Darren Eldridge (D Rock)
entered the group and on Valentines Day 2002 KITE, played its first show. A string of performances later we arrived at our second release: a live EP called In Memory of the Sketch
which contained live versions of some of the songs to be included on our next studio effort, Lost All Age. Yet again, KITE practiced its o’er reaching talents with the fourteen track, sonnets for lyrics, slightly overcooked epic on the end of innocence: Lost All Age. A couple of years, a couple of tours and a couple of
nearly complete studio versions later we eventually shelved the album, unsatisfied with our ability to render the thing.
NOW, because of our unceasing tenacity, and the addition of a fearless manager, Craig Shoquist (Shokie), we were able to land a few high profile gigs warming for national acts. One particularly memorable one was a New Year’s eve show warming for the pop group Smashmouth at the Fiesta Bowl in Arizona. Moments before we took to the stage, Monte and I nervously chatted about anything that might take our mind off of the fact that we were about to play one of our ten minute, odd time signature and thick worded works before a gathering that came to hear, “Hey now, you’re a rock star, get your game on , get paid.” Part of me reveled in the overblown, self-important, integrity of it all. Another part of me took note of the location and distance to each and every exit (escape route). But luckily, as with most audiences that we’d the pleasure of playing for, they appreciated our work, and even made the effort to meet us afterward. Better still, the sound and video company hired to capture the headliner’s set presented a nearly full length VHS tape of our performance. The director told us smiling, “After your first song I asked the camera men to take their places and shoot. If you don’t mind, I’m keeping a copy for myself.” That was nice. We drove north through the desert late that night with a little bit of money and some free promotional material. I smiled thinking that two out of three wasn’t bad: at least we got our game on and got paid. Not too sure about the rockstar thing.
KITE (Darren, me, Mont, Shokie, Scott), 2005
NOW we’d had our run ins with record companies, executives and potential big-time folks, and as most stories of that kind go, each time we got close to some substantial break through, things just didn’t work out for one reason or another. Whether it was our stubborn nature to make our music our way, or our resolve that we wanted to live lives filled with family, friends, children, travel and everything else we wanted to experience individually, and not just the dangerously obsessive path of music and music business (we can do it all), somehow we steered clear of any sort of traditional music business success. Now, aren’t we clever. Maybe that lack of success is due to what another friend of mine was fond of saying about KITE: “You guys suck.” Maybe.
NOW what ever the reason(s), we’ve let our love of what we do lead us to years of writing, recording and playing to full concert houses to playing to three stoned guys at an empty sports bar, as well as filling our lives with all the stuff that makes the work worth it in the end. To us, something wonderful was going to happen, and sometime soon our music would connect with people, our financial futures would be affected by our hard work (because that’s what happens when you work hard, right?), and we would be able to spend focused time on future projects, and tour Europe and Asia, and from all of that more heady thoughts and experiences would inspire more and more interesting works, and so on. Our love leading the way.
NOW, ultimately our financial futures were affected, and not in a good way. As I’ve said, we reach pretty far, even so far as to occasionally roar out a manifesto: “We will rule the world” (quite a different tune from Gravity’s, “We want to be a studio band”). Not that we really thought that ruling the world was our destiny, but when you’re headed down the road to accomplish any kind of success in the music industry, any less potent of a battle cry is futile. You don’t want to meet a record executive and say: “We really just want to just garner an audience that allows us to tour for a couple of months in the states and maybe a six week tour in Europe, and then come home and have enough money to survive while we record the next album. Oh, ahem, and roar.” But the truth is just that: we wanted to write and perform and still make rent, and maybe take our families along with us sometimes, and write music and words that would help to connect people. And though humble but rewarding tours and two to three months to write and record was realistic to us, reality had another view point. The balance between a harmonious family life and the pure and simple lack of money began to cause some difficulty. A common story. Through that time Darren and Shokie departed, and we found ourselves again wondering where our love would lead us. But just like with every other obstacle that KITE has experienced, our stubbornness would push us along and we would make compromises in order to keep the journey alive. It might take longer, but so what. We want it all, right? And “all” meant a full life. Not saying no. Opening every door.
KITE Sleeping In Thunder, 2006
NOW the release of Sleeping In Thunder brought a new energy. With bassist and vocalist Mark Rakes
filling out the group we felt that we could carry on chasing that elusive present moment. And it is the love of that very feeling of what’s next that enabled us to create elements to our live show that we didn’t think possible with just the four of us. Lights and originally filmed, edited and projected video became yet another aspect of our creative work, and its introduction injected our performances with a visual impact that would leave audiences wanting more (well, that’s what they said). While creating the show we had to come to terms that outside assistance, or rather, roadies were for the time, out of our budget. We have some dear friends that come in from time to time to aid us in times of need (Stroman, Chris, Cris, Cary, Jeff, Justin, Joe), but when it comes to the actual performance, we would have to do it all. Mission control, as Mark likes to call it, is behind the drum kit (as it should be!). From there I
control all of the video segue ways and projection. I also control a selection of lights and sequenced sounds by electronic drum pads dispersed around the kit and around my feet. As if the playing the drums wasn’t enough—sheesh. Mark
is also controlling a selection of light and sound with his feet, and between the two of us we round out the background vocals and the rhythms. Monte’s voice,
feet and hands are busy with the complex dance of guitar pedal work and intense vocal performance, and so too are Scott’s feet
and hands with the guitar textures changing several times over in a single song. All together we’ve choreographed a powerful exhibition of content, sound, picture and light. Each show on the calendar seemed to be pulling more and more people in to see KITE—the show that was being called, “the big spectacle in a little room” (well, that’s what they said). Yet again, our love was leading us right where we wanted to go. And our belief “that we could do it all,” was proving to be a reality. And we were doing it all.
NOW such a mantra can be a challenge, as you might expect: we can do it all. As I scan the table in front of me I realize how many things are now crowding for space. Time pulls each of us this way and that, and children come, and marriages, and mounting debt, and, well—life happens– we see change coming. Especially for Monte, whose newly found love lives in Ireland. For three of us, Scott, Mark and myself, life has become extremely complex, and we can sense Monte’s eyes are often gazing out across the sea. Several times over the last three of years we’ve communicated about our sense of him distancing himself from us, and after these meetings, things would seem better. But only for a short time. Though KITE was about to embark on another mini tour and the follow-up record to Sleeping In Thunder was progressing nicely, Monte’s focus was too often drifting in and out of the here and the now.
NOW my thoughts are interrupted. Mark begins the meeting. He tells Monte that we’d noticed his restlessness and tells him that we believe he should pursue his heart, go to Ireland and his new relationship. The elephant is on the table. He agrees. And with that, the now changes into something entirely different. The three of us wish him love and luck. He reciprocates. We talk for a while longer about how to divide nearly two decades of a partnership. We come to terms with ease. And with in a single moment, the stars shake loose, and that carefully plotted chart is obscured by clouds. A new now.
NOW, as Monte shuts the door behind him and the three of us eye the empty chair, we don’t speak. We listen to his descending foot steps fade away. In spite of all of we’ve done and planned, I am glad we’ve finally opened Monte’s path to leave. Wounded, but glad. We have made it easy for him. And hopefully, he’ll find what he’s after. That is the larger part of wanting it all. Yet, there is that undeniable emptiness now. Even though we’ve done the right thing, I feel lost.
So what NOW?
NOW I stand and cross the room to see if there’s a drop of scotch left. The confusing patterns of letting go and mourning begin. And though I can guess at how both Mark and Scott are handling this, I suddenly find it impossible to guess my own feelings. I know that this break is necessary, but I wonder just how long it is going to take for me to recover– to truly feel confident about the work to come– to feel good about the last fifteen years, and that the struggle was worth it. No scotch. I turn and look back at Mark and Scott. They are both sitting at the table. Silent.
BUT I DIGRESS.
BACK THEN, during the winter months of 2008- 2009, through to the spring and summer, were strange, to be sure. Instead of throwing ourselves into writing we began a grieving process of sorts, as well as a retrospective, taking long and hard looks at our catalogue and the half finished album that was now without a vocalist (all that we’ve seen, all that we’ve done. . .). Baby steps. There were plenty of those. Often you’d hear us saying things like: one step at a time, we need to take it slow, cross that bridge when we get there. The table remained but the room about it was remodeled. Too many ghosts, Scott would say. Both Mark and I agreed. And the songs too, were full of ghosts. But those ghosts were what saved us in the end. Good ghosts always do. The songs would now reflect that time, our history, our want of connection– New nows.
BACK in 2010 we became a power trio and wrote our first song together (we love the sound of “power trio,” and we say it as often as we can). The track was a 7 or so minute piece entitled, We Are Now (Ways To See). And as fate would have it, I’m the f–cking vocalist– and playing some rather complex patterns on the kit (one step at time, indeed).We labored through the search for a fourth, but each time we brought someone in to audition we felt unsettled– as if we already knew that we were going to carry on as a three piece. After all, there was no replacing Monte– there was only that want for creation and connection.
NOW time at home with kids dominated. Studio time dwindled– but never to a halt. Our tenacity again served us and we kept on working. Whether it was two hours a week, two nights a week or the occasional Sunday afternoon, we showed up and worked. In 2011 we released a new version of The Proposal and an accompanying video. Then in 2012 we started our most ambitious work to date: a 25 minute piece (an album side) called The Reflector Suite. We’ll be releasing it sometime during the summer of 2013. And perhaps the most exciting news for now: we plan to support the release with some live shows. Hard to believe, but we’re going to play again.
COMING SOON are some wonderful things: new songs, new show, new challenges and hopefully, new listeners. We will likely do most of the planning where we usually do: sitting at that round table in the studio. It is still there. And so are the ghosts, the songs and artifacts of a twenty year history. But most of all, a desire to create together and share with those willing to listen– to make something that inspires someone–the very thing that keeps pulling us back to the table, back together, and back into the now.
MBK, May 2013