Thursday, December 30, 2010

I Want to Be Earl Root

I've mentioned a time or twelve that I used to (and will again... someday!) do a heavy metal zine. It was, especially in the early days, rather rough-edged and immature (really!). I blew my 20s doing that, funneling literally tens of thousands of dollars into something that had no chance of paying off. It was a period of unbelievable writing productivity to the point where I wonder if I've suffered brain damage along the way since today I can't manage a quarter of the writing output I managed 1998 - 2003 or so while still working a full-time job.

Still the most-viewed post on this blog is I Hate Fun. This was not originally about RPGs, but was to be the introduction to the never-finished Winter 2007-8 issue of the LotFP music mag. That never got done because the many hundreds of euros needed to print the project were used for other things as I was getting divorced and now on my own in this weird country I'd decided to live in. Scary times. Of course the particulars of the second half of the piece was changed before being posted on this blog months later, as it originally complained about how people approached listening to music. That sort of sky-cursing is something I never do seem to grow tired of.

I've fallen out of contact with the vast majority of people that I knew from back in the zine days. Not all, though. Some of my key collaborators these days were gained back from my zine days (the Noble Knight connection, Luna started reading me when she was still a teenager and she's still hip-deep in the metal madness a decade on, Matt Johnsen helps out tremendously, etc), and without that zine I don't meet my ex and come to Finland.

Anyway, when I'd first composed I Hate Fun in its original (and untitled) form, I'd sent it to a few people to check it for obvious stupidity. One of the people that responded was Earl Root. I hadn't even sent it to him, but someone that I had sent it to decided he might want to read it. Root was one of these rabid metal supporters up his way in Minnesota. He had a radio show, a record store, a record label, played in bands, the whole thing, into his 40s. We'd never had direct contact or a conversation that I recall before I received his email concerning the proto-I Hate Fun.

This is the email I received back from Earl Root on Tuesday, October 2, 2007 (paragraph breaks added by me):

John [Prassas] forwarded me your intro. I have been a huge fan of your mag and banter for years. I agree with you many times on your ideas and also how you conduct biz and such...I have great respect for you also...for you have done what many cannot and that is do what you do out of passion. I have lived my whole life this way and did what I wanted to do and hoped for enough monetary gain to just pay the bills and allow me more time to play my instruments and write and do those things I actually enjoy.

Don't get me wrong...I do like the work I do but is still work. All can grind on you from time to time but the enjoyment I get when I hook someone up with their long lost fave record or help turn a deserving kid onto a new band or help a band get a gig or all comes around....and goes and goes.

As I get older, I realize I am still as angry as I was in my youth but my approach to its resolution or how I process and resolve it within myself has changed. Again...I agree with you that change is inevitable but not always good. I still say to this day that two of the biggest downfalls in the music of today are the pod guitar processor and pro-tools. Back in the day real men were engineers and had to work and get very creative to get the sounds they heard in their head and were looking to reproduce. A musician had to have his shit together and ready for the task in one or two takes or the hallway was full of the 'next' guy to do this session. Cut and paste and tone control and pitch mods can make even the most mediocre player sound like a guitar hero and the availability of cheap gear that actually sounds 'good enough' is everywhere.

I grew up without the internet, without Guitar Center, without video games, without cell phones and I am a better person for it. I worked my ass off for my first real guitar (a 1970 Les Paul Deluxe) took me 10 months to pay it off and I still have that guitar today. I loved it and cherished it and played it all the time. Nowadays...a kid can afford a knock off and a sound alike amp and it is more a toy that will go out of vogue with them sooner than later.

Look...I could rant all day about this....but I will try and get to my point. After careful reading of your intro....I believe you have hit the nail on its head squarely. Many of the topics and ideas you have stated here in have been topics of discussion in the van or on my radio show or even after band practice. Many of them are problems that we as a band have talked about and worked at to resolve on our own and together. Many are problems we have to address as to what is going to be our next move and what are the pros and cons of such action or lack there of...etc...etc. (IE: OK...the kids are out their and they might like to hear our do we get at them if they don't communicate or go to a show or even have one friend who confides in them).

I had a friend of mine tell me just last week that he is gonna retire at 40 and has a home in blah blah nowhere and all that. I am happy for him but he seemed unhappy for me....for he said I 'could' have had the same thing a hundred fold and that I was smarter than him and other such nonsense. I told him if those things were important to me than pursuing them would have been a priority but the words 'would' 'could' and 'should' need not be in the language because they really mean nothing. We talked to great length about this and went our ways but I believe he walked away with the idea that he achieved success in his right and I have also achieved mine in my right...and I am still achieving it. Yes...I am going on tour in my 40s with a heavy metal band....just like I did for almost a decade when I was in my 20s. Not because I think I am gonna be a rock star.....(well...I guess I sorta am again)...and not because I want to relive something I did in my youth and have a mid-life crisis...nothing like that. I am doing it because I want to and I can. I love the band I am in...I love the music....I love performing it and people are entertained watching us o it. I see nothing wrong with any of that and I am looking forward to doing it as often as I can. Period. for your intro.....I can nit pick it and have scrutinized it but I can't find anything wrong with it....right on brother....when you finish it...please send it to me so I can forward it to some people I know who need to read it....I promise I will forward their replies to you if you so desire...and keep up the outstanding work.

On May 23, 2008 Earl Root died at age 46 due to complications from Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma that he'd been fighting for ten years. He continued to play guitar with the band Aesma Daeva throughout his chemotherapy, radiation and stem cell treatments. In 2007 with bladder cancer and a kidney stent Earl completed a three week U.S. and Canadian tour with Aesma Daeva (supporting Therion).

This email has been sitting in my email in-box ever since. For more than three years, every time I've looked at my email, Root's words have been right there. This morning I've been in an aggressive "clear out that in-box!" mode, and I got stuck trying to figure out what to do with this one. Keeping an email for three years sounds a bit obsessive, but I think I'm going to leave it right where it is.


  1. Doesn't sound obsessive to me, I've got a few old emails lingering from people that have passed on.

  2. Definitely keep that. People used to keep important letters in old shoe boxes, back when the dinosaurs roamed and the USPS wasn't letting Fedex do all their dirty work. Why not keep an email that's important the way this one is?

  3. Thanks for sharing the email. Keep it and print it out for safekeeping.

  4. Print it and frame the damn thing! And read it often. Great stuff!

  5. why leave it in the email box
    print it/ frame it
    and put it on your wall

  6. Powerful story, thanks for sharing. The guy had life figured out, it's a damned shame his was cut short.

    And I agree with the chorus--print out the e-mail and keep it.

  7. ... or even export the file and put it in another folder.

    I've got emails older than three years. Even without sentimental value, you never know when you'll need to look something up.

  8. Wow. Salute to that.

    (Duration in in-box maybe one order of magnitude greater than some of mine, but in the same ballpark; voting "not totally crazy".)

  9. Definitely a keeper; I totally agree with the sentiments expressed in the letter. Especially a lifelong dedication to a favored passion. Poignant stuff. Thanks for posting.