I must acknowledge and offer a huge debt of gratitude to my dear friend Marina Kelly who helped and guided me through this story, and of course supplied the wonderful editing.
Life goes on and the road isn't always smooth.
Back in LA following moms wedding, I got a couple of lucky breaks. The first was meeting Adam. He was the sound engineer at one of the gigs I played. As well as being a great sound tech he was a really nice guy even if he did hit on me. When I explained I was a lesbian he didn't freak out or take offense like some dudes did, he understood and said something like he should have known after listening to my songs.
Adam wasn't just a sound engineer he also owned his own recording studio. He had only just brought it and was still trying to kit it out and get it re-established, when he brought it he discovered there were a whole lot more issues than he first thought and it had taken him a while to get it to where it was.
To fund the ongoing work on the studio, he worked as a sound engineer for a major recording studio KGM, probably the biggest in LA. The good news was they were always looking for help and he got me some work as a part time tech.
He as an aside moonlighted at other studios and sound hire companies from all around the City. He managed to get me work with him and let me sit in on desk so I could watch and learn which is where I really leaned to respect his abilities, he was damn good. Over many sessions he began to understand that I wasn't a complete novice and let me take the helm. The plus to all that was not just the money, I also got to meet and talk to a lot of artists. During a recording session at one of the major studios, I talked to Steven a singer songwriter of some repute and as we talked he nodded away, he had heard of the Lips so he knew a little about me, after that conversation the next time he came in to do some recording he invited me to sit in with him. He loved what I played so much he offered me a job playing guitar on three of his tracks and sang backup vocals on a couple of others.
That session led to a couple of others and that led to playing with a couple of bands for actual gigs.
The whole thing snowballed and I was making enough money to afford my own apartment. When I mentioned it to Adam, he showed me an old room above his studio; it used to be an apartment but hadn't been used for anything other than storing shit for years. It was pretty rough and full of crap stacked from floor to ceiling but he offered to help me clean it up and it was cheap with the added bonus of use of the studio whenever I wanted.
Life was good. Now that I had established myself the gigs, I got were getting better and of course paid more. I worked as a sound tech at concerts helping Adam and I got work as a session muso. It meant my life was full and busy. Kim and I still saw each other occasionally so my sexual needs were being met, at least partially.
During my session work when Adam found out I could play cello he got me to sit in with a band who he heard were looking for something different, the moment they heard me play cello I was booked to play on their album. That led to my biggest break. Adam played a couple of tracks to a friend of his who was making a movie and he needed a sound track. When he heard the cello, he contacted me about writing a score for the movie.
He sent me the script and when I read it, I started to get my head around how to write a score. Not something I had ever done before but it intrigued me, the process, how to depict emotion with music. The movie was a drama about a young guy who discovered he was homosexual and it was his journey in coming out. Paul the producer wanted a deep haunting sorrowful feel through the early stages as the boy battled with his sexuality although once he comes out; he wanted the music to lift with the story and build to a bright emotional ending and if that wasn't enough, to make it more difficult he wanted lyrics.
Having never attempted anything like this before the first thing was to get my head around the story. I read it five times trying to understand the flow and nuance of the story. I guess I was lucky because most of the emotions I related to my own life, battling my identity. The good news was I had tried many times to write about that journey and had a huge pool of partially written songs that I could delve into.
Once I understood and had a feel for the flow, I spent hours in Adams studio writing and recording. It took a month but I finally came up with something I thought he might like. I sent it off with my fingers crossed. Long story short he loved it. It was an independent movie so it wasn't going to be a blockbuster or anything but it was another avenue for getting recognition as well as earning extra income.
Things were somehow falling into place and one job led to another, then another. When the movie aired it not only gave me a huge thrill but I was invited to play cello with one of the biggest bands in the country. They were doing a short west coast tour and wanted to include a cellist. These guys were rockers, alternate yes but still mainstream and one of the biggest names on the planet. To be playing on stage with them was huge.
To make it even more appealing they asked me to open for them.
It was the most amazing experience, to stand on stage in an arena filled with thirty thousand people is a whole lot different to playing an indoor venue. It was huge and the sound...oh my god the sound...it was incredible.
The first night nobody knew me from a bar of soap. It was with real trepidation that I walked out all alone onto that stage. It took me back to the Lips first gig I was that nervous I could feel my hands shaking. There was this air of expectancy, of course all the crowd wanted to see was the main act, they didn't even know who I was. It was obvious they weren't interested in me they were talking and chattering, laughing and jeering. They just wanted me to hurry up and finish. The moment I strapped on my guitar and played a few notes to stop the shaking and warm up my fingers everything changed, the talking and chatter stopped, their eyes all focused on me as I stood alone at the front of this huge empty stage. The moment I burst into my first song I could see they were getting into it, they liked me...oh my god they liked me that thought alone lifted me and I started to appreciate it, my feet started moving and I played up to them and gradually over the period of a couple of songs they started to get into it as well and bit by bit their enjoyment flowed into me, by half way through my set they were all on their feet and swelled forward, there was dancing and clapping. At the end I got a huge round of applause.
I was pretty happy with the applause but that paled into insignificance when the main act Hallucigenic walked out on stage and the place erupted as one. Thirty thousand screaming fans shrieking their fool heads off. I sat in the wings listening and watching. Holy shit what a noise, it was ear splitting in intensity. A jumbo jet could land next door and it would go unheard above the cacophony. They started with their popular stuff before I was signaled out on stage to play with them. It was mammoth for me, just experiencing that level of intensity, God damn it was deafening.
As I said it was the biggest musical experience of my life to date. The battle of the bands final was incredible and amazing but this, holy shit this was off the planet a whole different level. It also reminded me how much I missed the lips and big gigs.
After that it was hard to going back to playing the beer garden and Sunday sessions but hey you do what you have to.
Adam managed to make my life difficult, he didn't intend it to be so, he didn't do it maliciously he thought he was doing me a favor. We were working in his studio one day when he passed me a CD, "Listen to this, you might find it interesting."
When I slipped the disc into the player and cranked the volume I was blown away! It was the lips new CD. "Where the hell did you get this?" I asked.
He laughed, "I'm working as a tech during their recording sessions at KGM. I know you used to play with these chicks and I thought you might be interested in having a listen."
After he left, I listened intently playing the album over and over. The old feel of the lips was there underneath this wall of noise. What spoiled it was Wayne's over the top guitar. The metal approach was out of sorts for the overall feel, it was just wrong, what amazed me for such an experienced musician he had no feel for the music.
The next day Adam caught me in the studio recording a new song and he asked, "So what did you think?"
I tried to not sound bitchy but failed miserably, "Well to be honest I didn't like it." I couldn't hide the bitterness.
He chuckled, "Didn't think you would, FYI, I don't like it either."
I nodded and then asked cheekily, "Could you get me a copy of the pre mastered tapes."
He gave me an inquisitive grimace, "Jeez girl you don't want much do you? What do you want them for?"
I shrugged, "I don't know really, look it's no big deal dude, I don't want you to get in trouble."
Later that day I was in his studio recording a young guy who was putting together a demo. When Adam walked in, he passed me the tape, "Alright girl, but no one must find out how you got these OK?"
I chuckled, "All good dude. This is just for my benefit. Nobody will ever know."
That night after he was gone, I listened to the tracks. I cut out Wayne's vocal and guitar, fuck I couldn't believe how many overdubbed guitar tracks there were and none of them were Mel. I cut them all and replaced it with my own. Nothing extreme just nice simple riffs. When I went to do the vocals, I decided to change some of the lyrics.
That proved a little more difficult. It meant cutting Mel's vocals and inserting my own over the top. It was hard matching my vocal to hers and it was only with the aid of auto tune that I got a decent recording. Once I added the harmony vocal it was not so obvious and sounded pretty good. Over the next couple of days, I kept at it until I had a finished product that I was happy with.
I gave Adam back the originals so he could return them. As I handed them over he laughed, "So am I going to get a listen?"
Embarrassed I mumbled, "Yeah if you're interested."
He nodded, "Oh I'm interested all right....come on girl don't be a bitch I want to hear what you did."
I pulled out my laptop and hooked it up to the monitors and played it. He turned to give me an appraising look as he listened, his discerning ears tuned in and he leaned back in the chair, his head nodding. After the fourth song he shut it down, "Damn girl you nailed that shit, Christ I don't know why you left that band but damn that's good."
I agreed listening to it was awesome, it was the way the Lips should sound and as I listened it also evoked memories of playing with them, being part of the band, the laughter, the banter and yeah even the fighting. They were great memories. At least now I had a recorded reference and in many ways, it meant I got to play with the lips one last time, even although they would never know. I had hoped it would give me closure on that part of my life but if anything it made me miss it more.
Sunday found me back at the beer garden playing to what was a boisterous Sunday afternoon crowd. There were a half a dozen people up dancing swaying to the music. The chatter was loud as it always was on Sundays. I was immersed in playing a new song and the guitar part was intricate so I was head down concentrating, when I looked up I got the shock of my life. There was one girl dancing by herself amongst the others, a very pretty girl who moved with the sensuous grace of somebody lost in the moment, her body swayed moving with every booming thump of my stomp box, when she looked up and our eyes locked my heart skipped a beat. It was Molly, when she realized I saw her she gave me a sexy seductive smile and a little finger wave.
At my first break she sauntered over hesitantly and sat with me. We shared a hug and kiss as a greeting, "What are you doing here?" I asked.
"We just finished recording the lips latest album at KGM, the girls have been out here for a couple of weeks. I just arrived the other day, Gloria wanted me to hear the recording and she wanted me to meet a couple of artists I am going to manage."
Nodding I muttered, "How long are you out here for?"
"Oh I don't know just yet, it will depend on how the recording goes. There have been a few issues and Gloria isn't happy with the results so far."
I wasn't surprised but I couldn't say anything.
She smiled thinly, "You've been busy, I saw some footage of you playing with Halucinagenic at the Hollywood bowl. You were incredible by the way. I never realized how good you were on the cello." Her grin widened, "Jas was envious, she said you were great and to give you a kiss."
I laughed, "Tell her thanks but I'm sure she would have done a better job."
She continued mumbling, "I saw a movie released last month and when I saw you listed as the composer of the music Mel and I went to the theatre to watch it. You know I actually cried, you fucking nailed that score." Her eyes glistened as she whispered, "Mi it was beautiful you really did a great job I loved it and so did Mel."
I grinned, "Thanks for the compliment. Yeah that was a cool experience, never saw myself as a score writer."
She leaned in close asking, "Where are you staying? I would love to catch up properly if you're interested?"
I wrote out my address for her just as the bar manager waved at me it was time to get back on stage.
Molly stayed and danced for a while. Her sexy swaying body certainly got plenty of others up and the dancefloor was packed. Not what usually happens on a Sunday, the crowd is usually quite chilled, more a social gathering than dancing.
Later that night back at the apartment I got a buzzing announcement from the intercom outside, it was Molly. She greeted me with a kiss and passed me a bottle of wine as she walked in.
"So, how's the girl's going?" I asked.
"To be honest not so good. The new guy just doesn't fit and that has caused some issues." I saw through her attempts to play it down, I knew Mel well enough to know she wouldn't be happy with the results of that recording.
"Well why not get rid of him? Hell, I could introduce you to a hundred guys who would be better suited."
She gave me a funny pained expression, "Yeah I think we all know it was a mistake, but we have already recorded the album, and we don't want to have to do it all over again. Gloria's already upset about the time and cost."
"But if it's not working, surely you should cut your losses now?"
"It's not that simple, there's lots of stuff I can't talk about, plus he is actually a nice guy and we all thought after a while he would settle in and change but he just doesn't seem to be able to. I would love to replace him."
I opened her bottle of wine and poured us a couple of glasses. "What else have you been up to?" I asked.
She shrugged non-committedly, "Just the usual stuff, not like you, sheesh I can't believe what you have achieved. You mustn't have any spare time."
I laughed, "Yeah things have been pretty hectic."
She walked around my one room apartment, "What's it like living up here? It must be pretty noisy?"
"I work for Adam the owner as a sound tech so if there's noise I'm usually involved."
"Life seems to have been kind for you, are you seeing anyone?"
"No, you're right, life's hectic and I'm too busy for girls."
"What...none at all?"
Grinning I muttered, "Well I do have one friend and we get together occasionally but it's just casual."
She snorted mockingly disbelievingly, "You...casual...I don't believe it."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah OK smart ass, I know it sounds a little hypocritical but Kim is a bit of a free spirit."
"Hey I'm not judging, just doesn't sound like you."
Trying to change the subject I asked, "So what happens after the recording? Is the tour still on and are you going with them?"
She gulped down her wine, "I don't know...yes we planned on a tour but now it's all up in the air. Gloria is losing faith in the band, she's really stressed and is sitting on the album, she doesn't want to release it."
"Are you still seeing her?" I asked hesitantly not really wanting to hear what I thought the answer was going to be.
She frowned and answered slowly, reluctantly with a hint of guilt, "No, I mean yes we have slept together a couple of times but, it's not even casual, it's just...oh I can't explain it Mi, we have slept together maybe four times max. It's nothing serious."
"Well, are you seeing anybody else?"
She laughed, "No like you I'm too busy, that's why it is nice to get together with Gloria, I'm always frigging horny."
Her admission made me laugh, "Yeah I understand that."
We had another glass of wine and sat on the cushions spread on the floor. She asked, "So have you done any more recording? That stuff you played at mom's at her wedding that was amazing."
I nodded, "Yeah I've done a few, I'm sort of working on another album." She smiled coyly and asked, "Well can I hear them?" I dug out my laptop and scrolled through files until I found the latest ones. I connected up the Bluetooth speakers and hit play. I had to get another bottle of wine as the first one was now empty. We listened to the new tracks and she nodded, "Wow you have improved, hard to imagine but your songwriting has got better."
"Thanks, I appreciate the sentiment."
We sipped our wine and we were now less sitting and more snuggling on the cushions, and she asked, "Mi don't you miss the band, surely you must?"
"Of course, I do, I loved being in the band, the girls, and you I miss it all, it was an amazing experience and maybe the happiest I've ever been, jeez Molly I loved everything about it."
Playing with her glass she spluttered quietly, "Why don't you come back, the girls miss you as much as me, especially Jas."
I laughed, "Yeah we always got on well but Mel made it abundantly clear she wanted me to leave. After the things I said they must all hate me."
With a frustrated grimace she snorted, "Babe nobody hates you...Mel was angry, we all were and things were said, but none of them were meant. Believe it or not Mel has said many times over the last few weeks she would love you back."
"Yeah right....and what happens to the new guy? I bet Gloria would hate it as well."
She smiled, "Yeah convincing Gloria would be hard, but I reckon I could twist her arm."
"How? By sleeping with her....no thanks Molly, the one thing that I said and meant was I wouldn't work with her."
"Babe you have her all wrong, she's nice, that first night it got all twisted but she is not the hard ass you think. That night when we flirted, her first question was what about you, would you be upset. She didn't want to do anything that would affect our relationship."
Sitting up and leaning away I grumbled, "Sorry but I don't buy it, her hands were all over you, way past flirting."
Guiltily she sighed, "No you're right, we went too far but it was my fault, she asked about our relationship and I said it was cool, we had an open relationship, I was hoping that I would get a chance to talk to you...but then you caught us."
"Damned lucky that I did, it certainly opened my eyes."
"Mi it was wrong I know, but you have never even considered my perspective, never been open minded enough to think we could try. You are condemning something you've never tried. That's why I was so shocked when you mentioned your new girlfriend."
"Yeah, well she's not my girlfriend, she is just a friend, I don't love her. I like her and that's the difference."