I wish I could remember the first time I heard music.
Presumably, the first beat I encountered was metered by my mother’s heart,
which came at me through a nest of prenatal fluids at, say, 85 beats per
minute. My own blood bag was probably thumping at about 130, which must’ve made
for some jazzy internal mash-ups.
Unfortunately, this is only speculation. My mom doesn’t know
the real facts, probably because she was too into her Abba records to measure
life’s more important tempos. Sniff, sniffle, but it’s okay. I love her in
spite of her piercing selfishness.
The first time I remember really enjoying music was when I was
about 10 years old. I lived in France and was into some children’s garbage
called Dorothé. She was this blonde woman who sang about putting her skirts in
a suitcase and tying up her shoes. Conceptually challenging though it was, I
became a big fan.
When I got back to Canada, something came over me. I think it
was puberty. First, I started listening to rap music, stuff like Run DMC and MC
That sucked, so I got into the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I was all
Blood Sugar Sex Magik
. My sister might’ve had something to do with this,
not because she cracked my head open when I was three (beware the perils of the
Pushing Game), but because she had
in her collection, right next to Debbie Gibson and
I used to do this thing when I listened to music. I used to lie
in my bed, curl up in a ball, and rock back and forth like a seizing retard. My
mom and dad called this “rocking,” as in “What’s that horrible sound?” “Oh,
it’s just Paulie. He’s rocking in his bed.”
After a while, the Peppers couldn’t fuel my rocking needs. I
was just too fast for them. Enter heavy metal in the form of Metallica,
Megadeth, Tool, Faith No More, Nine Inch Nails, Anthrax, and an endless argument
with my father about growing my hair long (which I won, but only in Grade 9,
when the hairmill thing was on its way out).
In Grade 10, I started playing guitar in a band called The
Gravy. Basically, we were a Sonic Youth rip-off. That got me hanging out with a
bunch of shoegazing wimps who played in local bands and liked Cracker, the
Watchmen and other sniveling entries in the indie department. These friendships
almost ruined me. I took my metal cassettes, cracked them open as my sister did
my skull (on purpose), and tied the loose tape to my bike handlebars. I then
pedaled around the bush with Anthrax’s Belly of The Beast streaming behind me,
all that wonderful thrash getting caught on branches and in my spokes.