Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath

Running monologues

I’ve been obsessed with reading this journal, about endless cool travels on the road. I wish I knew how this guy pays for all of it, so I could get into a similar situation.

Nothing else is happening. I had incredibly vivid dreams about a woman similar to someone I dated toward the end of 1992. It really freaked me out, the level of authenticity, the emotion involved. It made me wish I knew where the hell she went after school.

Connection’s slowing down, on the way to death. I’ll write more tonight.

06/23/98 21:44

It’s almost July and I’m running the heater. Welcome to Seattle.

I don’t know when I fell asleep, and I didn’t know where I was when I awoke. I was freezing, and I rolled on my other side, thinking “go back to that cool dream I had thismorning.” It didn’t work, although I felt like either sleeping for another day, or injecting a cardiac medication directly into my heart with a vetirenarian needle, I knew I had to get out of bed, get a cold drink of something, and force myself to eat a TV dinner, even though I felt nauseous. Said TV dinner (beef tips, carrots, potatoes, a cherry cobbler) has been reconstituted, I’m on my second glass of Sprite, Type O Negative’s latest is in the album, and I feel ready to describe… what was I going to describe tonight?

I keep a running monologue at almost all times, unless I’m 100% buried in interesting work, which hasn’t happened in a while. I don’t know if I would call it a monologue, or more of a daydream. I find a certain topic, a puzzle, scenario, or fantasy, and use it like a screensaver. When something isn’t burning cycles on my brain, I slip into this interactive daydream. In its simplest invocation, I’m figuring out a problem or maybe doing some shopping in my head. For example, maybe I’ve stumbled across a grand from a tax return, and I want to update my computer. When I’m stuck on I-5, I’ll be thinking about this monitor and that motherboard, and getting x amount of memory and video card y. I’ll hash and rehash the combinations and think about installing it, tearing apart the old PC, buying the pieces, and so forth. It’s a simple game that lets me have some fun, and avoid thinking about the ozone layer or the fact that my insurance company is raping me, or whatever.

That’s the simple case. A more expansive and fictitious case would be a few weeks ago, when I was thinking about buying an old Camaro and restoring it. I don’t think I’ll be doing this now, especially in the wake of my latest car repair disasters, but it’s an interesting way to burn up free cycles. Another similar future-planning-for-something-I-won’t-do game is thinking about graduate school – taking classes to get in, what program I’ll try to finish, etc. A flag is usually thrown by the time I think about how I’ll pay for and find time for grad school, versus my inability to get in a program, versus the lack of practical value of a master’s degree given my current situation. Then the whole thing is blown, and i need to find a new mind game, like planning a trip to Amsterdam.

These are the the simple, practical hallucinations to which I subscribe. Here’s a good one that is embarassing to admit, but has pulled me from the depths of heavy depression; a psychiatrist taught it to me about 6 years ago, although it’s fairly obvious: imagine that through some kind of weird inheritance, someone has dropped an incredible amount of cash in your lap. Then extrapolate what you’d do, and how you’d blow $661 million tax-free dollars. It’s like a vial of the purest heroin for your central nervous system – I can roll in this for days, weeks – I’ve been using it on and off since 1992 to keep me in line. It’s totally self indulgent, it’s childish – sort of like the people that play PowerBall every week, and it might put you further off-course than the original depression. But if you’re pointing a loaded gun to your head every day, it can knock you off track long enough for the biological low to pass and for life you resume course somewhat.

Now I have all-out fantasy programming that I can’t even describe here, weird stuff that’s probably dangerous for me to think about for long periods of time. Joining up with old ex-girlfriends, hanging out with famous people, going on book tours for books I haven’t written yet, that sort of thing. Sometimes I wonder if I’m operating beyond the bounds of sensibility, and if I’m hurting myself more than helping with these mind games. There are days I spend more time shopping for Italian sports cars in my head than I spend thinking about the things in front of me, yet I don’t feel detatched or removed. I’m not driving around my neighborhood in a motorcycle thinking I’m in Vietnam like Stacy Keach in Up in Smoke. Yet I’m not one of those super-applied people with three degrees and a shitload of stock options before their 25th birthday. So I don’t know. You tell me.

Like I said, I am listening to Type O Negative’s October Rust, which I think is a beautiful, powerful, and impressive album. When I go shopping for new speakers (winter? fall? spring?) this is the only test album I’m bringing. Aside from the sound, it’s an incredibly emotional album. I first got it when it came out, in September? of 1996. I’m going to go into a tirade here, so let me go back to where it all begins here.

September or so, 1991. Ray is visiting me in Bloomington from South Bend for a long weekend. This is when I am dating the girl Ray refers to as “The Za Chick”, for reasons I’ll have to get into later. He HATES her, and when the three of us our together, it’s like sodium and water, so the time spent only with Ray was the best of the weekend, of course. I left Ray alone with my roommate Yusef so I could go do my thing with the Za Chick one night, and they took off on ten-speeds at 3 in the morning looking for parties, which sounded infinitely cooler than what I endured. Anyway, Ray was there, and this was when I was back in the fold with Metal Curse – because of strict martial law and psychological warfare at home during the summer of 91, I ditched one issue of writing for Ray’s zine, something I put high on my all-time regrets list. But I was back, and when me and Ray were driving around Bloomington in his Escort, eating a Pizza Express pie in the parking lot of the library, he laid this new tape on me, by a band called Type O Negative. The album is called Slow, Deep, and Hard.

“It’s all the guys from Carnivore, but a new name,” he said. Cool, I remember hearing some Carnivore songs like Jesus Hitler a few years before, and thinking they were cool. “These songs are a lot longer, and slower. And totally fucked up,” he said. The tape started with a twelve minute song called “uncuccessfully coping with the natural beauty of infidelity”, which really hit the spot, since I was 100% certain that the Za Chick was fucking everyone else in the galacy, and I was completely oblivious to it. Then, over a fast metal-meets-hardcore beginning, singer Pete Steele said “Do you believe in forever? I don’t even believe in tomorrow.” The album was coated with a self-hatred so thick, it would make Sister Angelica slit her wrists and piss in the severed veins. The music went from a fast but relatively clear metal sound (this was when Death Metal and unintelligable vocals were on the way in, and ultrafast grindcore with little cohesive guitar work was on the way out) and lots of feedback-laden guitar work. Then it would downshift with fifth to first with totally doomy, almost gothic low end stuff, and blood-curdling screams. Although it attacked every part of your brain with extreme toxicity, it had a somewhat accessible tone to it – you could hear the lyrics, which were incredibly depressing, satirical, and offensive.

I really got into this album that fall semester – Ray had picked a winner for me. It was both depressing and funny, and I listened to the violence of “xero tolerance”, the eerieness of “glass walls of limbo” and the extreme, mind-numbing self-hatred of “gravitational constant…” I asked Sid and Matt, a couple of my punk rock friends, about the album, and they were totally into it to – it transcended the barriers between punk and metal, at least for freaks like these guys. And my long and depressing walks at 4 in the morning became Slow, Deep, and Hard walks with the tape in my walkman. It burned into my experience so deep, if I had to pick one album to summarize that few months, that would be it.

Fast forward to the summer of 1992. I was pretty much right about the Za Chick, so Pete Steele is smarter than I thought. I’m now DJing at WQAX thanks to the punk friend Sid, who is the acting GM for the summer and tells me to come in and play whatever the fuck I want. The first thing I spy in the racks is – a prerelease of a new Type O Negative live EP called Origin of the Feces It’s got 7 tracks – two are new, one is an intro called “Are You Afraid” that’s pretty cool, and a cover of “Hey Joe” that’s pretty over the top, sandwiched between the two halves of “Kill You Tonight” (aka Xero Tolerance). I play the SHIT out of the EP – I play the whole thing at least once a week, and play select cuts constantly. Turns out Sid’s doing the same thing. At the end of one week, the Hey Joe cover turns out to be not only the #1 metal song on the station’s charts, but the #1 song played, period!

I get on the case and start letter-bombing Ken Kriete, their manager, and Sophie, the PR rep at their label. Within a week or two, I get a nice letter from Ken and gang saying “don’t you have anything better to play at the station?” and “give us a call if you’d like to set up an interview on the air”.

I don’t know if you can imagine this, but going from worshipping a band’s album to having them say “give us a call, and we’ll talk” is a complete mindfuck. I was nervous as hell – this is an interview Ray didn’t get in the zine, because radio stations usually get the good stuff first. We were both sure that Steele would fuck with me, and I had no idea what questions to ask. The night of the interview, they were late in calling, so I thought they bagged out on me or something, and I went to doing something else on the air. Then I got the call from both Pete (vocals, bass) and Josh (keyboards) and off we went. The whole thing is printed in Xenocide 5, wherever it is on my server these days, but it went from weird to strange to disastrous to hilarious. I think they thought I was pissed off, but I was really just straining to hear over the piece of shit phone link at the studio. Either way, I taped the interview, it was live, and I ran it in my zine later. They wrote back and sent me a Type O Negative pin (a black circle with a green minus inside of an o) and I proudly wore it on my jacket until it fell apart about a year ago.

Their next album was highly anticipated and highly delayed. I re-ran the interview in the spring of 93 with an addendum, since I heard the album was coming out that summer. Perfect timing – I got the promo for Bloody Kisses the weekend I was with Ray at the Metalfest (~June 31, 1993). This album was more produced, less metal, more gothic, and just as powerful as the last. I played the shit out of my copy while awaiting my return to Bloomington from my temporary exile in northern Indiana for the summer. This album completely blew me away – it was incredibly catchy, but still had the weird invade-your-soul propertyu that tore you apart with depression and angst, yet made you feel good about it. There was still a lot of humor, but no chainsaws and “kill you tonight” type stuff like the last album. I was depressed about my girlfriend at the time being in Tampa while I was stuck in Shithole, IN, and songs like Blood and Fire and Can’t Lose You permeated while thinking about her. I loved this album – it had its weak points, but I thought it was incredible.

I guess some other people thought so, too, because within a few months, a lot of goth people really got into the album, and it went a lot further than its original metal roots. So when I wore my jacket, a few non-metal people would see the pin and say “hey, Type O Negative!” and I could lay the story on them. Then, one night I was reading the liner notes, and – I saw that John Conner from WQAX was thanked. Hey, that’s me! They totally misspelled it, but it was there. By the time I found this, the album had already gone gold, so it was an even bigger deal.

So I kept listening, especially since I walked everywhere in the 93/94 school year and I had my walkman on for at least 20 hours a week. Bloody Kisses was the perfect album to listen to when it’s 2 in the morning and you have to walk 3 miles to get back home. It’s even better when you’re completely devastated by the loss of a girlfriend and you need something to enrich your depressive lows. It became the soundtrack for my long-ass walks back from campus that fall and spring, and permeated most of my memories in that area.

Fast-forward to September of 1996. I’m in Seattle, at the Bellevue Silver Platters, and I grab the new album, along with $100 of other stuff. The clerk looks at it and says “hey, I heard about this…” and I lay into the ego trip. (Once I was at Tower and a clerk saw the button and said “cool button”. My reply: “Pete Steele gave it to me”. Him: “You heard Bloody Kisses?” My reply: “I was thanked in the liner notes.” His reply: “Check this out…” and he rolled up his shirt and showed me that he had one of the gargoyles from the digipak artwork tattooed on his back. End of ego war.) I got the album home, and started the memorization…

October Rust is a much more produced and consistent album than the others, and it seems like they went totally all out with the gothic thing, but still poked fun at it, which is good. It has more songs about relationships than the others, and it’s more of sadness and nostalgia than depression and rage. Songs like “Love you to death”, “Die with me”, “Haunted”, and “Burnt flowers fallen” knocked me over like a full-speed metro bus full of lead. I was already in an extreme depression at the time, and listening to stuff like this filled it out nicely. It’s not like Pink Floyd or something that pushes you over the edge – it just provides a nice soundtrack for what you’ve got. And the lyrics are simple, but try on stuff like this when you’re depressed about someone that dumped you:

now like a bird
she flew away
to chase her dreams
of books and praise
still i miss her
yeah i miss her
since she’s gone


girl i want to die with you
in each other’s arms
we’ll drown in flame

I’ve rambled for long enough. Now the apartment’s too hot. I appreciate it if you made it this far.