One More, With Feeling

Another stormy San Francisco morning. I love the sound of the wind and the rain. Wooden chimes hang on the fire escape outside the kitchen window, and I imagine that their low castanet sound will trigger a sense memory in the future, when I have left this apartment and am longing for my days in this magical city.

The band has been on hiatus for a few weeks, and while I have a bunch of music stuff to write about, on my mind this morning is still the big picture stuff. You’ll have to indulge me in yet one more such post until I get back to writing about learning Zeppelin songs. read more

Stamina is My Strong Suit: Two Shows, One Night

Seattle, Washington. Here we always do two shows in one night. We play around 7:45 for 90 minutes, and then we play at 11:45 for another 90. This time, Angeline and I also played three Hendrix songs with the opener, the amazing Daniele Gottardo, in front of the second set.

That’s a lot of drumming in one night. I love it and also sort of dread the physical exertion. Usually, I just keep thinking of the amazing audience and want to give them my all. I take on the challenge. The challenge isn’t the drumming, as I feel as though I could play drums into infinity, much the way I feel about driving or swimming. Stamina is my strong suit. The real challenge is in being focused and connected for that long. I want to give it all on stage through two sets, to give the audience in the first show the best of me, while saving enough to give the audience in the second show the best of me too. read more

What Lies Below: America and The Great Dissolvent

When I sit in meditation, I fall into a stillness that is a wide, expanded, infinite space. My awareness falls down, underneath the the rushing tumult of the mind and its thoughts. As I fall, I look back and see the underside of these thoughts, a rushing current on the surface of what I call Myself. When I detach from the thoughts, when I just observe them but don’t react, I fall beneath them, where it’s quiet.

Further I drop, and now the body feels porous. My breath moves beyond the edges of my skin and any pain or sensation detaches from my identity, and I just observe. I fall beneath sensation. Now I am in stillness, and I just receive. I just observe. I see how emotions rise and fall. Hatred, anger, shame, fear. I see them tense the body, I see them sicken and churn, tighten and wrack and ache, and then they pass through. When they leave, I am again left with peace. read more

The Great American

Once a year, Zepparella plays a hometown show in San Francisco at the Great American Music Hall. This is a wonderful night for me. I have loved this venue from the moment I moved here 16 years ago: the gold leaf ceiling, the warm dark red of the walls, the mojo. Someone once walked me around the venue and told me ghost stories.

All the great music halls in San Francisco have ghosts, as anyone who works there will tell you. It makes sense, seeing as they have often been theaters for close to 100 years. I think of all of the bodies who have worked there, on stage and off. I think of all of the audiences packed in over the years, and that adds up to quite a bit of plasma and energy that you can feel when you walk in. I also love to think of music as a conduit connecting worlds, and imagine all those melodies conjuring spirits from other decades. read more

Pain and the Constitutional Requirements of a Music Career

When we think about meditation, pain isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. We think of a relaxed body settling deep in the parts of the brain where dreams live. Most people from my genetic background of Viking have some discomfort when sitting for long periods of time on a floor. During a 10-day meditation retreat, there are three one-hour sits of ‘strong determination’ each day, hours in which we do our best to not move a muscle, to just observe sensation and not react to any pain. Speaking to meditators on the last day, I find that everyone experiences pain, no matter age or fitness level. read more

Dreams of Peace for the Samurai

I enter a space on the second floor of an office building. The room is carpeted and bare, with just some folding chairs in rows and nothing else. About 20 people have shown up for the past-life regression. We go around the room and people ask questions and say what they expect. One young woman says she wants to know in which life she belongs; she doesn’t think she is in the right place in time. She’s ready for this life to be over and get on to the next. I’m a little surprised that the moderator doesn’t seem startled by this blatantly suicidal statement, but maybe she recognizes it as bluster. read more

Your Brain on Drums: The Practical Application of Meditation in Drumming

I sit in the meditation hall, propped up with various blue beanbags, but this doesn’t stop the pain. It’s pretty much the same every time I sit. After some amount of time, my right hip develops a dull ache through the inner thigh, radiating to my big leg muscle and then down to the knee, up and over then down the inside of my shin and then to the group of nerves that pool beneath my inner ankle. I’m here to watch, not react. I am just a witness, a witness to pain, a witness to lack of pain. I’m to keep an equanimity towards either. Eventually, the point is to discover that this equanimity translates to every situation in my life. I have already seen it happen. read more

Bliss and Drumming: An Introduction

The house exists only in this dream. Smell of salt and sea, shade of mid-day. Nothing of street or sky, just a path to green lawn. Hard warm concrete gives way to soft clover, cradling my feet.

I toddle across the lawn. My legs are unsteadiness and resolve. A Bird of Paradise flies at the far edge and I’m pulled there. The flower bends level to my crown: brilliant orange, yellow, a stripe of red along the rippled edges. I hold it slick and weighty in my two hands. I tilt the tip of the petals toward my mouth. read more