Chapter 3 (continued and finished) / Intermission
Max Stryker’s house was located in a former industrial district that had been refurbished into a clandestine suburb. This part of the city had once been part of the manufacturing machine that had made this region prosper. As the money was tempted away to other places were labour was cheap the quarter died a slow death leaving behind the decomposing corpses of factories and storage spaces. As it is so often the case with nature, when a niche opens up there is always someone happy to make a home out of it. The large buildings mostly full of space and atmosphere started to attract artists of all sorts, providing them with enough room for ateliers, workshops, rehearsal rooms and venues in which to present the fruits of their work. As the years past the quarter evolved from the hiding place of a few crazy non-conformists to a Boheme sanctuary into a busy neighbourhood full of all kinds of fringe arts. As it grew popular it also became temptingly profitable. The old revolutionaries that had re-vitalised this part of the city were quietly evicted, replacing them with more palatable alternatives surrounded by the right kind of shops, cafes and of course premium condos.
The old storage building where Stryker had his loft was located at the furthest edge of the district, right next to an derelict freight depot which by now had turned into a park with post-apocalyptic pretensions. There even was a rust eaten container car, cut open to function as a open air stage.
After Turner had gone through the usual ‘Who is there’s ‘And it’s me’s, he found him self in a freight elevator with keyholes instead of buttons for controls. From the people he had met so far Stryker seemed to have made the most money. Or maybe he just enjoyed spending it with more enthusiasm than the more down to earth Lockwood had. Turner saw this as an advantage. This meant that Stryker could be lured towards the project with cash while the work itself would make him stay. The elevator doors opened to a loft that was somehow smaller than expected. Despite it being only sparsely furnished, it has a slightly cramped feeling about it. Most of the room was taken by musical equipment. There was a wall of amps. Guitars of all makes and types on stands, on racks, in half open carrying cases or simply lying around on what little furniture there was. Towards the window front facing the park was what looked like a proper little studio all complete with microphones and a mixing desk larger than the surface area of the kitchen located at the other end of the loft.
Everything was giving off a wonderful rock’n’roll vibe. Everything except Max Stryker. He was wearing clothes worth 20$ that had been carefully branded up to 5000$, all of them in the latest pastel colours du jure non. He would not have looked out of place in a meeting of young fresh of university investment bankers. Turner had to actually double-check if the young guy in front-of him actually was Max Stryker.
“Hey Mr. Turner. I’ve been waiting to you. Come on in.” he shook Turner’s hand enthusiastically.
Turner just nodded at him.
“Let’s go into my office then we can talk business. Can I get you something to drink?”
“A scotch would nice.”
“Sure thing. I’ve got some Johnny Walker Black Label. Is that alright with you?”
“Sure.” Turner really needed a drink and would have taken grandma’s moonshine if given the offer. Stryker led him past a door that opened into a large, tidy office room. In here everything was glass and stainless steel. It smelt mostly of cleaning liquid with a bit of the ozone smell of a laser printer added as a contrast. The room was dominated by a large glass office desk, with a big black office chair standing with the back to the wall of glass facing the park. In front of the table were two comfortable looking black leather chairs. In a vain attempt to bring at least a vestige of the spirit of rock into this room, Adrian sat down without waiting for permission.
Max Stryker returned with a glass in each hand. One filled with a scotch on the rocks the other with what looked like Coke. He gave Turner his scotch before pleasantly surprising him by sitting on the chair next to him instead of the throne like monstrosity looming behind the glass table. Adrian inhaled deeply before taking a swig from his drink, mostly to ground him back in reality.
“Well that was unexpected.” Turner said looking for a way to open the conversation.
“The apartment right? I know. It’s such a crazy idea. Jim, my marketing consultant, came up with that. At first I was as surprised as you were. I mean, what the fuck? Right? An apartment in and apartment? That must be one of the retardetest things you could possibly do. Especially here where you pay a premium for living space. Right?”
Turner just nodded. He felt a bit like the secret agent being told about the masterplan by the evil guy and did not want to discourage him from talking.
“But Jim made a great case. ‘Nate.’ he said ‘Nate. Just imagine what happens when some idiot from the press comes for an interview? You want to give the media a look at your crib, right? It would seem mighty suspicious if you never, ever gave an interview from your home, right? We need to establish your persona not only on stage but also off. Yeah. I admit it means something of a sacrifice. But you have to look at the big picture. This reinforces your image. Also just imagine what happen if some crazy fan of yours finds where you live. They knock at your door, you for a moment aren’t paying attention or think its the pizza guy or whatever. And bam. They see your house. That can totally ruin your image!’ and I was like ‘Whoa! Jim is totally right!’ also now that I have it it IS kind of awesome.”
Stryker took a swig of his Coke, Turner really hoped that he had added a generous shot of booze into it. The not-at-all rock star leaned back opening his arms. “You know, it’s a bit like having a batcave or something. Also before going on tour or onto a concert it help me gets into the right mood.”
“The right mood?”
“Yeah. The rock mindset. I never wanted to be a singer or a rocker or anything. I always wanted to be an actor and when the oportunity opened up to turned into Max Stryker, I thought, Nathan this might not be exactly what you want to do, but this is such an awesome challenge. I could go total method here and the success is like the proof that I am a real actor. Also I am a great team player. I have all the guys from marketing helping me along. They work very hard to tap into the right types of style that are both in but also undersupplied and then there are of course my songwriters who are really talented people they really spin all the focus test stuff and market analysis stuff into music.”
“Right. So they give you the songs and the style and you then put on a show, for the kids?”
“Yeah. Right. A bit like on a birthday party? There are all these kids that are looking for something cool, adventurous and we we provide them with it. Everybody wins.”
A bit of Adrian’s soul died.
“Man, listen to me talking all the time. You were here with a proposal right?” Stryker asked.
“Yes. You see. I am right now assembling a new band. The idea is to start something new, something revolutionary.”
“Sounds cool. Revolutionary is always a strong theme. Also there is a lot of renewed potential in some seventies stuff that has been out of rotation for a while. But even when you build on established hits, it is always a bit of a gamble to bring them out again. You have to time it right because even the greatest hits can fail to enter the top ten if you push them at the wrong time.”
“Well, we are very confident in our project.” Turner lied. It turned out that lying to Stryker came easy.
“You’ve got balls I’ll giver you that. You have good backing?” this was the main question.
“I have about the best backing you could imagine and a nearly endless supply of money.”
Stryker’s eyes lit up. “Really? Well with some investors that will put some faith and a steady stream of cash into a new musical project you can start out even below top ten. You can play the underdog card. That is strong stuff. I’d love to join! I would need to wind down the old band of course. But that’ll be easy May Stryker is a bit volatile so it would be easy to dissolve the band in some ind of drug and rage fuelled breakdown. Do you want me as Max? I’d do that of course, but I’d love to try to tap into another persona.”
The bright enthusiastic eyes of the man that was not Max Stryker were full of the right stuff but for all the wrong reasons.
“Nathan. I can call you Nathan right?” Turner asked.
“Yeah. Of course.”
“Nathan I see that you are full of potential and energy, I see a successful future for you. Let me just get back to my agent and we will go from there, all right?”
“Sure.” he got even more animated by now. “Sure! Just give me a call and I’m with you withing four to six weeks!”
“Great. It’s time for me to go. Take care Nathan. You’ll here from me soon.” ‘in the news’ Turner added in his head.
Turner left the man who called himself Stryker behind him. Turner had thought that he could have tempted him with a fist full of cash but he already had a fist full of silver.
Adrian was sitting in a train. One of those transcontinental things that were somewhere between a comfortable aeroplane and a really narrow hotel on iron wheels. He sat in front of a miniature gourmet restaurant table that had been very carefully packed with everything that had to be there, while at the same time leaving enough space for a plate with food. It was rather impressive. He wasn’t impressed though. Not even the strong smooth aroma of the espresso sitting in front of him could lighten his mood. Adrian was looking out of the window a breathtaking vista of what he suspected was the American mid-west passing him by with a slightly forced dignity.
He had no idea how he had gotten here but he got used to it. It’s how things went lately. Arriving somewhere, with a mission. Like the hero of some feel-good 80s TV show. Only that he went from town to town to be confronted with failure. Nothing he had done so far had amounted to anything but disappointment. What was worse was that Adrian had no real idea what he was doing in the first place. He was driven by some half remembered instinct. That did not help.
So Lucifer had told him that music was dying. That it was losing its magic, what made it special. The thing that touched people. After his encounter with ‘Max Stryker’ he had seen one example of dead music. It had been stripped of anything that made it worthwhile. It was still a lot of work to make it work, but it was the wrong kind of work and the way it spoke to the people listening to it was the wrong way.
“It’s rather depressing, isn’t it?” Lucifer asked.
“How am I supposed to stop that?” Adrian was to tired to be surprised by the Devil’s sudden appearance.
“I have no idea. Things like that are far beyond the scope of my abilities, I’m afraid.” he smiled a melancholy smile. “That’s why I need you, Adrian.”
“Well, so far I can only tell you that this little project of yours looks rather hopeless.”
“There is always hope Adrian.”
“You said you had a list of people. I think you should choose someone else…”
“Why? Because so far I have come up with shit. Actually I thought that you appeared here to tell me that I am done.” Adrian said. “At least that way I can get my memories back.”
“Actually I came here to encourage you and to apologise.”
“Apologise? What for?” Adrian now looked directly into the Devil’s ancient eternally young face.
“Up to this point I have to admit,” the Devil looked slightly sheepish, “I may have directed your steps.”
Adrian shook his head. “You set me up?”
“In a way. Yes.”
“What the fuck? Are you serious? So… You send me on this mission of yours, right? And the first thing you do is to fuck me over?”
“It’s not like that Adrian.” there was something in Lucifer’s voice that stopped Adrian’s building rage. For the moment. “Let me explain.” the Devil continued. “The mission is very real and I do need your help. This is a fact. Yes I did direct you towards specific targets. This I did to help you.”
“What did the three people you met so far in common?” Lucifer asked.
“All of them were pretty much useless.”
“Well Murphy was totally burnt out. I was to late. I wish I could have gotten him. No one deserves a fate like him…”
“What about the others?”
“Lockwood would have been great too. But he is established, working his niche. I am not sure why he would not want to come. Maybe he’s afraid or maybe there is nothing for him to gain from this. His music is still pretty much alive. Why should he abandon his art? I can’t quite decide if I should be angry with him or not.”
“And there was of course Stryker. Motherfucking Stryker. I haven’t see such a fake person in my entire life.”
“He looked like a very real person to me.”
“Maybe he is a real human. But his music isn’t. He is one very professional facade. All illusion and no substance. He was the worst of them all. Maybe once upon a time I might have gotten him. But not now.”
“Actually none of them is quite beyond hope. But you are right. They are all very hard to reach by now. I directed you to this people because you need to understand the problems you are going to face. I directed you towards them because these kind of people were floating around your mind. The old musician that needs to get back on his feet again, the veteran player that can become your secret weapon for your new band and of course the promising young musician full of energy that can really bring it all together. And they are also some of the least useful candidates that I could find for you. Now you know what doesn’t work.” Lucifer let that sink in for a moment. When Adrian did not protest he continued. “See? I’m helping you. I will give you another piece of advice. Your search so far has been a bit to superficial. What you need to do is dig deeper. Far beyond the plausible, beyond the obvious, even beyond the sensible. Go crazy!”
“How crazy? Insane crazy?”
“Not quite. But you have to get near insanity. When you have found it you need to look for your inspiration there. Once you have done that your path will be clear.” Lucifer said.
“One last pointer from me and then you’ll free to go. Your next target is The Critic. He loves music. So much so that it has driven him totally bonkers. Visit him. Listen to him. You’ll learn.”
And while Adrian was still trying to make sense of what Lucifer had just told him the train around him slowly faded away.