He remembered. Not how he came to stand in this entrance hall. A small room that had difficulty holding all its doors and stairs and that big front desk in place but it held it together. Adrian now realised that ‘how’ wasn’t important. He knew why he was here. That was important. He walk a few steps over the plushy 70s refugee carpet towards the front desk. An enormous mahogany dinosaur of a desk that by its sheer size dominated the room along with everyone in it. Behind the desk sat an androgynous person in clad in colours painstakingly combined in the most eye watering manner possible.
“I’m here to see the Critic”
“You don’t have an appointment.”
“No. I was sent here by a mutual friend and he told me that I could see him today.” Turner thought that the gifts f the Devil could start working for a change.
“A mutual friend?” the acid trip escapee was not impressed. “Does that friend have a name?”
The receptionist hesitated for a moment. “OK. You can go and talk to The Critic. Be careful though he is listening to music right now and he hates to be interrupted.”
“Which door?” Turner asked.
“The stairs to the right” the colour out of space nodded towards one of the stairs, “first floor door to the left.”
As he was walking upstairs the receptionist added “Don’t break his flow.”
The door left of the stairs looked ordinary enough at first sight yet as Turner opened it he discovered that it was a very thick wooden block of a door, that was heavily padded from the inside revealing another equally padded door right behind it. He could also hear the faint thumping of deep loud bass sounds trying to escape their prison. The inner door would not budge.
“It won’t open until the outer door is closed.” came from below.
Turner moved inside the cramped space between the doors pulling the outer door shut behind him. That left him with hardly and room left to move. Had he not been on a strict forgotten musician on tour diet he may not have fit at all. At least the space between the doors had neat reverse fridge-light going on, where a couple of small LEDs that were nesting in the padding started shining. They provided enough illumination for Turner to locate the handle of the other door. As he pressed it down the sound proofing seal on the door frame was broken and he was overwhelmed by music.
Turner might have staggered by a step or tow if not for the closed outer door behind him. The soft thumps of bass he had hared before were now crashing right through him. His whole body was forced into resonance with the music. There was so much sound all around him that the first thing that he noticed was the smell of leather and old record covers. The information Turners brain was receiving from his eyes were given secondary priorities for the moment. As the vibration of his entire being was connected to the sound and the sound was resolved into what was probably music, the room was allowed to come into focus.
It was a large space. Turner could have fitted his first three flats into it and have had enough room left for a nice little garden. The floor, the ceiling and the wall were all covered in padded leather. The leather was red, the one associated with wizened professors and fireplaces. The room appeared to be the result of an unique leather chair that had grown so large that it had started to fold into itself. The centre of it held three insect like chairs built to please some alien aesthetic first and human physiology second. All three of them were of matte black colour, carefully wrapped in some kind of spongy fabric. The central one was holding the figure of man who the moment Turner had entered had held up his left hand, to indicate that Turner should hold his breath until the piece the man was listening too was finished. Adrian was very thankful that the inner door closed itself. While he was confident that he could have strangled an elephant with anyone hearing anything, he was sufficiently intimidated by The Hand of The Critic to try to be as quiet as possible.
The Critic and his chairs were surrounded by carefully placed speakers. They looked rather plain in contrast to the chairs. Almost six feet tall but slender they did exude a certain professional nonchalance. These speakers were so far on top of the line that they needed no fancy branding, shocking colours or strange cases. They simply pumped out their sounds to the best of their ability which was equal to the limit of human technology at the time of their making. They were the best and they knew it.
One circle beyond were the pipes that held the cables, connecting the speakers to their amps, laid out in a grid that formed the modern equivalent of a summoning circle. The Main amp was sitting proudly in his cabinet, holding court over his many vassal amps, carefully passing on the secrets that he had gleaned from his records.
The last circle were the cabinets that held the records themselves. All of them crafted to perfectly fit the walls. Uniformly padded to not break the sound of the room. Their doors were closed but someone had gone through the trouble of marking them with gold leaf. Turner could see that they were ordered by years, only declaring what type of record they held. Starting from phonoautogramms, moving to shellac and vinyl records, CDs, audio-DVDs, to Blu-Ray disks and a myriad of other formats.
The music itself did not quite make sense to Adrian. As he was examining the room he was trying to get into the groove of the sound. However always when he thought that he had found the core of the piece that held it all together, the core dissolved into several new strands. He wasn’t even sure what kind of music he was listening to in the first place. It did remind him of some of the more extreme forms of free jazz, but then there was a lot of metal in the music too with a dash of post-rock added just for the heck of it. Turner was not impressed. However before dismissing the music he attempted to understand it. He had his principles. One of them was that he would not look down on any kind of music before he was not confident that he had grasped it. So he opened up the the record trying to understand it. There was hardly any melody, mostly a wall of sound, always in motion always changing. While it was not his cup of tea he could see the craft behind it, the work that had gone into weaving this strange fluctuating experience. He got lost in the music being drawn back to the present only after the piece was over and was replaced by muffled silence.
The Critic had paused the player. He had turn around in his strange chair now facing Truner. One leg hanging from an armrest. In one hand he held his remote control like a sceptre with the other hand he rubbed his chin.
“What did you think of that?” The Critic asked.
“Hard to tell. I don’t understand that music, yet.” Adrian said.
“You can stay.” The Critic said. He got up and pointed at a chair with his free hand. “Please sit down.” He moved one chair further to the right and sat back down again. Turner sat down, quite surprised that at how comfortable the chair was. Actually it was a comfortable as it was horrid.
“Granted you have not yet quite made a connection with the music you just heard, still you must have an opinion. Share it.” the Critic looked at Turner with what seemed to be genuine interest.
“The music was very complex. Many layers. Often losing harmony and what little melody there is. But it all held together really well. Every note played made sense.” He thought a bit longer about what he had just heard, while the Critic lent forward listening with a ferocious intensity. “The beat was pretty much awesome. Was not always there. Like the rest it was going in and out of focus, but when it came to the forefront it was very mellow and strong. So despite it not really being my style it was actually pretty decent. Interesting in the best sense of the world. Apart from one thing.” Turner winkled his nose.
“And what was that?” the Critic arched his eyebrows, leaning slightly back.
“Well there were moments when the ‘singer’ was growling which was a bit ridiculous.”
“That was not ridiculous, it was an accent. It had a primal strength to it that would have been ruined by anything as mundane as a simple humane voice. Also considering what the have done with the voices of their instruments it hardly seems fitting to not do it to the voice too.”
“If you say so. To me it still sounded like someone had dropped 150 watt amp on the foot of the singer…”
The critic laughed. “I like that one.” The critic was still smiling but was now serious again. “So you don’t like the growlers then?”
“To be quite frank I hate them.”
The Critics face was impassive. “Anything else you… hate?”
“Sure loads of stuff. Country? I fucking hate country. And rap or is it hip-hop? Is there even a difference? Oh and R’n’B which has neither rhythm nor any kind of blues. Fuck that shit.” Adrian was just getting started.
“Never hate.” The Critic said.
“But that music is shit!”
“No it isn’t. Maybe you don’t like it. Or you don’t understand it. Or it is not to your taste. But music is never shit. Never.”
“Oh yeah? And when when its just three badly played riffs and the only time the bass and percussion are in the pocket is because if they try long enough they are bound to get it right sometime?”
“Don’t hate, man! Learn. Listen to it. First of all try to find out if it is you or the music. If it’s you, because you are not getting it or are feeling protective of your own shit. Let go of it. Learn to listen. Do it over and over again until you know it.”
“I always do that!”
“Yet here you are hating. What the fuck man? And even if the music isn’t good. Be thankful because the easiest way to learn is by avoiding the shit other people do. The next time you listen to something and think ‘wow that was some abominable shit right there!’ the next time you do that you have to stop and think to your self: ‘Hmmm I wonder why that didn’t work.” and try to see a way to make it better. Do you understand? The people who make the ‘bad’ music are our greatest teachers so show some respect OK?”
“No. Buts! Just stop heating. What do you think that’ll achieve huh? Are you going to hate the music away? Do you think the guys who make the stuff you don’t like give a shit? They will probably not even hear your silly ranting because the cash register is being so loud when they go and get their royalties. In the end you will end up with an ulcer or shit like that and they will live happily ever after. Does that sound clever to you?”
“Well. No. Not really.”
“See there you go. Do. Not. Hate. First it will make you a much more likable person and it will help you grow as an artist. OK?”
“OK.” Adrian said feeling slightly shocked. That was an unexpected little outbreak. To make matters worse The critic was kind of right. Now that he came to think of it there were a few ‘artists’ that were really high on his personal list of disdain whose stuff he could take and turn it into something decent without breaking a sweat.
“Sorry about that. One of my pet peeves. So. Adrian Turner…” the Critic Lent back again forcing his chair into a more comfortable position. His legs now both dangling over one arm rest using the other as back rest. “What brings you here to me then?”
“You know who I am.” Turner was almost surprised, but his surprise was gagged and bound by his world weariness before it could get anywhere. “Who told you that I’d come.” Rhetorical question, Turner knew the answer to that already.
“Told me, that you’d come? No one.” The Critic replied. Turner had to admit that this answer had only a few letters in common with the one he was thinking of.
“Have we met?” Turner asked.
“Have we met he asks! Of course we have met. Many hundreds of times. Me and you we go way, way back.”
“Really? Shit. I’m sorry I am having trouble with my memories lately.”
“Don’t worry. This is the first time that we see eye to eye. When you were still a big star burning in the sky I was a professional adolescent and not yet The Critic. Sadly as my star rose yours faded away.” The Critic inclined his head slightly. He smiled a happy little smile. “But it kept on burning for all these years, didn’t it.”
“Music is my life, I would not know what else to do.” Turner kept his voice carefully under control, so that what he said sounded cool and not as desperate as it felt inside of him.
“I’m glad to see that there is still Rock in you Turner.”
“But still how did you recognise me?”
“Your voice. I’ve listened to you so many times I could identify you in the dark. Your face helped although you’ve grown old. That makes it harder. Neither do I have a picture of you that isn’t older than 20 years nor is my memory for faces all that good.”
“I’m impressed and flattered. Only my most hardcore fans would recognise me these days when I am not on stage with…” Adrian remembered that there was no band anymore. “No. I think these days no one would recognise me anymore.”
The Critic smiled as if that was the best thing he had heard all day. “Perfect.”
“If you want me to kick the living shit out of you, you just have to ask, no need to get personal.” Adrian said.
“Personal? Wh…? No you misunderstand. Look at you Adrian Turner. You are not some run of the mill musician that has had a little dent in his career. You were once a rock god. You are a legend. A forgotten legend.”
“And how is that supposed to make me feel better?” Adrian replied through clenched teeth.
“Because you still are! A legend I mean. I have been listening to you for almost all my life. You exploded into the scene in the early eighties and it was remarkable. Especially if you listen to your really early stuff. Like I did. That was OK but not exceptional.”
“Is that also supposed to make me feel better?” Adrian fled into open the arms of sarcasm.
“Open your eyes Adrian.” The Critic shouted. “There you are. A snot nosed teenager with some skill on the guitar and a hand full of solid demo tapes. That should not have gotten you very far. And yet not one year later you fucking thermonuclear exploded into the realm of music. I have no idea what happened but boy was that a leap forward. Again this is not that special. If you know where and how to listen you will hear hundreds if not thousands of guys and girls like you suddenly ignite. But then you just went on and became better. And better. And better. While others were already gone or to busy doing drugs and hookers you kept getting better for a decade. And then and this is my favourite part:” The Critic’s eyes were now large and shining, “when all around you genres were going extinc, sinking into obscurity losing their grip on humanity you just did it again you magnificent bastard. There you were the types of music that had made you great and that you had made great were turning to ashes around and you gave it another push. Sure you vanished from the main stream but your fans you millions of fans could see how you were burning with new creative energy. I talked to people who had been listening to your music since your early days of stardom. These people, when you talk to them they are still filled with a deep sense of wonder, they actually start to talk softer there eyes wide with wonder when they talk about what you did back then. They remember to this very day how after more than ten years you still managed to surprise them and blow them away with your music!”
OK. That was kind of nice to hear, Turner had to admit.
“And then, no one knows what really happened you start to fade away. You fade but you never die. You have a chance only very few people have. You are a hidden king. Your star can burn bright again. You can return.”
Turner was at a loss for words. He felt pride swelling in his chest and embarrassment blooming in his face. He cleared his throat. “Thank you for the kind words. er… Well. While I don’t really plan a comeback, I am looking for some exceptional musicians and I was hoping that you could point me into the right direction.”
“What’s the idea? Are you trying to mentor some promising musicians? Are you going to make a new band?”
“I am not quite sure. But I know that I need to bring together some exceptional musicians.”
“What for? To rock the fucking world down to its very foundations, of course. After our first concert I expect that the police will have gotten calls from dead gods complaining about the noise.”
“A noble mission if there ever was one.” The Critic said. “I will give you a list of people that can help you with your endeavour. you have to be careful though.”
“Yes. You have to pull this off the right way if you want to succeed.”
“I still don’t follow you.”
“We have established that you are a legend, right?”
“Right?” Adrian had still no idea where this was going.
“The piece of music I had immersed myself into when you arrived. You listened to it and I have to admit that for someone who is not a critic you have shown to have a rather keen ear.”
Adrian just nodded to encourage the Critic to go on.
“I have listened to music professionally for decades now so I do hear deeper, much, much deeper than most other people. I hear the music, the rhythm, the theme, but I can hear further. I hear the struggle of the musician that work on it. I can hear the whispers of their souls. I feel the context, the Zeitgeist, the culture from which this music was born. In m mind I see how they are all connected. What we just heard was song of a broken heart. The sound that is produced by a soul that is slowly losing all its illusions that if had about its culture. Akin to the child that discovers that its parents aren’t perfect, the adult soul may discover that its culture also is flawed. In this case there is no other culture to replace the old. There is only the struggle between several different civilisations all of them flawed in different ways, all broken and the soul is left alone to fend for it self as it has not yet found it in itself to trust other souls. And see! There is the genius the music is made from different people all individual all lonely in the same way and they make this music that reflects how alone they are, despite having found others exactly like them. See? And there is of course the meta narrative of the parallel soul para-civilisation construct…”
“That is really” ‘rally crazy’ Adrian thought, “fascinating. I can’t quite see what this has to do with my plan though.” he remembered now that Lucifer had warned him that The Critic had past the demarcation line of genius to venture into the realms beyond.
“Everything!” The Critic said with burning eyes, “You cannot simply go out there. Knock on doors. Ask questions. Make a fucking casting. You have to invoke the powers of legend!”
“The powers of legend.” Turner had once read somewhere that you could get people to talk more by paraphrasing what they just had said. He hoped that The Critic might start to make sense again or at least give him enough time to come up with a good excuse to leave.
“Yes! There are powerful forces in stories. And what is music but a story told in emotions?”
Totally insane but he has a point there. “Agreed. So how do I harness that force?”
“Up until now you have only walked on the surface. Now you have to dive right in. Stop chasing after music. Be music. Follow its form and it will form you. Once you do that you’ll be in harmony with music. You will see, once that has happened things will come together quite naturally. Instead of you following the story, the story will follow you.”
“OK. I’ll just walk right ahead, go real deep and the story will just follow.” Turner said wondering what the fuck that even meant.
“Right.” The Critic seemed to be happy.
“So, about that list?”
“Of course, of course. Let’s go down to the reception I’ll give you the names you need. Oh and there is something else?”
“Really? What’s that?” Turner hoped it would not be another strange, crazy rant.
“Once you start moving inside the story you will know it by its trappings. That way you will be at an advantage when things should start to go wrong. Like in the horror movies? You know? With the serial killer and the stairs?”
“No running upstairs and if a serial killer appears with a knife shoot him in the face?”
“Just like that! Great. Now. Now you are ready to go out there and become the next chapter of your legend.” The Critic got up prompting Adrian to follow him.
Ten minutes later he left the house of The Critic with a list of names in his pocket and relief in his heart.
Now he had enough candidates to start three bands. Even if half of them refused his call he would still have more than enough people to do some serious rocking. Actually now that he almost had a team together he could start planing their next step.
Form now on things seemed easy and clear.
He was wrong.
This was the point where shit got surreal.