Chapter Five (continued and finished)
Into the Woods
The terrified bear had left a more or less serviceable passage through the thicket ahead. This turned out to be a major advantage as Turner discovered that what he had thought was a small patch of overachieving underbrush that sprung up where a couple of trees had fallen prey to lightning and storm, was actually a clearing of significant proportions. So even with the bear path and some judicious use of his hand axe he spend considerable time pushing past angry shrubs with no concept of decency.
Twenty minutes and many more scratches later he slowly emerged from the dense growth into a large round open space, with a lot of sky above and a stylish little mound in its middle. It was a rather remarkable spot surrounded by a green wall of vegetation, carpeted with wild grass and flowers. On top of the knoll stood what seemed to be a circle of stacks, the ones one would usually find on concert stages. In front of them facing Turner was a girl in her early twenties holding an impressive doubled bladed axe in one of her hands.
“You are not a bear…” she sounded genuinely disappointed.
“No. I’m Adrian Turner.”
“Hi. Adam Turner.” the girl said lowering the axe. “I’m Kim. Kim Cochran.”
“Nice to meet you Kim.”
“So. What are you doin’ around here” she asked.
“I was looking for you.”
Kim raised her axe again. Turner held up his hands moving slowly backwards only to be poked in the back by some tree.
“Hey. Easy with the axe there.” Turner said.
“As long as you don’t give me a reason to chop you into pieces we are going to be fine. I think.”
“I’m am not the kind of person who does things that need to be answered by axe assisted violence Kim.” Turner said his voice at the edge of calm.
“You see Adrian, following girls into the depths of the Canadian hinterlands can be seen as rather creepy behaviour.” she said arching an eyebrow.
“I was not following you. I was looking for you, for you and a guy that calls himself D.C.” Adrian said. This had the calming effect of Kim lowering her axe and the confusing effect of making her look slightly disappointed.
“Oh. Well. At least that means that you are probably not a crazy stalker.” she paused examining him. “Did something happen? Back home I mean.”
Turner shook his head. “Not that I know off. I’m here because I am looking for musicians and you and that D.C. person are high up on my list. I’m here to talk to you about music.”
“You came all this way here into the middle of nowhere to track me and D.C. down just to talk about music?”
“Pretty much yes.”
“Cool. Pretty crazy, but I can respect that. What ever it is you are doing you are taking it seriously. I like your conviction Adrian. Follow me, I’ll lead you to the base camp. We’ll meet D.C. there.” Kim waved her hand behind here. “After you sir.”
“I don’t know they way.”
“I’m aware of that Adrian.” her voice carried a faint trace of sarcasm, “I’ll guide you. You just will have to take point, that way if it turns out that you are some kind of crazy motherfucker it’ll be easier to cut your legs off.”
“Fair enough.” said Turner walking past her taking care not to look at her or her axe as he did so.
“What’s up with Stonehenge?” he asked as the moved past the circle of stacks.
“Stonehenge? Oh the stacks. Those are supposed to kills bears.”
“Yeah. Not working though. So far it only scares the shit out of them.” Kim said.
“It seems that I need significantly more power. Which given the circumstances is quite the problem.”
“Why would you want to kill a bear? More specifically, why kill it with sound?” Turner asked.
“For their guts.”
“Guts… What exactly are you doing out here? It does not look like a hiking holiday.”
“No holiday. I’m here to make myself a new bass. When I told D.C. he decided to join me and get himself a guitar.”
They had reached the thicket. They were now roughly on the side opposite to the one from where Adrian had come. The underbrush was here as impenetrable as from the other side.
“To the left.” Kim said “Yeah right there, those branches, you can move them to the side, there’s a path right behind them.” Turner brushed the branches aside and indeed there was a narrow but well cleared path beyond them.
“Why would you come to the middle of nowhere to make an instrument?” asked Turner as he moved forward into the thicket.
“Because this is the perfect place to find the right timber. Up here there is only primeval forest. Untouched by mankind, growing since forever. Here you’ll find trees that have lived for thousands of years, competing and surviving. I can’t imagine trees that are more pure tree then these. At least in North America. So here we are looking for the right tree for our new instrument. Once I find the right tree I will carefully carve a piece out of its heartwood and use it to make my new bass. That way the bass will be infused with the power of the tree and as long as the tree lives so will the bass.”
Turner smiled. “I like that. I feel tempted to say that it does sound a bit hippie, but you have an axe. A people axe not a tree axe. And you are trying to kill bears with a sonic weapon.”
“I take my music seriously.” Kim said with soft, unyielding voice.
It did not take them long to leave the narrow path behind them entering the forest proper again. On this side of the clearing the ground was perfectly flat giving the forest the appearance of a giant hall stretching to the horizon, its dark green ceiling held aloft by tree trunks. Adrian thought that the only thing this forest hall was missing were a few thousand dead Viking warriors enjoying their afterlife. He took in the quiet atmosphere of the place, haunted by soft wind, filled with the smell of pine resin and earth.
“There’s our base camp. “ Kim said pointing with her free hand towards as small collections of tents and tables not far ahead from where they had entered the forest hall.
The camp it self was quite large. There were two tents intended as living space to one side. Adjacent to that was a small ‘bath’ tent, a standing cylinder with the option to be heated with hot air that marked the space for a shower. To the other side was a largeish tent, which Kim explained was the place where they stored their equipment and tools. Around it were several spaces with work benches that had a rough hand made look to them, protected from rain by tarps that had been stretched above them using wires.
In the centre of the camp, dividing the living space from the work space was an ample fire place that had been carefully fitted with metal contraptions turning it into an out door free floating kitchen.The fire was not mostly embers with only one last thick log stuburnly burning on, where everything else had long since given up. Above the entire camp hung many cloth wrapped bundles keeping the food far out of reach of hungry bears and other critters.
“How did you get all this stuff here?” Turner asked.
“With great difficulty.” answered Kim. “But that is part of what we are trying to achieve here. First we had to find the right place, with the right trees. Then we had to build our base camp and let me tell you that part wasn’t easy. In part the hard work, the many trips, is all part of the ritual.” Kim fetched some fire wood from a large pile at the edge of he camp to get the fire going again. “D.C?” she called out, “D.C.? Where are you? We’ve got a visitor.” Kim shrugged. Turning to Adrian she said “Looks like he’s off to do his own stuff. It’s almost dusk. He’ll be back soon.”
The camp fire had come back with a roar, now burning with an intensity suggesting that I wanted to blaze forever. A thick stew that was mostly meat, Kim said that it was moose, and freeze dried potato was spreading a mouthwatering smell. When Turner heard the crack of dry branches near the camp he at first thought, icy terror stopping him in his tracks, that they smell had attracted another bear. Instead of a bear a man appeared. He was a narrow man, athletic in a stretched way, walking at a brisk pace towards the camp. Where Kim moved in a smooth fluid manner, this man walked with purpose and intensity. Yet despite of all the aggression that seemed to flow right under his surface he had soft eyes radiating calm.
“We have guest?” the man said. There was a cold curiosity to his surprise that made Adrian a bit uncomfortable.
“It’s a small world after all D.C. May I introduce you D.C. that guy is Adrian Turner. Adrian this is D.C.”
“Nice to meet you.” said Turner.
“Nice to meet you too. Quite the coincidence that you stumbled over us. You’d think all the way out here, you’ll never meet another human being.”
“Actually I was looking for you. Both of you.” Turner said.
D.C. did not say anything, instead he closely studied Turner, the exchanged looks with Kim and then scanned the camp. His expression had shifted from relaxed to focused. He did not show any of the aggression of Kim, but it was quite clear that he was assessing the situation, evaluating different possible scenarios with their probable outcomes in his mind.
“Why does everybody think that I am some kind of psycho.” said Adrian, shoulders slumping.
Kim stepped in telling D.C. that Adrian had apparently come all this way just to talk to them about music.
“I’m trying to find a new kind of music.”
“I like the humility of your ambition.” Kim said.
“I don’t know.” said D.C. “I like the idea somehow. We’re all here to move music forwards and I like that he has such a high goal set for himself.”
“We” Kim had weighed that word down with scorn, “are not trying to move music forwards. D.C. You are. You are the one constantly trying to be original and novel. I jut want to make music.”
“O.K. then most of us want to achieve something here.” D.C. said, voice calm.
“If you don’t watch what you say your face will become a prime ingredient for the stew.” Kim answered with a grin that was all teeth and promises of violence.
“You said that you don’t want to move music forward.” D.C. remained calm. Turner was starting to get worried.
“No. I just said that I am haven’t got delusions of grandeur trying to come up with a new revolutionary form of music.”
“If you don’t try you won’t change anything.” D.C. said still calm but now with slight exasperation in his voice.
“I do try D.C. I work on it, but I am not planing my way into some kind of brilliant revolution. That’s not how it works. You master your instrument and evolve your way from there. You always try to make up a big plan first and then work your way into the music. Wrong way round.” said Kim.
“At least I have a plan. It’s not like your endless improvisations are leading you from one breakthrough to the next.”
“No it takes it time but I least I don’t end up discovering that I have accidentally music that already exists wasting time and effort in inventing something that you remembered unconsciously.”
D.C. was about to reply something while weaving with a wooden spoon in Kim’s direction when Turner spoke up.
“How did you get this far without killing each other?”
Both Kim and D.C. turned to Adrian looking at him with arched eyebrows.
“What do you mean?” Kim asked.
“I mean, seeing you fighting like that, it’s a bit hard to imagine how you got all this together” he said gesturing around their large base camp, “without falling out.”
Kim and D.C. exchanged confused glances. “Who’s fighting?” D.C. asked.
Turner pointing fingers in their direction answered “You were. Just a few seconds ago.”
“What? No we weren’t.” said Kim adding “Are you on drugs?”
“We were simply having a discussion.” said D.C.
“Right.” said Kim, “When you are doing something you need to see it from several perspectives, get your view point challenged. Work on it.”
“That’s what a friend is for, don’t you agree. Someone to call you out on your bullshit and provide you with solid constructive criticism.” said D.C.
“That’s how you learn the fastest.” Kim again, then after a short pause, “D.C.”
“Did you just call what I do bullshit?”
“No. Not more than usual.”
“I’m going to fucking kill you.” Kim exclaimed, jumping up from where she was sitting towards D.C. to slap him over the head. D.C. held up his arms laughing saying “I was joking, joking.”
“You stupid asshole.” Kim said now smiling, sitting back down again.
“You violent monster.” said D.C. how now shifted his attention back to Turner. “So. You said your looking for a new kind of music. Wha do you have in mind?”
“Right now I am still searching. I know what I need to achieve. I know that to get there I need musicians who, apart from having mastered their instrument, have a drive to push music forward.”
“You can never really master an instrument.” said Kim.
“Of course you can. Mastery means nothing but that you reached an acceptable level of competence and are not good enough to explore new techniques on your own.” D.C. objected.
“Bullshit. Calling your self a master is not only a fucking presumptuous thing to do it will only make you lazy.” Kim said.
“What? So a guy who got his black belt is now a lazy, big-headed bastard?”
“er… guys?” Turner hoped that he could get their attention back. He had a feeling that this ‘discussion’ was going to go out of hand quickly.
“What?!” both asked in unison.
“I think if I tell you a bit more about my task, you can then go and discuss it to see what you make of it?”
“Sure thing.” said Kim. D.C. just nodded.
“I have it on good authority that music is slowly moving towards a dead end. While it is still moving forward, these days it seems to be slowing down. If we do not make a decisive move now we are at risk of moving into a future were music will have devolved either into flat commercialised tunes built around focus testing and marketing or it will become so entrenched into its own genres that it’ll stop evolving.”
“Sounds like the fifties before rock’n’roll…” D.C. said more to himself than anyone else.
“Worse.” said Turner who did not think that the fifties had been that bad but did not want to risk another discussion, “If this goes on there won’t be much left to inspire the next wave. In a generation or two the kids will grow up in world were music has stalled and even if they were to look to the past for inspiration it would only lead to more remakes of old styles.”
“How the fuck can you know that.” Kim interjected, “I grant you that the scene has been a bit shit lately, but this is just part of the normal cycle. Right? Why do you think we are here? We have made our pilgrimage to the end of the world because we believe in our music and we certainly aren’t going to retread some old shit. Right D.C.”
“Hear, hear.” said D.C. saluting her with his spoon.
“That’s why I am here. You are people who have the right spirit. You have the potential to move things forward. You are not the first people I have spoken to… hey no need to look so scandalised! The others were warnings. One was so burnt out that he might turn to ashes at any moment. The other was to comfortable inside his own niche to care about the fate of the others. Or maybe he was just scared. And the third one, the last one…” Turner paused for a moment, the memory of Max Stryker sending shivers down his spine “the last one was the worst. His music had no soul. He was driven only by greed.”
“Aren’t we all driven by greed?” asked D.C. “After all don’t we all somehow want to be like stars or touch people or impress the girls or, I don’t know, like sell a million records and show them all that we had it in us the whole time?”
“No not that kind of greed. Those are ambitions that you try to reach through music. What I am talking is the cold greed for hard cash using what ever method you have in your reach. That is an ambition that is not human anymore.”
“Oh bullshit. Being a greedy fuck is about the most human thing you can do.” Kim disagreed.
“How can I put this.” while turner knew on an emotional level what he meant he had a hard time putting it into words. “When you have your standard greedy bastard he wants all the money and shiny shit because of some goal he has in mind. Right? House? Car? Yacht?”
“Sure.” Kim agreed.
“The greed I am talking about is one that doesn’t want anything. It justs wants more, for its own sake. Ah fuck it. It’s so fucking hard to explain. Just trust me. Or don’t. I really doesn’t matter. My mission is to create music that will blow peoples minds. That will kindle old fires, capture the minds of the ones who have forgotten how exciting the new can be and enchant all the kids who have still no idea what music can do.”
“I think we should give it a shot.” said D.C.
“Trying to start a revolution? Ridiculous.” Kim’s voice was cold, here face like stone. Her face lit up with a predator smile. “I like that.”
“It’s a deal then.” said Turner.
“Not so fast young man.” said Kim.
“I could be your grandfather.”
“Who cares? The important thing is that I’m not going to follow you blindly. Fuck. Even if you were my fucking best friend I would not follow you. You have to earn that privilege first. While your idea is all neat and shit, you still could be some crazy tone deaf hobo who knows shit all about music.”
“I. Am.” Adrian pointed at himself, “Adrian Turner.”
“Yeah. I know.”
D.C. remained silent moving his head form one side to the other like a spectator in a tennis match watching how things slowly escalated.
“And you don’t think I know how to play music?”
“I didn’t say that. I said that I do not know. So can you?”
“You just said that you know me.”
“Yeah. You like introduced yourself to me back there at the clearing. Kim pointed with her thumb to where they had come from.
“You never heard of me? I mean before then?” Adrian was mildly shocked, he should have known better both Kim and D.C. were still toddlers when his career had moved underground but it was still hard to believe. “I’ve been playing in a band since the seventies.”
“So? Just because you were the drummer in Lord Otter and the Fox-Feet doesn’t mean that you’re any good. No offence.”
“No taken.” Adrian failed to convince everyone around him including the trees and the skies above. “I played on festivals. Huge festivals that you’d have a hard time to imagine. I once played with my band in front of nearly half a million people. Half a million! The crowed was so large it reached the motherfucking horizon. There were so many people there that the back rows were hidden from sight by the curvature of the earth.”
“OK. That sounds kinda neat. But I still have to hear you play.” Kim insisted. “Please, don’t take it personally, but this is how I do things. For me rank and fame are worth shit. I need to see and hear to believe and be honest. Would you rather like someone who followed you because you were some kind of celebrity back in pre-history or someone who you moved with your music. After all if you can’t move me and D.C. with your style, how are you going to move an entire generation?”
“Fair enough. Do you have a guitar?” Turner said. He had lost a lot of confidence in the last two decades but he trusted his music.
“D.C. has. But not so fast. We’re not going to just have a sing song session around the camp fire. This isn’t summer camp, kid.”
“Don’t call me Kid…”
“We have to do this right. So tonight we rest and tomorrow, you will have to beat both of us.”
“A duel?” Turner smiled shaking his head.
“Accepted. Make peace with yourself, for tomorrow you will fall.”
As Kim threw Turner a can of beer so that they could toast D.C. marvelled at how the line of fire had moved placing him from the side lines right into the crossfire.