Percussion in the light
The train ride to their next destination took a few days. They were filled with animated conversation about what direction to take the band in. Sometimes the arguments got rather heated, sometimes it was just Kim and D.C. having one of their usual discourses. Adrian had to calm Cray who became nervous when the two had ago to each other.
Turner was pleased with how things were turning out, there was a lot of creative potential in the air with new ideas flying constantly flying around. In the evening the group retreated to one of their cabins where they would attempt to bring the ideas they had accumulated over the day to life.
The only strange thing that happened in their way south was that Turner had developed a strange obsession with cereals. Breakfast, lunch and dinner always saw him with at least one new type of cereal which he then proceeded to eat with the utmost care, much to the amusement of his companions.
When they arrived at their destination the Sun was still the sole ruler of the the immaculate blue sky. It shone with the casual professionalism of someone who had been doing something impressively difficult for so long that it appeared to be effortless to a casual observer. Shone on everything man, animal, plant or structure with equal force making everything under its gaze bow down before its brilliance. Humans were huddling in their air conditioned hide outs. Animals had sought shelter in shadows, the more cunning among them inside the human dwellings. While the plants and buildings had to sit it out daydreaming about the night.
Kim’s first reaction to the outside weather was trying to return to the train. It took some effort from Adrian and D.C. to make her stay. “To hot.” was the only thing she said, the heat sapping her energy. The cool air in the cab did not help with her mood either. Arriving at the hotel she was the first to go to her room leaving the others behind telling them not to bother her until it was dark.
Turner had taken Lucifer’s lesson to heart, while still on their way he had changed their reservations from a sensible to a abundantly comfortable hotel. It was not a palace of luxury it did however boast big bright rooms with splendid room service. More importantly it was also located at a spot of high strategic value as it was near their next target as well as several potential venues for their first concert.
Getting the drummer would complete the core of their band allowing them to establish an identity as a group. After that was done, with everyone ‘getting it’ they could then go on to add more people if the need should arise. Adrian had been part of to many failed projects where egos had clashed horribly or where the ideas what the project was about were fundamentally incompatible. This could of course still happen with Kim, D.C., Cray and the drummer but so far things were looking good. Things would become difficult soon enough without the help of inner band conflicts.
As the sun sunk under the waves of the Pacific ocean in a spectacle of light leaving a warm afterglow in the sky, the city slowly woke from its dormancy. As the labours of the day faded into the dark, the bleached face of the city began to shine with its own light, from a million sources in a rainbow of colour. The heat was replaced by a warm ocean breeze bringing the smell of the sea as well as the fragrance of flowers in full bloom. The austere clothes of work the humans had been wearing during the day were shed in the twilight to be replaced by their more colourful attire of leisure.
They were all sitting around a large round wooden table, that after days in a train looked to them large enough to become an independent city state. The were sitting in the hotels rooftop restaurant, that gave them a breathtaking view of the city, its lights stretching to the horizon in every direction apart from the east where there was a sharp cut to the almost dark of the Pacific. D.C. and Cray sat in front of bottles of beer so cold that they were covered in tiny droplets of water. Kim and Adrian had chosen cocktails. Adrian had a straightforward Harvey Wallbanger, while Kim was sitting in front of a fruit crowned Mai-Tai so large that a primitive tribe would have confused it with the statue of an idol representing debauchery and fertility. She had asked for the largest cocktail they had.
“I need something big and cold to hold on to.” she said as she noted the quizzical looks from the others.
“You still think its too hot?” Cray asked.
“It is still not cold enough it makes my hands and feet feel warm. I hate that!” she had her hands wrapped around her giant rotund cocktail glass making her look like an alcoholic fortune teller.
“You could try wearing something other than those combat boots you are constantly wearing for a start.” Cray suggested. At this point D.C. looked directly at Cray shaking his head minutely.
“What would you suggest? Sandals?” Kim asked.
“That would be a start.” Cray said. D.C. turned away hiding his face in his hand.
“Fuck you. Sandals look like shit. Also have you ever tried the female version of sandals? The are as ugly as the male counterparts with the added bonus of being horrible feet disfiguring pain machines.”
“Not all of them.” Cray said taken aback by Kim’s unexpected fulminant reaction.
“Oh so you are now suddenly an expert on womens sandals are you?”
“No. Not really. But still there are rather normal ones that don’t look much different from the male ones.” Cray said more surprised than frightened.
“Which brings us back to the looking like shit part. Also have you ever had a stone stuch under your foot in a fucking sandal? It happens all the fucking time. I prefer boots. They are comfortable and you can run in them.”
“I’m sorry. I did not mean to offend you.”
“It’s OK. It is a bit of a sore point for me” to this D.C. nodded vigorously, “I can see you from the corner of my eye D.C.§ the nodding instantly stopped. “Besides even when I am barefoot, in this weather I still get horribly warm feet, so I can have at least nice and comfy boots.”
“Fair enough.” Cray said. “You have your principles and you stick to them. I respect that. A lot. Cheers” he said rasing a toast with his beer bottle to her.
After they had dinner they decided how to go on. One of the main problems was now transportation. While trains had been a comfortable way to get from one place to the other, they had reached their limit of practicability with Cray’s keyboards and those were just the most portable models Cray had. With drums it would become impossible.
“We need a tour bus. Plain and simple.” Turner said.
“Reasonable. Do you knew where to get one?” D.C. asked.
“No fucking clue. Which is why we are going to split up. Me and Kim are going to the drummer, while you and Cray do some basic research to find out where we can get a nice big tour bus for us.”
“Why us?” asked D.C. exchanging confused looks with Cray. “I know nothing about busses. You?”
“They are a part of public transport?” said Cray.
“Kim are you an expert on tour busses and where to get them?”
“Nope. I always imagined that they magically appear once you are part of a successful band. The only thing that ever came close to one was the big old van that we used to borrow from D.C.s uncle.” she said.
“Neither do I.” said Turner.
“Didn’t you said that you were like this rock star once?” D.C. asked.
“So should you not be some kind of expert? At least compared to us?”
“Not really.” said Turner “During my early years we were driving around in a second hand VW mini-bus which comes close to your van situation and then like Kim said with the success came the bus.”
“So why don’t we just play a gig or two. Soon our fame will spread and the bus will come.” said Cray. What followed was silence and three pair of eyes looking at him gauging his level of insanity. “That,” Cray said “was a joke. Irony. We do that up in the north. You should try it some time. It’s good for you.”
“Right.” said Turner. “The main reason why Kim and I are going to meet our drummer designate is because Kim here is the bassist. She’ll have to work the closest with the drums. She needs to feel out the new candidate. I need her expert opinion. I have to go because… well because this is pretty much my baby at the moment. Or does anyone of you do the talking? D.C.? Cray?”
D.C. shook his head.
“I get your point.” said Cray.
“Good. You don’t need to make a bus appear by magic just get an idea of what is out there. The price is not that important, but the space is.”
“And the driver.” said Cray.
“And the driver.” agreed Turner.
“Let’s go.” said Kim.
D.C. and Cray retreated to the bar in the hotels lobby to do some research on the net. Turner hoped that they wouldn’t get totally hammered while ‘working’ on it. While he and Kim packed in their instruments, getting ready to catch a cab.
Before they saw the house, they felt the drums. When their conscious minds noticed, it was to late, the rhythm had caught them. Kim was tapping her finger, Turner nodding his head ever so slightly to the beat waxing and waning in the air, getting constantly louder. At first Turner was surprised that none of the neighbours were complaining. The few people he saw outside walking along the streets did not seem to mind. The few glimpses he caught of those in their houses seemed equally unimpressed by the sound. Turner marvelled for a while at the neighbourhood that got music at such a basic level that they did not mind the resident drummer going wild on the skins of her drums. Slowly it came to his attention that he was moving head with the rhythm, as he realised this he also saw that everyone else around him was moving to its beat. It was not that the people around him did not mind the drums. They were under their control.
“Do you see what I’m seeing?” Turner asked Kim.
“You mean how everyone is a slave to the beat?”
“Don’t know. Maybe two blocks ago?”
“I’m a bass girl. We notice this things. Remember? We are what links that raw beat you hear to the melodies guys like you produce.” Kim smiled. There was a small carefully measured amount of smugness involved.
As the cab turned around the corner the house of the drummer came into view. A strange very squat, very quadratic house. Beneath a broad mesh of thick corroded iron rods, were walls of stacked flat pieces of brown rock. The whole massive building was pulsing gently in the beat the slow beat they were hearing. It looked like all the heavy stones within their heavy iron cage were put into place to contain the massive sound surges that were hammered out from its core.
“That. Looks like a winner to me.” said Kim.
Turner just nodded. With the beat. Annoying.
The cab drove of in perfect time to the drums, shifted just at the right moment, only to add emphasis to the next beat as it sped up. Turner was beginning to wonder if it was really the beat that was controlling everything or whether they simply reflected what was going on around them. That was silly normal world did not have a rhythm. Even if it did it certainly was not as virulent and smooth as the one that was saturating the air around him.
“Are you coming?” asked Kim who had reached the door of the rock cube house, while Turner had been lost in thoughts standing on the sidewalk. He focused back on the present marching towards the entrance. He got distracted again before he had covered half the distance, there was something he was forgetting, wasn’t there. He turned around, looking back trying to remember.
“Adrian?” Kim again.
“Come to the door?”
“Yes. At once. There was just something…”
“Something?” asked Kim slowly getting tired of all the question marks.
“Adrian. Dude. We are here to talk to the drummer. Who, if I do say so myself, sounds fucking awesome. According to a Mr. Turner, you might know him, old dude, rocker, bat shit crazy, is our motherfucking top priority. So move your ass over here so that we can get this over with.”
Turner walked towards Kim. At least he tried to. The closer he got to the cube though, the more harder his body moved in unexpected ways.
“Or,” Kim said “I ring the bell while you break-dance in the background. That way we’ll look like a pair of Disco Mormons. I bet that’ll totally impress our candidate.”
“I can’t” said Turner straining against the rhythm, “move past,” instead of moving forward he stepped to the side, “the beat.” and shuffled a few steps back.
Kim rolled her eyes. “And you are supposed to be our leader…” she said walking towards Turner, grabbing his arm and dragging him towards the door.
“There we are.” she said. “Now grooving along is perfectly fine but please no more Michael Jackson shit, OK?”
“How… Why… You just walked?”
“Bassist power. You just wait for the right moment, then you move with groove. As long as you’re in the pocket there’s no problem.”
“That totally doesn’t answer my question.” Turner said. He directed all his attention to the bell, which in this case was not a button but a heavy metal chain ending in a polished chrome grip. It took some effort to grab hold of it. He followed Kim’s vague revelations, planning in advance his moves so that he could time them with the beat. That the sound was now so powerful that it was slowly pushing him away from the house didn’t make it easier. It took a few unnecessary flourishes, but he grabbed hold of the chain yanking it down with one dramatic gesture.
What followed was the crash of a gong the size of the Arecibo radio telescope.
The sound of the gong wiped out all other sounds. As its reverberations died down it left behind a deep silence that was slowly filled by the sounds of the night city. The beat though was gone.
The door opened revealing a tall woman in sweatpants and a over sized t-shit.
“What do you want.” she came right to the point.
“Hi. I’m Adrian Turner and this over here is Kim Cochran. We’d like to…”
“I don’t want it.” said the woman starting to close the door.
“We don’t sell anything.” said Turner.
“I’m also deeply not into your religion.” the door was almost closed now.
“Do we look like Jehovah’s witnesses?” asked an incredulous Turner.
The door had almost fallen shut leaving only a small gap through which a bit of light escaped casting a bright line unto the the dark patio in front of the cube rock house. “So why are you bothering me?”
“We’re here to talk music, sister.” said Kim.
The door opened up a tiny bit, enough so that a miffed eye could peer out at them. Fixing Kim. “Why should I care? Who the fuck are you to call me sister?”
“Because we are looking for a drummer and you might be good enough to join us,” Kim replied “and I call you sister because you are a drummer and I’m a bass girl.”
The looked away losing itself in thought for a moment. “Would that not make us cousins?” It then went right back to Kim spearing a glance right through her. “And what the fuck do you mean by ‘might be good enough’ to join you?” The door now opened wide again revealing the woman who now stood before them with her hands resting on her hips. “I never even heard of you fuckers before.”
“See and that is why we are here.” said Turner taking advantage of the opening that had just appeared, “So you can actually hear us. Us with our music. We could go around sending letters, talking to agents. Shit like that. Gets us nowhere. Without hearing us play that is pretty much pointless, right? So here we are. We came all the way here from the far north, just because someone told us that we would find a fucking amazing drummer right here.” Turner let that sink in for a moment. “Now if you let us in we can play a few notes. Should we not mesh it’ll be clear pretty much instantly. In that case we are gone. No questions asked, no hard feelings. In case that we do have some common ground we can talk, see were it goes…”
The woman in the door looked at them for a while. Her expression of irritation was gone. Instead she appeared to be thinking it over. Turner had to admit that he was pleasantly surprised. Compared to the others this was an unheard of level of reason. He nervously glanced over to Kim in case she had read his mind. Kim just stood there with a visionary look on her face that would have made the statues of generals and presidents envious. Despite her tempestuous temperament Kim had a black belt in striking a pose. As had D.C. Turner was starting to notice a pattern. He also noticed that he was starting to drift of in his mind. The woman was still thinking, pretty much ignoring them both.
The woman exhaled. “Why not. You came all the way to my house after all, so the least that I can do is listen to the voice of your tunes.”
As she let them in she shook their hands introducing her self. “Hi, I’m Sam.”
“Pleasure to meet you Sam…” said Turner his voice trailing of as he saw the inside of the house. While he was looking around he could hear that Kim had reacted in quite a similar way. The cube was mostly hollow. One big giant room two stories high. Entering the house there was a wall at the right hand side, which made it look like the front door opened into an ordinary corridor. It wasn’t a corridor at all. There was no wall to the left the room simply expanded into a large kitchen area which expanded into a… it wasn’t a living room really. The room beyond lay slightly below the entrance level. Its large open space was filled with an extensive collection of percussion instruments. Steel drums, congas, bongos, timpani, snares, toms, bass drums, xylophones, marimbas, bells, including their international siblings and variants. It was no living room, it was something found in the strange intersection were museums, temples and adventure play grounds met.
Everything else apart from the kitchen was hidden behind walls crammed into the right hand corner of the house and onto a little balcony that covered half of the kitchen.
And then there was the ceiling. It looked almost black yet Turner was sure that he could see tiny lights floating within its darkness. It took him a moment to realise that the dark ceiling was actually reflecting light back into the room, making the warm indirect light illuminating the house ripple.
“That” said Kim “is a swimming pool?” her observation broke down into a question.
“Isn’t it mega cool?” Sam said, “That roof cost almost as much as the rest of the house and the grounds it stands on but it was totally worth it. During the day it’s even better. Not much of a swimming pool though. That’s two feet of water up there. Enough to turn light into pure magic, but not enough to dim it to much. Or ruin me financially.”
“You play in a band?” Kim asked.
“Nope. Left the last one years ago. Have never found anyone interesting enough to keep my attention for long. So now I mostly explore percussion here and work as a session musician to pay the bills. Want a beer?”
“A beer would be nice.” said Turner.
“Sure thing.” said Kim.
Sam walked over to the kitchen. It was now rather obvious why this part of the house was not isolated away as the others were. She opened the door of one of her fridges, she had three, taking out three bottles of beer.
“She’s got a beer fridge.” Kim breathed. Turning to Adrian she added with round eyes: “Can we keep her?”
Turner smiled “I’ll see what I can do.”
It turned out that there was among other things a rather spacious couch hidden between all the percussive instruments. Sam indicated her visitors to have a seat while she sat down on a near by stool.
“Why me?” Sam asked.
“You come highly recommended.” said Turner
“Really? By who?”
“A friend of mine who is really hardcore into music.”
“Do I know him?”
“You will have heard of him. I was given your name by The Critic.”
“The Critic? For real?”
“Yes. Why so surprised?”
“You know, because it’s been years that I’ve been part of a proper band and back then I really wasn’t all that good. I was fine, I guess, but there are thousands of drummers who are fine. So he can only know me from my contract work, but that is just me professionally hitting the skins to give a rhythm to other peoples music.”
“The Critic has a tendency to listen really deep.” Turner said.
“What does that even mean?” asked Sam.
“Not sure. That guy is insane. So much so that the gibberish he says starts to make sense if you aren’t careful. He sees thing from a perspective that is very different to yours or mine, but that makes him see things that others miss. So far all of his recommendations have been spot on.”
“Who else did he recommend?”
“Kim over here. Her friend D.C. who is like a sound explorer on the guitar and a guy named William Cray who is what you get when you cross a mad scientist with a keyboarder.”
“You got Billy Cray?” Sam asked.
“You know him?” Turner was actually surprised. So far it looked that all the people in his group, himself included, were pretty much no-names.
“No. But I’ve heard of him. Incredibly tough guy. Rumour has it that he got pretty much the shortest end of the stick and then got the shit beaten out of him with it, all because he stuck to his synths. I’d love to hear him play.”
“That won’t be a problem.”
Kim had finished her beer. “Remember how we said we’d let the music do the talking? How about giving that a try?”
Sam nodded. “Right you are.” She necked the rest of her beer the looked around. “So how do you want to do this?”
“How about you pick your drum of choice, hammer out some beats and we’ll follow you from there?”
“Works for me.” Sam said. She lead them towards some amps that had, like the sofa, been hidden in plain sight. Turner and Kim plugged in their instruments. Checking their tuning before shifting their attention back to Sam who was now standing in front of a monolithic dinosaur of a drum with a diameter exceeding five feet, hanging suspended from a massive wooden scaffolding. Sam washolding two thick wooden sticks which under other circumstances might have been mistaken for some sort of kung-fu weapons.
After seeing this both Kim and Turner readjusted the volume on their amps. They would need all the push the power of electricity could give them.
Sam started with two beats, both punching right through everything in their way. Turner played a couple of quick notes decorating the space in between the beats. Kim slapped out a deep resonant roar adding tons of weight to the sound.
One hour later the three lay sprawled over the couch, clutching deep chilled bottles of beer.
“That was… amazing.”