“They call me Tiger.” the small man said. Turner was just coming out of the new hotel the band was staying at. A modern monument to all the glossy, shiny things money could buy, when this guy had walked casually towards him startling him with his strange introduction. He was not even sure if it was an introduction. Maybe it was a strange kind of threat? Perhaps this was just one of the many nut jobs that apparently got caught up inside the event horizon of this city never able to escape it.
The man called Tiger was holding out his hand. Crazy or not Turner was at least going to be polite about this. So far the fans appeared to the concert but once they were over the dissipated like the memories of a dream. They were simply gone until the next concert night. Back in the 80s Turner had had times were he could not leave any building in a larger city without attracting a swarms of fans, putting this first contact into a rather relaxed perspective.
“Nice to meet you Tiger.” he took the man’s hand shaking it. The small man had a strong grip and a firm shake that any politician would have murdered for. “What can I do for you?”
“I was wondering about what I might do for you my man.” said the man named Tiger.
Now Turner was getting cautious. This conversation was quickly attracting some colourful warning flags telling him to stay on the main street and watch out for sudden movements.
“What exactly would hat be?” asked Turner looking down the street while furiously focusing on the corner of his eyes waiting for any kind of suspicious Tiger action.
“I can sing.”
He had not seen that one coming.
“And what makes you think that we need you… Tiger?”
“That is because you have no voice. I’ve been to your concerts. I listened to your music and it’s great music, it really is. But man, you’ve got no voice.”
“You walk up on me on the street like some creepy stalker, telling me that I can’t sing, so that you can have a spot in our band? Is this your idea of a clever plan?”
“I’m not dissing your singing man. I’m saying that your band, the whole thing, has no voice. Of its own. You know what I’m saying? All of have great voice and all, but the band itself has none.”
“What makes you think that you’re the one that has the right voice for the band. There’s a lot a perfectly brilliant singers out there.” Turner gestured towards the city.
“No doubt. But there are also a lot of great guitar players out there. None of them is in your band apart you and that other guy. Right? And that’s because you are not only good but because you are right. And I think I’m right for you all too. Look, man. I’ve been listening to you all. Really listening with my ears open and my mind too. Your music does things I’ve not heard before. And my singing. Well my singing pretty much gets me nowhere these days. Not for a lack of talent but for a lack of, how should I say it, flexibility?”
“Yeah. What I’m trying to say is… when I’m singing I try to, like, challenge myself. I don’t want to do one style. I want to explore them all. Try to find what makes them tick. You ever heard opera?”
“I was subjected to it a few times, not my scene though.”
“Not mine either. At least that’s what I thought when I first heard that shit. I was working for that one guy once, man’s got to make a living and he listened to that shit day in day out. You know what I mean. But as I was there outside in the garden working on that guys lawn, it struck me. Those motherfuckers, what ever it was they were singing, it really filled the room. There was all that power coming out of them taking the lime light from a big ass orchestra.
And that made me think. I thought to my self ‘Man. It would be awesome to be able to roar like that!’ so I went and practised until I got that sound right. So I started collecting them sounds and them techniques. Forging my own sound. Like that mixed martial arts stuff. Only with my voice.”
“And that’s the reason why you ar ethe right guy for us?”
“Yeah. You people are radical. You go all over the place with your music and I reckon that I can follow you with my voice where ever you go. Just give me one chance. If you don’t like what you hear, you all just tell me and I’m on my way.”
“What the hell. You’ve got a bit of time?”
“I’m all yours my man.” Tiger grinned.
“Well let me introduce you to the band.”
* * *
“You’ve got to be kidding.” said Kim her coffee mug suspended on the trip back to the table.
“No.” said Turner, “I am going to give this guy a chance.”
“For fucks sake Adrian. You can’t just go around and adopt any kitten and puppy that runs to you on the street!”
“Really? Why not?”
“Why? Because that way any crazy ass will think he can just waltz up to you and get into the band! That’s why!”
“Which is why I have brought him here to audition. Also so far the is the only one that has ever walked up on any of us on the street. Ever. I talked to the guy and he has the right attitude. If he brings something to the band that we are missing and everyone likes him we will take give him a chance to become part of this whole thing. I mean, this is your thing isn’t it? He walks up on us, calls us out and he gets to prove his point. That’s how I got you and D.C. to join me if you may remember?”
“I remember. I also remember thinking that you were a fucking weirdo pervert murderer!”
“I rest my case.”
“OK, OK. You got me there. I’ll open my mind, no hating going on here at all and give him a chance.”
“Thank you Kim.”
Turner was about to leave the room when he stopped turning back to Kim “By the way what kind of monster would you have to be to leave a kitten to starve out on the street?”
“… er… I’d never do that...” said Kim blushing slightly.
Turner grunted leaving the room and Kim mumbling about how she had once saved a kitten first from the street and then from her psycho father, by that point only her coffee was still listening.
* * *
The others reacted to the news with equal confusion if less temperamental. Of the band itself Cray was the most open minded about it saying that this Tiger guy had point, listening to him was certainly worth a try. Both D.C. and Sam were more reluctant, in a way more than Kim who was just being her highly impulsive self, easily provoked but also easily mollified.
D.C. was mostly worried about the quality of the singing and indeed the new potential entry to the band would contribute to their sound instead of detracting from it. It surprised Turner how much more convincing it took to get D.C. to the point where he’d give Tiger a chance at all. D.C. was all counter arguments wrapped in a thick layer of vague apprehension.
Sam on the other hand was more worried about there being an outsider. A person she did not know. She was a strong person but much of that strength came from a healthy distance she held to people she was not sure she could trust. It had taken months for her to become comfortable with the band itself. Adrian often had the feeling that they had only passed into the first level of real trust with her and that getting further would take much longer. Introducing a stranger pushed Sam back into her shell. She was willing to listen to him from the get go but she was very reluctant to even consider taking him in board.
In the end though everyone agreed to give the man named Tiger a chance. After all working on the album was a big experiment so they might as well experiment with a new singer. Cray was the only one openly enthusiastic to have a new member in the band, he decided to take the newbie under his wing and become his ‘big brother’ while the others had their juries still out and frowning at each other.
* * *
“Do your best Tiger. If you want to have a place here you’ll have to fight for it.” said Turner.
“I would have it no other way.”
They were all in what they called the ‘round table’ studio, with the monitoring and mixing equipment in the centre surrounded be the recording booths. The idea was that every band member got to play his style and Tiger would have to sing along, later more people would join, if he got that far that was, until he would have to sing with the entire band. In the round table studio everyone not involved could watch and listen from the centre.
In the end it took hours. Turner was surprised that Kim was the one that spent the least time testing him in a duel set-up. She worked through her melodic side slowly towards raw rhythm looking if Tiger could follow. He did so without much trouble. Getting tangled in a few of Kim’s usual reversals were she would suddenly change beat or drop out of harmonics into a percussive beat, but Tiger always caught up to her. As Turner thought that now Kim would up her game, she stopped. She told the others: “That man is one solid singer.” and that was that.
Sam was next and she took her sweet time. Working mostly with slow strange rhythms.
“Why did you let him get off the hook so easy?” Turner asked Kim while Tiger was getting immersed in the Sam’s below Sam’s sound waves.
“I thought about what you said. About what he said about us needing a voice. About what we’ve been through together. In the end I decided that it makes no sense to try to fight him or beat him into submission. I only wanted to see if he can work with what I do and he can. He’s going to have to fight soon enough. I’m not seeing Sam giving him an easy time and I’m sure that D.C. will be even worse. Also the way Cray is getting all enthusiastic over this shit I guess he won’t be much better.”
“You are not going soft on me are you?”
“Nah. There is a time for being a ferocious kill beast. But today isn’t. I wanted to listen to him based on his merits and not based on him fighting to survive.”
“So far he seems to be doing rather well.” Turner said. Tiger was now sining a melody with out words. Calling out a melancholy tune complimenting Sam’s work.
Kim nodded. “With Sam you have to have a good personality. She isn’t probing his skill as a singer, she is probing his soul. By now he is caught in her net of beats singing to her about his heart. If she does not like what she hears you might as well put on your kicking boots.”
“Are you saying” Turner asked “that Sam can hear the nature of a human out of his music?”
Kim Turned to him giving him a look reserved only for the most dense of materials “Can’t you?”
“Yep that was a stupid thing to say.”
Kim just nodded.
It took almost two hours before Sam was satisfied. She came out of her booth with her clothes drenched in sweat. “He’s OK. He really wants to grow. I think we should give him a chance.” she said with a tired smile.
Next was D.C. who was to everyones surprise fierce and without mercy. Everyone else so far had started slow presenting Tiger with a lead into the music. D.C. just went mental on his guitar almost instantly raining a thunder strom of a solo on his guitar.
“What. The. Fuck?” asked a flabbergasted Cray.
“D.C. can be a dick when he wants to.” Kim shrugged, “Shit like that happens when he isn’t happy with something. He’s to ‘nice’ to voice his opinion directly, so he finds another way to vent his frustration.”
Tiger still had not produced a single sound. He stood in his little recording room, with wide eyes, bordering on being shell-shocked.
“It’s always the quiet ones…” said Cray.
“What the fuck are you all looking at me for all of a sudden?!” Sam asked scandalised.
“No reason. No reason at all!” said Cray.
The were still in mid snicker when they were suddenly silenced by the roar of the Tiger. He had started with a strong deep note which he had now pushed into a loud marrow shaking scream. It was deep, cavernous, full of pressure like chasm at the bottom of the ocean. It was not a roar against the torrent coming from D.C.s guitar it roared with it. What followed was a duel much closer to what Turner had expected from Kim, something that reminded him of his encounter with the two in the primeval forests of Canada.
The Tiger had found an opening. From the space the roar had created he expanded. At first there were more shouts and screams but it did not take long for it to turn into a song. A song of frustration, of bitterness of rage, turning into a form of power, a force that would break through walls, overcome obstacles and if not reach a happy ending at least go down in glorious flames on its way towards it.
The battle did not take longer than twenty minutes at most but when D.C. was done he looked like he had just returned from a 24 hour live gig. Instead of returning to the others in the room in the middle, he walked into the booth where Tiger was, shaking his hand with one hand and slapping his shoulder with the other.
“I guess that’s another yes I guess.” said Turner.
“Tell the Tiger man to relax for a moment I need to prepare!” Cray exclaimed before he vanished out of the studio.
“Where the fuck do you think you are going?” Turner asked the door as it was falling shut.
Ten minutes later Cray was back. His answer evident to all. He was wearing his red towel cape. He had become the crimson king for this meeting. He had brought one of his favourite self-made synthesisers with him. He walked past them only telling Tiger to gather his strength while he was putting up his equipment.
The others had given up after two hours. Cray was happily galloping over every musical field he could find followed always by the unwavering voice of Tiger. They had retreated into a large unused conference room that over time had turned into their home away from home. Conversations had long ceased. Kim was plucking away at her bass. Kim was reading a magazine while D.C. and Turner sat in a corner listening to some vintage Jazz.
They did not register the door opening. A few minutes earlier Darius had left to organise some chines food, so no one was expecting Cray and Tiger staggering into the room. Both looked like they had just returned from a battle field, the last two survivors of a massacre.
“We could really use a beer or ten.” Cray croaked. He was now wearing his cape over his head. Tiger just nodded.
“I guess that means that we have a singer?” asked Turner.
“I’d be glad to have him on board.” rasped Cray.
“I hope you did not kill him.” said Turner “Or his voice.”
Cray shook his head. “Not so fast.” he grimaced working hard to use as few words as possible. “Has to sing with the band first.”
“You had his guy singing, screaming and shouting for more then five hours Cray.” said Kim “And now you’re telling us… you’re telling him” she pointed at the lump of a man hanging from Crays shoulder, “that you still not happy?”
“’m happy. But we need to play” he cleared his throat, once, twice, before continuing, “need to… as a band. No other way.”
“Cray is right.” said D.C. “He’s brilliant. But we are more than the sum of our parts.”
“He’s right Kim.” said Sam. “Also I don’t think we need to worry. He’s our man. He’ll show us. But not today. He needs to rest.”
Tiger nodded his thanks.
“Out of the way! Feeding time!” Darius shouted from the hall way. Cray and Tiger moved aside to let the old roadie into the room. The man who usually looked like a tall rock now was carrying so many white plastic bags that he resembled a walking snow covered volcano, steam rising from its many crags.
“Have you finally crawled out of your whole? Cray if you broke our new singer I am going to break some interesting shapes in your bones!” He started to unload the provisions he had gathered from mysterious Chinese take away that stood more or less alone in the midst of urban ruins. Inside the small restaurant it was always 2am and there were always some lost souls sitting around the cheap tables contemplating their culinary oracles in front of them.
“Come here Tiger, I bought you a bunch of soups. You start with chicken and then work your way towards the spicy ‘speciality’ soup. That should alleviate the strain. And you Crimson King” he added his eyes glowing, “will see that your friends get served their food.”
“Whaat?” croaked Cray “B…”
“No buts. If you go batshit, you get to serve.”
“…” inhaled Cray.
“These are the golden rules! They are as old as the universe and not even you get to break them!”
Turner had no idea what Darius was talking about, but when Cray looked at him with pleading eyes he just nodded gravely. “That’s the rules, Cray.”
* * *
The band coming together to work with Tiger turned into a disaster. Tiger sang well working his way into the songs, in the end however they always fell apart. For one because so far there were hardly any songs at all, just music that was enriched by a human voice but did not turn into a song. Another reason was the shifting of the styles. As each band member pushed his personality into the foreground the others providing back up, there wasn’t an idea at its core solid enough to birth a song.
“Are you telling me that you’ve not written one song? Like with lyrics and all?” asked Tiger.
“The necessity has never come up. So far.” said a sheepish Adrian.
“I mean I can hear hard your rock and haw strong your grove is, but damn, you people need a voice. When I came to you I was hoping to find a place where I might fit. Turns out I’ve been sent to you to be your saviour.” Tiger was still mildly shocked by his discovery.
“Saviour? We have been incredibly successful from day one, man” protested Cray, “we are getting booked in every venue we chose to show up at and we actually got this fine studio and almost as fine a hotel paid for to make our first album.”
“As I said.” Tiger insisted “You have a great sound. It is the reason I came to you all in the first place. But with out a real voice you will remain in the shadows.”
“We are doing quite well actually.” said Turner who despite known that Tiger meant no offence was starting to take this discussion as a personal offence.
“Sure you are. And I mean no disrespect, but in the end when you do music you will need a song. That you’ve come this far shows what an exceptional sounds you have been producing. Your sound speaks to the soul. It really does. But you need to start to actually talk to the soul. Sing to it. When I look at you doing what you do best, when I see you on the stage, see how different you all are and yet you create this mellow sound, I can’t help my self but think: ‘Man. These are some exceptional people!’ and then I think: ‘These folks must have gone through many hard times and sweet times and interesting times and bitter times to get where they are now.’ and that makes me want to hear those stories from you. Yet here you are telling me that you have nothing to say?”
“We let our music do the talking.” said D.C. but there was no real conviction in his voice.
“Yeah. You do. But why would you not want to put a voice to it too?”
“One reason” Kim said “would be that D.C. and me we can’t write songs for shit. Trust me dude. We tried. We did work on songs alone. But D.C.s have no flow and are all a bit metal… but not in the good way and mine… shit mine are mostly composed of screaming obscenities. Isn’t this kind of the point though? If we were good at writing songs we’d be poets or writers, but we aren’t. So we let our instruments do the talking.”
“I can help you with that.” said Tiger “You tell me your stories, I’ll go listen to your music and then we will put together some good lines.” He looked back at the others. “What’s your reason then?”
Cray just shrugged. “I really never even thought of writing a song. I’m the most happy when I can work on my instruments.”
“I have to admit,” said Adrian, “that I was so busy with bringing together the band , working on our sound that it somehow slipped my mind. While I’m not great at it I could put together some decent lines. Once upon a time…”
“I…” Sam looked around fidgeting, “I do have a few text that I wrote. But, you know, I did not think anyone would be interested in them. They are just simple little songs. They are silly really. Anyway I am all about the percussion…”
“Sam, I’d love to see what you have written. I’m sure it’ll have your flow. If I may be so bold, I’d like to give one of them a try as I have the sneaking suspicion that some of them will work really well with what you already have.
Then, if it is all the same to you I’d like to talk to you Kim and you D.C. so that we might come up with something.”
“What about me?” asked Cray?
“You can either keep working on your synthesisers or join Adrian to try to channel that old mojo of his.”
From this suggestion emerged an animated discussion about how to write songs and what about in the first place and why Sam had never told them about their texts, growing more lively and enthusiastic as it stretched into the night that no one noticed how The Band with No Name had gained a singer.
Beyond the Shadow 3
“Octavian,” Carlton said from behind his desk, “take a seat. Take a drink if you want first. It’s been a while.” Ogden could sense the tiny barbs in his employers voice. This persuaded him to get himself a drink as offered. There was always a place for a glass of expensive liquor in his life. He would also have something to hold on to, sipping when ever he needed time to think about what to tell Carlton.
As he sat down he asked “I do appreciate your invitation Carlton, maybe next time you should invite me over to a nice little bar. I know a few.”
“This is no time for joking Octavian.” said Carlton. Ogden adjusted his business face in his experience good things never came from offering nervous high level managers any excuse to project their frustration into him. He shifted in his set to be able to admire the sparkling lights of the night city past Carlton’s shoulder. Than way he could keep a close eye on him without having to make direct eye contact.
“Just tell me about your troubles and I will help you clear them from your mind.” said Ogden.
“You are keeping me waiting Octavian. My patience is wearing thin.”
“Yes. The new band, the one I gave you on a silver platter. It’s been weeks since your first contact and so far there is nothing I can work with here. What’s the matter? Is there something you are not telling me, is there a problem I need to know about?”
Ogden’s eyes shifted for a short moment from the city scape to Carlton’s face. The man was calm but slightly anxious. Why? “There are no problems Carlton. Things are progressing smoothly. And as I’d like to add also at a brisk pace.”
“You call this a brisk pace? Not only have I been sitting here waiting for this project to turn into something I can work with, bleeding money all over the place and so far I am not seeing anything that would suggest that this will turn into any kind of success. Quite the contrary, everything so far points towards a rather embarrassing defeat.”
“What are you talking about? We are progressing just fine. I’ve been sending you regular updates as usual. I thought you had called me for something important. But this…”
“Up dates. You’ve been sending me your list of expenses and many, many music files.”
“And your problem with that is?”
“Well apart from adding a singer pretty late on nothing much has happened. Also they went from instrumental to something more mainstream with lyrics. Which is probably good. The guys over at marketing were in need of strong medication when I told them that our next big thing would not have much of singing going on.”
“Did you even listen to the music. You must have. You noticed the new singer. Could you tell me where exactly was the part were you started to think that this is a bad idea?”
“I listened to your samples. I see that there are lyrics now and I see them burning away cash while I have had the PR peoples hysterical screeches as my choir for the past couple of weeks.”
Ogden massaged his forehead with his index finger and his thumb he had given up his non confrontational city gazing, instead he was now looking directly at Carlton.
“With all due respect,” Ogden said, “but what kind of shit have you been smoking lately?”
“I beg your pardon.” said Carlton taken aback.
“No really. Is the stress getting to you? I’ve been sending you pure sonic gold from day one. Gold that through the alchemy of sound engineering is turning into platinum.”
“I don’t see it.”
“How? How can’t you see where this is going. These guys are marching straight into a new musical territory leaving most other bands that are poking at the borders far, far behind and the best bit is that somehow their crazy tunes are catchy. There is something special to them. We should be thanking the cold uncaring universe every day for having dropped this ball in our court.”
“I think that you might be getting carried away.”
“Of course I am getting carried away. We have something incredibly rare in our hands right now if we keep our cool and play our hand right we are going to become legends in the world of music production.”
“While I admire your enthusiasm I think it is getting in the way of your professionalism.”
Ogden’s business face cracked, lines of fury furrowing his brow.
“It is only because we have been friends for so long that I am not on the other side of that desk right now punching your face in before leaving this office for ever Carlton. I will give you one chance to work your way out of that hole you have dug for yourself.”
“Jesus! Octavian please calm down. All I was saying that you might, possibly be getting carried away by your enthusiasm in a way that could have an impact on your judgement. I just want you to consider how much your personal attachment to the group might tempt you into focusing on the positive facts while distracting your from the negatives. I do that kind of shit all the time. O.K.? I’m sorry. I did not mean to offend.”
Ogden exhaled very slowly. His fury fading into smouldering embers ready to flare up. “I am always emotionally invested Carlton. I have never recommended you anyone if I was not feeling it and I have dropped acts when after a while I noticed that the feeling was ‘off’, which by the way is always a hard thing to do. So if I am carried away that is a fucking good sign. And when the feeling is right, when my instinct tells me that I am on to something I go and do my work. We work together so well you and me, because we are professionals, while many others follow the crap they learnt in some college or seminar or some bullshit workshop, we follow a basic work ethic. Right?” Ogden paused for a moment.
“Right.” said Carlton still taken aback by his friends outburst.
“Right. So I expect you to trust me. Especially if I have been papering your fucking office with reports since pretty much day one. So if you have any problems it may work best if you told me what the fuck it is that makes you nervous instead of questioning my professional integrity…”
“So… what pray tell, is your problem.”
“My problem Octavian is that I am burning five figure sums on your… sorry on our new special project every week. I am getting to the point where I am starting to wonder how this investment will ever turn into a profit.”
“We are talking about a band that appeared out of nowhere, played a few pirate concerts and now has every serious venue in town begging them to play in their house. Once we put a contract on them they are going to start bringing the money. Even if they stay out of the mainstream eye they have enough pull to get your investment back with an interest rate that will make banks come to you asking on investment advice.”
“Right now all I hear is band that has not much of a signature style and can’t make its mind up what it wants.”
“No signature style?”
“No, they are all over the place.”
“Carlton I sometimes have to wonder if you are actually listening to the music I am sending you or if someone is secretly exchanging them for some random crap before you can listen to it. However, I swear to you that they do have a style it’s right there in that crazy ass mixture of theirs and it actually got a lot tighter since they have gotten themselves a singer.”
“OK.” Carlton sighed. “OK. I trust you. So far your predictions have always been good. When you said you weren’t 100% sure you had a few misses there, but never when you said that we had a hit on our hands.”
“There you go.”
“We have a hit on our hands here?”
“More than one. Look. Who is giving your trouble? IS there something I can do to make you feel a bit more secure in this expensive office of yours?”
“A proper record to get things started would be nice. That and focus group so that marketing can start to go to town with this. My controlling guy is going a bit stir crazy lately our profits are only middling seven figures which makes us a prime target for being sold of to some other company and we are almost in fourth quarter. So yeah. I might be a bit tense because all of our supposed stars and cash cows have a suspiciously canine air about them.”
“Spare me the business talk, it makes me want to jump out of the closed window and slit my throat with a glass shard on my way down to free me from the pain faster.”
“Point is we need something close to a miracle to stop us from looking disposable. We are doing great work here and we are turning solid profits but we need something that looks exiting and promising from keeping the herd at the top from panicking.”
“You have your miracle. Don’t worry. I’m going to guide the band towards their first album. I’ll see to it that you get enough material for your marketing guys to spark off some hype that way you’ll have a nice surprise on the charts for the sheep up stairs.”