Anyone who knows me knows that I love music. And of the music I love, they know there are two artists who mean more to me than any others.
One is Bruce Springsteen, the other is Blake Schwarzenbach. One pretty much everybody has heard of, the other – not so much. Springsteen was my first true musical love. I bought ‘Nebraska’ when I was 11 years old (I was a dark 11 year-old, clearly!) on a whim at a second-hand record store and became obsessed.
To this day, 20 years later, his music is still incredibly close to my heart and hasn’t diminished in the slightest – I saw him play in New Jersey last Saturday, at the last of his three hometown gigs. This one happened to coincide with him turning 63 at midnight, and it was, as ever, an incredibly powerful, poignant and deliriously brilliant show, a celebration of the power of music, which finished at 2am and left my voice cracked and hoarse.
Blake Schwarzenbach, on the other hand, is somebody that hasn’t sold records in the millions. He was in seminal punk band Jawbreaker from the late ’80s until their split in 1996, then in a band called Jets To Brazil, and is now in a band called forgetters (no capital ‘F’). Lyrically and musically, Schwarzenbach’s bands have had a profound effect on my life – as much as Springsteen, probably – and I feel privileged that I was afforded the chance (and it really was chance) to sit down with him in Brighton last year and spend 45 minutes picking his brain. I’m very much a lyrics guy and Schwarzenbach is, I believe, one of the very best lyricists of 20th/21st century music. Bold claim, I know, but hey.
Million dollar baby
Anyway, although Jawbreaker did well – they signed to Geffen for a reputed $1 million for their last album in the mid-’90s – they nor Jets To Brazil sold anywhere near the region of, say, Springsteen. For a while, Schwarzenbach taught (and studied a doctorate) at a college here in New York, but he now works in a bar in a neighbourhood close to where I live in Brooklyn. Naturally, one day, I happened to be with a friend nearby and popped in – lo and behold, there he was, behind the bar. Even though I’d interviewed him, I still got pretty starstruck, but I managed to order a drink and exchange innocuous pleasantries. There was, perhaps, a glimmer of recognition in his eyes, but I think people go to that bar a lot precisely because he might be there, and I didn’t want to be one of those guys fawning over him while he’s trying to do his job – it’s not the right situation or context. But the fact remains that one of my absolute heroes – and I don’t have many – served me a beer. Actually a few beers. It doesn’t get much better than that. Maybe when forgetters go on tour next, I’ll buy him one.
Having spent six and a half years living in London, but dreaming of New York, Mischa Pearlman has finally made the jump across the Atlantic. Now, you can find him drifting between the venues and late night bars of Manhattan and Brooklyn and grinning manically while gazing at the skyline. He writes about music for various magazines and, just to complete the cliché, is writing a novel.
E-mail him, if you like: [email protected]